Nashville student ‘speechless’ after True Bl...

Nashville student ‘speechless’ after True Blue Tour recruiting stop yields new scholarship [+VIDEO]

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Both young women come from the same high school: Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet, in Nashville.

Diana Makram knows she wants to major in biology and minor in chemistry, and she walked out of the Middle Tennessee State University True Blue Tour at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel with an $18,000 Presidential Scholarship.

Martina Hannaalla wants to be a physician, following her father’s career path, through the preprofessional route. She has the academic credentials — a 29 ACT and a 4.0 GPA — to receive the same scholarship, plus she’s eligible to apply and be considered for the University Honors College’s Buchanan Fellowship.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, delivers the “shocking” news to Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School senior Diana Makram and her mother, Hanan Marcos, that the  would receive a four-year, $18,000 Presidential Scholarship Oct. 4 during the True Blue Tour event in Nashville. (MTSU photo by David Foster)

Nashville was the fourth stop on the annual tour, which also travels across Tennessee and to Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama to recruit prospective students. Several hundred students, plus family members, attended.

President Sidney A. McPhee awarded the Presidential Scholarship to Makram, 17, who was randomly chosen by the Office of Admissions.

Makram admitted she was “coming to have a good time and hang out with my friends — and I just got $18,000, and I’m speechless.”

Students with 3.5 and higher GPAs who score between 25 and 29 on the ACT are eligible, but they need to apply by Dec. 1, a deadline MTSU officials continue to push.

Minutes following the announcement, Makram said she “wanted to cry tears of joy. I am so happy.”

Makram said she wants to be a physician’s assistant. Walking into the hotel ballroom, her options were primarily between MTSU and a Nashville private university.

“Watching the video (about campus) they played and learning more of the school on top of winning the scholarship definitely caught my attention,” she said. “Leaving (the building) definitely made me realize MTSU is the college I want to attend in fall 2019.” She will visit campus for the first time during the Nov. 3 fall preview day.

Hannan Marcos, her mother, said it was “a good surprise … she deserves the best because she has worked hard all 12 years.”

A large crowd attends 2018 Nashville True Blue Tour event.

Several hundred people attended the MTSU True Blue Tour recruiting event Oct. 4 in Nashville at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel. (MTSU photo by John Goodwin)

Taking notice of MTSU-Meharry alliance

Hannaalla, 17, attended with her parentsn Moufeed Hannaalla and Susan Tardos, and younger sister, Kiara Hannaalla. Martina Hannaalla said she’s considering MTSU, “but I am also open-minded to other schools.”

A pending MTSU-Meharry Medical College partnership, which would provide a fast track for students wanting to become physicians, caught her attention. She did an internship with Meharry in the summer of 2017, shadowing doctors, sitting in on clinicals and presenting research and was involved with social media outreach in medicine.

Hannaalla said her goal is to be a primary care physician or pediatrician. She’s watched her father and wants to “help like he did and have an impact on my community. I hope to combine service with my knowledge of medicine.”

MTSU Provost Mark Byrnes said leaders at both MTSU and Meharry hope the alliance becomes official soon. The mission of the partnership would be providing more primary care physicians in rural parts of the state.

Honors College adviser Judy Albakry and Martina Hannaalla

MTSU Honors College adviser Judy Albakry, left, visits with Martina Hannaalla, a Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School senior, Oct. 4 during the Nashville True Blue Tour stop at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel. (MTSU photo by David Foster)

Alumni presence

Alumna Tandra Martin, a member of the Class of 2015, an Honors College Buchanan Fellow, student ambassador, Fulbright recipient and Rhodes Scholar finalist, among many awards, discussed her many MTSU positive experiences.

“I’m glad to be still connected to the institution and individuals who contributed to my growth,” said Martin, who now lives in Brentwood, Tennessee, and works for the Tennessee Department of Education in the Division of College, Career and Technical Education. “MTSU provided a great launching pad for my great experiences.”

On deck for the True Blue Tour is a 6 p.m. student reception Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, followed by two events Thursday, Oct. 11, in Louisville.

— Randy Weiler (

MTSU's Deb Sells provides Nashville True Blue Tour advice

Dr. Deb Sells, vice president of student affairs at MTSU, advises prospective students from Nashville where to start they enter the True Blue Tour ballroom Oct. 4 at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville. The students included Amina Al-Kharsani and Zanah Al-Rabiey of Cane Ridge High School and Fatima Al-Fatlawy of Overton High School. (MTSU photo by Randy Weiler)