San Francisco, California, native Misty Francis joined the U.S. Army National Guard in her mid-20s in 2010, working in public affairs/broadcast journalism. Since then, she has juggled motherhood and going to college, first at Jackson State Community College and now at MTSU.
The Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center and David Corlew with the Daniels-led Journey Home Project surprised Francis by presenting her with the Journey Award — one of many highlights before a standing-room-only crowd at the 13th Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony Wednesday (April 24) in the Miller Education Center.
Nearly 50 graduating veterans received their red stoles, which they can wear during the upcoming commencement ceremonies Friday and Saturday, May 3-4, in Murphy Center. They are among a class of 115 student veterans and senior cadets who will be graduating.
The Journey Award is presented to a student veteran who has overcome significant adversity and transitioned into an unsung hero for student veterans and the Daniels Center.
“I’m really proud,” Francis, 36, of Nashville, Tennessee, said of the honor. “I feel very accomplished that my time at MTSU has been great. In December 2017, I was fresh off deployment. I was at MTSU in January (2018).”
Francis’ time at MTSU has been as a journalism/video communications major in the College of Media and Entertainment. She said the Journey Award “helps promote good morale and make me feel like I made a difference.”
Derrick Jones, 37, of Murfreesboro and formerly from Columbia, Tennessee, received the Leadership Award from Deb Sells, vice president of Student Affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services. He will earn his degree in geosciences (spatial analysis) after earning one in animal science in 2017.
“It is an amazing honor for me,” Jones said of the award. “To see that all the work I did (in the veterans center) was recognized not only by my bosses, but also by Gen. (Keith) Huber, Dr. (Hilary) Miller and Dr. Sells. Following graduation, Jones, who was joined by wife Ashley at the ceremony, said he has a job waiting for him with the National Park Service at the Stones River National Battlefield.
“Derrick clearly has a bright future,” Sells said in making the presentation, mentioning his “behind-the-scenes” work in the Daniels Center, especially when longtime veterans staff member Ray Howell went on extended leave in the summer of 2018.
Amber Cetinel, 22, of Murfreesboro, a journalism major, said she was “really thankful to be a part of the ceremony” as a graduating senior cadet. “I could not have been here without our cadre (faculty) and my peers.” Cetinel’s introduction included the announcement of her being named as a recipient of the Pallas Athene Award for being one of the top two female cadets in the U.S.
Corlew said he was doubly proud to be there as his son-in-law, Donnie Cardwell, received his red stole and recognition from MTSU’s leadership.
Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who provided the welcome and more during the ceremony, said more than 30 companies, potential employers for graduating senior veterans, attended the ceremony.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Provost Mark Byrnes also shared remarks as did Miller, who presented the student veterans with a commemorative alumni coin as they join 136,000 alums once they graduate.
For more on the veterans center, call 615-904-8347 or visit http://www.mtsu.edu/military/index.php online.
MTSU has more than 300 combined undergraduate and graduate programs.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)