Top EXL student applauds switch to MTSU University...

Top EXL student applauds switch to MTSU University Studies major

For MTSU senior Sara Croft, switching to a major in university studies with a minor in organizational communication “was the best choice I have made so far while at Middle Tennessee State University.”

MTSU senior Sara Croft of Columbia, Tennessee, celebrates receiving the Experiential Learning Scholars Program’s Outstanding Student Award with, from left, University College Dean Mike Boyle, EXL Director Carol Swayze and Dr. Dianna Rust, University Studies program coordinator. Croft received the honor during a recent reception at Kirksey Old Main. (MTSU photos)

When the Columbia, Tennessee, native graduates Saturday, May 10, she’ll do so as this year’s recipient of one of the Outstanding Student Awards for MTSU’s Experiential Learning Scholars Program.

“By switching to this major, I was required to take multiple classes that fall under the Experiential Learning, EXL, type of courses,” said Croft, whose previous studies in liberal arts and business could be applied toward her current major.

Coordinated through MTSU’s University College, the bachelor’s degree in university studies provides students with a broad-based, interdisciplinary education, with students getting personalized advising to choose courses that meet their “areas of emphasis” for a future career path or preparation for graduate school.

“The major in university studies allows students to select an area of emphasis and a minor that will best meet their career goals,” said Dr. Dianna Rust, University Studies program coordinator.

“With this flexibility, it provides students with the opportunity to participate in EXL classes and complete internship experiences helping them gain applied and theoretical knowledge.”

Effective fall 2014, the Bachelor of University Studies will become the Bachelor of Science in Integrated Studies.

University College Dean Mike Boyle presented Croft with the EXL Outstanding Student Award at a recent reception hosted by the college at historic Kirksey Old Main.

Croft said that the EXL courses she’s taken within her major have helped her take the information that is given in class and apply it, not to a given textbook situation, but to her life. She said the courses “were a great confidence booster.”

MTSU senior Sara Croft of Columbia, Tennessee, was joined by her mother, Suzanne Croft, recently when Croft was presented the Experiential Learning Scholars Program's Outstanding Student Award during a reception at Kirksey Old Main. (MTSU photo)

MTSU senior Sara Croft of Columbia, Tennessee, is joined by her mother, Suzanne Croft, at a recent University College reception at Kirksey Old Main.

MTSU launched the EXL program in spring 2006 as a pilot project in conjunction with a university-wide improvement plan. EXL courses provide students with valuable networking with professionals and an opportunity to explore career paths through real-world activities.

In addition to completing eight EXL courses, Croft has completed an internship at the June Anderson Center for Women and Non-traditional Students, which included presenting at the Blue Raider Leadership Summit in February and during National Women’s History Month at MTSU.

For the past two years, Croft has hosted a weekly radio show on WMTS-FM, the student-run campus radio station. As a sophomore, she served as treasurer for MT Lambda student advocacy group.

The student who nominated Croft stated:

“Creative and compassionate, she truly desires to learn, help others, and make a difference, both on campus and within the larger community. Sara is active on-campus, lending support to various groups, interning at the June Anderson Center, participating in the QEP focus group, and presenting at leadership seminars. Sara is an adept leader, and the selection committee would be hard-pressed to find another candidate with Sara’s personal blend of logic, empathy, and foresight.”

Croft’s parents are Tom and Suzanne Croft of Columbia, Tennessee.

For more about MTSU’s university studies degree, visit

— Jimmy Hart (