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First Tennessee Foundation Gift Supports Two Fiscally-oriented Programs at U of M University News
For release: May 18, 2010

For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843

 Two gifts totaling $225,000 from the First Tennessee Foundation to the University of Memphis will fund the launch of a new Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fellows Program in the FedEx Institute of Technology and help continue the existing, highly regarded Smart Tennessee financial literacy program.  The gifts include $125,000 to Smart Tennessee and $100,000 to the Fellows program.

The new initiative, the First Tennessee Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fellows Program, will assist the FedEx Institute of Technology in promoting entrepreneurship, innovative research, and technology transfer.  The goal of the program is to help faculty move their research beyond the lab and into the commercial arena by providing short-term support for proof of concept or prototyping activities and mentoring and technical assistance for development of a business plan.  Such programs have already proven to be very successful at several universities in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Utah.

To launch the program, the FedEx Institute will designate four faculty members as Fellows in the program.  To be chosen, their research must hold the potential for meeting a need in a well-defined market, must have high potential for profit margins to be attractive to outside investors, and must demonstrate a high likelihood of creating jobs in areas related to the University and to the local economy.

Faculty chosen as Fellows will each receive a financial support package totaling $22,500, which will cover stipends for the professor and for student research assistants, for business consultants, and for costs associated with creating a prototype or proof of concept.  Fellow designations will be made for a year, and Fellows will receive their stipend when they deliver a commercialization or business plan to the University’s director of Technology Transfer.

Developers of the program believe it will ultimately result in job growth in the greater Memphis region and bring additional revenue to the University that will fund other promising technology commercialization activities.

The Smart Tennessee program is a public/private initiative, begun in 2006 to teach financial literacy to students in elementary and middle schools.  Since then, it has taught sound financial principles to more than 80,000 students in more than 400 schools in more than 40 school districts across the state. Based on results of pre- and post-testing of students in the program, the average increase in financial literacy among the students has been 49 percent.

The program uses a nationally recognized and award-winning curriculum, Financial Fitness for Life, developed by the Council for Economic Education.  It integrates economic and financial education into such core subjects as reading, language arts, and math.  The goal is to teach children how to make sound decisions about money via four themes – earning an income, saving, spending and borrowing, and managing money.

Smart Tennessee’s approach is unique in that it is the only one in the nation to teach financial literacy in a systematic way in elementary and middle schools.  The National Council for Economic Education considers ours a model for other states.  In addition, Tennessee is the only state that uses a public/private partnership to fund financial literacy at any level. 

More information is available from Shaye Mandle, executive director of the FedEx Institute of Technology, and Dr. Julia Heath, chair of the Department of Economics in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics.  Mandle can be reached by phone at 901-678-1592 or via email at  Heath can be reached by phone at 901-678-5927 or via email at

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