For MTSU senior Terra Stembridge, the university’s Student Emergency Micro-Grant Fund was the lifeline that kept her enrolled for fall semester and on track to obtain her entrepreneurship degree from the Jones College of Business in the spring.
“I’m extremely grateful,” the 25-year-old Woodbury, Tennessee, resident told the crowd gathered Thursday, Oct. 19, inside the Student Union for a special presentation to two community donors who replenished the fund for fall semester.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee was joined by deans, administrators and university staff as he presented Yolanda Greene, Rutherford County market president for First Tennessee Bank, and John Floyd, founder and owner of Ole South Properties, with special framed “I Am True Blue” banners.
The two companies contributed a combined $40,000 to replenish the fund and help Stembridge and several students stay enrolled for the fall semester by taking care of financial obligations that could lead to them being purged from the rolls.
“When I received news that I would receive the (grant) to keep me on track to graduate in May, it made day,” Stembridge told Greene and Floyd. “I’m having my best semester here at MTSU … I’m doing my best and I couldn’t have done it without the both of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
The Student Emergency Micro-Grant Fund is available to help students with emergency needs that may impact their ability to continue in school. The grants — typically around $250 — help with verified need associated with a student’s education, such as tuition and fees, books, housing, transportation, and related needs.
McPhee thanked both organizations for their long-standing support of the university’s academic and athletic programs and for combining “not only their resources, but their generous and caring spirit, to help students in need stay on course to reach their goals in higher education.”
“We’re ecstatic to be able to have the opportunity to partner with MTSU to allow students to trust the process, to know that if they’re going to go to class, if they’re going to put the dedication in to make sure that they’re going to get through that journey, then things work,” Greene said.
Floyd, a Rutherford County native, said helping the microgrant fund “was an easy decision to make” because of the university’s impact on the community, including in his field through efforts like the student-run Blue Raider Realty, the university’s nationally recognized Concrete and Construction Management Program and through the several alumni who work for his company.
“I feel like to whom much is given, much is expected,” Floyd said. “To me, investing in MTSU is almost like investing in my future customers and past customers. It’s a win-win, and I appreciate the partnership.”
MTSU started the microgrant fund in 2014 through the leadership of university first lady Elizabeth McPhee, who solicited support from churches and others throughout the community to establish the emergency resource.
The funds do not have to be repaid and are available to undergraduate, graduate and international students. Students may receive the microgrant only once during their tenure at MTSU.
“They are administered with a minimum of bureaucratic process and are dispensed by the person best positioned to know and help the student — typically a dean, associate dean or an admissions official,” McPhee noted.
McPhee stressed that the university’s divisions of student affairs and finance have worked to identify at-risk students as early as possible to inform them of the microgrant fund as it expands to meet student need before and during semesters.
“The need for this microgrant program will not be satisfied with in one fell swoop,” McPhee said. “But these gifts give us the foundation to move forward and seek additional support to meet the ongoing needs of our students.”
For more information about the fund, contact the MTSU Office of Student Success at 615-494-8650.
— Jimmy Hart (firstname.lastname@example.org)