Are you looking for an extracurricular activity that lets you work in the state capitol, gives you first-hand experience in legislating and debating, and requires only a four-day commitment? Look no further than TISL, or the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature!
What it is:
TISL is a four-day simulation legislative experience modeled after the state Senate, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court. Every college and university in Tennessee is invited to send a delegation of representatives, senators, lobbyists, and media personnel to the State Capitol for a four-day weekend every November. Legislators present, debate and vote on bills that they write, the lobbyists promote their favorite bills or causes to the legislators, and the media covers all the happenings. Meanwhile, elections are held for positions such as Speaker of the House and President Pro Temp of the Senate, and awards are given out for the best delegations. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, read below for seven reasons to join TISL next November!
1. Real legislative experience
TISL is an awesome experience for anybody who’s thinking of running for public office one day. You literally sit at your state representative’s desk and vote on current, hot-button political issues, and speak your mind on the House or Senate floor as famous state politicians have done for decades. TISL allows its participants to truly become politicians for a few days, and the experience is absolutely invaluable. Plus, the State Capitol building is absolutely gorgeous and provides a stunning backdrop for all the TISL activities.
2. Networking opportunities
This is the lovely view from the 27th floor of the Nashville City Center, where Belmont Law School hosted a luncheon for TISL delegates during this past session. Former Nashville D.A. and Belmont Law professor Victor Johnson gave a speech about the impact of future generations upon the legal systems, and afterwards spent time introducing himself to students from different delegations and answering their questions about politics, education, and the legal profession. These kind of networking opportunities are common at TISL; you never know who you’re going to run into, or how the connections you make at these events may make a difference a few years down the road.
3. Representing your school
There are few things that are as cool, to me, as walking into a room and seeing delegates from schools across the state gathered together to debate issues that impact all of us. This is a big reason why TISL is such a powerful experience: it connects you with your fellow students from dozens of different colleges, and you get to represent your school in a positive way as you all work together to accomplish your common goals. It’s a very unifying experience, and helps you realize that your school really can make a difference–especially with a little teamwork!
4. Meeting real politicians
At the last TISL session, two candidates for governor of Tennessee came to speak to our delegations about the importance of involvement in politics, and how the future of American politics can be shaped by people like you and I. Karl Dean, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and Bill Lee, a Republican, addressed a few key political issues and offered their differing opinions, but they both strong emphasized the importance of being able to come together and work things out between individuals. Where else can you get such great firsthand political advice?
5. Resume building
TISL is a completely unique experience: Tennessee is the only state in the union with an intercollegiate legislative assembly, and only a handful of students from each school are chosen to attend each year. This means that TISL will stand out on your resume from all the usual extracurricular activities, and will definitely get the attention of employers, internship directors, and graduate or law school admissions staff. I’ve heard personally from former delegates that having TISL on their resume made a marked difference in interviews, and that employers were intrigued by the idea of the experience. Also, it’s only four days long (plus a little time to prep your bills in the weeks beforehand), so it has a relatively low impact on the rest of your school schedule, unlike many extracurriculars.
6. Journalism, lobbying, and moot court
Writing bills isn’t the only thing you can do at TISL! Most delegations send at least a few media personnel, lobbyists, and sometimes even mock attorneys! TISL also hosts the Appellate Moot Court Collegiate Challenge, in which students can act as attorneys and argue a case in front of the TISL Supreme Court. The journalism sector of TISL produces at least one or two issues of the TISL Times per session, which includes summary articles about new legislation. The lobbyists often join lobbying firms (groups of lobbyists with a common interest, such as law enforcement or the environment) and work as a team to encourage representatives and senators to vote their way on key bills. Even if politics isn’t your first love, TISL offers plenty of different experiences for anybody who wants to come along.
7. Making an impact
College is full of affirming, empowering experiences, but I personally believe that one of the best experiences you can have is that of identifying an issue you’re passionate about, deciding what action to take about it, writing a bill, and presenting it to a room full of fellow students who have come together to share their views on such issues. There is nothing like the feeling of watching the votes come in and seeing your bill pass, and knowing that you’ve recognized an issue that others identify with as well. It is unifying and powerful feeling to know that you have argued in favor of an issue you support and persuaded your fellow delegates to see things from your point of view and that you have all come together to make an impact. If the past six reasons for joining TISL haven’t convinced you, this one definitely should. So keep TISL in mind for next November, and we hope to see you there!