Leaders and representatives from Middle Tennessee State University and Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc. met Monday, Nov. 6, to formalize their partnership that provides tuition assistance to eligible Barrett employees.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Joel Miller, vice president for sales and marketing for Barrett, revealed details Monday during a signing ceremony at the Barrett facility in Christiana, Tennessee.
“Under the agreement, eligible employees at the company will be able to take any MTSU classes each year in any topic at a substantial tuition discount,” McPhee said. “The company will also utilize the Applied Leadership Certificate Program offered by MTSU’s University College as part of a program they are calling Barrett University.
“This partnership is designed to empower employees to learn and advance their careers no matter where they are on their journey.”
Known for its distinctive, shoulder-fired .50-caliber rifle, the company earlier this year became part of the NIOA Group — a family-owned global munitions company based in Australia.
“We are proud to announce this partnership with Middle Tennessee State University, a collaboration that underscores our commitment to an environment of continuous development,” said Miller, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and former military science professor at MTSU.
“At Barrett we believe in the significance of lifelong learning, and this sponsorship exemplifies our dedication to empowering individuals to reach their full potential through education.”
Watch a recap of the ceremony below:
McPhee noted the longstanding support of Barrett Firearms founder Ronnie Barrett and wife Donna, an MTSU alumna and former state representative, both of whom were in attendance.
“Barrett and MTSU share a love for this area,” McPhee said. “Our partnership with this company is long and distinguished. It all began with my friends Ronnie and Donna Barrett, whose steadfast support of MTSU, as well as our military connected students, is well known and very much appreciated.”
The couple was recognized in 2017 by MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center for the company’s commitment to hiring military veterans.
The Applied Leadership program offers a specialized curriculum for adult learners employed in business and industry and provides up to four individual undergraduate certificates covering topics relevant to today’s business environment.
Each certificate consists of two seven-week online courses and an intensive training with some additional online coursework. The on-site portion of the intensives are typically offered as a five-day, Monday through Friday session or two consecutive weekend sessions. These are offered in both remote format or on-site.
“The agreement we sign today will provide amazing opportunities for Barrett employees to pursue their education goals at MTSU and further their careers,” McPhee said. “We deeply appreciate that the NIOA team has maintained, and now strengthened, the strong ties between Barrett and the university.”
‘Personal and professional growth’
David Gravely, director of quality at Barrett, is currently enrolled at MTSU in the Applied Leadership program as part of the integrated studies major through University College. He said the experience has been very worthwhile.
“I’ve had the unique privilege of being one of the first Barrett employees to enroll in MTSU through our new partnership,” said Gravely, who has worked at the large-caliber firearms maker since 2018. “This experience has been truly inspiring, particularly with General (Keith) Huber’s guidance in my recent Leading and Developing Teams class.”
Retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU’s senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives, along with Hilary Miller, director of MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center, teach the leadership classes and both were on hand for Monday’s signing ceremony.
Huber, with almost four decades of military leadership experience, also gave remarks, noting that during his time in active combat zones, he appreciated knowing that there were Barrett-made firearms “overwatch and protecting me, and for that I am forever grateful.”
With more than 300 academic programs, including numerous nationally recognized offerings, MTSU remains the No. 1 choice for undergraduates in the Nashville metro area, as well as the top choice for transfer and first-generation college students.
MTSU’s partnership with Barrett marks the 15th such agreement with local companies that choose to provide an educational discount to its employees.
Rick Sluder, dean of MTSU’s University College, which coordinates the corporate partnerships, said the latest agreement provides a strong financial incentive for local workers to continue their education at the university level.
“It is an honor to collaborate with Barrett, a true patriot corporate partner,” Sluder said. “We believe we can make a difference in the work and lives of Barrett employees and this agreement allows us to accomplish both.”
Gravely, whose youngest daughter, Courtney, is an MTSU senior exercise science major, agrees, saying “this collaboration has so far not only expanded my educational horizons but also enriched my personal and professional growth.”
For more information about earning a degree, contact MTSU University College at 615-494-7714 or visit https://mtsu.edu/finishnow/.
— Hunter Patterson (Hunter.Patterson@mtsu.edu) and Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)