Complete Tennessee Leadership Academy: The Student Experience

Knoxville, TN

Students Come First is a central value agreed upon by Complete Tennessee Leadership Academy (CTLA) participants. For the second CTLA session, which took place in Knoxville in early November 2016, this value was front and center.

Students from diverse backgrounds and educational pathways joined us for a panel hosted by the University of Tennessee. President Joe DiPietro welcomed the group and set the tone for the session. A key theme centered on a problem many students often face but higher education leaders often overlook: the “hidden curriculum” or the difficulty of navigating the college landscape for first-generation students.

Participants toured Pellissippi State Community College’s Strawberry Plains campus where multiple secondary and postsecondary programs partner together to offer a wide range of hands-on career exploration for students. After taking a deeper look at the programs offered at Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Knoxville, participants engaged in a panel with ProjectGrad, Great Schools Partnership, and Vol4Life directors who shared the unique approaches of their organizations to meeting students’ needs.

Better serving students from all backgrounds is necessary in order to meet Drive to 55 goals. This means offering multiple, flexible pathways for students to continue higher education; this means reevaluating the language we use on campus to remove barriers around the “hidden curriculum”; and this means engaging community partners who can provide an elevated level of services on campus. At Complete Tennessee, we understand that it will take intentional efforts from institutions and support from entire communities to get there.