True Blue Tours end on high note for prospective M...

True Blue Tours end on high note for prospective MTSU students

Southwest Tennessee resident Cole Plunkett has dreamed of being a pilot since age 6 or 7.

Drawing closer to that potential career path, the home-schooled teenager said MTSU is his No. 1 choice.

MTSU enrollment counselor Jameel Braddock, left, provides information about scholarships for the 2015-16 academic year for Bobbie Spivey and her son, Bryce Oselen, a senior at Central High School in Memphis, during the Oct. 22 True Blue Tour event at the Memphis Botanic Garden. (MTSU photos by News and Media Relations)

Plunkett, who lives in Williston, Tennessee, in Fayette County, was among more than 400 students and family members who attended the Memphis True Blue Tour event at Memphis Botanic Garden Oct. 22.

Another 160 people attended the True Blue Tour event in Jackson Oct. 23 to conclude the six-city statewide fall recruiting caravan for 2014.

At the student recruiting events, academic departments and Student Affairs personnel staffed tables with information and answer questions. The tour stops include receptions to recruit prospective students for the 2015-16 academic year and beyond, and MTSU officials court high school counselors and community college advisers with a luncheon to help encourage their outstanding students to apply to MTSU.

Home-schooled and associated with the Jackson-based HomeLife Academy, Plunkett had a keen interest in attending the Memphis event to learn more about the MTSU aerospace program.

“They’ve got a program I want, and with all the scholarships I can get — and it’s close to home — financially it makes sense to attend MTSU,” he said, noting his eligibility for the HOPE Lottery Scholarshiop and potential for a Chancellor’s or President’s scholarship.

Accompanied by his mother, Angela Plunkett, the teen visited the Murfreesboro campus and MTSU Flight Operations Center at Murfreesboro Airport in July.

In Memphis, Cole Plunkett met Terry Dorris, an associate professor and university pilot at MTSU, who provided a wealth of information about MTSU as well as exploring other career options

“This is your decision, one of the first major life decisions you’ll ever make,” Dorris told Plunkett, who also talked with senior Nathan Mooney of Chattanooga, Tennessee, who is majoring in aerospace to become a professional pilot.

MTSU Dean John Vile tells Jackson, Tennessee-area students and their families about many of the virtues the University Honors College has to offer during the Oct. 23 True Blue Tour event at the Jackson Country Club.

MTSU Dean John Vile tells Jackson, Tennessee, area students and their families about the University Honors College during the Oct. 23 True Blue Tour event at the Jackson Country Club.

At both Memphis and Jackson, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Success Vincent Windrow and College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer shared the student reception program spotlight with Dr. Deb Sells, vice president of student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services.

Windrow encouraged students to explore any and all opportunities.

“Make sure your opportunities are expanding,” he said.

Windrow carefully explained the Student Success Advantage and “Graduate in Four and Get More” program for students starting in fall 2015.

The program adds $500 back each year to eligible Hope Scholarship recipients during the first two years, guarantees scholarships to eligible transfer students and returns tuition increases to eligible students who stay on track to graduate in four years.

Fischer not only raved about his academic home — the $147 million Science Building, which opened this semester — but urged students to “show up for class, be prepared and be engaged.”

MTSU senior Kai Pruitte of Jackson and junior Clinton Knox III of Memphis talked to students one-on-one, in small groups and in front of the entire audience in their respective cities. They also appeared in video productions shown at the reception and luncheons.

MTSU also visited Chattanooga, Johnson City, Knoxville and Nashville this fall.

MTSU offers a Fall Preview Day from 8 a.m. to 3 p .m. Saturday, Nov. 1, starting in the Student Union. To register, visit The priority deadline to apply and receive scholarship consideration is Dec. 1.

— Randy Weiler (

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‘Determined’ scholarship recipient nearly missed True Blue Tour event

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Kanashia Jenkins of Nashville almost missed the MTSU True Blue Tour event at Rocketown in Nashville Sept. 30.

She’s a regular attendee of Rocketown, an entertainment venue and teenagers’ hangout, and while she’s had her sights set on attending MTSU starting in 2015, Jenkins almost didn’t join the MTSU recruiting event, only to make a last-minute decision to go.

It may have been a life-changing decision to attend the True Blue Tour student reception.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee drew Jenkins’ name out of an MTSU bag full of other attendees’ names at the event, one of six held across the state to pitch the university to outstanding students for the 2015-16 academic year and beyond.

He presented the recipient with “an almost full scholarship,” compliments of several alumni.

“I almost didn’t come,” said Jenkins, a 2013 McGavock High School graduate. “I was already trying to get into this school. I felt maybe I should go, that this would help because I have a hard time finding transportation trying to visit Murfreesboro.”

Knowing Jenkins’ situation — a young single mother to 1-year-old daughter Kaylee Marshall with a desire to pursue higher education — Rocketown director of operations Mary Virginia Settle became emotional when discussing Jenkins’ new opportunity.

“Kanashia’s very determined,” said Settle, who has known Jenkins for nearly four years.

“This will encourage her that she’s making the right decisions without much help from family. There was a whole lot of emotion knowing she was receiving the scholarship. She’s really excited about it.”

Jenkins plans to study biology.

MTSU Provost Brad Bartel, left, discusses the variety of academic programs and options with Hannah Samples, right, and her mother, Jennifer Ritterskamp, of Thompson’s Station, Tenn., Sept. 30 during the True Blue Tour student reception at Rocketown in Nashville.

Alexis Marks, 23, a Nashville State Community College sophomore also studying biology, said she had “heard about and can’t wait to see” MTSU’s newly opened Science Building, which will have a 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15, official opening ceremony.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to come to MTSU,” Marks said. “My mom, Shirley Marks, got her master’s degree in criminal justice there. She’s really pushing MTSU.”

MTSU Student Government Association President Andrew George of Nashville told the prospective students and their parents that university faculty “develop you as both campus and future leaders. MTSU is here to help you out, not only in the classroom, but in the future, too.”

Young alumnus Michael Burrows of Murfreesboro, one of about 10 alumni attending the function, said his current impression of MTSU is that it is “the best public university in Tennessee.”

“I’m proud to be here as an alumnus, and answering students’ questions,” said Burrows, who opened H3O Aquatics, an exercise therapy underwater treadmill with many features, this summer in Murfreesboro.

“I’m impressed with the high caliber of men and women who make up the faculty.”

Other alumni who met briefly with McPhee included Murfreesboro businesswoman Paula Mansfield, 2014-15 Alumni Board president; Ashley Elizabeth Graham, 2014-15 Young Alumni Achievement Award winner; alumni board members Jill Napier and Latreace Sankey-Wells; and Richard Stone. Alumni Paul Ladd and Woody Bomar and alumni board member Neil Lambert also attended the reception.

Prospective students have multiple opportunities for a firsthand look at campus.

The final Fall Preview Day will be held Saturday, Nov. 1.

Other upcoming on-campus recruiting events include:

  • Friday, Oct. 17 — “True Blue Experience Day” for students who will be part of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.
  • Friday, Jan. 23 — “True Blue Experience Day” for prospective students in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts.
  • Friday, Jan. 30 — “True Blue Experience Day” for prospective students in the College of Mass Communication, the Jones College of Business and the College of Education.

Also, the Office of Admissions has special Saturday tours planned for Oct. 11, Nov. 15 and Dec. 6, with all starting at 10 a.m. in the Student Services and Admissions Center. To register, visit

The priority deadline to apply and receive scholarship consideration is Dec. 1.

— Randy Weiler (

Bridgette Hurte, left, and Denise Holman of Columbia State Community College talk to MTSU adviser Brad Baumgardner about the variety of offerings in the College of Liberal Arts. Hurte and Holman attended a high school counselors and community college advisers’ luncheon at Rocketown Sept. 30 in Nashville.

MTSU True Blue Tour touches 700 people in Knoxville, Johnson City

It is a tale of two Tennessee cities — Johnson City and Knoxville — visited recently by the MTSU administrative caravan on the True Blue Tour.

Elyssa Hurley, left, and her mother, Estelle, both from Lenoir City, Tennessee, discuss the technical qualities and capabilities of the Department of Electronic Media Communication mobile production truck during the Knoxville True Blue Tour visit Sept. 23. Elyssa Hurley is a sophomore at the Lenoir City campus of Roane State Community College and plans to study history and film. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)

The 600-mile-plus round trip visit to East and upper East Tennessee to recruit outstanding students for the 2015-16 academic year and beyond proved fruitful. More than 700 people, including 76 students in Johnson City and 160 in Knoxville, were greeted by MTSU admissions, academic personnel and university administrators led by President Sidney A. McPhee.

Prospective students, their parents or other guests heard presentations from McPhee, Student Affairs’ Vice President Deb Sells and current students Zach Hutcherson of Greeneville and Felicia Adkins of Kingston. They also viewed videos, obtained various printed materials and met and posed questions to MTSU officials.

At The Millennium Centre in Johnson City, Sullivan Central High School senior Mariana Valdez of Kingsport said MTSU “is probably my first choice” for college.

“I want to go into recording technology, and I heard it is a really good school. I’m looking forward to going there,” Valdez said. MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry is one of the university’s signature programs.

MTSU College of Mass Communication Dean Ken Paulson, right, shares information about the Department of Electronic Media Communication with Carl Markland of Roan Mountain, Tenn., during the Sept. 22 True Blue Tour student reception in Johnson City. Markland is a senior at Cloudland High School. Also pictured is his mother, Samantha Johnson.

Carl Markland, a senior at Cloudland High School in Roan Mountain, attended with his mother and stepfather, Sandra and Adam Johnson. Markland is interested in agriculture.

Donna Brabson of Friendsville was invited to the high school counselors and community college advisers luncheon at The Foundry in Knoxville Sept. 23. Jamie Brabson, her daughter, is a senior education major.

“I spread the word (about MTSU),” Donna Brabson said. “Jamie has had a very good experience there. She has been in BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministry). She’s very blessed.”

Roane State Community College sophomore Elyssa Hurley and her mother, Estelle, live in Lenoir City. They toured the Department of Electronic Media Communications $1.8 million mobile production truck outside The Foundry.

Elyssa Hurley, who wants to study history and film, found MTSU “more impressive than other schools” she is considering.

Thomas Gunter, a video journalist with the Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR-TV, said the EMC truck “is an impressive vehicle.”

“The response we’ve gotten (in Chattanooga, Johnson City and Knoxville) has been tremendous,” said Mike Forbes, an EMC assistant director.

“We’re glad to showcase this to students who want to come to MTSU, and we always showcase our students’ work.”

Equally impressive were Hutcherson and Adkins, current students who shared about their MTSU experience and life on the Murfreesboro campus.

Hutcherson, an aerospace major in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, serves as a flight instructor, is a member of Blue Elite and entered MTSU as a Buchanan Fellow in the Honors College.

“My MTSU experience has been great,” said Hutcherson, 20. “They’ve got me involved in my industry and created an environment that connects you with your university. The technology and connections in the industry give me prospects for a good job.”

Felicia Adkins

Adkins, 19, a sophomore physical education major minoring in dance, has aspirations of being a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. She calls her MTSU experience “wonderful.” She is a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and the dance team and works on campus, teaching hip-hop classes at the Campus Rec Center.

“Everything I have been involved with so far has been a positive experience,” said Adkins, whose backup plan if the Dallas dream job falls through is to be an elementary school teacher “because I love working with children, being a role model to help children better themselves.”

Adkins enjoyed a family reunion: Her parents, Bob and Tracy Adkins; sister, Aslyn, 10; and grandparents, M.L. and Norma Faye Atkins — all from Kingston — attended.

Family ties also prevailed for MTSU alumna and College of Education Dean Lana Seivers, a Clinton native, whose mother, Frankie Seivers, attended the event, as did Rebekah Johnson, daughter of Honors College Dean John Vile, who enjoyed introducing 5-week-old grandson Christopher Johnson to his MTSU colleagues. In Johnson City, Honors staff member Laura Clippard and her mother and stepfather, Shirley and Charles Dean Von Cannon, enjoyed a brief reunion.

McPhee met with alumni at both venues. They included Clint and Missy Bond Davis, and Greg and Melanie McDavid Lamb in Johnson City, and Ben Landers, Patrick Morrison, Stephanie Workman and Larry Cox in Knoxville.

MTSU travels to Nashville Tuesday, Sept. 30, for an 11:30 a.m. luncheon for high school counselors and community college advisers and a 6 to 8 p.m. student reception.  The tour visits Memphis and Jackson Oct. 22-23, respectively.

— Randy Weiler (

Zach Hutcherson, foreground, tells people attending the MTSU True Blue Tour event in Johnson City, Tenn., about his experiences as an undergraduate student. He is a sophomore aerospace major from Greeneville, Tenn.


Chattanooga senior sold on MTSU long before True Blue Tour event

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — High school senior Deasia Reynolds of Chattanooga never visited the Middle Tennessee State University campus in Murfreesboro until 2013.

Tyner Academy senior Deasia Reynolds of Chattanooga, Tennessee, talks to MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee regarding the academic possibilities in pursuit of a nursing degree. They visited Sept. 17 during the annual True Blue Tour student reception at the Chattanooga Convention Center. (MTSU photos by News and Media Relations)

But the Tyner Academy student knew as a 10-year-old fifth-grader in 2007 that she wanted to go to MTSU.

“I’d love to go to school at MT,” Reynolds said with excitement. “It’s my favorite school in the whole world. I hope to get accepted.”

Along with nearly 200 Chattanooga-area students and more than 200 additional guests, Reynolds attended the annual MTSU True Blue Tour, held Sept. 17 at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

Chattanooga was the first leg in the statewide tour, which includes visits to Johnson City, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and Jackson.

Reynolds said she makes all A’s, carries a 3.7 GPA and ranks 10th in her class. She said she plans to pursue nursing and hopes it will be with the MTSU School of Nursing, one of the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences departments.

Current MTSU junior Agnes Porter of Chattanooga spoke to her peers during the reception.

Porter, who graduated several years ahead of Reynolds at East Hamilton, said she “loves the diversity of the campus, not just in race, but age also has an impact on the diversity that the campus offers.

Patty Bumpass, left, a senior at East Hamilton High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, makes a concrete coast with the guidance of MTSU Concrete Industry Management faculty member Jon Huddleston Sept. 17 during the True Blue Tour event at the Chattanooga Convention Center. An overflow crowd attended on the first stop of the six-city tour.

“It is interesting to listen to how life experiences shape our views and how that is expressed through our use of class discussions, especially in the political science department,” added Porter, who was joined at the event by her entire immediate family.

At MTSU, Porter majors in public administration in the College of Liberal Arts and multimedia journalism in the College of Mass Communication. The HOPE Lottery Scholarship recipient works in the Career Development Center and served as a peer mentor for the Scholars Academy Summer Institute for incoming freshmen this year.

The 3.88 GPA student anticipates graduating in December 2016 and has lofty career ambitions.

“I would like to either become a news correspondent for CNN from the White House or the Capitol while also hosting my own political segment for the network, be an image consultant for political figures, or become a congresswoman,” she said.

The “great staff at MTSU are fully dedicated to their students’ success,” Porter added, noting that being a student “has opened so many doors for me in terms of receiving hands-on experience to help me determine the career path that is best for me.”

The Chattanooga resident said being accepted into the Scholars Academy Summer Institute of 2013 “was confirmation that MTSU was the right school for me.” Becoming a Scholars Academy peer mentor “gave me an opportunity to play a valuable role in the lives of many students who were leaving home for the first time to start a new chapter in their books called life.”

Students from all across the region, including Etowah and Athens, Tennessee, and a large contingent from Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, attended the reception. About 40 high school counselors and community college representatives attended a luncheon earlier in the day.

MTSU takes the True Blue Tour to Johnson City Monday, Sept. 22, and Knoxville Tuesday, Sept. 23.

— Randy Weiler (

MTSU junior Agnes Porter, left, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, tells high school students about university life as they arrive for the Sept. 17 True Blue Tour at the Chattanooga Convention Center. The articipants include Emily Fields, second from left, of Athens, Tennessee, and Blake Butler and John Bell of Etowah, Tennessee. All are seniors at McMinn Central High School.