TN College/Underserved Community Partnership Program


The Tennessee College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (TN CUPP) works to establish partnerships between underserved communities and Tennessee Higher
Education Institutions (TN HEIs) in Tennessee. Through these partnerships, TN HEIs can provide a variety of low to no-cost technical support and manpower to address environmental, economic, and health issues that impact the quality of life in nearby underserved communities.  

All participants benefit from the TN CUPP program. Communities benefit from innovative and no-cost technical assistance provided by students attending nearby academic institutions. Professors and students benefit by gaining hands-on experience in their areas of study, with students earning college credit and building their resumes; and professors gaining recognition for their department and university. 

Projects will be evaluated based upon support of TDEC’s mission and specific factors to determine a project’s value. Project value is determined by
the following:

a)     How the project will benefit the community and how many residents it will serve

b)     Partners and their contributions, whether monetary or a service and its value

c)      Number of volunteers and/or volunteer hours

d)     Avoided costs by a TN HEI performing services for no or very little cost that would otherwise cost a community more if completed by a private group. Services can include maintenance, clean-up, studies, mitigation plans, mitigation cost analysis, grant writing, etc.

e)     If necessary for project execution, funding amount already obtained and/or committed and associated source of funding


A few examples of creative, community-specific solutions which could qualify as TN HEI CUPP projects include but are not limited to:

·        Design of nature trails, rain gardens, rubber porous walkways, and/or outdoor spaces

·        Restoring historic landmark(s) owned by the municipality

·        Restoring or establishing new wetlands

·        Design and/or implementation of alternative fuel projects

·        Energy assessments to identify municipality opportunities for resource conservation

·        Water and/or wastewater treatment plant assessments to identify opportunities for resource conservation

·        Work study for future potential water and wastewater treatment plant operators

·        Waste assessments to identify opportunities for increased diversion of materials from the landfill

·        Research and development for rubber modified asphalt projects

·        Planning and design of State Revolving Fund program qualifying projects

Listed below are projects being conducted through TN CUPP:

Tennessee Tech Takes a Watershed Approach to Stormwater Management in the Town of Gainesboro

Effective stormwater management of a community requires a comprehensive understanding of the watershed where it is located. Many studies have implemented the watershed approach to stormwater management. However, Tennessee Tech discovered through research that watershed approaches are not executed in smaller urban communities meaning this application of a watershed study was unique relative to typical practice. Through TN CUPP, Tennessee Tech initiated the development of a watershed-wide stormwater management plan for the Town of Gainesboro, which is a small, rural community in Jackson County, Tennessee. The town of Gainesboro is located within the Doe Creek watershed and experienced significant flooding in June 2018. However, prior to this study, limited data was available to determine the factors contributing to the flooding and other stormwater issues within the Doe Creek watershed. View more about the project here.

University of Memphis Partners with the Town of Spencer

The Town of Spencer is one of the first recipients of EPA’s Assistance for Small and Disadvantaged Communities Drinking Water Grant funded under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN). The project goal is to help bring the water treatment plant into compliance with the maximum contaminant levels (MCL) specified by the Federal Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule for trihalomethanes (THMs) and halo acetic acids (HAAs). The University of Memphis is using bench-scale studies and jar testing to optimize treatment practices. The second phase of the project includes applying and fine-tuning the conditions developed during Phase 1 for application at the plant.

The full scope of work for the town includes planning, design, and technical assistance in preparation for improvements to the existing water treatment plant and distribution system, as well as addressing long-term water supply. All critical functions are conducted by appropriately certified personnel.

Tennessee State University Partners with Metro Nashville Public Works

TSU students are assisting Metro Nashville Public Works Solid Waste Department in evaluating ways to increase recycling in the Bordeaux area of Nashville. This work consists of exploring existing limitations in maximizing community recycling and developing recommendations to aid in Metro Nashville’s outreach to the Bordeaux community.

Lemoyne-Owen College Students Assist with Shelby County Lead Testing in Schools and Childcare Facilities

TDEC is currently conducting drinking water testing in childcare centers as part of the WIIN Grant, Lead Testing in Schools and Childcare Facilities. Through a partnership with both TN CUPP and EPA CUPP programs, students will be assisting Shelby County Health Department to develop outreach and educational materials, contact childcare facilities to increase participation, and assist with collecting water samples.  

Redevelopment of the Ross Metals Superfund Site in Rossville, TN

An opportunity for students to assist in planning the reuse of a 28-acre property through a partnership with both TN CUPP and EPA CUPP programs. Students will be mentored by George Washington University graduate students. The first phase of the project consists of students conducting a feasibility study to redevelop the site into a recreational area for the community including soccer and baseball fields. Students will also look at ways to improve the existing trailways in a wetland area that’s connected to the site. In the second phase, engineering students will design a redevelopment site plan.


Listed below are a few successful projects completed in Tennessee under EPA’s College/Underserved Community Partnership Program:

Lipscomb University and City of Pegram

The city of Pegram, TN sent a request to the Civil Engineering Department at Lipscomb University for the provision of engineering services to assist with flooding issues at the 500 block of Highway 70, Pegram TN. Flooding at this location occurs multiple times a year, typically incurring property damage. Because the flood area is commercial, business is disrupted and often drives business owners away. It is also reported that the flooding will overtop Highway 70 in a large storm, creating safety issues. The scope of this project was to provide analysis, and design for the purpose of proving that the existing conditions cause the culverts under HWY 70 to fail per TDOT standards, and to provide design development drawings to aid in future design and construction of a flood control plan. View the program report Here.

TSU and City of Pleasant View

The city of Pleasant View, TN wanted a preliminary land use assessment conducted for their city. Pleasant View represents the conditions and circumstances that raise the question and concern of how will the community representatives respond to an increasing demand for a more metropolitan character and the balance of the traditional. TSU performed a land use assessment of Pleasant View and made recommendations for future land use and community strategies. View the program report Here


How to Participate in TN CUPP

To see if your community, Higher Education Institution, or organization can participate in TN CUPP, please review the appropriate qualifications section below that also details how to submit a letter of interest to participate. You may also email if you have any additional questions.