Table of Contents (Spring 2015)

Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Mass Communication, is shown on the cover of the January 2015 edition of MTSU Magazine. (Courtesy of MTSU Creative and Visual Services)

MTSU Magazine

Middle Tennessee State University

Spring 2015 / vol. 19, no. 1

Feature Stories

Cover Story: Beyond Critical Mass
MTSU’s Multifaceted and innovative media offerings come of age

Discoveries: MTSU’s Spiderman
How “Spill Doctor” Ryan Otter found truth in the ashes of Tennessee’s worst environmental disaster

Ask an Expert: Faith Handlers
A folklorist studies a widely misunderstood Appalachian tradition

Teamwork: The Competitive Edge
Honors student-athletes excel on the field and in the classroom

The ABC’s of MTSU’s Quest for Student Success
An alphabetical look at MTSU’s commitment to student retention and graduation

Distinguished Alumni
Alumni Association broadens field of Distinguished Alumni

The new Science Building


The Student Success Advantages: Graduate in Four and Get More
Five Minutes with the President

Class Notes
You Do What?

Letter from the Editor

Sharpening Our Skills

By Drew Ruble

Among the topics of discussion at a September 2014 2012-09-09D Witherspoon Wright ConversationNashville Business Journal roundtable with the presidents of four Tennessee universities (including MTSU’s Sidney A. McPhee) was the need for college graduates entering the workforce to possess greater “soft skills.”Soft skills include the ability to communicate clearly, to work well in a team environment, to solve problems, and even to show up for work or meetings on time. They are professional and personal traits that characterize good working relationships with others. Business owners say soft skills are as essential as technical ability in performing a job and are absolutely necessary to make business relationships productive for all involved.McPhee and his peers outlined several ongoing efforts to ensure that their universities are working to address this lack, from focusing on more experiential, real-world learning to adjusting classwork and programs to emphasize ways to think through problems and work with others.A recent collaboration between the MTSU Jennings A. Jones College of Business and an internationally recognized professional development training organization holds perhaps the greatest potential to profoundly teach soft-skills development.Led by David Urban, Jones College dean, an exclusive partnership has been forged with Dale Carnegie Training to embed soft-skills training into the college’s curriculum.Carnegie, author of the seminal self-improvement book How to Win Friends and Influence People, famously developed courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills that are taught nationwide by institutes bearing his name. Because of the new alliance, Jones College students will have taken at least one such course for credit before obtaining their degrees.MTSU’s partnership with Carnegie Training of Tennessee will not be duplicated at any other university in the state, and, in fact, will be unique across the country.

“Even in the 21st century, business is still about people,” Urban said when the partnership was announced. “A person might have the manual dexterity to transmit text via a smartphone within a few seconds to anyone on the planet. But if that person expects to be successful in business, success is all about relationships with customers, clients, and colleagues.”

Peter Handal, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training Worldwide, said the partnership with MTSU represents “a unique opportunity for our organization.”

“For over 102 years, we’ve been developing the engagement levels of employees across multiple industries as companies realize that the engagement level is a key differentiator in creating growth,” Handal said. “The partnership with MTSU will create students who not only understand business issues but also are able to thrive by having developed communication, leadership, and other human relations skills that are crucial to business success.”

How will it work? The Carnegie course will teach students effective personal interaction, stress management, persuasive communication, problem-solving, leadership, and positive attitude formation. Jones College faculty members are busy becoming certified Dale Carnegie instructors who will teach business students, and the first courses are expected to be offered during spring 2015.

As a former business editor for various Nashville-area publications for many years, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good business story. As University Editor at MTSU since 2010, I’ll also admit I have not lost my appetite for storylines that reveal the significant economic impact MTSU has on the local, regional, and state economies or the unprecedented work it does preparing the workforce for the Nashville area. That’s one reason I was drawn to the NBJ article about preparing today’s workforce. It’s also why I think the recent agreement between Jennings A. Jones College of Business and Carnegie is so noteworthy.

True Blue!


University Editor

Drew Ruble

Art Director

Kara Hooper

Contributing Editors

Michael Burgin, Bill Fisher

Contributing Writers

Lynn Adams, Gina E. Fann, Allison Gorman, Jimmy Hart, Gina K. Logue, Carol Stuart, Randy Weiler

Design Assistance

Darrell Callis Burks, Tadson Bussey,
Keith Dotson, Brian Evans, Lauren Finney, Micah Loyed, Sherry Wiser George

University Photographers

J. Intintoli, Andy Heidt, Darby Campbell

Special thanks to

Sara Brookfield, Robert Benson Photography, Mark Byrnes, Bud Fischer, Ginger Freeman and the Alumni Relations staff, Amy Hardin, Tara Hollins, Connie Huddleston, Rob Janson, the MT Athletics staff, the staff of the MTSU Office of Development, Marsha Powers, Jack Ross, Cindy Speer, David Urban, John Vile, David Whitaker, Doug Williams, Vincent Windrow

University President

Sidney A. McPhee

University Provost

Brad Bartel

Vice President for University Advancement

Joe Bales

Vice President for Marketing and Communications

Andrew Oppmann

Address changes should be sent to Advancement Services, MTSU Box 109, Murfreesboro, TN 37132; Other correspondence should be sent to MTSU Magazine, Drew Ruble, 1301 E. Main St., Box 49, Murfreesboro, TN 37132. For exclusive online content, visit

113,000 copies printed at Lithographics, Nashville, Tenn.
Designed by MTSU Creative and Visual Services.