Julia Myatt is passionate about using the MT Engage program to get students fully immersed in the classroom experience. The professor of English and program director will now get to do so on a permanent basis following the university’s confirmation recently that the program is here to stay.
“Our continued presence on campus will allow faculty, staff and students to continue working together to help students make the most of their time at MTSU,” Myatt said.
Launched in 2016 as part of the university’s second Quality Enhancement Plan, MT Engage is designed to support students’ academic engagement in their courses through investing in faculty development and promoting high-impact teaching practices to better support students from all backgrounds, Myatt said.
“More specifically, MT Engage invites students to explore connections across different learning experiences and to reflect on the knowledge and skills they are gaining at MTSU so they are equipped to take that knowledge forward into their future careers and civic lives,” she added.
The program would not be possible without the support of faculty and staff. Faculty can get a course MT Engage certified — on a completely voluntary basis — and Myatt said the process does not take much extra effort.
“A lot of faculty already teach using some of the practices the program promotes,” she said.
MT Engage courses include active learning practices, such as assignments that are problem-based, collaborative, or involve undergraduate research, and help students reflect on their learning by documenting their ongoing growth in an ePortfolio.
Currently, 336 courses are certified.
MT Engage in practice
Dr. Sandy Benson, professor of business law, was already incorporating MT Engage practices when she got her courses certified and said the program has been beneficial in many ways.
“It confirmed to me that our students do indeed desire and benefit from high-impact classroom practices and integrative thinking,” Benson said. “The MT Engage designation signals to learners my expectation that they need to be ‘engaged’ as active learners to succeed in my courses, and the rubric has helped me improve my assignments as I consider the desired learning outcomes and requirements for the signature assignments.”
Benson said that another benefit is the support from MT Engage staff.
“I’m currently participating with colleagues in a professional learning community, supported and approved by the program, to explore creating an MT Engage pathway for accounting majors, which could benefit not only students, but also could be helpful for our accounting accreditation purposes.
“Dr. Myatt and her team have presented to us and addressed questions on how we could make relatively minor changes or additions to activities we are already doing in some of our courses to meet certification requirements.”
MT Engage also offers support and resources to all faculty.
“We host a two-day Summer Institute that is incredibly popular; we have a wait list every year,” Myatt said. “We also bring a speaker to campus each spring, typically a teacher or scholar who is an expert in a topic related to some aspect of our student learning outcome. And, there’s MT Engage Week every September: faculty and staff can apply for a grant of up to $1,000 to host a campus event.”
MT Engage student support
In addition to MT Engage certified courses helping students making those cross-curricular connections, the ePortfolio helps students articulate to prospective employers what they have learned and have to offer.
The program also recognizes students’ accomplishments.
“There’s a spring reception for all MT Engage students that celebrates scholarship recipients and senior distinction prize winners,” Myatt said. “MT Engage also provides financial support for students by awarding two $1,000 scholarships annually, and we are also proud to have raised $50,000 to be used toward two endowed scholarships. The MT Engage scholarship is unique because it isn’t tied to a specific major — any student who has taken an MT Engage course and meets eligibility requirements can apply.”
Jashna Timsina, a senior nursing student originally from Nepal, said MT Engage courses have really helped her as a first-generation college student.
“The classroom is more focused, and the relationship between the professor and students is very tight,” Timsina said. “My professor really made a difference in me, and I am still in touch with her. It feels like a little family where everyone knows everyone on a deeper level because the assignments make you go out of your comfort zone.”
Timsina said it really encourages students like herself who can feel overwhelmed by the college experience.
“It will give them the opportunity to explore college and really get the whole experience. I am so excited for it to become permanent; I believe it will do a lot of good.”
To learn more about the MT Engage program, visit the website at www.mtsu.edu/mtengage.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)