In baseball, home runs excite fans because they are relatively rare, unpredictable, and most often literal game changers. They immediately stir strategy and raise stakes. The Cookeville Higher Education Campus promises to be that same type of game changer for higher education in the Upper Cumberland region.

When the Tennessee Board of Regents announced the unprecedented partnership of Tennessee Tech University, Nashville State Community College and Volunteer State Community College to create the Cookeville Higher Education Campus, we as partners put the needs of students and communities ahead of everything else. TBR Chancellor John Morgan called it an unprecedented amplification of the state’s focus on students.

At CHEC, Tennessee Tech has become the managing partner, allowing all three institutions the ability to offer educational and training programs appropriate to the changing needs of local students and industry. Students who may have never imagined earning a degree or certificate was possible now have a one-stop shop for information, testing, advisement, admission and classes, plus transfer advice.

Tennessee is leading the nation in post-secondary degree completion initiatives. We look toward meeting the increasing workforce demands of the 21st century as jobs are rapidly expanding within the state. Innovative new educational models like CHEC are needed to meet these additional demands and lower the energy barrier for more students to succeed.

Although in a much different operational context, the CHEC initiative is strikingly similar in many ways to the founding of Tennessee Polytechnic Institute exactly 100 years ago. I believe the founding fathers of Tennessee Tech would be very proud to see that legacy of educational access continue to expand well beyond their contemporary vision in 1915.

Just as the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” we look forward to a long and productive relationship with our CHEC partners. Ultimately, the students will be the real winners.

Go Eagles!