MTSU students gain experience testing state government waters at collegiate legislative sessions

Dec 03, 2021 at 03:54 pm by WGNS

Beth Harwell, former speaker of the house in the Tennessee General Assembly, MTSU photo by James Cessna

MTSU again was a major player in the recent Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature, which annually provides interested college students from across the state with a hands-on taste of the ins and outs of crafting public policy.

While MTSU’s eight-member delegation joined the other schools in the same senate and house chambers on Capitol Hill in Nashville, Tennessee, where the Tennessee General Assembly meets, this mock session of college students conducted four days of business — some serious in nature and others as fun as declaring banana pudding to be the official state dessert.

The Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature, or TISL, is an annual legislative session held by Tennessee college students, educating students about Tennessee state government and an outlet to express their opinions about state issues. Many students, following graduation, often pursue careers related to government and related organizations.

The MTSU delegation was mentored by Beth Harwell, former Tennessee House speaker who is now a university Distinguished Visiting Professor. Other mentors included Candace McQueen, Lipscomb University president and CEO and former state education commissioner; Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby.

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“It was a formative experience to sit exactly where actual Tennessee politicians pass or fail legislation,” said Zach Smith, an MTSU theatre and secondary education double major, who handled social media — mainly Instagram and Twitter — for the entire legislative body (hundreds of students from nearly 30 colleges and universities).

“Almost everyone you meet from other schools is passionate and excited to network among schools,” added Smith. “Other students are either trying to receive support for legislation or elections and will eagerly discuss their agenda.”

MTSU’s Preston George was elected TISL 2021-22 governor after being Speaker of the Senate for 2020-21. He will host weekly meetings with his executive council, plan the 53rd General Assembly and preside over next year’s legislative session.

MTSU’s delegation, with their legislative
roles and academic majors, also included:

  • Ben Adams, TISL senator and political science/pre-law and urban studies double major.

  • Jesse Griffin, representative (House) and media management major.

  • Denzel Harris, representative and business administration major.

  • - Delanie McDonald, representative; the graduate student and formerStudent Government Association president is pursuing a master’s degree in higher education administration.

  • Logan McVey, representative and a history/political science double major.

  • Tommy Wilmore, representative and a mechatronics engineering major.

  • Sydney Fischer, lobbyist and a political science major.


SGA President Winton Cooper also attended, as did adviser Danny Kelley, assistant vice president for Student Life.

Harwell met with the MTSU students before they headed to Nashville, “providing us with valuable feedback on the legislation we were contemplating presenting,” Smith said. “To have someone of her state government experience mentor our students is definitely uncommon and our students were privileged to have her working with them hands-on in providing this kind of leadership development.”

Smith is hopeful more MTSU students will develop an interest in state government and want to attend in 2022, giving the university a better opportunity to earn awards.

MTSU once again sponsored the Tri-Star Social, the most high-profile event the student General Assembly offers other than the legislative sessions, Smith said.

“It demonstrates the value MTSU places on developmental opportunities TISL affords our students,” Smith added. “This event allows delegates to network with peers and recollect after the first day of the General Assembly. MTSU’s presence always helps get students engaged and excited for the remainder of the weekend.”

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