College + Industry developing new degree programs

Anne BrockFeature

Finding your own way through college and career has never been more open to individual determination than today at the College of Emerging and Collaborative Studies. This new college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville aims to be every bit as innovative and relevant as its name suggests. CECS recently held another summit of education and industry leaders for input on what students need to learn and how industry can support them.

“One of the goals of the College of Emerging & Collaborative Studies is to help fill the talent gaps that exist between higher education and industry. We are developing academic programs that are not only forward-thinking, but also allow our industry partners to engage in and provide feedback on the needs of the market,” said Caleb Knight, director of partnerships & economic engagement.

“Higher education has not always been as responsive as it should be to industry,” said UTK Provost John Zomchick to the room full of summit attendees as he kicked off the event celebrating new areas of study such as applied artificial intelligence, data science and innovative transdisciplinary studies.

ITS includes customizable areas of study such as applied cybersecurity, sustainable development and AI for medicine or even music. CECS is tasked with making and keeping these studies relevant and valuable for students-turned-professionals and the professions where they might serve.

CECS Founding Dean Ozlem Kilic, who also serves as vice provost of academic affairs, said, “We need to constantly tune these degrees with your input.” The college is offering traditionally earned degrees in these majors, as well as minors and stackable certificates.

“I think your certificate program is just spot-on!” said UTK President Randy Boyd to Dean Kilic during a roundtable discussion. The discussion also included leadership from Roane State as well as from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“The bottleneck is in workforce,” said ORNL Director Stephen Streiffer.

Roane State President Chris Whaley echoed the need to be responsive to industry needs like those at ORNL and to constantly ask, “how does that translate into a curriculum?”

During the gathering, CECS leadership held focus groups that discussed how mentorships and internships could potentially benefit students in the coming years. CECS is partnering with industry for ongoing workforce development. For more information, you can contact

Anne Brock is marketing coordinator for Solar Alliance, which designs and manages solar installation projects for large manufacturers and small businesses. She can be reached at 865-221-8349.


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