MTSU’s Experiential Learning Program has recognized the hard work of three individuals by presenting them with the 2016 Outstanding EXL Faculty Award.
Since its establishment in 2006, MTSU’s EXL Program has provided students with hands-on learning in a specific work or service. It presents these annual awards to faculty members who go above and beyond in providing their students with experiential learning opportunities.
The 2016 winners are Odie Blackmon, Dr. Tricia Farwell and Dr. Lauren Rudd.
• Odie Blackmon, assistant professor of recording industry and coordinator of the commercial songwriting concentration, was honored for his commitment in providing educational and professional experiences for his students.
Since joining the Department of Recording Industry in 2014, Blackmon has continuously provided experiential learning to his students by the creation of new courses, establishment of the MTSU Student Songwriter Showcase, and a fundraiser that brought $10,000 to the university’s songwriting program. Additionally, Blackmon connects his students with professionals in the music industry through a number of partnerships. These partners include ASCAP, Grammy Award-winning artists and songwriters such as Alison Krauss and R.L. Castleman, artist manager Mike Doyle, industry publishers such as BMG Music Publishing, and many more. Blackmon even helped students secure summer jobs at the George Jones Museum after working with Jones’s widow, Nancy.
Advanced songwriting students praised Blackmon’s commitment to the class, saying, “Odie has such a strong desire for his students to succeed, so he works hard to give us opportunities that set us up for success. Writing songs with the Australian students and recording them in RCA Studio A was just one of the many incredible experiences we got through Odie during our Advanced Songwriting class. This class is so valuable and I can’t believe how lucky we are to have been a part of it.”
“It has been my goal, since becoming a faculty member at Middle Tennessee State University, to craft experiences for my students that will not only offer them the opportunity to learn practical skills in the recording industry field but to take them to settings where they will attain first-hand knowledge of the music business by talking to and working with industry professionals,” Blackmon said.
• Associate professor of advertising Dr. Tricia Farwell was also honored because of the success in her Advertising Campaigns and Internship/Practicum courses in the School of Journalism.
In Farwell’s Advertising Campaigns course, students have the opportunity to research, design, and implement advertising campaigns for community partners. In some instances, students have even received awards for their hard work and dedication. In spring 2013, a group of Farwell’s students won first place in the America’s Natural Gas Alliance Collegiate Energy Challenge, receiving a $5,000 reward and trip to present their campaign in Washington, D.C.
In discussing Farwell’s campaigns class, assistant journalism professor Katie Foss said, “Her consistent regard for students being able to connect to the material beyond the textbook has been instrumental in preparing her students for a life in advertising and public relations.”
Farwell noted that advertising students have more opportunities through the EXL Program: “Having the connection to EXL encouraged us to incorporate a stronger reflective element through weekly journaling. The impact on the course was huge. The students were making connections beyond the classroom in areas of teamwork, professional development, community, and advertising in general.”
• Dr. Lauren Rudd, assistant professor in the Department of Human Sciences, was honored for her work in service learning by offering diverse learning opportunities for her students and spearheading faculty involvement in the EXL Program.
Rudd has greatly contributed to student success through a variety of class projects. In Social Aspects of Clothing, Rudd gave students the chance to gain perspective by trying on the headdress of diverse cultures. In Computer-Aided Apparel Design, students were also given the opportunity to create window displays for Garden Patch, a local Greenhouse Ministries thrift store, and develop marketing strategies to increase donations. In the future, Rudd plans to include Mitchell-Neilson Elementary School students in purchasing, reconstructing and styling clothes from the store.
“Working with elementary school students will help encourage awareness of the community services that Greenhouse provides, and expose the youngsters to career opportunities and information regarding their interests and abilities,” she said. “Positive relationships are formed between the university and elementary students through demonstrating to the kids that everyone, even at a young age, can have a positive impact within the community.”
Rudd has also collaborated with the Department of Communication Studies and Organizational Communication to train student assistants in a quilt workshop for young people with disabilities. Additionally, she has submitted 27 courses to potentially join the Experiential Learning Program, helping more students graduate as Experiential Learning Scholars.