MC takes home TISL regional award

MC takes home TISL regional award

Dec. 12, 2016

Last year, Maryville College returned to the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature (TISL) after an absence of many years. This year, the College’s delegation was recognized as the best team from the East region.

“TISL has been around for 50 years, and for much of that history, Maryville College has been absent from the activity, so it was with great pride that the MC team accepted the Outstanding Collegiate Team Award for East Tennessee,” said Vandy Kemp, dean of students and advisor to MC’s delegation. “The honor made Maryville College’s delegation one of the top four – out of 46 – in the state.”

Regional awards also went to delegations from Rhodes College and Trevecca Nazarene University. A delegation from Chattanooga State Community College was recognized as best overall.

More than 500 students from 46 colleges and universities across the state gathered in Nashville Nov. 17-20 to create and pass bills, lobby for important causes, argue cases in front of the Tennessee Intercollegiate Supreme Court and report on all of it, just as the media would.

First convened in 1966, TISL is a forum for student leaders “to exchange ideas, express their opinions and learn how government works,” according to the organization’s website. Kemp described is as a “mock-up” of the essential elements of public service: legislative, lobby, legal, electoral, and journalistic.

“For students who are interested in careers related to public service, it is a short, yet intense experience that allows college students to try out their skills and imagine the future,” she said.

MC delegation includes 17 students

Students participating in TISL meet in the legislative chambers of the State Capitol every November, but preparations begin early in the fall semester. In applying, students choose the area in which they would most like to participate.

A total of 17 MC students participated in TISL. Serving as state legislators were Nick Peterson ’17 (who also served as a head delegate), Josh Anderson ’18, Claire Snyder ’17 and Kory Martinez ’17.

Lobbyists included Virginia Johnson ’17, Molly Ridgeway ’18, Sarah Gregory ’18, Coral Thayer ’18 and Mariah Franklin ’18.

The College’s delegation included two teams of four lawyers: Hannah Kirby ’18, Corrinne McClure ’18, Riley McMillan ’17, Georgia Miller ’18, Zach Cardwell ’20, Jacob Williams ’19, Beau Branton ’19 and Ciara Humphrey ’20.

“Soon after the application process, lawyers start writing their briefs, which are like really long research papers with a lot of legal jargon. You pick a side and write out why you think that side is right. Then you prepare oral arguments,” explained Hannah Kirby, who competed as a lawyer and was, as a two-time head delegate, instrumental in the College’s return to TISL.

The fictional case for which all lawyer teams had to prepare was a first amendment rights case involving the free exercise of religion.

Kirby required students participating as lobbyists and legislators to write at least one bill, and she encouraged them to be vocal and visible while in Nashville.

“You get out of TISL what you put into it,” she said. “At Maryville College, we learn how to speak in public, but you don’t know how difficult speaking in public is until you’re doing it in front of 100 peers from various colleges and universities throughout the state. But when it’s something that you’re passionate about, it’s a really great opportunity.”

MC students stand out

Johnson wrote a bill instituting comprehensive sexual education in schools. She served as CEO of the lobbying firm Tennessee Teachers, which was selected as the best lobbying firm in the TISL competition.

McMillan, head lawyer, led one of MC’s teams of lawyers to the semi-final round and was among the top 8 teams (of out 27) in the competition.

“Kory Martinez, who was one of our representatives, wrote a bill about DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. It got passed through the House and the Senate,” Kirby said. “One of the cool things about TISL is that at the end of the General Assembly, the new executive body will pick 10 bills that will be submitted to the real Tennessee Legislature.

“We’re pushing the executive council for that one to be on the list,” she said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Anderson was appointed by TISL’s Lieutenant Governor/Speaker of the Senate to be Chief Clerk of the Senate for next year’s (the 48th) General Assembly.

“In this role I will serve as the chief administrative officer of the Senate, and I am in charge of preparing legislation for all Senate floor sessions, helping the Speaker of the Senate conduct all Senate business, and I also serve on the Legislative Council, which meets throughout the year preparing for the legislative session,” he said.

Kirby said she felt a lot of personal satisfaction over the weekend.

“I was very proud because the College’s participation in TISL feels very much like ‘my baby,’” she said. “I’ve put a lot of effort into it, and just seeing how much people enjoyed themselves and how well they were doing, it was a really, really good feeling.”

Bigger pictures

While in Nashville, some members of the MC delegation met with W. Neal McBrayer ’86, a Maryville College alumnus and Board member, judge for the Tennessee Court of Appeals and TISL member. McBrayer took students on a tour of the Tennessee Supreme Court. Some MC students also met Brenda Gadd ‘02, an MC alumna and public policy coordinator for the Tennessee Bar Association, who spoke at a women’s leadership breakfast.

For some students, TISL experiences clarify graduate school programs and career plans. Anderson plans a career in state government.

“It has confirmed my desire to work in public service by showing me that I can take my ideas, act on them and work with other like-minded individuals and make them a reality,” he said.

Kirby said she isn’t sure where her TISL experiences will take her, but she knows they’ve been important in her college career.

“TISL is very distinct from the rest of my Maryville College career and activities,” she said, referring to her involvement in the Student Government Association, the Environmental Action Team and Mountain Challenge. “I’m the flannel- and Chaco sandals-wearing type. TISL got me to become more engaged with ‘Pantsuit Hannah.’ TISL gave me a better understanding of how politics affects my everyday life.”

TISL also has given her hope in the future.

“After the presidential election, I was concerned. I didn’t know how – if – there would be any political tension, and there wasn’t. It was a bunch of really intelligent students who came together to have a good time in a very productive manner,” she said. “They always say that TISL is not a partisan organization, and you always have your doubts about that sort of claim, but it wasn’t partisan.

“Experiencing that gave me a lot of faith in my generation – for the people who are hopefully going to be leading the state,” she said.

By Karen Beaty Eldridge '94, Executive Director for Marketing & Communications


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2017 semester is 1,181.