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In Memoriam

Dr. David L. Lavery

English professor David Lavery

David L. Lavery, professor of English and director of the department’s Graduate Studies, died Aug. 30, 2016, at the age of 67. He was author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of over 20 books on popular culture and authored more than 150 published essays, reviews, and chapters. Dr. Lavery was considered an expert on the television series Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Sopranos and had lectured around the world on the subject of television.

Dr. Lavery was hired at MTSU in 1993 and won the University’s Distinguished Research Award in 2006. He also served as chair in film and television at Brunel University in London from 2006 to 2008. Dr. Lavery earned his Ph.D. in English in 1978 at the University of Florida, where he was selected as a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

 

His career trajectory, which began with a desire to focus on American literature and specialize in Native American literature, took a surprising detour out of the realm of the canon of literature and into the uncharted waters of popular culture, particu­larly television studies. The first leg of that journey was his dissertation, which came out of a push to see a Federico Fellini film. Then, during an early stint at the University of Memphis as a professor of communica­tion and film studies, Dr. Lavery was asked to teach a class called TV and Culture.

 

“At first, I thought it was ridiculous, but I enjoyed it,” he said. Little did he know, but he was in the first group of scholars engaged in groundbreaking studies about TV and its impact on our culture. After arriving at MTSU, he continued to break new ground, bridging the gap between pop culture and the canon. Lavery created the first scholarly book devoted to an individual TV series, Twin Peaks,

and had planned to teach a class on Game of Thrones in Fall 2016 when he became ill. According to Dr. Lavery, the division between low and high culture is not as strong as it once was—or as people thought.

 

“As a graduate student, I used to hate TV,” he once said. “I thought it was Orwellian and would ruin our souls. I never pictured myself here, in this career. And I’m having fun. . . . No one has ever invited me to Australia to talk about Wallace Stevens, but they have invited me there to talk about Buffy.”

 

Dr. Lavery had a profound impact on students and colleagues and will be greatly missed by the University community. A memorial service officiated by Rabbi Rami Shapiro was held Sept. 2 at Woodfin Memorial Chapel.

 

“We are shocked and saddened by the passing of Dr. David Lavery, an outstanding member of our faculty and one of the nation’s leading scholars on popular culture,” MTSU President Sidney McPhee said. “His insight and scholarly study of cultural phenomena of television enriched the understanding of colleagues, peers and students. We join his family and friends in mourning his death.”

 

Dr. Lavery was survived by his wife, Joyce Kling Lavery; two daughters, Rachel Lavery and her husband Neel Dhingra, and Sarah Porterfield and her husband Jason; and four grandchildren. A native of Oil City, Pennsylvania, he was the son of the late Donald and Martha Sherman Lavery.

 

Memorials may be made to the MTSU Foundation in memory of Dr. David L. Lavery.

 

 

Dr. Craig Carter

Sociology faculty Craig Carter

William Craig Carter, a professor in Sociology and Anthropology, died from cancer at Alive Hospice in Nashville on March 26, 2016, at age 58. Dr. Carter is survived by his daughter, Vivian, and her mother, both his parents, a brother, two sisters, and several nieces and nephews. He also left many friends, co-workers, and students at MTSU where he had taught since August 2003.

His students generally praised him for his lively and entertaining presentation ability, intellectual and scholarly approach, fairness, and his willingness to meet students outside of class for assistance. Dr. Carter taught courses in introductory sociology, theory, social interaction, criminology, deviance, and drugs and alcohol. He was demanding as an instructor and held high expectations for his students, which they sometimes struggled to meet, but he was always willing to work with students and took time to help them be the best they could be. He made a difference in his students’ lives and was committed to their success.

Dr. Carter’s recent research focused primarily on identity and interactions, particularly the management of deviant identities. He published works on infidelity accounts, the negotiation of deviant identities among exotic dancers, and the use of ambiguous nonverbal aligning actions in identity management. Other work focused on self-perceived stigma due to obesity of people attending health clubs and gyms. One of his most recent works dealt with emotional support among cancer patients.

His service to the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the University was extensive. He served on the University’s Committee on General Education, Grade Appeals Committee, and Activity Fee Allocation Committee. In the department, he served on the sociology undergraduate program committee, the graduate program committee, the graduate admissions committee, the scholarship committee, the community development committee, and numerous master’s thesis committees. Recently, he had assumed the role of graduate program director and was working on several graduate program initiatives at the time of his death. He also served as an advisor for the minor in Criminology.

In addition, he was a talented musician and a loving father.

Dr. Carter will be sorely missed by his family, friends and colleagues.

 

 

Dr. Mario Perez-Reilly

Harley Foutch, retired Agriculture faculty.

 

Retired Political Science professor Mario Perez-Reilly passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 6, following an extended illness. He was 79 years old, and was preceded in death by his parents, Mario Perez-Grau and Katherine Reilly Perez of Deltona, Florida.

Those left to mourn his loss are his beloved wife and companion of 54 years, Elizabeth; daughter, Angelina Perez (Marco Barsacchi) of Livorno, Italy; sons Philip Perez (Elizabeth Workman) of Nashville; and M. David Perez of Kingston Springs. Dr. Perez-Reilly had one grandson, Joseph Perez, age 13, the son of Philip and Elizabeth. Other survivors include his brother Juan Perez-Reilly (Awilda Torres) of Ponce, Puerto Rico; sister Leticia Adams (Michael) of Orlando, Florida; nieces Katiana Perez (Jose Vargas ) and Karina Perez (Dr. Jaime Fumero); and nephews Ian Adams (Chani) of Indian Head, Maryland and Mario Perez-Torres (Naida Barreto) of Ponce, Puerto Rico. He also left his beloved dog, Bella, who kept him company through much of his illness.

Dr. Perez-Reilly came to the United States from Puerto Rico at age 19 to attend the University of Tennessee, where he also was a member of the track team. Upon graduation, he pursued graduate study at the University of Kansas. There he met Elizabeth, who was also a graduate student. The two were married in March 1962 and moved to Knoxville the following September so that he could work toward a Ph.D. in Political Science at UT. After completing his doctoral coursework, Dr. Perez-Reilly began teaching Political Science at MTSU, where he enjoyed a long and distinguished career of 49 years. Upon retiring this past May, he was awarded the title of professor emeritus. He had a positive influence on the lives of many students for about five decades.

 

 

 

russell-churchDr. Russell Church

Russell Church, former MTSU debate coach and professor, devoted his efforts to a lifelong pursuit of education for himself and his students. From 1998 to 2006, Dr. Church served as chair of the Speech and Theatre Department. As a sign of his continued interest in expanding his own knowledge, he took a sabbatical in the spring of 2002 to study Organizational Communication and Culture at the University of Memphis, which was to be the basis for future research in those areas. Health issues interfered with those plans, however, and, after succumbing to strokes and the development of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Church quietly passed away on July 6, 2016.

 

A Memphis native, he began his college education at Memphis State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1968. He then earned a master’s degree at Southern Illinois University, followed by a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Communication in 1976 at Temple University in Philadelphia. He was an active participant in disciplinary organizations at the state, regional, and national levels and presented numerous competitively selected papers at conferences.

Dr. Church’s passion was debate and he spent long hours training and rehearsing debaters, driving them to tournaments across the country (often on a shoe-string budget!) and offering them advice and encouragement as they aimed for success in their academic and work careers.  He served as the debate coach at a variety of universities and, under his guidance, debaters from MTSU, John Carroll University in Ohio, and the University of Tennessee were among those who competed successfully at regional and national tournaments. Given his dedication to debate, it was natural for him to serve as president and treasurer of the Cross-Examination Debate Association (CEDA). Dr. Church also contributed to debate as the lead author of an argumentation textbook that was the first book to focus primarily upon debating value resolutions, Values and Policies in Controversy: An Introduction to Argumentation and Debate, published in 1986. His contributions to debate were recognized with three awards: one from CEDA and two from the Pi Kappa Delta National Honorary Forensics Society.

Dr. Church’s efforts were not confined to debate, however. He taught courses in persuasion, the history and criticism of Rhetoric, political communication, communication theory, and public speaking. He often employed innovative teaching strategies, as when he had students come to class as different rhetoricians and answer current policy questions from that person’s point of view.

To his friends, he was an engaging conversationalist who used his quick wit to make insightful observations about life as well as to provide welcome humor. We have fond memories of the joy he received from having people over for a party, his sweet—often mischievous—smile when in the middle of a lively conversation, and the love he had for his cats. To his students, he was a caring mentor who encouraged and challenged them to use their abilities to achieve success in life as well as in the classroom.

For those wishing to honor his memory and support his love of debate, we request that tax deductible donations be sent to the General Debate Fund so that a scholarship for debaters can be established in his memory. Information can be found at mtsu.edu/debate/giving.php.

He was a good friend with a kind heart who will be missed.

Class Notes

A Look at What MTSU Alumni Are Up To

Secret Service Agent and MTSU alumni Lynda Williams, Deputy Assistant Director, Department of Homeland Security United States Secret Service.

Secret Service Agent and MTSU alumni Lynda Williams, Deputy Assistant Director, Department of Homeland Security United States Secret Service.

Lynda Williams

In September 2015, Lynda Williams (’85, ’93) worked protective detail for the president of Sri Lanka, and this photo of her striding purposefully beside him made front-page news in the island nation. The next day, when the Sri Lankan policemen traveling with their president kept smiling at her, she thought, It must be my red lipstick—until the sole English-speaking policeman explained, “Ma’am, you’re a celebrity in our country … you’re a tough lady.” Williams chuckles at the characterization. “I’m all girlie-girlie. I can’t run a 75-pound armored shield through a door. But I can go in with a shotgun. You have to recognize your strengths.” Maybe that policeman recognized a strength she didn’t. It takes a different kind of tough for a woman—a minority and single parent, at that—to work her way to the top of the federal government’s most elite law enforcement agency. Today Williams is the third highest-ranking African-American woman in the Secret Service—deputy assistant director of the Secret Service’s Office of Human Resources— and only the third in its 150-year history to reach retirement eligibility with a full complement of 25 years. Career highlights include working protective detail for the Clinton White House, becoming the first African-American female manager of the Washington field office, travelling the country as the Secret Service’s national recruiter, and serving as U.S. attaché to Pretoria, South Africa, where she worked protection for the World Cup and enjoyed rest and relaxation in London, Madrid, and Barcelona (“the best assignment of my life,” she said).

 

COL Sims, RetirementCMYKJeffrey T. Sims

Col. Jeffrey T. Sims (’87), commissioned through the MTSU Army ROTC Program in 1986, recently completed a successful brigade command of the 207th Regional Support Group (RSG)—more than 1,700 soldiers—based at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. During his command tenure, Sims led his headquarters in a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, serving as the U.S. Forces Garrison Commander for Kandahar Airfield and as the U.S. representative to the NATO Support Agency. The 207th RSG was responsible for lodging, feeding, equipping, training, facilities, and utilities on this 30,000-person installation, managing contracts valued in excess of $1 billion while reducing the contractor population by over 45% through terminating duplicate and non-mission essential contracts. The brigade also planned and executed demolition activities that removed 42% of all facilities on the airfield in support of the effort to discontinue operations at Kandahar. The 207th RSG received a Meritorious Unit Citation while Sims received his second Bronze Star Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and the NATO Medal. Under his continued leadership, the 207th RSG rose to become the No. 1 brigade within the 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, which is the largest one-star General Officer Command in the Army Reserves, earning Sims the Legion of Merit Medal. In his final assignment, Sims is serving as an Adjutant/G-1 Administration Officer in Orlando, Florida, before retiring from the military in the summer of 2016 after more than 31 years of military service.

 

Cindy WattsCindy WattsCMYK

The Country Music Association (CMA) presented the 2015 CMA Media Achievement Award to Tennessean reporter Cindy Watts (’01) during a Nov. 4 backstage ceremony. RCA Nashville artist and former MTSU student Chris Young presented the award to Watts on the red carpet prior to the start of the televised 49th Annual CMA Awards. Watts has been covering music in the Nashville area for 15 years, having started her career at The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro.

 

 

 

chabotHORSEcmykSarah Elder Chabot

Sarah Elder Chabot (’03), of Maryville, captured the world championship title in amateur equitation over fences at the 2015 Lucas Oil American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show in Oklahoma City in November 2015. The Lucas Oil AQHA World Show is the pinnacle event for American Quarter Horse owners and exhibitors around the world. More than 4,760 entries from the United States, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Germany, and Switzerland competed for 100 world championships at last year’s event. Chabot showed her American Quarter Horse, A Well Dressed Man, a 2008 bay gelding. Chabot works as director of marketing at Blackberry Farm, a luxury hotel situated on a 9,200-acre estate in the Great Smoky Mountains.

 

Cassandra Petreycassie-petreyCMYK

Forbes’s 30 Under 30 Music Class of 2016, which featured entertainment heavyweights like Fetty Wap, The Wknd, Demi Levato, and Selena Gomez, also included Recording Industry graduate Cassandra Petrey (’07), a 29-year old entrepreneur. Petrey is co-founder of Crowd Surf, a digital marketing agency that uses social media to forge deeper artist-audience relationships through release-week campaigns, exclusive content, and direct access. At the age of 12, Petrey launched a fanzine about the Backstreet Boys that grew to 10,000 subscribers. At 17, after landing a job as a college representative for Warner Music Group in Nashville, Petrey led the record label to become among the first to wade into the social media sphere by setting up a MySpace page for a Warner project. She went on to run social networking campaigns for label artists Faith Hill and Blake Shelton. Even before graduating from MTSU, keenly aware that the “community manager” role still didn’t exist for artists, but fully aware that social media platforms were more important than commonly believed, Petrey co-founded Crowd Surf in 2007 (at age 21). Today, her company boasts a 35-person team with four offices and a roster of accounts with a combined 800 million followers, managing social profiles for Miley Cyrus, Fifth Harmony, Britney Spears, the Black Eyed Peas, and Steven Tyler, among other notable artists.

 

Pro arm wrestler Jason Gulley of Murfreesboro takes on Jason "Stump" Burton of Georgia at the Flex Lewis Classic arm wrestling tournament at Embassy Suites Saturday, June 23, 2012.

Pro arm wrestler Jason Gulley of Murfreesboro takes on Jason “Stump” Burton of Georgia at the Flex Lewis Classic arm wrestling tournament at Embassy Suites Saturday, June 23, 2012.

Jason Gulley

For professional arm wrestler Jason Gulley (’12), there’s no greater feeling than pinning another man’s arm in a match. “For everyone to gather around and watch you beat somebody— it’s exhilarating,” Gulley said. “You feel like the most dominate man in the world at that moment.” The sport of arm wrestling is currently in the midst of a renaissance of sorts, emerging from its subculture status into a mainstream fascination, in large part due to its growing popularity as a televised event. ESPN now regularly broadcasts competitions of the World Arm Wrestling League, or WAL, which spotlights competitors like Gulley—a former Marine and aircraft inspector turned full-time graduate student and entrepreneur—who have risen to the top of the sport. Gulley’s primary focus with the sport, though, is not his own ascension up state and national rankings. The executive director of the Tennessee Arm Wrestling Association, which has grown from about 10 members to between 100 and 200 members under his watch, Gulley is passionate about spreading the sport. A former collegiate defensive lineman for the MTSU Blue Raiders football team, and a two-time combat veteran in Iraq honorably discharged as an E5 Sergeant, Gulley has also created a product—the Gulley Grip—that improves strength in the forearm, wrists and hands (he counts the University of Georgia football team among his clients).

 

Nick CareyCMYKNick Carey

It’s not very often that a 22-year-old is named general manager of a professional baseball team. But that’s exactly what happened this past January 2016 when the Princeton Rays—the Appalachian League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays—named Nick Carey (’15) to their GM position. Carey joined the Rays after serving last season in many roles on the front office staff of the Greeneville Astros, also a member of the Appalachian League. While at MTSU, Carey worked with the University’s baseball program in numerous operational capacities.

 

Rachel RuppeCMYKRachel Ruppe

An Academy Award-winning actress’ aura was in evidence at Murphy Center during MTSU’s fall 2015 commencement ceremonies last December. As Rachel Ruppe (’15) walked across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in English, the excited crowd cheered her accomplishment much as the late Patricia Neal’s peers cheered in 1963 for her Best Actress Oscar win. “It’s hard to put into words,” Ruppe said. “I’ve been waiting for so long.” Ruppe, who had a full academic scholarship and a 4.0 GPA, was less than a semester away from graduation on Nov. 5, 2011, when on a weekend trip home to see her family her car ran off the road in rural Morgan County and smashed into a tree. She was airlifted to a Knoxville hospital, where she was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. Medical professionals issued a grim prognosis—that she would probably never get out of bed. Defying the experts, as a patient at the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, Ruppe learned how to walk and talk all over again. The room that she was in was the same room that Patricia Neal herself occupied when she was there, and which employees call “The Miracle Room.” The Neal center is named for the Knoxville native, who starred in motion pictures including Hud, for which she received the 1963 Oscar for Best Actress. Neal suffered three massive strokes while she was pregnant with her fifth child in 1965. Her husband, author Roald Dahl, insisted that she undergo rigorous rehabilitation, resulting in a successful delivery of a healthy daughter and a triumphant return to acting. The center that bears her name serves stroke, spinal cord, and brain injury patients like Ruppe. The first member of her family to earn a college diploma, Ruppe reached her goal by taking online classes from her home in Oakdale. Her advisor, English professor Jimmie Cain, said Ruppe was an inspiration to him. “Rachel has never wavered in her intention to complete her degree in English and to graduate from MTSU, maintaining a positive outlook and a cheerful disposition even in the most difficult of times,” Cain said.

 

Mike Sparks

December 2015 Commencement - Afternoon Session featuring speaker U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) in Murphy Center. Mike Sparks, Representative, R-Smyrna, District 49, Rutherford County, acknowledges the audience during the afternoon commencement.

December 2015 Commencement – Afternoon Session featuring speaker U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) in Murphy Center.
Mike Sparks, Representative, R-Smyrna, District 49, Rutherford County, acknowledges the audience during the afternoon commencement.

State Rep. Mike Sparks (’15) received his bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies during the afternoon commencement ceremony last December at MTSU’s Murphy Center. Sparks held an associate’s degree in Mass Communication from Motlow State Community College, but life interrupted his plans for a four-year degree. Working nights at Nissan and trying to maintain a family life didn’t leave much room for studying. “I’d always wanted to go back,” said the Smyrna Republican. “Being elected afforded me the opportunity to go to school.” MTSU’s Adult Degree Completion Program meets the needs of adult learners like Sparks by offering the entire curriculum online. Sparks obtained his degree through a mix of on-campus and online courses. Sparks admits the work was challenging, but says his wife of 27 years, Felicia, was very supportive. Sparks has represented District 49 in the Tennessee House of Representatives since January 2011. He previously served as a Rutherford County commissioner.

Baby Raiders

SHELBY GWYNETH CARTWRIGHT

 

Shelby Gwyneth Cartwright, born Dec. 8, 2014, to Charlie and Michele Cole Cartwright (’06) of Smyrna.

TYSON HENRY CHADWELL

 

Tyson Henry Chadwell, born June 1, 2015, to David (‘00) and Scarlett Henry Chadwell (‘99) of Lebanon.

 

CLYDE MATNEYcmyk

Clyde Matney, born Jan. 25, 2016, to Cassandra and Cory Matney (’03), of Nashville.

JENNINGS GRAY HICE

 

 

Jennings Gray Hice, born Nov. 30, 2015, to Jessica Boehm Hice and Jordan Hice (’09), of Manchester.

BRONX LOVIE MASON

 

Bronx Lovie Mason, born Oct. 22, 2015, to Marc and Asia Vanatta Mason (’01), of Alexandria, Virginia.

 

 

1960s

Tim Champlin (’60), Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, published his latest book, The Wild West of Louis L’Amour, an examination of America’s most popular and prolific author of Western fiction. In all, Champlin is the author of 38 books.

 

1970s

Dawson Parker (’70), London, England, recently retired as director of Harrods, London, England, after a more than 40-year career in retail supply chain and operations, including international logistics, delivery, transportation, e-commerce fulfilment, warehousing, replenishment and store operations with luxury retailers in the U.K. and U.S.

Larry Williams, (’71, ’76, ’95), The Villages, Florida, was recently appointed as the senior advisor to the aviation authority of Thailand, assisting in upgrading oversight mechanisms and processes in order to strengthen regulatory capacity and meet International Civil Aviation Organization standards. Williams boasts more than a half century of experience in aviation, including many years as an adjunct instructor in MTSU’s Aerospace Department.

 

1980s

Debra Hollingsworth Hopkins (’80), Murfreesboro, serves as ELL project coordinator at The Council of Great Schools in Washington, D.C., where she coordinates a number of grant-funded projects related to instructional materials and professional development to support English learners in the nation’s 70 largest urban school districts.

Rusty Barnett (’82), Houston, recently entered the consulting field after more than three decades in the oil and gas industry. A professional member of the American Society of Safety Engineers, Barnett conducts most of his efforts through the Gulf Coast Chapter and Energy Corridor Sector groups. Barnett recently retired from BP as the health and safety manager for all drilling, interventions, and well activities in the lower 48 States.

Norman Burns, II, (’85, ’95), Fishers, Indiana, was named the new president and CEO of Conner Prairie, an interactive history park, in Fishers. Burns has more than 28 years of experience in various leadership roles at historical institutions, including most recently as executive director of Maymont, a Victorian estate and public park in Richmond, Virginia. Spanning 850 acres in central Indiana and welcoming more than 360,000 visitors of all ages annually, Conner Prairie is Indiana’s first Smithsonian Institute affiliate.

Richard Huffines (’86), Signal Mountain, is currently the executive director for the Tennessee River Gorge Trust in Chattanooga after retiring from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service following 26 years of service throughout the Southeast region.

Amy T. Cook (‘87), Boone, North Carolina, is administrative assistant to the director of donor services at international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, the organization that collects shoeboxes full of gifts for children all over the world at Christmastime.

Alan Thomas (’87, ’98), Murfreesboro, was appointed interim vice president of the Division of Business and Finance at MTSU.

 

1990s

Karl Harmon (’92, ’94), Howell, Michigan, is an assistant principal maintenance inspector at the Federal Aviation Administration, assigned to a 14 CFR 121 supplemental carrier.

Scott Paschal (’93) and his wife, Rebecca Shahan Paschal (’94), Brush Creek, opened Cellar 53 Winery in the hills of Smith County. Their farm produces estate wines from eight acres of wine, grape, and blackberry vineyards.

Larry “Jason” Dobbs, (’94), Murfreesboro, was named the head football coach for Moore County High School.

Clay Malone (’99), Murfreesboro, was promoted to assistant fire marshal in the Murfreesboro Fire and Rescue Department. He has served on MFRD’s Policy and Rules Committee and is also a member of the department’s Special Events Team.

Jill Napier (’99), Gallatin, joined Legacy Law Group P.C. as operations case manager, client services director, in March 2016 where she works to build strong rapport with clients including managing relationships, contract adherence, expectation setting, and status communications. Napier oversees the management of the Brentwood office.

 

2000s

Terry Hughes III, (’00), Brentwood, joined Patterson Real Estate Advisory Group as director in the company’s Nashville office.

Erin Alvarado (’04, ’10), Murfreesboro, earned The President’s Award at the Tennessee Association of School Librarians for meritorious support of Tennessee school librarians’ mission to strengthen school library media services, create and sustain life-long readers, and improve information literacy in our state.

Kristi Crafton Crass (’04), Murfreesboro, was honored by the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve, an organization within the Department of Defense, for her support of her service-member employees as a nurse manager at Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital.

Jammie Treidel (’04), Talbot, recently celebrated her 10th-year anniversary of working as a state park ranger for Panther Creek State Park in Morristown.

Lashan Matthews Dixon (’07, ’10, ’11, ’14), Murfreesboro, was named United Way Volunteer of the Month for February 2016.

Leslie Merritt (’07, ’09), Murfreesboro, was appointed director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at MTSU.

Jeremy Bills (’08), Savannah, began practicing at Stanlick Chiropractic after receiving his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life University.

Abbi Burgess (’08), Arlington, Virginia, is legislative assistant and correspondence manager for U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford of Arkansas.

Loren Sanderson (’08), Nashville, joined the Murfreesboro law firm of Kious, Rodgers, Barger, Holder, and Kious, PLLC, as an associate attorney. Sanderson received her law degree from DePaul University College of Law in Chicago in 2012. Sanderson is also a longtime member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association and since 2013 has served as secretary on its board of directors.

Fahad Haddad (’09), Clarkston, Georgia, is an animator for Nitrogen Studio, which specializes in CGI theatrical feature films, DVD movies, TV series, online content, and interactive mobile apps.

Justin Stefanski (’09, ’14), Murfreesboro, currently works for the University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University Extension as a horticulture extension agent in Wilson County.

Michael Kraft (’10), South Harington, Connecticut, recently completed a method book for bass guitar and composition titled Harmonics for the Bass Guitarist & Contemporary Composer, which aims to demystify the often misunderstood and overlooked extended technique for electric bass.

 

2010s

Corderyl Martin (’10), Columbia, was named Whithorne Middle School Teacher of the Year.

John Carter Routh (’10), Nashville, founded Dickerson Skyline, a one-day mini festival of music in Nashville. Routh also plays and books shows for Charlie Bob’s.

Eric Fleet (’12, ’13), Fairview, was appointed an official member of the Tennessee Council for the Deaf, Deaf-Blind, and Hard of Hearing by Gov. Bill Haslam. The Council has responsibility for ensuring that state and local public programs and services are accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened, and deaf-blind citizens. As an MTSU student, Fleet founded the MTSU Deaf Raiders and in 2015 authored the first annually printed newsletter, MTSU Silent Blue Observer.

Megan Moore (’12), Clarksville, who works at the Jean Crowe Advocacy Center, a domestic violence service near Nashville, has been accepted into the master’s degree program in Gender, Development, and Globalization at the prestigious London School of Economics. Moore begins the one-year program in September 2016.

Howard “Max” Barrett (’13), Nashville, is a project estimator for J.E/ Dunn Construction. In his tenure there, Barrett has submitted over $850 million in estimates to Dunn clients—including some marquee Nashville projects such as the One City Medical Office Building, Thompson Nashville Hotel in the Gulch, and the 222 2nd Avenue Office Building.

Mahmud A. Brifkani (’13), Antioch, works as an associate editor and legislative analyst with M. Lee Smith Publishers, a division of BLR. When the state legislature is in session, he covers various committees and floor sessions, summarizes legislation, and creates weekly calendars. He also serves as associate editor of the Tennessee Government Officials Directory. Mahmud was recently accepted to Vanderbilt Law School and plans on attending in fall 2016.

Drew Anderson (’14), Murfreesboro, joined the City of Murfreesboro as the first travel program coordinator at the St. Clair Senior Center.

Hailie Cochran (’14), Spring Hill, joined private fitness studio UFIT in Murfreesboro as a personal trainer.

Bryan Gilley (’14), Portland, works with the City of White House as museum curator and Chamber of Commerce coordinator.

Denise Tabscott (’14), Culleoka, a middle school librarian in Metro Nashville Public Schools, was a recipient of a 2016 MANGO Languages/NMRT Professional Development Grant, a professional development opportunity afforded through the American Library Association. Among other roles, Tabscott is a member of the Tennessee Library Association’s state conference committee.

Elaine Eisinger (’15), Nashville, is working at the state attorney general’s office in the Criminal Justice Division as assistant to the senior deputy attorney general.

Siobhan Morales (’15), Antioch, joined private fitness studio UFIT in Murfreesboro as a personal trainer.

 

 

 

 

 

In Memoriam

Virginia Fielder Hobbs

Obit HobbsCMYKVirginia Fielder Hobbs (’37), died March 18, 2016 at the age of 105. Hobbs, of Waynesboro, passed away at her home on South Main Street where she was born Nov. 20, 1910. Hobbs graduated from Wayne County High School in 1929, from MTSU in 1937, and from George Peabody College in 1950. Called “Tootsie” by many, her long career began in 1931 as a classroom teacher in Wayne County. In 1943 she went to Nashville, where she served in the classroom until 1950. That same year she received her master’s degree in Music Education and was immediately appointed a county supervisor of music. She continued her supervisory position when the consolidated county-city Metro system was formed. During her 25 years as a supervisor, Hobbs was active in local and state music organizations, and her attendance at national conventions took her to cities throughout the United States. As a result, she impacted literally thousands of Middle Tennessee elementary school children that she taught to sing, play the flute, or simply to enjoy music. At the time of her retirement in 1975—following 44 years in education —Tootsie was a member of the state Board of Education representing Elementary Music for Middle Tennessee. Her niece, Dr. Virginia “Jenny” Dodge Fielder, a charter member of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment Board of Visitors and a former vice president for research for Knight Ridder Inc., which was once the nation’s second largest newspaper publisher, established The Fielder Family Endowed Scholarship in December 1998 to recognize the work of her late father, James Harris Fielder (B.S.’34), who was also an educator, as well as her mother, Eva (’42), and, of course, her aunt Tootsie. As a result of the gift, one $4,500 scholarship is awarded annually to a Wayne County resident attending MTSU with an interest in journalism, mass communication, elementary and/or special education, nursing, music or recording industry. The recipients are known as the Fielder Scholars. According to Dr. Fielder, her Aunt Tootsie was a remarkable story from the very beginning. Born premature by a couple of months, she weighed only 2½ pounds and could be held in one hand. Her nickname derived from her father who once said “look at my little tootsie” while holding his daughter. Her family is said to have put Tootsie in a buggy with hot bricks and placed her under the flue in their house to keep her warm.

 

 

1940s

Elizabeth Russell Gibbs (’41), Asheville, North Carolina, Jan. 15, 2016

Ruby Baker Gibson (’41), Nashville, Feb. 12, 2016

Joe Harney Sr. (’49), Athens, Georgia, Feb. 1, 2016

William Knight Sr. (’46), Murfreesboro, Dec. 28, 2015

William Read (’49, ’55), Murfreesboro, Jan. 22, 2016

William Woodruff (’48), Springfield, Virginia, Jan. 1, 2016

 

1950s

James Bagwell (’55), Hendersonville, Oct. 15, 2015

Homer J. Beliles (’51), Nashville, Oct. 24, 2015

Clifford Brothers Jr. (’53,’64), Bell Buckle, March 27, 2016

Doris Marable Burns (’53), Memphis, March 19, 2016

Avola Whitesell Callaway (’52),Rayle, Georgia, Oct. 25, 2015

Milner Carden (’57), Tullahoma, Dec. 10, 2015

Wilbern Clark (’50), Flintville, March 20, 2016

Anne Sharp Cole (’53, ’70, ’75),Brentwood, Dec. 5, 2015

Clarence Demonbreun (’58), Nashville, Oct. 2, 2015

James “Turk” Harrison (’51), Aiken, South Carolina, Jan. 22, 2016

Estell Tate Hooten (’59), McMinnville, Dec. 8, 2015

John Krickel (’54), Portal, Georgia, Oct. 22, 2015

Janice Massey (’58), Richardson, Texas, Feb. 10, 2016

Sarah Connelly May (’54, ’68), Smyrna, Nov. 29, 2015

Richard McCord (’53), Murfreesboro, Nov. 20, 2015

Joe Merrell (’58), Elkton, Jan. 8, 2015

Melvin Owen (’57), Wichita, Kansas, Nov. 19, 2015

Thomas Tucker (’59), Columbia, Dec. 2, 2015

 

1960s

Norma Bell (’63), Grayson, Georgia, Jan. 14, 2016

Mary Davis Bishop (’66), Selma, Alabama, Jan. 11, 2016

Paul Calloway (’68), Nashville, Feb. 6, 2016

Margaret Stephens Crockett (’64), Nashville, Oct. 11, 2015

Robert Crowder (’65, ’71), Murfreesboro, Oct. 3, 2015

Leslie Earheart (’67), Cedar Hill, May 23, 2015

James Freeman (’69, ’73), Murfreesboro, March 6, 2016

William Hobbs (’64), Estill Springs, Feb. 3, 2016

Jack Kincer (’66), Signal Mountain, March 17, 2016

Linda Johnson Kinder (’65), Lake Placid, Florida, Dec. 7, 2015

James Lewis (’69), Rockwall, Texas, Nov. 3, 2015

Rufus Lyle, II, (’61), Clarksville, Oct. 19, 2015

Francis Broyles Murray (’65), Mount Morris, Illinois, Dec. 10, 2015

Frank Norcom Jr. (’65), Murfreesboro, Jan. 5, 2016

James Perry Jr. (’65, ’68), Cookeville, Jan. 10, 2016

James Reeves Jr. (’62), Manchester, Dec. 4, 2015

Fred Smith, III, (’66), Greensboro, North Carolina, Jan. 13, 2016

Leonard Tidwell, (’67, ’68), Spring Hill, Jan. 12, 2016

Thomas Ward (’60), Redington, Florida, Feb. 28, 2016

Betty J. Webster (’61, ’79), Murfreesboro, May 9, 2015

Peggy J. Whicker (’64, ’74), Murfreesboro, Jan. 31, 2016

Betty Sadler Wittrig (’69), Winfield, Iowa, Oct. 31, 2015

William Woolfolk Jr. (’66), Horn Lake, Mississippi, Oct. 5, 2015

 

1970s

Robert Arnold (’71, ’73), Murfreesboro, Feb. 24, 2016

Alice Duckworth Bailey (’73, ’76, ’80), Tullahoma, Feb. 23, 2016

Charles Banks Jr. (’76), Tuscumbia, Alabama, Jan. 6, 2016

James Beaty (’70), Charleston, Nov. 15, 2015

Bridget Merriman Berman (’73), Nashville, Sept. 26, 2015

Thomas Coats Jr. (‘77), Pelham, March 20, 2016

Sandra Batey Cole (’77), North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Jan. 1, 2016

Michael Cowan Sr. (71), Hixson, March 26, 2016

Richard Davis Sr. (’74), Milford, Delaware,  Nov. 29, 2015

Robert “Bruce” Durbin (’70), Mount Dora, Florida, Jan. 19, 2016

Cheryl Flanigan (’76, ’79, ’95), Murfreesboro, April 14, 2016

Douglas Fender (’72), Jonesboro, Arkansas, Feb. 2, 2016

Vera Whiteside Grimes (’73, ’83), Mt. Pleasant, Feb. 28, 2016

David Henkel (’72), Nashville, Nov. 17, 2015

James Keith (’72), Tullahoma, Jan. 27, 2016

Wayne Kindness (’77), Murfreesboro, March 26, 2016

Molly Roznoski Kirgis (’78), Belding, Michigan, Feb. 24, 2016

Nick Kohanowski (’74), Moorhead, Minnesota, Feb. 25, 2016

Warren Miller III, (’77), Clifton, March 15, 2016

Morris Mitchell (’70, ’76), Pulaski, Jan. 19, 2016

Earline Green Ross (’74), Jasper, Dec. 4, 2015

William Satterfield (’74), Sarasota, Florida, March 21, 2016

Philip Trauernicht (’79), Nashville, Nov. 14, 2015

Iris Parsons Young (’70), Murfreesboro, Jan. 9, 2016

 

1980s

John Weaver (’89), of Murfreesboro, one of the founders of the LGBTQ group on campus (now MT Lambda) and a pioneer in the state of Tennessee for LGBTQ student rights, passed away March 18, 2016. After the MTSU group was launched on campus in the mid-1980s, students from UT-Knoxville, Austin Peay, and several other Tennessee universities met with Weaver to learn more about forming their own groups.

Mikey Gray Barnes (’82), Livingston, Jan. 1, 2016

James Dotson (’89), Nashville, Dec. 10, 2015

Stephen Elsner (’85), Fairview, Dec. 20, 2015

William Ferrell Jr. (’83), Brentwood, Feb. 10, 2016

Tamela Koudleka McCann (’86, ’89), Nashville, Jan. 19, 2016

Stanley McKinney (’80), Decatur, Georgia, April 3, 2015

Virginia Racker (’85), Nashville, Jan. 9, 2015

Roy Robinson (’84), Chattanooga, Feb. 24, 2016

Dale Womack (’81, ’84), Franklin, Dec. 17, 2015

 

1990s

Michael Aldrich (’96), Huntsville, Alabama, Nov. 3, 2015

Gregory Allen (’95), Murfreesboro, May 20, 2014

Linda Uselton Brown (’92, ’94), Murfreesboro, Feb. 4, 2016

Susan Claiborne (’92), Cornersville, Jan. 3, 2016

Timothy Goodwin (’94), Columbia, Jan. 13, 2016

Vann Gregory (’90), Murfreesboro, Jan. 6, 2016

Dwight Irons (’91), Charlotte, North Carolina, Nov. 25, 2015

Linda Folk Janeway (’94), Sewanee, March 20, 2016

Johannes Johannsson (’92), Decherd, Dec. 1, 2015

Wade Johnson III (’91), Macon, Georgia, Jan. 30, 2016

Marva C. Smith (’91), Manchester, Dec. 13, 2015

Cynthia Woodard (’94), Petersburg, Dec. 3, 2015

 

2000s

April Yant Cameron (’04), Bradyville, Dec. 26, 2015

David Costelac (’00), Lebanon, Dec. 27, 2015

Robert French (’01), Christiansburg, Virginia, March 11, 2016

Blake Hester (’07), Manchester, March 1, 2016

Timothy Hurst (’04), Clarksville, March 17, 2016

Zan McCormick (’07), Murfreesboro, Jan. 5, 2016

 

2010s

Gordon Medlock (’13), Columbia, Oct. 11, 2015

MTSU

 

 

The Heart of the Matter

 

MTSU head football coach Rick Stockstill’s message to recruits and their families is clear: Blue Raider culture matters

lead stock art 2 #TRUE

MTSU head football coach Rick Stockstill, ‌called “Coach Stock” by some, is known for many things.

He’s known for being the first quarterback to play for legendary coach Bobby Bowden when Bowden began to build his dynasty at Florida State in the 1980s.

He’s known for taking one of the nation’s lowest APRs (the NCAA’s measurement of academic progress among student-athletes) and elevating it to one of the best in the nation—right alongside the Vanderbilts and Stanfords of the country—during his coaching tenure at MTSU.

He’s known for leading the Blue Raider football program to six bowl games in the past nine years, including the Bahamas Bowl this past December.

And, behind the scenes, he is known for how effectively he recruits and develops young people.

Where does such success and powerful branding start for Stockstill? No surprise there—it starts with a mentality that MTSU human performance and sport management professor Colby Jubenville describes as Coach Stock’s “unique perspective.”

Jubenville, an author, Washington Times columnist, and motivational speaker, knows about this perspective firsthand; he helped to form Stockstill’s process into a written pitch that goes out to recruits and their families.

The following text, pulled from that pitch, offers insight into Stockstill’s personal philosophy for the program, allowing others to understand how he views his work
as an NCAA college football coach and leader of
young men.

secondary stock art 2

According to Jubenville, Coach Stockstill’s unique perspective attracts both coaches and players to his program who align with his vision for success. That allows him to create a high level of accomplishment year after year. “He has picked a lane and he is owning it!” Jubenville said. “That’s the art of personal branding and organizational branding.”

On the eve of a new football season, MTSU Magazine hopes these words straight from the coaches mouth on the next page fire up the MTSU faithful about the program, the man leading it, and the student-athletes committed to making our team great this year.

True Blue!

 

 

“You can know everything in the world, but if you don’t know what matters, then nothing does. As a college football coach, this is what matters to me, our coaches, our players, and our team:

 

Your Son Matters.  

Young people want to know three things. Who is in charge? What are the standards? And how am I going to be held accountable?

I believe developing people starts with standards. Standards create buy-in. Buy-in defines chemistry. The development of your son though our program over these next four years will shape who he will be for the next 40 years and beyond. My first responsibility is to provide a set of standards that will help your son understand that if he wants more, he has to become more.

 

Making Choices Matters.    

I believe that if you show me your friends, I will show you your future. The reality is we are all making choices and that with each choice comes a new set of opportunities and consequences. I want your son to learn not only how to make choices, but more importantly, what choices to make.

Problems in this country resulting from guns, drugs, and alcohol are real, and it’s clear that people make poor choices when they are under the influence of any of these vices. I give our team examples of athletes that lost everything because of a poor choice, as well as examples of athletes that have won everything because they knew what decisions to make.

 

secondary stock art 1Getting Better Matters.

I believe we have to be better tomorrow than we are today, whether it is in the weight room, film room, classroom, practice field, study hall, or a career. The only way to get better at anything is to give greater effort and be intentional about the future you want to create.

There is no substitute for hard work. There are no shortcuts to the top. The only way I know to get better is to have a never-give-up attitude and a relentless work ethic.

 

 

Winning in All That You Do Matters. 

I believe winning off the field leads to winning on it. That means we have to win academically by going to class, study hall, and, ultimately, graduating and transitioning into a professional career. We have to win by being a great example in the community with the choices we make. We have to win by being a great teammate, and by respecting and being accountable to each other. Once we do this, then winning on the field becomes easy. We win because we do things the right way both on and off the field.

 

Goals Matter.   

You can accomplish all of your goals both on and off the field while being part of our program. I challenge our players to set high but attainable goals. Our team has a 96-percent graduation rate. With six bowl game appearances in nine years, we are also winning on the field. We have more than 10 players on NFL rosters. We are on television more than any other school in our conference. Why? Because we set and achieve worthy goals each and every season.

Finally, I want to coach and have people in our program that understand that all of this matters! They are people of high character and integrity who embrace struggle and are willing to give back. They strive to be the best that they can be, and they know how to use adversity to accelerate their growth. They represent themselves and their families in a positive way. And they do it because they understand it matters.

This isn’t for everyone, and we understand that. It is for people that choose to be a part of our team, a part of our future, and a part of the legacy we want to leave behind. It matters to them, and it matters to us.

Period.

MTSU

A New Cash Crop

hemp Clint holding seed3

One of the world’s oldest crops seems altogether new again. As Tennessee, and the nation for that matter, redefines the much-maligned hemp plant, Volunteer State farmers and universities are angling to take advantage of an exciting new era for the oft-misunderstood plant.

The hemp industry is certainly not new; but, as Tennessee has moved toward legalization of the farming, processing, and research of industrial hemp, MTSU has positioned itself smartly for opportunities in science, agribusiness, and more.

Overcoming First Impressions 

At the word “hemp,” many people raise eyebrows. But just as two different corn plant varieties yield popcorn and corn-on-the-cob, the same is true of cannabis.

To be clear, industrial hemp is not marijuana.

Legally, hemp is defined as any cannabis plant variety that contains less than 0.3% of the psychotropic compound THC. Most marijuana plants in demand today contain THC levels from 5% to 20%. Thus, one cannot get “high” on hemp.

The plant’s stalk, woody core, and seed, however, can be used to make literally thousands of things. The plant, which was used extensively in America until the 1950s, is now growing again in Tennessee.

“It’s pretty unique in its ability to be used in a lot of very different ways,” said Dr. Nate Phillips, associate professor in MTSU’s School of Agribusiness and Agriscience. “From fiber to fodder to food to bioremediation, there’s so much out there.”

Tennessee legislators passed a bill in 2014 allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp in the state. A total of 54 Tennessee farmers did just that, growing a wide variety of the plant in the 2015 growing season. For 2016, 63 farmers secured licenses to plant, grow, and harvest industrial hemp.

A new hemp bill which passed the Tennessee General Assembly in the most recent 2016 session now allows for the processing of industrial hemp. Importantly for both MTSU and its Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research (TCBMR), the new law also expanded opportunities for  universities to conduct hemp research.

“Tennessee is evolving, and our lives will be different as a result of these bills passing,” said Dr. Elliot Altman, TCBMR director and head of MTSU’s Molecular Biosciences Ph.D. program. “The future is bright for this.”

“The industry in general has lot of promise,” added Phillips. “Although some hiccups on regulations and infrastructure development still have to get worked out.”

 

A Student Successhemp Clint cut out

Both Phillips and Altman credit MTSU graduate student Clint Palmer with both ramping up the University’s excitement about being involved in industrial hemp in Tennessee and in taking clear steps to be an academic leader in the state.

“All credit goes to him to bring it here,” Phillips said.

Palmer spent six months of his final undergraduate year seeking grant money for his hemp research agriculture project. In the summer of 2015, Palmer conducted a trial growing seven varieties of hemp—six of them for seed and one for fiber.

“Clint had the idea and followed through,” Phillips said. “He created that excitement about research and also brought in other younger people to participate who were not even in agriculture.”

Importantly, Palmer also piqued Altman’s interest in the medicinal qualities of hemp oil after the student met with the professor to ask about them during Tennessee’s first hemp growing season in 2015.

“I started pulling together that research and soon thought, ‘Wow,’ ” Altman said. “There is ample scientific research which shows that a number of non-psychotropic cannabinoids—compounds found in hemp seed—have antibacterial, anticancer, antiepileptic, antifungal, and immunomodulatory activities.”

“That’s the root of our excitement,” Altman summed up.

 

Growing the Industry

Wild hemp plant. Isolated on a white background.
Before changing his major from environmental engineering to agriculture, Palmer spent time in Colorado building a tiny house out of hemp-crete, just one of the products that can be made from hemp’s woody core.

Products from the stalk include everything from the aforementioned building material to mulch, boiler fuel, clothing, shoes, and carpet. In addition, seed from the hemp plant can be used nutritionally and clinically.

“The hemp extract market appears to be $400 million worldwide,” said Altman, a lifetime pharmaceutical developer with decades of intellectual property development expertise.

MTSU now works alongside organizations such as the nonprofit Tennessee Hemp Industries Association (TNHIA) to educate politicians and the public about the potential uses and financial upsides of industrial hemp.

“After the bills passed, farmers, entrepreneurs, and everyone fascinated by hemp starting asking us questions,” Altman said.

And as Tennessee farmers increasingly figure out both the nuances and financial upsides of growing hemp, they see clearly how they stand to gain.

“A very small group of farmers is doing it right now and they are creating history,” said Colleen Keahey, TNHIA founder and president. “They want to be the first.”

During Tennessee’s first growing season in 2015, farmers planted experimentally.

“Farmers used seed, some of which was from Canada, and figured out what could go wrong,” Palmer said. They learned answers to questions like “What are the pests that can affect growth?” and “What’s needed to increase yield?” Most of those farmers are growing 1–5 acres to total about 1,185 acres of hemp in 34 Tennessee counties. Other states growing industrial hemp in 2015 included Kentucky, Colorado, Vermont, and Oregon.

“In the end, farmers want to know how much they’ll make,” Palmer said. “So they’ll try it on small acreage to see how it does. Most do a rotation of corn, soy, and wheat. Hemp fits
in perfectly with that. It has the same needs.”

Domino effect

With the new legislation fresh on the books permitting hemp processing and research, both Tennessee farmers and University researchers are gearing up for higher levels of activity. Palmer said a greenhouse will be built on campus property to grow subspecies. Early research will isolate the content of each plant. Phillips said he is hopeful and foresees opportunities to coordinate with TCBMR on the production side.

A clear new path to processing and distribution will also open doors for entrepreneurs.

“There will be lot of movement in this area,” Altman predicted.

Because of TCBMR’s proven ability to isolate and identify bioactive compounds in plants, it could be the vehicle to certify farmers’ products as well.

“The major problem with the hemp flower extract industry has been that consumers don’t know what they are buying as there are no certified products available that guarantee the bioactivity of the hemp cannabinoid extracts,” Altman explained. “The Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research would like to understand which cannabinoids have what medical properties and whether the cannabinoids can act together to generate more potent activities. This would lead to the creation of superior hemp flower extracts whose bioactivity can be certified.”

“TCBMR can be the evaluator and can certify bioactivity. We’ve proven we’re very good at assays (bioactivity tests) and can certify any product made,” Altman added.

“Anything TCBMR can do to help the farmer, we want to do.”

The purpose of TCBMR is to deliver compounds that can help people. The applied science appeals deeply to Altman and to his graduate students who want to make a difference
in people’s lives.

“I think all the students would say that this matters: ‘I’m doing something important,’ ” he said. “All of our students come in loving medicine and love the idea they might be creating a drug to help somebody somewhere.”

Palmer plans to start research on hemp as he pursues his doctorate in Molecular Biosciences under Dr. Altman’s tutelage.

“Once you educate with facts, it’s not hard to understand the potential for hemp,” Palmer said. “I think it can really open up doors for ag research and bring students into agronomy.”

MTSU

 

 

School of Rock

Julien Baker, student and recording artist, in and around Wright Music Building for the Summer 2016 MTSU Magazine.

Rock star Julien Baker’s ability to balance the pursuit of her degree and career opportunities offers proof that MTSU’s student success emphasis is more than just lip service

 

By Drew Ruble

Suffice it to say, Julien Baker is not your typical college student.

Luckily for her, Middle Tennessee State University is not your typical college.

As an underclassman at MTSU, Baker, an English major and secondary education minor with designs on being a classroom teacher, penned a batch of heartfelt songs during late-night writing sessions in the piano closets housed in the Saunders Fine Arts building on campus. The album that emerged from those sessions, Sprained Ankle, eventually led Rolling Stone magazine to name Baker to its list of “10 new artists you need to know” in 2015.  Since then, hundreds of media outlets have profiled her, including National Public Radio, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, while scads of other music-specific outlets placed Sprained Ankle on their annual lists of top albums for 2015 (alongside, in some cases, names like Adele and Kendrick Lamar). In almost overnight fashion, Baker, age 20 from Memphis, achieved bona fide indie-music-darling status, a designation that has since taken her across the globe to perform her music.

What makes Baker’s story all the more remarkable is that for most of her meteoric musical rise, she remained enrolled and taking classes at MTSU. After a long struggle to balance both worlds, Baker’s wild success did ultimately lead her to temporarily suspend her degree pursuit in April, despite being close to completing the necessary coursework to graduate. For Baker, who is passionate about literature and education, it was a difficult decision.

“During that time, people would be like, ‘Oh, you’re still in school.’ And they’d be like, ‘That stinks.’ But I was like, ‘No!’ Because as much as I love touring and I love traveling and I know it’s what I want to do, I love school as well,” Baker said. “I love the environment of discussion and challenging each other’s thoughts and open conversation about literature and art. I’m kind of a liberal arts geek.”

Feet in Two Worlds

Baker describes her whirlwind ride to critical acclaim as “surreal.” Not surprisingly, the growing attention and rapid rise in demands on her time increasingly complicated her ongoing studies at MTSU. Think red-eye flights spent penning research papers bearing titles such as “Voltaire’s Apparatus: Hope and Human Nature in Candide.”

“The horror story that I always tell is that I was in Professor Trish Gaitely’s American Lit class, and I got on a plane at midnight in Los Angeles, got an overnight flight, landed, and drove straight to campus and walked into her class, like staggering. But I was like, ‘I made it. I made it here, Professor Gaitely!’ ” Baker said. “But even she was helpful, and kept up email correspondence with me so I could stay on top of my assignments, like hacking out my Shakespeare final for Dr. Ted Sherman on a 747.”

Critical acclaim, European tours, opening for acts like The National, and playing festival dates with the likes of Neil Young has not—at least, not yet—altered Baker’s firm opinion that earning her college degree and paving a path to becoming an English teacher is important, even if she has had to temporarily delay it. That way, she explained, if the music thing doesn’t work out for her, she’ll still get to perform—in a way.  Except, she explained, instead of it being on stage, it will be for a bunch of kids, trying to make Chaucer interesting to them, work she describes as “meaningful.”

Becoming a teacher is not a joke, Baker assured [see sidebar “Those Who Rock, Teach”]. And, in fact, she sees a direct correlation between the art of being a songwriter/musician and the art of teaching.

“It’s also a performance. Your task is to engage those kids, to meet those kids where they are and to teach them—not just the material but why it’s important,” Baker said. “If you can’t relate to your students, you can’t make it accessible and important and relevant to their lives, then why are they going to care? It’s just going to be another dusty old copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

“You’re doing that as a songwriter, too. You’re sharing poetry, you’re sharing music, sharing a part of yourself, and you have to relate to the audience. If you sing the same, trite sentiment with no genuineness behind it, why is anyone going to care about your songs?”

Part student, part rock star. It was a hard balance to strike, but Baker was dedicated. Fortunately for her, she had picked a university that was as well.

True Blue Troubadour

Julien Baker, student and recording artist, in and around Wright Music Building for the Summer 2016 MTSU Magazine.

Even before MTSU had drawn up a student success plan, instances of staff members working alongside students who wanted to succeed filled its history. Now, with a laser focus on student success, the University staff’s emphasis on retention and graduation is even more obvious in the student experience.

Baker’s recollections of concerts and travel agendas and promotional schedules are vividly interspersed with names of professors who saw her desire to learn amidst the crazy explosion of fame that is her world and who did everything they could to make sure her efforts to succeed weren’t in vain.

With every passing month, Baker’s touring and promotional schedule got ratcheted up higher and higher. At a point in that evolution, Baker smartly gave up the red-eye flights and Greyhound buses back to Murfreesboro and the campus of MTSU and started taking classes online to continue her education. At the time of her interview with MTSU Magazine in early Spring 2016, Baker was enrolled in an online class that met in session amidst multiple three-week concert tours, including one overseas.

“Currently I’m in Angela Hague’s mythology course,” Baker reported at that time. “And any time I have a problem, she responds quickly, like within that day.

“I was actually backstage in a green room and I had to stop trying to turn in one assignment because I had to go onstage, and I asked the audience—I was playing a college show in Carrboro near the University of North Carolina—‘How many people are in school?’ And they raised their hands, and I was like, ‘I’m trying to submit an online discussion question and it won’t go through.’ And the audience was like, ‘Aww.’ They got it.”

According to Baker, helpful, caring professors like Hague are the rule, not the exception, when it comes to her dealings with MTSU.

“[Hague] sent me an email one time after I was apologizing profusely for not getting my work done because I’m on tour. And she wrote, ‘You’re a touring musician. I’m here to help you achieve success. That’s my job.’

And that’s beautiful to me. That’s why I love MTSU, you know?” Baker said. “No one’s paying me to say that. I feel like a commercial. But I’m proud to be a Raider.”

Baker said she’s had many other helpful teachers along the way, specifically mentioning Dr. Ashley Riley Sousa in the History Department and Dr. Stacy Merida in the Recording Industry Department.

“They were hands-on. They cared about their students. They knew us all by name, even if it was a big class. And they genuinely cared about their subjects,” Baker said.

Bar none, though, Baker’s favorite professor at MTSU is her advisor, English professor Dr.
Jimmy Cain.

“I bring him up in every interview because he is the model professor to me,” she said. “He really wants his students to succeed. He went above and beyond to help all of his students succeed. He gave us study guides and email access and he was so available.”

Baker first discussed her need to go to online coursework—and then to temporarily suspend her classes—with Cain. She said she was sure Cain would warn her against the dangers of becoming a full-time musician, but was instead pleasantly surprised by his response to her situation.

“He was like, ‘You’ve got to go do that. I’ll help you do whatever you need to do to make this work.’

“‘We’ll be waiting for you,’ is what he told me. And then he opened up a copy of Goethe’s Faust and pointed to the first part where the student is maniacally committed to continuing his studies, and said ‘Don’t be like Wagner. Don’t put all your faith in what’s on paper. Go out there and have experiences.’

“I was wowed. That’s a teacher going beyond just the typical, formal relationship and just being very human and very open. I love it. And I honestly think there’s a lot of that going on around MTSU.”

Cain, who said for the longest time he wasn’t even aware Baker was a New York Times-reviewed artist but only knew she was “a really good student,” expressed complete confidence that Baker will be back to complete her degree and the required year of student teaching.

“She’s too bright and too engaged with literature to do otherwise,” Cain said. “There’s nothing at all wrong with stepping out for a moment to experience life. And I believe, with her career, she is, in a way, already teaching. While she is singing, and imparting her experiences, she is trying to give some direction to her listeners.”

It’s not just faculty that has supported and impacted Baker at MTSU. As an intern in the Audio Visual Services department, a division of the Center for Educational Media in the College of Education, Baker found not just instruction and support but friendship as well.

“I helped out doing production services on campus,” she said. “At MTSU, if you want an opportunity to work and get hands-on experience, it’s there for you. Like [director of engineering] Jeff Nokes, he would sit down with me and just do circuit diagrams. He’s not even a teacher! And ‘Tiny’ [electronic equipment technician Ronald Gilley], my direct boss, taught me how to fix my guitars better. And then Jeff would give me squash from his garden. They’re so sweet! Now, that’s probably an extreme example of community. But they invested so much in me.”

Bright HorizonsJulienBaker_SprainedAnkle

All those investments are paying off as the faculty and staff who offered support are now enjoying Baker’s rise. It’s a worldwide journey that started in the MTSU recording studio where Baker began recording demos of the songs that would appear on Sprained Ankle. Helping her was friend and MTSU Recording Industry student Michael Hegner, who later recorded the album in Virginia studios where he interned.

The songs offer an intimate look into Baker’s youthful struggles, using nothing but her voice and sparse, atmospheric, electric guitar flowing over what Creative Loafing described as “tear-soaked words.” Baker, who said she merely expected friends and family to enjoy it, originally released the album on the Bandcamp online music store for $3. The album was later picked up by 6131 Records, re-released, and heavily promoted by the label, which led to Baker’s discovery.

“All of a sudden it was up on NPR’s All Songs Considered. And it got mentioned in The New York Times. And in Rolling Stone,” Baker said. “From there, it’s been solidly touring, meeting people, and forming relationships.”

Amid the chaos, and, yes, adulation, Baker is focused on staying grounded, remaining true to herself, and being, in her words, “kind.”

“It’s just trying to be a kind, genuine person and, you know, pay it forward, do right by everyone, hoping that it comes back around in whatever form,” she said. “I never want to get too big of a head about it.

“So it’s like every single time something good happens trying to just remember—in every interview trying to like shout out Michael Hegner, talk about how awesome MTSU is—make a positive impact with your words and remember to be humble.”

Baker vowed that even if it were all to go away tomorrow, she would simply savor the fact that it was “the coolest experience” that “no one could take away from me.”

Besides, she has other options.

Baker is adamant that she will return to MTSU, and that because of the culture of student success among faculty and staff at MTSU, she will achieve her degree. In fact, she is looking forward to
the opportunity.

“If I end up being a teacher after that, I’ll be happy and content, you know?” she said.

 

Julien Baker, student and recording artist, in and around Wright Music Building for the Summer 2016 MTSU Magazine.

Julien Baker, student and recording artist, in and around Wright Music Building for the Summer 2016 MTSU Magazine.

 

Those Who Rock, Teach

It’s clear within minutes of speaking with rock star Julien Baker that teaching is in her blood.

“Oh, man, it would just be so awesome just to hang out with kids. I’d done community-campy-like outreach stuff in Memphis when I was in high school, and just the environment of being around kids, being a positive influence on them as much as you can, it just proved to me that it’d be so cool to be a teacher. My teachers were the most important people and continue to be,” she said.

What makes the teaching profession special in Baker’s mind is how much of themselves teachers share with their students.

“There’s a hidden curriculum, if you will,” Baker said. “It’s not just about learning Spanish or about learning literature; it’s building self-confidence, and saying, ‘I believe in you, I think you can do this.’”

Baker deftly compares her journey of becoming an overnight global music success to the inspiration to become a teacher.

“Why would I sleep in cars and drive crazy long hours, stay up until the middle of the night, and eat gas station food to go on tour? Because I love it, and because it’s so rewarding when I look out in the audience and I see eyeballs light up,” she said. “It’s the same when I talk to good teachers. They tell me—and I relate to this—there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the lightbulb come on with a kid. When one of the kids I was observing in an MTSU class said, ‘I’m actually having fun,’ I felt like I might just burst into tears. I was like, ‘YES!’”

Baker specifically referenced a teacher in high school that inspired her in that way.

“I didn’t get Frankenstein when I read it by myself,” she said. “But when we read it in her AP class, she would jump up and down talking about this book, because she loved it. Sometimes I’m sure it felt like banging her head against a brick wall to get us to understand her passion, but she did it because she loved her students and the subject. That’s beautiful.”

MTSU

 

A Centennial Success

CENT_HEADERThe University’s recently-concluded, $105-million fundraising campaign ranks among the most important occurrences at MTSU in decades

from staff reports

 

Given that MTSU is now more than 100 years old, it’s appropriate that the University recently raised more than $100 million in donations to support its ever-expanding mission to serve students.

MTSU officials raised more than $105 million in the Centennial Campaign, surpassing the $80 million goal set when the effort was announced in 2012. In fact, the $105,465,308 raised during the campaign, which concluded Dec. 31, 2015, represents the largest fundraising effort in University history, far surpassing a $30 million campaign
mark set in 2001.

“We launched this campaign in the middle of one of our nation’s biggest economic downturns and set a goal that many thought we could never reach under the best of circumstances,” President Sidney A. McPhee said during an event in February 2016 at Embassy Suites Murfreesboro to unveil the campaign’s results. “The fact that we met—and exceeded—our goal speaks to the commitment of the campaign’s volunteer leadership, the passion of our alumni, and the vision we set forward for the future of our great University.”

Gov. Bill Haslam praised the University in video remarks played at the February event, noting that “the momentum from this campaign will guarantee the continued growth and success for MTSU. It will help assure that MTSU will continue to prosper as a nationally acclaimed, comprehensive university.”

Haslam also lauded “MTSU’s leadership in student success initiatives, adult degree completion, creative partnerships, and outreach to veterans and military families” for helping in the Drive to 55, the state’s initiative to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

 

Donors Make the Difference

The far-reaching positive impacts that the $105-million campaign are having and will continue to have on students and programs is enormous and will go on for a long time. At its core are the generous donors that provided gifts, some as large as $10 million and some as small as $100, all of which are worthy of praise and thanks from the MTSU community.

Centennial Celebration Dinner at Embassy Suites. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President.

Centennial Celebration Dinner at Embassy Suites. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President.

The Centennial Campaign actually launched in low-key fashion on Jan. 1, 2009, as MTSU began preparing to mark the 100th anniversary of its 1911 founding. More than $54 million was raised during a three-year “quiet phase” of the campaign that ensued. That amount alone set a university record.

MTSU went public with the campaign on April 13, 2012, declaring a goal of $80 million and unveiling a $10 million gift by alumnus Andrew Woodfin “Woody” Miller of Nashville. Miller’s gift allowed MTSU to purchase the property once occupied by then-Middle Tennessee Medical Center just west of the campus on Bell Street. Now renovated, that 126,839-usable-gross-square-foot facility has not only expanded MTSU’s campus footprint, but also provided a dedicated space for educational and outreach efforts to the business community and community at large.

Miller Educational Center

Miller Educational Center

Joe Bales, vice president for university advancement and MTSU’s chief development officer, said the $105 million was the result of more than 111,000 separate gifts from 23,276 different donors.

“This campaign, though, was about more than dollars and donors,” Bales said. “It was about creating a vision for our University’s second century and giving our friends and supporters opportunities to help bring that vision to life.”

McPhee said many of MTSU’s most transformational gifts came about during the campaign’s four-year public phase, including the $7 million in private-donor support necessary to augment public funds for the $147 million, state-of-the-art Science Building that opened in October 2014.

The new MTSU science building in a state of substantial completion starting the process of moving equipment and classrooms from Davis Science and Wiser-Patton.

The new MTSU science building in a state of substantial completion starting the process of moving equipment and classrooms from Davis Science and Wiser-Patton.

Other successes of the Centennial Campaign include more than $27 million in new scholarship funds; a $2.5 million gift by alumnus Joey Jacobs, matched by the state of Tennessee, creating an endowed chair of excellence in accounting—the first new chair of excellence in Tennessee in more than 15 years; and the establishment of $28 million in planned estate gifts to provide support for many years to come.

Centennial Campaign projects in Blue Raider Athletics included the Jeff Hendrix Stadium Club that opened in 2012 and the Adams Tennis Complex that MTSU opened in 2015, built in partnership with the city of Murfreesboro and the Christy Houston Foundation.

Adam's Tennis Complex dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting.

Adam’s Tennis Complex dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting.

Campaign chair and MTSU alumna Pamela Wright, founder and CEO of Nashville-based Wright Travel, said she was proud to be a part of such a transformative effort for her alma mater.

Centennial Celebration Dinner at Embassy Suites. Pamela Wright, Centennial Committee Co-Chair and Alumni.

Centennial Celebration Dinner at Embassy Suites.
Pamela Wright, Centennial Committee Co-Chair and Alumni.

“We began this campaign as an opportunity to think about— and do something about—the future of Middle Tennessee State University,” Wright said. “Those who stepped forward in this effort have set our course for MTSU’s second century.”

Other executive committee members included Nashville-based Zycron Inc. founder and chair Darrell Freeman; Nashville-based Haury & Smith Contractors, Inc. chair Stephen B. Smith; Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess; Joey Jacobs, chair and CEO of Franklin-based Acadia Healthcare; and MTSU Foundation member Don Witherspoon.

Centennial Celebration Dinner at Embassy Suites. Joe Bales, Vice President, Development and University Relations.

Joe Bales, Vice President, Development and University Relations.

Bales said the campaign exceeded its goal because of the work by Wright, her executive committee, and other MTSU advocates.

“This record-setting, history-making effort was a success because of the passion and commitment of our volunteer leadership,” Bales said.

 

 

 

Donor Spotlight: Laying a Foundation

by Patsy B. Weiler

 

Howard Wall spent his professional life building Murfreesboro; now he’s building a legacy of giving at MTSU.

Howard Wall and MTSU have a long history together—more than 70 years of memories and milestones. The successful real estate agent and developer earned his degree in 1963 from MTSU. In 1998, he was honored by the University with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Wall’s latest connection with the University is serving as a member of the Honors College Board of Visitors.

Honors board member Howard Wall in the Honors building conference room.

Honors board member Howard Wall in the Honors building conference room.

“MTSU has always been there, a part of my life,” said Wall.

The University served as the stage for many of Wall’s youthful adventures. Two indelible first experiences associated with MTSU were taking his first airplane ride and seeing his first football game.

“As a kid, I knew the location of a loose board in the fence around the football field near where a bush was growing and could squeeze through and get in to watch the game,” Wall said. “I think the coaches probably knew it was happening, but they never said anything.”

Wall has left his footprint as a developer throughout middle Tennessee on the grounds of various residential and commercial developments, including through his involvement in the early land acquisition of the Gateway area of Murfreesboro. Now in his mid-70s, Wall continues to work as a real estate agent and developer with Coldwell Banker Snow and Wall, Barnes Realty, a company he and his wife and business
partner Sally built together.

Wall’s philanthropy and service to MTSU is vast. The athletic staff’s past kindness to a neighborhood youngster eventually reaped a bountiful return when, among other gifts, Wall committed $100,000 toward the completion of the baseball program’s Reese Smith Jr. Field and stadium. A tall section of the facility’s wall behind center field reads “The Howard and Sally Wall,” in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner that captures Wall’s famous sense of humor while honoring the family’s gift.

“One of the reasons I financially support MTSU—other than thinking it is just the right thing to do to give back to my community—is that I know a lot of those kids there are having to work their way through school,” Wall said. “These students are well-rounded, work hard, and have many interests…I love going to our meetings and learning about these outstanding students. They will become the leaders of future.”

 

Inside the Numbers

A total of 23,277 alumni, friends, corporations, and foundations contributed to the success of the Centennial Campaign. In all, 364 gifts greater than $25,000 were received for a total of more than $53 million. The bulk of the gifts funded the campaign’s four priorities.

Scholarships: $27 Million
Maintaining our desired position as the institution of choice
in Tennessee requires the University to remain competitive in
recruiting future generations of student scholars.

  • 33 new endowed scholarship funds were created totaling more than $13 million.
  • 209 non-endowed scholarship funds were established totaling more than $14 million.

Faculty Enhancement and Support: $15 Million
To ensure that our students continue to have opportunities to be guided by some of the nation’s leading faculty, MTSU established a cadre of endowed chairs and professorships.

  • One new Chair of Excellence
  • Two new endowed faculty chairs
  • Numerous college and departmental faculty awards

Academic Program Enhancements: $19 Million
MTSU has remained committed to the education of our students, providing each and every student with access to the finest facilities, the most modern equipment, and the most innovative academic programs.

  • $10 million to establish the Andrew Miller
    Education Center
  • $6.75 million in support of the new Science Building
  • More than $2.5 million in new technology and equipment

Blue Raider Athletics: $25 Million
The Blue Raider Athletics program is committed to providing the highest level of performance—on the field and in the classroom—uniting our community and promoting a sense of pride. We can only compete at the highest levels athletically by matching up against top-notch competition, improving facilities, and focusing on academic success.

  • Renovated weight room and construction of the
    Shipp Women’s Basketball Office
  • New endowed scholarships for student athletes
    in football and men’s and women’s basketball

 

$105,465,308

Changing the Conversation

Recording Industry Chair Beverly Keel has kick-started a national public discourse about the need for greater female involvement in country music

Beverly Keel, Chair, Department of Recording Industry on Nashville's Music Row at the Owen Bradley Park.

Beverly Keel, Chair, Department of Recording Industry on Nashville’s Music Row at the Owen Bradley Park.

Interview by Drew Ruble

 

For two consecutive years—2015 and 2016—MTSU professor Beverly Keel (’88), chair of the University’s Department of Recording Industry, was among the honorees receiving a Women in Music City Award from the Nashville Business Journal.

Launched in 2015, the awards honor women working in the music business “who are making a creative and economic impact on the industry.”

Keel also recently appeared in Variety magazine’s “2015 Music City Impact Report,” which focused on the people “igniting” Nashville’s latest popularity surge.

Currently in her third year of leading the Recording Industry department within the College of Media and Entertainment, Keel continues to build partnerships between MTSU and music industry leaders to enhance the student experience, align them with jobs in the industry, and bring in accomplished guest lecturers and instructors on a routine basis.

Keel previously served as senior vice president of artist and media relations
for Universal Music Group Nashville, where she actively guided the musical careers of stars ranging from American Idol winner Scotty McCreery to pop
icon Lionel Ritchie.

Also a former entertainment journalist, Keel has made waves on the national landscape as the outspoken co-founder of Change the Conversation, a coalition created, in part, to help change the way that women are perceived in the country music industry.

MTSU Magazine recently sat down with Keel to discuss all the attention she’s
been getting.

What led you to form Change the Conversation?

Let me start by saying that my concern about the unequal playing field for women in country music has since been far outweighed by the inspiration of women banding together to create a solution.

In 2014, women on Music Row were worried about the increased difficulty of getting women played on country radio, signed to record companies, or booked on some high-profile events.  I remember telling my friend Leslie Fram, Country Music Television’s senior vice president, that I wished I could do something about it. Unbeknownst to me, she was hearing the same sentiments from her good friend, Tracy Gershon, a veteran music executive who is currently vice president of A&R for Rounder Records and an artist manager.

Leslie suggested that we all get together to see if there was anything we could do to spotlight the problem and create a solution. The result was Change the Conversation, a group of women from various music backgrounds who are working together to improve the environment for women in country music.

What exactly are you hoping the group can accomplish?

Our goals include getting more women played on country radio, getting more women signed to major record label and publishing company deals, and getting more women featured in high-profile opportunities, whether it is an appearance on an awards show or TV show.

We want to banish the myths and misperceptions that women don’t like to hear other women on the radio or support other female artists. We are working to create a set of facts that shows the realities of the success of women, whether it is through album sales, concert tickets, or alcohol sales at venues. We want to fight inequality with truth.

Let me stress: We don’t believe that women should be played on radio or signed to record deals just because they are women. It is that women who are of the same quality of the male artists—if not higher—should receive the same opportunities and participate on a level playing field. We believe that there shouldn’t be just a few predetermined slots for women at country radio.

How big of a problem is this really?

When Tracy was trying to get record deals for her female artists, several labels said, “We don’t sign females,” or, “We already have too many females and they are too hard to get on the radio,” or, “It is too hard to find songs for females.”

Billboard’s year-end country radio airplay chart, which lists country music’s 60 most heard songs on radio in 2015, includes just six from female artists.

Meanwhile, women are making much of the best country music today, and that’s not just my opinion. According to the music industry voters of the CMA, Miranda Lambert made the best country album and country single and participated in the best vocal event of the year in 2014, while Kacey Musgraves co-wrote the best song. In the past three years, only three of the 15 artists nominated for the CMA’s best new artist award have been females.

The Change the Conversation group recently launched its mentoring sessions for young artists at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, Tennessee. Pictured, from left, are Beverly Keel, chair of MTSU's Department of Recording Industry and co-founder of Change the Conversation; Leslie Fram, CMT senior vice president and Change the Conversation co-founder; country music legend and special guest Reba McEntire; and Tracy Gershon, Rounder Records Group's vice president of A&R and Change the Conversation co-founder. (Photo courtesy of Justin McIntosh)

The Change the Conversation group recently launched its mentoring sessions for young artists at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, Tennessee. Pictured, from left, are Beverly Keel, chair of MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry and co-founder of Change the Conversation; Leslie Fram, CMT senior vice president and Change the Conversation co-founder; country music legend and special guest Reba McEntire; and Tracy Gershon, Rounder Records Group’s vice president of A&R and Change the Conversation co-founder. (Photo courtesy of Justin McIntosh)

Explain to us why making an impact on radio is so crucial to your movement.

The lack of airplay for women has launched a vicious cycle. If country radio doesn’t play females, labels won’t sign as many artists, and then publishers won’t sign as many females.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t affect just the women who are trying to make a living in country music, but it affects all women because music is an important force in shaping popular culture, which should reflect who we are as a society.

When women don’t hear other women on country radio, it takes its toll on our self-esteem, dreams, and ambitions. There is little that most women can relate to when listening to today’s country radio, and pop culture is important in shaping how we view ourselves.

Are you surprised at how impactful Change the Conversation has already been?

In late May 2016, we received a beautifully wrapped gift that couldn’t have come at a better time. Radio consultant Keith Hill told the trade publication Country Radio Aircheck that he advised radio stations not to play too many songs by women and not to play two women back to back. “If you want to make ratings in country radio, take females out,” he said, noting that female listeners like male artists.

“Trust me,” he said. “I play great female records, and we’ve got some right now; they’re just not the lettuce in our salad. The lettuce is Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, Keith Urban and artists
like that. The tomatoes of our salad
are females.”

The story made national headlines and propelled our fight to the national stage. No longer could country radio deny what the problem was. Not only did he help galvanize a movement, he gave it a symbol. Martina McBride had shirts printed with the slogan “Tomato,” and even Rush Limbaugh weighed in on the unfortunate choice of the word “tomato.”

These comments were made the day before our third meeting, which was held at Creative Artist Agency and was attended by about 75 fired-up and passionate people. Soon after, Martina McBride held an intimate gathering for female artists and their managers at her studio in Nashville, so that they could ask questions and learn about Change the Conversation in a safe environment.

In June, about 80 people gathered at Sambuca in Nashville at a City National Bank-sponsored event to hear Devarati Ghosh, a New York-based political economist and Stanford University Ph.D. candidate, and author Jay Frank present research that they conducted for Change the Conversation.

One of our most exciting nights came last summer, when YouTube sponsored an event, and Madeline Di Nonno, CEO of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, presented the institute’s findings on gender prevalence in entertainment. Another event focused on live entertainment and attracted several hundred people at 3rd and Lindsley, where we all stayed for a show by Natalie Stovall and her guests.

But perhaps the highlight came in March, when Reba McEntire served as a special guest mentor for five young female artists at the Bluebird Café and offered advice
to those beginning their careers.

We have garnered substantial media coverage in music and country music publications, and Billboard said Change the Conversation began having an impact

 

on Music Row after only six months. It has brought a spotlight to radio programming, so they can’t ignore or dismiss the claims of inequality any longer.

What’s next?

This is about the young generation of girls who have dreams of having a career in country music. We want to improve the situation for them so that they’re not still battling this problem 10–20 years from now.

Thanks, Beverly.
 

 
 

 

 

Painting the Grammys True Blue

 

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry are shown here at the Leadership Music reception in Los Angeles before Monday's telecast of the 58th annual Grammy Awards. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry are shown here at the Leadership Music reception in Los Angeles before Monday’s telecast of the 58th annual Grammy Awards. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

Almost 20 MTSU alumni or former students and faculty from around the University have been nominated for Grammy Awards in the past seven years. Eight have won Grammys so far, including some repeat recipients, in categories from classical to gospel to bluegrass. Few universities in America can boast such high-brow musical success.

In 2016, MTSU alumnus Luke Laird (’01) was again nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Country Song category for his song “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” written with Barry Dean and Jonathan Singleton and performed by artist Tim McGraw. Laird was nominated in 2015 for co-writing both Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids” and Eric Church’s “Give Me Back My Hometown.” Laird was also nominated that year for Best Country Album, as producer of Kasey Musgraves’ album, “Pageant Material.” Laird won the Grammy for Best Country Album in 2014 for co-producing Musgraves’ “Same Trailer, Different Park.”

Other Grammy nominees with MTSU ties in 2016 included Sam Hunt, who was up for Best Country Album for “Montevallo” and Best New Artist, and Eric Pasley, who was nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “The Driver,” along with Charles Kelley and Dierks Bentley. In 2015, “Messengers,” co-written by 2003 music business graduate Torrance Esmond—known professionally as Street Symphony—and former MTSU student Lecrae Moore for Moore’s latest album, won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song. Esmond later established the Street Symphony Scholarship, a $750-per-semester award for MTSU recording industry students. Former student Jaren Johnston was also nominated in the Best Country Song category in 2015 as a co-writer on “Meanwhile, Back at Mama’s,” performed by McGraw.

Student Songwriter

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, chats with alumnus, Grammy-winner and 2016 Grammy nominee Luke Laird at a reception held Sunday in his honor in Los Angeles by the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment as part of the Grammy weekend festivities in Los Angeles. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, chats with alumnus, Grammy-winner and 2016 Grammy nominee Luke Laird at a reception held Sunday in his honor in Los Angeles by the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment as part of the Grammy weekend festivities in Los Angeles. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

Laird earned his MTSU music business degree in 2001 and has had more than 14 No. 1 singles since he signed his first publishing deal in 2002. He’s written 20 Billboard No. 1 hits and was recently named BMI’s Songwriter of the Year and the Academy of Country Music’s songwriter of the year. MTSU honored him at a special reception in Los Angeles held the day before this year’s Grammys event. President Sidney A. McPhee, Media and Entertainment college dean Ken Paulson and Beverly Keel, chair of the Recording Industry department (who taught Laird while a student) were in attendance.

Laird, in thanking MTSU for the recognition, talked about the encouragement and support he received from the faculty while he was a student. “The people there encouraged me, still to this day,” Laird said. “My time at MTSU is a time I look back on very fondly.”

On the Scene

The Americana Music Association held a pre-Grammy tribute Saturday night to the late Glenn Frey at the legendary Troubadour nightclub, sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University. From left is Beverly Keel, chair of MTSU’s Recording Industry department; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee; headliner Lee Ann Womack; Ken Paulson, dean of the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment; and Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

The Americana Music Association held a pre-Grammy tribute Saturday night to the late Glenn Frey at the legendary Troubadour nightclub, sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University. From left is Beverly Keel, chair of MTSU’s Recording Industry department; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee; headliner Lee Ann Womack; Ken Paulson, dean of the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment; and Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

For three consecutive years from 2014 through 2016, MTSU has been among the only universities represented at the Grammy event. For the past two years, MTSU has been a presenting sponsor of a Leadership Music alumni reunion held at the legendary Troubadour nightclub near the site of the Grammy telecast. This year, MTSU joined Nashville’s Americana Music Association in paying tribute at that event to late Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey. Bonnie Raitt and Lee Ann Womack were among the artists on the bill for the pre-Grammy concert. The day before that event, McPhee, Paulson, and Keel held a reunion with alumni, supporters and friends of the college—including Nashville Mayor Megan Barry—at Rock’N Fish Restaurant.

“MTSU’s increasing presence at the Grammys as been noticed and appreciated, not only by our alumni but others in the recording industry,” McPhee said. “We’ve planted the True Blue flag in a very visible location.”

Even the actual Grammy telecast had a True Blue connection, as MTSU alumnus Garry Hood (’77) once again served as the head stage manager for the Grammy ceremony.

 

MidPoints

A look at recent awards, events, and accomplishments at MTSU

 

compiled by Gina E. Fann, Jimmy Hart, Gina K. Logue, Paula Morton, Drew Ruble, and Randy Weiler

 

Eye on the Sky

MTSU senior aerospace major Evan Lester calls up The Weather Company's WSI Fusion weather software that students will begin utilizing in the fall. Lester, who graduates in May, will return as a graduate student and continue overseeing the NASA FOCUS Lab. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

MTSU senior aerospace major Evan Lester calls up The Weather Company’s WSI Fusion weather software that students will begin utilizing in the fall. Lester, who graduates in May, will return as a graduate student and continue overseeing the NASA FOCUS Lab. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

TWCo-IBM-Logo-LockupsRepresentatives from The Weather Company and WSI Fusion announced a major donation of new weather software for the Aerospace Department’s NASA FOCUS Lab and other concentrations (Flight Dispatch, Professional Pilot, etc.) in April. Southwest Airlines assisted with the formation of the partnership. Starting with Fall 2016 classes, MTSU students will receive training with this software that no other aviation students in the country will have for the foreseeable future. FOCUS stands for Flight Operations Center Unified Simulation. The Lab came about as a result of the efforts of Professor Paul Craig, who obtained a NASA grant in 2010 to create a high-fidelity simulation of a regional airline’s flight operations center. The first of its kind, the lab provides students the opportunity to work as a team to safely and efficiently run a virtual airline. Weather is one aspect of the lab and the state-of-the-art software will have MTSU students better prepared when they pursue jobs.

MTSU offers a thank-you to Southwest Airlines and The Weather Company for a sizable gift in the form of WSI Fusion weather software that will be utilized in the aerospace department's NASA FOCUS Lab in the Business and Aerospace Building. From left are MTSU associate professor Andrea Georgiou; Southwest employees and MTSU alumni Larry Schadle, Capt. Ken Hamilton and Whitney Dix; and MTSU Provost Brad Bartel, College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer, interim aerospace chair Wendy Beckman and MTSU senior Evan Lester. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

MTSU offers a thank-you to Southwest Airlines and The Weather Company for a sizable gift in the form of WSI Fusion weather software that will be utilized in the aerospace department’s NASA FOCUS Lab in the Business and Aerospace Building. From left are MTSU associate professor Andrea Georgiou; Southwest employees and MTSU alumni Larry Schadle, Capt. Ken Hamilton and Whitney Dix; and MTSU Provost Brad Bartel, College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer, interim aerospace chair Wendy Beckman and MTSU senior Evan Lester. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

 

 

Laying a Foundation

Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President visiting with MTSU students working at a Habitat for Humanity site. Yucca Salman and Evan Lester

Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President visiting with MTSU students working at a Habitat for Humanity site. Yucca Salman and Evan Lester

About 200 students volunteered their efforts during the fifth MTSU Build for Habitat for Humanity. Students raised more than $20,000 in sponsorship money for the most recent home. For this MTSU Habitat project, participating students and staff wore MT Engage T-shirts, featuring the slogan “Engage Academically. Learn Exponentially. Showcase Yourself.” MT Engage is a major part of the University’s Quality Enhancement Plan for 2016–21.

 

Sharnail Jones purchased the home on South Highland Avenue near downtown Murfreesboro. Jones, along with her son, Keino Franklin, 11, and daughter, KneOkei Franklin, 21, moved into the home in early April.

“It’s truly a blessing,” Jones said. “Every day I ride by here to look at it. . . .  All the students who have come out have treated me great. I’ve loved every minute of it and appreciate it.”

 

By Land and Air

MTSU Farm units including Swine Unit, Beef Unit, and Crops. Song Cui, Aerospace faculty, left, talks about UAV use at the Guy James Farm with Trevor Hasty, left, and Daniel Troup.

MTSU Farm units including Swine Unit, Beef Unit, and Crops. Song Cui, Aerospace faculty, left, talks about UAV use at the Guy James Farm with Trevor Hasty, left, and Daniel Troup.

A $714,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to MTSU for collaborative research with two Texas universities will support a partnership to discover novel ways of land management and solve important ecological problems in changing climates and agricultural management. The three-year joint venture between MTSU, Texas A&M, and Sam Houston State University is the largest USDA grant the MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience has ever received and the largest of 12 national competitive awards granted by the USDA in February 2016. The award is for precision agriculture, agroecological education, and research. MTSU will oversee the overall research and educational components of the project and coordinate with the other partner institutions, said Song Cui, project leader and assistant professor in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience. The award was made in part due to “the combined strength in agriculture, aerospace, math, and our strong partners,” Cui said. That combination has MTSU poised to become a leader in the study of precision agriculture, which is the science of using computer information systems, sensors, geographic information systems, and global position system technologies to enable producers to apply the right inputs at the right location at the right time and in the right quantity and right manner.

 

 

Du Wei, president of Hangzhou Normal University in China, left, and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee exchange pleasantries at the conclusion of a meeting Tuesday, May 10, of the board that oversees MTSU’s Confucius Institute. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

Du Wei, president of Hangzhou Normal University in China, left, and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee exchange pleasantries at the conclusion of a meeting Tuesday, May 10, of the board that oversees MTSU’s Confucius Institute.

Strengthening Ties

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee’s May 2016 travels to China resulted in several important new agreements and exchanges. Hangzhou Normal University, already a partner in the operation of MTSU’s Confucius Institute, will send graduate students to work at the University’s new Center for Chinese Music and Culture. HNU faculty members will also regularly visit Murfreesboro to perform in Chinese music ensembles organized by the center. HNU’s Alibaba Business College and MTSU’s Jones College of Business forged an exchange agreement. Plans were made for future student exchanges and joint faculty research efforts with Zhejiang University of Science and Technology that would boost international enrollment on the Murfreesboro campus. MTSU’s research on traditional Chinese herbal remedies in modern medicine took center stage May 16 at an international conference in China where McPhee was among the keynote speakers at the International Congress on Ethnopharmacology in Yulin. Guangxi University in China agreed to send 260 students to study at MTSU, almost doubling the goal set two years ago.

Announcement of the partnership between MTSU and Bridgestone forming the Applied Leadership Certificate Program in the President's Executive Conference Room in the Student Union Building. Christine Karbowiak, chief administrative officer, chief risk officer and executive vice president of Bridgestone Americas.

Announcement of the partnership between MTSU and Bridgestone forming the Applied Leadership Certificate Program in the President’s Executive Conference Room in the Student Union Building. Christine Karbowiak, chief administrative officer, chief risk officer and executive vice president of Bridgestone Americas.

Building Bridges

MTSU and leading tire and rubber company Bridgestone Americas forged an innovative leadership development program. The new Applied Leadership certificate program offers adult learners already on the job a chance to earn additional job certifications—and even a bachelor’s degree—through online courses and short, intensive on-campus instruction, in leadership theory, communication and problem-solving, leading teams, and leading people and managing change. Mike Krause, executive director of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative seeking to equip 55 percent of Tennesseans with a college degree or post-secondary certificate by 2025, hailed the agreement as “a model program for the rest of the state to emulate.” MTSU boasts the largest adult degree program in the state.

 

 

Rite of Spring

A trio of leaders unique in their fields helped 2,383 Spring 2016 MTSU graduates celebrate reaching their educational goals in three ceremonies held May 6 and 7. Tennessee State Historian and MTSU professor Carroll Van West, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, and Home Box Office network division president Kary Antholis were guest speakers for the Spring 2016 commencement ceremonies inside the University’s Murphy Center.

speakers

Coast to Coast

Holding a Middle Tennessee State University "I am true BLUE" sign from his university after arriving at the Long Beach (California) Airport, senior Collin McDonald of Carthage, Tennessee, stands in front of "Molly," the four-seat Maule MX-7-160 airplane he flew 4,300 miles across the country following the flight path of aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers in 1911. McDonald achieved this for an Honors College thesis project and to promote avaiation to young people and adults at the 75 stops along the way. (Photo by Lorrie McDonald/vinfizflight.wordpress.com)

Holding a Middle Tennessee State University “I am true BLUE” sign from his university after arriving at the Long Beach (California) Airport, senior Collin McDonald of Carthage, Tennessee, stands in front of “Molly,” the four-seat Maule MX-7-160 airplane he flew 4,300 miles across the country following the flight path of aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers in 1911. McDonald achieved this for an Honors College thesis project and to promote avaiation to young people and adults at the 75 stops along the way. (Photo by Lorrie McDonald/vinfizflight.wordpress.com)

An MTSU student recently successfully replicated a pivotal moment in aviation history. Carthage native Collin McDonald fulfilled his senior thesis by recreating the 1911 cross-country flight of Calbraith Rodgers, who took flight lessons from aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright. Rodgers set out more than 100 years ago to become the first aviator to fly from coast to coast in 30 days or less. “It was considered the most critical flight since the invention of the aircraft itself,” McDonald said. “Prior to this time, everyone saw the airplane as a … hobby … Rodgers set out to prove that the aircraft could be used for mass transportation eventually.” McDonald recreated Rodgers’ flight from Long Island, New York, to Long Beach, California.

 

 

A Literary First

In March 2016, MTSU hosted the Southern Literary Festival, an organization of Southern colleges and schools founded in 1937 at Mississippi’s Blue Mountain College to promote Southern literature. Ann Patchett, author of the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novel Bel Canto and named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine in 2012, gave the festival’s keynote address. MTSU English professor Jennifer Kates served as the organizer of the undergraduate writing conference, which is hosted by a different university each year.

 

 

Class of Spring 2016 Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony in the Tom Jackson Building. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, left, Ryan DeBooy, Graduating Veteran, Brad Bartel, Executive Vice President and Provost, and Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, Senior Advisor for Veterans and Leadership Initiatives.

Class of Spring 2016 Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony in the Tom Jackson Building.
Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, left, Ryan DeBooy, Graduating Veteran, Brad Bartel, Executive Vice President and Provost, and Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, Senior Advisor for Veterans and Leadership Initiatives.

Worthy of Salute

Nearly 50 student veterans participated in a budding new MTSU tradition—
a stole ceremony—that recognizes graduating military veterans prior to their commencement experience. Keith M. Huber, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives and retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, oversaw the most recent ceremony in April 2016. Graduating veterans receive red stoles at the ceremony to wear during graduation. MTSU had a total of 114 student veterans, including several husband-wife tandems, graduate in May 2016.

True Blue Scholars

2016 Scholars Week Poster Exposition in the Student Union Ballroom. Ghayath Dublequri (Sr.), left records Hunter Marlowe, inventor of the "Jambourine" and winner of the Business Plan Competition.

2016 Scholars Week Poster Exposition in the Student Union Ballroom. Ghayath Dublequri (Sr.), left records Hunter Marlowe, inventor of the “Jambourine” and winner of the Business Plan Competition.

Several hundred MTSU students and faculty participated in the University’s 10th annual Scholars Week in April, which is highlighted by performances and 200 poster presentations in the Student Union Ballroom emphasizing the research, scholarly efforts, creativity, and collaboration of students and faculty across the University’s academic colleges. Eighty graduate and 100 undergraduate students presented work along with representatives from nine University centers. Six local high school dual enrollment students also shared their research and posters at the event. As but one example of the type of scholarly work on display, musician Hunter Marlowe, a senior Audio Production major from Newnan, Georgia, showcased his invention, the patent-pending “jambourine,” which incorporates a small tambourine into the sound hole of an acoustic guitar, allowing players to provide their own percussive jangle to their performances. (Marlowe was one of four finalists in the Business Plan Competition hosted annually by the Jones College of Business.)

 

 

Student Leader

2015-16 SGA President Madison Tracy

2015-16 SGA President Madison Tracy

Madison Tracy, a rising senior majoring in Public Relations, is the new MTSU Student Government Association (SGA) president. A Murfreesboro native and Buchanan scholar, Tracy is a former three-time student body president at Central Magnet School (and is the first Central Magnet graduate to become SGA president). Tracy is now also a member of MTSU’s FOCUS Act Transition Team, formed to lead MTSU’s migration from Tennessee Board of Regents governance to that of an individual governing board.

Tracy created Facebook and Instagram pages titled “Humans of MTSU.” The social media pages, which emulate blogger Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” website, show various members of the MTSU community and enables them to tell their stories. “With public relations and messaging, I want to bring that down to a very applicable, understandable thing for the students,” she said.

 

 

Making the Connection

The Jennings A. Jones College of Business is partnering with Rutherford Cable women’s professional leadership organization to help groom the next generation of female leaders. About 35 of the Jones College’s best female students—graduate and undergraduate—attended the inaugural Rutherford ATHENA Leadership Forum in 2016. The leadership forum’s objectives are to identify emerging women leaders among the best students in the Jones College, keep these emerging leaders in Rutherford County, and connect them with established women leaders in Rutherford Cable through networking, roundtable discussions, and professional development opportunities. David Urban, dean of the Jones College, said the goal of such a forum was to equip students “with invaluable support, contact, and a community of peers” while also providing the established women leaders the opportunity “to have an immediate and lasting impact on the students’ professional development.”

 

David Urban, center, dean of the MTSU Jones College of Business, talks with students Lauren Moore, left, and Katherine Dye at the inaugural Rutherford ATHENA Leadership Forum held March 18 at the MT Center at MTSU. Hosted by Rutherford Cable and the Jones College, the forum connected select women students with Rutherford Cable professionals for networking and leadership training. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

David Urban, center, dean of the MTSU Jones College of Business, talks with students Lauren Moore, left, and Katherine Dye at the inaugural Rutherford ATHENA Leadership Forum held March 18 at the MT Center at MTSU. Hosted by Rutherford Cable and the Jones College, the forum connected select women students with Rutherford Cable professionals for networking and leadership training. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

 

A Job Well Done

Fall Faculty Meeting and Foundation Awards Brad Bartel, Executive Vice President and Provost

Fall Faculty Meeting and Foundation Awards Brad Bartel, Executive Vice President and Provost

Dr. Brad Bartel stepped down as University Provost in May 2016 and will return to his first love—teaching and mentoring students. Bartel’s efforts in enhancing student success and innovation in curriculum were significant during his tenure as provost. MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee expressed his deep appreciation and thanks to Bartel for his many contributions, specifically highlighting how the University’s guiding initiative, the Quest for Student Success, was developed under Bartel’s watch. Thanks to the proactive and innovative work done by the faculty and administrators under Bartel’s guidance, Quest efforts to improve curriculum, enhance student retention, and strengthen academic advising have been successful and garnered national praise and recognition. Mark Byrnes, dean of MTSU’s College of Liberal Arts since June 2010, was named interim provost in May.

 

 

Blackman High senior Christine Monchecourt, left, discusses her research project that created a "safe driving week" at the school as part of the inaugural Captsone Gallery Walk held for Blackman Collegiate Academy students on March 22 in the school's library and rotunda. (MTSU photo by Jimmy Hart)

Blackman High senior Christine Monchecourt, left, discusses her research project that created a “safe driving week” at the school as part of the inaugural Captsone Gallery Walk. (MTSU photo by Jimmy Hart)

Dual Enrollment Success

Blackman High School’s library and rotunda buzzed with activity recently as 24 of the school’s high-achieving seniors showcased their research projects to the public as part of the inaugural class of the Blackman Collegiate Academy. A unique partnership with MTSU, the academy seeks to better prepare Blackman students for the rigors of higher education. Juniors and seniors in the academy who meet eligibility standards can to take up to six hours of university courses taught by MTSU instructors at no cost. Credits will count on high school and college transcripts. “To see students do something beyond their wildest dreams of what they could achieve and see them do it with style and grace and confidence—they’re ready … and they’re going to impact others around them when they get to a college campus,” Blackman High Principal Leisa Justus said. Academy students boast an average ACT score of 27.57, an average GPA of 3.8, and a total of almost $2 million in scholarship money. Nearly half indicated plans to attend MTSU.

The Future Is So Fulbright

MTSU’s 14th Fulbright recipient, 2015 alumnus Dalton Lauderback will be and English teaching assistant in Germany during the 2016-17 school year. (Submitted photo)

The U.S. Fulbright Committee named four MTSU students or recent graduates—Sydney Eakes, Dalton Lauderback, Opal “Rayne” Leonard, and Erin Paul—as Fulbright semifinalists. Lauderback was eventually awarded a Fulbright Award — an English teaching assistant position in Germany for the 2016–17 academic year. The U.S. State Department sponsors the Fulbright program to increase mutual understanding between people in the United States and other countries by placing U.S. students in other nations to teach or conduct research for eight to 10 months. In the past seven years, 14 MTSU students have been awarded Fulbright fellowships. In 2012, MTSU was named a top-producing Fulbright institution by The Chronicle of Higher Education and was the only Tennessee institution to appear on the list.

 

One Giant Step for MTSU

MTSU lunar rover team member Kelly Maynard is shown with two of the team's distinctive white-ribbed tires being used in this year's NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge April 8-9 in Huntsville, Alabama. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

MTSU lunar rover team member Kelly Maynard is shown with two of the team’s distinctive white-ribbed tires being used in this year’s NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge April 8-9 in Huntsville, Alabama. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

The MTSU Experimental Vehicles Program’s lunar rover team members used a new airless tire design and parts assembly to land a top-10 finish at the 2016 NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge, an international competition held April 7–9 in Huntsville, Alabama. A competition rules change regarding tires motivated MTSU recent graduate Thomas Kenney to create the design and machine shop work performed by junior Mechatronics Engineering major Kelly Maynard and others kept the MTSU entry among the elite. The team previously achieved a best-in-U.S. and third-place overall finish in 2015. The event is held annually for university and high school teams to encourage research and development of new technology for future mission planning and crewed space missions to other worlds.

The 2016 MTSU lunar rover entry features distinctive ribbed wheels. The team is competing April 8-9 at the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama. (Submitted photo)

The 2016 MTSU lunar rover entry features distinctive ribbed wheels. The team is competing April 8-9 at the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge in Huntsville, Alabama. (Submitted photo)

 

Capitol Gains

MTSU senior chemistry major Ryan Tilluck, left, of Trinidad and Tobago, listens while senior food science major Nausheen Qureshi of Murfreesboro talks about her research Feb. 24 during Posters at the Capitol in Nashville. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

MTSU senior chemistry major Ryan Tilluck, left, of Trinidad and Tobago, listens while senior food science major Nausheen Qureshi of Murfreesboro talks about her research Feb. 24 during Posters at the Capitol in Nashville. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

MTSU undergraduate researchers talked about their scholarly efforts with state legislators during the 11th annual Posters at the Capitol in February 2016. Posters at the Capitol lets student researchers visit with their senators and rep-resentatives, allowing the legislators to catch a glimpse of what the academic achievers are pursuing. Daniel Cunefare, Lauren Heusinkveld, Alesha Hicks, Sam Hulsey, Trang Huynh, Mary Poss, Nausheen Qureshi, Kelly Saine, and Ryan Tilluck represented MTSU. Their research included Cunefare’s low-cost sensing and diagnostic system to continuously monitor the recovery process of heart-failure patients, Hulsey’s comparisons of climate change affecting water resources in northern Peru’s mountainous regions, Huynh’s assessment of traditional Chinese medicine herbal extracts’ potential to inhibit herpes simplex virus type 1, and Poss’ study of an effective way to rehabilitate a deteriorating Dominican Republic coral reef system.

December 2015 MTSU advertising graduate Danny Jones of Franklin, Tennessee, displays a personalized message in this photo from the award-winning "Double Take" social awareness campaign. Jones was part of a team of advertising students who developed the project for a class with Dr. Tricia Farwell last fall. (Photo submitted)

December 2015 MTSU advertising graduate Danny Jones of Franklin, Tennessee, displays a personalized message in this photo from the award-winning “Double Take” social awareness campaign. Jones was part of a team of advertising students who developed the project for a class with Dr. Tricia Farwell last fall. (Photo submitted)

Truth in Advertising

MTSU Advertising majors’ social media efforts to fight community stereotypes earned them acclaim in an international competition—and a free trip to Washington, D.C.—to present their campaign. Students Kate Benton, Haley Bartley, and Jane McCaffrie showcased their project, “Double Take,” as part of a 2016 global competition sponsored by marketing and advertising firm EdVenture Partners and the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. A fourth student, December 2015 graduate Danny Jones, was part of the creative team, but was not able to attend the competition. The contest aimed to provide information to counter violent extremism from groups such as ISIL. The MTSU students focused their campaign on community stereotypes after seeing the negative effect created by controversy over Murfreesboro’s Islamic Center in recent years.

 

STEM Leader

Connie J. Smith, director of Advanc-ED Tennessee, left, presents MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee on Tuesday, March 1, with the organization’s 2016 Leadership in Education Award for his efforts to support STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning in primary, secondary and higher education. McPhee received the honor as Advanc-ED Tennessee wrapped up a two-day conference on the MTSU campus Tuesday that attracted hundreds of public, private and parochial educators, school board members, superintendents and principals to learn and reflect on ways to best extend STEM education. (MTSU Photo)

Connie J. Smith, director of AdvancED Tennessee, presented MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee with the organization’s 2016 Leadership in Education Award for his efforts to support STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning in primary, secondary, and higher education. McPhee received the honor during the nonprofit accrediting organization’s two-day conference on campus in March 2016, which attracted hundreds of public, private, and parochial educators, school board members, superintendents, and principals to learn and reflect on ways to best extend STEM education.

 

Gifts That Keep On Giving

In March 2016, MTSU opened the Andrew Woodfin Miller Sr. Education Center on Bell Street, a renovated campus addition that provides much-needed office and instructional space for some of the University’s key programs.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, right, helps cut the ribbon Monday, March 14, before an open house for the Andrew Woodfin Miller Sr. Education Center at 503 E. Bell St. Helping McPhee are Miller Sr.'s sons, Andrew Miller Jr. and Tracy Miller. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, right, helps cut the ribbon Monday, March 14, before an open house for the Andrew Woodfin Miller Sr. Education Center at 503 E. Bell St. Helping McPhee are Miller Sr.’s sons, Andrew Miller Jr. and Tracy Miller. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

The building is named in honor of Andrew Woodfin “Woody” Miller Sr., an MTSU alumnus (’66) and Nashville businessman whose record $10 million individual donation in 2012 made the purchase of the former Middle Tennessee Medical Center (now Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital) possible.

The renovated facility not only expands MTSU’s physical campus footprint, but also provides a dedicated space for educational and outreach efforts to the business community and community at large. New building occupants include the Jennings A. Jones College of Business Center for Executive Education, the University College (home of MTSU’s adult learner programs), the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, and the new Center for Chinese Music and Culture. The Miller building includes 126,839 usable gross square feet of space, 50 faculty/staff offices, seven classrooms, two conference rooms, and six multipurpose rooms. Expansion space on the third floor will allow for future growth.

The recently opened Center for Chinese Music and Culture represents a new hub for promoting not only Chinese music and culture, but also language, business, and trade. Visitors to the 3,200-square-foot center will see a library, an archive, classrooms, and a musical instrument gallery.

Brad Bartel, Executive Vice President and Provost, Guanping “Ping” Zheng, Confucius Institute Director, Madam Hao Jingxi, Vice President, Hangzhou Normal University, Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, Mei Han Director, Center for Chinese Music and Culture, Bill Ketron, State Senator, Murfreesboro,13th District, Alumni, and Michael Parkinson, College of Music participating in the ribbon cutting at the Grand Opening dedication ceremony for the Chinese Music and Cultural Center in the Miller Education Center with guest speakers, visiting dignitaries, a musical bell performance, and ribbon cutting.

Brad Bartel, Executive Vice President and Provost, Guanping “Ping” Zheng, Confucius Institute Director, Madam Hao Jingxi, Vice President, Hangzhou Normal University, Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, Mei Han Director, Center for Chinese Music and Culture, Bill Ketron, State Senator, Murfreesboro,13th District, Alumni, and Michael Parkinson, College of Music participating in the ribbon cutting at the Grand Opening dedication ceremony for the Chinese Music and Cultural Center in the Miller Education Center with guest speakers, visiting dignitaries, a musical bell performance, and ribbon cutting.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, who has visited China every year since 1999, highlighted the educational component of the center as a stimulus for classroom learning, saying the center will design curricula that includes Chinese music as an integral part of the general education offerings reaching more than 3,000 MTSU undergraduate students.

The center will establish regular public visits by local and regional public schools and other interested organizations, while also taking Chinese music education to various Middle Tennessee schools. The center will also collaborate with programs offered at MTSU, including those offered by the School of Music, College of Liberal Arts, and College of Media and Entertainment, among others.

The center was made possible with an initial $1 million grant from Hanban Confucius Institute in Beijing, an organization sponsored by China’s education ministry that oversees more than 440 institutes in 120 countries. MTSU’s own Confucius Institute, located in Peck Hall, strives to enhance understanding of Chinese language and culture, provides outreach to create collaboration between Tennessee communities and China, and serves as a resource center for Chinese language, history, and culture.

 

ADDY Boys and Girls

MTSU students’ creativity earned them top honors from among nearly 300 entries submitted by students from seven Midstate universities at the recent 2016 Nashville Student ADDY Awards in what organizers called one of the nation’s largest student competitions. Twenty-three MTSU seniors and recent graduates received honors, including eight who achieved multiple awards.

MTSU design students celebrate their impressive sweep of the recent Nashville Student ADDY Awards, presented by the American Advertising Federation Nashville. On the front row are, from left, Alexa Games, Amber Iacopelli, Katie Stephens, Katie Stephens, Jackee LaFever, Erica Belletete, Anahi Miranda and Haley Overby. Standing on the second row are, from left, Aaron McMillian, Danny Weddle Jr., Aly Booker, Aubrey Griggs, Damarea Watts and Matt Roberts. Not pictured are Rachel Carlson, Hannah Cole, Matthew Eason, Sarah Growden, LaKeva Lewis, Justin Morales, Caitlin Parker, LaRon Stewart, Ariel Tyndell and Della Wheeler. (Photo courtesy of American Advertising Federation Nashville)

MTSU design students celebrate their impressive sweep of the recent Nashville Student ADDY Awards, presented by the American Advertising Federation Nashville. On the front row are, from left, Alexa Games, Amber Iacopelli, Katie Stephens, Katie Stephens, Jackee LaFever, Erica Belletete, Anahi Miranda and Haley Overby. Standing on the second row are, from left, Aaron McMillian, Danny Weddle Jr., Aly Booker, Aubrey Griggs, Damarea Watts and Matt Roberts. Not pictured are Rachel Carlson, Hannah Cole, Matthew Eason, Sarah Growden, LaKeva Lewis, Justin Morales, Caitlin Parker, LaRon Stewart, Ariel Tyndell and Della Wheeler. (Photo courtesy of American Advertising Federation Nashville)

 

MTSU senior Aly Booker's campaign illustration “30 Ways to Be a Pet Peeve: The Cat’s Ultimate Guide to Owner Persuasion” is a Judge's Choice award winner at the recent Nashville Student ADDY Awards, presented by the American Advertising Federation Nashville. Booker, a graphic design major from Morristown, Tennessee, also won Gold ADDY awards for her poster “Poison" and for her book design for “The Silent Type.”

MTSU students won top honors in 15 of the competition’s 26 categories. Among the winners were Alexa Games, Katie Stephens, and Caitlin Parker, who brought home the 2016 Best in Show ADDY and a Student Gold ADDY for their integrated brand identity campaign. Aly Booker earned a Judge’s Award for her campaign illustration “30 Ways to Be a Pet Peeve: The Cat’s Ultimate Guide to Owner Persuasion,” plus a Gold ADDY for her poster “Poison.” Sarah Growden brought home an armload of ADDY awards, including a Judge’s Choice and a Gold ADDY for her “Betula Tech Packaging” design, a second Gold packaging award for her “High Tea” design, and a Silver ADDY for her “Olfactory Scent Lab” outdoor and transit advertising campaign.

 

 

Red, White, and True Blue

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee gave Charlie Daniels a special veterans-themed MTSU hat after announcing that the Veterans and Military Family Center will be named for the country music icon and his wife, Hazel. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee gave Charlie Daniels a special veterans-themed MTSU hat after announcing that the Veterans and Military Family Center will be named for the country music icon and his wife, Hazel.

MTSU officially named its new Veterans and Military Family Center for legendary country music entertainer Charlie Daniels and his wife, Hazel. President Sidney A. McPhee surprised the couple with the honor at a private dinner at the President’s Residence in April, where the music icon had presented an additional $70,000 gift to the center from The Journey Home Project. The donation raised the donation total from the veterans-support organization, founded by Daniels and his longtime manager David Corlew, to $120,000. The 2,600-square-foot center is the largest and most comprehensive veterans service center located on a Tennessee university campus. “We are deeply touched and deeply honored,” said Daniels. “I’ve been blessed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and, now, having a veterans center named after me.”

Physics is Our Business

PhysTEC Director Monica Plisch, left, presents MTSU Department of Physics and Astronomy chair Ron Henderson a certificate for MTSU being a member of The 5+ Club for its contributions to producing at least five physics educators. Awards were presented March 12 in Baltimore, Maryland. (PhysTEC photo by Ken Cole)

PhysTEC Director Monica Plisch, left, presents MTSU Department of Physics and Astronomy chair Ron Henderson a certificate for MTSU being a member of The 5+ Club for its contributions to producing at least five physics educators. Awards were presented March 12 in Baltimore, Maryland. (PhysTEC photo by Ken Cole)

MTSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy was recently named a member of an exclusive club. MTSU is one of just 12 universities named to The 5+ Club by the Physics Teacher Education Coalition, or PhysTEC, a joint project of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers. The designation recognizes institutions that have graduated five or more physics teachers in a given year. Brigham Young University topped the list with 17. Monica Plisch, PhysTEC director, described MTSU as “a national leader in physics teacher education” and praised the University’s efforts.

“We need more universities to follow the lead of MTSU to address the severe shortage of high school physics teachers,” she said.

 

At the Podium

MTSU has recently hosted several high- profile speakers on campus.

at the podium 1Outspoken ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, who keynoted MTSU’s Black History Month event, encouraged his audience to build on the progress of their predecessors instead of only looking back at those accomplishments.

Crisis management expert Judy Smith, who served as the real-life inspiration for the character of Olivia Pope on the ABC television series Scandal, and whose wide-ranging career included stints in the George H.W. Bush administration, spoke to students on the importance of getting the message right, which she conveyed during her March 2016 keynote speech commemorating National Women’s History Month.

FPO at the podium 3Pulitzer Prize-winning author, historian, and journalist Jon Meacham (former editor-in-chief of both USA Today and Newsweek) discussed presidential politics and his best-selling book Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, in February 2016 as part of the new Pulitzer Prize Centennial Series at MTSU commemorating the 100th anniversary of The Pulitzer Prizes.

For Millennials, By Millennialsfor millenials

In an effort to better prepare its students for successful careers in an ever-changing media landscape, MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment recently launched a “teaching hospital” approach to journalism that focuses on mobile storytelling about issues facing millennials. Studio M was jumpstarted by a $50,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as gifts from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and The Tennessean. Studio M—which stands for media, mobile, millennials, and MTSU—allows students to be immersed in tracking millennials and issues that affect them, like student loan debt and employment, especially in the lead-up to the 2016 election. Students will then report the information in partnership with The Tennessean and other news organizations. The new teaching approach primarily targets mobile news platforms and therefore was launched in conjunction with the MT Now app. MTSU’s Center for Innovation in Media developed the app since social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat have become the default mobile experience for millennials, who are more accustomed to bumping into news on mobile devices.

 

It All Begins with a Song

In April 2016, in a recording studio on the campus of MTSU, several student songwriters showcased their talents in front of a small group of Nashville publishers, managers and producers looking for talent. Performing students included Stevie Woodard, Kyle Crownover, Gus Carol, Meghan Rohner, and Katy Bishop of the band Maybe April, all of whom take classes with Commercial Songwriting concentration director Odie Blackmon, a hit songwriter in his own right. Guests included representatives from Big Machine Label Group (label home of Taylor Swift), Major Bob Music (Meghan Trainor and Garth Brooks), Lytle Management (Gary Allan and Scotty McCreary), Hori Pro Entertainment (KISS and Dean Dillion), and legendary Dixie Chick’s producer and MTSU alum Blake Chancey. A $10,000 grant from the philanthropic arm of the Academy of Country Music funded the event.

Experts in the Field

Year three of MTSU’s partnership with Bonnaroo again provided students with a uniquely immersive experience that can’t be found in any on-campus classroom. About 40 College of Media and Entertainment students produced multimedia content from the 2016 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, which featured artists such as Pearl Jam, Miguel, and Chris Stapleton. The relationship provides the festival with quality production and content, while students gain the types of hands-on experiences that boost confidence and résumés. Bonaroo 2016 IMG_2277

The Game Heard ’round the World

The Blue Raider basketball team’s stunning upset over Michigan State in the 2016 NCAA Tournament attracted global attention to the University

fcoach with mens net IMG_5010rom staff reports

 

Forgive the cliché: If this wasn’t the shot heard around the world, it most certainly was the NCAA basketball tournament upset that circled the globe.

When the clock wound down to zero at St. Louis’ Scottrade Center on March 18, the 15th-seeded MTSU Blue Raiders basketball team had defeated No. 2 seed Michigan State Spartans 90-81 in the first round of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. And it seemed like almost everyone, everywhere, was True Blue, if only for a few moments. Consider:

Social reach tracked by MTSU’s Division of Marketing and Communications hit an
all-time high of 167,025,273 people during March 18–21.

  • #MTSU was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter leading up to the final seconds of the win over the Spartans.
  • There were 60,000-plus mentions about MTSU in three days, 300 percent more than the University’s monthly average of 15,000 mentions.

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  • MTSU’s win was tweeted by such notable influencers as Magic Johnson (2.9M reach); ESPN (25.7M); Wall Street Journal (10.3M); Sports Illustrated (1.4M); MLB pitcher and Murfreesboro native David Price (1.3M); Getty Images Sport (978K); Dick Vitale (822K); Yahoo! Sports (381K); and the Denver Broncos (294K).
  • MTSU’s brand reach on social media extended worldwide as a result of the game to areas where it doesn’t usually register, like Liechtenstein, Kenya, Norway, Andorra, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

 

More fun facts include:

  • Sports Illustrated described the outcome as the biggest upset in the history of the March Madness tournament.
  • Yahoo! Sports declared it as the greatest first-round upset ever.
  • Vitale, the iconic ESPN basketball analyst who had picked Michigan State to win it all, called it “one of the all-time shockers.”
  • A stunning 97.8 percent of all brackets entered on ESPN.com had the Spartans surviving the first round.

MTSU was a 16- to 17-point underdog against the Spartans, who were favored by oddsmakers in Las Vegas to win the entire tournament. Seven other No. 15 teams had registered wins over No. 2 seeds, but none beat a No. 2 that was so highly regarded.

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USA Today’s Dan Wolken saw it this way: “For a glorious two hours at Scottrade Center, however, a team nobody expected to last very long just kept going and going, all the way to a 90-81 victory against Michigan State that will be debated for years as arguably the most stunning result this tournament has ever seen.”

 

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MTSU men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis became an instant media superstar, granting interviews with major sports outlets that were beamed around the world throughout the run of the tournament and resulted in headlines in almost every American daily newspaper. The Tennessean, The Daily News Journal and The Murfreesboro Post, the three newspapers who cover MTSU the closest, cleared their front pages for triumphant full-frame shots of the Blue Raiders’ victory.

 

 

 

In almost every interview in the afterglow of the upset, Davis talked about the importance that the win had in bolstering MTSU’s brand. “My hope is that one of the lingering benefits of our victory is the increased visibility of our University, not just in athletics, but in academics,” Davis said. “If athletics is the front porch of the University, maybe this win puts a brighter bulb over the door and shines some attention on our faculty, our academic programs, and our students.”

mens NCAA game IMG_0570In his post-game press conference, senior guard Jaqawn Raymond said, “The majority of people don’t know where Middle Tennessee is. Most people know where Nashville is, but they don’t know Murfreesboro. They’re going to know after tonight.”

MTSU’s Marketing and Communications division immediately produced and aired new television commercials for the University, then secured air time on Tennessee cable outlets for ads to be viewed during the second round of the tournament. Davis and his team were also featured on electronic billboards throughout Tennessee, as well as social media advertising throughout the region, as part of MTSU’s Take a Closer Look campaign, which encourages students and parents to dig deeper into the University’s many academic attributes.

 

 

One of MTSU’s newly added catch phrases became: “Our team may have busted your tournament bracket. But that’s not the first time Middle Tennessee State University exceeded expectations.”

Andrew Oppmann, MTSU’s vice president for marketing and communications, said it was impossible to put a price tag on the extensive exposure on varied platforms that the victory brought to the University. “Even if you had unlimited resources, you couldn’t buy something like this,” Oppmann said.

 

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Davis said he enjoys helping spread the True Blue message. “I am as proud of our University as I am of our team,” Davis said. “If our win gets the attention of students or parents that may not have ever considered MTSU, then all of us benefit.”

 

Model Program

Kermit cuts net womens IMG_7913Though the men’s basketball team grabbed the biggest headlines this past March, the Lady Raider basketball program and Coach Rick Insell continued their impressive run as a powerhouse NCAA program. The Lady Raiders headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time after capturing their second C-USA title in just their third season in the conference.

In his tenure as the coach of the Lady Raiders, Insell has won 20-plus games in each of his 11 seasons at the helm. His program’s .770 winning percentage over the last five years ranks 15th nationally. And Insell’s teams have appeared in a national postseason tournament at the end of all 11 campaigns. MTSU has reached the top 25 rankings four times under his watch.

Insell is listed ninth on the Division I all-time winningest coach list (by percentage) at .766. That places him seventh for Division I active coaches. No wonder Insell is a member of five different athletic halls of fame.

March 18, 2016: during the 1st round of the 2016 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament between Middle Tennessee and Florida State University hosted at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.

March 18, 2016: during the 1st round of the 2016 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament between Middle Tennessee and Florida State University hosted at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas.

At a Glance
• MTSU men’s basketball team earned its invitation to the Big Dance—the Blue Raiders’ second invite in the past four years—as a result of winning the 2016 Conference USA championship. The women’s basketball team also landed an NCAA berth by taking the C-USA tournament title.

•MTSU also became only the second school in C-USA history to have its men’s and women’s basketball teams win the championship in the same year.

•MTSU is one of the few universities nationally with a 100 percent graduation rate for both basketball programs.

•MTSU was one of just 10 Division I programs nationally to have both its men’s and women’s basketball teams selected for the NCAA tournament as well as to have its football squad play in a bowl game in the same academic year. On Christmas Eve 2015, the Blue Raider football team capped off another strong season with a trip to Nassau in the Bahamas for the 2015 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (the only college football bowl game played internationally).

 

An Active Duty

PrintVeterans face unusual and daunting challenges as they move into college life. The bureaucracy surrounding admissions and registration can vex today’s veterans, who are used to the modern military’s streamlined processes. Such bureaucratic burdens are compounded by the psychological stress of military service and sometimes even a sense of alienation on campus. Talk about some of MTSU’s top efforts to ensure the student success of this very laudable student population.

President McPhee: MTSU has been recognized year after year by national publications such as Military Times and G.I. Jobs magazine as being one of the top universities in the U.S. for veteran education. Military Times separately named the Jennings A. Jones College of Business among its 64 Best for Vets Business Schools 2014.

MTSU has a long and proud tradition of aiding veterans in their transition from the battlefield to civilian life. In 2011, MTSU became the first institution of higher education in the state—and one of the first in the country­—to partner with the Veterans Administration’s new VetSuccess on Campus program.

You recently oversaw creation of a Veterans and Military Family Center on campus, which arguably represents the next step in MTSU becoming the most military-friendly university in America. Talk about the center and your reasoning for its development.

President McPhee: The new, 2,600-square-foot center constitutes the largest and most comprehensive Veterans and Military Family Center at a university in Tennessee. The center provides one-stop service and support for the more than 1,000 student veterans and their family members at MTSU. Everything that MTSU student-veterans need to succeed is available in this single location, from scheduling courses and completing government paperwork to getting questions answered about benefits and employment opportunities.

Opening of the Veterans and Military Family Center in the KUC. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, and Charlie Daniels

Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, and Charlie Daniels

MTSU’s new senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives, Keith M. Huber, now leads our ongoing push to help student veterans be successful in college. Huber joined MTSU after retiring as a lieutenant general from the U.S. Army after nearly 40 years on active duty as an infantry and Special Forces officer. In his words, this new center will encourage and facilitate the success of our veterans as they transition out of uniform into academics, and then into future employment opportunities, as they strive to become leaders in the community much like they were in uniform.

The University also named Dr. Hilary Miller, a military spouse and family member, as center director earlier this summer. She will lead an experienced staff alongside U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees Heather Conrad with VetSuccess on Campus and Veteran Affairs Coordinator Ray Howell. A Veterans Administration mental health counselor will also be in-house to help veteran students and their families cope with post-war traumas, such as post-traumatic stress disorders.

MTSU’s vet-friendly initiatives, as well as this new center, have received a lot of support from both the private and public sectors. Talk about some of the gifts that have been made to enhance this work.

President McPhee: Gov. Bill Haslam recently announced that MTSU would receive a $91,000 state grant to support its veteran success efforts. Also, the Journey Home Project, co-founded by country music legend Charlie Daniels, recently committed $50,000 to help equip the new center. Mr. Daniels says he is anxious to see this center in action, and referred to it as a place where the many needs of our veterans can be dealt with by capable people who care. That’s not just True Blue. That’s red, white, and True Blue!

Thank you, Mr. President.

 

 

 

 
The State’s Top Veterans Center

Opening of the Veterans and Military Family Center in the KUC.

Opening of the Veterans and Military Family Center in the KUC.

With plenty of fanfare—including a $50,000 boost for technology from legendary country music entertainer Charlie Daniels, and a visit by U.S. Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson among others—the University opened its new center on November 5, 2015, in grand style with a ribbon-cutting followed by a program in front of an overflow crowd in the KUC Theater.

 

Opening of the Veterans and Military Family Center in the KUC. Hilary Miller, XXXX, Russ Deaton, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, Charlie Daniels, and LTG (ret) Keith M. Huber.

Hilary Miller, Evan Cope, Russ Deaton, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, Charlie Daniels, and LTG (ret) Keith M. Huber.

 

Gibson told student-veterans, “Americans support you and clearly the people of Tennessee support you. They want all veterans to be successful…Future employers, embrace veterans. It’s both the right thing and the smart thing. I salute every veteran seeking an education.”

 

 

 

Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan said the center “establishes a new standard for serving our student-veterans, a population that deserves our support and respect…By providing our student-veterans with the care and service that they require to reach their higher-education goals, we are also making strides toward the governor’s goal of 55 percent of our population having some post-secondary credential.”

 

Interior and exterior photos of the Veterans and Military Family Center in the KUC.

Interior photo of the Veterans and Military Family Center in the KUC.

In addition to state legislators, dignitaries included Many-Bears Grinder, retired U.S. Army colonel and Tennessee Department of Veterans Services commissioner; Maj. Gen. Terry “Max” Haston (‘79), adjutant general for the state of Tennessee; Evan Cope, THEC chair; Edna M. MacDonald, director of the Nashville Regional Office for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mike Krause, executive director of the governor’s “Drive to 55” initiative; Russ Deaton, interim executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and other THEC and Veterans Affairs officials.

 

 

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