Middle Tennessee State University’s selection by NASA as an official viewing site for the solar eclipse, the seating of its new Board of Trustees and the opening of its Science Corridor of Innovation were among the top news happenings of 2017 as selected by MTSUNews.com, the university’s news and information website.
Also topping the website’s annual list of top milestones was the second consecutive tournament run by MTSU Men’s Basketball, which notched another Conference USA championship and busted NCAA March Madness brackets again with a first-round win over higher-ranked Minnesota, and football’s Dec. 16 win in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.
And, MTSUNews.com noted the release of a new economic report by the Business and Economic Research Center in the Jones College of Business that showed MTSU is responsible for about 8,400 jobs across the state, which generates $1.12 billion in revenues and over $408 million in wages and salaries annually.
President Sidney A. McPhee said the annual month-by-month look back of the university’s milestone helps students, faculty and staff reflect upon the progress of the institution during the calendar year. McPhee featured some of the annual pride points in an online holiday video released before Christmas (above).
“It’s valuable for all of us to pause and consider the far-reaching impact of the various pursuits and progress of our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” McPhee said.
In mid-February, MTSU publicly held the grand reopening of the Davis Science Building and Wiser-Patten Science Hall, which underwent renovations totaling $20 million to $25 million the past two years. Along with the new Science Building opened in fall 2014, MTSU boasts some of the finest science facilities — being branded as the Science Corridor of Innovation — in the South and nation.
“With these renovations, we now have what I consider some of the best science facilities in the country, offering students a wide variety of innovative programs, research spaces and learning environments,” McPhee said.
Formal oversight of the university shifted from the Tennessee Board of Regents to a local Board of Trustees after its new governance board convened its inaugural session April 10.
Gov. Bill Haslam attended the meeting, witnessed by faculty, staff and community members inside the Student Union Ballroom as McPhee called “this historic first meeting” of the new board to order.
“I do want you to focus … on how you can help Middle to continue to achieve its potential,” Haslam told the board, adding that the state’s increased focus on higher education “is a necessity as a state if we’re going to compete for the jobs of the future.”
Once formally convened, the board first adopted bylaws, then elected MTSU alumnus Stephen B. Smith as chairman followed by MTSU alumnus Darrell Freeman, former executive chairman of Zycron Inc., as vice chairman.
Over the summer, leaders from Meharry Medical College and MTSU signed an agreement to develop an accelerated pathway for talented students to graduate as physicians to serve in rural areas of the state.
McPhee and Meharry President James Hildreth launched the partnership at a state Capitol signing ceremony that highlighted the unique collaboration between the private and public institutions that was brokered by state officials.
“To my knowledge, this is the only partnership of this magnitude anywhere in the country,” said MTSU alumnus and state Sen. Bill Ketron, who was among several lawmakers in attendance at the ceremony. “When I mention this partnership to people, it becomes a ‘wow’ moment, because it is such a game changer.”
And in addition to MTSU’s annual $1 billion impact, the BERC economic impact study released during the summer also shows that MTSU, as Murfreesboro’s second-largest employer, is also responsible for generating $88 million in local, state and federal tax revenue. In addition, 78 percent of MTSU alumni live in Tennessee.
Rutherford Chamber President Paul Latture called MTSU “truly an economic engine with an impact that adds to the growing landscape of a region that is one of the fastest emerging in the nation.”
Then in August, thousands of people descended upon the Blue Raider campus for the “Great Tennessee Eclipse” event Aug. 21.
Attendees cheered wildly as the coast-to-coast solar eclipse reached totality — with the sky literally darkening and exposing the planets Venus and Jupiter to the naked eye — around 1:29 p.m. in the central campus area called the Science Corridor of Innovation.
One family from Corbin, Kentucky, made a point of including astronomy-themed items in their picnic lunch, comprising Sun Chips, Sunkist soft drinks, Moon Pies and Eclipse and Orbit chewing gun. Other guests celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, and the special “selfie spot” for the Great Tennessee Eclipse was a hit.
As fall semester classes concluded and 1,700-plus graduates received their degrees recently, MTSU announced that it had received a special $148,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for university researchers to experiment with ginseng.
The research is expected to improve farmers’ income across the state and conserve wild ginseng, which is considered an endangered species, in Tennessee. The USDA has provided MTSU’s Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research with this grant to demonstrate the viability of cultivated ginseng in Tennessee from improved techniques reducing growing time, increasing propagation success and determining ideal farming techniques, said associate professor Iris Gao, the project’s lead researcher.
Here are some of the other top stories from 2017 in chronological order:
MTSU alumnus Pete Fisher is leaving his executive position with the Grand Ole Opry Jan. 30 to become CEO of the California-based Academy of Country Music. After 17 years as vice president and chief executive officer of the Nashville-based Opry, the academy announced Fisher’s new role with the ACM on Jan. 9. He’s expected to relocate with his wife, Hope, to the West Coast, according to an ACM news release.
MTSU will continue its long-running and successful run of hosting state championships for select high school sports at its facilities following a recent decision by the TSSAA. The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Board of Control voted Jan. 12 at its meeting in Hermitage, Tennessee, to extend its contract with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce to host the “Spring Fling” championships through 2021.
In a show of unity to cap a night of celebration, a diverse crowd made up of hundreds of MTSU students along with several members of the faculty, staff and wider community formed a circle around the Student Union Ballroom Jan. 16. Holding their blue-lit candles and silently reflecting on a man whose dream continues to inspire so many, participants in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and Candlelight Vigil had just enjoyed an evening filled with encouraging words and musical and theatrical tributes to the slain civil rights leader as well as a reminder that they all have a part to play in the march toward equality and justice.
The James E. Walker Library celebrated the success of its new “Makerspace” area with an official grand opening and dedication ceremony Feb. 1 in the second-floor Digital Media Studio. The area provides equipment that enables students to design and work on projects, as well as write computer code or other specifications with which they can replicate those projects.
LOS ANGELES — MTSU wrapped up its trip to Southern California on Feb. 12 by announcing an educational partnership with the Grammy Museum, one of the nation’s top educational venues devoted to the music industry. President Sidney A. McPhee, who accompanied College of Media and Entertainment faculty and staff to Los Angeles for events before the 59th Grammy Awards, applauded the partnership as a true win-win for the university and the museum.
MTSU held a ribbon-cutting for the Daniels Center Veterans Transitioning Home Office Feb. 14 in Keathley University Center Room 316, thanks to repurposed office space donated by MTSU’s Division of Student Affairs. Activities during the event also took place in KUC Theater and the Daniels Center in KUC 124. The nearly 600-square-foot Veterans Transitioning Home facility will allow staff to match veterans and other MTSU students with prospective employers.
A seven-figure financial gift from local real estate developer John Floyd promises to boost the professional prospects of students preparing to graduate from MTSU. Floyd has pledged $1 million to help launch the Center for Student Coaching and Success, or CSCS, at MTSU, which was officially opened during a Feb. 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new home inside the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. Facilitated by Colby Jubenville, a health and human performance professor and CSCS director, Floyd’s gift focuses on helping soon-to-be graduates make a successful transition from college classes to gainful employment.
With its first classes just approved and students already lining up, MTSU celebrated the announcement of its new fermentation science bachelor’s degree program with industry partners and state officials Feb. 27 in the Science Building. University President Sidney A. McPhee recognized those who championed the program, which begins this fall, including state Sen. Bill Ketron, professor Tony Johnston, College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer, former Provost Brad Bartel and other campus leaders.
Middle Tennessee State University renewed Friday its partnership with the Tennessee Wing of Civil Air Patrol, a relationship launched three years ago to benefit aerospace education for state high school students. Interim Provost Mark Byrnes, the university’s chief academic officer, met with commanders of the U.S. Air Force’s volunteer civilian auxiliary, then signed a three-year extension of the pact that links CAP with MTSU’s Department of Aerospace in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.
With a flurry of Hollywood-style lighting and audio of Muhammad Ali stating “I AM the greatest,” Laila Ali took the stage March 22 as MTSU’s Black History Month and Women’s History Month keynote speaker. However, the story she told to an attentive James Union Building audience was not one of glitz and glamour but of hard lessons and harder work.
MTSU junior Caitlin Couch was thrilled to join a select group of her classmates recently to hear firsthand from women business professionals about their career and life journeys as well as the challenges and opportunities that await Couch and the next generation of leaders. Couch, a marketing major from Hendersonville, Tennessee, was among the 50-plus female students invited to the second Rutherford ATHENA Leadership Forum held March 31 at the MT Center off Middle Tennessee Boulevard.
Middle Tennessee State University President Sidney A. McPhee and retired Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, a key university adviser on student veteran services, have experienced many of life’s challenges. They encountered a literal leap of faith April 25 as they jumped with members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration team at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Airport.
The first cohort of 13 working professionals enrolled in MTSU’s Applied Leadership Certificate Program were recognized May 2 by interim Provost Mark Byrnes for reaching the first milestone in their studies. The 13 students completed the first level of a four-certificate program designed by MTSU’s University College to help women and men already in the workforce to enhance their skills — and even earn a degree.
MTSU’s 2,171 new undergraduate degree holders left Murphy Center May 6 after a day of commencement ceremonies, full of hope, relief, excitement and plenty of guest-speaker wisdom. Former state commissioner of Tennessee Economic and Community Development Randy Boyd related knowledge gleaned from his experiences as founder of Radio Systems Corp. and his role as special adviser to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam while Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney urged the afternoon undergrads to embrace “TODAY”: time, opportunity, determination, adventure and yesterday.
Ongoing construction on the Middle Tennessee Boulevard widening project claimed a highly visible campus mainstay in front of Murphy Center. The electronic billboard that stood outside of Murphy Center’s official entrance since the mid-1980s was taken down in recent weeks as construction crews continue upgrades along Middle Tennessee Boulevard.
With new equipment installed, MTSU’s School of Agribusiness and Agriscience unveiled its latest endeavor — the MTSU Creamery — along with its new bottling process June 21 during a ceremony featuring milk and cookies in the Science Building’s Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium. It marks the first time in nearly 50 years MTSU will have bottled milk products. They will be for sale to the students and public on campus starting June 21 in Phillips Bookstore and soon in Dwight’s Mini Mart in Keathley University Center and through Aramark’s Provisions on Demand stores, or PODs, across campus.
MTSU said “see you later” July 15 to a delegation of schoolchildren, teachers and administrators from China’s Dongcheng Educational Group wrapping up the sixth in a series of reciprocal visits between the institutions. They toured facilities on campus, saw cultural sites in Nashville and participated in classroom activities at Overall Creek Elementary School in Murfreesboro. Also, they were treated to performances by students from Murfreesboro’s Reeves-Rogers and Bradley Academy schools and visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Southern Girls Rock Camp celebrated 15 years of fostering young women’s creativity — and some world-class rock ’n’ roll — at MTSU this month. Conducted July 24-29 inside the university’s Wright Music Building, the summer day camp once again offered girls ages 10-17 a safe, nonjudgmental place full of creative opportunities. Professionals gave the campers guidance in songwriting, home recording, band promotion, screen printing, band photography, body confidence, arts and activism, media literacy and music “herstory.”
Another welcome tradition at MTSU’s Fall Faculty Meeting is the annual presentation of the MTSU Foundation Awards, which recognize, celebrate and reward university faculty members for their accomplishments inside and outside the classroom. This year’s recipient of the foundation’s Career Achievement Award, considered the pinnacle of recognition for stellar MTSU professors, is Dr. Kevin E. Smith, a nationally recognized professor of anthropology at MTSU since 1988, a full-time faculty member since 1994, and the founder and director of MTSU’s anthropology program in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts.
A bestselling author kicked off the 2017-18 academic year at MTSU by advising students to bridge cultural gaps. J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis,” addressed students Aug. 26 at University Convocation in Murphy Center. During the Summer Reading Program, now in its 16th year, incoming students were encouraged to read, discuss and analyze Vance’s book.
MTSU’s WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5 threw its first birthday party Saturday, Sept. 16, in downtown Nashville, and the musical guest list is a mini-Americana festival. The Center for Innovation in Media inside the university’s Bragg Media and Entertainment Building, changed formats Sept. 2, 2016, from its classical, jazz and news-talk focus to Americana in a partnership with Music City Roots, a Nashville-based firm that provides programming for both radio and television.
Middle Tennessee State University’s Board of Trustees on Sept. 12 confirmed the appointment of Dr. Mark Byrnes as the institution’s provost and chief academic officer. Trustees also approved two building projects for submission to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, which ranks requests from the state’s universities for future state funding. The university’s first priority is a new academic classroom building, followed by a new mechatronics engineering building.
MTSU celebrated 20 years of its online educational offerings Sept. 25 by announcing record enrollment for its online courses and accepting an international award for online course quality. Offered through University College, MTSU Online courses began in fall 1997 with seven classes and 53 student enrollments. It has grown to now offer over 400 courses while achieving a record 10,000-plus enrollments for this fall and more than 21,000 enrollments annually.
The not-for-profit Online Learning Consortium formally presented the university with its Exemplary Endorsement plaque recognizing MTSU Online for “outstanding quality.”
MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry has again earned national acclaim for its music business education program, ranking among the Top 15 such programs in the country, according to Billboard.com. In the recent article, “The 15 Best Music Business Schools in 2017,” the authors include MTSU in a listing that also features four programs at New York universities and four in California, three of which are at UCLA.
MTSU’s Blue Raider Debate team was honored this year with a Tennessee Senate Joint Resolution in recognition of the team’s highly successful 2016-17 season. The resolution was sponsored by state Sens. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and Jim Tracy of Shelbyville and Reps. Dawn White of Murfreesboro and Brenda Gilmore of Nashville. It also included the signatures of Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell.
With a 1990s “Fresh Raiders of the ’Boro” theme, the 2017 MTSU Homecoming offered plenty of festivities for students, alumni and Blue Raider supporters. The Office of Alumni Relations held events Oct. 6-7, including the Golden Raiders Reunion and recognition of Distinguished Alumni. The Student Government Association’s homecoming staff planned a full week of activities, culminating with Saturday’s homecoming football game between Middle Tennessee and visiting Florida International in Floyd Stadium, which MTSU won convincingly 37-17.
A packed house listened Oct. 27 as “Shark Tank” star Daymond John and online magician Vinh Giang encouraged them to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs and business leaders during the Start It Up Conference at Embassy Suites. Hosted by MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business, the sold-out conference targeted business leaders and entrepreneurs throughout the Midstate looking for personal and professional development and a more passionate approach to their careers.
Hundreds of MTSU students, faculty, staff and alumni joined hands Nov. 6 for a show of unity. Beginning at 12:30 p.m. that day, the True Blue family formed a human chain from one end of campus to the other in the midday event — Hands Across MTSU — as a show of solidarity across a diverse campus.
MTSU’s 36th Salute to Veterans and Armed Forces events paid tribute to Gold Star Families and current and former military veterans Nov. 4 in special ceremonies across campus. Country music singer and Grand Ole Opry star Jan Howard touched hearts with her personal remarks to the crowd attending the MTSU Veterans Memorial Service outside the Tom H. Jackson Building. Howard’s eldest son, James Van Howard, died in Vietnam in 1968. He had been an MTSU student before joining the military. Her middle son, Carter “Corky” Howard, also was serving in Vietnam and brought his brother back home.
Raider Relief raised money and supplies for former basketball player Raymond Cintron’s family in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. The effort was launched by Board of Trustees vice chairman and alumnus Darrell Freeman, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis. Cintron had been displaced to the Orlando area in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that devastated Puerto Rico in September. His family still on the island was in dire need of medicine, food and generators. All of those items were stuffed into Freeman’s aircraft for the trip.
MTSU songwriting students are receiving beneficial advice from visiting professionals and getting a curriculum boost thanks to the Academy of Country Music Lifting Lives Foundation. For the second time, MTSU has received a $10,000 grant from an arm of the ACM that will financially support curriculum development provided by the Department of Recording Industry’s Commercial Songwriting Program.
MTSU’s 1,737 newest graduates have a single step to follow in the recipe famed chef and entrepreneur Maneet Chauhan offered for their success Dec. 16: “Stand apart.” Speaking during the university’s fall 2017 commencement ceremonies, Chauhan, a featured judge on the hit Food Network show “Chopped,” told the graduates that each has the ingredients to create a career and a life that makes a difference.