By Matt Johnson, Director of Community Engagement

Our campus is enjoying the return of opportunities to engage with the greater Knoxville community!

Project GRAD

Project GRAD is one of our strongest community partners. Executive Director Ronni Chandler sits on our Greater Knoxville Advisory Board (GKAB) and has initiated a Johnson option for their Summer Institute. This program provides high school students the opportunity to experience college education through classes and student life. The one-week residential summer program is designed to plant seeds of hope and dreams of success beyond high school.

While a Project GRAD Summer Institute already exists through Pellissippee Community College and the University of Tennessee, Johnson University will be unique. In addition to offering classes in the sciences and humanities, we will offer opportunities to study how faith interacts with culture. Johnson will also focus on a strong leadership component. Naturally, some participants may decide to attend JU after participating in the Summer Residency. Our relationship with Project GRAD has already yielded enrollment benefits. Though this program has not yet launched, some Project GRAD seniors enrolled as freshmen at JU this fall.

Campus Trail System

Our campus trail system continues to expand. Students, faculty, and staff volunteered more than five hundred hours this school year to build almost one mile of trails in the woods behind the Graham Center. These trails provide an activity option for students and will soon be open to the public. The trails are multi-use, for both hiking and biking. South Knoxville is a destination for recreation enthusiasts, and our campus will enjoy the reputation of becoming a natural resource activity option for the community.

Emerald Youth

Emerald Youth is another strong local partner. Chief operating officer Shara Shoup sits on our Advisory Board. Emerald’s goal with their Calling and Career Ministry Centers (CCMC) is to develop promising, godly young adult leaders for Knoxville. At the Ministry Centers, high school students receive access to technology and tutoring assistance programs. Students have opportunities to participate in a number of workshops designed to support academic improvement and professional development.

Emerald Youth has four Ministry Centers throughout Knoxville, and students from Johnson work at each one. Our student workers mentor young people as they explore their individual calling and navigate big decisions about their future. A large group of CCMC high schoolers visited the Johnson campus this spring. Some students from Emerald Youth’s programs are enrolled to begin their college careers at JU this fall.


Now that our campus is open to community visitors, we are planning to welcome hundreds of mental health professionals for this fall’s All4Knox Summit. All4Knox exists to decrease the impact of substance misuse within Knox County. The goal is to implement a community-wide strategic plan to reduce substance misuse and its impact on individuals, families, and our community.

This Knoxville and Knox County partnership dovetails nicely with our School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Johnson can offer continuing education certification for participants. Our faculty may participate and lead workshops. Our students will have service-learning opportunities. The Graham Center will provide meeting space for main sessions and workshops.