Middle Tennessee State University is creating a new center in its College of Education to focus on recruiting and retaining diverse teacher candidates, graduate students and faculty.
The announcement was part of a broader discussion at the quarterly MTSU Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday on the need to better serve and encourage students from underserved communities — particularly Black males.
Professor Michelle Stevens, introduced as director of the new Center for Fairness, Justice and Equity in the College of Education, said the center will offer educational opportunities, support and advocacy for community partners. It will also partner with Memphis-based Man Up Teacher Fellowship, a nonprofit working to provide students in high-poverty areas access to “high-quality male teachers.”
Rick Vanosdall, interim dean of the College of Education, said more information about the center will be released at a formal opening in the Spring 2022 semester.
President Sidney A. McPhee touted the center as among MTSU’s ongoing commitment to improve graduation and retention rates for underserved populations. He said MTSU invests more than $2.6 million in university funds and external grants each year into efforts and programs to support underrepresented populations.
Trustees also heard from Emily House, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, on the need for universities to better serve students from underserved communities, particularly Black males.
House, appearing by Zoom, briefed trustees on a recent report by THEC’s Black Male Success Initiative, which spelled out the “staggering education attainment gap” faced by such students at all Tennessee universities. Trustee Darrell Freeman, who encouraged THEC’s focus on the issue, served as a member of the task force.
Statewide, the report said, Black men are less likely to enroll in post-secondary education, less likely to continue in their studies and less likely to graduate.
Freeman, along with MTSU alumna Jewell Winn and the Rev. Harold Yokley, pastor of Murfreesboro’s New Life Christian Church and also an alumnus, expressed concerns about declines in Black enrollment and spoke to the need to invest more in recruiting and retaining those students.
MTSU is second only to Tennessee State University, a historically black institution, in the total number of Black graduates produced by all public institutions in the state, based on THEC’s most recent statewide cohort data.
McPhee, who thanked the speakers for their engagement, said the university will look for ways to adopt recommendations from the THEC report and will hire a consultant in early 2022 to advise him on other best practices, effectiveness of its programs and suggest further improvements.
In other actions, the board:
- Endorsed MTSU’s bid to THEC to create a new master’s degree in data science that, if approved, would start in May 2022. It will focus on the analysis of large-scale data sources from the interdisciplinary perspectives of applied statistics, computer science, data storage, data representation, data modeling, mathematics and statistics.
- Extended to McPhee the same 2.7% raise that trustees earlier approved for most university employees. Trustees also approved a one-time bonus for the president.
- Learned that Bruce Petryshak, vice president for information technology and chief information officer, will retire in January. He joined the university in his current role in 2010.
For more information about the MTSU Board of Trustees, visit https://mtsu.edu/boardoftrustees.
— Andrew Oppmann (Andrew.Oppmann@mtsu.edu)