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Centers and Outreach

The Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies maintains oversight for several centers and outreach efforts including College Access and Persistence Services (CAPS), the Center for Educational Leadership, Postsecondary Education Research Center, and UT’s Project Grad Summer Institute. Read more about each below or reach out to ELPS for more information.

The College Access and Persistence Services (CAPS) Outreach Center is a product of years of securing external funding in support of outreach services to help students overcome social, academic, financial, and cultural barriers in higher education. Research has shown that major problems exist in recruiting and retaining low-income and first-generation students in postsecondary education programs. Although 24 percent of all undergraduate students are low-income and first-generation, they are four times more likely to leave higher education after the first year than students who have neither of these risk factors. In other words, statistics indicate that individuals who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are significantly less likely to pursue a postsecondary education successfully than their more privileged counterparts.

Therefore, it is fitting that the goal of the CAPS Outreach Center is to provide services that prepare individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in postsecondary or professional academic programs. To accomplish this goal, the CAPS Outreach Center provides activities to strengthen the math and science skills of students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; to assist students in succeeding in pre-college preparation, college admissions, and financial aid application processes; and ultimately, to provide the skills and motivation necessary for completing college graduation requirements. Similar activities also assist adults and military veterans who have no baccalaureate degrees. The new CAPS Outreach Center is funded in its entirety by external funds. Approximately 60,000 students have been served for more than thirty years by project staff, and new opportunities for funding are continually reviewed to identify grants that will expand the number of students we serve in the future.

You are invited to participate as partners with us in our work, just as many other local educational agencies (LEAs) and nonprofit agencies have done in the past.

The Center for Educational Leadership is the centerpiece of a leadership development system that is purposefully and aggressively growing the next generation of outstanding leaders for our schools. We take an innovative multidisciplinary approach to school leadership development and integrate research-tested education leadership theory with proven, effective practice. Course work, site-based immersion learning experiences, and consultation with effective practicing principals are complemented by continuous learning opportunities and a leadership resource center. This comprehensive approach to principal preparation sets a new standard in the field of public education leadership development.

A unique partnership with local school districts is a defining element in the structure of the center, which focuses on formal preparation as well as career-long professional development of educational leaders. The strong relationship between leadership excellence and school excellence provides the catalyst for the center, which is based on the premise that great leaders equal great schools. They build a strong team, focus relentlessly on student learning, facilitate continuous improvement in instructional practice, engage parents and the school community, and make sure that all adults are focusing on the outcomes for the children. Schools are simply better at educating young people when they have strong, effective leadership.

The mission of the Postsecondary Education Research Center (PERC) is to identify, conduct, and coordinate research on initiatives and ideas designed to enhance higher education at the institutional, state, and national levels to enhance policy and practice.
The University of Tennessee Project GRAD Summer Institute provides a unique opportunity for students to participate and gain experience in an academic setting. The week-long residential program exposes students to the academic expectations of college and the personal dimensions needed to succeed as a college student. The Summer Institute also helps students think critically about college as a viable possibility.

The Summer Institute began in 2001 as a collaboration between Project GRAD, Knoxville and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This pre-college program is administered out of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences under the direction of Dean Bob Rider.