Leadership & Governance Program

About Us:

We strive to continue Senator Baker’s legacy as a national and international leader who was known for his integrity, civility, and bipartisanship. The program seeks to provide a forum for exploring democracy and promoting leadership in public service.


To foster resilient and vibrant communities by providing current and future leaders with cutting-edge research and tools for effective governance.


Engaged and flourishing communities and visionary servant-leaders.

Through research, teaching, mentorship, and engagement, the program works to foster thoughtful leaders empowered to address the challenges facing their communities. These efforts are led by our staff and faculty fellows.

Initiatives within the Leadership & Governance Program include:

Leadership and Public Service Mentorship

  • Appalachian Leadership Institute: the Institute is a year-long comprehensive leadership and economic development training opportunity for mid-career professionals who live or work in Appalachia and are passionate about helping their communities thrive. Appalachian Leadership Institute Fellows participate in an extensive training curriculum developed by the Appalachian Regional Commission in partnership with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; The Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy; Tuskegee University; and Collective Impact.

  • Tennessee Legislative Leaders Academy: the Academy, conducted in partnership with the Naifeh Center for Effective Leadership (NCEL) in the Institute for Public Service, is a three-day training program that helps newly elected representatives and senators in the Tennessee General Assembly to acclimate in their new positions more easily and to network with all members in a non-partisan manner. In 2013, the NCEL invited the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy to partner with them in executing the program. Since its inception, over 100 members of the Tennessee House and Senate have participated in the training and continue to be active as alumni members of this longstanding NCEL program.

  • Washington Fellows: the Fellows program, conducted in partnership with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC, is a two-week intensive course in Washington, DC. For the program, students will meet and learn from some of the nation’s top public servants, researchers, and journalists on pressing public policy issues.

  • Civic Education and Engagement

  • Leading Tennessee Forward Lecture Series: is a non-partisan event series intended to provide a forum for democracy in action, where current and former elected officials, as well as candidates for statewide office, can share their leadership stories and vision for the State of Tennessee. The series has hosted current Governor Bill Lee, System President Randy Boyd, former Governor Phil Bredesen and US Senator Marsha Blackburn.

  • Tennessee Campus Civic Summit: the annual non-partisan Summit provides institutions of higher education across Tennessee an opportunity to plan for campus voter education, registration, and participation efforts. Administrators, faculty, staff, and students are welcome to attend the Summit, which brings national and statewide experts together with campus teams to discuss their civic education efforts and to learn best practices.

  • Vols Vote Coalition: led by the Center, the Vols Vote Coalition is campus-wide working group of administrators, faculty, staff, and student organizations focused on non-partisan efforts to improve voter education, registration, and participation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Learn more about voting here. To get involved in the Coalition, emails us at volsvote@ukt.edu.

  • Constitution Day: on September 17th each year a celebration is held to commemorate the singning of the US Constitution. Events have included lectures and panel discussions on topics such as the Bill of Rights, as well as Constitutional Jeopardy competitions.