Quest for Student Success Update

Higher education is just the latest arena facing a series of disruptive forces that could, on the one hand, lead to great innovation and transformation or, on the other, lead to significant losses in enrollment, funding, and cultural influence. A recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education said there is a growing call for innovation that supports greater student success.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I recently announced a major initiative—the MTSU Quest for Student Success—that will integrate these efforts into a single coherent approach for the future. The plan, advanced by Provost Brad Bartel and endorsed by me, is designed to make sure that every student who comes to MTSU with the drive to achieve will be met with the best instruction from excellent professors who care about their success.

The Quest for Success lays out our ambitious vision to innovate for increased student success in three key areas:

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

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

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

Read more about the plan here: http://mtsunews.com/mtsu-student-success-reforms.

Construction Projects Update

MTSU is an exciting place to work and study, largely because so many renovations and new buildings are underway, taking shape, or opening for use. Here is the latest on recent and current projects.

Construction continues on MTSU's new Science Building

Construction continues on MTSU’s new Science Building

Science Building

Construction on MTSU’s new $147 million Science Building, which began in May 2012, remains on schedule, with move-in set for summer and fall 2014 and classes opening in spring 2015.

Student Services and Admissions Center

Construction remains on schedule for the new Student Services and Admissions Center east of the new Student Union and adjacent to Campus Recreation. The new $16 million building will relocate all functions related to Admissions, Records and Enrollment, Financial Aid, Scheduling, the Bursar’s Office, and also house the new MT One Stop to the new center of campus. It will serve as a starting point for campus tours and as the primary visitors’ center for prospective students and their families. The building includes a bridge from the new student parking garage through the Student Services and Admissions Center and extending across Blue Raider Drive to the second-floor ballroom level of the Student Union. Construction began in spring 2012 and is scheduled to be completed for move-in during spring and summer 2014. The building and the reconstruction of our service model for enrollment management will completely change the way students experience the University, significantly decrease frustration, and increase students’ ability to successfully continue toward graduation.

Football Field Turf Replacement

The replacement of the field turf will begin this month and will be completed this summer.

Parking and Transportation

The widening of the Champion Way entrance to campus, the widening of Lightning Way, and the addition of a third rotary at the intersection of Champion and Lightning Way will complete major entrance and primary roadway improvements. All improvements are designed to improve traffic flow in and out of campus, improve shuttle bus schedules, provide bike lanes around the campus academic core, and improve pedestrian safety with enhanced crosswalks and lighting. Champion Way and the rotary are scheduled for completion in late spring 2014, and Lightning Way is scheduled for completion in fall 2014.

Cope Administration Building

A $3 million renovation project inside Cope Administration Building will begin this summer after designated offices relocate to the new Student Services and Admissions Center. Among the changes will be the relocation of the President’s Office from the first floor to the second floor, and the Provost’s Office moving into the vacated space. The Business Office will be relocated to both sides of the first floor, and improvements will also be made to restrooms, lighting, and signage. The relocation of Financial Aid to the Student Services and Admissions Center will also allow Information Technology Division offices to expand on the second floor.

McFarland Building Renovation

Once the Student Services and Admissions Center is opened in fall 2014, the Photography Department, now located north of the new Science Building, will move to the McFarland Building following a $2 million renovation. The old Photography Building will then be razed.

LRC 101: College of Education Professional Development Center

Construction is scheduled to begin next month and be completed this summer on a new development center that will allow the College of Education to host up to 150 K–12 teachers in a comfortable, professional setting where they can focus on the newest methodologies and standards in teaching.

Interior of the Bell Street Medical Center

Interior of the Bell Street Medical Center

Bell Street Center Renovation

The design of a $6 million building renovation is underway. Future occupants include Graduate Business Studies for the Jennings A. Jones College of Business; the University College; the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, and Research; the Tennessee STEM Education Center; the Aquatic Therapy Center in the Health and Human Performance Department; the Center for Counseling and Psych Services; and general classroom and training space. Construction will begin by fall 2014, and move in is expected by summer 2015.

Flight Simulator Building

Design is underway for a $700,000 flight simulator building at the Murfreesboro Airport. The building will support the Aerospace Department’s flight training coursework.

Murphy Center Renovation

The original four buildings of Middle Tennessee Normal School are still in use after 100 years. But, for many, Murphy Center may hold more memories than any other building on campus. Now in its fifth decade as a multipurpose arena, efforts are under way to renovate it and ensure that it continues to be a vibrant part of campus life.

The renovations, which began earlier this month, include updated bathrooms and concessions, a new HVAC system, new arena lighting, and a new roof. The project is expected to be completed before the start of the 2014–2015 basketball season.

As with every construction project of this magnitude, there will be disruptions and complications for visitors, fans, and tenants. The project will be broken up into four stages, with each corner of the arena worked on one phase at a time. Temporary walls will be put up during the process that will limit foot traffic in certain areas. We appreciate your patience with this important renovation!

Blue Print Solutions opens for business Monday, February 3, 2014

Blue Print Solutions opens for business Monday, Feb. 3

Blue Print Solutions

With the opening this semester of the University’s first retail printing center, BLUE print Solutions, MTSU brings state-of-the-art printing capabilities to campus.

The name is quite intentional: the printing center will do more than simply fulfill customer orders. The idea is to also provide creative solutions for a wide variety of graphic arts projects.

Combined with significant upgrades in equipment at the existing Greenland Drive print shop, MTSU has now added color printing options to its black-and-white printing choices. All services are offered at highly competitive prices.

Much like its commercial counterparts, BLUE print Solutions offers an array of auxiliary services ranging from publication binding, large-format posters, passport photos, and the like.

BLUE print Solutions is focused on meeting the needs of students first and foremost, but it will also cater to the needs of faculty, staff, and the administration. It will also serve alumni and the general public.

BLUE print Solutions will also greatly enhance MTSU’s relationship with Apple Inc.—there will be an Apple retail presence in the new facility.

BLUE print Solutions is located in the Student Union and will operate seven days a week with both day and nights shifts.

Budget Overview

Fiscal year 2014–15 will be the first year of full implementation of the state’s outcomes-based funding formula as called for in the Complete College Tennessee Act. Under the act, productivity rather than enrollment drives state funding distribution.

MTSU’s 2014–2015 outcomes formula adjustment will be a state funding increase of $1.252 million. Additionally, THEC voted at its November meeting to propose new state funding totaling $29.6 million for the higher education formula institutions. MTSU’s share of the proposed new funding will be $2.961 million. Thus, MTSU’s state funding could actually increase by $4.213 million.

The commission also voted to recommend $8.69 million in capital maintenance funds for MTSU projects, which include absorption chiller/tower replacement, electrical updates and exterior repairs to several buildings, Bell Street building and central plant HVAC and control updates, campus-wide domestic water-sewer systems updates, Peck Hall HVAC updates, Jones Hall plumbing updates, and campus stormwater plans. No MTSU capital project was proposed for new capital outlay funding for 2014–15.

THEC’s recommendations have been submitted to the Department of Finance and Administration for consideration in the proposed state budget that Governor Bill Haslam will be submitting to the state legislature in the coming weeks. At that point, we will have more information regarding our likely 2014–15 state appropriations.

Recruiting Efforts

student-successWe are working very hard every day to recruit the best and the brightest students to enroll at MTSU!

We have the names of more than 24,000 Tennessee freshmen prospects in our database, which we have purchased from ACT and other vendors or culled from visits to our website and meetings with recruiters.

Last semester, we mailed more than 29,000 individual visit and search pieces to prospective students.

During our True Blue Tour around the state, our admissions team hosted 616 students and 730 parents/guests—an 84.9 percent increase over our 2012 tour.

At our counselor luncheons, we hosted 262 high school and community college counselors—a 43.1 percent increase over 2012.

At our two Fall Preview Day events, we hosted 668 students and 986 parents/guests—a 125.6 percent increase in students over 2012. (Note that we had one Preview Day in fall 2012 versus two in fall 2013.)

At our three True Blue Experience events in the fall, we hosted 152 students and 188 parents/guests—a seven percent increase in students over 2012. (Beginning Fall 2013, True Blue Experience participants were capped to allow all students to be accommodated in a computer lab used to engage students in an on-line career discovery program.)

Last fall, we hosted 4,481 prospective students and families for tours—a 24.2 percent total increase, and a 40.7 percent increase in students alone over fall 2012.

In total (counting tours, Preview Days, and True Blue Experience Days), we experienced a 39 percent increase in visitors over 2012!

This coming spring, we have scheduled the following recruiting events:

Campus tours every weekday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Friday, January 31, 2014—True Blue Experience

Monday, February 17, 2014—Honors Open House and President’s Reception

Saturday, March 22, 2014—Preview Day

March/ April, TBD—Admitted Student Day

April, TBD—True Blue Experience for Central Magnet School/middle Tennessee students

Saturday, June 7—2014 Preview Day

True Blue Experience Day gives students and their guests a closer look at MTSU and focuses on helping prospective students choose a career path while learning about MTSU.

During Preview Day, MTSU rolls out the blue carpet and gives students and their guests an in-depth look at MTSU, allowing students to tour campus and housing facilities, meet with MTSU faculty and administrators, and learn about all aspects of MTSU.

Athletic Highlights

T.T. Barber, shown here forcing a fumble against Navy, was named the Blue Raiders’ MVP of the Armed Forces Bowl by members of the media.

T.T. Barber, shown here forcing a fumble against Navy, was named the Blue Raiders’ MVP of the Armed Forces Bowl by members of the media.

MTSU became a full-fledged member of Conference USA last summer, following 13 years in the Sun Belt Conference. On September 21, the Blue Raiders enjoyed their first competition against a Conference USA opponent when the football team traveled to Florida Atlantic and defeated the Owls in overtime 42–35. I am very proud of the strong transition our teams, coaches, and staffers have made to this new level of competition!


    • During the fall 2013 semester, nine of 15 teams had a semester GPA of 3.0 or higher; 85 student athletes made the Dean’s List (3.5+ GPA); and 27 had a perfect 4.0. Overall, 165 of 312 student-athletes had a 3.0 or higher (53 percent).
    • For the fourth consecutive year, all 17 of Middle Tennessee’s athletic teams earned a multiyear Academic Progress Rate (APR) of over 930, according to the annual report released by the NCAA in June. Twelve of MTSU’s 17 sports reached their highest APR average since scoring began in 2004–05. Two teams—men’s golf and men’s cross-country—received NCAA Public Recognition Awards based on their rank in the top 10 percent in each sport.
    • On November 4, MT Athletics, Sinclair Broadcasting, MTSU’s College of Mass Communication, and Nelligan Sports Marketing announced a partnership to broadcast an 11-game local television package consisting of one football game and 10 men’s and women’s basketball games. The entire 11-game production airs on MyTV 30 in Nashville, with the exception of one game that will be shown on CW 58. Students in the Electronic Mass Communication department will once again produce and direct all the broadcasts.
    • Head track and field coach Dean Hayes recently received the United States Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association’s Jimmy Carnes Distinguished Service Award, which is presented to those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their service to the association and to the sports of cross-country and track and field.
    • The Blue Raider football squad went 6–2 in league play and tied for second in the C-USA East Division on its way to accepting a bid to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl against Navy. Seventeen student-athletes played in the game (in Fort Worth, Texas) with a degree in hand. That total tied for fifth most nationally.
    • The Blue Raider women’s basketball team hosted the number-four ranked University of Tennessee squad in November, drawing a Murphy Center crowd of 11,227—the second largest in history. In December, the Blue Raiders also drew 10,028 attendees to the Murfreesboro City Schools Education Day game against Kennesaw State.
    • Conference USA announced the fall recipients of the league’s Spirit of Service Award, and sophomore soccer goalkeeper Kelsey Brouwer was among the 16 honorees. Brouwer logged 42 hours of community service during the summer and fall semester, volunteering at Hobgood Elementary School and coaching a youth soccer team. Brouwer has also donated her time with Habitat for Humanity and Grace Works Food Bank and helped with wetland reserve cleanup at Garrison Creek. She has also worked with the Rutherford Country Special Olympics. The Franklin native maintains a 3.919 cumulative GPA while majoring in business and minoring in economics and finance. She was named to the Conference USA All-Academic second team this fall and helped the Blue Raiders pick up their 12th consecutive National Soccer Coaches Association of America Team Academic Award. Brouwer’s high marks in the classroom helped MTSU post a 3.62 cumulative team GPA.
    • Volleyball’s Tyler Richardson garnered AVCA Honorable Mention All-America honors at the annual AVCA Convention in December. Richardson was also named to the AVCA South All-Region team and the All-Conference USA First Team. Richardson ranked 12th nationally in hitting percentage at .414 in 2013.
    • ESPN’s Gameday was in town in the fall to interview Blue Raider freshman Steven Rhodes.

      ESPN’s Gameday was in town in the fall to interview Blue Raider freshman Steven Rhodes.

      Freshman Steven Rhodes joined the football program following five years of service in the U.S. Marines last August. After he enrolled, the NCAA declared that he had only two years of eligibility and would have to sit out the 2013 season since he played recreational football as a Marine for two years. The story made the national news, which led quickly to an NCAA decision allowing Rhodes to play immediately (and maintain four years of eligibility). Rhodes played in all 13 games and had 10 tackles.

    • Men’s golf opened its season last fall at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, finishing ahead of preseason top-25 teams Texas, South Carolina, and North Florida. MTSU ended the fall season at the 2013 Warrior Princeville Makai Invitational in Hawaii, finishing ahead of 15th-ranked Baylor and 42nd-ranked ETSU, tallying a 19-under score of 845, the fifth best 54-hole total in school history.
    • Avery George of the women’s golf team earned Conference USA Golfer of the Week honors on Oct. 9. George was the only player in the 90-person field at the Lady Pirate Intercollegiate to shoot under par, posting a winning score of 215 for one-under par at the 6,004-yard, par 72 Greenville Country Club course.
Senior women’s basketball standout Ebony Rowe was named the NCAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Week on Dec. 3. She also reached 2,000 career points on Dec. 29 at Clemson, becoming just the second active NCAA player to have 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.

Senior women’s basketball standout Ebony Rowe was named the NCAA Women’s Basketball Player of the Week on Dec. 3. She also reached 2,000 career points on Dec. 29 at Clemson, becoming just the second active NCAA player to have 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career.

  • The men’s tennis team was ranked 50th in the nation in the preseason ITA poll announced Jan. 3. Sophomore David Fox was in both the national singles and doubles ranks as he prepares for his second season as a Blue Raider. A native of the United Kingdom, he is ranked 98th in the nation in singles competition and 22nd when teamed with fellow sophomore Victor Cornea in doubles.
  • Ground was broken Oct. 28 on a new indoor tennis facility at Old Fort Park that will greatly enhance MTSU’s tennis program and provide greater opportunities for the burgeoning local tennis community. The $3.7 million structure will feature eight indoor courts, an electronic scoreboard, a pro shop, locker rooms, a lounge area, and meeting area. The facility will be open to the general public and serve as the home of the Blue Raider men’s and women’s tennis programs. The project is part of the University’s $80 million Centennial Campaign announced in 2012. The state-of-the-art building is expected to be ready by fall 2014.
  • Middle Tennessee was one of just 12 programs nationally to go to a football bowl game and compete in both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments during the 2013 calendar year. Joining the Blue Raiders were North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, Miami (Florida), Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, UCLA, and Syracuse.

Capitol Street Party, President’s Report Get Top Honors

MTSU’s Nashville partnerships, including its work with Capitol Records and Metro Nashville schools, received top honors from the Tennessee College Public Relations Association, the university announced Friday.

MTSU received 19 honors from the Tennessee College Public Relations Association in its 2012-13 competition among marketing and communications operations at the state’s public and private higher-education institutions.

Professor Bob Gordon, shown standing fourth from right in the second row, and his student team from MTSU’s Department of Electronic Media Communication pause early Oct. 17 in their prep for the 2012 Capitol Street Party in Nashville featuring headliner Luke Bryan. The College of Mass Communication’s Mobile Production Truck was located at the corner of Second Avenue and Broadway. (MTSU file photo)Professor Bob Gordon, shown standing fourth from right in the second row, and his student team from MTSU’s Department of Electronic Media Communication pause early Oct. 17 in their prep for the 2012 Capitol Street Party in Nashville featuring headliner Luke Bryan. The College of Mass Communication’s Mobile Production Truck was located at the corner of Second Avenue and Broadway. (MTSU file photo)

It was the third consecutive year MTSU was at the top of the TCPRA honorees list. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville tied MTSU with 19, followed by Austin Peay State University with nine and Tennessee Tech University with eight.

Two of MTSU’s six Gold Awards were for its contributions to the 2012 Capitol Street Party in downtown Nashville (Best Special Event for less than seven days) and ongoing work with Metro Nashville schools (Best Special Event for more than seven days).

Students from MTSU’s College of Mass Communication held key production roles for the 2012 Capitol Street Party, which drew 14,000 on Nashville’s Lower Broadway on Oct. 17. More than 50 students modulated audio, staffed HD cameras and recorded the outdoor concerts by Capitol Records artists Luke Bryan, Jon Pardi and Kelleigh Bannen.

With Metro Nashville schools, MTSU was the lead sponsor of the Academies of Nashville Video Awards Show, the Nashville Career Fair and a partnership with The Tennessean to provide W.H. Oliver Middle School students with unique learning experiences and hands-on resources.

“Our efforts with the Capitol Street Party and Metro Nashville schools represent only a fraction of the good works done by MTSU throughout the region,” said Andrew Oppmann, associate vice president for marketing and communications. “We’re pleased those partnerships, along with the other work done to tell the university’s message, were recognized by our peers.”

The university received four other TCPRA Gold Awards:

  • President Sidney A. McPhee’s biennial report to the community, which detailed the university’s standing as the No. 1 producer of graduates in the Tennessee Board of Regents system, was honored for Best Report.
  • An episode of “Middle in a Minute,” the series of one-minute radio features that air on WMOT and the Blue Raiders Radio Network, was honored for Best Radio Public Service Announcement.
  • MTSU’s work to promote “Spring into Middle,” the annual April open-house weekend staged by the university’s Alumni Relations Office, was honored for Best Advertisement.
  • MTSU Magazine’s iPad edition and app, now available for free download on iTunes, was honored for Best Electronic College/Alumni Magazine.

MTSU’s Billy Pittard and Metro Nashville Public Schools administrator Dr. Chaney Mosley present the Best in Show check for $1,000 to the Academy of Health Science and Law at McGavock. The presentation was made in April at the second annual Academies of Nashville Video Awards Show. Left to right are Mosley; Elise Taylor, a student at McGavock; Barclay Randall, broadcasting teacher at McGavock; Robert Bagwell, student at McGavock; DeLaney Williams, a student at McGavock, and Pittard, chair of MTSU’s Department of Electronic Media Communication. (MTSU file photo)MTSU’s Billy Pittard and Metro Nashville Public Schools administrator Dr. Chaney Mosley present the Best in Show check for $1,000 to the Academy of Health Science and Law at McGavock. The presentation was made in April at the second annual Academies of Nashville Video Awards Show. Left to right are Mosley; Elise Taylor, a student at McGavock; Barclay Randall, broadcasting teacher at McGavock; Robert Bagwell, student at McGavock; DeLaney Williams, a student at McGavock, and Pittard, chair of MTSU’s Department of Electronic Media Communication. (MTSU file photo)

The university received seven Silver Awards from TCPRA:

  • Best Special Event (more than seven days) for MTSU’s True Blue Respect campaign;
  • Best Overall Promotion Campaign for the “I am True Blue” branding campaign;
  • Best Banners/Outdoor Media;
  • Best Photography for MTSU Magazine’s feature on the university’s Horse Science program;
  • Best Media Success Story for national outreach on professor Cliff Ricketts’ coast-to-coast trip with vehicles powered by hydrogen;
  • Best Radio Public Service Announcement for an episode of “Middle in a Minute;”
  • And Best Special Publication for the MTSU National Women’s History Month 2013 calendar.

And MTSU received six TCPRA Bronze Awards:

  • Best Feature Story for MTSU Magazine’s article on the university’s Horse Sciences program;
  • Best Social Media Success Story for the short film, “Santa Goes to College;”
  • Best Radio/TV Show or Newscast for WMOT’s “On the Record;”
  • Best Video Advertisement;
  • Best Print Advertisement;
  • And Best Media Success Story for national outreach on the groundbreaking of MTSU’s $147 million Science Building.

— Andrew Oppmann (andrew.oppmann@mtsu.edu)

MTSU Welcomes Delegation from China

As they stepped off the bus Tuesday outside MTSU’s Kennon Hall of Fame, many members among the delegation of 30-plus visitors from Hangzhou, China, had their smart phones in hand to capture a slice of American culture.

They were met by plenty of smiles, handshakes and music as band members and cheerleaders from Siegel High School, the Discovery School at Reeves Rogers, Central Magnet School and MTSU performed along a balloon-lined entrance to the Hall of Fame.

Once inside, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee officially welcomed the delegation of Chinese elementary and middle school children and educators to campus. They are visiting to develop student exchanges and cultural ties with Tennessee schools.

With translation assistance from Dr. Guanping Zheng, director of the MTSU Confucius Institute, McPhee noted that the visit “is the continuation of a partnership that began several years ago” when a former president of Hangzhou Normal University visited schools in Murfreesboro and East Tennessee to discuss collaboration between rural and urban schools in China and the United States.

MTSU cheerleaders welcome a delegation of elementary and middle school children and educators from Hangzhou, China. The university is hosting the special guests this week to develop student exchanges and cultural ties with Tennessee schools. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

The goal was to “exchange best practices in teaching and learning, to look at the resources and leverage the expertise of both the United States, particularly Tennessee, and China, and it has resulted in a wonderful partnership between Dongcheng Education Group, MTSU’s Confucius Institute and the schools in this area,” McPhee added.

The Chinese students will be paired throughout the four-day visit with Rutherford students who visited Hangzhou in July 2012. That visit was facilitated by the Confucius Institute, which works to develop cultural and educational ties between China and the United States.

Principal Liu Jinbin of the Dongcheng Education Group of Hangzhou Normal University expressed appreciation for the hospitality shown thus far. On Tuesday, that included some light-hearted ice-breaking activities such as teaching the Chinese students the Cupid Shuffle and a game of musical chairs.

“I see many familiar faces of those of you who visited China last year,” Liu said. “Our visit is to further our collaboration and partnership with Middle Tennessee State University and the school systems in Middle Tennessee. It will help us get a better understanding of the schools and education system.

“It’s my first time visiting the U.S., but I already feel like I have a lot of friends.”

Sally Smith, a seventh-grader at Central Magnet School, joined Central eighth-grader Eshan Patel in sharing historical and cultural facts about the local community with the Chinese delegation as well as sharing the group’s itinerary for the week.Hangzhou Normal logo

Chinese students will visit the homes of local children, tour historic and cultural sites in Nashville and Murfreesboro and participate in educational workshops. Stops include the State Capitol Building, the Grand Ole Opry, the Stones River National Battlefield and Cannonsburgh Village.

“It will truly be hard to live up to our visits to your homes,” Patel said.

Elizabeth McPhee, MTSU’s first lady and a retired teacher from the Discovery School at Reeves Rogers, was part of a committee of teachers, parents and administrators that organized the cultural exchange effort.

“The No. 1 thing we’re trying to accomplish is a merging of the cultures, getting our kids to learn from the Chinese and getting the Chinese to learn from us,” said Mrs. McPhee.

“It’s not just textbooks. Our students have had the opportunity to go to China, and not just go as a tourist, but to go and actually be in the homes of the families, and now we’re doing the same thing (for the Chinese delegation). They’re going to come and be in our homes, they’re going to go to some of our schools … and they’re going to see some of our best practices.”

Area and Chinese educators will participate in roundtable discussions about educational and leadership styles used in their respective schools and systems.

Later this week, officials from Murfreesboro City Schools, Rutherford County Schools, MTSU and the Dongcheng Education Group of Hangzhou Normal University hope to sign agreements to formalize future cooperation, including:

  • promoting institutional exchanges by inviting faculty and staff to participate in teaching and research activities and in professional development;
  • developing exchange programs, such as summer camps, in both China and Rutherford County; and
  • organizing symposia, conferences, short courses or programs, and meetings on educational issues or other topics of mutual interest.

— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)

This sign outside the Tom H. Jackson Building welcomes members of a Chinese delegation visiting campus and the community this week as part of an ongoing cultural exchange with MTSU. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)


MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, right, jokes with Liu Jinbin of the Dongcheng Education Group of Hangzhou Normal University today during a welcoming ceremony in the Kennon Sports Hall of Fame for a delegation of elementary and middle school children and educators from Hangzhou, China. The group is visiting to develop student exchanges and cultural ties with Tennessee schools. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)MTSU First Lady Elizabeth McPhee, a retired elementary-school teacher, speaks to a delegation of elementary and middle school children and educators from Hangzhou, China, today. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)


MTSU Paints the Town Blue for C-USA

Two hundred fourteen days since the initial announcement, it’s finally official: Middle Tennessee is a full-fledged member of Conference USA after 13 years in the Sun Belt Conference, and a citywide celebration, “Paint the Town Blue,” is underway today.

MTSU head football coach Rick Stockstill, center, talks with media during a “Paint the Town Blue” event today at Sam’s All American Sports Grill to celebrate the Blue Raiders’ official move to Conference USA from the Sun Belt Conference. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU fans filled the Sam’s All American Grill at the Stones River Mall to overflowing for the historic first-day event to celebrate the university’s new membership in C-USA.

Coaches and administrators were overjoyed at the turnout.

“It’s phenomenal,” football head coach Rick Stockstill said. “The support, the buzz, the excitement at Sam’s has been amazing.”

“This is exciting,” added women’s basketball coach Rick Insell. “I’m starting my ninth year here and I’ve never seen this much excitement and enthusiasm. The students, faculty, the players … it’s unbelievable. I could see this coming, and we’re not through yet.”

Director of Athletics Chris Massaro called it “a historic day for the university and it’s fun to share it with the fans. You can feel the excitement. I know our student-athletes and staff are excited. It’s a chance to elevate the entire university.”

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said that the university and the surrounding community are collaborating in a great partnership.

“To see the community come out and support the university and its athletic program, I’m really excited to see this kind of response,” he said.

“The university depends on this town and this town depends on the university. It’s a mutual relationship that is beneficial to both. And it’s great to see it working the way it is working.”

McPhee added that he had heard “reports of many of our fans wearing our (MTSU) shirts at the various businesses” holding events throughout the day.

Employees and owners of more than 50 businesses and restaurants wore specially designed T-shirts with the inaugural C-USA logo today throughout Murfreesboro.

“I think it’s really going to help us build our brand better and help grow athletics at MTSU,” Jonathan Sisco, a fifth-year senior pitcher/infielder from Murfreesboro who is currently recovering from shoulder surgery, said today at the Boulevard Bar and Grill across the street from the MTSU campus.

“I think the top-tier teams are definitely going to be a lot better competition for us.”

Head baseball coach Jim McGuire admitted that the travel in the new conference will be a bit tougher, but he noted that there will be two C-USA teams the Blue Raiders will not have to play each year they’re in the conference. Those teams will rotate and won’t be the same teams each season.

“Conference USA is one of the top baseball conferences in the country,” McGuire added. “It’s always rated somewhere from fifth to seventh.”

Jonathan Sisco

Football players distributed posters and schedule cards around town, and a handful were at Reeves-Sain Drug Store and at Chick-fil-A at the Murfreesboro Town Centre, signing autographs and providing information on the move to Conference USA.

On Sept. 21, the Blue Raiders will have their first competition against a Conference USA opponent when football travels to Florida Atlantic. Six days later, soccer hosts UAB, and volleyball travels to Rice. The first C-USA football game at home is Oct. 5 against East Carolina.

The C-USA membership also includes the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, East Carolina, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The league office is located in Irving, Texas.

As proud members of the Sun Belt Conference, the Blue Raiders dominated the conference by winning nine All-Sports trophies and 58 conference championships.

MT, which joined the Sun Belt on July 1, 2000, leaves the SBC with a league-best 50 conference football wins while also ranking first in victories over automatic qualifying conferences. Other notable milestones in the MT-Sun Belt partnership include:

  • MT’s four Overall Sun Belt Athletes of the Year and 40 Coach of the Year winners.
  • Men’s basketball head coach Davis’ status as the SBC’s all-time winningest coach.
  • The MTSU’s women’s basketball program winning more than 80 percent of its conference games.
  • The Blue Raiders also played on national television 46 times since 2004.


MTSU cheerleaders pose with golf coach Whit Turnbow, front right, and his daughter, Reagan, today during the university’s historic first day as a member of Conference USA. The citywide event was headquartered at Sam’s All American Sport’s Grill at the Stones River Mall. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)MTSU Blue Raiders Blaine Sidders, left, and Cody Clark sign a MTSU Football poster for a young fan today while celebrating the first-day Conference USA “Paint the Town Blue” event at the Chik-fil-A restaurant on Old Fort Parkway. (MTSU photo by Darby Campbell)


You can find more coverage of “Paint the Town Blue” here. You also can watch a video from the day’s events as well as one from last fall’s official C-USA announcement below.



Take a Digital Tour of the New MTSU Science Building

MTSU’s enrollment has almost quadrupled in the last 43 years—from 6,779 students in 1968 to 26,442 in fall 2011—with no increase in space for science education. The University’s existing Wiser-Patten Science Hall and Davis Science Building were built in 1932 and 1967, respectively, and have a combined total of only 75,332 net square feet.

The new MTSU Science Building will provide more than 250,000 gross square feet of teaching, faculty and student research laboratories and collaborative learning spaces. At least 80 percent of all MTSU students will take at least one class in the new building.

MTSU broke ground for the new Science Building May 3, 2012. (Watch the video below.) The facility is being constructed on the south side of campus adjacent to the James E. Walker Library on the site of the old Wood, Felder, Gore and Clement dorms.


Requested funding:

  • Gov. Bill Haslam included a $126.7 million capital-outlay funding request for the MTSU Science Building in his fiscal year 2012-13 budget. The General Assembly approved the budget April 30.
  • The new Science Building was the No. 1 priority in the MTSU Capital Outlay Funding Request, the No. 1 priority in the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Five-Year Capital Projects Plan and the No. 1 capital project request of the Tennessee Board of Regents.
  • The University’s 1991 and 1998 Master Plans identified the significant need for additional science space. The MTSU Science Building project was placed on the TBR Capital Outlay Priority List in 1998.
  • About $20 million has already been spent to prepare for construction of the Science Building. That money funded a new campus chilling plant, distribution lines, planning, site preparation and demolitions of the old dorms.

Cost and comparisons:

  • MTSU modeled 12 science buildings at other institutions in developing the plan for its new Science Building. The average cost for those 12 comparison facilities was $463.42 per gross square foot. MTSU selected the most similar example, the science building at the University of Alabama-Huntsville (bid January 2005). UAH’s comparative cost was $379/GSF, and MTSU’s target cost in planning was $380/GSF.
  • The MTSU project is only 16 percent larger than the Science Building at Austin Peay State University, yet MTSU has three times the number of APSU’s full-time enrolled students. With the new Science Building at MTSU, the density factor, or space available for each student, will be 149 square feet per full-time enrollee. The TBR’s current average density factor at its universities is 210 square feet per FTE.

General information:

  • Grounded in MTSU’s rich tradition of teacher training, the new MTSU Science Building will make full use of technology and contemporary research in teaching cognitive science. The entire facility will feature pedagogical design attributes nationally recognized as Project Kaleidoscope Initiatives, including discovery-based, group learning environments and spaces for informal discussion and collaborative interaction, all promoting an enhanced, 21st-century science education and research continuum.
  • Nearly all of MTSU’s 26,000-plus students will benefit from the improved science facilities. During fall 2010, more than 13,200 students, both majors and non-majors, were enrolled in biology, chemistry and physical science courses. Biology is a general-education requirement at MTSU, and science courses produce about 60,000 credit hours annually at the University.
  • Science courses to be offered in the new building serve academic programs beyond general education, biology and chemistry. Those additional programs include aerospace, agribusiness/agriscience, engineering technology, nursing, physics and astronomy, elementary education, teacher licensure in science education, wellness and exercise science in health and human performance, human sciences nutrition/food science/dietetics, geology, social work, and recording-industry production technology.
  • During the academic year 2009-10, MTSU granted almost 700 degrees in biology, chemistry and related fields. The University estimates that number could increase by 25 percent after the new Science Building is in operation.
  • Construction of the new Science Building will begin immediately after the May 3 groundbreaking, and the facility could be ready for use by spring 2015.

The new Science Building will:

  • enable the University to address needs identified in the America Competes Act by creating additional science graduates to fill high-technology jobs and teach science and math in K-12 schools;
  • enhance middle Tennessee’s regional economy by providing technical entrepreneurs and researchers who launch small businesses through ideas and research;
  • make MTSU and the state more competitive for federal grants and contracts in all areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and
  • support greater collaboration with Oak Ridge National Labs through MTSU’s new science doctoral programs.

Click on each of the thumbnails below (exterior, interior and campus-map location) for larger views.

MTSU Science Building - Exterior MTSU Science Building - Interior 

State Budget Formula Rewards Retention, Graduation

Fiscal year 2013–14 will be the third and final year of implementation of the state’s new outcomes-based funding formula, as called for in the Complete College Tennessee Act. Under the act, productivity rather than sheer enrollment drives state funding distribution. 

Based on this final phase, MTSU’s 2013–2014 recurring state funding will be reduced by $1,752,100. However, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) voted at its November 2012 meeting to propose new state funding totaling $35,500,000 for higher education institutions. MTSU’s share of the proposed new funding will be $3,470,600. Thus, MTSU’s state funding could actually increase by a net of $1,718,500.

The commission voted to recommend $7,590,000 in Capital Maintenance funds for MTSU projects, including the Murphy Center roof/ceiling replacement project; the Central Plant cooling tower replacement project; the Absorption Chiller/ Tower replacement project; the Jones Hall plumbing update project; and various projects entailing electrical updates to campus buildings.

THEC’s recommendations have been submitted to the Department of Finance and Administration for consideration in the proposed budget that Governor Bill Haslam will be submitting to the state legislature in the coming weeks. At that point, we will have more information regarding our likely 2013–14 state appropriations.