A New Focus

A question-and-answer session about MTSU’s new governance structure with President Sidney A. McPhee

In October, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced the eight nominees to the newly created MTSU Board of Trustees, a result of his FOCUS Act passed by the General Assembly in 2016 to give the former Tennessee Board of Regents universities increased autonomy to support student success. What are your thoughts as this new board prepares to go to work?

I am thrilled and very excited by the nominees put forward by Gov. Haslam for the Board of Trustees for Middle Tennessee State University. I am very familiar with our nominees and know well the broad range of experience and expertise they will be able to offer our University. We are honored that these outstanding citizens have allowed the governor to put their names forward for service to our University and the communities we serve.

I believe this new proposal advanced by the governor, as well as the corresponding new level of independence for the former TBR universities, is truly bold and potentially transformational for MTSU. I look forward to learning and exploring the opportunities it could provide toward our mission of ensuring student success and providing more graduates for the state’s workforce.

Bring us up to speed on other aspects of MTSU’s work in preparing for the implementation of the FOCUS Act.

In October, MTSU and the five other former TBR institutions transmitted Substantive Change Review proposals to our accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The body requires such notification when there is a significant modification or expansion in the nature and scope of an accredited institution. This February–March, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission will present and review appropriation, capital, and tuition recommendations to legislative committees. THEC will also work with the UT and TBR boards, as well as the six boards that are forming, to understand campus revenue needs and prepare binding tuition recommendations. In March, the state will offer professional development sessions for the members of the six new boards. And in April, the six new boards of trustees are expected to meet for the first time.

With regard to our internal preparation for the new governance changes, our campus FOCUS Act Transition Team, divisional working groups, and subcommittees worked extremely hard to review all MTSU policies and TBR policies and guidelines to determine which ones were applicable after the transition to a local board of trustees. Revisions proposed by the MTSU Transition Team were posted on a new FOCUS Policy webpage. As with our current policy review process, policies reviewed by the FOCUS Act Transition Team were emailed to the campus for review. This began last summer. The normal 30-day comment period was expanded in order to provide faculty with adequate time for review upon their return to the campus. Finally, also last summer, several MTSU administrators joined me in a meeting with Russ Deaton, THEC’s acting executive director. I was pleased to review THEC’s priorities during this transition and its commitment to a smooth changeover.

Thank you, Mr. President. MTSU


Adams, Andy 12-2016



W. Andrew “Andy” Adams is the former chairman and CEO of National Healthcare Corp. and previous CEO of both National Health Investors Inc. and National Health Realty Inc. He serves on the board of directors of Lipscomb University, SunTrust Bank, and Boy Scouts of America. Adams holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Business Administration, both from MTSU.



J.B. Baker, MTSU Board of Trustees member.



J.B. Baker is CEO and owner of Sprint Logistics. He attended Martin Junior College and earned his bachelor’s from MTSU. He is the former owner and chairman of the board for Volunteer Express and Associated Companies, having worked at the company for 30 years. He has served on a number of professional and civic boards, including Martin Methodist College, Goodwill Industries, Saint Thomas Hospital Health Services Fund, and the Nashville Symphony.




DeLay, Pete12-2016



Pete Delay leads the Nashville office of Forterra Building Products and was most recently president and owner of Sherman-Dixie Concrete Industries Inc. He previously served on the board of trustees of the University of the South–Sewanee and as chairman of the Montgomery Bell Academy Annual Fund.





Freeman, Darrell 12-2016



Darrell Freeman Sr. is the executive chairman of Zycron Inc., an information technology services and solutions firm based in Nashville. He served on the Tennessee Board of Regents, as well as a number of boards and committees in middle Tennessee. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MTSU.




Jacobs, Joey 12-2016



Joey A. Jacobs is the chairman and CEO of Acadia Healthcare. With prior postings in Hospital Corporation of America’s Tennessee Division and Psychiatric Solutions Inc., he was awarded MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones Champion of Free Enterprise Award in 2013. He serves on the board of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Jacobs received his bachelor’s degree from MTSU.




Karbowiak, Christine 12-2016



Christine Karbowiak is executive vice president, chief administrative officer, and chief risk officer of Bridgestone Americas Inc. She is active in community organizations and has served on the boards of the Tennessee State Museum Foundation, Japan America Society of Tennessee, Tennessee Business Roundtable, and Franklin American Music City Bowl. She holds bachelor’s, master’s, and law degrees from the University of Illinois.



Smith, Stephen 12-2016



Stephen B. Smith is chair of the board of Haury and Smith Contractors Inc. He has served on the board of the Metropolitan Nashville Planning Commission and Regional Transit Authority and chaired the board of directors of Metropolitan Nashville Parks and Recreation. He graduated from MTSU and was awarded the Jennings A. Jones Champion of Free Enterprise Award in 2010.




Pam Wright, MTSU Board of Trustees member.



Pamela J. Wright founded Wright Travel. She was an employee of the Tennessee Department of Corrections before opening her first travel agency. The agency has since grown to 28 offices spanning seven states. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from MTSU.





Johnston, Tony 12-2016

Faculty and student representatives

In addition to the nominees by the governor, MTSU’s Faculty Senate chose Tony Johnston, a professor in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, as the first faculty representative of the Board of Trustees. The MTSU Board will determine a process for the selection of a non-voting student representative.

A Proper Homecoming

old paper textureMTSU experts spearhead the effort to bring the remains of Mexican-American War soldiers with Volunteer State ties back to the U.S

by Andrew Oppmann


With dignified precision befitting the honors due to fallen American soldiers, as many as 13 skeletal remains unearthed from what was a Mexican battlefield 170 years ago were welcomed home to the U.S. at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sept. 28.

Members of the U.S. military conduct “the solemn movement” of one of two flag-draped transfer cases containing skeletal remains unearthed from what was a Mexican War battlefield. The remains, believed to contain members of the Tennessee militia who died in the Battle for Monterrey in 1848, were welcomed home to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Wednesday, Sept. 28. MTSU officials attending the event include, center left saluting, retired Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, and at far left, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and professor Derek Frisby. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

Members of the U.S. military conduct “the solemn movement” of one of two flag-draped transfer cases containing skeletal remains unearthed from what was a Mexican War battlefield. The remains, believed to contain members of the Tennessee militia who died in the Battle for Monterrey in 1848, were welcomed home to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Wednesday, Sept. 28. MTSU officials attending the event include, center left saluting, retired Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, and at far left, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and professor Derek Frisby.

The solemn movement of the two flag-draped transfer cases, believed to contain members of the Tennessee militia who died in the Battle for Monterrey in 1846, was the culmination of more than five years of diplomatic negotiation, sparked by the urging of an MTSU anthropology professor. That professor, Hugh Berryman, director of MTSU’s Forensic Institute for Research and Education, stood on the flight line at the home to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System to witness the transfer of the remains from the Army C-12 aircraft and to pay his respects.

Middle Tennessee State University forensics professor Hugh Berryman speaks to media Wednesday, Sept. 28, during a press conference at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware about the return of soldier remains from the Mexican-American War. Standing behind him are U.S. Rep. Diane Black and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

Middle Tennessee State University forensics professor Hugh Berryman speaks to media Wednesday, Sept. 28, during a press conference at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware about the return of soldier remains from the Mexican-American War. Standing behind him are U.S. Rep. Diane Black and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee.

For Berryman, his work has just begun. He is now leading a team of MTSU professors, including Shannon Hodge, a bio-archaeologist with a specialty in paleopathology, and Derek Frisby, a military historian in the Global Studies Department, along with experts from other academic institutions, who have volunteered to assist the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System in the historical, bio-archaeological, and forensic analysis of the remains.

“The skeleton is excellent at recording its own history,” Berryman said. There’s a remote possibility, he added, that they may even be able to identify the remains.

From U.S. Army press releases to coverage by news outlets around the country, the story made national headlines.

Berryman’s involvement with the repatriation of the remains dates back to 2013 and began through his work as a consultant to the military’s forensic efforts. Intrigued by the potential tie to Tennessee, Berryman mounted a concerted effort to have the remains brought to the U.S.

The project earned a $55,000 grant from the Tennessee Wars Commission and picked up support from members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Joining Berryman in Dover was U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Gallatin, as well as MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, Interim Provost Mark Byrnes, College of Liberal Arts Interim Dean Karen Petersen, and retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, the University’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives. Also, presiding over the movement was U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Robert Moore, a native of Murfreesboro and Riverdale High School graduate, who received his master’s degree from MTSU’s Jones College of Business in 1990.

“After five years of ongoing negotiations with the Mexican government, we have finally returned our fallen Volunteer State heroes back to American soil,” said Black, whose
congressional office joined the push in 2011.

In 2013, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, asked the Department of Defense to secure the remains and for Tennesseans to be buried in the Gallatin City Cemetery, the site of a Mexican-American War memorial. Black and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, also signed the letter. U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined the effort as well.

MexAmWarMooreMcPhee thanked the entire congressional delegation and praised Berryman and the other MTSU professors affiliated with the project.

“The work by Professor Berryman and his colleagues reflects the very best of our University’s commitment to innovation, dedication, and public service,” he said.

The Mexican-American War cemented Tennessee’s reputation as the “Volunteer State.” American soldiers, both regulars and volunteers, engaged in urban combat for the first time at Monterrey, and the lesson proved costly, particularly for many Tennesseans. Due to the logistical difficulties in transporting the dead, many of those killed were likely buried near the Tannery Fort site.

Over the next 150 years, Monterrey expanded rapidly around and over the battlefield. In 1996, construction of an apartment/parking complex revealed human remains believed to be those of Americans killed during the Battle of Monterrey. Historical evidence strongly indicates that these burials are likely those of Tennesseans or Mississippians who fell taking Tannery Fort. 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



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.





A Universal Language

A conversation with President Sidney A. McPhee


MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, right, and Hangzhou Normal University President Du Wei pluck a few strings on a guzheng, a Chinese musical instrument, that was donated by Hangzhou Normal as the first instrument for MTSU's new Chinese Music and Cultural Center. MTSU and Chinese dignitaries announced the new center Tuesday at the MTSU Student Union. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, right, and Hangzhou Normal University President Du Wei pluck a few strings on a guzheng, a Chinese musical instrument, that was donated by Hangzhou Normal as the first instrument for MTSU’s new Chinese Music and Cultural Center. MTSU and Chinese dignitaries announced the new center Tuesday at the MTSU Student Union. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

 MTSU and China’s Hangzhou Normal University partnered in 2009 to establish MTSU’s Confucius Institute, which works to enhance understanding of Chinese language and culture. Talk about the newest development in that partnership.

President McPhee: MTSU is currently in the midst of the creation of a Chinese music and cultural center on University property. It’s the result of a $1 million grant provided by Hanban Confucius Institute in Beijing, an organization sponsored by China’s education ministry that oversees more than 440 institutes in 120 countries.

In collaboration with our sister university, Hangzhou, the new center will promote music as a vital element in education and understanding of Chinese people and culture. It will also become another component of our extremely successful international outreach, which has earned MTSU recognition as a leader in global studies.

At the ceremony to announce the grant and the creation of the center, Hangzhou President Du Wei, a violinist himself, quoted Confucius, who said, “Education primarily starts from poetry and ends with music.” I agree wholeheartedly.

This center has the potential to become the hub of local and regional outreach that will enhance the understanding, research, and teaching of Chinese language, culture, and music through public performances, events at schools, and a website with related resources.


What are the specifics of the project?

Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, university and Chinese dignitaries from Hangzhou University join for the announcement of the one million dollar Chinese Music Center to be added to the Confucius Institute and will be housed in the new Bell Street Center.

Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, university and Chinese dignitaries from Hangzhou University join for the announcement of the one million dollar Chinese Music Center to be added to the Confucius Institute and will be housed in the new Bell Street Center.

President McPhee: The 3,200-square-foot center, which is expected to open by fall 2016 or earlier, will be in the former Middle Tennessee Medical Center building on Bell Street. The center will showcase selected instruments from many of China’s 56 national ethnicities. For instance, at the ceremony announcing the new center, Hangzhou donated the new center’s first instrument, a guzheng, which dates back to ancient times and is a 21-stringed instrument that rests on legs much as a steel guitar does and is plucked by a seated musician.

MTSU has hired an ethnomusicologist, an educator who studies music in the context of its culture, to serve as the center’s director. Under the auspices of the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Music, the center’s leader will develop courses involving Chinese music. There will be active and visible research taking place at the center resulting in presentations and publications that will allow MTSU to develop a national and international reputation in this area.


Who else deserves credit for this exciting new project, which really constitutes another musical jewel in the Nashville area’s musical crown?

President McPhee: Contributions came from MTSU’s School of Music and its director Michael Parkinson, as well as the departments of Recording Industry and Electronic Media Communication. In addition, many of the underlying strategies used to develop this center were based on the activities and operational structures employed by our world-class Center for Popular Music, which is recognized as one of the finest repositories of American music and culture in existence.



Any final thoughts?

President McPhee: This new center perfectly complements our existing
treasure trove of musical assets at MTSU. It broadens our musicology efforts into the realm of ethnomusicology and grows our research footprint to include multicultural musical and cultural studies. This will be a destination not only for scholars; it will be yet another attraction that reinforces the greater Nashville area’s standing as Music City, USA.

Dr. Du Wei has also already proposed the creation of a Chinese center of American studies on the campus of Hangzhou Normal University in China and is prepared to begin discussions immediately.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The Student Success Advantage

Graduate in Four and Get More 

Five Minutes with the President, Dr. Sidney A. McPhee


In September 2014, during a six-city tour to convince the best and brightest students across Tennessee to attend MTSU, you unveiled a new initiative—the MTSU Student Success Advantage. You’ve described the plan as a game changer for students who want to do more than just go to college. You’re talking about students who expect to get the support they need to actually succeed and graduate. Give us the short version of what this new plan is and what it does.

The first two years are critical to a university student. A bump in the road, especially at the beginning, can derail the progress of those struggling to stay enrolled.

The MTSU Student Success Advantage plan, which has the tagline “Graduate in Four and Get More,” will supplement by $1,000 the HOPE Lottery Scholarships of incoming students who seek a four-year degree and stay on track to graduate on time. Our University will provide a $500 supplemental scholarship to students receiving the HOPE Scholarship after each of their first two years. Students must remain eligible for the HOPE Scholarship to get the award from MTSU.

Under the plan, we will provide what we call a Finish-Line Scholarship to graduating seniors that will return any tuition increases incurred during the four-year period of their studies.

We expanded the eligibility to qualify for five major scholarships guaranteed to eligible students. We changed our Transfer Academic Scholarships from being competitively based to guaranteed for students from all Tennessee community colleges. And, even in a time of reduced state budgets for higher education, we made a major investment in student success by reallocating money to hire 47 more academic advisors, who will help students maximize their investment and these incentives by providing the support, guidance, and encouragement to stay on track to graduate on time.

What is the overall goal of these new initiatives?

These changes and the overall Student Success Advantage plan are actually just part of MTSU’s overall Quest for Student Success initiative, a series of reforms launched last year to increase retention and graduation through changes such as academic course redesigns, enhanced advising, and new student data-tracking software.

Our goal at MTSU is to make higher education more affordable for incoming freshmen who meet our competitive admission standards and choose to start college at MTSU.

We also developed this program to complement and reinforce Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55, which seeks to increase the percentage of Tennesseans with postsecondary degrees or certificates to 55 percent.

Any last thoughts?

We know firsthand that $200 to $300 can make a difference in terms of whether a student comes to or stays at MTSU. All these incentives, plus our increased emphasis on advising and other reforms, represent our desire to address obstacles through the University’s resources.

We do hope that future tuition increases are minimal, but if that occurs, the net effect of our Finish Line Scholarship will hold students harmless from any increases—provided they stay on track to graduate in four years.

We believe the MTSU Student Success Advantage is unique among our state’s public universities.

And, at its core, the Student Success Advantage has a strong message: If you maintain a steady pace to graduation in four years, we will do all we can to help you achieve your goal.

Thank you, Mr. President.


For more information about the Student Success Initiative, visit www.mtsu.edu/student-success-advantage.

Editor’s Note:

It All Adds Up


A New York Federal Reserve study released in summer 2014 and analyzed in an article by the Wall Street Journal found that four-year degrees remain solid investments.

In the study, economists Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz calculated the annualized return on investment for the money put into a college degree over a graduate’s career, pegging it at about 15 percent for current graduates, a figure that far surpasses typical returns for stocks and bonds and one that has held largely constant for more than a decade.

The economists also found that the difference in wages between two-year and four-year degree holders has also remained relatively constant, with bachelor’s holders last year making about $65,800 and associate degree holders making about $46,300.

Separately, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education issued its first “return on investment” report in 2013 and found that Americans with four-year degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than those without a degree, up from 89 percent five years earlier, 85 percent a decade earlier, and 64 percent in the early 1980s.

The report also found that the average salary for a graduate with a four-year degree started to surpass that of an associate degree holder five years after graduation, with the gap growing to nearly $7,000 annually after 10 years.

A May 2014 New York Times article, citing an Economic Policy Institute report that used Department of Labor statistics to reach its findings, recently found that the wage premium for people who have attended college without earning a bachelor’s degree—a group that includes community college graduates—has not been rising.

“The big economic returns go to people with four-year degrees,” the article said. “Those returns underscore the importance of efforts to reduce the college dropout rate.”

“College is worth it, and it’s not even close,” the article continued. “For all the struggles that many young college graduates face, a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable.”

10 Myths about Today’s MTSU

And why you should send your child or grandchild to your alma mater

by Drew Ruble

There are many ways to give back to your alma mater. The most obvious is to write a check. The time to do just that has never been better because MTSU is pursuing the largest fundraising campaign in its history. Reaching and even exceeding financial goals will be a big step in the continued advancement of the University, academically and athletically, as one of the finest public institutions of higher education in the Southeast.

Another way to support MTSU is to make it possible for your children and grandchildren to attend your alma mater. What’s stopping you? In my time as editor of MTSU Magazine, I’ve heard a few alumni offer an occasional reason for being a little hesitant to send their children and grandchildren to MTSU. Many of those reasons were flat-out wrong. I was all too happy to set the record straight.

Here, then, is my personal list of the top 10 myths about today’s MTSU or, put another way, the top 10 reasons to send your child (or grandchild) to college here. True Blue!





MTSU’s campus isn’t that pretty.


In addition to beautifully landscaped grounds, several new buildings have significantly elevated the overall look of campus. The $65 million Student Union Building, the soon-to-open $147 million Science Building (see below), the three-year-old College of Education building, and the brand-new Student Services Building are some of the most beautiful on any campus in Tennessee—period! Add in older structures, including the four beautiful 103-year-old original buildings (still in use today), and your eyes will tell you all you need to know about MTSU’s aesthetic appeal!



Parking on campus is a nightmare.


Last year, MTSU opened two new student parking garages. The four-level structures (valued at $23.5 million) added almost 1,000 net parking spaces near the campus core. More surface lots have also recently been opened.




Sports at MTSU can’t be nationally prominent.


Last year, MTSU joined Conference USA (C-USA) for inter-collegiate athletics. C-USA teams and players have made nearly 700 NCAA championship ap- pearances since the league’s inception in 1995. Sixty-seven football programs have earned bowl bids; 90 men’s basketball teams have participated in NCAA and NIT postseason play; 47 women’s basketball squads have appeared in the NCAA Tournament; and 53 baseball programs have made NCAA tournament appearances, including 12 College World Series and a national crown for Rice University in 2003. Also, 61 men’s and women’s soccer teams have participated in NCAA tournaments, and Charlotte competed for the men’s College Cup in 2011. We can do this!



State tuition increases across Tennessee’s higher education system have made even schools like MTSU unaffordable for families.


Perhaps the highly regarded Princeton Review said it best when it named MTSU one of the “Best in the Southeast” on its 2014 list of the nation’s top colleges. Editors of the list, which recognized 138 institutions in the 12-state Southeast region, called MTSU “a growing school on the rise, [where] you get a quality education and you aren’t in crippling debt afterward.” Forbes once even ranked MTSU as the 47th “best buy” among all public colleges and universities in America!



MTSU doesn’t rank academically— regionally or nationally—like other name-brand schools.


Nationally recognized programs and courses of study at MTSU include aerospace, recording industry, horse science, forensic science, concrete industry, historic preservation, agriculture and agribusiness, and accounting, just to name a few. MTSU also boasts what may be the best nursing and teacher-training programs in the state. In addition, it’s home to one of the largest business schools in America. In these areas and more you simply cannot send your child or grandchild to a college better suited to equip them with the knowledge and skills they will need to achieve their personal and professional dreams!



MTSU is not interest in student success; it’s only interested in enrolling as many students as possible.


Actually, University efforts are unilaterally geared toward retention and providing continuous support to keep students enrolled and on track to graduation. From the retooling of classes that too many students historically have failed to the recent opening of a $16 million Student Services and Admissions Center and the new MT One Stop, an all-in-one student assistance hub, examples abound of MTSU’s focus on student success. This “quest for student success,” as President Sidney A. McPhee describes it, is not code for grade inflation. It’s simply the right thing to do. And it’s also perfectly aligned with the goals of the state legislature and governor’s office. As McPhee likes to say to faculty and staff, “If students become an interruption in your day, you’re in the wrong business.”



There are few important graduate programs at MTSU, and little significant research is conducted.


Many are surprised to learn that one out of five degrees awarded at MTSU is a graduate degree. In fact, the College of Graduate Studies offers more than 100 programs. The reality is that MTSU is aggressively transitioning from a primarily undergraduate institution to a doctoral research university with high research activity. New interdisciplinary doctoral programs ranging from educational assessment (the only such program in the state) to molecular biosciences are driving that shift. For example, in partnership with the Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants in Nanning, China, MTSU has the opportunity to develop new Western medicines based on plant extracts used in the healing art of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Several recent pharmaceutical successes stemming from the use of active chemical ingredients in Chinese herbal medicines to develop conventional Western drugs reveal just how big a deal MTSU’s new partnership may be. The partnership has already yielded about 40 results that show promise in treating cancer, viral infections, and other ailments.




MTSU is exclusively a commuter college.


A college education is more than an accumulation of course credits. Students don’t spend all their time in class. College life is also about expanding your worldview through exposure to cultures, perspectives, and lives different than your own. With a new $65 million, 211,000-square-foot Student Union Building, highly active service and special-interest clubs, and a wealth of extracurricular activities, students at today’s MTSU enjoy the full college experience and never have to leave campus to keep busy and have a great time—even during nights and weekends! (The proliferation of affordable off-campus housing has also played a big role.) MTSU’s new student involvement program, aimed at connecting students to the University through extracurricular activities, attracted more than 2,700 first-time students last year, and more than 1,100 of them attended four or more events during fall 2013.




MTSU is exclusively a regional school.


MTSU was recognized last year by the Chronicle of Higher Education as a top producer of Fulbright award winners. The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the government’s flagship international exchange program. MTSU was the only Tennessee college or university to earn the Chronicle’s distinction. Today’s students simply must communicate across cultures effectively if they are to participate in the international workplace. At MTSU, internationalization of the student body is a priority. International student enrollment has increased from 396 to 789 in five years, and the University has 335 students in its study-abroad programs this summer. It has more than 40 exchange agreements with institutions around the world. Finally, MTSU’s strong connections with China in terms of academic partnerships and research/industry collaborations rival any university in America.




Only average students attend MTSU.


The ACT average for the fall 2013 freshman class (22.0) continued to be above the national average (20.9) and above the Tennessee average (19.5). The average high school GPA for the fall 2013 freshman class was 3.35. Buchanan Fellowship recipients in fall 2014 comprised the strongest entering class since the University’s premier academic scholarship began in 2006. Limited to around 20 students, the fellowship had 166 applications from ten different states, and the average ACT score of the applicants was 30.75. Also, enrollment in doctoral programs at MTSU increased by nearly nine percent last year.



So c’mon—send your kids to MTSU! Make it a family affair. It’s a great place to get an education. Plus, how special would it be to share the same alma mater with your children? You can all be

True Blue!


Five Minutes with President Sidney A. McPhee

The buzz phrase around MTSU these days is “student success.” I know that means a lot of things to you. Could you spotlight, though, one specific program or initiative that you think speaks to what MTSU means by ensuring student success?

Many MTSU students are first-generation college students who are juggling academic and work demands in pursuit of a degree. For many, a relatively small financial barrier—say, an emergency room visit or unexpected car repair— can cause a delay in their studies and progress toward a college degree.

Students who find themselves in a financial pinch can now apply for one-time emergency microgrants aimed at keeping them in school and on track to earning a degree.

Through a wave of local support and the existing Lewis Hazelwood Student Emergency Fund, MTSU can help students with emergency needs.The microgrants are designed to help with verified needs associated with the student’s education such as tuition, fees, books, housing, and transportation.

Grants up to $250 are available to qualified undergraduate, graduate, and international students. Interested students should contact their college advisors or their dean’s office. The grants do not have to be repaid; however, students may receive such grants only once during their time at MTSU. To be eligible, students must be in academic good standing with a minimum 2.0 GPA at the time of the request.

I applaud the community’s support for students, many of whom remain in the midstate area following their graduation and invest back into the campus and the surrounding community. Creation of the funding source followed an effort spearheaded by my wife, Elizabeth, who called on area churches and local citizens to consider financial support for needy students. She pointed to the assistance that she and I received years ago as graduate students that helped us continue our own educations.

I believe this effort serves as a perfect example of our collective focus on the success of our students, which is the top priority of this University.These funds are a concrete expression of local commitment to helping us fulfill that mission. We are truly grateful for the support.

Let me also mention two other helpful student assistance programs: the MTSU Food Pantry and Raiders Closet. The pantry, stocked entirely by donations, has distributed more than 3,700 pounds of food in the last two years to students in need. Raiders Closet, an outreach of Jones College of Business,helps students acquire donated professional attire for internships and job interviews.

Thank you, Mr. President.



Case in Point

Senior education major Jordan Raines-Ownby and her husband have four children. Jordan’s niece and nephew live with the couple as well. Last semester, Jordan strongly considered dropping out of school and delaying her graduation in order to get a full-time job to help with the costs of raising six children. The staff of the College of Education helped Jordan acquire a microgrant that kept her on track to becoming a school teacher. “It got me through the semester,” Jordan states. “It really did help. And they also put me in touch with a number of other local programs that help students.”

True Blue!



Anyone wishing to contribute to the microgrant fund can do so at www.mtsu.edu/StudentFund or mail donations to the Office of Development, MTSU Box 109, Murfreesboro, TN 37132. Make checks payable to the MTSU Foundation, and designate the gift to the MTSU Student Assistance Fund on the memo line. Other information about microgrants can be found at www.mtsu.edu/studentsuccess/crisis-aid.php.

The Quest for Student Success

Five Minutes with the President

The Quest for Student Success


A recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education stated there is a growing call for innovation that supports greater student success at our institutions. What is MTSU doing to ensure that students who enroll here succeed and graduate?

Nothing is more important than ensuring our students’ academic success. MTSU faculty and administration have come together to respond to these challenges by putting ourselves under a microscope as we attempt to better understand why our successful students succeed and what barriers to success get in the way of those who struggle.

Even with statewide and national accolades for its efficiency in creating college graduates, MTSU’s continued success depends on its ability to help our students earn college degrees. These students are our responsibility, and we must discover and develop new and innovative ways to help them be successful, instead of whining about who they are. At MTSU, from a staff and faculty perspective, we simply must maintain and grow our student-centered culture. If students become an interruption in your day, you’re in the wrong business.

MTSU already has changed some administrative processes and policies that created roadblocks for students. One of these changes allows students to register or reenroll with an account balance of $200 or less. Previously, there was an across-the-board ban on registration for students owing as little as $5 to the University! Additionally, a campus-wide task force’s discovery of an almost 40 percent failure or withdrawal rate in some general education courses—despite students’ solid high school GPAs and ACT scores—has led to faculty redesigning seven courses in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

We’ve also reviewed our recruitment and enrollment strategies, resulting in a two percent increase in this year’s freshman class. This 2013–14 freshman class also showed an increase in composite ACT scores and high school GPAs over the previous year. We’ve expanded scholarship funds for groups that have traditionally been undersupported, and we’ve gone to the Tennessee Board of Regents to request policy changes to allow more flexibility in registration and payment policies.

Additionally, we’ve surveyed students who failed to reenroll and analyzed their responses regarding factors that prevented their persistence. We’ve significantly expanded our Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, and Research group to provide better data regarding student retention, graduation, and success. Every academic college and every administrative division has conducted an internal review and participated in a series of hearings to outline new plans to help more students achieve success in the classroom and to graduate. We’ve begun to review grade distribution reports to better understand those courses that seem to have exceptionally large numbers of students not achieving the grade of C or better, so that we can consider curricular innovations to improve learning. We’ve also analyzed the first data sets coming out of the new funding formula under the Complete College Tennessee Act to see where our strengths lie and where we have opportunities to make improvements that may enhance our funding as an institution.

Last, we will be opening a one-stop shop for student enrollment services this spring. We have begun posting midterm grades for the first time in many years, giving students additional feedback to help them improve where their performance is lacking. A consolidated tutoring center is also being developed to provide learning support for students in all majors.

In your most recent state-of-the-University speech, you said that higher education is just the latest arena facing a series of disruptive forces that could, on the one hand, lead to great innovation and transformation or, on the other, lead to significant losses in enrollment, funding, and cultural influence. What is your plan to address this?

I recently announced a major initiative—The MTSU Quest for Student Success—that will integrate these efforts into a single coherent approach for the future. The plan is designed to make sure that every student who comes to MTSU with the drive to achieve will be met with the best instruction from excellent professors who care about their success. The MTSU Quest lays out our ambitious vision to innovate for increased student success in three key areas:

  • Recruiting students who value academic success
  • Enhancing the academic experience for students by implementing innovation in curriculum across all disciplines and underscoring the role of quality advising in student success
  • Championing enhancements in administrative processes and eliminating barriers to student success

MTSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is a great example of the work we are already doing to promote and improve student success and retention and graduation. The department has implemented more student-friendly teaching practices for introductory courses and is using high-achieving undergrads to serve as learning assistants for classmates in those courses. The department’s reward—in addition to fewer failing grades, more physics and astronomy majors, and more graduates—was a $20,000 check as the first recipient of the President’s Award for Exceptional Departmental Initiatives for Student Academic Success, given last fall.

This is our time for transformation—our time to seize the opportunity to innovate, transform, and lead the way in creating a new model for higher education. Instead of spinning our wheels focusing on the many external factors affecting higher education that are beyond our capacity to control, MTSU is turning its energies and talents toward tackling the internal factors over which we have direct influence and which we know can positively affect student learning.


Thank you, Mr. President.


[Editor’s Note: You can read more about the plan here: http://mtsunews.com/mtsu-student-success-reforms.]


Editor’s Letter: Branding by Gridiron

This month MTSU joins conference USA. The long-awaited move to an established, nationally recognized Football Bowl Subdivision conference clearly elevates the standing, competitiveness, and stature of MTSU’s athletics program.

by Drew Ruble

The long-awaited move to an established, nationally recognized Football Bowl Subdivision conference clearly elevates the standing, competitiveness, and stature of MTSU’s athletics program. Concurrently, support for MT athletics is one of four main goals of the University’s ongoing $80 million Centennial Campaign. Success in raising new dollars for athletics will be crucial to the program’s ability to attract the best student-athletes and provide adequate facilities as a member of the highly competitive C-USA.

MTSU’s emphasis on growing its athletic programs is clear. Interestingly, one professor’s recently published book chronicles how universities placed similar emphasis on growing their own brands through sports—particularly football—over a century ago. In The Rise of Gridiron University, history professor Brian M. Ingrassia explores how university presidents—including those from the Ivy League—hastened the rise of college football in America. According to Ingrassia, these academic leaders saw football as a “spectacle” useful in helping their universities “reach out to the public.” He explains that it was a way to “help show taxpayers and nonacademics” what they were doing, as well as “get their name out there” so they could “keep getting funding and the publicity needed to turn into larger institutions doing useful things for society, like research and education.”

“The late 1800s and early 1900s was a time when university scholars began to see athletics as almost like the department of public engagement,” Ingrassia concludes. (Little did they know at the time, he writes, how such athletic programs would become the fixtures on college campuses that they are today.)

The alignment of universities into athletic conferences also has historical roots. The first conference, the Big 10, formed around the turn of the last century, Ingrassia says, to “pool competitive resources” and “control and maximize revenues from the sport”—all of which is still its function today. More than a century later, MTSU’s own brand potential and financial prospects are boosted by smartly tapping into C-USA—specifically the conference’s significant national and regional television exposure and revenue sharing through partnerships with CBS Sports, Fox Sports, and ESPN.

The positives for students, alumni, and the community alike are clear, Ingrassia says. “Elevating sports conferences maintains good relations with alumni. Plus, students want to attend universities with big-time football and athletics, and it’s also a way for the public to connect.” And even though he stresses that academic programs are a central component of a university like MTSU, Ingrassia concedes that other campus entities are unable to create a sense of community the way intercollegiate athletics do.

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