“Lean In Circles”, a women’s professionals movement of small peer groups that meet regularly to learn and share together, has recently formed at The University of Tennessee. The “Women in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science” group are the founders of this new circle in a partnership between LeanIn.org, a private foundation focused on encouraging women to pursue their dreams, and the Anita Borg Institute, a nonprofit organization focusing on women. This Lean In movement began when Sheryl Sandberg wrote the New York Times best-selling book, Lean In, starting a discussion on what women can do, rather than not do, to advance their careers and influence. The Anita Borg Institute’s Lean In Circles are for women who are possibly considering technology and related careers. ABI works toward developing discussion guides, training and resource materials to help women recognize their strengths, set goals and ultimately be successful. This new Lean In Circle on UT’s campus provides mentorship for students, creates outreach activities, and starts a community within the department. This group seeks to increase the number of women in STEM related fields as currently, women are underrepresented in the industry. For example, the female enrollment in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UT, the group forming the new circle, sits at 5% for undergraduate and 22% for graduate. This trend isn’t just confined within the University of Tennessee campus, but is nationwide. According to Forbes.com, the STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math – have always had a lack of female representation. In fact, according to a 2011 report by the US Department of Commerce, only one in seven engineers is female and less than 20% of computer science bachelor’s degrees go to women. Overall, women have seen no employment growth in STEM jobs since 2000. “UT’s circle includes members, events, collections, and posts and provides a virtual community to help us recruit, mentor and retain women in EECS,” said Denise Koessler, host of the circle. More information on AIB Lean In Circles and the Institute is available here. For more information about the Lean In movement, visit the website. You may also contact Whitney Heins (865-974-5460, email@example.com) regarding UT’s involvement.
The average Tennessee teacher salary is $50,000. This salary includes the salary of entry level teaching positions at $32,000 and fluctuates by district all the way up to a principal’s salary, which is typically well above $50,000. Although the average salary has increased by four percent in the last two years, this salary remains in the bottom 10 states nationwide, which has lead to Governor Haslam’s latest announcement regarding teacher salaries. He expressed a desire to have Tennessee teachers’ pay grow the fastest percentage in the nation. Although Governor Haslam has not given many specifics of goal implementation just yet, he did note that it will be a budget priority in the upcoming legislative session and that it is the most important issue his administration has tackled to date. Governor Haslam recently tweeted, “Teachers are the key to classroom success and we’re seeing real progress. We want to be the fastest improving state in teacher salaries.” Recently, the Tennessee State Board of Education decided not to increase teacher pay depending on their number of degrees. Increasing the pay of teachers who have a higher degree is not something states are required to do. School districts must decide whether to adopt a form of “differential pay” or “performance pay”. “Differential pay” could mean an increased salary for teachers who teach in high-need/rural area schools, or teachers who have the ability to teach the more difficult subjects such as chemistry. “Performance pay” is based on how well students perform on standardized tests, therefore reflecting how well the teachers perform. “Performance pay” is a move designed to provide teachers with further motivation and to ultimately increase student achievement. The question is; is the budget available to those who want to raise these types of teacher’s salaries. This goal, along with the Administration’s goal of becoming the fastest improving state in student achievement by 2015, as well as the move to the Common Core State Standards should all work toward Tennessee better preparing our students for the future. Click here for more information on Governor Haslam’s latest announcement. Do you agree that this could lead to better student achievement? Do you feel teachers deserve to be paid more? Finally, do you think is a realistic goal for Tennessee? Give us your feedback!
A state proposal to extend the James White Parkway to John Sevier Highway has been removed from the Transportation Planning Organization’s (TPO) short-term plans and appears to be dead for now. Wednesday morning the TPO, made up of Knox, Blount, Sevier, and Loudon counties, voted to remove the $104 million project from our region’s four-year transportation plan. Mayor Madeline Rogero made the motion to remove the project from the TPO’s funding plans this morning, then followed by a unanimous vote. This decision comes after an alternate route was proposed earlier this month, that looked to potentially soften the concerns from critics who fought the plan by moving it farther from the city’s Urban Wilderness area. While the TPO’s plans are not binding to TDOT, TPO’s votes do affect federal funding. In fact, without the votes from TPO, the Federal Highway Administration will not give Tennessee the money to fund the project, effectively killing the extension. The TPO’s executive board will vote again on September 25 to confirm the action of removing it from the strategic plan. Importantly, the state does still plan to continue to make improvements along Chapman Highway, which could help some South Knoxville businesses struggling since the Henley Street Bridge closure two years ago. What do you think about the decision to forego the plans to extend James White Parkway? Do you feel that it would have negatively affected our Urban Wilderness asset? Or do you think the benefits would have outweighed the costs in building a potentially quicker and safer route to the Smoky Mountains? Send us your feedback!
As part of the Governor's "Drive to 55" initiative, the goal to increase the percentage of Tennesseans who have a 2-year degree or higher from 32% to 55% by 2025, the Governor launched a competency-based, online university called Western Governors University. “WGU Tennessee will give adult students with some college credits the opportunity to earn a degree,” Haslam said in a press release. "...WGU Tennessee will play an important role in our [Drive to 55] success.” WGU aims to meet the needs of working adults with families and full-time employment, who may have completed some college credit previously, but never finished their degrees. The online format should provide the least amount of interference as possible, allowing students to take classes at their own pace wherever they may be located. While the Tennessee Board of Regents, who oversees such community colleges as Pellissippi State and Roane State, have similar goals, WGU Tennessee is viewed as another tool to assist in the Drive to 55. Rather than earning degrees based on credit hours, like at a traditional university, WGU students are tested to demonstrate mastery of a specific subject. There are also differences in semester and class structure, which leads to a reduction in time necessary to complete a degree. The average time to complete a bachelor's degree at WGU is just 3 years, whereas at some traditional universities, it's 4 years or in most cases, even longer. Students will also have a faculty mentor who will guide them through the program. What impact do you think Drive to 55 and this new online university will have on adults in the Knoxville area? Do you think this will affect the enrollment of our local higher education institutions at all, or do you think they're serving a different crop of students?
This week the Oregon State Legislature approved the “Pay it Forward” tuition proposal. The concept allows students to attend public universities tuition and loan free. Upon graduating, the students would return the favor to future students by having 3 percent deducted from their post graduation paychecks for approximately 20-25 years. Two-year college grads would repay at a 1.5 percent rate, and those who do not complete a degree will pay a pro-rated portion. Those dollars would go into a fund to pay the tuition costs for future students. The bill passed unanimously and is expected to be signed by Oregon’s Governor this month. The bill directs the state’s Higher Education Coordination Commission to develop a pilot for consideration by the 2015 Legislature. The start-up costs for the program are estimated at $9B. The Oregon Legislature believes that this plan is fair and reasonable since most loan payments are currently higher than 3 percent of the average income per person. This will lift the heavy debt burden from students, and will also give them more freedom in choosing a career path, rather than taking a job after graduation with paying off student loans in mind. The “Pay It Forward” model, which was first originated by the Economic Opportunity Institute in Seattle, has also caught the attention of other states such as Washington, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Oregon’s blueprint could be used by any state, including Tennessee, to reduce the loan burden Tennessee’s students face, and could even positively affect our talent retention rate for students who would want to remain here to give back to their state. This year, student tuition increases averaged 6 percent at The University of Tennessee in its’ Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin campuses. UT Knoxville has had an increase in tuition year after year to help the university achieve its goal of being a Top 25 public research institution, and retention and graduate rates are a huge component in the race to the top. As a result, a push is being made for alumni support and giving at UT as well as other post-secondary institutions in the state, as students continue to struggle with finding enough resources to pay for tuition. What are your thoughts on tuition-free post-secondary education but a long-term commitment afterwards? Do you think this could work in Tennessee?
Unpaid internships have been a rite of passage among many college students as an easy method of gaining resume-worthy experience and valuable connections in their chosen fields. An Associated Press article last week examines a recent U.S. District Judge ruling that a company violated minimum wage laws by not paying its interns. More specifically, the judge ruled that an internship must be in an educational environment, must primarily benefit the intern instead of the employer, and that an intern’s work should not replace the work of paid employees. Arguments exist on both sides; that unpaid internships have become the norm, especially during the economic downturn, and provide invaluable benefits like mentoring and resume padding in place of pay. In contrast, some believe it takes advantage of students and unfairly leaves out those who cannot afford to work for free. The decision could lead to companies and internship programs across the country to reconsider the legality of hiring unpaid interns. What are your thoughts on the Judge’s ruling?
The State Collaborative on Reforming Education released a poll last week showing an overwhelming support for the Common Core standards, a learning guide adopted by Tennessee and 44 other states to help better prepare students for post-secondary education and the workforce.The data shows that 76 percent of Tennessee voters, using a sample size of 500 voters, support Common Core after hearing a brief description. While the survey also indicates an increase in awareness, only about a third surveyed said they had heard “a lot” or “some” about the standards, indicating a need for increased communication on the more rigorous standards. Jamie Woodson, President and CEO of SCORE, noted that high academic standards, like Common Core, are an important piece to our state’s work toward improving student achievement. These results show that there is solid support across the state for implementing higher standards for our students. It is also to be noted that in addition to the majority of voters, over 200 Tennessee organizations support higher academic standards by supporting Common Core and the Expect More, Achieve More Coalition. The Knoxville Chamber also supports Common Core and raising the bar in Tennessee classrooms, to help meet the increasing demand for a highly skilled and better educated workforce. The Common Core standards are critical to our international competitiveness, to ensure that Tennessee doesn’t fall behind in the global marketplace. Tennessee's Senate Education Committee also plans to hold “Common Core Fact Finding Sessions” in late summer to review facts from both supporters and opponents. What are your thoughts regarding the higher standards, known as Common Core?
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander introduced The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013 to address the competitive price disadvantages faced by local businesses, who are competing for business with online retailers, by empowering states to collect sales taxes for purchases made over the Internet. Coincidentally, the Act may also lead to lower state taxes in Tennessee, as addressed by Tom Humphrey's article. Tennessee House Speaker Harwell said, "If the bill becomes law, it will allow Tennessee to collect taxes that are already due, and hopefully we can use those funds to reduce taxes elsewhere for Tennesseans." Though, Governor Haslam noted a few things before committing to that. He admitted that the bill has a long way to go before passing the House, and that in the event that it does pass, an increase in spending may be more appropriate than cutting taxes. The Knoxville Chamber has taken a position to support the Act because it creates a fair and more predictable business environment that is critical to protect jobs and vital public services. It is important to note that this Act does not implement a new tax; instead, it simply allows states to enforce existing ones on all purchases made in the state. The bill easily passed the US Senate, but is still being considered by the US House, where victory is not as apparent. Do you support or oppose the Act? What are your additional thoughts on the possible effects of the legislation?
Despite statewide pressure from the business community, the 2013 Tennessee Legislature passed a law allowing valid Tennessee handgun permit holders to transport firearms or ammunition in their vehicle while utilizing a parking area, including in private employers’ lots. The Knoxville Chamber and its peers in urban areas across Tennessee took a position against this “Guns in Parking Lots” bill, defending the property rights of employers. The Tennessee Attorney General released an opinion this week answering various questions pertaining to the new law, including confirmation that an employer can still discipline an employee for violating company rules about guns on company property. The AG notes that Tennessee remains an at-will state, and that employers retain the right to terminate an employee for violating the company’s firearm policy. He reiterates that the law only decriminalizes the carrying and storage of firearms on public or private property, if the individual has permission to be on said property, and does not address nor has impact on the relationship between employee and employer. Read the entire opinion here. What are your thoughts on the legislation?
As we work with the Knox County Schools to develop career pathways for students in high-demand, high-skill occupations (such as those in advanced manufacturing), we need your assistance to ensure that we are meeting your workforce needs. A couple months ago, we asked our members to provide input on those workforce needs by filling out an online survey. That information was critical in beginning this process and we need your help on ensuring we have identified the right skills, competencies, and tools needed reach our desired outcomes.We would like to invite our technical and manufacturing members to join us on June 5th from 3-5pm to give us feedback. We will present to you our current plans, specifically in operating and industrial maintenance, and we need your input on what we should add, remove or edit before proceeding. For more information and to RSVP, please contact Crystal Brooks now at firstname.lastname@example.org.