Skip to main content

Employment. Nutrition. Mental health. Education. Environment.

Teams of UT students have developed plans for addressing each of these issues as part of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy’s second annual Public Policy Challenge.

Having advanced during the semifinal competition in November, five teams are now poised to compete for $3,000 to be used to further their initiative. Two runners-up will receive $1,000 each.

The final competition will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 22, in the Toyota Auditorium at the Baker Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The finalist teams and their plans are varied:

  • Connect Forward would link Tennessee Families First clients to jobs. Team members are Joey Carr, Ian Barry, and Cheryl Flowers, all graduate students in social work.
  • Gardens on the Go would provide fresh produce to low-income neighborhoods without access. Team members are Rachel Owens and Ashlee Hall, both graduate students in social work, and Virginia Williams and Sophie Wilk, both freshmen in nursing.
  • Pay Now/Pay Later would implement mental health screenings for youth in the juvenile justice system. Team members are Joy DuVoisin, Hannah Jones, Anna Lahrs, and Laurel Strozier, all graduate students in social work.
  • Education Equality Now! Extending Tennessee Promise to Noncitizen Students would open UT to noncitizen students. Team members are Gus White, freshman, global studies; Kim Bress, freshman, neuroscience; Olivia Poston, freshman, architecture; and Juan Gutierrez and Brenda Adimora, both law students.
  • Project (bag)gage would remove plastic bags from the UT campus. Team members are Shelbie Francescon, freshman, nuclear engineering; Rachel Gunia, freshman, sports management; Don Black, freshman, aerospace engineering; Troy Williamson, graduate student; Sarah Ball, freshman, architecture; and Autumn Bruce, freshman, marketing.

Named in honor of the late senator, the Howard Baker Public Policy Challenge is open to all UT undergraduates and graduate students. Students compete on teams that develop policy recommendations and action plans to combat local and state issues.

The five finalist teams will provide ten- to fifteen- page policy briefs and ten-minute PowerPoint presentations for the final competition.

If invited, the winning team will compete in the Penn National Challenge in March 2015. The judges for the competition are David Dewhirst of Dewhirst Properties; Pam Fansler, East Region president, First Tennessee Bank; Bill Lyons, deputy to the mayor and chief policy advisor, City of Knoxville; Meghan Morgan, attorney with Baker Donelson; and Don Parnell of Maudlin/Parnell Inc., former director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,