TTU to work with Upper Cumberland collaborative to alleviate poverty in the region


Tennessee Tech University is a member of the core leadership group of an Upper Cumberland collaborative aimed at alleviating poverty in the region that has been selection to receive $25 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Opportunity Act funds. 

As one of the central partners, Tech is committed to engaging the university community and its many strengths to help to make this important collaboration, called Empower Upper Cumberland, successful.

“The challenges faced by those in vulnerable populations are complex, but I am energized by the thought of what we can do when we work together as a university with community partners to work through these challenges together and improve the lives of families in our region,” said Phil Oldham, Tennessee Tech president.

Led by the Upper Cumberland Human Resources Agency, the designated backbone organization, Empower UC will serve the most vulnerable populations of the 14-county Upper Cumberland region which includes the counties of Cannon, Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, Van Buren, Warren and White with a core objective of lifting 1,600 children and their families out of generational poverty by 2025.

“Tennessee Tech is in the ideal position to partner with a project like Empower UC and embrace our university mission of impactful education, scholarship, and partnerships, to help employers, agencies and citizens across the Upper Cumberland understand and overcome the challenges associated with getting out of poverty,” said Jennifer Taylor, vice president for research and economic development at Tech. “By bringing to bear Tech’s educational and technical resources in its commitment to the Empower UC partnership, Tech has a valuable role to play in this historic initiative.”

Taylor is leading Empower UC efforts at Tech.

Interagency coordination is the focus of Empower UC. This means families will have better-aligned services, and the staff who administer the program will have a clearer understanding of the system. Universal onboarding will supply new members of the collaborative with information about the resources available, the continuum of care and the poverty alleviation system.

In addition to focusing on bringing families out of poverty, the initiative works to better connect employers, faith-based communities, and key stakeholders to one another as they collaborate to enhance the well-being of Upper Cumberland communities.

Key community and regional partners for Empower UC include Highlands Economic Partnership, Upper Cumberland Labor and Workforce Development Board, Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville Regional Charitable Foundation, Upper Cumberland Development District, WCTE Central TN PBS, as well as community members.

“We are excited to see the positive impacts Empower UC is sure to have on those we serve,” Taylor said. “Tech has done extensive work in bolstering rural communities through the university’s grand challenge, Rural Reimagined. This project fits clearly with that work and the mission of our Center for Rural Innovation and of Tech more generally. Joining forces with the other partners in this initiative makes perfect sense.”

To learn more about Empower UC or to get involved, visit or contact Taylor at


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