Community engagement at Johnson University

Community engagement is a catalyst in our mission to educate students for strategic vocations. Students can choose from dozens of majors, and no matter what career they prepare for, a sense of calling is nurtured through strategic partnerships in the greater Knoxville area.

Community engagement is always mutually beneficial. Our community benefits from resources the University adds to local businesses, organizations, and initiatives. Students benefit from experiences that complement their studies. The University benefits as local partners connect us to the best students from many backgrounds, races, and cultures.

We like to say community engagement makes Johnson University a better place to learn and the greater Knoxville area a better place to live.

Greater Knoxville Advisory Board

The Greater Knoxville Advisory BoardJohnson University created the Greater Knoxville Advisory Board in 2018 to explore opportunities to connect Johnson’s students, faculty, and staff with the city of Knoxville. The Board includes leaders from education, business, ministry, healthcare, politics, and nonprofits. In addition to partnering on specific initiatives, GKAB members build awareness of JU and serve as strategic advisors to help the University match regional needs with Johnson resources.

Current and past members include:

Will Acker, Young Life Knoxville
Daryl Arnold, Overcoming Believers Church
Jerry Askew, Alliance for Better Nonprofits
Tomma Battle, YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center
Bill Brittain, Mayor, Hamblen County
Claudia Caballero, Centro Hispano de East Tennessee
Jeff Case, SNMP Research
Ronni Chandler, Project GRAD Knoxville
Dean Craig, Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Terry Douglass, Provision Healthcare Foundation & Provision Trust
Rick Dunn, Fellowship Church
Carol Evans, Legacy Parks Foundation
Mark Field, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce
Doug Harris, Harris Restaurant Group
Jane Jolley, Knox County Mayor’s Office
Dale Keasling, Home Federal Bank (GKAB Chairman)
Jon Lawler, Johnson & Galyon, Inc.
Chris Martin, Knoxville Leadership Foundation
David Ragland, Knoxville Christian Foundation
Mike Ragsdale, Tennessee Strategies
Jon Rysewyk, Knox County Schools
Shara Shoup, Emerald Youth Foundation
Tommy Smith, Johnson University (President)
Laurens Tullock, Tullock Consulting
Steven Waller, UT College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
Gary Weedman, Johnson University (President Emeritus)
Anthony Wise, Pellissippi State Community College

JU in the Community

In a single semester, JU students serve over eighty community organizations and volunteer more than four thousand hours! They mentor teens, coach sports, tutor youth, teach English as a second language, distribute food, raise funds, care for the environment, advocate for equal rights, promote mental health, and more. Our faculty and staff lead and participate in capacity-building initiatives that prepare students and families for college, promote justice, and add cultural value to our community.

Some of our community partners include:

  • Community Schools with Great Schools Partnership links school needs to community resources. University students engage in tutoring or recreation experiences.
  • Riverwood Christian Academy, King’s Academy, Dogwood Elementary School, New Hope Elementary School, and William Blount High School are public and private schools where University students tutor, assist teachers, and serve as mentors.
  • Emerald Youth, YOKE, THRIVE Lonsdale, AMACHI, Boys and Girls Club, and Wesley House provide afterschool or sports programs to youth. University students tutor, coach, and mentor.
  • FriendSpeak and Woodlawn Christian Church ESL teach conversational English to internationals. University students serve as tutors.
  • KARM provides relief and development for people experiencing homelessness. University students serve meals, meet organizational needs, and assist in developmental programs.
  • Beardsley Farm and Oakwood Lincoln Park Garden promote food security through sustainable agriculture. University students participate in community gardening, education, and outreach.
  • Latino Student Success and Knoxville Internationals Network advocate, develop skills, and promote equity for minority communities. University staff and students raise awareness, build cultural competency, and aid in skills development.
  • Cross Food Ministry, Houseless, The Lord’s Child, and Love Kitchen provide food relief to people in Knoxville who are experiencing homelessness. University students organize and distribute meals.
  • Out of the Darkness and Random Acts of Flowers address general and specific emotional issues to raise awareness and encourage treatment. University students participate in organization and promotion.
  • The Change Center provides social and employment opportunities for local teens. Johnson University sponsors and staffs a free skate night on the second Saturday of each month.

The Community at JU

The Johnson University campus is one of our strongest resources, and sharing it with the community is part of our engagement strategy. Our bucolic grounds, with property on the French Broad River, are a short drive from downtown Knoxville. Facilities are suited for small retreats or larger events with hundreds of participants. We have hosted school administrators, sports teams, non-profits, governmental groups, churches, civic organizations, and more. Some recent examples include:

  • Knox County Commission Strategic Planning Meeting
  • Project GRAD Leadership Meeting
  • Legacy Parks Annual Luncheon
  • Knox County School Counselor Training Conference
  • Seymour Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet
  • K2 High School Volleyball Tournament
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes Summer Camps
  • Knoxville Metro Cross Country Association High School 5K
  • Knoxville Youth Athletics Cross Country Events
  • County Mayor Budget Luncheon
  • Knox County Schools Educators Meeting
  • Gap Creek Elementary School Staff Retreat
  • Empowered to Connect Conference

New Partnership Opportunities

We are just getting started with community engagement. Partnerships in the works include:

  • a feasibility study concerning the creation of a two-year master’s degree in education teacher residency program targeted at adult students called to high-poverty schools. Patterned on the model of the Memphis Teacher Residency, we hope this will expand our partnerships with Knox County Schools.
  • a partnership with Legacy Parks to develop campus natural resources. The primary project includes expansion of our trail system from two miles of trails to six miles.
  • a partnership with Project GRAD’s Summer Institute. This is a week-long summer experience for high schoolers which includes an on-campus educational experience and scholarship opportunity.

If you are a non-profit, business, or civic entity in the greater Knoxville area and you have opportunities that match Johnson University resources, let’s explore a partnership. Contact , Director of Community Engagement.