Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Education recently participated in the university wide MT Engage Week with two events — one honoring local service professionals and another showcasing local author and alumna Rachel Louise Martin.
Put on through MTSU’s larger MT Engage program, the week of events bolsters the program’s goal of supporting students’ academic engagement through providing multiple, high-impact and integrative learning opportunities and experiences across campus.
“The event was so much fun,” said Katie Schrodt, associate education professor, who coordinated the college’s gallery-walk event dubbed “Humans of Murfreesboro.”
Eleven service professionals, such as teachers and policemen, stood by large, black-and-white portrait photos of themselves to share their stories with attendees to help humanize these figures the public can often view as tireless heroes.
Schrodt added that Sungyoon Lee, assistant education professor, revealed his hidden talent for photography through taking and producing the impressive portraits.
“One of the best parts was our interactive portrait station … where attendees could take polaroid portraits, decorate them and write their own stories,” Schrodt said. “That part allowed us to engage more people in the gallery walk and the idea of storytelling and humanizing pedagogy. We had so much fun making people feel beautiful in their portraits too!”
Nichole Bell, a sixth-grade teacher from Hobgood Elementary in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was a featured “Human” and said it was a surreal and full-circle experience.
“Teaching was not my first profession but always my first love,” said Bell, who had 10 of her Hobgood colleagues show up to support her. “I never thought I would be able to finish school as a working adult, but I did it. Then, to be celebrated in this way for my work with students is just icing on my already beautiful cake of life!”
Jesse Penland, a professional counseling graduate student and graduate assistant also featured in the event, could not believe it when he was asked to participate.
“I felt incredibly proud of myself for having done something worth having my face displayed on a poster board,” Penland said. “It truly turned out to be a beautiful event. I was especially grateful to have both my dad, his wife, and my best friend join me in celebrating my recognition and speaking with other service professionals.”
“I have had very positive feedback from this event,” said Stacy Fields, assistant education professor, who coordinated the second COE event featuring author Rachel Louise Martin and her latest work “A Most Tolerant Little Town” about the first U.S. school to attempt desegregation.
“Many mentioned how much they enjoyed Rachel, and several have said we need more events like this,” said Fields, who is also a childhood friend of Martin’s. “Rachel has been promoting her book for several months, and it was … a homecoming of sorts … for her to be back on campus.”
Martin graduated from MTSU in 2005 with a Master of Arts in history.
Both Schrodt and Fields sang the praises of MT Engage Week for creating the opportunity to put on events that get more students into the College of Education.
“We love to connect with all of the amazing people across campus,” Schrodt said. “MT Engage gives students a voice and opportunities to gain knowledge, skills and resources they might not get during a typical classroom lecture.”
Added Fields: “They give us as faculty the opportunity to engage the MTSU campus as a whole and the community in ways that we normally do not have a chance to in our daily courses. With these events, we get the opportunity to share our interests on a bigger stage.”
To learn more about opportunities at the College of Education, including future events, visit https://www.mtsu.edu/education/. To learn more about MTSU’s MT Engage program, visit https://www.mtsu.edu/mtengage/.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)