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This semester, UT faculty and students will be assessing livability conditions for senior citizens in Grundy County, developing a business plan for a farmers market in Pikeville, laying the groundwork for local and regional disaster planning, and designing commemorative spaces along the Trail of Tears.

These are among the projects that classes are undertaking throughout Tennessee as part of this year’s Smart Communities Initiative. SCI is part of Experience Learning, a newly launched initiative brings real-world problem solving into the classroom.

Through SCI, UT connects faculty and students with a Tennessee city, county, special district or other governmental organizations to engage in projects aimed at improving the area’s economy, environment and social fabric.

This year’s SCI partner is the Southeast Tennessee Development District/Chattanooga Area Regional Council of Governments, which provides programming in 10 counties in the southeast region of the Tennessee River Valley Basin (Bledsoe, Bradley, Grundy, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie) and Catoosa, Dade, and Walker Counties in northeast Georgia. SETDD services include historic preservation, transportation, housing, tourism, industrial development, geographic information systems, aging, and workforce development

“We’re very excited about this year’s SCI because it’s going to allow UT faculty and students to help advance some pressing projects across the southeast region,” said Kelly Ellenburg, director of service learning and the SCI. “Students are going to work with SETDD staff and local communities to help these communities address their goals for the future.”

Seventeen faculty members from seven colleges and twelve departments are teaching SCI courses this year. About 400 students will be involved.

Here’s a look at a four of the projects that faculty and students are working on this fall:

  • Senior livability—A public health course taught by Cristina Barosso, an associate professor in the Department of Public Health, will develop and pilot a survey tool to identify existing livability conditions for seniors in Grundy County. Students will look at factors such as access to food, health care, and recreation. The survey will eventually be used across the region to help the Regional Aging Consortium serve the growing population of seniors in the region.
  • Farmers market—An agricultural economics course taught by Professors Bill Park and David Hughes will develop a business plan for a farmers market in the city of Pikeville.
  • Trail of Tears landmarks—Working with both the SETDD and the Hiwassee River Heritage Center, students in architecture, history, and anthropology will collaborate on historical analysis and interpretive design for landmarks associated with the Trail of Tears. Faculty overseeing the work include Katherine Ambroziak, associate professor of architecture; Julie Reed, assistant professor of history; and Assistant Professor Kandi Hollenbach and Postdoctoral Research Associate Michael Kenyhercz, both of the Department of Anthropology.
  • Disaster planning—A political science class taught by Lecturer Joe Jarret will research and recommend strategies for regional and local disaster planning. Recommendations will include disaster readiness and community resiliency measures, as well as disaster response measures including federal and state regulation, intergovernment cooperation and coordination of volunteer efforts.

The complete set of projects proposed by SETDD can be found here. Not all of these projects have been matched to faculty and courses, and more projects are being added.

Participating faculty met SETDD representatives at a recent workshop. Students enrolled in SCI courses will attend workshops this week.

On September 15, the SCI Kick-Off will be held in Athens, Tennessee.

More information about this year’s work with SETDD and the pilot year with Cleveland is available on SCI’s website and Facebook page.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,

Kelly Ellenburg (865-974-9577,