MidPoints: A look at recent awards, events, and ac...

MidPoints: A look at recent awards, events, and accomplishments at MTSU

Composer Joel S. Herron, whose family has donated his collected works to the Center for Popular Music at MTSU, is shown in a recording studio in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of the Herron family/MTSU Center for Popular Music)


 A Fine Collaboration

The Center for Popular Music at MTSU expanded its internationally recognized collection yet again with the addition of the works of songwriter, arranger, and bandleader Joel S. Herron, who teamed with Frank Sinatra to write one of the crooner’s classics. A gift from Herron’s youngest son, Roark Herron, the collection includes approximately 40 linear feet of business correspondence, scores, arrangements, contracts, photographs, tapes, and other materials from the musician’s professional life. Herron, who passed away in 2012, wrote the music for “I’m a Fool to Want You.” Sinatra and Jack Wolfe wrote the lyrics. The tune has been covered by Billie Holiday, Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Linda Ronstadt, Shirley Bassey, and Tony Bennett, to name a few.







A Gathering of Scribes

Author Kevin Wilson will be the keynote speaker at the Middle Tennessee Writers Conference Sept. 28. (Photo courtesy of Leigh Ann Couch.)

Kevin Wilson (right), author of the novel The Family Fang (below), was the keynote speaker at the Middle Tennessee Writers’ Conference last September.

The Family Fang book cover

The Writer’s Loft at MTSU (see below) sponsors the annual conference. The Family Fang, which has been optioned for a movie starring Nicole Kidman, was on the New York Times bestseller list and was named one of the top 10 books of 2011 by Time, People, and Esquire magazines and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kirkus Reviews. Margaret Renkl, editor of, a daily source for literary news, interviews, and reviews with a Tennessee focus, called the conference a “truly welcome addition to the state’s literary scene.” Other award-winning writers at the conference included poet Bill Brown, nonfiction writer Holly Tucker, novelist Linda Busby Parker, and MTSU professor and playwright Claudia Barnett.



Did You Know?

The Writer’s Loft, MTSU’s non-residency creative writing program for fiction, nonfiction and poetry writers at any level, can help you achieve your dream of becoming a writer. Department of English faculty will mentor you one-on-one to hone your writing skills and produce a publishable manuscript. Visit for more information.



East Tennessee dig for wild-grown ginseng. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU President, Jeremy Faison, State Representative, R- Crosby, Ying Gao, MTSU Researcher, Elliot Altman, MTSU Researcher, Bill Ketron, State Senator, Murfreesboro,13th District, Alumni


Digging In


Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), of the Tennessee General Assembly, along with a team of researchers and administrators from MTSU, trekked through the woods of Cocke County last October to dig for “Appalachian gold.” The MTSU researchers he was with were scientists from the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research, based at MTSU, who sought his help to collect samples of east Tennessee–grown ginseng to compare with varieties of the herb found in China. MTSU’s partnership with the Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants in China is exploring the uses of ancient herbal remedies like ginseng in modern medicine, an effort that has yielded almost 40 results showing promise in the treatment of cancer, viral infections, and other ailments. President Sidney A. McPhee and state senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) went on the hunt as well. Ginseng has been a valuable medicinal herb, particularly in Asian markets, for centuries. The American variety of the herb was discovered in the 1700s and has long been a part of Appalachian culture. Historians say legendary frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone were ginseng traders and found the trade to be quite lucrative. Demand for ginseng remains strong to this day. Aggressive harvesting of the wild herb in Asia has increased demand for American ginseng. “It’s a great opportunity, not only for MTSU but the state of Tennessee,” Ketron said. In November, MTSU began growing its own ginseng on the University’s farm located just a few miles from campus in Lascassas, Tenn.

MTSU’s Ginseng Initiative to grow and harvest the plant at the university’s Experiential Learning and Research Center in Lascassas, Tenn. Joined by state Sen. Bill Ketron, who suggested the university grow ginseng at its 438-acre farm, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee announced the research partnership between a group led by Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research Director Elliot Altman, Farm Laboratories Director Matthew Wade and School of Agribusiness and Agriscience Director Warren Gill.


MTSU’s Ginseng Initiative to grow and harvest the plant at the university’s Experiential Learning and Research Center in Lascassas, Tenn. Joined by state Sen. Bill Ketron, who suggested the university grow ginseng at its 438-acre farm, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee announced the research partnership between a group led by Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research Director Elliot Altman, Farm Laboratories Director Matthew Wade and School of Agribusiness and Agriscience Director Warren Gill.








Worldwide Recognition 

China's highest-ranking education leader, Vice Premier Liu Yandong, presented the Confucius Institute's Individual Performance Excellence Award to MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee during the eighth annual Global Confucius Institutes Conference in Beijing on Saturday. (MTSU photo)

China’s highest-ranking education leader, Vice Premier Liu Yandong, presented the Confucius Institute’s Individual Performance Excellence Award to MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee during the eighth annual Global Confucius Institutes Conference in Beijing on Saturday. (MTSU photo)


In acknowledgement of the University’s work to strengthen educational and cultural ties between China and the U.S., President Sidney A. McPhee was recently honored as the “Person of the Year” by the global organization of Confucius Institutes.

Vice Premier Liu Yandong, China’s highest-ranking educational leader, presented McPhee with the award during the eighth annual Global Confucius Institute Conference in Beijing in December 2013. The conference attracted more than 2,200 attendees from 110 countries. “This honor is really for the fantastic work by MTSU’s Confucius Institute to broaden the international scope and reach of our campus,” McPhee said. MTSU joined China’s Hangzhou Normal University to open its institute in 2010.


A good exchange 1

A Good Exchange

President Sidney A. McPhee and Vice Minister Xu Lin of China shared their cultures, ideas, and a few gifts during an October visit by Xu to the State Capitol and to the Confucius Institute at MTSU. Xu oversees 400-plus Confucius Institutes in 117 countries around the world. McPhee serves as a senior advisor to the Hanban/Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing. During the State Capitol visit, which was facilitated by state senator Bill Ketron, Xu and McPhee met with Gov. Bill Haslam, state representative Jim Coley (R-Bartlett), and Ketron to discuss the importance of cultural exchanges between the U.S. and China in areas such as education and business. In touting the positive impact of the cultural exchange, McPhee cited the exclusive research partnership between the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research, based at MTSU, and the Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants in China, to accelerate the development of Western medicines from plant extracts. McPhee noted that about 15 samples of medicinal plants are showing promise in treating certain cancers.



Construction on MTSU’s $147 million Science Building remains on schedule, with the grand opening set for spring 2015. The project will result in approximately 257,000 square feet for biology and chemistry, 37 class labs, two open labs, 13 research labs, six classrooms, faculty offices, informal learning areas, and space for student presentations. The project recently received a significant boost with a $1.5 million grant from the Christy-Houston Foundation. Prospective students can get a sneak peek at the new facility and the many science offerings at MTSU during a special Preview Day on March 22.  Take a virtual tour of the building at .





2013-09-31D Billy Bragg Lecture

A Reason to Bragg 

British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg was the inaugural guest speaker for a new Americana music series launched at MTSU. Bragg’s appearance represented but one facet of a partnership between MTSU’s College of Mass Communication and the Franklin, Tenn.–based Americana Music Association, the trade organization whose mission is to advocate for the authentic voice of American roots music around the world. Bragg is best known for his topical songs over a 20-year recording career and for his collaboration with the band Wilco on Mermaid Avenue, a project that married unpublished lyrics by Woody Guthrie with new music.






Reception for new Mass Communications Dean Ken Paulson in the Newseum, Washington, D.C.


Making News

Editors, media executives, educators, and MTSU alumni gathered last summer at the Newseum, the interactive museum of news and journalism in the nation’s capital, to welcome the new dean of the MTSU College of Mass Communication, Ken Paulson, and hear about his plans for the college. Attendees included executives and MTSU alumni from major news and journalism organizations such as the Gannett Co., the McClatchy Co., CNN, the Travel Channel, and USA Today, as well as journalism educators from universities attending the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference. The event highlighted the partnership between MTSU and the Freedom Forum, which operates the Newseum, and the First Amendment Center in Nashville. During the trip, Paulson was also recognized by the AEJMC for the advocacy work he and others conduct through the First Amendment Center. “We intend to be the most innovative college of mass communication in America,” Paulson said at the Newseum event.






Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder, center, smiles while sharing lunch with MTSU students during a special visit to MTSU Oct. 1. The justices heard three appellate cases on campus as part of the SCALES (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students) Project. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Holding Court

The Tennessee Supreme Court met at MTSU in October to hear three appeals as part of its Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students program, or SCALES. The session, the first held on campus for MTSU students and sponsored by the University’s American Democracy Project, was composed of three separate hour-long courtroom hearings followed by a debriefing session with each case’s presenting attorneys during which students and faculty could ask questions in a classroom-like setting. The appeals included a Rutherford County case, Tennessee v. Glover P. Smith. Smith, who reported his wife missing in December 2007, was convicted in 2009 of fabricating evidence and filing a false report. The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld his convictions and sentences, and Smith took his case to the state’s high court. His wife, Marsilene “Marcy” Smith, remains missing.





Worldwide Reach

MTSU revitalized its primary website, . Enhancements include the creation of special pages devoted to MTSU’s 100-plus programs of study, with embedded videos offering a visual glimpse of majors and colleges. The University will continue to make changes to the website throughout the 2013–14 academic year. Send feedback and suggestions to






Head of the Class


MTSU was selected as one of the “Best in the Southeast” by the Princeton Review on its 2014 list of the nation’s top colleges. Editors of the annual list, which recognized 138 institutions in the 12-state Southeast region, called MTSU “a growing school on the rise,” where “you get a quality education and you aren’t in crippling debt afterward.” The Review, an education services company known for test prep programs and college guides, said MTSU’s faculty “work hard to ensure equal opportunities for students who want to learn” and “the administration’s ear is easily bent, meaning resources continue to improve every year.” MTSU was also recently identified by another online resource,, as one of the state’s colleges and universities with the greatest lifetime return on investment. The site listed MTSU as a “High ROI College,” saying it offers a “high-quality education with consistent, long-term payoffs in the workplace.”




James Lee, president of the MTSU Student Government Association, swipes his student ID to officially open the MTSU Boulevard Garage during a grand opening ceremony Thursday. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Not Stuck in Park

MTSU students are finding parking much easier these days following the opening last summer of two new parking garages. The $23.5 million garages were paid for with student fees instituted a few years ago. Each four-deck garage has approximately 490 spaces, which students can use free of charge. One garage connects to the new Student Services and Admissions Center still under construction and includes a walking bridge that connects to the second floor of the new Student Union. A nearby surface lot also recently opened, providing 670 more parking spaces for students.




MTSU has officially open this parking garage, one of two opening that will add almost 1,000 parking spaces for students. This garage bordered by Champion and Lightning Way will be known as the Champion Way Garage. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)








Bringing the Row to the ’Boro

Nashville entrepreneur Mark Montgomery is teaching a new course at MTSU this fall, The New Music Business,” where students will learn to combine music and technology into creative business plans. (Photo courtesy of Brooke Kelly Photography)

Music and technology entrepreneur Mark Montgomery, who launched one of the  first five U.S. companies to sell music directly to consumers on the Internet, began teaching a new class for MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry last fall, focusing on new business models in the music industry. Also a cofounder of Echo, which managed the digital businesses of some of the biggest entertainers in the world (and was purchased by IAC/Ticketmaster in 2007), Montgomery’s clients through the years have included Kanye West, Keith Urban, and Best Buy, among others. Montgomery is now tackling projects for Google and YouTube and also founded FLO {thinkery}, a cutting-edge think tank and investment firm focused on starting companies in the consumer space, in 2011. Still a songwriter and musician, Montgomery also serves as CEO of country star Kenny Chesney’s spirits company, FishBowl Spirits. Student business plans created in the class that show the most potential may be mentored and developed at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.




Syndicated cartoonist Guy Gilchrist of Gallatin, Tenn., pens “Nancy” and other comic strips and is author of many books. He drew the character Aunt Fritzi wearing a T-shirt that read “MTSU BLUE RAIDERS” that was seen by a potential audience of 57 million people and carried in more than 400 newspapers in 80 countries. (Submitted photo)


To a “T”

MTSU’s brand went worldwide last fall thanks to a beloved comic strip that’s been around since the 1930s. Two MTSU sources provided the inspiration for syndicated cartoonist Guy Gilchrist to draw Aunt Fritzi wearing a T-shirt that read “MTSU BLUE RAIDERS” in the Nancy comic strip that ran October 1. The motivation came from an August interview Gilchrist had with Murfreesboro’s Daily News Journal reporter (and MTSU alum) Mealand Ragland-Hudgins and from his longtime friend Boots Donnelly, the former MTSU football player, coach, athletic director, and ambassador. “I was on the phone doing an interview with a reporter from the Murfreesboro paper a while ago, and when we got finished she was asking me about all the different T-shirts that Aunt Fritzi wears and she said, ‘What would it take for her to be wearing MTSU?’” said Gilchrist, a Nashville-area resident. “One night . . . I was working along and I had that blank shirt there to put something on, and I said, ‘Why not MTSU?’ I said, ‘Won’t it be interesting to see if anybody notices?’ Well, we got noticed.” Originally penned by the late Ernie Bushmiller but inherited 16 years ago by Gilchrist, Nancy (portrayed above in MTSU blue) is seen by 57 million readers in more than 400 newspapers and the website.

Nancy® is a registered trademark of UFS Inc. ©2013 Nancy Partners LLC.





Photo courtesy of MT Atheletics



Worthy of Salute


As first reported by the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, MTSU student-athlete Steven Rhodes “felt a duty to serve his country and had a dream to play football.” But the 24-year-old freshman, who finished his five years of active service in the Marine Corps and then enrolled at MTSU and walked on as a football player last year, soon ended up in a public relations battle with the NCAA—the governing body for college athletics—that placed MTSU on the front pages of newspapers and news websites around the world. That’s because the NCAA originally ruled that Rhodes’s participation in a military-only recreational football league before his enrollment at MTSU limited his eligibility to play Division I football. Pressure from President Sidney A. McPhee, who was until very recently a member of the NCAA executive committee, as well as media outlets around the world, hastened a new ruling by the NCAA reinstating Rhodes’s eligibility, allowing him to play immediately and to maintain all four years of his eligibility. ESPN interviewed Rhodes for a Veterans Day edition of the program College Gameday that aired in November.








Positive Influence


At its annual Economic Outlook Conference last October, the Jennings A. Jones College of Business honored one of its successful alums, health care entrepreneur Joey Jacobs, with the 2013 Jennings A. Jones Champion of Free Enterprise Award. Jacobs is chair and CEO of Acadia Healthcare, a rapidly growing behavioral health company based in Franklin. Before joining Acadia, Jacobs cofounded Psychiatric Solutions Inc. and served as its chair, president, and CEO from April 1997 until November 2010. Jacobs is on the executive committee of MTSU’s ongoing $80 million fundraising campaign.






A Future So Fulbright

David Owens, Graduate Student, Mathematics and Science Education

David Owens, an MTSU doctoral student(right), will travel to Brazil this coming spring to begin a nine-month Fulbright English teaching assistantship. The Fulbright Program—the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government—is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. During his time in Brazil, Owens plans to work with locals on science and farming projects and volunteer where needed. Owens, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology education and chemistry from MTSU and a master’s degree in ecology from the University of Nebraska, recently began a doctoral program in math and science education at MTSU. This marks the fourth consecutive year MTSU has had at least two students awarded a Fulbright opportunity. Owens is the 11th MTSU student to receive this honor. MTSU was recognized last year by the Chronicle of Higher Education as a top producer of Fulbright award winners. MTSU was the only Tennessee college or university to earn the distinction.



Music “U”

MTSU alum Gary Overton (’84), above right, chair and CEO of Sony Music Nashville, home of country music superstars Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, and Carrie Underwood (above left), was the first speaker in the Recording Industry Department’s new Chair’s Speakers Series last fall. Before Sony and a 15-year stint running EMI Publishing, Overton was personal manager for Alan Jackson.

Carrie Underwood, Country Music Singer, MTSU alum Gary Overton (’84)

At the event, Overton was named an honorary professor in the Department of Recording Industry. Barry Gibb (below) also spoke as part of the series. Gibb, one of the founding members of the Bee Gees, is the world’s most successful songwriter after Paul McCartney, according to Guinness World Records, and has a career spanning more than 50 years.

Music icon Barry Gibb sings and plays the country classic “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On,” the first country record he recalls hearing, during a performance-lecture at MTSU’s Tucker Theatre. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

During his visit, Gibbs was named the inaugural fellow of the Center for Popular Music at MTSU. Other speakers included Sarah Trahern, recently named CEO of the Country Music Association; Grammy-nominated R&B singer Kenny Lattimore; artist managerMichelle Tafoya (who handled projects during the height of the success of Tupac Shakur); and Grammy-nominated producer Nathan Chapman (best known for producing Taylor Swift). Singer/songwriter Kip Moore (who last year had three consecutive number-one country radio hits) provided a lecture sponsored by Grammy U, the college networking arm of the Recording Academy.



A Healthy Student Body


MTSU drew the largest class of new freshmen and the largest population of new transfer students among the six universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents system last fall. MTSU’s new freshman population increased by almost two percent over last year, at a time when the number of high school graduates is down nationally and demographers have predicted a smaller high school graduate population in Tennessee. Both the average ACT and the average high school GPA are up for the entering freshman class. The ACT average for the fall 2013 freshman class (22.0) continues to be above the national average (20.9) and above the Tennessee average (19.5). The average high school GPA for the fall 2013 freshman class (3.35) was above last year’s class (3.31). Enrollment in doctoral programs at MTSU also increased by nearly nine percent.




MidPoints compiled by Gina E. Fann, Jimmy Hart, Gina K. Logue, Paula Morton, Drew Ruble, and Randy Weiler