Tennessee Tech will soon begin a new initiative focused on helping rural communities across the state.
President Phil Oldham said ‘Gen R: Rural Reimagined’ will assist rural areas by providing additional resources while creating more opportunities for students.
“We want to go even further, so where are we going?” Oldham asked. “We want to continue to involve more student groups and add service learning opportunities to assist rural communities. We want to help with increasing availability of broadband access in rural areas, [and] we want to continue to help with increasing access to quality, affordable healthcare, and childcare.”
Oldham presented the Grand Challenge Initiative at the Leslie Town Centre Tuesday. He said Tennessee Tech’s plan will differ from other initiatives by universities across the country.
“Other schools have created Grand Challenges. You can look those up and they’re pretty impressive,” Oldham said. “Our’s is different. It will leverage the assets of Tennessee Tech, and it is… a generation that creates and supports relevant, impactful, and scalable work that can move all rural communities forward.”
Oldham said Tennessee Tech’s location will allow them to assist eight of Tennessee’s 15 distressed counties, four of which are in the Upper Cumberland.
“I am energized by the thought of what we can do when we work together to face these challenges,” Oldham said. “I don’t want to kid anybody, these are significant challenges and these are difficult problems. I think as partners, we can address them, and we can provide leadership in this area and these rural communities.”
Oldham said the initiative also expresses the University’s core values in helping provide better learning opportunities for its students.
“Let’s continue to be what our nation needs – the kind of university Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal sees in us,” Oldham said. “A student-focused university, with bold, fearless, and confident graduates who give us assurance that everything is going to be OK.”
Oldham noted that the initiative would also help rural communities in developing sustainable food sources, promoting economic development, and increasing skilled labor opportunities.