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Groundbreaking, partnerships, pandemic pivots, thi...

Groundbreaking, partnerships, pandemic pivots, third Princeton honor among MTSU top stories for 2021

Middle Tennessee State University leaves 2021 with a year of strong achievement by its students, faculty, staff and alumni, yet remaining vigilant amid coronavirus variants that remind us all that the pandemic is not over.

Here are some of the top news stories for the Blue Raider campus for 2021:

Tuned in to groundbreaking achievements

The year began with the grand opening of the Chris Young Cafe, the renovated cafeteria that now serves as a learning lab and performance venue. College of Media and Entertainment students and others will use the café to learn skills from nearly every facet of the business of entertainment: music business, audio production, songwriting, venue management, sound reinforcement, and lighting and rigging, along with radio broadcasts, comedy shows and other events produced with help from all of MTSU’s academic colleges.

A multiplatinum entertainer and former MTSU student, Young christened the stage inside the venue bearing his name as well as an eye-catching “Famous Friends” outdoor mural honoring Young and other influential graduates, former students and faculty, along with others. A new Tennessee Music Pathways marker unveiled at the ceremony to mark Young’s success.

Multiplatinum country entertainer and Murfreesboro, Tenn., native Chris Young, center, cuts an MTSU blue ribbon with help from his mother, MTSU alumna and founding partner at Huskins-Harris Business Management of Nashville Becky Harris, Wednesday, Jan. 27, to celebrate the grand opening of MTSU's Chris Young Cafe. He and Harris are standing in front of a colorful new mural on the north exterior wall of the renovated facility that features more than two dozen MTSU-trained musicians and media members, educators and leaders from throughout the community. Joining them in front of the mural are, from left, Barbara Wolke, senior vice president of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce's Convention & Visitors Bureau; Young and Harris; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee; MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes; John Merchant, chair of MTSU's Department of Recording Industry; and Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Multiplatinum country entertainer and Murfreesboro, Tenn., native Chris Young, center, cuts an MTSU blue ribbon with help from his mother, MTSU alumna and founding partner at Huskins-Harris Business Management of Nashville Becky Harris, Wednesday, Jan. 27, to celebrate the grand opening of MTSU’s Chris Young Cafe. He and Harris are standing in front of a colorful new mural on the north exterior wall of the renovated facility that features more than two dozen MTSU-trained musicians and media members, educators and leaders from throughout the community. Joining them in front of the mural are, from left, Barbara Wolke, senior vice president of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce’s Convention & Visitors Bureau; Young and Harris; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee; MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes; John Merchant, chair of MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry; and Mark Ezell, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Later in the spring, MTSU broke ground in April on the 54,000-square-foot, $40.1 million School of Concrete and Construction Management building that is now well underway to completion after a topping-out ceremony in early fall.

Expected to be completed in time for fall 2022 classes, the facility features classrooms, faculty and staff offices and laboratory space for Concrete Industry Management — one of the most exclusive programs in the nation — and Construction Management, both of which provide interns and ready-to-work graduates awaiting potentially lucrative careers.

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU president

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee

“We mark yet another milestone in the university’s strategic path to educate and prepare students to fulfill workplace demands,” McPhee said. “Our programs have become the model other colleges and universities seek to replicate, and we’ve earned a reputation among industry leaders for preparing students with the knowledge and necessary skills to step into jobs ready to work Day One.”

The new building will be next to the future Applied Engineering Building, a 90,000-square-foot, $54.9 million facility which has received state funding and has an anticipated 2024 completion. Both will be in an area formerly occupied by Abernathy and Ezell halls, which have been demolished. Combined, there are 325 majors and 1,500 graduates in both programs.

MTSU officials celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for the 54,000-square-foot, $40.1 million School of Concrete and Construction Management Building on the southeast side of campus in early April. Ceremonial shoveling of dirt participants included, from left, Pete DeLay, trustee; Tom Boyd, trustee; J.B. Baker, trustee; Mary Martin, faculty trustee; Heather Brown, former professor and director of the School of Concrete Industry Management; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee; Stephen Smith, Board of Trustees chairman; Darrell Freeman, trustee vice chairman; Kelly Strong, director, MTSU School of Concrete and Construction Management; Daniel Bugbee, CIM (Concrete Industry Management) Patrons president; Pam Wright, trustee; Delanie McDonald, student trustee; and Christine Karbowiak Vanek, trustee. The building is scheduled to open in August 2022. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU officials celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for the 54,000-square-foot, $40.1 million School of Concrete and Construction Management Building on the southeast side of campus in early April. Ceremonial shoveling of dirt participants included, from left, Pete DeLay, trustee; Tom Boyd, trustee; J.B. Baker, trustee; Mary Martin, faculty trustee; Heather Brown, former professor and director of the School of Concrete Industry Management; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee; Stephen Smith, Board of Trustees chairman; Darrell Freeman, trustee vice chairman; Kelly Strong, director, MTSU School of Concrete and Construction Management; Daniel Bugbee, CIM (Concrete Industry Management) Patrons president; Pam Wright, trustee; Delanie McDonald, student trustee; and Christine Karbowiak Vanek, trustee. The building is scheduled to open in August 2022. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, and MTSU Board of Trustees members J.B. Baker, left, Darrell Freeman, Steve Smith and Pete Delay sign the ceremonial final beam to be placed at the top of the School of Concrete and Construction Management building Tuesday, Sept. 14, in the Bragg Parking lot adjacent to the construction site. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, and MTSU Board of Trustees members J.B. Baker, left, Darrell Freeman, Steve Smith and Pete Delay sign the ceremonial final beam to be placed at the top of the School of Concrete and Construction Management building Tuesday, Sept. 14, in the Bragg Parking lot adjacent to the construction site. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Unique partnerships with business, military

Over the summer, MTSU signed or fulfilled a number of partnerships with business and the military.

In early August, MTSU and Murfreesboro-based McGuire Management Group announced a new partnership making it more affordable for current and future qualifying employees to earn college credit and obtain a degree from the university tuition-free.

McPhee and local McDonald’s franchise owner Jonathon McGuire announced the McGuire True Blue Education Partnership at the Memorial Boulevard location of the fast-food restaurant. McGuire owns 20 McDonald’s restaurants, 10 in Murfreesboro, seven in Nashville/Antioch, Tennessee, and others in Columbia, Centerville and White Bluff.

“This partnership is designed to empower employees to learn and advance in their careers, no matter where they are on their journey,” McPhee said, adding that he appreciated the company’s willingness to fund tuition costs for eligible employees.

A few days following the McGuire announcement, MTSU fulfilled its partnership with the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

Under the agreement, some MTSU concrete students were provided internships for the race and, with the leadership and guidance of professor Heather Brown, were involved in creating safer and lighter blends of concrete using recycled materials and better molds for racing barriers and pit row use in the IndyCar Series event.

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix CEO and MTSU alumnus Matt Crews, left in white shirt, observes as MTSU Concrete Industry Management senior and Missouri native Cody Gange, center left, and lab assistant and senior T.J. Paul of Readyville, Tenn., right, assist concrete industry professor Heather Brown, center, with making an eco-friendly concrete mix inside a lab in the Voorhees Engineering Technology Building on the Murfreesboro, Tenn., campus in a November 2020 photo. The mix will be tested for use in race barriers for the Aug. 8 race in downtown Nashville. In the background, from left, are alumnus Denny Lind of Master Builders Solutions, and MTSU senior Concrete Industry Management majors Austin Gaydosh of Rockvale, Tenn., and Autumn Gates of Murfreesboro. Big Machine Music City Grand Prix has a formal partnership agreement with MTSU and its CIM program. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix CEO and MTSU alumnus Matt Crews, left in white shirt, observes as MTSU Concrete Industry Management senior and Missouri native Cody Gange, center left, and lab assistant and senior T.J. Paul of Readyville, Tenn., right, assist concrete industry professor Heather Brown, center, with making an eco-friendly concrete mix inside a lab in the Voorhees Engineering Technology Building on the Murfreesboro, Tenn., campus in a November 2020 photo. The mix will be tested for use in race barriers for the Aug. 8 race in downtown Nashville. In the background, from left, are alumnus Denny Lind of Master Builders Solutions, and MTSU senior Concrete Industry Management majors Austin Gaydosh of Rockvale, Tenn., and Autumn Gates of Murfreesboro. Big Machine Music City Grand Prix has a formal partnership agreement with MTSU and its CIM program. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

A month later, MTSU and officials with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, signed a partnership to encourage education, research and innovation collaborations in STEM fields and other disciplines.

Provost Mark Byrnes and Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie with the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps signed the five-year agreement, followed by demonstrations of the MTSU Aerospace Department’s drone program and 3D printing, laser-cutting and virtual reality technology in the MakerSpace at the James E. Walker Library.

The agreement seeks to enhance knowledge transfer, increase coeducational opportunities for military and civilian scholars in the areas of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and promote greater understanding between the Army and MTSU as well as the national security and academic communities.

“Innovation is a trademark of MTSU’s academic programs,” Byrnes said. “We take great pride in providing our students opportunities to gain hands-on experience and attain real-world knowledge. … The possible benefits and outcomes from this transfer of knowledge holds great potential for both our national security and academic communities.”

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie, right, and MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes enjoy a light moment regarding the university pen Ritchie used to sign the educational partnership agreement Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Student Union Building Executive Conference Room. The partnership will encourage education, research and innovation collaboration in the STEM fields and other disciplines. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Bob Ritchie, right, and MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes enjoy a light moment regarding the university pen Ritchie used to sign the educational partnership agreement Wednesday, Sept. 8, in the Student Union Building Executive Conference Room. The partnership will encourage education, research and innovation collaboration in the STEM fields and other disciplines. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Multiple national recognitions

Such facilities upgrades and program enhancements are one of the reasons that MTSU, for the third straight year, made The Princeton Review’s annual list of the nation’s best colleges for a third consecutive year.

Click the image to see MTSU’s profile on The Princeton Review’s web listing of the Best 387 Colleges. (Cover photo courtesy of The Princeton Review)

MTSU remains the only locally governed institution in Tennessee recognized by the publication, first achieving its spot in 2019. Only five higher education entities in the state — two public and three private — were included in the recently released 30th edition of “The Best 387 Colleges.”

The honor by the highly regarded educational services company is extended to roughly 13% of the nation’s roughly 3,000 four-year institutions.

Byrnes, the university’s chief academic officer, said the ranking “was particularly gratifying to receive the honor in light of the tremendous effort by our entire university community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Meanwhile, MTSU’s technology upgrades during the pandemic and ongoing improvements to its extensive online education offerings led to the university being named to Newsweek’s list of America’s Top Online Colleges 2022. MTSU ranked 40th among the 150 higher-ed institutions highlighted and was the only Tennessee university that made the list.

Not only that, MTSU also made Newsweek’s list of Best Maker Schools in Higher Education 2021. Institutions named to the list “are those with curricula that encourage learning by doing; are supported by educators committed to collaborative problem-solving; have well-developed makerspaces, labs, and studios; and which support diverse, interactive communities that engage in knowledge and skill sharing.”

Graduation with a safe twist

While summer and fall commencement graduates were again able to gather in mass inside Murphy Center for a return to more tradition ceremonies, the first ceremonies for the Class of 2021 in the spring required a bit of True Blue ingenuity.

As the university remained under a mask mandate and distancing guidelines, spring ceremonies for the almost 2,500 graduates featured 10 smaller ceremonies over three days, mostly according to academic college, with masked students seated on the floor of Hale Arena with chairs spread apart six feet and family and supporters socially distanced in the stands.

Members of MTSU’s first Class of 2021 sit, masked and 6 feet apart, on the floor of Hale Arena in Murphy Center Friday, May 7, as they prepare to graduate during the first day of the university's spring 2021 commencement ceremonies. Students returned to Murphy Center May 7-9 for the first time since 2019 for a three-day, 10-event, socially distanced commencement weekend. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Members of MTSU’s first Class of 2021 sit, masked and 6 feet apart, on the floor of Hale Arena in Murphy Center Friday, May 7, as they prepare to graduate during the first day of the university’s spring 2021 commencement ceremonies. Students returned to Murphy Center May 7-9 for the first time since 2019 for a three-day, 10-event, socially distanced commencement weekend. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

“I always say that our graduation ceremonies are the most significant events in the life of our university. These ceremonies, under these conditions and precautions, are even more significant,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee told the graduates, with the university forgoing outside guest speakers and having academic deans share brief remarks with the graduates.

“I know that many of you would not have chosen to persist through an academic year with so many unknowns, so many changes to your routine. Whether you struggled, discovered a new appreciation for the possibilities of remote learning or surprised yourself by thriving, I know none of it was easy.”

10 years of True Blue values

2021 also marked the 10th anniversary of the True Blue Pledge. It was a decade ago when McPhee convened a university task force to develop the pledge in the wake of the tragic death of Lady Raider basketball player Tina Stewart at the hands of her roommate during an argument at their off-campus apartment.

The pledge, which begins with the simple phrase “I am True Blue,” underscores MTSU’s core values of honesty and integrity; respect for diversity; engagement in the community; and committing to reason, not violence.

“As I’ve said numerous times before, ‘I Am True Blue’ is so much more than a slogan. It is truly who we are as a university,” McPhee said.

Here are more snapshots of other top university stories throughout the year, listed chronologically:

JANUARY

Free Speech Center’s new First Amendment report offers ‘creative ways’ to reach college students [+VIDEO]

A new report by the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University finds that college students don’t know much about their First Amendment freedoms, but their professors can help address that gap.

“Learning About Liberty: Facilitating First Amendment Engagement Among American University Students,” researched and written by Dr. Brian Hinote, MTSU’s associate vice provost for data analytics and student success, is available now at the center’s website.

logo for Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University“Research shows that most students enroll in college with minimal understanding of the First Amendment and its role in our democracy,” says Ken Paulson, director of the Free Speech Center.

“Our center focuses on creative ways to engage students in First Amendment principles so that they graduate as more informed citizens.”

MTSU welcomes Schmand as new James E. Walker Library dean

When Kathleen Schmand was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, her father invited her to spend Thanksgiving with him in Murfreesboro, telling her she had to see Middle Tennessee State University during her visit.

Kathleen Schmand, dean, James E. Walker Library (Photo submitted)

Kathleen Schmand

Schmand’s father, a Navy veteran, had moved to Murfreesboro in 1995 because of his interest in the area’s Civil War history and access to the Alvin C. York Veterans Administration Medical Center.

As of Jan. 4, Kathleen Schmand is the new dean of MTSU’s James E. Walker Library following a nationwide search. Although her father has died, Schmand said she is excited to be back in Murfreesboro. logo for MTSU's James E. Walker Library

“I know he would be so excited to see that I’ve circled back around and now landed at MTSU for a new position, and particularly a position as dean,” Schmand said.

Schmand comes to MTSU from Northern Arizona University, where she had been director of development and communications for that institution’s library since 2006.

MTSU broadcasts virtual MLK Day celebration on digital platforms [+VIDEO]

Middle Tennessee State University again honored slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in observance of the national holiday, though this year’s event was moved to a virtual format due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The annual MLK Celebration and Candlelight Vigil aired at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, featuring pre-recorded remarks, special video presentations, artistic performances and a socially-distanced candlelight vigil in the Quad area as part of a moment of reflection toward the end of the presentation.

Dr. Vincent Windrow

Dr. Vincent Windrow

Vincent Windrow, associate vice provost of student success and pastor of Olive Branch Church, provided rousing keynote remarks encouraging students to be their “authentic selves” as they find their purpose in the world while encouraging the wider audience to heed King’s advice to choose community over chaos.

The MTSU Men’s Choir, featuring Caleb Mitchell and Devon Bowles, were also featured in a powerful visual performance of the song “Glory,” filmed in part on the grounds of Oaklands Mansion, a former Murfreesboro plantation now serving as a museum; and Jalen Everett, president of MTSU’s National Pan-Hellenic Council and treasurer of MTSU’s Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, shared remarks about King’s membership in the nation’s oldest historically Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, and introduced a video featuring historical footage of King.

“After a year of protests surrounding racial injustice, civil unrest, and an unprecedented pandemic, this year signifies a call-to-action for our community,” said event emcee Daniel Green, director of the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, host of the annual event.

FEBRUARY

MTSU Nursing partners with county health department to administer Moderna vaccine by appointment to eligible residents

Beginning Thursday, Feb. 25, the MTSU School of Nursing, in partnership with the Rutherford County Health Department, will join the State Farm Operations Center as a site for eligible Rutherford County residents to receive free COVID-19 Moderna vaccines.

The MTSU site will offer vaccines — by appointment only — on Thursdays and Saturdays in Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building, 610 Champion Way, in the heart of the MTSU campus

Ed Arning, director of market development for the MTSU Division of Marketing and Communications, secures a large banner to a fence on Blue Raider Driver near Greenland Drive on Wednesday, Feb. 24. It will be signage helping direct traffic to Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building, which will be a new COVID-19 vaccine site in a partnership between the School of Nursing and the Rutherford County Health Department. The vaccine for eligible residents will be available on Thursdays and Saturdays starting Feb. 25. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Ed Arning, director of market development for the MTSU Division of Marketing and Communications, secures a large banner to a fence on Blue Raider Driver near Greenland Drive on Wednesday, Feb. 24. It will be signage helping direct traffic to Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building, which will be a new COVID-19 vaccine site in a partnership between the School of Nursing and the Rutherford County Health Department. The vaccine for eligible residents will be available on Thursdays and Saturdays starting Feb. 25. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU HackMT winners crank out creativity competing virtually [+VIDEO]

Reverting to a virtual environment may have affected the number of participants, but it did not deter the talent and creativity of the college students taking part in the sixth annual MTSU Computer Science Department’s HackMT.

Jacob Cuomo and Emily Nguyen were teammates on the first-place team that created an app to help family members keep track of chores, and as a bonus, they were each chosen to receive $2,500 scholarships provided by primary sponsor L3Harris to help wrap up the event, held virtually Friday through Sunday, Jan. 29-31.

Team #20 received the Hacker’s Choice Award, selected by participants and visitors. In addition to their super heroes graphic, members Marie McCord, left, Alex Silavong, Gage Richardson, Biz Duff and Erica Truxton also had a creative entry — “Are You Kitten Me: a Purr-ference Quiz” — during the 36-hour HackMT event, held virtually Jan. 29-31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.(Submitted graphic by Alex Silavong)

Team #20 received the Hacker’s Choice Award, selected by participants and visitors. In addition to their super heroes graphic, members Marie McCord, left, Alex Silavong, Gage Richardson, Biz Duff and Erica Truxton also had a creative entry — “Are You Kitten Me: a Purr-ference Quiz” — during the 36-hour HackMT event, held virtually Jan. 29-31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.(Submitted graphic by Alex Silavong)

The hackathon brings software developers, visual designers, programmers and computer science and computer information systems students from universities together to collaborate while inventing new web platforms, games, mobile apps and electronic gadgets.

This year, because of MTSU, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols, they participated online from dorm rooms or home study areas.

Cuomo and Nguyen’s Team 2 emerged the overall winner with The Fam App for mobile devices. Team members included MTSU’s Nathan Igot, William Lucas, Adam Rhodes, Austin Fine, Daniel Wiseman and Joshua Cox, and Anuj Choudhary of Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada.

Woodard ‘represents the best’ as 2021 John Pleas Faculty Award recipient

“Representation matters.” 

Dr. Jennifer Woodard, assistant dean of the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment, used those words to describe her life and career as she accepted the 2021 John Pleas Faculty Award at a Feb. 24 ceremony that was livestreamed to comply with COVID-19 protocols.

Jennifer Woodard, associate dean of the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment, accepts the 2021 John Pleas Award at a Feb. 24 livestreamed ceremony from Keathley University Center. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

Dr. Jennifer Woodard, associate dean of the MTSU College of Media and Entertainment, accepts the 2021 John Pleas Award at a Feb. 24 ceremony livestreamed from the Keathley University Center. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

The award, named for psychology professor emeritus and 1999 Outstanding Teaching Award winner John Pleas, is presented annually during Black History Month to a Black faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and service.

Woodard is the 25th recipient since the award’s inception in 1997.

“I am honored, humbled and so filled with gratitude to be named among such an esteemed group, so many of whom have mentored, encouraged, sponsored and aided me,” Woodard said in her acceptance speech from Keathley University Center Theater in front of a small group of masked and socially distanced family members and supporters.

Woodard, one of Pleas’ former students, said Pleas was the first Black teacher she had ever had. She said he was so influential to her that she almost changed her major.

MTSU recognizes ‘unsung heroes’ for service at virtual Unity Celebration [+VIDEO]

For the 25th consecutive year, a stellar group of unsung heroes were honored at MTSU’s 2021 Unity Celebration, held virtually this year as part of the university’s annual Black History Month activities.

In this year’s renamed online recognition, which substitutes for the annual on-campus Unity Luncheon due to COVID-19, the five community honorees were applauded during a special online broadcast that aired Thursday, Feb. 11, on the university’s Facebook and YouTube channels and True Blue TV.

Each celebrated individual must be 60 years of age or older, have resided in the Middle Tennessee area for 25 years or more, and have made outstanding contributions to their community.

MTSU has recognized nearly 130 people since the program began.

MTSU will honor five “unsung heroes” for their contributions to the community during the virtual Unity Celebration to be broadcast Thursday, Feb. 11, on the university’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Pictured, from left, are honorees Sue Anderson, Violet Cox-Wingo, George Gibson, Christa Martin and Kim Sokoya. (MTSU photos by Creative Marketing Solutions; illustration by Jimmy Hart)

MTSU is celebrating five “unsung heroes” for their contributions to the community, culminating in a virtual Unity Celebration broadcast Thursday, Feb. 11, on the university’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Pictured from left are honorees Sue Anderson, Violet Cox Wingo, George Gibson, Christa Martin and Kim Sokoya. (MTSU photos by Andy Heidt and James Cessna; illustration by Jimmy Hart)

This year’s honorees were:

• Education — Sue Alexander, a telephone operator at MTSU, volunteer host at athletic events and church volunteer.

• Community Service — Violet D. Cox Wingo, an adjunct professor of social work at MTSU who has encouraged voter registration and civic involvement through her membership in the NAACP.

• Excellence in Sports — George Gibson, founder of the Above the Rim Gym, a nonprofit basketball academy for boys ages 7-17 which helps provide them with skills to prepare them for adulthood.

• Advocate of Civility — Christa Martin, the vice mayor of Columbia, Tennessee, and a volunteer in more than 15 civic organizations.

• Education — Kim Sokoya, associate dean of the Jennings A. Jones College of Business and creator of the college’s Flex MBA Program, which allows students to obtain master’s degrees in business administration entirely online.

Also honored with the university’s annual Unsung Staff Award was Danielle Rochelle, outreach coordinator for the MT One Stop and a member of MTSU Black History Month Committee.

MARCH

MTSU graduate school hits record spring semester enrollment [+VIDEO]

MTSU’s College of Graduate Studies reported record-high spring semester enrollment with 2,919 students registered. This continued historic success — following an almost 28% enrollment increase last fall — is even more profound against the backdrop of the pandemic and its economic impacts.

College of Graduate Studies logoKey Graduate Studies team members broke down the formula for their success from program variety to funding opportunities and to student support.

Dr. Dawn McCormack

Dr. Dawn McCormack

“This is the only time in the College of Graduate Studies history that we have had a higher number of students in the spring than the fall,” said Dawn McCormack, associate dean of the college.

“New students are coming into our high-quality programs and previous students are staying to complete their degree or certificates. Others come here for a class or two to work on their skills and interests.”

Dr. David Butler, dean of the College of Graduate Studies and vice provost for research

Dr. David Butler

“Our significant fall 2020 jump in graduate enrollment and now our record spring 2021 graduate enrollment did not happen on accident,” said David Butler, dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

“This was a planned effort by many administrators, faculty and staff across the university working together to make it known that MTSU is the place to further your education in Middle Tennessee and across the state.”

 

MTSU grads find Grammy gold betting on Lambert’s ‘Wildcard’ CD; other nominees celebrating

Working with an artist as well-established as Miranda Lambert was no “Wildcard” for a pair of Middle Tennessee State University graduates, but helping create the 2020 best country album‘s sound was a bet that paid off for them in Grammy gold.

Jimmy Mansfield, 2014 MTSU audio production graduate and multiple Grammy nominee for his audio engineering work

Jimmy Mansfield

MTSU recording industry alumnus and Grammy winner Jason A. Hall

Jason A. Hall

In fact, 2000 Department of Recording Industry alumnus Jason A. Hall of Nashville and 2014 audio production grad Jimmy Mansfield almost could’ve bet the house on this year’s country album category, thanks to their teamwork on three of the five nominees.

Along with Lambert’s winning effort, announced March 14 in a combined live and virtual ceremony from Los Angeles’ Staples Center, engineer Hall and assistant engineer Mansfield also were part of the crew nominated for Brandy Clark’s “Your Life is a Record” and Ashley McBryde’s “Never Will.”

That crew, assembled by Grammy producer of the year nominee Jay Joyce, has been crafting the sound for multiple artists’ award-winning and bestselling projects for the last few years.

Teen prodigies pursue pre-med pathway as thriving MTSU dual enrollment students

At age 14, the amazing Alnassari triplets may be too young to drive, but the Nashville, Tennessee, high school and MTSU dual enrollment students are steering their own success stories in academic pursuits at Middle Tennessee State University that may lead to medical careers.

Since August 2020, in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, Fatimah, Zaynab and Ahmed Alnassari have been on a premed pathway, studying biology at the university, following their hearts with other interests, finding a passion for research and volunteering to help others.

MTSU Department of Biology chair Dennis Mullen, left, talks with the Alnassari family — mom Khadijah,who is a freshman, and triplets Zaynab Alnassari, Ahmed and Fatima during a visit to the Science Building lab. The triplets are dual enrollment freshmen. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU Department of Biology chair Dennis Mullen, left, talks with the Alnassari family — mom Khadijah,who is a freshman, and triplets Zaynab Alnassari, Ahmed and Fatima during a visit to the Science Building lab. The triplets are dual enrollment freshmen. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Talk about driven. They each carry 18 hours this semester after 13 in the fall, perform 40 hours a week in botanical and agricultural research and make excellent grades in their remote, in-person and hybrid MTSU classes.

They and their mother, biology major (and driver) Khadijah Alnassari, made the fall Dean’s List. During winter break, they participated in a telemedical brigade to Honduras. They even find time to solicit appropriate Islamic attire, such as hijabs, for the Raiders Closet in the Career Development Center and plan to participate in the April 6-9 MTSU Habitat for Humanity build.

Fatimah, who plans to be a primary care physician and is the oldest by one minute, considers MTSU “a place where nothing is impossible.”

APRIL

MTSU master’s program named a Top 5 ‘best value’ nationally for management information systems

MTSU’s master’s in information systems program has been ranked among the Top 5 nationally by an online higher education resource for prospective students.

Ranked No. 4 by www.bestvalueschools.org for 2021, MTSU’s Master of Science in Information Systems through the Jennings A. Jones College of Business is delivered in a “50-50 format,” meaning students engage in classroom instruction half of the time during each course and complete the other half in an online study format.

Dr. David Urban

Dr. David Urban

Students entering MTSU’s program choose from three concentrations, including Business Intelligence and Analytics, Information Security and Assurance, or IT Project Management. Some courses offered in the program include Management of Security Operations, Applied Business Analytics, and Modeling for Problem Solving. Students can start the program in the spring, summer or fall.

“MTSU’s Jones College of Business has an exceptionally strong reputation in this region for the quality of graduates from its Master of Information Systems program,” said David Urban, dean of the college. “It is not surprising that the rest of the country is taking notice. Our ‘best value’ is based on high quality and a very reasonable tuition price point. That’s a value proposition that’s tough to beat.”

MTSU Theatre prepares the way for ‘Godspell’ online [+VIDEO]

MTSU Theatre students are preparing the way of the Lord — and for big show-stopping tunes to return to Tucker Theatre — when they bring the Tony-nominated musical “Godspell” to audiences online April 8-11.

MTSU Theatre and Dance logoA socially distanced handful of in-person audience members at Tucker Theatre, located inside MTSU’s Boutwell Dramatic Arts Auditorium at 615 Champion Way, will provide much-needed live feedback for the cast and crew at each MTSU Arts performance.

MTSU senior Caleb Mitchell of Antioch, Tenn., right, responds to castmate Stokeley Ellison, a junior from Friendship, Tenn., as she sings "Day by Day" and other cast members look on during dress rehearsal Monday, April 5, in Tucker Theatre for MTSU Theatre's spring production of "Godspell." Tickets are available at http://www.Showtix4u.com/Events/MTSUTheatre. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

MTSU senior Caleb Mitchell of Antioch, Tenn., right, responds to castmate Stokeley Ellison, a junior from Friendship, Tenn., as she sings “Day by Day” and other cast members look on during dress rehearsal Monday, April 5, in Tucker Theatre for MTSU Theatre’s spring production of “Godspell.” Tickets are available at www.Showtix4u.com/Events/MTSUTheatre. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

“Godspell,” created by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, premiered off-Broadway in 1971 and is regularly revived worldwide, in part because of the continuing popularity of its score, featuring the top-20 pop hit “Day by Day,” and its 1973 film adaptation.

Its title the Anglo-Saxon version of the word “gospel,” “Godspell” — or “good story” — tells of Christ with parables based on the New Testament book of Matthew, using tunes that incorporate traditional hymns’ lyrics. Eight non-Biblical characters sing and act out the stories with two actors portraying Jesus and John the Baptist/Judas.

MTSU’s pandemic tech upgrades well positions campus for future of higher ed

As Middle Tennessee State University continues navigating its spring semester with a mix of course deliveries, significant technology upgrades during the past year because of the pandemic has placed the Blue Raider campus on the cutting edge locally, regionally and nationally in providing a deeper higher education experience for students.

Like many other academic institutions across the country, MTSU purchased a comprehensive Zoom license in March 2020 to begin the unexpected and rapid transition to all-remote instruction to stop the spread of COVID-19. But infrastructure was needed to equip hundreds of classrooms with video lecture and recording capabilities in addition to the faculty training needed to make the switch a successful one.

Dr. Kim Sokoya, associate dean for Graduate and Executive Education, records his lecture in mid-March for an online class for the College of Business. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Dr. Kim Sokoya, associate dean for Graduate and Executive Education, records his lecture in mid-March 2020 for an online class for the College of Business. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Bruce Petryshak, chief information officer, ITD

Bruce Petryshak

Dr. Albert Whittenberg, ITD’s assistant vice president for academic and instructional technologies, adjunct history professor

Dr. Albert Whittenberg

At the forefront of this pivot was the university’s Information Technology Division in partnership with administration, faculty and other technology leaders across campus as the institution embarked on a multimillion-dollar investment to provide faculty, staff and students with the ability to carry on its academic mission in an environment like few had experienced before.

The result? Albert Whittenberg, ITD’s assistant vice president for academic and instructional technologies, said the campus now has more than 400 “smart classrooms” that are equipped with a projector, document camera and other technology that allows an instructor to enter the classroom, push a button or two, and effectively teach a class both in-person and virtually.

MTSU honors 17th General officer in 71-year history of university’s Army ROTC [+VIDEO]

U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Robert S. Powell Jr. was honored by his alma mater Monday as the 17th graduate of Middle Tennessee State University’s Army ROTC in its 71-year history to reach General officer rank.

Powell was recognized with the unveiling of a commemorative brick in a special ceremony at the Veterans Memorial site outside the Tom H. Jackson Building. The outdoor event and others throughout the day followed COVID-19 safety protocols of wearing masks and social distancing.

Brig. Gen. Robert S. Powell Jr., an MTSU alumnus, and his wife and fellow alum, Jill, watch as Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee unveil a framed photograph of the commemorative brick that was placed at the MTSU Veterans Memorial site outside the Tom H. Jackson Building Monday, April 12. Powell is the 17th MTSU alumnus to become a general officer. The deputy commanding general of the 335th Signal Command in East Point, Georgia, is a 1991 graduate from the university and its ROTC program. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Brig. Gen. Robert S. Powell Jr., an MTSU alumnus, and his wife and fellow alum, Jill, watch as Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, and MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee unveil a framed photograph of the commemorative brick that was placed at the MTSU Veterans Memorial site outside the Tom H. Jackson Building Monday, April 12. Powell is the 17th MTSU alumnus to become a general officer. The deputy commanding general of the 335th Signal Command in East Point, Georgia, is a 1991 graduate from the university and its ROTC program. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Powell, a 1991 MTSU graduate with a degree in political science/international relations, is the deputy commanding general of the 335th Signal Command in East Point, Georgia, and the Army Reserve’s first cyber officer promoted to brigadier general.

MAY

MTSU’s 2020-21 debate team tops nation while adjusting to pandemic conditions

Members of the MTSU Debate Team and their coaches pose at the horseshoe in Walnut Grove on campus with some of the trophies they won during the 2020-2021 season. From left, Patrick Richey, director of forensics and communication studies professor; Graham Christophel, rising senior; Solomon Barker, graduate; Mo Campbell, graduate; Nick Ged, senior; Hannah Rowland, rising senior; Sydney Robbins, rising sophomore; Steven Barhorst, rising junior; Luke Arnold, graduate; Jonny Locke, graduate; Miura Rempis, graduate; and LaTanya Listach, assistant debate coach. (MTSU Photo by J. Intintoli)

Members of the MTSU Debate Team and their coaches pose at the horseshoe in Walnut Grove on campus with some of the trophies they won during the 2020-2021 season. From left, Patrick Richey, director of forensics and communication studies professor; Graham Christophel, rising senior; Solomon Barker, graduate; Mo Campbell, graduate; Nick Ged, senior; Hannah Rowland, rising senior; Sydney Robbins, rising sophomore; Steven Barhorst, rising junior; Luke Arnold, graduate; Jonny Locke, graduate; Miura Rempis, graduate; and LaTanya Listach, assistant debate coach. (MTSU Photo by J. Intintoli)

While their competition was virtual this past academic year, there’s nothing virtual about the MTSU Debate Team’s excellence.

Foregoing the usual travel to other schools for face-to-face verbal duels, the students debated online, finishing first in the nation in team format for fall and spring competitions under the rules of the International Public Debate Association.

More than 3,000 participants from more than 150 schools participated in IPDA debates during the 2020-21 season. About a third of the contestants took part in team debate.

Dr. Patrick Richey, MTSU Debate Team coach, director of forensics and assistant professor of communication studies.

Dr. Patrick Richey

Natonya Listach, lecturer in the Department of Organizational Communication and Communication Studies

Natonya Listach

“We’ve got some older debaters that were really good, and we’ve got some young ones who really stepped up to the plate,” said communication studies professor Patrick Richey, director of forensics and debate team coach.

Aside from altering their presentations, their arguments and even their evidence to accommodate pandemic protocols, Richey said his debaters endured practically every obstacle imaginable at the national tournament, in which numerous schools suffered local emergencies in various locations other than MTSU. 

Journalism students earn national honors for ‘100 Years of Broadcasting’ TV special [+VIDEO]

Telling the story of a century’s worth of broadcasting in America and in Tennessee has turned a national spotlight — and a pair of prestigious awards — toward a team of nine Middle Tennessee State University multimedia journalism students and alumni.

The students, all part of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media in the College of Media and Entertainment, first received a top-10 win May 21 in the national Hearst Journalism Awards Program for their November 2020 TV news special, “100 Years of Broadcasting.”

Hearst Journalism AwardThen, on May 25, they learned their 30-minute special and its associated website made them one of six student-category Silver Winners in the renowned Telly Awards, which recognize the best TV and video content created worldwide by advertising agencies, TV stations, production companies and publishers.

The Hearst awards, called “the Pulitzer Prizes of collegiate journalism,” are considered the top honors for journalists at accredited U.S. universities.

Telly Awards logoThis year’s Tellys included winning creations from organizations ranging from The Walt Disney Company and the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs to CBS Interactive and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The award-winning MTSU student special and its accompanying website are available at www.middletennesseenews.net/100-years-of-broadcast

The MTSU team took journalism professor Christine Eschenfelder’s fall 2020 senior-level “Seminar in Media Issues” course, which focused this time on the centennial of U.S. broadcasting.

Dr. Christine Eschenfelder, assistant professor, School of Journalism and Strategic Media, College of Media and Entertainment

Dr. Christine Eschenfelder

The group included now-alumni Christyn Allen of Oneida, Tennessee, a fall 2020 journalism graduate; Morgan Gonzalez of Maryville, Tennessee, Zoë Haggard of Nolensville, Tennessee, and Dontae Rucker of Knoxville, who received their journalism degrees this May; seniors Cheyana Avilla of Murfreesboro, a journalism major; Danesia Hunt of Memphis, who has a double major in sports media and Africana Studies; journalism majors Haley Perkins of Murfreesboro and Dede West of Antioch, Tennessee; and Xavier Mastin of Murfreesboro, a junior physical education major.

 

Four members of a nine-member MTSU School of Journalism and Strategic Media student team take a break for a quick group selfie outside the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last October while preparing their national award-winning 30-minute TV and web special, “100 Years of Broadcasting.” Clockwise from front, they are senior journalism major Cheyana Avilla of Murfreesboro; May 2021 journalism graduates Zoë Haggard of Nolensville, Tenn., and Dontae Rucker of Knoxville; and fall 2020 graduate Christyn Allen of Oneida, Tenn. (photo submitted)

Four members of a nine-member MTSU School of Journalism and Strategic Media student team take a break for a quick group selfie outside the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last October while preparing their national award-winning 30-minute TV and web special, “100 Years of Broadcasting.” Clockwise from front are senior journalism major Cheyana Avilla of Murfreesboro; May 2021 journalism graduates Zoë Haggard of Nolensville, Tenn., and Dontae Rucker of Knoxville; and fall 2020 graduate Christyn Allen of Oneida, Tenn. (photo submitted)

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix partners with MTSU’s Daniels Veterans Center [+VIDEO]

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Big Machine Music City Grand Prix joined three other iconic Nashville institutions May 29 in support of the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center at Middle Tennessee State University.

Grand Prix CEO Matt Crews, a MTSU alumnus, joined retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, for the announcement from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry during the sold-out Opry Salute the Troops show.

A pre-show video interview with Crews is available via the link above.

From left, Big Machine Music City Grand Prix CEO Matt Crews, a MTSU alumnus, retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU’s senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives, and MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes pose for a photo outside the Grand Ole Opry before Saturday’s sold-out Opry Salute the Troops show in Nashville, Tenn. (MTSU photo by James Cessna)

Big Machine Music City Grand Prix CEO Matt Crews, left, a MTSU alumnus, joins retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, and MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes May 29 for a photo outside the Grand Ole Opry before the sold-out Opry Salute the Troops show in Nashville, Tenn. (MTSU photo by James Cessna)

Huber said he was proud that the race, set for Aug. 6-8 in downtown Nashville, has joined the Opry, the Nashville Predators and the Nashville Sounds to help the about 1,100 military connected students at MTSU “seeking academic success and quality employment.”

JUNE

MTSU joins COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge to boost vaccinations nationwide

Middle Tennessee State University has joined campuses across the nation in signing up for President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge to help raise the COVID-19 vaccination rate in the U.S. to 70% by the Fourth of July.

The White House and the U.S. Department of Education are inviting institutions nationwide to join the effort, which seeks to boost the nation’s vaccination rate above the current 63% over the coming weeks, with Tennessee’s vaccination rate standing at only 32%.

MTSU was the first Tennessee university to sign on to the challenge as a “Vaccine Champion University” and has since been joined by East Tennessee State University and Lane College among the 350-plus colleges and universities across 46 states that have signed on thus far.

Participating colleges commit to taking three key actions to help get their campus communities vaccinated: engaging every student, faculty, and staff member; organizing their college communities; and delivering vaccine access for all.

In this April file photo, MTSU student Brett Bingham, left, is vaccinated by nurse practitioner Lady Hamilton during a special clinic inside the Student Union building. MTSU Student Health Services continues offering clinics this summer during CUSTOMS new student orientation sessions and the university is among hundreds nationwide participating in the White House’s COVID College Challenge campaign to increase the nationwide vaccination rate to 70%. (MTSU file photo by J. Intintoli)

In this April file photo, MTSU student Brett Bingham, left, is vaccinated by nurse practitioner Lady Hamilton during a special clinic inside the Student Union building. MTSU Student Health Services continues offering clinics this summer during CUSTOMS new student orientation sessions and the university is among hundreds nationwide participating in the White House’s COVID College Challenge campaign to increase the nationwide vaccination rate to 70%. (MTSU file photo by J. Intintoli)

Western championship wraps up outstanding MTSU equestrian season

A first-place finish at the2021 YEDA Western Collegiate Celebration, hosted by the Youth Equestrian Development Association recently in Cleveland, Tennessee, completed an outstanding year for the MTSU equestrian team.

The team, coached by Ariel Herrin Higgins and undefeated during the regular season, took 12 riders to the competition. Eleven earned awards.

MTSU equestrian team members showcase some of the ribbons they earned while winning the 2021 YEDA Western Collegiate Celebration, hosted by the Youth Equestrian Development Association recently in Cleveland, Tenn. Eleven riders earned individual awards and most of the team returns for the 2021-22 season. (Submitted photo by Dawn Nieman)

MTSU equestrian team members showcase some of the ribbons they earned while winning the 2021 YEDA Western Collegiate Celebration, hosted by the Youth Equestrian Development Association recently in Cleveland, Tenn. Eleven riders earned individual awards and most of the team returns for the 2021-22 season. (Submitted photo by Dawn Nieman)

In the 16-team field, MTSU finished ahead of two West Texas A&M squads, fourth-place St. Mary-of-the-Woods (Indiana) College, fifth-place Berry College from Rome, Georgia, and sixth-place Adrian (Michigan) College.

MTSU usually competes in Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association regional and nationals, but IHSA canceled its events because of COVID-19 for the second consecutive year. The team followed local COVID protocols for the outdoor competition in Cleveland.

MTSU alumna Phillips makes history: first female named assistant distiller at Jack Daniel

Lexie Phillips has felt the influences … from her large family, several dozen of whom have worked at Jack Daniel Distillery; from colleagues who work with her in the large Stillhouse in Lynchburg, Tennessee; and from Middle Tennessee State University, where she earned an agribusiness degree.

MTSU alumna Lexie Phillips carries on a long family tradition of working at the Jack Daniel Distillery. This spring, the 2011 MTSU graduate was promoted to assistant distiller, the first time a female has been named to this position. Shown in the Stillhouse in Lynchburg, Tenn., Phillips works alongside Chris Fletcher, supporting the overall quality and innovation of Jack Daniel’s and serving as brand ambassador. (Submitted by Jack Daniel Distillery)

MTSU alumna Lexie Phillips carries on a long family tradition of working at the Jack Daniel Distillery. This spring, the 2011 MTSU graduate was promoted to assistant distiller, the first time a female has been named to this position. Shown in the Stillhouse in Lynchburg, Tenn., Phillips works alongside Chris Fletcher, supporting the overall quality and innovation of Jack Daniel’s and serving as brand ambassador. (Submitted by Jack Daniel Distillery)

The impacts, inspirations and encouragements have touched Phillips, who was named the first female assistant distiller by the company earlier this spring. She supports the overall quality and innovation of Jack Daniel’s from “grain to glass” and serves as brand ambassador.

Jack Daniel’s, the famous Tennessee whiskey, has been around since the 1860s and is considered the top-selling whiskey in the world.

“I am so thankful for all the influences throughout my life that have brought me to where I am today,” said Phillips (Class of 2011), who is from Estill Springs, Tennessee. “From my mom (Mary Amacher) to the guys at the Stillhouse, they have helped me grow into the strong woman I am.

“MTSU was also one of my influences that taught me hard work and curiosity can lead you to amazing places in life.”

MTSU, Nashville State reaffirm joint True Blue Pathway to support students

The presidents of Middle Tennessee State University and Nashville State Community College huddled recently to ensure the True Blue Pathway — a partnership established in 2019 for students with an associate degree to move seamlessly to the four-year university — will be up and running when both institutions resume full campus operations for the fall.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Nashville State President Shanna L. Jackson learned during a Wednesday, June 23, meeting that, despite the pandemic, the partnership has been beneficial to both entities.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee shows Nashville State Community College President Shanna L. Jackson images of various campus buildings on display in a conference room in the Cope Administration Building on the Murfreesboro campus. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee shows Nashville State Community College President Shanna L. Jackson images of various campus buildings on display in a conference room in the Cope Administration Building on the Murfreesboro campus. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

McPhee said Nashville State regularly ranks among the top three in the number of graduates who began their studies at a community college.

The presidents committed to strengthening their partnership by uniting to jointly promote the True Blue Pathway. Through the pathway program, MTSU pledges support to help students at partner colleges complete their associate degree, then works with them to move forward in seeking a four-year degree on the Murfreesboro campus.

“As one of the top transfer choices for Nashville State students, we’re excited to renew this effort, because we are indeed better together,” Jackson told McPhee.

McPhee urged both schools to hone their focus on degree programs with clear ties to the needs of Nashville’s economy as both institutions advance the state’s overall mission of cultivating a more skilled workforce through higher education degrees and certifications.

“There are jobs we can help fill, and we need to make sure our students are presented with these opportunities,” McPhee said. “That is tremendous motivation.”

In-person Governor’s School gets young artists back into the swing of things at MTSU [+VIDEOS]

After what 2020 and much of 2021 threw at them, this summer’s round-the-clock Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts at MTSU was a virtual vacation for its nearly 300 young participants.

This year, though, “virtual” doesn’t involve videoconferencing.

Even though some of their artistic efforts are by nature solitary, the 11th and 12th graders from across Tennessee were thrilled to be among fellow creative-minded people to brainstorm ideas, offer suggestions, listen to snippets of music or soliloquies, share supplies and computer screens and, sometimes, simply be together.

Tennessee Governor's School for the Arts banner logo“The past year … we’ve not really gotten to play with others, so the chance to play with other musicians, with no masks, and seeing everybody, makes it even more special,” said Cindy Liu of Germantown, Tennessee, a junior at Houston High School and one of the acclaimed flutists joining this year’s Governor’s School.

The Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, which concluded its 37th year at MTSU on June 26, welcomes public, private and home-schooled high school juniors and seniors in music, theater, visual arts, dance and filmmaking.

MTSU School of Music flute professor Deanna Little, center, talks with a group of young instrumentaL music students attending the 2021 Governor's School for the Arts at MTSU during a June 22 workshop in the university's Tom Jackson Building. Nearly 300 11th and 12th graders from across Tennessee attended the monthlong residency program in person for intensive training in music, theater, visual arts, dance and filmmaking. (MTSU photo by Gina E. Fann)

MTSU School of Music flute professor Deanna Little, center, talks with a group of young instrumental music students attending the 2021 Governor’s School for the Arts at MTSU during a June 22 workshop in the university’s Tom Jackson Building. Nearly 300 11th and 12th graders from across Tennessee attended the monthlong residency program in person for intensive training in music, theater, visual arts, dance and filmmaking. (MTSU photo by Gina E. Fann)

Actor, director and educator Jon Royal of Nashville, right, makes a point to a group of young theater students attending the 2021 Governor's School for the Arts at MTSU during a June 23 rehearsal on the university's Tucker Theatre stage. Nearly 300 11th and 12th graders from across Tennessee attended the monthlong residency program in person for intensive training in music, theater, visual arts, dance and filmmaking. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Actor, director and educator Jon Royal of Nashville, right, makes a point to a group of young theater students attending the 2021 Governor’s School for the Arts at MTSU during a June 23 rehearsal on the university’s Tucker Theatre stage. Nearly 300 11th and 12th graders from across Tennessee attended the monthlong residency program in person for intensive training in music, theater, visual arts, dance and filmmaking. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

JULY

MTSU names 2021-22 Distinguished, Young Alumni, True Blue Citations of Distinction honorees

Middle Tennessee State University is again recognizing outstanding alumni who represent excellence and distinction through their professional careers, loyal support and service to the broader community.

From 1960 to present, the MTSU Alumni Association has recognized accomplished alumni with the association’s highest honor: the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Torrance Esmond, right, is the 2021-22 MTSU Distinguished Alumnus. Other honorees include top row, from left, U.S. Air Force Col. Joel Cook (Military Service), Rebecca Foote (Achievement in Education MTSU faculty), Civil Air Patrol Col. Barry Melton (Service to Community); and bottom row, from left, Dr. J. Mitchell Miller (Achievement in Education non-MTSU faculty), Gabrielle Thompson (Young Alumni Achievement Award) and Chip Walters (Service to University). (MTSU photo graphic by Jimmy Hart)

Torrance Esmond, right, is the 2021-22 MTSU Distinguished Alumnus. Other honorees include top row, from left, U.S. Air Force Col. Joel Cook (Military Service), Rebecca Foote (Achievement in Education MTSU faculty), Civil Air Patrol Col. Barry Melton (Service to Community); and bottom row, from left, Dr. J. Mitchell Miller (Achievement in Education non-MTSU faculty), Gabrielle Thompson (Young Alumni Achievement Award) and Chip Walters (Service to University). (MTSU photo graphic by Jimmy Hart)

This year’s recipient is Torrance Esmond (Class of 2003) of Nashville, Tennessee. Known professionally as “Street Symphony,” Esmond is a record producer, music executive, composer and adjunct MTSU professor, spearheading a new hip-hop and R&B songwriting class.

This year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award, given to a graduate age 35 or younger making a positive impact in the world, goes to Gabrielle Thompson (Classes of 2012 and ’15), a Nashville resident and Free for Life International’s executive director and CEO for the past six years — with a heart for empowerment and justice for vulnerable world populations.

For the eighth consecutive year, True Blue Citations of Distinction are being awarded. Categories, including a new one for Military Service, and this year’s honorees can be viewed by clicking the headline above.

MTSU, Civil Air Patrol renew partnership at EAA AirVenture in Wisconsin [+VIDEO]

OSHKOSH, Wis.Middle Tennessee State University celebrated its return to EAA AirVenture, the world’s largest aviation celebration, Monday, July 26, by renewing its partnership for a third time with Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP’s national commander and chief executive officer, signed the three-year extension just hours after the Experimental Aircraft Association’s signature annual event roared back after a one-year COVID-19 hiatus.

The 69th AirVenture, expected to draw more than 600,000 visitors over its seven-day run, also attracts premier aerospace organizations from industry, education and public service. Its tower controls the movement of about 10,000 aircraft, making it the world’s busiest for the week.

Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, left, Civil Air Patrol’s national commander and chief executive officer, presents Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney A. McPhee with a plaque Monday, July 26, recognizing the university as CAP’s Tennessee Wing’s top aerospace education partner in 2020. COVID-19 precautions prevented CAP from presenting the honor in person last year. MTSU and Civil Air Patrol renewed their partnership Monday at EAA AirVenture 2021 in Oshkosh, Wisc., just hours after the Experimental Aircraft Association’s signature annual event roared back after a one-year COVID-19 hiatus. (U.S. Air Force Auxiliary photo by Lt. Col. Robert Bowden)

Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, left, Civil Air Patrol’s national commander and chief executive officer, presents Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney A. McPhee with a plaque Monday, July 26, recognizing the university as the CAP Tennessee Wing’s top aerospace education partner in 2020. COVID-19 precautions prevented the CAP from presenting the honor in person last year. MTSU and Civil Air Patrol renewed their partnership Monday at EAA AirVenture 2021 in Oshkosh, Wis., just hours after the Experimental Aircraft Association’s signature annual event roared back after a one-year COVID-19 hiatus. (U.S. Air Force Auxiliary photo by Lt. Col. Robert Bowden)

“It’s wonderful that MTSU and CAP are here to celebrate the return of EAA AirVenture and the renewal of our partnership,” McPhee said. “Doing this at this international event underscores the importance of our work in aerospace, both as individual organizations and as partners.”

The MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences and its Department of Aerospace launched the partnership in 2014 with a priority goal of providing cadets ages 12 to 18 in the CAP’s Tennessee Wing with opportunities to interact with faculty and explore the Murfreesboro campus.

MTSU concrete students thrive in pre-race ‘mix’ for Aug. 8 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix

Autumn Gates can already anticipate the rush of IndyCars reaching 200 mph soon in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.

But the MTSU alumna and former Concrete Industry Management student is equally excited about taking some of her Irving Materials Inc. customers to the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix and getting goose bumps seeing some of her work and that of her peers on display and playing a critical role in the race.

Recent MTSU graduate Autumn Gates participated in a senior class lab project where students researched and tested environmentally friendly concrete mix as part of barrier wall and pit lane for the Aug. 6-8 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT IndyCar Race in downtown Nashville, Tenn. MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center will be featured in the 7 p.m. Aug. 6 festivities. The grand prix race starts at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 8. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

Recent MTSU graduate Autumn Gates is shown after participating in a senior class lab project where students researched and tested environmentally friendly concrete mix as part of a barrier wall and pit lane for the Aug. 6-8 Big Machine Music City Grand Prix NTT IndyCar Race in downtown Nashville, Tenn. MTSU’s Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center will be featured in the 7 p.m. Aug. 6 festivities. The grand prix race starts at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 8. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)

Through a partnership between the university and race organizers signed last fall, Gates and 15 students in professor Heather Brown’s senior lab class helped research and test an environmentally friendly concrete mixture for both a barrier wall and pit lane.

Many will attend the NTT IndyCar Series race, which begins at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8, on the 2.17-mile course on city streets.

AUGUST

Fall Faculty Meeting: McPhee applauds MTSU’s resilience, progress; urges vaccinations [+VIDEO]

As thousands of Middle Tennessee State University students continue moving back onto campus this week, President Sidney A. McPhee welcomed back faculty and staff with praise for their resilience the past 18 months of the pandemic while emphasizing vigilance as the campus returns to more traditional operations for the fall semester.

Signs of that vigilance were unmistakable inside the university’s Tucker Theatre on Thursday, April 19, for the traditional Fall Faculty Meeting, with all attendees complying with McPhee’s recently reinstated mask mandate indoors and applauding his commitment to follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local health official on how best to deal with the coronavirus. (See his full address and faculty award presentations by clicking the headline link above.)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee gives his State of the University Address Thursday, Aug. 19, during the university’s annual Fall Faculty Meeting inside Tucker Theatre to kick off the 2021-22 academic year. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee gives his State of the University Address Thursday, Aug. 19, during the university’s annual Fall Faculty Meeting inside Tucker Theatre to kick off the 2021-22 academic year. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

As usual, the majority of McPhee’s address was filled with encouragement for the campus community, as he spotlighted several new degree programs and initiatives, notable grant awards for faculty research, national program rankings, new construction and proposed upgrades to campus facilities, and recent and pending bonuses for employees.

But with last year’s Fall Faculty Meeting forced into a virtual-only format due to COVID-19 and the recent emergence of the delta variant throughout the community and nation raising concerns, McPhee encouraged the in-person and livestream audience to take advantage of the free vaccines available on campus and elsewhere in the community.

Consumer research pro Graeff earns Career Achievement Award; 10 professors saluted for teaching, service

A Middle Tennessee State University marketing professor whose regular teamwork with his students and colleagues provides consumer insights into Tennessee’s economy chose to focus on those students and colleagues, and his family, after receiving the university’s top teaching honor.

Dr. Timothy Graeff, a professor in the Department of Marketing in MTSU’s Jones College of Business since 1992, is the 2021 recipient of the MTSU Foundation’s Career Achievement Award.

He was saluted Thursday, Aug. 19, at the university’s Fall Faculty Meeting for his teaching, research and service to students.

MTSU marketing professor Timothy Graeff, center, proudly wears his new Career Achievement Award medallion Thursday, Aug. 19, after receiving the university's top teaching honor from President Sidney A. McPhee, left, and alumnus Ronald Roberts, vice president of the MTSU Foundation in Tucker Theatre during the 2021 Fall Faculty Meeting. Graeff also is founder of MTSU’s Office of Consumer Research. Ten more MTSU professors also were recognized by the MTSU Foundation with awards for their for their accomplishments in and outside the classroom, and McPhee presented his 2021 State of the University address during the gathering. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU marketing professor Timothy Graeff, center, proudly wears his new Career Achievement Award medallion Thursday, Aug. 19, after receiving the university’s top teaching honor from President Sidney A. McPhee, left, and alumnus Ronald Roberts, vice president of the MTSU Foundation in Tucker Theatre during the 2021 Fall Faculty Meeting. Graeff also is founder of MTSU’s Office of Consumer Research. Ten more MTSU professors also were recognized by the MTSU Foundation with awards for their for their accomplishments in and outside the classroom, and McPhee presented his 2021 State of the University address during the gathering. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

University President Sidney A. McPhee and alumnus Ronald Roberts, MTSU Foundation vice president, presented Graeff with his award in MTSU’s Tucker Theatre, the traditional site for the annual faculty gathering before each new academic year begins.

“Often at the end of my each of my classes, I ask my students, ‘What did you learn today?’ And they’ll tell me things — sometimes it’s very surprising what they tell me — but what we’re all about now is reflective learning: ‘What did you learn?’” said Graeff, founder of MTSU’s Office of Consumer Research.

Convocation speaker to students: Personal GPS more important than GPA [+VIDEO]

Youth advocate, social entrepreneur and military veteran Wes Moore challenged incoming MTSU freshmen and transfer students to take up a mantle of selflessness during his keynote remarks at University Convocation inside Murphy Center on Saturday, Aug. 21.

Moore, a Rhodes scholar and New York Times bestselling author of MTSU’s Summer Reading Selection “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates,” told the thousands of masked students and family members inside the arena that a question he was repeatedly asked throughout his academic journey in college was “What is your major?”

Youth advocate, social entrepreneur and military veteran Wes Moore gives his keynote address Saturday, Aug. 21, at the 2021 University Convocation at Murphy Center. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Youth advocate, social entrepreneur and military veteran Wes Moore gives his keynote address Saturday, Aug. 21, at the 2021 University Convocation at Murphy Center. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

At the time, it seemed like the most important question for his life because he was asked so often, he said. But in those two decades since earning that degree, he said he never gets asked that question — now realizing that there were more important questions to consider.

“The most important question you will be asked is, ‘Who will you choose to fight for?’ ‘Who will matter to you when it’s not easy, when it’s not simple, when it might not be convenient?’” said Moore, former CEO of the New York-based anti-poverty foundation Robin Hood. “‘Who will you choose to be a voice for?’”

Led by Debra Sells, vice president for Student Affairs and vice provost for Enrollment and Academic Services, University Convocation officially welcomes freshmen and transfer students to the Blue Raider campus for a new academic year. The formal ceremony features a keynote speaker as well as MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, Provost Mark Byrnes and other faculty and top administrators marching into the arena in full academic regalia.

SEPTEMBER

MTSU’s Jones College of Business reaches international accreditation milestones

MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business continues to rack up international recognition for the quality of its programs.

Dr. David Urban

Dr. David Urban

The premier accrediting body in business education worldwide, AACSB International, recently extended Jones College’s business and accounting accreditations for another five years, based on an exhaustive review.

Established in 1916, AACSB is the world’s largest business education alliance, connecting educators, learners, and business to create the next generation of leaders. With a presence in more than 100 countries and territories, AACSB fosters engagement, accelerates innovation and amplifies impact in business education.Jones College of Business logo

“There is no greater distinction for a business or accounting program anywhere in the world than to receive extension of accreditation from AACSB International,” said Jones College Dean David Urban. “It is an assurance for our students and alumni that the educational experience in Jones College is in the elite group of business and accounting programs.”

For more than a century, AACSB accreditation has been synonymous with the highest standards in business education. Today, 890 institutions across 58 countries and territories have earned AACSB accreditation in business. Furthermore, only 189 institutions — including MTSU’s Jones College — maintain supplemental AACSB accreditation for their accounting programs.

‘Democracy out loud’ in evidence at MTSU during Constitution Week readings [+VIDEO, GALLERY]

MTSU students across campus have learned firsthand what democracy sounds like when it is read out loud.

At six separate locations, students, faculty and staff stood in line to read aloud sections of the U.S. Constitution Sept. 14-16 in celebration of Constitution Week, a schedule of activities concluding with the 234th anniversary of the Constitution’s ratification on Friday, Sept. 17.

“I think it’s important for everyone around campus to have awareness of the importance of the Constitution,” said Mallory Cutrell, a senior elementary education major from Hendersonville, Tennessee, after reading a section on House and Senate compensation.

A student reads a portion of the U.S. Constitution at the Academic Classroom Building Sept. 16 during MTSU's Constitution Week celebration. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

A student reads a portion of the U.S. Constitution at the Academic Classroom Building Sept. 16 during MTSU’s Constitution Week celebration. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Happy hearts prevail with $100K-plus raised by 2021 Rutherford Heart Walk [+VIDEO]

MTSU and the American Heart Association are celebrating the results of the 2021 Rutherford Heart Walk with heartfelt joy. 

The Sept. 25 event raised approximately $102,590, with MTSU placing third among the top participating companies with $3,189.53 and first among the participants in the Move More Challenge with 566 minutes. The challenge is a series of customizable workplace events designed to help companies have a positive impact on employee health and well-being.

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, leader of the 2021 Rutherford County Heart Walk, addresses the participants at Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium Sept. 25. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, leader of the 2021 Rutherford County Heart Walk, addresses the participants at Dean A. Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium Sept. 25. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, MTSU’s senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, was fifth among the top walkers with just over $1,000 raised. Huber, who suffered a heart attack four years ago and whose wife underwent surgery to repair an aortic valve five years ago, led the walk as this year’s chair.

“I deeply appreciate the opportunity to increase heart health awareness while serving as this year’s Rutherford County Heart Walk chair,” Huber said. “Both my wife and I survived open heart surgery without heart damage aided by our disciplined approach to a healthy lifestyle.”

OCTOBER

MTSU opens new recording studios, welcomes Grammy-nominated grad back for ‘sneak peek’

Just a few yards from the site where Middle Tennessee State University students first started learning 40 years ago how to make music sound right, a new set of recording studios is preparing them for record-breaking careers.

Students in the Department of Recording Industry are now using Studios D and E — nearly 5,000 square feet of customized, expandable, “world-class” space, complete with control rooms, equipment rooms and an open gathering/reception area — relocated from an aging dorm, targeted for demolition, to the former Parking and Transportation Services Building on East Main Street.

BryTavious “Tay Keith” Chambers, a 2018 integrated studies graduate of MTSU’s University College, came to the university for its recording industry program.

The Grammy-nominated producer and Memphis native returned to campus Sept. 29 for a “sneak peek” visit of the new facilities with 2019 MTSU concrete industry management graduate Nick Brownlow, public relations manager in his Nashville-based record label and production company, Drumatized; and longtime friends Cambrian Strong, Chambers’ business manager and a former advertising and public relations major in MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, and stylist Tyland Jackson, an integrated studies major in the University College.

Memphis native and Grammy-nominated hip-hop producer BryTavious “Tay Keith” Chambers, second from left, holds the honorary professorship certificate he received from Middle Tennessee State University Wednesday, Sept. 29, during a special “sneak-peek” visit to his alma mater for a tour of the MTSU Department of Recording Industry’s new studios on campus. Pictured from left are Chambers’ manager, former MTSU student and Howard University grad Cambrian Strong; Chambers; MTSU alumnus Nick Brownlow, Chambers’ PR director and executive at their Drumatized record label and production company, who was also honored; and fellow MTSU alumnus Tyland Jackson, Chambers’ stylist. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

Memphis native and Grammy-nominated hip-hop producer BryTavious “Tay Keith” Chambers, second from left, holds the honorary professorship certificate he received from Middle Tennessee State University Wednesday, Sept. 29, during a special “sneak-peek” visit to his alma mater for a tour of the MTSU Department of Recording Industry’s new studios on campus. Pictured from left are Chambers’ manager, former MTSU student and Howard University grad Cambrian Strong; Chambers; MTSU alumnus Nick Brownlow, Chambers’ PR director and executive at their Drumatized record label and production company, who was also honored; and MTSU student Tyland Jackson, Chambers’ stylist. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

High school bands return to Floyd Stadium for 58th Contest of Champions

MTSU’s School of Music was pleased to resume the nation’s longest-running marching band competition after its hiatus a year ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 58th Contest of Champions was held Saturday, Oct. 23, on Jones Field inside Floyd Stadium featuring 19 high school bands from four states throughout the region.

Taking the grand champion prize was Pope High School of Marietta, Georgia, followed by reserve champion honors to Siegel High School of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and honorary mention going to Bartlett High School of Bartlett, Tennessee.

For scoring recaps, go to https://mtsu.edu/coc/.

Pope High School of Marietta, Ga., took home the grand champion prize for their performance at the 58th Contest of Champions held Saturday, Oct. 23, at Floyd Stadium. Presenting the band with their awards are, far right, Jennifer Vannatta-Hall, interim director of the MTSU School of Music, and next to her, Leah Lyons, interim dean of the MTSU College of Liberal Arts. At left is Henry Go from Innovative Percussion. (Submitted photo)

Pope High School of Marietta, Ga., took home the grand champion prize for their performance at the 58th Contest of Champions held Saturday, Oct. 23, at Floyd Stadium. Presenting the band with their awards are, far right, Jennifer Vannatta-Hall, interim director of the MTSU School of Music, and next to her, Leah Lyons, interim dean of the MTSU College of Liberal Arts. At left is Henry Go from Innovative Percussion. (Submitted photo)

The Seigel High School Marching Band of Murfreesboro, Tenn., took home the reserve champion prize for their performance at the 58th Contest of Champions held Saturday, Oct. 23, at Floyd Stadium. Presenting the band with their awards are, from right, Leah Lyons, interim dean of the MTSU College of Liberal Arts, Jennifer Vannatta-Hall, interim director of the MTSU School of Music, and Pope High School of Marietta, Ga., took home the grand champion prize for their performance at the 58th Contest of Champions held Saturday, Oct. 23, at Floyd Stadium. Presenting the band with their awards are, far right, Jennifer Vannatta-Hall, interim director of the MTSU School of Music, and next to her, Leah Lyons, interim dean of the MTSU College of Liberal Arts. At left is Henry Go from Innovative Percussion. (Submitted photo)

The Seigel High School Marching Band of Murfreesboro, Tenn., took home the reserve champion prize for their performance at the 58th Contest of Champions held Saturday, Oct. 23, at Floyd Stadium. Presenting the band with their awards are, from right, Leah Lyons, interim dean of the MTSU College of Liberal Arts, Jennifer Vannatta-Hall, interim director of the MTSU School of Music, and Pope High School of Marietta, Ga., took home the grand champion prize for their performance at the 58th Contest of Champions held Saturday, Oct. 23, at Floyd Stadium. Presenting the band with their awards are, far right, Jennifer Vannatta-Hall, interim director of the MTSU School of Music, and next to her, Leah Lyons, interim dean of the MTSU College of Liberal Arts. At left is Henry Go from Innovative Percussion. (Submitted photo)

MTSU, industry celebrate 25 years of concrete success — and Brown leaves with awards

Heather Brown, the longtime professor and former director of the of the MTSU School of Concrete and Construction Management, was recognized by her peers and industry leaders at a special event Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Embassy Suites Hotel Nashville SE Murfreesboro.

Brown, who was the face of the MTSU program for 20 years before leaving this year to become vice president of quality control and quality assurance with Indianapolis, Indiana-based Irving Materials Inc., received the Champion Award from the Concrete Industry Management National Steering Committee during the special 25th Anniversary of the organization.

Former MTSU professor and School of Concrete and Construction Management Director Heather Brown holds the Concrete Industry Management National Steering Committee Champion Award she received Tuesday, Oct. 26, during the 25th Anniversary for CIM, held at Embassy Suites Hotel Nashville SE Murfreesboro. Brown, who joined IMI as a vice president of quality control and quality assurance, received other awards and praise for her outstanding career at MTSU. She remains an adjunct faculty in the CIM Executive MBA program. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt

Former MTSU professor and School of Concrete and Construction Management Director Heather Brown holds the Concrete Industry Management National Steering Committee Champion Award she received Tuesday, Oct. 26, during the 25th Anniversary for CIM, held at Embassy Suites Hotel Nashville SE Murfreesboro. Brown, who joined IMI as a vice president of quality control and quality assurance, received other awards and praise for her outstanding career at MTSU. She remains an adjunct faculty in the CIM Executive MBA program. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt

The former MTSU CIM leader, who is a member of the Tennessee Concrete Association Lifetime Hall of Fame, also received an award from the MTSU CIM Patrons, a group of concrete professionals serving the university program and students through financial, marketing and mentoring assistance in a nonprofit capacity.

MTSU hosted the anniversary celebration, bringing together more than 100 industry leaders from around the country, guests and the other CIM universities — Texas State, New Jersey Institute of Technology, California State University-Chico and the newest member, South Dakota State University, which joined in September.

 

Rain doesn’t deter MTSU homecoming festivities — and Raiders reign [+VIDEO, GALLERY]

Homecoming is a way for everyone connected to the university to celebrate the decades of traditions — food, fun and fellowship at various activities throughout the week.

“Through the raindrops, everyone who attended homecoming events were smiling and so happy to be on campus,” said Rhonda King, Office of Alumni Relations assistant director. “It’s always an honor to hosts alumni on campus.”

MTSU’s Student Government Association, in partnership with the Signature Events Committee and Student Programming and Raider Entertainment (SPARE), also coordinated various student-oriented events throughout the week including a concert, step show, and a pumpkin patch decoration activity and yard party in and around the Student Union.

MTSU seniors Ashlee Dunn, left, of Jackson, Tenn., and Joshua Gray of St. Louis, Mo., were announced as Homecoming queen and king in Floyd Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 30, accepting their crowns from MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and first lady Elizabeth McPhee. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU seniors Ashlee Dunn, left, of Jackson, Tenn., and Joshua Gray of St. Louis, Mo., were announced as Homecoming queen and king in Floyd Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 30, accepting their crowns from MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and first lady Elizabeth McPhee. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU students walk with their float they created for the 2021 Homecoming Parade down Middle Tennessee Boulevard in front of The Alumni House. Rain did not dampen the spirits of those attending the annual event, held in-person after a one-year break because of COVID-19. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU students walk with their float they created for the 2021 Homecoming Parade down Middle Tennessee Boulevard in front of The Alumni House. Rain did not dampen the spirits of those attending the annual event, held in-person after a one-year break because of COVID-19. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

And, as is tradition, the 2021 Homecoming king and queen were announced at the football game inside Floyd Stadium, with students Joshua Gray and Ashlee Dunn accepting their crowns from MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and first lady Elizabeth McPhee on Jones Field.

Both seniors, Dunn is a mechatronics engineering major from Jackson, Tennessee, while Gray is a recording industry/commercial songwriting major from St. Louis, Missouri.

NOVEMBER

Attend the tale of ‘Sweeney Todd’ in MTSU Theatre’s grisly musical revival

Hungry for some live entertainment? MTSU Theatre students have just the recipe and are saving the best seats — and the choicest cuts — for you Nov. 4-7 in this fall’s Tony and Olivier Award-winning “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

Performances of the Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler musical open at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 4-6, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7, in Tucker Theatre, located inside MTSU’s Boutwell Dramatic Arts Auditorium at 615 Champion Way.

“Sweeney Todd,” which first opened on Broadway in 1979 and has seen multiple revivals worldwide along with an Oscar-winning film adaptation, is a gruesome melodrama based on 18th-century tales from the “penny dreadfuls” of serial Victorian fiction.

MTSU, neighbors ‘Bleed Blue’ to beat lifesaving goals at annual blood drive [+VIDEO]

Count on the Middle Tennessee State University community to take the old exhortation to “Give it 110%!” to heart in the classroom, in athletic competitions and in community service — especially when they’re asked to save community lives.

MTSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends enthusiastically took that “goal” a few percentage points higher during this week’s annual “True Blue Blood Drive,” beating their three-day, 100-units-per-day target by 121% and donating 362 pints of blood for their neighbors across the state and region.

Nicole Kogowski, left, a phlebotomy supervisor with the American Red Cross, carefully prepares MTSU junior animation major Abigail Waddle of Munfordville, Ky., for her blood donation at the Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center Monday, Nov. 1, on the first day of the university's annual three-day "True Blue Blood Drive." The American Red Cross-sponsored event collected 362 units of blood for the community, surpassing its 300-unit goal by 121%, and welcomed 152 first-time blood donors. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Nicole Kogowski, left, a phlebotomy supervisor with the American Red Cross, carefully prepares MTSU junior animation major Abigail Waddle of Munfordville, Ky., for her blood donation at the Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center Monday, Nov. 1, on the first day of the university’s annual three-day “True Blue Blood Drive.” The American Red Cross-sponsored event collected 362 units of blood for the community, surpassing its 300-unit goal by 121%, and welcomed 152 first-time blood donors. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

“Incredible!! Our patients owe you a debt of gratitude!!” wrote Gene Baker, senior account manager for donor resources at the American Red Cross Nashville offices, early Thursday, Nov. 4, in an email announcing the results of MTSU’s Nov. 1-3 community blood drive.

“That’s 121% of (our) goal, helping save 362 to 724 lives!!! In addition, and most importantly, (we had) 152 FIRST TIME DONORS!!”

The Red Cross says up to three patients can use the components from one unit of blood. An average 150- to 180-pound adult’s body contains about 10 units, or 1.5 gallons of blood; a newborn’s body has about one cup.

At MTSU ‘Salute’ game, day belongs to veterans, active-duty personnel

Gabriela Muller and her daughter, Sophia, 8, strolled slowly past the MTSU Veterans Memorial marker featuring 71 names of former students who died serving their country in the military.

Nearby, Joshua Muller — Gabriela’s husband and Sophia’s father — is an ROTC senior cadet who assisted with the breaking down of chairs following a nearly 30-minute memorial service, kicking off the 39th annual Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces game activities.

Veterans who served in the U.S. Coast Guard walk behind MTSU ROTC cadets carrying their banner during halftime of the 39th annual Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces game in Floyd Stadium Saturday, Nov. 13. Hundreds of veterans, current service members and their family members were treated to special events throughout the day. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Veterans who served in the U.S. Coast Guard walk behind MTSU ROTC cadets carrying their banner during halftime of the 39th annual Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces game in Floyd Stadium Saturday, Nov. 13. Hundreds of veterans, current service members and their family members were treated to special events throughout the day. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

As a tribute to veterans and currently serving military members, MT Athletics and the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center holds special events that help conclude Veterans Day-related events on campus. The Blue Raiders beat Florida International University, 50-10.

“Paying homage and respect” is what the day meant to the Mullers. “They made the ultimate sacrifice, to make our life what it is today.”

MTSU Data Science, Amazon partner host hands-on machine learning competition

As the model race car drove in fits and starts along the mock road course on the MTSU Science Building Atrium floor, an MTSU data science team member had to frequently pick it up and redirect it to stay on the roadway.

Not at all what the team planned, yet it was a problem that flummoxed all five teams who had spent the past two months dabbling in the increasingly important field of machine learning. It was part of a friendly competition of autonomously driven model race cars hosted by the MTSU Data Science Institute in partnership with Amazon Web Services.

“We’re testing this all together so we can get better,” said biology professor Ryan Otter, director of MTSU’s Data Science Institute. “This is the real world, so it’s not always pretty and perfect. … This is just the start.”

MTSU biology professor Ryan Otter, director of the Data Science Institute, inspects one of the model racers that would be competing in the Nov. 13 “AWS DeepRacer” event held in the MTSU Science Building Atrium. The event, which featured five teams racing autonomous racing models, was sponsored by the MTSU Data Science Institute and Amazon Web Services. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

MTSU biology professor Ryan Otter, director of the Data Science Institute, inspects one of the model racers that would be competing in the Nov. 13 “AWS DeepRacer” event held in the MTSU Science Building Atrium. The event, which featured five teams racing autonomous racing models, was sponsored by the MTSU Data Science Institute and Amazon Web Services. (MTSU photo by Cat Curtis Murphy)

Otter made this matter-of-fact observation as he looked on from the steps of the atrium, which was recently transformed into a hands-on exploratory lab for the first of what Otter plans to be many “AWS DeepRacer” events hosted by the university.

DeepRacer allows developers of all skill levels to “get hands on with machine learning through a cloud-based 3D racing simulator, fully autonomous 1/18 scale race car driven by reinforcement learning.” Amazon Web Services describes it as “an interesting and fun way to get started” with machine learning.

Middle Tennessee secures $66M for new Student-Athlete Performance Center, Floyd Stadium upgrades [+VIDEO]

Middle Tennessee State University announced Monday, Nov. 15, that it has secured funds for a $66 million project to build a new student-athlete performance center behind the north end zone of Floyd Stadium as well as make stadium improvements – the first of a three-phase, $100 million-plus plan to upgrade athletics facilities.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee addresses the crowd inside the Kennon Hall of Fame Monday, Nov. 15, during the announcement of the university’s Build Blue Now campaign to invest $100 million to upgrade Blue Raider athletic facilities, including construction of a new Student-Athlete Performance Center next to Floyd Stadium. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee addresses the crowd inside the Kennon Hall of Fame Monday, Nov. 15, during the announcement of the university’s Build Blue Now campaign to invest $100 million to upgrade Blue Raider athletic facilities, including construction of a new Student-Athlete Performance Center next to Floyd Stadium. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

This artist rendering shows the proposed upgrades to MTSU athletic facilities as part of the Build Blue Now campaign to invest $100 million for construction and upgrades in and around Floyd Stadium and Murphy Center. (Courtesy of MT Athletics)

This artist rendering shows the proposed upgrades to MTSU athletic facilities as part of the Build Blue Now campaign to invest $100 million for construction and upgrades in and around Floyd Stadium and Murphy Center. (Courtesy of MT Athletics)

President Sidney A. McPhee, along with Trustees Board Chairman Steve Smith and Athletics Director Chris Massaro, revealed details on the milestone during a rally-style ceremony at the Emmett and Rose Kennon Athletics Hall of Fame, just before the tipoff of the Lady Raiders’ game against Vanderbilt.

Stephen B. “Steve” Smith, alumnus and MTSU Board of Trustees member

Stephen B. Smith

Chris Massaro, MTSU director of athletics

Chris Massaro

Built on the site of the current weight and gameday rooms adjacent to Murphy Center, the three-story structure will house training, strength and conditioning, and equipment centers. Football’s locker and meeting rooms and personnel offices will be moved from Murphy Center into the new facility.

Design of the new facility will begin immediately, with project completion expected before the start of the 2024 Blue Raider football season. GMC+HOK, a team that helped build similar projects at Vanderbilt, Auburn, Georgia and other universities, will oversee design of the project. The State Building Commission recently approved MTSU’s plans for the project.

Newsweek names MTSU to America’s Top Online Colleges 2022 list

Middle Tennessee State University has been named to Newsweek’s list of America’s Top Online Colleges 2022.

The prestigious recognition is compiled by Newsweek and Statista Inc., the world-leading statistics portal and industry ranking provider.

MTSU ranked 40th among the 150 higher-ed institutions highlighted and was the only Tennessee university that made the list.

University College Dean Rick Sluder, left, and Chief Online Learning Officer Trey Martindale (MTSU photo illustration)

University College Dean Rick Sluder, left, and Chief Online Learning Officer Trey Martindale (MTSU photo illustration)

The ranking highlights the nation’s top colleges with online degrees, based on an online survey earlier this year with over 12,000 assessments from more than 9,000 respondents who participated in online college degree programs and/or general online learning courses in the United States.

Respondents shared their experiences by rating the institutions on several criteria: organization and accessibility, support and service, the cost of the program, its perceived organizational reputation, their expected success, and the practical relevance of the program’s contents.

Finally, respondents could indicate how satisfied they were with the organization and to what extent they would recommend it to others.

At least 9 MTSU grads are back on nominees’ list for Grammy gold Jan. 31

More than a half-dozen Middle Tennessee State University alumni are dancing back to the 64th annual Grammy Awards in January with the ones who’ve brought them to the industry’s biggest honors in categories ranging to country to pop to Latin music to bluegrass to gospel.

The Recording Academy announced its nominations last week for the event, which will be broadcast and streamed live from Los Angeles on CBS at 7 p.m. Central Monday, Jan. 31.

To see the list of MTSU nominees for music released between Sept. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, click the headline above.

File image of the new Studio D in the MTSU Department of Recording Industry’s “Main Street Studios,” which opened in January for Audio Production Program students’ use, with the 64th annual Grammy Awards and MTSU horizontal logos. (MTSU file photo by J. Intintoli)

File image of the new Studio D in the MTSU Department of Recording Industry’s “Main Street Studios,” which opened in January for Audio Production Program students’ use, with the 64th annual Grammy Awards and MTSU horizontal logos. (MTSU file photo by J. Intintoli)

DECEMBER

MTSU employees pledge record $140K-plus for 2021-22 Charitable Giving Campaign [+VIDEO]

Middle Tennessee State University faculty and staff again stepped up in support of their neighbors by pledging a record $140,791 for the 2021-22 Employee Charitable Giving Campaign, beating the $140,000 campaign goal.

In addition to the record dollar amount, this year’s campaign also attracted the highest number of participants: 864.

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU president

Dr. Sidney A. McPhee

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee praised university faculty and staff for their generosity in line with the True Blue spirit of giving.

“I continue to be amazed by the willingness of so many on our campus to do their part to help those in our community who need a helping hand through the tremendous services offered from the nonprofit community,” said McPhee.

Meanwhile, the Jennings A. Jones College of Business extended its streak to nine straight years of winning the Provost Cup, a friendly competition between academic units that is awarded to the college with the highest percentage of employee participation.

“Mr. MTSU” John Hood, left, director of governmental and community affairs, and Brenda Wonder, administrative coordinator for Facilities Services, conduct one of the weekly drawings in the Cope Administration Building lobby as part of the 2021-22 MTSU Employee Charitable Giving Campaign. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

“Mr. MTSU” John Hood, left, director of governmental and community affairs, and Brenda Wonder, administrative coordinator for Facilities Services, conduct one of the weekly drawings in the Cope Administration Building lobby as part of the 2021-22 MTSU Employee Charitable Giving Campaign. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU to create College of Education center focused on diversifying student teacher, graduate, faculty ranks

Middle Tennessee State University is creating a new center in its College of Education to focus on recruiting and retaining diverse teacher candidates, graduate students and faculty.

The announcement was part of a broader discussion at the quarterly MTSU Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 8 on the need to better serve and encourage students from underserved communities — particularly Black males.

MTSU professor Michelle Stevens discusses the new Fairness, Justice and Equity Center in the College of Education during the Board of Trustees quarterly meeting held Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, inside the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. Stevens will serve as director of the new center, which will focus on the recruitment and retention of male teachers of color for teacher preparation programs at MTSU. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

MTSU professor Michelle Stevens discusses the new Fairness, Justice and Equity Center in the College of Education during the Board of Trustees quarterly meeting held Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, inside the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. Stevens will serve as director of the new center, which will focus on the recruitment and retention of male teachers of color for teacher preparation programs at MTSU. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Professor Michelle Stevens, introduced as director of the new Fairness, Justice and Equity Center in the College of Education, said the center will offer educational opportunities, support and advocacy for community partners. It will also partner with Memphis-based Man Up Teacher Fellowship, a nonprofit working to provide students in high-poverty areas access to “high-quality male teachers.”

Rick Vanosdall, interim dean of the College of Education, said more information about the center will be released at a formal opening in the Spring 2022 semester.

President Sidney A. McPhee touted the center as among MTSU’s ongoing commitment to improve graduation and retention rates for underserved populations. He said MTSU invests more than $2.6 million in university funds and external grants each year into efforts and programs to support underrepresented populations.

MTSU College of Education boasts first doctorate in ‘student success’ higher-ed concentration

Brelinda Johnson is not just in the business of student success. She exemplifies it.

The Adams, Tennessee, native set a precedent Dec. 11 when she graduated with the inaugural education doctoral degree, an Ed.D., in a higher education concentration under MTSU’s Assessment, Learning and Student Success Program.

Brelinda Johnson, manager of the MTSU Scholars Academy, is hooded at her commencement Dec. 11 commencement ceremony. Johnson is the first higher education concentration graduate of the Assessment, Learning and Student Success Program. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

Brelinda Johnson, manager of the MTSU Scholars Academy, is hooded at her commencement Dec. 11 commencement ceremony. Johnson is the first higher education concentration graduate of the Assessment, Learning and Student Success Program. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

“I’m excited for the people that get to come behind, and I hope to be an inspiration to those students that get to see the work that I did,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, they’ll want to progress to something similar in their fields.”

Johnson is uniquely qualified to achieve in this area because her job is manager of the MTSU Scholars Academy, an early arrival program within the Office of Student Success designed to help freshmen with an emphasis on first-generation and/or students or color by providing them with a supportive learning environment.

ALSS, the program that benefitted Johnson as a student, helps scholars learn the theories, techniques and best practices that they can use to lead students to higher levels of achievement.

“The overarching purpose of the program is to prepare educators to be more effective in their work as practitioners,” said Donald Snead, interim chair of the Womack Department of Educational Leadership.

MTSU’s spring 2022 semester begins Tuesday, Jan. 18.


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