The University of Tennessee at Martin continues its summer tradition of inviting qualified students to take part in its two special programs: the Tennessee Governor’s School for Humanities and the Tennessee Governor’s School for Agricultural Sciences.

The Governor’s School for the Humanities began at UT Martin in 1985 with a multi-disciplinary program, a pilot project directed by Gov. Lamar Alexander and funded by the Tennessee Legislature.

Due to the success of that program, in 1986, the Legislature funded four separate programs: the Governor’s School for the Humanities at UT Martin, the Governors School for the Arts at Middle Tennessee State University, the Governor’s School for International Studies at the University of Memphis (then known as Memphis State University) and the Governor’s School for the Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Now, there are 11 different schools, including two that are here (at UT Martin),” said Dr. Jerald Ogg, UTM professor of mass media and strategic communication and director of the Governor’s School for the Humanities since 2001.

All of those programs take applications from upcoming high school juniors and seniors and enable them to take a college course for credit and get a feel for living on a college campus. The program cost is covered by a grant, so the experience is free for the students.

The Governor’s School for the Humanities

The Governor’s School for the Humanities takes up to 40 students who are interested in the humanities and humanities-adjacent subjects like English, history, political science and public speaking.

The classes and seminars involve several other UTM faculty members.

“What the students are doing is taking one credit class in the morning at 9:15, then they segue to a non-credit class for no academic credit at 11,” Ogg said. “In the afternoon, they are at seminars with more creative kinds of things.

“They may put together a newspaper – Dr. Robert Nanney (chair of the Department of Mass Media and Strategic Communication) takes care of that. Tomi McCutchen (instructor in the Department of Mass Media and Strategic Communication) does a yearbook, and we’ve got a seminar called ‘2-Minute Theater,’ where Sarah Haig (interim chair of the Department of Visual and Theatre Arts) has students take movies and turn them into 2-minute productions that they do at the end of the program.”

The Governor’s School programs also seek to provide high school upperclassmen with an on-campus college life experience, with students living in residence halls and eating at the cafeteria.

“They’re making decisions: ‘Do I study? Do I go play ping pong?’” Ogg said. “I think it’s good for them, when they get to college, to have had these four weeks thrown in with students they didn’t know. It’s just amazing to watch them come together every year.”

Ogg added that the experience helps the students grow into better students even before they come to campus as collegians.

“I like watching these students blossom,” he said. “They’re good students – obviously, or they wouldn’t be here – but I think they’re still questioning in their minds ‘Can I do this,’ particularly in a group this talented. Some of them are used to coasting in school. You can’t coast here, but they don’t want to coast; they want to get A’s in these graded classes because they all have very good grade-point averages and they want to go to good schools.

“They also want to compete with each other. I think throwing them in the first day is kind of awkward, but I think by now, in the third week, they are heavily engaged, getting along with each other and having a great time. They’ve gotten used to the classes and they know they can do the work. They’re learning how to balance going to (local restaurant) The Grind vs. writing a paper, and that’s what college is about.”

The Governor’s School for the Humanities began on June 2 and will run through June 28.

The Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences

The Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences began at UT Martin in 2004, averaging 32 to 36 participants each year.

Like they do with the Governor’s School for the Humanities, students taking part in the Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences can take a college-level course, earning three credit-hours.

“They can pick between taking an introduction to ag business course or they can take an introduction to wildlife biology course,” said Dr. Joey Mehlhorn, professor of agricultural economics who directs the Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences. “That’s only half of their day.

“Half of their day is in class, and the other half is what we call group-study projects. We put them into research groups. One of them is a veterinary science group, which the bulk of our students want to be – veterinarians. I’d say of the 32 students we have this year, 20 of them want to be veterinarians, and that’s been consistent since we started in 2004.”

The other study group is called precision agriculture, which is made up of agricultural engineering, plant science and similar studies.

“They do a lot of drone technology and irrigation technology,” Mehlhorn said. “They do a lot of field crop research, so they plant things, they collect data and they do soil sampling.”

Mehlhorn said one of the UT Martin faculty members has come full-circle with the Governor’s School.

“Amber Moore came here as a Governor’s School student,” he said. “She went to school at UT Martin, went to Knoxville to vet school, practiced some, and now, she is here as an assistant professor in the Department of Agriculture, Geoscience, and Natural Resources, and she is working with Governor’s School – which is so cool.”

Other activities in the Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences include going to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Middle Tennessee Research Experiment Station.

Students will also visit Nashville and be given a tour of the Capitol by state Rep. Tandy Darby, who represents District 76, which includes Weakley County and part of Carroll and Henry counties. The students also visit the Nashville Zoo.

This year, there are five Italian students who attend school in Italy who are taking part in the Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences as guests of the UTM Department of Agriculture.

Mehlhorn said the Italian students attend an agricultural high school, and two of them want to be veterinarians.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to do something like this,” he said. “There was a unique opportunity with our UT Martin in Siena program for some of them to come over for the summer, so we set it up to happen during our Governor’s School program.”

Mehlhorn said there are only three Governor’s Schools for the Agricultural Sciences in the nation, including programs at Penn State and Virginia Tech.

This year’s Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences ran from May 27 to June 21, giving participants four weeks to go to classes, do project work, take part in a speaker series and enjoy life on the college campus.

The Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences is paid for by the Tennessee Department of Education and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.