TISL adds to students' college experience

TISL adds to students’ college experience

Dec. 8, 2017

For the second time in three years, a Maryville College delegation participated in the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature (TISL) and brought home honors.

Senior Molly Ridgeway ’18 was recognized as the best lobbying CEO, and junior Jacob Williams ’19 was appointed a justice of the Tennessee Intercollegiate Supreme Court for 2018.

 “It was a real joy watching the Maryville College delegation prepare bills and moot court cases, and debate public policies and procedures with other students from across the state,” said Dr. Aaron Astor, associate professor of history and advisor to MC’s TISL delegation. “TISL is a great leadership opportunity for students, especially those considering a future career in law, politics and journalism. The delegates, from MC and elsewhere, are the future leaders of Tennessee.”

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. Its four programs are patterned after the essential elements of public service: legislative, AMC3 (the Appellate Moot Court Collegiate Challenge), lobbying and media.

More than 500 students from numerous colleges and universities across the state gathered in Nashville Nov. 16-29 for the 48th General Assembly. They created and passed bills, lobbied for important causes, argued cases in front of the Tennessee Intercollegiate Supreme Court and reported on all of it, just as the media would.

Maryville’s AMC3 team included Williams, Ciara Humphrey ’20, Beau Branton ’19 and Carson Clark ’20. Legislative participants included Tristan Leslie ’19, who participated as a senator, and Josh Anderson ’18, who served as chief clerk of the Senate and helped with parliamentary procedures. (Anderson was also one of the College’s head delegates.) Nichole Kitts ’21 was involved in media activities, and Ridgeway was the lobbying CEO for the Disability and Diversity firm. Sarah Gregory ’18 and Brook Stallsmith ’18, both American Sign Language-English Interpreting majors, attended as interpreters for Ridgeway, who is non-verbal and uses American Sign Language to communicate.

TISL makes real impact

Ridgeway, a child development and learning with teacher licensure major, said TISL has allowed her to use her passion for helping people with disabilities.

“College students can make a huge impact in society with TISL,” the MC senior said, and she should know. Earlier this year, Ridgeway and Anderson saw one of their bills from the 2016 TISL assembly become law.

Senate Bill 524 and House Bill 462, which advocated for the Tennessee State Board of Education to implement American Sign Language (ASL) textbooks and curriculum and allow this course to satisfy foreign language requirements in Tennessee schools, passed the Tennessee General Assembly unanimously on April 24, 2017, and was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam on May 4. Ridgeway and Anderson actively worked for its passage throughout the spring semester, recruiting bill sponsors, speaking to legislative committees and granting media interviews.

“TISL has solidified my interests in pursuing a career in law and hopefully serving as an elected official in Tennessee state government,” said Anderson who is majoring in political science. “TISL has made these dreams into a reality and made me realize that even as a citizen, I can make a difference.”

Prep is rigorous

Preparations for TISL begin early in the fall semester. Students who register to participate in the legislative and lobbying programs are encouraged to write bills addressing issues that they are passionate about.

Students participating in AMC3 work in teams of two to five and prepare to argue each side of a hypothetical case before the Tennessee Intercollegiate Supreme Court. They are required to submit a brief two weeks prior to the competition. (The hypothetical case for 2017 dealt with whether an individual who reports securities violations internally, but not to the SEC, is entitled to the anti-retaliation whistleblower protections provided by the Dodd-Frank Act.)

Humphreys, a sophomore sociology major, said the TISL experience is great career preparation.

“Law is something that’s always been interesting to me as a potential career choice, so I decided it’d be worth it to see if it was still something I was interested in after doing a ‘trial run,’” Humphrey said.

Williams, a junior who is majoring in sociology and economics, was another head delegate for the MC group and said the hands-on experience has bettered him for school and work environments.

“My experience at MC would not be as rewarding as it is without TISL,” he said.

Students network

In addition to legislative sessions, committee meetings and moot court rounds, TISL participants heard from gubernatorial candidates and other elected officials, attended socials and elected next year’s leadership.

The networking opportunities are valuable, Humphrey said, adding that she met and became acquainted with Maryville College alumnus and Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Neal McBrayer ’86.

“TISL’s foundation is bedded in meeting different college students and some elected officials,” Ridgeway said. “One day, it is likely some of us Maryville College students will be working with other college students that we met at TISL.”

MC senior and TISL participant Molly Ridgeway’18 contributed to this story.

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.