NASA engineer Bowe visits MTSU, Hobgood Elementary

NASA engineer Aisha Bowe will be visiting MTSU Wednesday and Thursday, April 16-17, and Hobgood School, a NASA Explorer School, Thursday morning, while in Murfreesboro for MTSU National Women's History Month activities. (Submitted photo)

NASA engineer Aisha Bowe will be visiting MTSU Wednesday and Thursday, April 16-17, and Hobgood School, a NASA Explorer School, Thursday morning, while in Murfreesboro for MTSU National Women’s History Month activities. (Submitted photo)

MTSU students and faculty and the students at nearby Hobgood Elementary School (a NASA Explorer School) are in for a treat Wednesday and Thursday, April 16-17, as Aisha Bowe, an award-winning NASA engineer, will be visiting Murfreesboro.

Bowe, who works in the flight trajectory dynamics and controls branch of the Aviation Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center, will be spending time with MTSU students individually and in groups; and providing a National Women’s History Month lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Business and Aerospace Building Room S128. The women in science lecture is free and open to the public.

Bowe also met with Provost Brad Bartel earlier in the day and attended a reception.

Thursday morning at 9:30, after having breakfast with students and faculty, Bowe will visit an Honors physical science class in Alumni Memorial Gym Room 115; the Nassau, Bahamas, native plans to meet President Sidney A. McPhee, also a Bahamas native, at 10:30 in his office.

At approximately 11 a.m., Bowe will be driven to Hobgood, where she will meet and have lunch with students and teachers. Bowe has a scheduled afternoon meeting with MTSU administrators Mike Allen and Todd Gary before leaving campus.

Bowe’s work is focused on developing methods to maintain safe separation of air traffic and optimize fuel consumption within an automated system. NASA Ames is renowned for its world-class research in air traffic management conducted in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration to make air travel safer, cheaper and more efficient.

Bowe has received numerous awards for her dedication to technical excellence and the principles of diversity and opportunity, including: NASA’s Engineering Honor Award, NASA’s Honor Award for Equal Employment Opportunity, a NASA Ames Spotlight Award for Equal Opportunity and Diversity Excellence, the National Society of Black Engineers 21st Century Trailblazers in Aviation and Aerodynamics Award and the National Society of Black Engineers Outstanding Technical Contribution Award.

Her activities also have been featured on NASA NOW, Bahamas Weekly and Telemundo.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

U.S. diplomatic official to discuss Iraq, Afghanistan April 22

A top U.S. diplomatic official will offer his perspective on one of the world’s most volatile regions in an address at MTSU.

Jason Lewis-Berry will talk about “Conflict Prevention and Response after Iraq and Afghanistan” at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 22, in the Tom Jackson Building. A searchable campus map with parking details is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap13-14.

Lewis-Berry’s address, which is free and open to the public, marks the Senior Practitioner Inaugural Lecture in International Affairs.

Jason Lewis-Berry

A component of MTSU’s master’s degree program in international affairs, this initial offering in what will become a yearly lecture series is intended to provide greater insight into the complex issues facing the world and how key players deal with them.

The master’s degree program, which is offered by the MTSU Department of Political Science, will recruit future lecturers from international organizations, business corporations and governmental agencies.

Lewis-Berry has been director of overseas operations in the Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations since March 2008. He was an adviser to nonviolent civilian Syrian opposition groups in Turkey in 2013 and partnered with U.S. special operations forces to coordinate strategy against militant movements in central Africa from 2011 to 2012.

He served as chief of staff for the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team in 2010, managing the daily operations of a binational group working in support of the Afghan government.

Lewis-Berry also has led multinational civil-military planning and assessments in the field in Mexico, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The U.S. State Department can deploy him to unstable environments worldwide on 48 hours’ notice.

A team member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Truman National Security Fellow, Lewis-Berry holds a master’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.

A free public reception will follow the address.

For more information, contact Dr. Moses Tesi at 615-898-5731 or moses.tesi@mtsu.edu or the MTSU Department of Political Science at 615-898-2708.

To learn more about MTSU’s international relations master’s degree, listen to an interview with Tesi on “MTSU On the Record” from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Sunday, April 20, on WMOT-FM (89.5 and www.wmot.org).

Gina K. Logue (Gina.Logue@mtsu.edu)

Gruhn launches new guitar series at MTSU Center for Popular Music

George Gruhn, renowned expert on vintage guitars, will make a stop at MTSU Tuesday, April 8, to kick off a special series of discussions on “The American Guitar” in a free public event at the university’s Center for Popular Music.

Click on the poster to see a high-resolution version.

Gruhn, who owns Nashville’s Gruhn Guitars, a mecca for musicians and collectors worldwide, will speak on “American Fretted Instruments: History and Development” beginning at 4 p.m. in the center’s reading room, located in Room 140 of the Bragg Mass Communication Building on campus.

Gruhn has been a featured columnist for Vintage Guitar, Guitar Player, Pickin’, Frets and Bluegrass Unlimited, and is the co-author of “Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars,” a comprehensive field guide to vintage fretted instruments and the companion volumes “Acoustic Guitars and Other Fretted Instruments” and “Electric Guitars and Basses.”

His presentation will cover the history and development of fretted instruments in America. Gruhn also plans to point out the distinctions that make a truly great instrument different from those that are merely good utilitarian tools.

This inaugural event by the Center for Popular Music at MTSU will be followed by a multi-year series of lectures, presentations, concerts, workshops and demonstrations, all concerned with the guitar.

The Center for Popular Music is a research center devoted to the study and scholarship of popular music in America. Established in 1985 by the Tennessee Board of Regents as one of 6 Centers of Excellence across the TBR system, MTSU’s CPM maintains an archive of research materials stretching from the early 18th century to the present and develops and sponsors programs in American vernacular music.

For more information on the Center for Popular Music and its projects, visit http://popmusic.mtsu.edu.

MTSU students gain valuable tips, insights at nonprofit summit

Now president and CEO of the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, Meagan Flippin told MTSU students Friday that career opportunities abound in the nonprofit sector for those students willing to build relationships, develop mentors and exceed expectations.

“Anything worthwhile is not easy,” said Flippin, an MTSU alumna and one of several nonprofit professionals featured at the inaugural Nonprofit & Social Innovation Student Summit at MTSU. “But the rewards far outweigh the challenges.”

Meagan Flippin, CEO of the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, spoke to MTSU students Friday, April 4, about nonprofit leadership during an opening session at the inaugural Nonprofit & Social Innovation Student Summit at MTSU. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

Meagan Flippin, CEO of the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, spoke to MTSU students Friday, April 4, about nonprofit leadership during an opening session at the inaugural Nonprofit & Social Innovation Student Summit at MTSU. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

MTSU students looking to turn their passions into careers were invited to the summit, which featured sessions throughout the day inside the Business and Aerospace Building on the MTSU campus.

Professor Leigh Anne Clark, who teaches a nonprofit management class and was a key organizer for the event, said about 175 students registered, exceeding expectations for what organizers say will be an annual event.

“The purpose of the summit is to inspire people to take something that they’re interested in and run with it,” Clark said, adding that students learned “the skillsets that they’re needing to work in these areas.”Print

Flippin, who earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations and master’s degree in strategic communication from MTSU, told students that nonprofits are looking to recruit “new blood” into their organizations, but are more selective in hiring as more competitive salaries are offered to attract top talent.

Having a well-rounded skillset is critical in landing a good job, added Flippin, who noted the personal benefit of acquiring budget and financial knowledge in running a United Way organization that saw a record $3.4 million in pledges this past year.

“You’ll probably be in a position where you’ll wear multiple hats,” she said.

The summit was hosted by the Jones College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts in partnership with the departments of Management and Marketing, Business Communication and Entrepreneurship, and Speech and Theatre (Organizational Communication).

MTSU student Cheyenne Plott, a junior organizational communications major from Lewisburg, Tenn., volunteers with the nonprofit Christians United for Israel and attended Flippin’s session, entitled “Becoming a Nonprofit Leader.” Plott said she attended to pick up leadership tips as she continues to consider whether a career in the nonprofit sector is in her future.Liberal Arts workmark-web

“I thought this session was particularly helpful,” said Plott, explaining that Flippin’s presentation helped her identify some target areas for personal development. “Definitely on building relationships. I know that’s key, but that tends to fly out of my head a lot of times, so I need to really focus on that.”

Jennifer Seratt, principal with Provident Consulting Inc. in Smyrna, Tenn., spoke to MTSU students Friday, April 4, about effective networking during an opening session at the inaugural Nonprofit & Social Innovation Student Summit at MTSU.

Jennifer Seratt, principal with Provident Consulting Inc. in Smyrna, Tenn., spoke to MTSU students Friday, April 4, about effective networking during an opening session at the inaugural Nonprofit & Social Innovation Student Summit at MTSU.

Fellow student Taylor Roberson, a junior social work major from Murfreesboro, wants to start her own nonprofit focused on helping youth who are aging out of foster care. Her take-away was similar to Plott’s.

“My goal is to start networking, building relationships,” Roberson said. “That’s not something that I’ve actively been doing, but know that I really need to.”

Flippin’s session was followed by a presentation from Ronni Shaw, director of the Jennings and Rebecca Jones Foundation, which provided funding support for the summit. Shaw, who has worked in a variety of nonprofit roles locally, advised students to always be open to learning — whether from the wisdom of experienced nonprofit professionals or from the technological savvy and fresh ideas of younger co-workers and colleagues.

“Always have your ears open, be talking to people and reflecting on who you are and what your talents and skills are,” she said.

Students attending the summit were asked to create a personal action plan for taking steps to reach their career goals in a specific area. Students had access Friday to community leaders to assist them with creating plans as well as the opportunity to join small peer groups to provide ongoing feedback and accountability.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)

Human rights abuse in Mexico is topic of April 2 event at MTSU

Human rights activists are coming to MTSU to discuss their work for the indigenous peoples of southern Mexico.

Azalia Hernandez of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Human Rights Center and Stuart Schussler of Mexico Solidarity Network will speak at 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, in the Tom Jackson Building on campus. A searchable campus map with parking notes is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap13-14.

Stuart Schussler

Azalia Hernandez

The presentation will be in Spanish with English interpretation by Mexico Solidarity Network. This event is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Department of Political Science, the Department of History, Global Studies and the Office of International Affairs.

Hernandez will discuss the center’s work in Chiapas, a poverty-stricken region of Mexico beset with violence against the indigenous population.

The conflict dates back to the 1990s, when a paramilitary group called the Zapatistas violently struck a blow for regional autonomy. Initially, the Mexican government quelled the uprising.

Since then, local residents have accused the government of backing other paramilitary groups to fight the Zapatistas, anyone believed to be allied with them or anyone who documents and reports human rights abuses. The government denies these accusations.

In addition to denouncing human rights violations, the Zapatistas and other indigenous groups continue to exercise their human rights positively by organizing autonomous health, education, agriculture and self-government projects.

Schussler will discuss Mexico Solidarity Network’s International Autonomous University, an institution offering instruction at “the undergraduate and graduate level on the theory and practice of social movements, popular education pedagogy and community-based research,” according to www.mexicosolidarity.org.

Schussler is a professor of social movement analysis in the study-abroad and master’s degree programs and also a speaking tour coordinator. He holds a master’s degree in international relations from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales-Ecuador and a bachelor’s degree from DePauw University.

For more information, contact Dr. Stephen Morris, chair of the MTSU Department of Political Science, at 615-494-7687 or stephen.morris@mtsu.edu.

Gina K. Logue (Gina.Logue@mtsu.edu)

Domestic violence expert addresses stalking at MTSU April 2

A 21-year veteran of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department will share his expertise on the subject of stalking with the MTSU community.

Mark Wynn

Mark Wynn will deliver a free public presentation on “Stalking and Counter-Stalking” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, in the State Farm Lecture Hall of MTSU’s Business and Aerospace Building.

Wynn will discuss the growing crime of stalking in domestic violence incidents and on college campuses. A video about Wynn’s life at www.wynnconsulting.com explains that he tried to kill his alcoholic stepfather at age 7 to save his mother from being beaten.

“Every time that I stand up and I speak against domestic violence, I’m standing up and speaking against him and what he did to us,” Wynn said in the video.

Wynn was appointed to the executive committee of Mayor Karl Dean’s Nashville-Davidson County Domestic Violence Safety and Accountability Assessment in 2013.

He received the Family Justice Center Lifetime Alliance Achievement Award in 2012 and the Visionary Award from End Violence International and the Distinguished Faculty Award from the National District Attorneys Association in 2011.

Wynn has served as a consultant to the National Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime and to the Training and Technical Assistance Center of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime.

He has appeared on numerous television programs, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Dateline NBC” and “NBC Nightly News.”

This event is sponsored by the MTSU National Women’s History Month Committee and the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students. For more information, contact Sara Croft at 615-898-5812 or sec4e@mtmail.mtsu.edu.

Gina K. Logue (Gina.Logue@mtsu.edu)

State chamber official visits MTSU March 31 for chemistry lecture

Ruth Woodall

Ruth Woodall

Ruth Woodall will share the story of a Tennessee woman who is using her degree to fulfill her dream during the 2014 Woman in Chemistry Invited Lecture at MTSU starting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 31, in Cantrell Hall of the Tom H. Jackson Building.

The event, which is part of National Women’s History Month activities at MTSU, is open to the public. To find the event location and parking, a printable campus map can be found at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap13-14.

Woodall is associate vice president for Education and Workforce Development with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Tennessee Manufacturers Association. In another role, she is councilor with the Nashville Section of the American Chemical Society and 2013 recipient of the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach. A 6 p.m. reception will precede Woodall’s talk.

Woodall is an advocate for the MTSU Women in STEM Center and GRITS — or Girls Raised in Tennessee Science— program.

The Nashville Section of the American Chemical Society and the National Women’s History Month Committee are sponsoring the event.

For more information, call chemistry professor Judith Iriarte-Gross at 615-904-8253 or email Judith.Iriarte.Gross@mtsu.edu.

Musician George Dennehy shares infectious message of joy at MTSU

George Dennehy offers many messages in his music — love, gratitude, determination, acceptance, faithfulness — but the one that seems to permeate the young singer-songwriter’s conversation is joy.

George Dennehy

If he’s not chuckling at a tale he’s about to tell, he’s leaping up to demonstrate an unexpected challenge to his audience.

“I really wanna see you guys try to write your name with one of your feet. You don’t have to participate, but if you wanna be my friend …” the Virginia resident said with a wide grin Wednesday at MTSU during a special master class and Q-and-A session before the annual VSA Tennessee Young Soloist competition.

Several in the audience of about 50 students complied with Dennehy’s request, pulling off socks and shoes and clutching pens with chilled toes to scrawl across scraps of paper. Dennehy inspected the attempts, praising the writers for their efforts.

“You guys practice, and when I come back, we’ll start a footwriting club here on campus,” he joked. Dennehy then whipped off his soft driving moccasins and demonstrated how he’s used a pencil since he learned to write as a young child.

Dennehy, who was born without arms, was a featured performer at the Young Soloist event in MTSU’s Wright Music Building, which included eight talented young Tennessee musicians aiming for a national contest in June in Washington, D.C.

VSA Tennessee is the state organization on arts and disability that was established on the MTSU campus. It’s also an affiliate of VSA, the international organization on arts and disabilities founded in 1974 by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith and formerly known as Very Special Arts.

An internationally recognized musician and inspirational speaker, Dennehy is matter-of-fact about the challenges he faces every day, as well as the accomplishments.

An American family adopted Dennehy at 18 months old from a Romanian orphanage. He learned to play the cello by age 8 and advanced in classical music until he was performing with regional orchestras. Dennehy also taught himself guitar, electric bass and basic piano — all played with his feet — to be “normal, to try to fit in.”

George Dennehy, left, a Virginia-based musician and inspirational speaker, talks with a group of MTSU students Wednesday during a special master class in the College of Education Building. Dennehy performed with the 2012 VSA Tennessee Young Vocalist contestants later that night in the Wright Music Building. (MTSU photos by Darby Campbell)

A homemade YouTube video of Dennehy’s acoustic version of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” catapulted him into Internet fame, leading to a live performance of the song with the band at Musikfest 2012 in Bethlehem, Pa. (You can see a portion of that performance in the PBS story about Dennehy at the end of this article.)

He performed an acoustic cover of Howie Day’s “Collide” for his afternoon MTSU audience, demonstrating the style that’s making him a successful career as both a musician and speaker advocating for adoption and disability awareness.

“Everybody just wants to be loved. Everybody wants a buddy. Everybody just wants a high five. Well, except for me. If you try and give me a high five, it turns into an awkward situation real fast,” Dennehy said with a laugh, demonstrating the “foot five,” a quick tap of shoe soles in solidarity, he uses to meet the need instead.

The self-described “goofball” explained that while his family has supported all his efforts, he became deeply depressed in high school after years of bullying and frustration over his physical differences.

Now 20 and joyfully married with a baby on the way, Dennehy recalled a point when he seriously contemplated suicide, “wrote a note and everything,” and then experienced an abrupt emotional transformation that led him to realize that he had work to do on earth.

George Dennehy warms up on the guitar before speaking to a group of MTSU students Wednesday during a special master class in the College of Education Building.

“I’m a strong believer that no one is here by accident,” he said. “I believe that every dream, no matter how big or how small or how totally crazy, is possible to achieve. I believe we’re all here for our dreams. And we’re all here to help each other out. We’re here to do something bigger than ourselves.”

Helping out at the VSA competition was the role of MTSU professor Lori Kissinger’s Organizational Communication in Communities EXL Class, which handled logistics for this year’s event as they did the 2013 concert.

Kissinger’s students regularly help with VSA events as part of her experiential learning classes, coordinating events like last fall’s National Christmas Tree decorating party and the fall 2012 “Golden Ratio Project,” an arts performance that traveled to Athens, Greece, for an international arts education exchange.

Nashvillian Kristen Wright is the 2014 VSA Tennessee Young Soloist winner, and Logan Blade of Columbia, Tenn., is the runner-up.

Each state’s Young Soloist winner receives a small monetary award, a plaque and performance opportunities. Recordings of performances by the top two state winners are submitted to the national VSA Young Soloist Competition. Winners at the national level receive $5,000 scholarships and the opportunity to perform at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

For more information about VSA Tennessee, visit www.vsatn.org or contact Kissinger at userk7706@comcast.net or 615-210-8819.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)




Soledad O’Brien tells ‘meaningful stories’ to MTSU audience (+VIDEO)

Recalling colorful anecdotes from her life and career, journalist Soledad O’Brien charmed and enlightened her audience at MTSU March 26.

The award-winning broadcaster, best known for her documentary work with CNN, delivered the keynote address for MTSU’s National Women’s History Month celebration at the Student Union Ballroom.

You can view a video excerpt of O’Brien’s speech below.




O’Brien explained that being the daughter of a white Australian father and a black Cuban mother, who united at a time when interracial marriage was illegal, gave her an appreciation for standing her ground when challenged.

“I think there’s a special bravery in deciding that you’re going to sit firmly on the right side of history, and my parents were certainly my first examples of forging on in spite of disapproval, in spite of everyone saying ‘it can’t be done, it shouldn’t be done,’” she said.

O’Brien hosted and produced acclaimed documentary series on diversity for CNN as well, including “Black in America,” “Latino in America” and “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door,” which looked at the controversy surrounding the construction of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

“I’ve had opportunities to tell stories of lots of marginalized people, and I think it really is where I began to find my voice as a reporter,” said O’Brien.

At CNN, O’Brien distinguished herself as co-anchor of “American Morning” and “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien” and with reports on the London terrorism attacks of 2005, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Soledad O’Brien makes a point in her keynote address for MTSU’s celebration of National Women’s History Month March 26 at the Student Union Building. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

O’Brien joined Al-Jazeera America last year as a special correspondent. She and her production company, Starfish Media Group, provide short-form segments to “America Tonight,” the network’s prime-time current affairs magazine program. Starfish also produces hourlong documentaries for the network.

She said she formed her own company in June 2013 after encountering corporate resistance to the kind of stories that she wanted to report for CNN.

“I wanted to tell those meaningful stories and wade through some of the garbage that sometimes makes up television news,” O’Brien said. “I didn’t feel particularly courageous. I did feel that I’m honest and that I could live with the fallout from honesty.”

With her husband, O’Brien created the Soledad O’Brien & Brad Raymond Foundation to help young women gain the experiences, education and resources to overcome barriers to success. The foundation provides scholarships for young girls across the country.

“She’s so inspiring,” said Rachel Harmon, an MTSU alumna who will become an adjunct professor of political science in fall 2014. “She’s someone I’ve followed and looked up to for a long time.”

Harmon also works for the Franklin, Tenn., office of Free for Life International, a nonprofit organization that fights human trafficking.

“Last year, we rescued 123 girls, but, unfortunately, that was out of 15,000 that were trafficked in the country of Nepal,” said Harmon. “So hearing what she had to say about making the difference for one person at a time really resonates with what we do.”

For information on upcoming National Women’s History Month events at MTSU, click here.

Gina K. Logue (Gina.Logue@mtsu.edu)

Domestic violence prevention expert to speak at MTSU April 1

One of the country’s foremost anti-domestic violence advocates will examine the issue and the attitudes behind it in an address at MTSU.

Jeff Bucholtz

Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, co-director of We End Violence, will speak at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, in the Student Union ballroom.

We End Violence is a San Diego-based social business that provides lectures, educational campaigns, workshops and consulting services aimed at enlightening the public about sexual assault, bullying, sexual harassment and relationship violence, according to the organization’s website, www.weendviolence.com.

Bucholtz also is co-president of the San Diego Domestic Violence Council. For the past 11 years, he has been an activist and public speaker in fields such as sexual violence, relationship violence and stalking, among others.

We End Violence logo webIn addition, Bucholtz is an adjunct faculty member at Southwestern College, where he teaches oral communication, public speaking and small group facilitation, and a faculty lecturer at San Diego State University, where he teaches popular culture and counseling.

This event, which is free and open to the public, is presented by MTSU’s National Women’s History Month Committee and the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership.

For more information, contact the center at 615-898-5812.

Gina K. Logue (Gina.Logue@mtsu.edu)