MTSU gets help from special guests to celebrate Co...

MTSU gets help from special guests to celebrate Constitution Day 2014

Celebrating the 227th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution took a new learning turn Sept. 17 at MTSU as special guests helped students, faculty and staff read the historic document.

Sixth-graders from Murfreesboro’s Mitchell-Neilson Elementary School joined Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, MTSU coaches and student-athletes, and volunteers from the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences to read the Constitution’s seven articles and 27 amendments, including the Bill of Rights, outside MTSU’s Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building for almost 90 minutes.

“You all were absolutely the best readers here,” Dr. Terry Whiteside, dean of the College of Behavioral Sciences, told the nearly 50 youngsters from Jennie Lovvorn’s and Gayle Porterfield’s sixth-grade classrooms.

“We’re counting on you to carry this knowledge on. I’m really so proud of you all.”

Sixth-grade students at Murfreesboro’s Mitchell-Neilson Elementary School pose for a photo with Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett, shown standing on the back row at center left wearing a tie, before they and Hargett read portions of the U.S. Constitution at MTSU Wednesday, Sept. 17. The youngsters were special guests of the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences during the daylong Constitution Day celebration at MTSU, where students, faculty, staff and volunteers participated in readings of the Constitution, voter registration drives and civic awareness activities. (MTSU photos by Darby Campbell)

The children grinned their thanks and looked forward excitedly to an unexpected ice-cream treat before their brief field trip ended.

“They practiced hard this morning and on the bus over here, too,” Lovvorn explained as her young charges sat on the grass, listened to their friends read, and watched college students scurry past en route to classes. Their principal, Robin Newell, looked on approvingly.

“We were honored to help. It’s another great opportunity for us,” Newell said, explaining that the special field trip allowed students to expand the Murfreesboro City Schools system’s partnership with the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences.

The alliance includes a new Collaborative Learning and Leadership Institute at Mitchell-Neilson, which launched this school year to address educational and environmental issues that affect student and family success and help students develop lifelong learning and leadership skills. MTSU students are serving as mentors to the children and working alongside classroom teachers, in part thanks to an $8,000 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation earlier this year.

During their campus visit, some of the Mitchell-Neilson students said their family members attend MTSU. Others said they’ve already decided that MTSU is the school for them — in a few more years.

Lovvorn said the students learned about American history last year and are studying world history in the sixth grade. She added that Mitchell-Neilson was “glad to use this to incorporate another great lesson about leadership.”

All around campus, at similar intervals throughout the day and early Thursday, Sept. 18, volunteers from MTSU’s colleges stood outside their buildings and read passages from the Constitution. Some held forth to relatively large crowds, while others spoke quietly to a handful of people.

“We ask our professors to facilitate their students’ involvement in Constitution Day by taking them to the reading in their college, or in another college, so they can engage as citizen scholars,” said Dr. Mary Evins, an associate research professor at MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation and coordinator for the MTSU chapter of the American Democracy Project.

“In the MTSU tradition that is recognized statewide for its excellence in civic leadership, we as a university pause to participate in this national day of civic learning and share it across the disciplines.”

MTSU observes the Constitution’s 1787 signing every year with special events and programs organized by the American Democracy Project.

This year’s special civic-awareness efforts also included a voter registration drive, assisted by the League of Women Voters, Tennessee Citizen Action, the American Association of University Women, the MTSU Democrats and the College Republicans, as well as Hargett and his staff. The nonprofit organizations also plan to return to campus Sept. 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for National Voter Registration Day.

The next state and federal general election in Tennessee is Tuesday, Nov. 4, and early voting begins in Tennessee Oct. 15. According to Tennessee law, voters:

  • must be a citizen of the United States who will be 18 years old or older before the date of the next election.
  • must be a resident of Tennessee.
  • cannot have been convicted of a felony, or if you have, your voting rights have been restored by a court order or pardon.
  • must be properly registered no later than 30 days before the election.

For more information about American Democracy Project events at MTSU, email

— Gina E. Fann (

Pat Embry, the new director of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at MTSU, emphatically reads a portion of the U.S. Constitution Sept. 17 during a daylong Constitution Day celebration on campus. Behind Embry at the Bragg Communication Building, a group of students waits their turns to read the document.

MTSU sports leaders join Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett before the Sept. 17 Constitution Day celebration outside the Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building. From left are MTSU track coach Dean Hayes, head golf coach Whit Turnbow, head football coach Rick Stockstill, Hargett, head women’s basketball coach Rick Insell and Chris Massaro, MTSU director of athletics. The men are holding signs that read “I’m registered to vote. Are you?”, which advertise, a new informational app for voters provided by Hargett’s office. (MTSU photo by