Baker Scholars Program

The Baker Scholars program consistently attracts the University of Tennessee’s most academically gifted, politically curious students by offering a unique and meaningful opportunity for engagement in the field of public policy. The central undertaking of each Baker Scholar is a project that involves either research on a specific policy issue or implementation of a creative initiative that contributes toward understanding of public policy issues, governance, civic engagement, or public service.

Scholars are paired with faculty or professional mentors who serve as resources and help direct their project. In addition to their project work, scholars are strongly encouraged to participate in Baker Center events such as guest lectures and conferences, giving scholars the chance to expand their networks of professional contacts and hear first-hand accounts from political insiders.

The Baker Scholar Program is intended to enrich the participant's college experience by engaging them in a rich exploration of public policy, governance or public service over the remaining 3-4 semesters of their undergraduate career. Scholars will have access to University faculty, professionals in the community, and the Baker Center staff to help them structure their experience. Students who complete the program will receive a scholars designation on their official University transcript.

Baker Scholars complete one of two types of projects:

  • Research Thesis that investigates a specific public policy issue.
  • Creative Initiative that is designed to contribute toward an understanding of public policy issues, improved governance, civic engagement, or public service.

Scholars work under the guidance of a faculty mentor but are expected to demonstrate a high degree of initiative and independence in developing and carrying out their project plan. By conducting research or organizing an initiative to address important social issues, Baker Scholars assist the Baker Center in fulfilling its role as a public policy center.

Alumni of the program include:

Lisa Dicker (May 2014) of Tullahoma, Tennessee, majored in Political Science and Asian Studies and minored in Chinese, Religious Studies and Philosophy. She graduated from Harvard Law School in May 2017 with her Juris Doctor. Lisa’s Baker Scholar project was on the effect of the One Child Policy on gender equality in China. She has done legal and dispute resolution work in Boston, New Hampshire, D.C., China, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last two years. In the summer of 2016 she worked at the Public International Law & Policy Group on their Syria Negotiation Support Team.

Eric Peters (May 2017) of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, graduated with a major in Economics and International Business and a minor in Philosophy. He was selected as a Fulbright Scholar for the 2017-2018 academic year to study the effects of the 2014 Russian Sanctions upon Central Eastern European economies and diplomatic relations. He conducted this research at the Antall József Knowledge Center in Budapest, Hungary as a continuation of his Baker Scholars Senior Thesis.

Who should apply to become a Baker Scholar?

Juniors with a GPA of 3.35 or higher who wish to pursue a research question or creative initiative related to one of the three Baker Center focus areas (global security, energy & environment, leadership & governance) or another public policy subject/issue of current relevance.

What are the expectations of Baker Scholars?

  • Meet regularly with a faculty mentor and make substantial progress on chosen project each semester.
  • Submit progress reports to the Director of UG Programs in line with announced deadlines.
  • Enroll in BCPP 317: Baker Scholar Seminar for one credit-hour in the spring semester of junior and senior year.
  • Actively participate in Baker Center events, as well as activities for networking among Baker Scholars.
  • Complete written project report and make oral presentation in spring semester of senior year.

What criteria are used in the selection of Baker Scholars?

  • Application Information
  • Essay Responses
  • Academic History
  • Current Resume
  • Faculty Recommendation
  • Interview with Baker Scholar Committee


Apply here to be a Baker Scholar.