TSU Students Engage in Lawmaking at State Capitol, Discuss and Debate Bills on House Floor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – For nearly two hours, the Tennessee General Assembly looked like a classroom with 28 individuals discussing major bills on the House floor, except this time, the people debating the bills were not lawmakers. They were students – Tennessee State University students.

They were part of “Leadership TSU,” a top training program. The students spent nearly four hours at the State Capitol on Friday, Feb. 1, touring and receiving lectures from lawmakers and government officials, including a representative for newly elected Gov. Bill Lee.

Just like lawmakers, the students engaged in an exercise of discussing, debating and voting on bills actually pending before the General Assembly.

State Rep. Harold Love, Jr., facilitates a discussion on a bill with Leadership TSU students on the House floor of the State Capitol. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

“From today’s exercise, I learned a lot about how much thinking goes into considering a policy or a bill,” said Maria Rhodes, a sophomore political science major from Memphis, Tennessee. “Specifically, one has to think about who it will affect, who it will benefit – the positives, the negatives, the outcomes – and who the bill is geared toward.”

Leadership TSU, considered the highest level of leadership training at TSU, comprises 40 students – from freshmen to seniors – with demonstrated ability to lead. The program is sponsored by FedEx, which is exposing the cohorts to “some of the company’s best practices in leadership,” according to Frank Stevenson, dean of students and a coordinator of LTSU. The goal is to train and develop students with top leadership skills to help them be even more competitive in the workforce.

Stevenson said Friday’s exercise on the House floor was intended to “stretch the students’ thinking outside the box” in preparing them to be able to analyze policies.

Four students make their case for a bill during discussion on the House floor, as Dean Frank Stevenson, and a House aid, back row, look on. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

“We gave them four current legislative bills around higher education and funding models, to debate and discuss,” he said. “They were charged with digging into those and creating a policy position on each one of those bills and coming out with what they think would be the best funding model for higher education.”

State Sen. Brenda Gilmore, Rep. Harold Love, Jr., two TSU alums, and Joseph Williams, director of external affairs in the Governor’s office, were among officials who welcomed the students to the Capitol.

“One of the benefits of having Leadership TSU down here today is that it continues TSU’s tradition of training leaders for the current and next generation,” said Love, who facilitated one of the group’s discussions. “To have these students here engaging in the process of making policy like we do everyday at the General Assembly does nothing more than brighten my heart because I see the next generation of leaders being trained right here.”

Charlie Green, Jr., an architectural engineering and urban studies major from Jackson, Tennessee, said the discussion helped him sharpen his skills in public speaking and debating.

“It also helped me to be able to think about things from different perspectives, and that is something all students should be exposed to,” Green said. “Things affect people on different levels, such as from being a student to going into professional life.”

TSU Assistant Dean of Students, Erica Gilmore, who is also at-large council member; and Ashton Cleveland, assistant dean of student life and engagement, accompanied the students and helped to facilitate the discussions.

Students interested in being selected for the 2020 class of Leadership TSU should contact the Office of the Dean of Students at (615) 963-2154 or [email protected].

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.