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MTSU student government honors Syler with Distingu...

MTSU student government honors Syler with Distinguished Service Award

An MTSU professor has been recognized by the Student Government Association for his service to the campus and community, thanks a nomination from one of his students.

Kent Syler, an assistant professor of political science, received the 2017 John T. Bragg Distinguished Service Award on April 24 at the SGA Banquet. The student organization presents the award each year to a full-time MTSU faculty or staff member who has made a significant contribution to the state, the community, the university and student life.

“Student government was a big part of my life when I was a student here,” said Syler, who’s taught at MTSU since 2002.

MTSU political science professor Kent Syler, right, explains the rules of a mock debate to students in a journalism class taught by administrator Andrew Oppmann in this file photo. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU political science professor Kent Syler, right, explains the rules of a mock debate to students in a journalism class in this file photo. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

“I learned a great deal that has helped me throughout my life.”

Syler, a former student body president who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MTSU, began his political career as a campaign sound truck driver in 1978. Although he has been actively involved with dozens of campaigns, he is best known for his association with another MTSU alumnus, former 6th District Congressman Bart Gordon.

Syler managed Bart Gordon’s first campaign for Congress in 1984 and Gordon’s 1994 and 1996 re-election campaigns. Syler then served as Gordon’s Tennessee chief of staff from 1985 to 2011, when Gordon chose not to run for re-election.

April Carroll, a senior public administration major from Linden, Tennessee, nominated Syler for the award, praising the professor for his objectivity and his fairness.

“So often we hear about professors at other universities belittling their students for their political beliefs,” wrote Carroll, who also is chair of MTSU’s College Republicans.

MTSU SGA logo“However, Mr. Syler treated me with the utmost respect in one of his experiential learning classes on the primaries in the spring of 2016. To date, he has been my favorite professor, and that has been my favorite class.”

Syler also serves as special projects coordinator at MTSU’s Albert Gore Research Center and as a political analyst for Nashville television station WSMV.

Former state Rep. John Bragg

The John T. Bragg Distinguished Service Award is named for the Woodbury native who served in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1964 to 1968 and from 1970 to 1996. Among Bragg’s legislative achievements are numerous capital improvements for MTSU and helping to create endowed chairs at state-supported universities.

Bragg earned a bachelor’s degree from what was then called Middle Tennessee State Teachers College in 1940 and served as student body president. The College of Media and Entertainment building bears his name.

“I had the privilege of working with Rep. Bragg when I was in Gordon’s office,” said Syler. “I also had the opportunity to get to know him as a member of the Murfreesboro Rotary Club. He was a terrific public servant.”

The SGA will donate $1,000 in books to the James E. Walker Library in Syler’s name as the recipient of the Bragg award.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)


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