Crowd anticipation was palpable at Monday’s True Blue Tour in Franklin, Tennessee, as University President Sidney A. McPhee paused before announcing the final scholarship he would award for the night.
“You could hear a pin drop in here,” McPhee remarked, acknowledging the atmosphere.
The enthusiasm — shared by university leadership, alumni and attendees — permeated the ballroom at the Nov. 14 lunch and evening reception events at the Cool Springs Marriott Conference Center. It marked the 12th stop of MTSU’s annual recruitment tour that travels across Tennessee and into Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky to bring to the Blue Raider experience to prospective students, their families, school counselors and community college staff.
McPhee and other top administrators like Deb Sells, vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services, touted MTSU’s high quality, affordable, student-centered education right in Williamson County’s backyard, with the Blue Raider campus only 40 miles away.
“We are here to look you in eye from the president on up to tell you great things are happening right around corner in your neighborhood,” McPhee said. “We are an institution on the move. We are here because we want you to know exactly what the university has to offer to help you achieve your goals.”
“We are ranked the top public university in Tennessee for return on investment,” Sells said.
McPhee’s address also showcased the university’s benefits from its world-class facilities with $1.5 billion in new construction and renovation, its diverse student population with Blue Raider students hailing from 71 different countries to every single song played before his address being either produced, engineered or performed by a member of the True Blue community.
“We want more students from Williamson County,” McPhee said. “We want you to be True Blue.”
High quality education close to home
Diego Torres, Columbia State Community College sophomore, attended with his parents, Aida and Adan Torres, to learn about transferring to a videography or photography program in the College of Media and Entertainment.
“I figured MTSU would be a good place to get into a film program,” said Torres, who has also started to offer freelance photography on his own. “I saw Lipscomb and Vanderbilt’s programs, (but) I have friends that go to MTSU, it’s pretty affordable (and) I thought that would be my best option out of all of them.”
Summit High School junior Laney Perkins stopped by with her whole family and said she was interested in MTSU because of its proximity, prices and program variety.
“My (twin) sister is interested in MTSU’s media program,” Perkins said. “(But) right now I’m pretty much undecided. It’s just so hard to choose one thing.… I have so many things I want to do from forensics to fashion to law.”
Perkins met with a University College advisor who eased her concerns about not being settled on a major.
“I found out that it’s OK to be undecided,” Perkins said. “I have three semesters until I have to decide. Undecided is an actual major you can choose.”
Keviyah Endsley, senior at Siegel High School in Murfreesboro, attended with her mom, Natasha Endsley, and spoke with faculty at the Honors College table.
“I’d like to learn more about the biology resources to help prepare me for med school,” Endsley said. “I want to be a doctor or surgeon.”
Endsley’s mom found out about the event through a Facebook group and thought it would be a good opportunity for them to get more information in person.
“The close-to-home part (appeals),” her mom said about MTSU. “She’s (Keviyah) a hometown girl.”
Independence High School counselor Cassie Smith attended both the counselor luncheon and evening student reception events, bringing along her son, Independence sophomore Aidan Smith, to the latter.
Her son stopped to talk to Department of Military Science faculty, and Smith said the campus’ effort to provide these events locally made attending so easy.
“This is his first college thing to do,” she said. “I think it’s good for him to own it a little bit. Sometimes, because of my role, I can have a tendency to do everything for him, but he’s got to do it, and I have to let him do it.”
Two of Smith’s Independence colleagues won big at the earlier luncheon, each receiving $5,500 scholarships during McPhee’s prize drawing.
Smith, who had won two scholarships herself at previous tours, said the department collaborates to award the money to Independence students and families in need.
Senior home-schooled student Larsen Buck won a $5,000 scholarship during McPhee’s prize drawing and accepted with her parents, Jeff and Lori Buck, by her side.
Her dad told McPhee that he works in mechatronics and engineering at Automation NTH in La Vergne, Tennessee, and has recruited and employed 18 MTSU grads.
“My bass teacher recommends MTSU’s program above any other in the area,” Buck said. “He knows the faculty and that they are well-respected musicians and teachers.”
Stefani Smith, Spring Hill High counselor, leapt out of her seat with joy when McPhee drew her name for a $5,000 scholarship.
Smith told McPhee she is a proud two-time alumna and that she recently “flipped three kids” from starting at community college to starting their freshman year at MTSU.
Another alumna, Independence High counselor Heather Bastos, won a $5,500 scholarship.
Bastos said the fact that McPhee is the only school president who personally attends university recruitment tours “shows his heart” and how much he and the staff care about their students and larger community.
Headed to Atlanta Thursday
The tour’s next stop is Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, Nov. 16, followed by the final stop in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Thursday, Nov. 17. Those interested in attending are encouraged to RSVP at https://www.mtsu.edu/rsvp but can also register the day of on-site to enter the giveaways for scholarships and prizes done by McPhee at every event.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)