The Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature is a statewide organization that seeks to engage college students in government and public affairs through participation in a political process that replicates existing state institutions.
TISL conducts a General Assembly annually in the legislative chambers of the State Capitol, including the election of officers to govern and preside for the coming year. A Senate and House of Representatives composed of college students from across the state considers legislation drafted and sponsored by students. The participants may be engaged for a year doing research and drafting of proposed legislation and resolutions.
Many TISL bills have eventually become state law, and many TISL alumni are in public service, including legislators, judges and Tennessee constitutional officers.
TISL's judicial branch is the Tennessee Intercollegiate Supreme Court. The TISL Foundation also sponsors the Appellate Moot Court Collegiate Challenge (AMC3), a moot appellate court competition for undergraduates.
The organizational meeting of TISL was held on the Vanderbilt campus in 1966, and the 1st General Assembly was at the State Capitol later the same year. Charles Bone Sr., a Vanderbilt undergraduate, was a founder and was Governor of the 2nd General Assembly in 1967. Also instrumental in the founding were Dr. Douglas Carlisle of The University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Phillip Moffitt of UTK, who was the first Governor.
The Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature was incorporated in the State of Tennessee in 1968, mostly through the efforts of Vanderbilt undergraduate M. Baker Wyche, who served as TISL Secretary of State. He also published the first Journal of the Proceedings in 1968. That has become the annual TISL Blue Book.
The 1968 charter was superseded in 1976 by a charter for the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature Foundation, which continues in operation. The TISL Foundation was granted 501(c)(3) status by the Internal Revenue Service in 1977 as an educational organization.
Vanderbilt Library Special Collections became the repository for TISL archives in 1979.
TISL was entirely student run until after 2002, when increased management challenges and a break in continuity caused the student General Assembly to create an independent Board of Directors to govern the organization. That board is composed of a majority of TISL alumni plus two student-elected officers.