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Aerial view of a portion of the UT campus and Knoxville, including the Sunsphere.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies welcomed more than 50 leaders of industry to campus on Thursday for “Higher Ed and Industry: A Vision for the Future,” an event to discuss how higher education and industry can partner to prepare students for employment.

“When we launched the College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies, it was out of recognition that technology is evolving so rapidly that entire industries are transforming before our eyes,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “If we are going to meet the needs of our students and our state, we must be nimble and creative in building the programs and curriculum that prepare students for the future workforce.”

“We want to hear from our industry partners about the skills they need, the challenges they’re facing and the ways we can work together to provide our students a customized education.”

Held at the UT Creamery, the event is intended to be the first of several such gatherings, helping the college’s faculty and leadership understand the needs of industry partners and opening opportunities for partners to host student research projects.

The event included a panel, Current Landscape and Future Strategies for Higher Ed-Employer Partnership Models, co-moderated by CECS Dean Ozlem Kilic and Edmon Begoli, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Center for Artificial Intelligence Security Research. Panelists included Knoxville Chamber President and CEO Mike Odom, TVA Director of Transformative Innovation Amy Henry, Volkswagen America VP of Engineering Wolfgang Maluche, and iO Urology founder and CEO Britton Garrett.

Ozlem Kilic
Ozlem Kilic

“Our objective is to serve the entire UT student body so anyone can upskill their talent by either taking a course, earning a certificate or a minor, or directly joining CECS for one of our majors,” said Kilic. “For example, an engineer may come and take an artificial intelligence minor, and they may be focusing on ethics and privacy so it’s an add-on skill set.”

In addition to the main session, there were four breakout panels:

  • Industry Partnerships for Curriculum Development
  • Collaborative Pursuit of Academic Resources
  • Addressing the Skills Gap in Higher Ed
  • Strategize with the Dean: Inspire, Innovate, and Break Down Barriers

The college is one of three new academic units at UT and was created with opportunities like this in mind, helping the university build closer ties within industry.


A panel discussion included representatives from UT, ORNL, Knoxville Chamber, TVA, Volkswagen and iO Urology.
A panel discussion included representatives from UT, ORNL, Knoxville Chamber, TVA, Volkswagen and iO Urology.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,​