MTSU leads state in service to at-risk students

You may have heard or read that the University of Tennessee System announced Thursday that students eligible for Pell Grant aid (family income of $50,000 or less), and who qualify for the HOPE Lottery Scholarship, can attend one of their institutions without paying tuition or mandatory fees.

I’m proud to say that MTSU students in this category have attended our institution for years without paying tuition or mandatory fees. Our Admissions and Financial Aid teams are among the best at helping our at-risk students qualify for the full range of federal and state scholarships and assistance. About 50 percent of our students receive Pell aid (in contrast, about 30 percent of UT-Knoxville’s population receive Pell aid).

That’s why we are a destination of choice for first-generation college students. And we’ve done all of this while raising our admissions standards and setting records on average ACT scores of our incoming freshmen.

It is interesting to note that according to a recent New York Times database, the median family income of a student from Middle Tennessee State is $71,700, and 25% come from the top 20 percent of income strata. According to the same database, the median family income of a student from UT-Knoxville is $96,900, and 42% come from the top 20 percent.

It’s also important to remember that MTSU’s full-time undergraduate tuition and fees of $9,206 for the Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 semesters remains the lowest of the state’s three largest universities. University of Tennessee-Knoxville charges $13,006, while the University of Memphis charges $9,701. Our affordability makes MTSU more accessible to students from all income levels seeking a top-tier educational experience.

And, this year, we substantially increased the value and broadened eligibility of our Presidential Scholarship, which more than doubled the amount we awarded to some high-ability freshmen who will enroll this fall.

USA Today Network-Tennessee interviewed me in a story on the reaction of other university presidents to the announcement. In short, I said we at MTSU are pleased that UT has joined our university in expressing its commitment to serving the higher education needs of the state’s at-risk students. You can read it here: https://www.dnj.com/story/news/2019/03/15/ut-promise-mtsu-austin-peay-university-memphis-college-scholarships/3161338002/#_=_

Analysis of the Governor’s Budget

As you are aware, on Monday evening Governor Lee presented his 2019‐20 budget to the Tennessee General Assembly. We have conducted a preliminary analysis of the details of the Governor’s Budget and I wanted to outline how his proposed budget could affect our University, if approved by the Legislature.

Highlights of the budget as they relate to MTSU’s institutional needs and priorities are as follows:

• Net operating appropriations, which includes adjustments made through the funding formula, will increase by $3.8 million.

• Even though this year’s budget does not include a separate funding allocation for higher education salary increases, it does provide that additional funds can be used for salaries and/or operational expenditures at the discretion of the University. Increases over the past few years have been minimal but improving employee salaries remains my number one priority in establishing the University 2019-20 budget. I continue to make the case to our state legislative leaders and the executive branch, and more recently to our own Board of Trustees, regarding the importance of improving salaries for our employees. The Governor’s Budget included funding equivalent to a 2 percent salary pool for state agencies.

• A new 54,000 square foot academic facility to house the School of Concrete and Construction Management, ranked No. 3 on the higher education priority list by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, is among $133.1 million in capital outlay projects that Lee recommended for the state’s universities, community colleges and technical colleges. The recommendation would provide $34.1 million in state funding and require the university to raise $6.0 million through other sources, representing a total project cost of $40.1 million.

• The Governor recommended $73.4 million in capital maintenance funding for all of higher education, which includes funding for two (2) of MTSU’s six (6) recommended capital projects and additional funding for ADA projects, totaling $6.4 million.

• Establishes $3 million of recurring funding to the Bureau of TennCare for the Graduate Medical Education (GME) program—financial assistance for medical students—to increase the number of primary care providers in underserved rural areas of Tennessee. This funding could assist with a partnership we have with Meharry Medical College for a fast‐track program for select, qualified students to receive both an undergraduate degree from MTSU and a medical degree from Meharry in six years.

• In 2016, THEC recommended funding for the Tennessee Board of Regents’ (TBR) strategic initiative involving campus safety. This initiative involved requested funding of $8.9 million to implement the recommendations of the Safety and Security Task Force. Phase III funding for this initiative is included in the Governor’s Budget at $2 million for TBR and the Locally Governed Institutions (LGI’s). MTSU’s share of this funding will be $213,900.

With the limited operating appropriations provided in the budget to cover our fixed costs increases (i.e. faculty promotion increases, utilities, software maintenance, etc.) and increases in funding scholarships, we will once again be operating on a very tight budget. The FOCUS Act, if you will remember, also gives THEC the authority to issue a binding tuition and mandatory fees range that the University must stay within when raising tuition and fees. While the preliminary recommendation is for a tuition increase in the range of 0‐2.5%, the final range will not be issued until early May by THEC.

As the Legislature debates the final budget, we will continue to review additional information as it becomes available and incorporate the impact into the University’s budgeting process for the upcoming year. As future developments are known, I will continue to communicate with the campus through our campus website and with email messages to keep you abreast of the Legislature’s actions.

Sidney A. McPhee

International Relations

MTSU has strengthened its international initiatives both on campus and around the world. Those efforts boost student success through creating opportunities for travel, exposure to culture, and research opportunities.

Our most recent international outreach has included:

• For the second consecutive year MTSU professors taught at our partner university in China, Guangxi University (Nanning, China), in our support of the MTSU-GXU established 2+2 program. The faculty included Dr. Raholanda White (Marketing), who spent 2015 in Nanning and was invited back; Dr. Thomas Tang (Management); and Professor Lara Daniel (Accounting).

• MTSU faculty led a record number 24 MTSU signature programs during the 2015–16 academic year including many new, first-year programs—one in Africa, Dr. Aliou Ly’s History in Senegal, and one in the Middle East, Professor Ayaz Amed’s Concrete Industry Management in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Additional first-year programs include Dr. Priya Ananth’s MTSU in Japan, Dr. Lauren Rudd’s Fashion in Italy, Dr. Sarah Bergemann and Dr. Vincent Cobb’s Tropical Biology in Costa Rica, Dr. Richard Pace’s Archaeological Field School in the Brazilian Amazon, Dr. Mark Doyle’s MTSU in Scotland, Dr. Guangping Zheng and Dr. Kim Sokoya’s International Management in China, Dr. John Bodle’s Advertising, Public Relations and Tourism in Mexico, and Dr. James Chaney and Dr. Steve Morrison’s Cuba in the 21st Century. These were offered in addition to longstanding MTSU signature programs in Argentina, Belize, Canada, Finland. France, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Mexico Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Strengthening Ties

My personal 2016 travels to China resulted in several important new agreements and exchanges.

As a result of my May 2016 trip:

• Hangzhou Normal University, already partners in the operation of MTSU’s Confucius Institute, agreed to send graduate students to work at MTSU’s new Center for Chinese Music and Culture. HNU faculty members will also regularly visit Murfreesboro to perform in Chinese music ensembles organized by the center. HNU’s Alibaba Business College and MTSU’s Jones College of Business forged an exchange agreement.

• Plans were made for future student exchanges and joint faculty research efforts with Zhejiang University of Science and Technology that would boost international enrollment on the Murfreesboro campus.


Speaking May 2016 at the 16th International Congress on Ethnopharmacology in Yulin, China.

• MTSU’s research of traditional Chinese herbal remedies in modern medicine took center stage May 16 at an international conference in China where I was among the keynote speakers at the International Congress on Ethnopharmacology in Yulin.

• Guangxi University agreed to send 260 students to study at MTSU, almost doubling the goal set two years ago.

Next, my summer 2016 China trip was the continuation of a unique educational exchange organized by MTSU wherein several Rutherford County schoolchildren, parents, and teachers (28 in all) were welcomed to China for two weeks to visit classrooms, participate in enrichment activities, and go with Chinese families for home visits as part of the reciprocal exchange with Dongcheng Education Group of Hangzhou Normal University. Dongcheng oversees a network of magnet-style schools in Hangzhou. It is the third such trip led by my wife, retired Murfreesboro City Schools teacher Elizabeth McPhee, and me. Rutherford students visited China in 2012 and 2014, and Dongcheng students came to Murfreesboro in 2013 and 2015. During this trip, Elizabeth, aided by teachers in the delegation, conducted a joint class for Chinese and American students, then hosted a workshop for Chinese teachers. While there are many other cultural-exchange programs between nations, I think this program is one of the most unique and one of the most successful in the world.

Graduate Studies Update

MTSU is continuing to evolve into a powerhouse in graduate education and a burgeoning research institution with the promise of significant results now and in the near future.

At the Spring 2016 commencement, in a first-ever special graduation ceremony for graduate students, 349 students were presented with graduate degrees, including 316 master’s candidates, 16 education-specialist degree candidates, and 17 doctoral candidates. Four graduate students also received graduate certificates. Paired with that, we also witnessed an increase in the number of students accepted into graduate programs for spring 2016.

The College of Graduate Studies experienced several
other significant successes in the past year. Here are just
a few examples.

  • Collectively, our doctoral programs graduated a record number in summer 2016 with 35 graduates. Ten of these are our first Ed.D. graduates in Assessment, Learning, and School Improvement.
  • The success of the Ph.D. program in English is evidenced by the fact that 12 recent graduates are all employed in faculty positions.
  • We have a Fulbright Scholar entering the Recording Arts and Technologies M.F.A. program.
  • M.S. in Professional Science programs continue to be considered a national model of how to successfully create and operate such a program (we achieved national recognition and a successful external review in 2016).
  • We are building upon the success of Computer and Information Systems, Computer Science, Computational Science, and the M.S. in professional Science programs in general, working on the creation of a new Data Science concentration for the Professional Science M.S. to fill the growing need for computer and information science skills in the middle Tennessee area.
  • We are experiencing a resurgence in the creation of Education cohorts throughout middle Tennessee (five to nine new cohorts in development).
  • Our Regional Scholars program is already impacting enrollment, with more than 30 new eligible out-of-state students within 250 miles of the MTSU campus enrolled in graduate studies.

True Blue!


The University’s advancement efforts continue to bring valuable resources to campus, impacting all areas of the University.

paula-mansfieldkbOn May 1, MTSU welcomed Paula Mansfield as the new director of partnerships and strategic planning.  This newly established position will provide leadership in proactively securing and managing corporate and business relationships for the University, providing a central


Joe Bales, MTSU Vice President for University Advancement

point of contact and access for key partners.  Initially identified as a long-term institutional need during our Positioning for the Future initiative, the director of partnerships and strategic planning will seek to foster mutually beneficial relationships with the area’s leading employers by enhancing employment and experiential learning opportunities for our students, marketing our research capabilities, and identifying and pursuing workforce educational needs and programs.



Delivering a speech at the conclusion of our $105 million Centennial Campaign earlier this year.

Earlier this year, I was proud to make the announcement that the University had 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. 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. Haslam praised the University in video remarks played at the February announcement, noting that the momentum from this campaign will guarantee the continued growth and success for MTSU and help assure that MTSU will continue to prosper as a nationally acclaimed, comprehensive university.

In all, the $105 million was the result of more than 111,000 separate gifts from 23,276 different donors.


Campaign co-chair Pam Wright.


Construction Update

MTSU continues to be an exciting place to work and study, in large part because of so many renovations and the new buildings underway or opening for use. Here is a brief update on recent and current projects.

Master Plan

The MTSU Master Plan was reviewed and approved on Aug. 11 by the State Building Commission. The plan features proposed new facilities for Behavioral and Health Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Liberal Arts, the School of Music, Engineering Technology and Concrete Industry Management, and new student housing in the future, as well as other MTSU Athletics and support facilities. In addition, new parking decks are planned on the perimeter of campus along with infrastructure improvements to support the growth of the campus.

Academic Building for the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences

On July 14, the State Building Commission approved full planning of the proposed Academic Building for the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences. Funding in the amount of $1.6 million was approved to complete the design and bid-ready documents, and preparations are underway to begin the design work. Construction funding is listed as a priority project on TBR’s capital outlay funding request and is anticipated to move up in priority in
the next state legislative session.

Davis Science and Wiser-Patten Science Renovations

Project completion is planned by late fall for this crucial renovation project, costing approximately $20 million in state money already allocated during the construction of our new $147 million Science Building project. A new connector between the Davis Science Building and Wiser-Patten Science Hall—the Strobel Lobby—will create a central entrance for both buildings and will provide ADA accessibility within both buildings. Occupants of the buildings will include College of Basic and Applied Sciences new academic advising offices, Geosciences, and new Mechatronics Lab in Davis Science, and Physics, Anthropology, and Forensic Science in Wiser-Patten. Wiser-Patten building construction is approximately 95 percent complete, and Davis Science is approximately 85 percent complete. Equipment and furnishings will be installed through the end of the summer and fall, and the new and returning occupants will move in late fall and over the holiday break before the spring 2017 semester.

Capital Maintenance

A five-year project to provide an underground electric distribution system is now installed throughout the campus, and the long-range project is substantially complete. The improved system created an additional electrical feed into the campus, removed overhead lines, and installed the electrical distribution in underground conduit duct banks. With the addition of a second Murfreesboro Electric Department substation, the campus is well prepared for current loads as well as future growth, and the system protects the grid from weather-related problems. Major maintenance projects to replace major steam and condensate lines, upgrades of elevators in Corlew, and replacement of an old chiller giving full chilling capacity for the campus all were completed this summer. New maintenance projects totaling $6.73 million in state capital funding were approved by the State Building Commission for fiscal year 2016–17. These projects include repairs to building exteriors, electrical equipment replacements and upgrades, Saunders Fine Arts HVAC connection to the Central Plant and window replacements, boiler replacements, and energy controls improvements.

Miller Education Center Renovation


Miller Education Center

The renovation of the Miller Education Center (MEC), formerly the Bell Street Center, opened for the start of last semester. The center is an approximately two-minute drive from the edge of campus, located at the intersection of Greenland Drive, Highland Avenue, and Bell Street. New occupants include the Jennings A. Jones College of Business Center for Executive Education, the University College, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, and the Center for Chinese Music and Culture. The Chinese cultural center is the result of a $1 million grant provided by Hanban Confucius Institute in Beijing, an organization sponsored by China’s education ministry that oversees more than 440 institutes in 120 countries. In collaboration with our sister university, Hangzhou, the new center will promote music as a vital element in education and understanding of Chinese people and culture.


Grand Opening celebration of MTSU Chinese Music & Culture Center inside Miller Education Center

MT Athletics

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

One Shining Moment

Our University received untold attention around the nation during March Madness when the 15th-seeded Blue Raider men’s basketball team scored its stunning upset, 90-81, over No. 2 seed Michigan State in a NCAA Tournament bracket-buster. The resulting media and social media spotlight on MTSU and our community was priceless.

Blue Raiders MT Athletics

It seemed like almost everyone, everywhere, was True Blue, if only for a few moments.
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.

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.

Vitale, the iconic ESPN basketball analyst who had picked Michigan State to win it all, called it “one of the all-time shockers.” The game also was deemed the biggest upset in tournament history by the likes of Sports Illustrated and USA Today.

The Spartans were favored by oddsmakers to win the national title, and MTSU was a 16- to 17-point underdog going into the game. Seven other No. 15 teams had registered wins over No. 2 seeds, but none beat a No. 2 that was so highly regarded. All five Middle Tennessee starters scored in double figures: Reggie Upshaw (21 points), Giddy Potts (19), Darnell Harris (15), Perrin Buford (15) and Jaqawn Raymond (11).

In interviews beamed around the world in the afterglow of the upset, Coach Kermit Davis became an instant media superstar and talked about the importance that the win had in bolstering MTSU’s brand. He anticipated that a lingering benefit of the victory would be increased visibility of the University not just on athletics, but also academics.


Coach Kermit Davis cuts the nets at C-USA Championship

This group of student-athletes also put MTSU on an exclusive list of only seven programs to win an NCAA Tournament game AND boast an NCAA graduation rate of 100 percent. Additionally, the Blue Raiders have the most wins (123) of any Division I school in the state of Tennessee the past five years and have captured five conference titles in the past seven seasons.

Coach Davis likened athletics to being “the front porch of the University” and expressed hopes that the student-athlete success on the court “puts a brighter bulb over the door and shines some attention on our faculty, our academic programs, and our students.”

The University’s marketing team produced new TV commercials, secured air time during the NCAA second round across Tennessee, and upped advertising on social media and electronic billboards as part of MTSU’s Take a Closer Look campaign. The latter encourages students


Coach Rick Insell cuts nets at women’s C-USA Championship

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.”

Coach Davis said he enjoys helping spread the True Blue message, including to students or parents who may not have ever considered MTSU. And I’m happy to say he recently signed an eight-year contract extension through 2023–24.

It’s impossible to put a price tag on the extensive exposure on varied platforms that the historic NCAA victory brought to the University.

Blue Raider Duo Makes Olympics

rio-2016-logotransFormer Middle Tennessee standout John Ampomah and current Blue Raider runner Janet Amponsah qualified for the Olympic games in Rio for their native Ghana after hitting the IAAf qualifying standards at the Soga-Nana Memorial meet. Ampomah, who finished third at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the javelin and second at the Senior African Championships, broke his own national record with a throw of 83.09 meters (272-7) at Cape Coast Stadium. Amponsah, who is labeled the Ghanaian sprint queen, qualified in the 200 meters after running a personal-best 22.99 seconds. Amponsah was also the anchor leg in Ghana’s 4x100-meter relay, which qualified for Rio in a national-record 42.67 seconds.

Men’s Track Finishes 18th in Nation

The Middle Tennessee men’s outdoor track team capped off an exciting season by finishing 18th nationally. The Blue Raiders’ 18th-place finish was the second-highest outdoor finish in program history behind the 2003 squad’s 17th-place finish.

Other Highlights

  • During the Spring 2016 semester,
    12 of 15 teams had a semester team grade point average of 3.0 or higher; 90 student-athletes made the Dean’s List (3.5+ GPA), and 30 had a perfect 4.0. Overall, 174 of 304 student-athletes had a 3.0 or higher (57%).
  • Outfielder Blake Benefield, named to the Louisville Slugger All-American Baseball team, became just the fifth freshman All-American in program history and 16th player overall.
  • Former Blue Raider golfer Kent Bulle (2006–10), who plays on the Web.com Tour, saw a dream come true as he qualified for the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. He is only the second Blue Raider to ever play in the U.S. Open.
  • For the second consecutive year, Middle Tennessee men’s tennis has notched the No. 25 recruiting class in the country, according to tennisrecruiting.net.
  • Max Rauch, Tom Moonen and Nicolas Buitrago all join the team this fall.
  • Eliud Rutto was named Conference USA Male Track Athlete of the Year, and fellow junior Elizabeth Dadzie was voted C-USA Field Athlete of
    the Year by conference coaches.
  • The MTSU women’s golf team won its second straight Conference USA tournament, and Chris Adams was tabbed the C-USA Coach of the Year.
  • Pitcher Kelci Cheney, an Exercise Science major with a 3.74 GPA, was named to the 2016 Conference USA Softball All-Academic Team in May.
  • The baseball team (3.329 GPA) and men’s tennis team (3.385) each repeated as C-USA Sport Academic Award winners for 2015–16 year.
  • The Tennessee Sports Writers Association voted MTSU guard
  • Brea Edwards their women’s basketball Player of the Year.
  • Blue Raider soccer standout Kelsey Brouwer was MTSU’s nominee for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

Searches Underway to Fill Dean Vacancies

The searches for new deans to lead the Jennings A. Jones College of Business and the College of Mass Communication began in early fall with the announced retirements of Dean Jim Burton and Dean Roy Moore.

The searches, now in full swing, are remarkable in two ways. First, in order to cast the broadest net possible to find a dynamic, visionary, and collaborative dean for each college, industry and community leaders are chairing the searches. Paul W. Martin Jr., chief managing member of Clarity Resources, is chairing the search for a new dean in business; Peter Fisher , vice president and general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, is chairing the mass communication search.

Second, the University has hired a private executive search firm, funded by private dollars. Parker Executive Search is actively soliciting nominations from academic and industry circles. The positions are being advertised nationally and internationally. When candidates are selected, the search committees, comprised of faculty, students, staff, and community representatives, will begin reviewing them. The goal is to have new deans selected by the beginning of April and for them to assume their posts by July 1, 2013.


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