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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.

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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.

 

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.

LSJBrd_LSJ_1_03-19-2016_0_NewsCov_B_A_001_4_224856.ps

  • 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.

FNPBrd_NewsPress_1_03-19-2016_0_USASports-B_B_C_009_1_213910.ps

 

 

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.”

 

MURBrd_DNJ_1_03-19-2016_0_NewsCov_B_A_001_4_002425.ps

 

 

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.

 

IMG_2155

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).

 

Leading Man

Richard Hansen, Theatre & Dance faculty, in the KUC Theatre for the Honors College Magazine.

Richard Hansen, Theatre & Dance faculty, in the KUC Theatre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theatre professor, movie expert, and study abroad chaperone Richard Hansen has spent his life studying the stage

by Allison Gorman

 

Every neighborhood has that one kid who regularly invites all the other kids over to watch movies. Richard Hansen was that kid in his suburban neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. His home theatre seated 10.

Except this was the ’60s, so the movies Hansen showed every Sunday afternoon were 8mm films he’d bought from a local department store, for which he’d rigged up sound and projection himself.

“I scored musical soundtracks for silent films,” he said. “It was one way to get a neighborhood kid to watch a two-hour silent movie.”

Hansen grew up to teach theatre—he’s an associate professor and a member of the Honors faculty—but film was his first love. On the way to earning his Ph.D., he ran two cinemas, appeared in two movies, and joined the Screen Actors Guild, to which he still belongs.

And from the youngest age, he studied films with an academic fervor, memorizing movie trivia almost by osmosis, the way other kids memorized batting averages.

Hansen still fields calls from friends, and sometimes journalists, wanting to borrow from his reservoir of film facts. He knows that Orson Welles was drunk when he nailed his famous Moby Dick speech in one take; that Frankenstein 1970 was the first movie to include the sound of a toilet flushing; and that the “original” Phantom of the Opera starring Lon Chaney is actually a 1929 reediting of the silent 1925 version.

He knows things that Google doesn’t—and that’s fitting for a man who eschews technology he considers unnecessary or, worse, detrimental. He doesn’t have a cellphone, and he rues the fact that movie and theatregoers do and can’t seem to put them away. He considers digital projection one cause of the decline of film as an art form.

It’s unsurprising that Hansen doesn’t teach online. Or it might be expected of such an instructor in the small-college environment of the Honors College. Whether he’s teaching Honors Theatre Appreciation or leading a study-abroad group in London, Hansen’s job is less to lecture and more to feed his students’ intellectual curiosity.

The annual trip to what Hansen calls “the theatre capital of the world,” which he leads every other winter, alternating with Professor Scott Boyd, is “a potentially life-changing experience,” he said. In London, he likes to hold classes in unconventional places—say a pub or the lobby of Drury Lane Theatre in the heart of West End. Convinced that every college student should study abroad if possible, he’s also established a scholarship named for his parents (also educators) to help offset the cost of the trip for theatre majors.

Hansen is still an ardent student of film (he’s a longtime supporter of the Nashville Film Festival), and he uses film references to teach theatre, pointing out, for example, that the ancient Greeks invented Hollywood conventions like the sequel and the trilogy.

“Often, my students have not been to many plays, if any,” he said. “But they have seen movies. So I can use their movie reference base as a way to access theatre, and sometimes that’s a very good connection.”

That’s what good teachers do: find that connection. It’s exactly what Richard Hansen has been doing since he was a boy scoring soundtracks in Garfield Heights, Ohio.

 

A Medieval Mindset

Amy Kaufman studies the pervasive power of a mythologized Middle Ages on modern life

 

by Katie Porterfield

 

COVERsimplifiedWpinWhen the fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones premiered in April 2015, the show based on the best-selling medieval fantasy books by George R.R. Martin drew about eight million viewers live. Days to follow would yield online, on-demand, and DVR viewings that brought the audience total to 18 million viewers, according to HBO, which later declared the show the most-watched in HBO history.

Set in a brutish yet simpler pre-industrial world where men dominate women and disputes are settled with the sword, Game of Thrones and its soaring popularity speak to a modern obsession with the Middle Ages. It also provides a hearty new platform for researchers like MTSU English professor Amy Kaufman, who studies medievalism, a mythologized version of the Middle Ages.

“Pardon the pun, but medievalism is really experiencing a renaissance these days,” Kaufman said.

Examples of medievalism permeate American pop culture in the 21st century, whether it’s Game of Thrones or Vikings (another popular television series, which airs on the History Channel); the Warner Brothers multi-film version of the King Arthur legend scheduled to hit theaters in 2016; or video games with names like World of Warcraft, the Elder Scrolls series, and Dragon Age (or Game of War … think Kate Upton).

Though Kaufman is trained in what she calls “traditional medieval studies,” meaning she studied—and still does—works that came out of the Middle Ages such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (14th century) and Thomas Malory’s rendition of the Arthurian legend (15th century), she also looks at the entertainment Americans consume and the ideas that entertainment has about the time period in which she specializes.

Typically, there’s a disconnect between those “worlds.” Kaufman seeks to determine what that disconnect is and why it happens. Essentially, she asks, “Why does the Middle Ages look so different in popular culture than it does when we actually encounter it in literature?”

 

An Appealing Fantasy

What Kaufman and others in her field have determined is that medievalism seems to gain traction in popular culture when audiences feel insecure, unstable, and threatened by rapid change. That, Kaufman explains, is clearly applicable for today’s society, but it was also the case in the nineteenth century, a period that saw colonies wanting liberation, slavery coming to an end, agitation for women’s suffrage, industrialization, and new ideas by Darwin and Freud. Thus, the medieval past, a time before such turmoil, looked very attractive to those living in the eighteen hundreds.

“They imagined it as a time and place where men were men, women were women, everyone was the same race and practiced the same faith, and no one was corrupted by technology, sexuality or democracy,” Kaufman said.

More importantly, Kaufman adds, writers, artists, and even historians created versions of medieval stories that stabilized gender, race, and religion, and in turn perfected this simplistic notion of the medieval period that we have today.

“What people don’t realize is that a whole lot of the ‘neomedieval’ material we consume in popular culture is filtered through late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century medievalism, rather than actual medieval sources,” Kaufman said, citing the fact that the popular image of a Viking with a horned helmet, for example, is a construct conceived for the four operas that make up nineteenth-century German composer Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

“Our sources are less often medieval literature or history than they are, in many ways, cloudy nostalgia and imaginative propaganda.”

 

Misled by Myths

Take, for example, Game of Thrones.

“The series sells the typical fantasy of medieval life as nasty, brutish and short, but my concern with it, and my focus in studying it, has been the way that it normalizes sexual violence,” Kaufman said.

The excessive violence associated with the show and the original book series has drawn a great deal of attention and criticism. According to Kaufman, what’s worthy of noticing is the way the Middle Ages is mistakenly used to justify that violence. As she points out, Martin, in commenting about the amount of rape in his novels, once said, “Well, I’m not writing about contemporary sex. It’s medieval.”

In reality, however, it’s not. Rape, Kaufman confirms, was a serious crime in the Middle Ages, and the laws and punishments for the crime varied from century to century and nation to nation. So, although the high level of sexual violence in Game of Thrones is supposed to make its world “authentic, gritty and real,” it’s actually more modern than medieval in terms of how frequent rape is in contemporary entertainment culture and in the lives of people in the United States and globally.

Kaufman said the danger is that audiences watch “rape victims become disposable tropes in the service of ‘history’ and become complacent about sexual violence, either with false confidence that everything has improved since the ‘dark ages,’ or with resignation about the inevitability of violence against women in any time period.

“It lends horrific acts of violence and oppression the validating weight of history,” Kaufman said. “Ultimately, the kind of reductionist thinking we use when we imagine our medieval past is toxic to our sense of human identity. It limits what we think we’re capable of changing and who we are capable of being.”

 

A Conspicuous Absence

In general, today’s examples of medievalism diminish the role of women, playing into the idea that the Middle Ages represent a more authentic manhood. Kaufman admits that when she began to study medieval literature, she expected to see the absence or oppression of women, as well as an unenlightened understanding of gender and sexism. However, what she found was quite the opposite. Examples of women in literature throughout the Middle Ages include heroic women with supernatural strength, sorceresses who both tormented and rescued men with magic, women who dressed as knights and won tournaments, and highly educated women who wrote and argued on their own behalf, often from positions within the church.

“I would never argue that things were perfect for women in the Middle Ages—they certainly weren’t—but medieval women were neither silent nor invisible,” Kaufman said. “They fought back, and many men supported them.”

The imagined, mythological version of medievalism in which women are submissive, however, has been utilized not only in entertainment media today, but in religious and political propaganda as well. Kaufman’s research also examines how extreme religious movements promise a return to an idealized past. Medievalism, Kaufman said, has been used in widely divergent religious movements ranging from the “masculine church” and Biblical Patriarchy movements throughout the last 15 years to, more recently, the recruitment propaganda of the Islamic State (ISIS).

“ISIS is basically selling recruits the opportunity to be the hero in a live-action, medieval-themed video game,” Kaufman said.

It’s all fascinating, book-worthy stuff. In fact, Kaufman is struggling with whether her research lends itself to one book or two: one on medievalism and pop culture, and another on medievalism and religious extremism. One thing is certain—she won’t be lacking material. As she puts it, for those who study medievalism, the world today offers “an embarrassment of riches.”

 

Modern medieval masculinity researcher Dr. Amy Kaufman, an assistant professor of English

Modern medieval masculinity researcher Dr. Amy Kaufman, an assistant professor of English

 

IN HER OWN WORDS

A brief conversation with MTSU English professor Amy Kaufman

Talk about your work in women’s shelters and rape crisis centers. How, if at all, does it relate to your studies today?

I started volunteering with a domestic violence and rape crisis center in Tallahassee, Fla., while I was working on my undergraduate degree at Florida State. I worked with the children who stayed in the shelter first, then switched to the Injunction Assistance Office in the courthouse. I was drawn to that work again during my Ph.D. and answered hotline calls for an organization in Massachusetts. The work was heartbreaking and incredibly frustrating, and early on I was passionate not only about working to stop this kind of violence, but also figuring out why it happened so frequently and with so much tacit acceptance. I guess the scholar in me wanted to figure out the origins of the problem.

At the same time, my Medieval Studies education was dispelling myths about women’s absence from literature and history, providing me with powerful alternate narratives that I wanted to share. When we believe that gender and its hierarchies have been the same way throughout all of history, we accept sexual violence as inevitable. We surrender to it, and we lose our will to fight back. And that’s not just dangerous for women; it also affects the treatment of men who have been sexually assaulted. If violence against women is inevitable because they are women, violence against men becomes impossible to believe. This makes it much harder for male survivors to seek help.

You had planned to go to law school and practice family law. What changed?

I took a year between my B.A. and what would have been a law degree to work and save up money. And I worked two jobs at that point, both of which had me working with lawyers. And they were miserable. Even those who had gotten into the field with a degree of idealism found that they weren’t able to help people, that their lives were more about filling out paperwork and bringing in money than they expected.

At the same time, I learned that there was such a thing as graduate school. This was right before I graduated from Florida State. It may sound strange that I could go through four years of a B.A. program and remain totally ignorant of how a person becomes a professor, but unlike a lot of people who pursue this career, I didn’t come from an academic family. No one in my social circle was going to graduate school; a lot of my friends never even went to college. All I knew was that I loved to write, I loved literature, and I loved learning about history, and suddenly there was this possibility in front of me to do what I really loved doing on a daily basis.

What impact did academia and the professors who populate it have
on your life?

There were some very tough points in my life where teachers—and eventually professors—really saved me. They helped me not just by being compassionate, but also by feeding my mind and wanting to see me grow and succeed. I feel like I have come really far from where I started out in life, and I owe nearly all of that to my teachers and professors. There is a lot of power in teaching, power to reach people, expand their possibilities, and open up their worlds.

Thanks, Dr. Kaufman.
 
 

MTSU’s Whistle Blower

Ben Taylor holds the rich and powerful accountable . . . on the basketball court

Basketball isolated on court black background with light effect

by Skip Anderson

When you look at it one way, Ben Taylor (’09) may have a dream job. After all, he gets to be on television 80 or more times each year, and world-famous millionaires are obliged to follow his decisions. He might even be on posters hanging in your child’s bedroom.

On the other hand, should Taylor make a decision that appears errant, 20,000 people might very well let him hear about it instantly, not to mention half of the millionaires in the room.

None of this is surprising given that Taylor, 30, is in his third full season as a referee in the National Basketball Association (NBA)—one of only 63 people in the world with the skill and credentials required to hold that job.

 

A Basketball Bloodline

ref and parentsTaylor played varsity basketball at Cannon County High School, located 20 miles due east of Murfreesboro and the campus of MTSU. He wasn’t too bad, either. The letterman, who comes from a long familial line of ballplayers who distinguished themselves on a basketball court, started his junior and senior years.

“We’ve always loved basketball in my family,” Taylor said.

He’s not kidding—his maternal grandmother, Helen Davenport, held the all-time scoring record at Cannon County High School and was inducted into the nascent Cannon County Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. His older cousin, Julie Powell, is a shoo-in for induction as well. Before she helped the Vanderbilt Commodores win the SEC Championship in 1993 and advance to the Final Four of the NCAA Women’s Tournament, she broke Davenport’s record to become Cannon County High School’s all-time leading scorer. His father, Teddy Taylor, is in there, too. Teddy’s induction is born from his work as a youth coach and as a contributor to the high school team.

“Dad coached elementary school ball, then was in an advisory role at the high school, since he didn’t have the degree that would allow him to teach and coach,” Taylor said. “He was inducted into the hall of fame for his supporting role.”

Taylor quickly dispels the notion that his father’s involvement in the sport led to his interest in officiating games at the age of 16. Quite the contrary, in fact.

“My dad coached for 30 years,” Taylor said, laughing. “So, he just didn’t care for referees, and it hadn’t occurred to me or him that I might ever be one.”

 

A Referee’s #1 Rule

Like most sports fans, Taylor and his father remembered officials for their mistakes, perceived or real. Few people, except other officials, remember games for starting on time and being administered fairly. But everybody remembers a blown call. In Taylor’s case, he remembers one errant whistle in particular that was blown nearly 11 years ago.

“I was a real hothead when I played high-school sports,” Taylor admitted. “We were playing at Smith County, and I hit a three-point shot to tie it and send it to overtime. A teammate set a screen and an opponent tripped me—and I was called for my fifth foul. I still remember the guy’s name who called it.”

It’s good that he remembers the play, because he later found a valuable life lesson embedded in the frustration of being forced unfairly from the game.

“We as referees need to see the first action so that we penalize that instead of penalizing the second action,” he said. “And that’s something I remember when I’m on an NBA court.”taylor

Given his high school experience, perhaps it’s no wonder he initially declined when then-Riverdale High School girls’ basketball Coach Cory Barrett invited him to officiate children’s games. Then he thought through the economics involved.

“When I found out [officiating youth games] paid $20 per game, I was sold,” Taylor said. “I thought to myself, ‘That’s way better than working for the local Piggly Wiggly for $5.25 an hour.’ Within the first two weeks, I fell in love with it.”

But long before he would realize a career as an official in the NBA, he wanted a college degree. So, he enrolled at MTSU, where he ultimately earned a bachelor of arts in public relations. He also attended as many “ref camps” as he could during the summers between semesters.

“Not too many people leave Woodbury to chase a dream, or maybe weren’t told to dream big enough,” he said. “But my grandmother [Davenport] was one of the driving forces that allowed me to do this job, because she never questioned what I wanted to do. Sometimes I didn’t have the money to go to the [referee] camps that I wanted to go to, but she encouraged me, she helped me financially, and she always made sure that I could go. She let me chase the dream I wanted to chase.”

Taylor climbed the professional ladder largely through working games in the NBA’s developmental league. Taylor’s first game officiating at the NBA level came in 2013 in Boston.

“It was so great. My dad grew up a Larry Bird fan, and I was so happy that I got to take my Dad to the game. My mom and my now-wife got to be there, too,” Taylor says. “I was fortunate that the security people let my family come back into the locker room area, and they let me take my dad to center court where we took his picture with the leprechaun logo. That was great.”

While he doesn’t remember the first foul he called—“No way! I’ll call 25 or 30 fouls a game, so I don’t have any idea who I called the first one on,” he said—Taylor does admit some do stand out more than others.

“LeBron [James] has thrown up his hands at me a couple of times,” he said. “But if a guy fouls a guy, he fouls a guy—it’s not like we take into consideration whether a guy is an All-Star.”

That’s not to say that Taylor has never let emotion affect his officiating.

“I called a foul on Dwyane Wade my rookie season, and LeBron came over and wanted to talk about it,” Taylor explained. “Dwyane wanted to talk about it, too, and the coach wanted to talk about it—all at the same time. Generally, if you’re not involved in the play, we’re not going to talk to you about it. And if you were involved in the play, it’s going to be a one-on-one conversation. And if you try to gang up on the ref, the conversation is not going to happen. In this case, I got mad. I apologized later in the game, and LeBron had the greatest response: ‘Don’t worry about it—emotion is part of the game.’ ”

The thrill of the game, the frustrations and elations, are all part a day’s work for Taylor. It could be argued that good referees really don’t get noticed much, as they make all the right calls and don’t play a primary role in determining the outcomes of games. That said, they are there for every tick of the clock, and every step on the hardwood. So the next time an MTSU alum sits down to watch a professional basketball game, they might take a moment to see if a fellow alum, Number 46 on the officiating team, is on the floor that particular night. He may not be one of the star athletes getting cheered to dribble, drive, and dunk, but Blue Raiders can take pride in knowing that one of their own is watching over the game at its highest level. MTSU

The Middle of It All

Each year, tens of thousands of people journey to MTSU for reasons other than college attendance

 

By Drew Ruble

Throughout the year, the MTSU campus plays host to a number of events not directly affiliated with the University and which benefit local families, serve the community, and boost commerce. In fact, some of these events serve as the first introduction school-age children have to a college campus, and may even help their young minds hatch the dream of earning their own degrees one day, possibly at MTSU.

The following list offers a representative selection of the top 10 reasons for coming to MTSU, outside of being a college student, of course. True Blue!

 

 

TSSAA basketball tournaments
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) basketball tournament, which annually determines the Tennessee state champion in both men’s and women’s basketball, pops up on the campus of MTSU each March as reliably as the daffodils do. Ditto for the TSSAA’s annual Spring Fling event, where MTSU’s Smith Field serves as the venue for the state high-school baseball championships, while all TSSAA track and field events are conducted at MTSU’s Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium. And don’t forget that annually some 500 athletes from area schools compete in the Special Olympics track and field meet at Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium, as well.

 

 

The Governor’s School for the Arts 

The Governor’s School is now in its third decade at MTSU. The pre-professional summer curriculum includes individual and group instruction designed to help each enrolled student explore talents in music, ballet, theatre, filmmaking, and visual art. Students spend about four hours each day, six days a week working in their major concentrations. In June of its 30th anniversary year, Sen. Lamar Alexander, who as governor of Tennessee founded the summer programs for gifted high schoolers, spoke at a welcome ceremony for 305 new participants from across the state and their families during their visit to MTSU’s campus.

 

 

Camps (especially the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp)

Established 13 years ago, the camp for girls ages 10 to 17 promotes a culture of positive self-esteem and collaboration among girls while building community through music. Exclusive performances by women in the music industry have included the Queen of Rock, Wanda Jackson. The camp even played a role in spawning a recording act, Those Darlins. Plenty of other camps for K–12 students, summer and otherwise, also dot the MTSU calendar. Some of the higher-profile ones include: the annual CSI Camp for middle- and high-school youngsters, a forensic science camp hosted by world-renowned anthropologist and crime scene expert professor Hugh Berryman; a goat camp; an aviation camp; a youth writers camp; and a host of athletic camps and Recreation Center camps.

 

 

The Contest of Champions

As the oldest consecutive marching band contest in the U.S., this high-school marching band competition has served as a national model and has drawn thousands of music lovers to MTSU each year. Competing bands, who travel from as far away as New York and Florida, must win numerous honors prior to being admitted to the competition. Founded in 1962 by former MTSU director of bands emeritus Joseph T. Smith, along with the leadership and guidance of Horace Beasley and Linda Mitchell, the contest celebrated its 54th year last October.

 

 

Graduations Galore!

Literally tens of thousands of Rutherford County high-school students have experienced one of their proudest moments on the campus of MTSU. Almost every Rutherford County high school hosts its annual graduation ceremonies inside Murphy Center. As a result, whether a high school student has graduated from Riverdale, Smyrna, or Stewarts Creek, among many others, they and their families have made memories in cap and gown on the campus of MTSU.

 

 

Education Day (and other educational events)

Agriculture Education Day in the Tennessee Livestock Center. Christy Limbaugh (Jr) Animal Science major talking about nutrition.

Agriculture Education Day in the Tennessee Livestock Center. Christy Limbaugh (Jr) Animal Science major talking about nutrition.

Nearly 7,000 students from 12 Murfreesboro City Schools and the Homer Pittard Campus School keep the Monte Hale Arena’s noise level inside Murphy Center at a high-pitched squeal during each annual Education Day field trip, which now coincides with a daytime Lady Raiders regular season basketball game. A partnership between MTSU, which jointly operates Campus School with the Rutherford County school system, and the city’s schools, Education Day exposes students—some for the first time—to a college campus. MTeach, a secondary mathematics and science teacher preparation program at MTSU, produces the annual educational event. Similar to Education Day, a bevy of annual conferences for K–12 students keep MTSU’s campus hopping on an almost monthly basis. The annual Expanding Your Horizons in Math and Science Conference, now entering its 19th year, plays a key role statewide in encouraging young girls to enter science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The Invention Convention, now entering its 23rd year, annually attracts more than 300 grade-school creators for a demonstration of their innovations intended to “make life easier.” Other examples include the 19th annual science Olympiad; the Agricultural Education Spring Fling, held at the Tennessee Livestock Center and involving nearly 900 local schoolchildren; and the third annual Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub Expo, held at MTSU’s new Science Building in April and attended by nearly 300 middle- and high-school students.

 

 

Star Parties

Faculty from MTSU’s astronomy program conduct star parties each semester for the public and for MTSU students, showcasing astronomy-related events and offering rare views from both the MTSU observatory and naked-eye observatory on campus. Attendees in the past have learned how to view upcoming comets or had the chance to see lunar samples from Apollo missions first-hand. Yet, the best part is getting a chance to peer deep into space via the university’s telescope—the images from which are projected on the high-definition TV screens viewable from the pleasant grassy areas outside the observatory. No wonder Star Parties are a hit for children, adults, and families alike!

 

 

Tennessee Miller Coliseum

Equestrian team member Amanda Meade

Equestrian team member Amanda Meade

The Coliseum, located about seven miles from the main campus, is a 222,000-square-foot facility on 154 acres. The air-conditioned venue offers seating to accommodate up to 6,500 and stall space for 492 horses during the major equestrian show events hosted there throughout the year. One such event that came to Miller in 2011 was the famous Extreme Mustang Makeover, in which wild mustangs previously untouched by human hands are worked with for approximately 100 days and transformed into trained, performing mounts available for public adoption. Archery, truck and tractor pulls, and rodeos are examples of other events held there.

 

 

See Spot Run 5K

Dog lovers and running aficionados gear up for a rite of spring that gets tongues and tails wagging each year. The annual See Spot Run 5K, which begins on campus, raises funds to build a home for a Rutherford County family through Habitat for Humanity. Hundreds of runners or walkers and numerous canine companions take part in See Spot Run, which generates around $5,000 annually and is sponsored by the MTSU Office of Leadership and Service and the Sigma Pi fraternity. Later, MTSU student volunteers, on average numbering more than 300, participate in the home builds.

 

 


MTSU Employee Charitable Giving Campaign

While not a traditional event like the other nine on the list, the annual campaign earned a spot due to its impact throughout the region. The month-long fundraising event, executed each October, supports a number of local nonprofits that provide a social safety net through a wide array of services. In recent years, MTSU’s more than 2,000 employees have averaged about $130,000 in donations through designated gifts, often made through the payroll deduction option. The campaign allows MTSU to be one of the top entities in our community in donating to the numerous charitable organizations in our area.

 

 

 

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