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The University of Tennessee has partnered with the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to launch a new leadership institute focused on the unique challenges and solutions around Appalachia’s economic development.

The Appalachian Leadership Institute, a comprehensive nine-month program composed of seven sessions between October and July, is now accepting applications for 40 community leaders who live and work in the region. The deadline to apply is June 1.

UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and the Tickle College of Engineering, along with Tuskegee University and Collective Impact, a company that works to bring together community-based organizations, have partnered with the ARC on the institute.

“We are honored to carry forward the legacies of Tennessee Senator Howard H. Baker Jr. and Tuskegee University founder Booker T. Washington by facilitating this new leadership institute for Appalachia,” said Katie Cahill, associate director of the Baker Center.

The sessions will include skill-building seminars, best-practice reviews, and field visits across the 13 states that make up the Appalachian region, with the final capstone event to be held in Washington, DC.

“Appalachia, as a region, is in the midst of a profound economic and social change,” said project leader Tim Ezzell, a research scientist in the Department of Political Science and chair of UT’s Appalachian Community Scholars program. “Our goal is to create leaders that will not only help the region adapt to these changes, but also will use these opportunities to create thriving, equitable, and sustainable communities.

“A small number of good leaders—people with skills and vision—can play a major role in transforming a community,” Ezzell said.

The ARC is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments that focuses on 420 counties in the Appalachian region. Its mission is to foster innovation, partnerships, and investments to build community capacity and economic growth.

“Appalachia’s future relies on leaders coming from a variety of sectors, backgrounds, and communities,” said Tim Thomas, ARC federal co-chair. “The Appalachian Leadership Institute will help these leaders enhance and refine their skills, share their expertise, and prepare their communities for success.”


Megan Boehnke (865-974-3242,

William Wells (