Lipscomb president L. Randolph Lowry (left) and UT Martin Chancellor Keith Carver are pictured signing the agreement at Lipscomb University on Dec. 5.

UT Martin and Lipscomb announce rural leadership program partnership

Lipscomb University has launched a new Rural Leadership Scholars Program, an initiative designed to develop leaders across Tennessee with a particular focus on those from the state’s 70 rural counties as investment in leadership development and education in the state. On Thursday, Dec. 5, Lipscomb announced its first partnership in the program with the University of Tennessee at Martin. UT Martin is located in Weakley County, Tennessee, with a population of just over 33,000.

“This is really, really important work,” said L. Randolph Lowry, Lipscomb University president, at a signing ceremony to formalize the partnership. “We as an institution need to be educating individuals who will go into the public sector, tackle those challenges that frankly can’t be tackled by anyone else. I’m excited to see this new program here emerge and to imagine what that could do for our state in the next five, ten or 15 years. I think a program that calls people to be collaborative and to listen and learn and then to say let’s do this together. Lipscomb University and the University of Tennessee at Martin is one example of that and seeing what together we can do for the state of Tennessee is pretty powerful.”

Keith Carver, chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Martin, said among the most important considerations in life are people, relationships and experiences.

“What people are you surrounding yourself with? How are you pouring into those people with relationships, and with experiences, what are you spending your time doing,” Carver asked the crowd gathered for the celebration. “When I think about this collaboration and what the University of Tennessee at Martin is doing in the 21 rural counties in and around west Tennessee and what Lipscomb is doing in terms of leadership, service and advocacy with the curriculum and this program. The merger of these two programs where we take academic study of leadership applying it it’s taking two great things and making a beautiful partnership. We are extremely excited about this and to see the impact that this will have.”

As part of the partnership, students earn their undergraduate degree at UT Martin and a Master of Arts degree in leadership and public service from Lipscomb University’s College of Leadership & Public Service. Students who agree to return to an officially designated rural community in Tennessee after completing their education will receive support and scholarships that will greatly reduce the cost of the last two years of the undergraduate degree as well as the master’s degree. A select group of students from UT Martin will complete their undergraduate education at UT Martin and then complete a Master of Arts in Leadership and Public Service at Lipscomb University with an emphasis in rural initiatives. As part of their master’s studies, students will continue to live in their rural community and serve their community through projects and work. The goal is to produce master’s degree-educated rural leaders who will commit their careers to developing the rural segments of the state.

“Every community has unique needs and must have leaders who possess the capacity to both understand community complexities as well as the knowledge base to contend with the challenges that inevitably arise. Most importantly, community leaders must have the capability to respond by implementing solutions-focused interventions and policies,” said Rep. Mark White (R-District 83), director of leadership and public service at Lipscomb.

“The need for community leadership in all social contexts has never been greater than in the present, whether the context is urban, rural, suburban, economically challenged or affluent,” he continued. “This program is a unique opportunity for current and future leaders across the state to make an impact on these communities. We are excited about this partnership with the University of Tennessee at Martin as we work together to engage, equip and empower those who strive to serve the common good.”

The Master of Arts (M.A.) in Leadership and Public Service at Lipscomb University has been created and designed to train leaders who can serve strong communities by implementing tangible solutions.

“Leadership is difficult and only slightly more difficult in rural communities,” said Jake Bynum, mayor, Weakley County, Tennessee, and student in Lipscomb’s Master of Arts in Leadership and Public Service program. “The challenges that our rural communities face are like nothing that we see in a lot of areas. With 70 counties across the state that are primarily rural counties, developing leaders in those areas is vitally important. It’s my hope that those communities will encourage their local leaders to participate in this program to give their communities a better understanding of how they can be served more successfully. I’m proud that these two institutions who have understood leadership development for years now have made an even larger commitment to the growth of that leadership development.”

Students will have the opportunity to discover ways to lead and serve with the State of Tennessee as a laboratory, providing a firsthand view of how this vibrant and growing state deals with dilemmas and opportunities. Accordingly, Tennessee’s cities, counties, businesses and public and private organizations offer countless opportunities for field placements designed to help students gain a valuable understanding of diverse policy issues. The program includes immersive learning experiences throughout the state in cities like Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, as well as many of Tennessee’s smaller cities, towns and rural communities to learn the dynamics of leadership and governance in a variety of contexts and to explore how the policy development process works from current leaders.

“This truly has the potential to lead to a better, stronger Tennessee for years to come. It also has the potential to change the trajectory of thousands of lives, lives of those even yet unborn,” Michael Anastasi, vice president/news and executive editor of the Tennessean and the TN Media Network, said in remarks made at the ceremony. “Thank you Dr. Lowry and Dr. Carver for your vision, your commitment and your courage to take on something so bold. Because of my job I have the opportunity to get to know and work with leaders from Knoxville to Memphis and many places in between. I especially enjoy driving the backroads of those towns because I came from one just like them. One in rural northern California. A town of population 500.”

The first cohort of students will enter the Master of Arts program at Lipscomb in fall 2020. The program, which may be completed in one year, facilitates the building of critical skills in leadership, communication and conflict resolution. Courses will focus on innovative leadership in rural and statewide settings, data analysis, connecting the community to resources, negotiation and conflict management, working productively in cross-sector settings, communicating to diverse interest groups and budget management among other topics. Students will also study with and be mentored by top leaders from across Tennessee and will develop a statewide support system and network of resources. Part of the course of study will also include developing an initiative that is built around the needs of a particular community and then implementing it. The program will be offered in a flexible format for working professionals. After students complete their studies, Lipscomb will continue to support graduates of the program with professional development opportunities and a statewide network of resources.

“Several years ago now, we created the Master of Arts Degree in Leadership and Public Service to train leaders who can serve strong communities by implementing tangible solutions. The genesis of the Master of Arts program was predicated on both informal and formal guidance of local, state, regional, and national public servants,” said Michelle Steele, director of the Master of Arts in Leadership & Public Service at Lipscomb University. “Today, we are taking the degree to the next level of service. We have been the place where Tennessee turns for leadership and today, we are making a formal statement of this commitment through our new partnership with the University of Tennessee at Martin. Through this partnership, we will teach students matriculating at both Universities to discover ways to lead and serve with the State of Tennessee as their primary laboratory, providing a firsthand view of how this vibrant and growing state deals with dilemmas and opportunities.”

Lipscomb University’s College of Leadership & Public Service is where Tennessee turns for leadership. Over the past decade, Lipscomb University has built a group of institutes that serve the common good and support innovative solutions. These institutes are housed in this college and include the Institute for Conflict Management, the Institute for Law, Justice & Society, the Institute for Sustainable Practice and the Nelson & Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership. Each offers graduate degree programming in addition to other initiatives including certificate programs, Rule 31 training and more. The college is also home to signature program Leadership Tennessee. This unique initiative provides collaborative learning and dialogue spanning the state’s three grand divisions, issue-specific education for demonstrated leaders, diverse representation of participants and opportunities to affect change. The college offers programs of study in pre-law, public service, nonprofit management, corporate social justice, government, sustainability, leadership and public service and urban studies.

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