Enterprise magazine 2023

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Address changes: Advancement Services, MTSU Box 109, Murfreesboro, TN 37132, alumni@mtsu.edu. Other correspondence: Jones College, 1301 E. Main St., MTSU Box 101, Murfreesboro, TN 37132. 4,110 copies printed at Phillips Printing, Nashville, Tennessee. ENTERPRISE mtsu.edu/business
/ Vol. 7, No. 1
Jones College David Urban • Strategic Communications Manager, Jones College Darby Campbell-Firkus • Senior Editor Drew Ruble • Senior Director, Creative and Visual Services Kara Hooper • Designer Brittany Blair Stokes • Associate Editor Carol Stuart
Writer Skip Anderson • Contributing Editor Nancy Broden • University
James Cessna, Andy Heidt, J. Intintoli, Cat Curtis Murphy • University
Sidney A. McPhee • University Provost Mark Byrnes • Vice President for Marketing and Communications Andrew Oppmann JENNINGS A. JONES COLLEGE OF BUSINESS 2 | ENTERPRISE 0323-1930 / Middle Tennessee State University does not discriminate against students, employees, or applicants for admission or employment on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, age, status as a protected veteran, genetic information, or any other legally protected class with respect to all employment, programs, and activities sponsored by MTSU. The Interim Assistant to the President for Institutional Equity and Compliance has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies and can be reached at Cope Administration Building 116, 1301 East Main Street, Murfreesboro, TN 37132; Christy.Sigler@mtsu.edu; or 615-898-2185. The MTSU policy on non-discrimination can be found at mtsu.edu/iec.


4 A Decade of Distinction

Dean Urban reflects on his tenure

7 #JonesCollegeof Business

Alumni and friends share keys to networking

8 A Sales Force

MTSU’s Center for Professional Selling fills vast void in business education

14 In Someone Else's Shoes

New MTSU faculty member Gaia Rancati uses science to determine buyer behavior

19 Change Makers

Jones College faculty and staff publish thought leadership in partnership with the Nashville Business Journal

20 Built to Last

Professor Patrick Geho leads a team that builds Tennessee's economy

26 Research Briefs

A look at some results of faculty studies on business topics

28 Puckett's Is Smokin'

Alumni Andy and Jan Marshall create a thriving family business after departing another

34 Digital Doorway

Jones College of Business rolls out the welcome wagon online for M.B.A. students

38 Jones College All★Stars

All of our faculty, staff, and students contribute to our college’s success, and here we highlight a few exceptional individuals

49 Business Matters

Your guide to what’s happening at Jones College


Cover photo by J. Intintoli 2022 Leadership Summit keynote speaker Libby Gill, an award-winning author, executive coach, and leadership expert, poses for a photo with student Mervyn Thomas-Crawford, who recently won the 2023 Business Plan Competition. Photo by Andy Heidt
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After 10 years of service leading MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business, Dean David Urban is stepping down and returning to a faculty position in August. Enterprise magazine sat down with Dean Urban to reflect on his tenure.

How has the college improved during your time here?

Our student retention and graduation rates have improved, mainly due to the efforts of our outstanding academic advisors. We have eliminated stagnant programs and replaced them with ones that have high demand, such as Supply Chain Management, Professional Selling, Business Intelligence and Analytics, Digital Marketing, and Human Resource Management. Our requirement that all undergraduate business students complete the Dale Carnegie® Course is still unique among the nation’s collegiate business schools and has transformed the lives of over 5,600 students. We completely reengineered our M.B.A. program, tripled its enrollment, and added Industry Supported Learning Experience (ISLE) projects, giving our students a chance to solve real-world business problems. We’ve also expanded our professional development offerings via our IGNITE program and several career fairs each year.

We have a more versatile faculty. Jones College has always had a tradition of outstanding teaching, but the quantity and quality of our faculty’s research contributions have dramatically increased. The Business and Economic Research Center, Office of Consumer Research, and Political Economy Research Institute lead the way. Our faculty also are impacting business practice, evidenced by the popularity of our content hub on the Nashville Business Journal website. The faculty have embraced a culture of assessment and assurance of learning that the review team in our most recent accreditation evaluation touted as a “best practice.”

Our comprehensive marketing thrust, including many new internal and community events, has resulted in a more prominent brand image, engaged us with the external community, and helped us achieve new heights in fundraising. We have upgraded the Business and Aerospace Building and added an excellent Executive Education Center. We have had three accreditation review teams and another group of accreditation consultants conduct thorough examinations of our college at various times during the past 10 years. The common conclusion is that the college has made notable and commendable progress. I’m proud of that assessment.

How has the higher education landscape evolved?

Two critical trends are the growing skepticism about the value of a traditional undergraduate college education and the anticipated 2026 downturn in the number of prime college-age students entering the higher education market. These trends will make it more difficult for regional, enrollment-driven state universities like MTSU to attract students. At Jones College, we have tried to counteract these threats through an “inside-out” strategy—better program development, enrollment management, and highimpact marketing. These efforts must continue.

Where do you hope to see Jones College go in the future?

When I arrived at MTSU in 2013, I noted that our goals were “national prominence and regional dominance.” We have made significant headway on both fronts, but there is always more to do. When I arrived, we had no national rankings for our programs, but we have been accumulating them regularly. Looking forward, we have the potential for more ranking breakthroughs that touch more of our programs. We also must remember that although Jones College is the largest collegiate business school in middle Tennessee, and MTSU is the largest university, we have local and regional competitors constantly improving their programs and students’ experiences. We cannot afford to be reactive or even adaptive. We must be proactive in searching for new opportunities and ways to improve. We have to be willing to raise the bar for ourselves. If we do that, Jones College will climb to even greater heights.

Dean Joyce Heames has the background and experience to lead us on a continued positive trajectory, and she has my full support. I am confident she will have the same effort and commitment I have experienced from our students, faculty, administration, alumni, and other supporters, for which I will always be grateful. Seeing the Jones College story evolve over the next several years will be exciting.

Dean David Urban is stepping down after 10 years of leadership but will remain a faculty member.
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Photo by Andy Heidt
6 | ENTERPRISE PARTNER ON M.B.A. PROJECTS Does your company have a problem to solve or a project to tackle? MTSU’s Jones College of Business can help. The Industry Supported Learning Experience program pairs companies with graduate students and expert faculty to complete real-world projects across all areas of business. Key benefits: • Cost-effective solutions • Access to fresh talent and perspectives • Increased productivity • Improved brand reputation • Opportunities for staff development Interested? Contact: Bernard Zeng, Jones College Executive in Residence 703-624-2436 BarneyZeng@SourceKeySolutions.com
HCA's Ryan Richardson with
“MTSU’s M.B.A. team created the roadmap for our expansion into commercial and industrial lending.” —Wilson Bank & Trust
M.B.A. students Jessica Bekar and Diana Skordallos


Jones College alumni and friends shared their answers with us across social media. Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Reddit. We want to hear from you!

Always bring your business cards and have a clear elevator pitch ready!

To keep showing up. Networking events get easier the more you go to them! Offer to help others in your network when you can, and they will be more likely to help you in return.

Too often people go to those things expecting everyone to be a potential “customer.” Go with the intention to make new friends Friends send referrals. It goes both ways.


Always end a networking encounter by asking, “Who else do you think I should meet?” and “Would you be willing to introduce me?” Then follow up with a thank-you email reminding them about the e-introduction offer.


when networking. People can tell when you’re being fake or insincere, so it’s important to be genuine and authentic.


Tip for students: If your city has a lot of jobs in the field you’re pursuing, work as a server in a high-end restaurant in the business district. If you form relationships with regulars, it can lead to hiring opportunities !



SET GOALS. Push your comfort zone in finding ways to expand the number of people you interact with.

Dressing professionally will help you make a good first impression and show that you take your business seriously.

2023 | 7

A Sales


Thom Coats is a congenial Mississippian with a gentle Southern lilt that serves to enhance his laissez-faire friendliness. Conversations with him are effortless, and he is an engaged listener, to boot. These qualities create an overall lightness about him. He’s genuinely an easy-to-know person. But his personality is no act. He is who he is: a smart, outgoing, empathetic person who shares anecdotes as comfortably as did one of his favorite storytelling comedians (and fellow Mississippian), Jerry Clower.

As his impressive curriculum vitae suggests, the decades he spent in sales have honed his skills to a point that he could probably sell shoes to a worm. But in addition to that being an unethical practice, it would violate what he teaches: Successful salespersons seek solutions for their clients, rather than strong-arm a mark into buying something they don’t need.

Coats is the founding director of MTSU’s Center for Professional Selling, which has enjoyed a meteoric rise in prominence since launching in 2019. And that’s no accident. It’s a calculated ascension in reputation propelled by the program’s filling vast—and in hindsight, obvious—voids in the educational experience offered by more established business programs around the world.

“The problem is that 66% of all graduates with business degrees start their careers in sales. Yet less than 1% of universities have a sales program to train their business and marketing students to be effective salespersons,” Coats said.

Thom Coats, director of MTSU’s Center for Professional Selling
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Photo by Cat Curtis Murphy 2023

“The other part of the problem is most companies have neither the resources nor the patience to train new salespersons to be successful. That’s why turnover [in sales departments] is so high. At MTSU, we’re breaking that cycle.”

Toward that end, Coats teaches his students that a successful salesperson’s approach to the profession is practical, friendly, genuine, and sincere. It’s more like the “Help me help you” approach of Tom Cruise as the sports agent in Jerry Maguire, as opposed to Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross, who ridicules an already beleaguered sales team.

In short, he teaches them to view their relationships with clients neither as business-to-business (B2B) nor as businessto-consumers (B2C)—longstanding categories of sales positions—but as human-to-human regardless of needs. And, importantly, he also instructs them to ask intelligent questions of their clients to discover their needs so they can arrive at a solution together.

“I tell my students of an old poem, ‘If you can see Jim Jones through Jim Jones’ eyes, then you can sell Jim Jones what Jim Jones buys.’ ”

But there’s an important step left out of that adage: Salespersons still must close the sale. And, for some, asking a client to open their wallet is an anxiety-producing prospect. That’s why, according to Coats, it’s important to get what he calls, “little yesses” from the client along the way to the closing.

“That [mentality] wasn’t effective then, and it certainly doesn’t hold water today,” Coats said. “Today, we teach our students that successful salespersons don’t conduct transaction-based sales, but solution-based sales.”

“Get those ‘little yesses’ into the conversation throughout the process,” he says. “By doing so, you’re confirming what it takes to meet their needs. Then, when you ask for the agreement, it’s not a big deal because they’ve agreed to everything along the way. It’s an easy way to ensure all parties have an understanding of the agreement.”



The Center for Professional Selling (CPS) relies on lectures and book chapters as well as mock sales calls and real sales calls to help train its students, also enlisting 18 corporate partners from a broad swath of sectors. Coats and the leadership at MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business additionally took a strategic approach to designing the nascent CPS as a center, rather than just a program.

“Inherently, a center translates to having more community involvement,” Coats said.

It also allowed the possibility of membership in the University Sales Center Alliance; the MTSU center is now an associate member.

“That’s vital to our program because it puts us on stage at a national level,” Coats said. “The criteria are stringent, and fewer than 100 centers and institutes in the world meet the criteria. That is significant.”

As a standalone center at MTSU, the CPS is in control of its own funding. Another aspect enviable by many programs is a two-room lab for students to practice effective sales techniques. One room is equipped with two office chairs, a table, and modest decor. The other is an office with an executive desk, chairs, a bookcase, and prints on the wall.

To begin a semester-long project, two students at a time role-play to practice analyzing and solving a fleet-management challenge that might face one of the center’s corporate partners, Enterprise Rental Cars. The first session, they learn the problem. Then next time, they practice asking and answering questions using prescribed sales techniques. Their third session, the students match the fleet-management problems to the features that the buyer agrees to along the way.

That’s where those “little yesses” prove to be an important step in setting up the close. In their final session, they close the deal. Video cameras and microphones enable teachers to critique and coach students.


“We use those rooms more than 450 times per semester,” Coats said. “The top eight performers are invited to meet with an executive from Enterprise in the lab’s executive room. There are cash rewards for finishing the project in the top tier. And sometimes there are job offers.”

Professional Selling students interviewing with regional employers
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Stole ceremony for Professional Selling students

Corporate partners of the Center for Professional Selling do more than participate in practice sessions and award prizes. Each company also provides mentors for three to five students, helping familiarize them with the culture of the sales world. And, of course, they serve as potential employers.

Boston Scientific, Change Healthcare, Dell, Fastenal, and Sherwin-Williams are among the small and large businesses who participate in the CPS corporate program.

“Sales is not a one-trick pony, and these valued partners offer different types of sales experiences,” Coats said. What they don’t do is sit on the sidelines offering platitudes like those typeset upon a poster with a majestic bald eagle. Nor do they pat their protégées on the back. These curated coaches are dedicated and listen to their students’ very first cold calls. “And they each provide mentors for our students, judges for our competition, and coach for our Blue Raider Phone Blitz.”

Quite often, according to Coats, they come to classes, too, and attend etiquette banquets and networking dinners with their students, offering support and counsel at such functions.


Coats understands other heady challenges can face students that go beyond the scope of a mentor—especially those who might be first-generation college students. Coats knows because he faced financial challenges as an undergrad at Mississippi State University in the early 1980s.

A baseball fan, Coats enjoyed immensely watching two future major league All-Stars play for the Bulldogs: Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro. But, given the reality of his economic situation as a student, his time spent at iconic Dudy Noble Field was limited by his need to work an unforgiving schedule for a college student. “I was a decent student in high school,” Coats said. “But in college I wasn’t because I had to work my way through.”

State Farm Competition at MTSU

That is an understatement. He worked at a convenience store from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. while in college.

“I was lucky to have ‘Dr. O,’ a professor, understand my predicament,” Coats said. “I was in his Managerial Economics class, which started at 8 a.m. One day after class, he told me, ‘If you’d just stay awake, you could make A’s in my class, not B’s.’ When I told him that I regularly work overnight, he told me not to worry and to just keep studying.

“It meant the world to me that he cared enough to reach out to me, and then for him to see that I was doing everything I could.”

Dr. O’s act of understanding may be the most important lesson Coats took from that Managerial Economics class. And it’s one that shapes who he is as a teacher some four decades later.



“I recently had a student who was working night shifts at Nissan while he was earning his degree,” Coats said. “He was motivated to be the youngest manager in the company. So I didn’t bust him for being distant at times in class. By the way, he was promoted into management before the semester ended.”

Understanding the context of the students’ lives outside of class is a central theme to the Center for Professional Selling.

“Another student spent significant time outside of class pouring concrete with his dad throughout college,” Coats said. “He came to the selling class to learn about starting his own sport-clothing line. Then he discovered that he was very good at selling. He graduated in 2022 and is now believed to be the only State Farm [Insurance] agent in middle Tennessee who is bilingual.”

But does the rare combination of faculty-to-student contact at this level, students’ access to the center’s dedicated corporate partners, a sales lab, relevant coursework, hands-on experience bolstered by roleplay, and other attributes that conspire to set the Center for Professional Selling apart from 99% of offerings at business programs translate to greater student success? Coats can point to a single data point to make the case:

“Over the past three semesters, we’ve had 100% job placement for our graduates.”


Thom Coats suggests anyone who wants to learn more about effective salesmanship add four books to their library:

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It, by Chris Voss

The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness, by Jeffrey Gitomer

Creating a Productive Selling Zone, by John Boyens

How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

2023 | 13
Marketing Professor Gaia Rancati, a worldwide expert on neuromarketing, with a portion of her 200-pair shoe collection
Photo by Andy Heidt



2023 | 15

Before switching careers to join academia, Jones College

Professor Gaia Rancati worked professionally for several years in the premium-luxury retail sector for international fashion companies such as Max Mara, Value Retail, and Louis Vuitton.

Rancati took her love of fashion and marketing (and robots!) and carved out a space for herself as a worldwide expert in the field of neuromarketing.

Harvard Business Review defines neuromarketing as “the measurement of physiological and neural signals to gain insight into customers’ motivations, preferences, and decisions.” Such research on neuromarketing, retailing, services marketing, and artificial intelligence is crucial for informing companies about the most effective way to market products to consumers.

It’s neuromarketing behind the common strategy of pricing an item for 99 cents instead of $1 (or $99 instead of $100). It’s also neuromarketing that led the makers of Chips Ahoy cookies to replace their standard cookie picture on their packaging with one that is half-eaten with crumbs fallen to the side.

The effectiveness of such strategies has its roots in the way researchers such as Rancati use neurotools that track eye movement, facial expressions, galvanic skin response, brain

wave measurements, and heart rate to gain insights into advertising that moves people to action.

How did Rancati find herself in such an interesting and relevant field for our times? “Everything started with a book,” she said.

According to Rancati, her decision to study neuromarketing “happened by chance,” the result of stumbling upon and reading The Trust Molecule by Paul Zak. Zak’s book explains that when there is trust, the brain releases oxytocin.

Working in the fashion industry, Rancati realized that the relationship between the customer and the sales assistant requires a lot of trust, and that when it was present—and therefore so too was oxytocin—sales were more likely to occur.

Wanting to study more scientific and objective measures of buyer behavior, Rancati turned her academic and research efforts to neuromarketing.


In essence, neuromarketing is trying to figure out whether customers will pay attention to an ad or not. It’s a twodecade-old field of study, but questions persist about whether neuromarketing is ethical. The issue is how the science potentially gives brands an effective means to surreptitiously “push the buy button” in a customer’s mind, according to the American Marketing Association (AMA).

In an interview with the AMA, Roger Dooley, author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing, stated that most companies don’t intentionally promote anything that’s deceptive or illegal.

“The question runs along all advertising,” Dooley said. “Are you doing things in a way that is honest and helpful to the consumer? Things that are not going to do harm? Are you helping the consumer decide to buy something they’re going to regret? If so, it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing—whether a marketing study or using deceptive ad copy—you shouldn’t do it.”


Rancati argues in favor of neuromarketing by stating one essential clear fact: Neuromarketing “is not able to read the minds of the customers. It is only able to show us there is a response to some stimuli that you receive from the environment.”

She describes neuromarketing as merely a tool, adding, “All tools depend on how we want to use them.”

According to Rancati, neuromarketing only crosses the line on ethics “if and when the nature of the research itself is unethical.”


Now a sought-after researcher and speaker in neuromarketing, Rancati has given a dozen presentations in her field of expertise over the last five years. She is an official speaker at the World Retail Congress and gives guest lectures at universities around the globe. She is also a valued member of the AMA and a guest judge for the AMA Undergraduate Research Competition. In 2019, Rancati was named a Woman of Excellence for her research on customer experience and retail at the World Women Economic Forum in New Delhi, India. She won the Best Paper Award at Convergence 2020: Winning through Service Excellence for “Robot-Human Interactions in Retail Stores: A Neuromarketing Perspective.”

At MTSU, Rancati said she is eager to help her True Blue colleagues learn how to use neuromarketing tools to improve their chances of publishing their own research. Utilizing many of the aforementioned technologies, Rancati said, she can gather physiological and neural signals and apply neuro- and cognitive science interpretations to try to make her colleagues’ research insights more salient.

Rancati’s climb from the fashion world to the halls of academia and cutting-edge research applications is impressive. For all that has changed in her life, though, including countries and professions, she said one thing has stayed the same: her love of shopping, particularly when it comes to collecting shoes and books.

Rancati with grad assistant Mayowa Isiolaotan in their BAS neuromarketing research lab
2023 | 17
Photo by J. Intintoli


1. Rancati’s research in neuromarketing specifically focuses on human-robot interactions, retailing, and augmented reality.

2. Rancati attended IULM University in Milan, Italy, earning a bachelor’s degree in Marketing.

3. Rancati earned a Master of Leadership and Management from Sole 24ORE Business School.

4. Rancati earned a Ph.D. from IULM University in Marketing and Neuromarketing.

5. While completing her doctorate, Rancati worked in the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University where her work centered around psychophysiology in retailing.

6. Rancati joined MTSU in fall 2022 as an assistant professor of Marketing and Neuromarketing, teaching courses such as Principles of Marketing and Retailing and eCommerce.


7. In addition to her position at MTSU, Rancati is a visiting assistant professor at her alma mater, IULM.

8. Rancati coordinates the brand-new MTSU Neuromarketing Lab, the only lab in Tennessee that combines artificial intelligence, metaverse, and retail with neuromarketing. In this area, Rancati works with companies such as Lavazza, Hermes, and Tesla to improve the customer experience in retail and web applications.

9. Rancati maintains long-lasting connections with these companies, facilitating collaborations between her MTSU students and the companies, as well as community-based projects and internships.

Rancati with one of her two retail research robots
10. Rancati continues to act as a consultant with luxury fashion companies on retail and sales operations.


Did you know that Jones College faculty and staff regularly publish thought leadership pieces in partnership with the Nashville Business Journal? You can find them at bizjournals.com/nashville/news/partners/change-makers


Adam Rennhoff, Professor, Economics

The launch of streaming services, with their curated libraries of programming, has hastened the decline in cable subscribership.

bizjournals.com/nashville/news/ 2022/12/07/the-future-of-mediagoodbye-cable-hello-strea.html


Jarett Decker, Joey Jacobs Chair of Excellence in Accounting

A key source of information distorted by inflation is corporate financial statements.

bizjournals.com/nashville/news/ 2022/10/18/beware-of-inflation-itmay-be-distorting.html



Steven Sprick Schuster, Assistant Professor, Economics

Ranked-choice voting might just be the key to a more perfect union. As American politics become increasingly divisive, this system might help diffuse extremism.

bizjournals.com/nashville/news/2022/ 09/22/opinion-ranked-choice-votingencourages-civil.html


Raj Srivastava, Professor, and Pramod Iyer, Assistant Professor, Marketing

To choose the right metric, first consider your marketing goals and key marketing problems. bizjournals.com/nashville/ news/2022/03/17/what-should-youlook-for-in-digital-marketing.html


Don Roy, Professor, Marketing Intercollegiate athletes in college sports-crazy Tennessee are already benefiting from opportunities afforded by the NIL law.

bizjournals.com/nashville/ news/2022/03/01/name-imagelikeness-laws.html


Michael C. Peasley, Director, Office of Consumer Research, and Assistant Professor, Marketing

Technological advances and customer expectations make it difficult for salespeople to “unplug” from addressing client and manager demands.

bizjournals.com/nashville/ news/2021/04/08/how-to-buildcredibility-as-a-leader.html

2023 | 19
Patrick Geho, Management faculty and Tennessee Small Business Development Center executive director, at his Smith County farm
Photo by J. Intintoli



During the nearly three decades Patrick Geho has worked with the statewide Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) program, he has seen it help countless individuals start or expand their businesses.

In his years of service with the TSBDC office at MTSU, Geho has secured more than $40 million in state, federal, and in-kind funds under various economic development contracts.

In this program year alone, the center just landed a U.S. Small Business Administration grant of almost $2.7 million to deliver business development and training services through the statewide TSBDC network. In addition, the lead center has applied for almost $3.9 million in U.S. Department of Treasury State Small Business Credit Initiative funding.

“This would expand business consulting and training opportunities in underserved communities lacking access to capital and build financing ecosystems that support entrepreneurs and small businesses,” said Geho, a Department of Management professor who started at MTSU as a TSBDC service director in 1995 and has been lead center director since 2006.

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There are many success stories stemming from the TSBDC’s work, which continues to benefit businesses across the state.

For instance, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the Riverfront Seafood Company restaurant in Kingsport suddenly had no patrons. Established in 1991, Riverfront’s slogan is “attitude is everything.” With help and timely guidance from their local TSBDC, Riverfront’s ownership was able to obtain a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, resume operations, and retain all its staff. Business is booming again.

leap into small business ownership with the mentorship of her local TSBDC.

Locally, family-owned Duggin Construction showcases the long-term work of the TSBDC to help a client grow and sustain during economic bursts and booms. Duggin's chief financial officer, Misael Tovar, has been meeting with the TSBDC since 2013. The 20-year-old company, which provides services in land clearing, underground utility installation, and grading, has received consulting on topics such as business insurance, debt financing and consolidation, and financial analysis. The TSBDC also provided Duggin information on the PPP and Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs during the pandemic and most recently advised the company on employee retention credits. As the TSBDC has walked alongside Duggin, company sales have grown by an average of 31% each year over the last nine years, resulting in more than 100 new jobs and over $10 million in locally infused capital.

Or how about when family health issues required Knoxville resident Lynette Casazza’s household to go gluten-free— Casazza quickly (and regrettably) discovered there was no provider of gluten-free baked goods in her area. She responded with more than motherly concern; she responded with an entrepreneurial flair. Casazza launched her own bakery, Mama C’s Gluten-Free Goodies, making the

But it’s not just traditionally “small” businesses like these that the TSBDC has helped launch, grow, or just stay afloat. Contrary to what people might think, Geho said a small business is defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as a company with 500 or fewer employees. However, the TSBDC has provided assistance to much larger firms when the assistance requested does not involve seeking SBA loan guarantees.

Geho and associate director Kayla Miller at the Tennessee Small Business Development Center office

The TSBDC also works with state, county, city, and quasigovernmental agencies on a wide range of economic and community development projects. In recent years the TSBDC has worked closely with entities like the Gibson Rural Electric Cooperative, owned by its 39,000 members across eight west Tennessee and four west Kentucky counties. When the cooperative determined to construct a highspeed broadband infrastructure for its service area but needed technical help with the application process for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Reconnect Loan, it smartly reached out to its local TSBDC office. The result? The cooperative landed more than $31 million for the project.

In another example, the MTSU service center successfully assisted rural Smith County in applying for a certificate of public purpose and necessity to borrow funds to develop an industrial park.

According to Geho, there are thousands more stories just like these sprinkled across the organization’s nearly 40 years of service to the state.


Created by Congress in 1980 and adopted by Tennessee in 1984, the Small Business Development Center program combines the resources of higher education, government, and the private sector to support the development of small businesses. In 2004, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee was successful in relocating the TSBDC lead center from Nashville to MTSU, allowing collaboration with faculty and creating experiential learning for students through paid internships in the community through the lead center.

With the lead center headquartered in Murfreesboro, the TSBDC network consists of 14 service centers (including at MTSU) and two affiliate offices across the state. Each service center is staffed by consultants who provide no-cost virtual and in-person business consulting, training, and resources to help businesses start, grow, and sustain. After all, not everyone who starts a business went to business school.

Center staff can assist in business and financial planning, marketing and sales strategies, social media and website analysis, government contracting, international trade, cybersecurity, and numerous other areas. The centers also conduct market research as well as competitive and financial analyses at no cost to the client. And staff help companies with preparing to go before a lender and getting access to capital. TSBDC’s assistance and training resources represent a gold mine of opportunities for new and growing businesses.

“We’re all about reaching out to small businesses,” Geho said. “Helping somebody grow a company from 30 employees to 100 employees may not sound like a big deal to some people, but if it’s happening in your community, 70 more jobs is very significant.”

Geho, who served as a primary architect of MTSU’s new Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship major (and who teaches its capstone class), knows of what he speaks. That’s because he has lived what he now does.

Prior to coming to MTSU, Geho was founder and co-owner of Consolidated Investors Inc., which developed commercial and industrial properties. The company later ventured into manufacturing, incorporating as SCIC Inc., an automotive drivetrain component subassemblies metal coatings manufacturing plant serving Dana Corp., Chrysler, General Motors, Mercedes, Nissan, and Toyota.


As CEO, he grew the plant population to more than 130 employees. As an entrepreneur, Geho was recognized by the White House in 1995. He also serves as an officer on several statutory economic development boards.

Under Geho’s leadership, the TSBDC has expanded in both size and scope. Four new centers have opened, and the network has grown to almost 50 staff.

SBDC programs nationwide can tell similar success stories of growing the American economy through their many assistance programs.


A leader highly regarded by his colleagues statewide, Geho is reluctant to take too much of the credit for TSBDC’s success.

“I’m all about bringing people that are smarter than I am,” Geho said. “It’s all about continuous improvement. I never pretend to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, and I even tell my students that they are going to say something that’s going to spark an idea that I never really thought of before. If you pay attention, you will always learn something new.”

A sterling example of Geho’s team approach and his instinct to develop future leaders is the story of his right-hand colleague at TSBDC, Kayla Miller.

Miller began her career at a small business in Birmingham, Alabama, and was integral in the rapid growth of the company from 70 employees to 150. This experience allowed her to learn everything she could about HR, payroll, accounting, and business development.

Miller and her husband eventually moved to Memphis. Both got jobs at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital—Miller as a compensation analyst in HR and later as an administrative manager in the outpatient nursing division.

“I had learned how small business worked, and now I got to see how a large organization functioned, while also being introduced to the idea of working for a mission—not just a business,” she said.

After moving to Murfreesboro, with a newborn baby to care for, Miller started doing part-time business counseling at the TSBDC. She later went full time in the service center at MTSU and now is associate director at the lead center.

Miller’s timeline at TSBDC placed her smack dab at the center of one of the most disruptive events in the history of small business—the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was terribly difficult,” Miller said. “You almost have like a PTSD-type reaction when you talk about it. It was a desperate feeling to listen to your clients who were confused and concerned with the possibility of losing their life savings, having to let employees go, and talking about what this was going to do to their community, friends, and neighbors.

“Just considering the options at hand could be excruciating. It was a time of very, very difficult conversations filled with lots and lots of questions like ‘Is taking a PPP loan even the right thing for my business?’ ”

In short order, though, the TSBDC found its footing and served a key role in guiding clients through perilous times.


“Our staff pivoted and started doing online webinars and also were able to provide people with real-time updates on the federal response. We created additional stakeholder newsletters. We were emailing daily to our chambers,” she said. “Our office was actually the central hub for information . . . just doing the best we could to get people through.”

Geho said COVID-related consulting continues to this day. For instance, businesses that took loans and had payments deferred are having payments coming due, and many people just forgot about it.

“Clients are getting due dates in the middle of inflationary times,” Geho said. “They are turning back to us as consultants to help them deal with it.”


Miller has also brought in a company to redevelop the TSBDC’s financial tools, freeing up more time for center directors to consult and innovate. She also was the driving force behind the TSBDC’s website enhancement project and the new Knowledge and Training Portal, featuring 120-plus short business videos free to the public.

Staff involvement in committees and in projects to serve the state is a further testament to the heart of the TSBDC.

“The quality of the people working in the lead center’s Murfreesboro office and across the state in TSBDC centers is what really makes the program work,” Geho said. “The people who work here are highly skilled, and they care about helping people.”


Geho clearly has the support he needs to do the work of the TSBDC. That’s not to say he’s sitting on his laurels. It’s simply not in his DNA to either sit still or stop building. His success both as an entrepreneur and as leader of the TSBDC is proof of that.

Geho’s work ethic extends to service with his community’s industrial development board, chamber of commerce, regional development district, and the education foundation he chartered. When he is not volunteering, he is spending time on his farm.

“I just like being together with my wife and grandkids and doing things around the farm,” he said. “I’m a lousy golfer, don’t play tennis, not much luck fishing. I’d much rather cut hay, fix fence lines, take care of the horses, or work on equipment.”

Geho said the picture he paints of himself in his free time may not seem very exciting to some. “I’m what my wife calls an easy keeper,” he joked.


Develop skills to earn promotions into higher levels of management at different types of organizations with MTSU’s Management M.S. concentration in Organizational Leadership.

The program helps enhance planning, communication, and ethical decisionmaking skills and exposes you to realworld experiences to help you mature as a manager.

• an applied management project or experience

• 12 hours of core management courses

• 12 hours in behavioral aspects of leadership

• 6 hours of electives customized to your career

MTSU’s Jones College of Business ranks in the top 1.4% nationally.


March 1 priority for summer admission, June 1 priority for fall, Oct. 1 priority for spring

2023 | 25


“The Persuasive Power of the Fourth Estate: Estimating the Effect of Newspaper Endorsements: 1960–1980”

Journal of Financial Research

Sprick Schuster measures the effect of newspaper endorsements in presidential elections from 1960 to 1980, a period when the vast majority of newspaper owners and editors supported Republican candidates. During this era, newspapers constituted a major source of information for the average individual. His research shows that when a newspaper endorsed a candidate, reader support for that candidate increased by 20 percentage points. Given the strong partisan skew of these endorsements, they systematically influenced campaigns. By Sprick Schuster’s estimates, these newspaper endorsements potentially increased Republican support by 17 million voters and may have been pivotal in Richard Nixon’s 1968 Electoral College victory.

Co-Author CLARA E. PIANO (Austin Peay State University)

“Contracting Creativity”

European Review of Economic History (forthcoming)

What determines an artist’s creative freedom? Renaissance Italy provides the perfect setting to answer this question. Using a unique data set containing 90 original commission documents from this period, the authors investigate how artist reputation, the identity of the patron, and the expected value of the commission predict the painter’s freedom over choice of subject, style, and look of the painting. The results suggest that the value of the painting and the identity of the patron matter for an artist’s creative freedom, while evidence of an effect of the artist’s reputation is weak.

“A Nuanced Analysis of Salesperson

Grit: Exploring Perseverance, Consistency, and Mindset”

Journal of Business and Industrial Management

Peasley and his colleagues investigated subdimensions of grit, perseverance, and consistency of interests in a B2B sales setting. They suggest managers should be aware that salespeople with a growth mindset benefit from environments that continually provide them with new opportunities. A candidate with the growth mindset may be an ideal fit for select opportunities within the sales organization that would allow them to progress more quickly, such as accelerated training programs, programs offering relatively rapid progression from junior standing to full standing, or programs that would place them on a management track. Sales managers can monitor and develop a salesperson’s locus of control to mitigate a decline in their interest by permitting flexibility and autonomy, providing tools and feedback, and empowering the salesperson with the capabilities and opportunities they need to execute the sales process successfully.

A look at some results of faculty studies on business topics


M.B.A. graduate

“What Would Dolly Do?: Dolly Parton as Authentic Leader”

Journal of Leadership Education

Heath, a recent MTSU M.B.A. graduate, collaborated with Raffo to provide leadership educators with popular media resources for teaching authentic leadership, using Dolly Parton as a compelling case study. Authentic leadership is a theoretical framework that emphasizes core values, purpose, meaning, self-awareness, an internal moral perspective, and enduring relationships. Although Parton is best known for her long and distinguished musical career, the focus here is on her notable civic and philanthropic contributions as an authentic leader, including her work with Imagination Library, her support for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, and her relief efforts for the Gatlinburg fires.

“Do Business School Faculties Have an Ethical Obligation to Maximize MBA Student Involvement by Developing ‘Online Presence’ to Engage Students Displaced During the Pandemic and Beyond?”

International Journal of Education and Social Science (forthcoming)

Phillips explores the significance of going beyond asynchronous online involvement and moving toward a more interactive engagement with distance-learning students, which was never more urgent than in the COVID-19 environment. Students and faculty in traditional face-toface courses were shifted virtually overnight into an e-learning environment. These students and faculty were particularly vulnerable to this transition. Faculty facing the pandemic have been online instruction novices, and a substantial portion of the disengaged students felt they learned better and were more engaged in a traditional learning environment. This paper investigates approaches that can help ease the unexpected transition to online learning to yield a more impactful experience to engage these students in an active learning environment in graduate programs.

Co-Authors CHARN P. MCALLISTER (Austin Peay State University) and PAMELA L. PERREWÉ, GANG WANG, C. DARREN BROOKS (Florida State University)

“ ‘You’ve Got Mail’: a Daily Investigation of Email Demands on Job Tension and Work-Family Conflict”

Journal of Business and Psychology

Email represents a useful organizational tool that can facilitate rapid and flexible communication between organizations, managers, and employees regardless of their physical location—office, home, on vacation, etc. However, despite the potential benefits of email, its usage is a double-edged sword that also has the potential to negatively affect its users. To advance knowledge and inform both researchers and practitioners of such negative outcomes, Steffensen et. al. integrate the job demands-resources model with spillover theory to investigate email as a potential job demand and explore how it may relate to employees’ job tension and work-family conflict. Their research suggests, as a job demand, email can have negative consequences on the job that can spill over into the home.

2023 | 27



Andy and Jan Marshall had reached an inflection point with their new grocery store/restaurant. (Deciding once and for all that Puckett’s was a restaurant, not a grocery store, would be another inflection point.) Andy wanted to buy a smoker.

When the Marshalls bought the little 1950s-era grocery in Leiper’s Fork a couple of years earlier, they’d inherited its 12-inch griddle and earlymorning regulars: farmers and truckers and travelers craving a quick sausage biscuit to start the day. When he added a lunch menu, your basic meat-andthree, Andy had pushed the griddle to its limits. He was convinced that a smoker in the parking lot— where folks could see and smell chicken, ribs, or pork cooking, watch him lift the lid to give the meat a thoughtful prod—would change the game.

Jan heard the price, cautiously agreed. She and Andy had been married about 16 years, since their 1984 graduation from MTSU. (Maybe somewhere in the College of Business, there was still a desk engraved with Andy’s carved message to her: Hi beautiful. Yes you, Jan Crouch.) Even before they married, she’d been a leveling influence.

“Jan graduated a whole semester before I did, and I threatened to quit college and go to work,” Andy said. “She would have none of it.”

So even now, especially now, buying an $8,000 smoker felt like a leap of faith. They had three kids at home. Andy had already walked away from a career he’d spent the first part of their marriage building, and then they’d bought Puckett’s without a firm plan in place.

As Andy explained it, “When we bought Leiper’s Fork, it was a matter of ‘OK, we bought it—now we need to make a business out of this.’ And then, ‘Oh, by the way, I don’t have any income coming in. We’ve got to make a living out of this.’ ”

They ended up making it into far more than that.

Turned out Andy was right about the smoker. And as he expanded Puckett’s menu to include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, he was right about the enduring appeal of comfort food—and about what a meatand-three could be. And when he added a stage and live music, he was right about preserving what had always drawn people to Puckett’s: community.

Puckett’s has been smoking ever since.

MTSU alumni Jan and Andy Marshall, founders of the Puckett’s grocery and restaurant chain now known as A. Marshall Hospitality, at the Puckett’s restaurant on the square in downtown Murfreesboro
2023 | 29
Photo by J. Intintoli


That first career Andy Marshall left was the grocery business. He’d learned it working for his dad, who bought his first grocery store—a Big Star in Goodlettsville—when Andy was a senior at Franklin High School.

Andy had moved in with his dad in Franklin at age 13, after his mom in Memphis kicked him out of the house. What began as an unfortunate situation, Andy said, ended up being the best possible scenario. The dad he’d barely known became his mentor and inspiration.

So when his dad quit his longtime job with food wholesaler Malone & Hyde to buy that Big Star, Andy made the “emotional decision” not to go off to the University of Tennessee as he’d planned, but to stay home and work for his father instead.

“I wanted to support him and give back the love and effort he’d given me when I needed it,” he said. “But six months into it, my dad looked at me and said, ‘If you don’t go to college now, you’ll never go. I don’t want you to regret that.’ ”

MTSU was the perfect compromise.

Andy worked for his dad on weekends but also threw himself into campus life. He majored in Marketing and minored in Math and Business Management.

The business classes were his favorite. That’s where he met Walter Strickland, future founder of Strickland Produce.

“I remember us sitting side by side, daydreaming about what was to come for our businesses and our lives,” Andy said. He also had business classes with Jan, someone he’d met in high school but got to know at MTSU. Their first date was at his rented house on North Tennessee Boulevard, where he made Thanksgiving dinner for 20.

“He cooked it out of this little bitty kitchen, and I ruined dessert,” Jan said. “He knew what he was getting into.”

Professionally, though, Andy was still finding his way. After graduation, Andy was determined to blaze his own trail. He left the family business and took a wholesale position with Lever Brothers—then told his father all the things he’d do differently in the retail stores he visited.

“Well, son, it sounds like you’re an entrepreneur,” his dad said. “You ought to quit talking about it and go out and do it.”



Andy was 26 when he bought his first small grocery store, in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. It was another emotional decision, he said.

“It allowed me to do something I thought Dad would be proud of, wanting his proverbial ‘Good job, son.’ He was a man of few words, and when he did say something, particularly as a compliment, you took it very much to heart.”

Eventually Andy owned four grocery stores in Kentucky and Tennessee—businesses he breathed new life into, earning widespread industry recognition.

But the recognition that meant most was from his dad. In 1990, when his dad was killed in a car accident, Andy’s inspiration left him. Between 1995 and 1997, he sold his stores.



“When so much of my motivation was making my dad proud, I just decided that maybe I wanted to do something different . . . ,” Andy said. “I was president of the Piggly Wiggly Association, I was president of the Tennessee Grocers Association, I had a lot of accolades and a lot of love given me and different awards and things, but something was missing, and I’m sure it was the hole left in my life after my dad passed. I went out to try and fill that hole.”

Having left the only career he knew, Andy spent months trying to figure out how to move forward. He begrudgingly agreed to career counseling, where he took some tests and expressed interest in teaching high school and coaching soccer. The bureaucracy would drive you nuts, the counselor said. You’re an entrepreneur.

So in 1998, Andy bought another small grocery store, Puckett’s, in a really small place, Leiper’s Fork—technically a village, but more like a crossroads.


This time Andy really did blaze his own trail—all instinct, no map. At each inflection point, a leap of faith paid off. By 2004, he said, Puckett’s reputation had outgrown its footprint. “I told Jan, ‘Now’s the time to leverage all this goodwill we’ve built up and . . . see if we can make a true restaurant out of it.’ ” He chose Franklin for a second location— downtown Franklin, where endless construction had slowed business to a crawl.

2023 | 31

“Once they got the streetscaping done and the new courthouse in, we were in the right place at the right time two years early,” he said.

The same thing happened after he opened another Puckett’s in Columbia in 2013. “It took about four years for it to pay off, but we’re entrenched in that community now because we made an early entry.”

There are now six Puckett’s in middle and east Tennessee—each is unique, but they all have a smoker and live music, invitations to gather. The newest location is in Cullman, Alabama, home to a group of loyal customers who’d made the trek to middle Tennessee for years. When Puckett’s came to Cullman last fall, they were already gathered.

Then came the big decisions to leave Leiper’s Fork and expand into downtown Nashville. Bucking the popular wisdom of 2010, he planted Puckett’s right where other businesses had failed.

“I’m thinking, gosh, if I’m on Broadway that might change who we are as Puckett’s. I think Church Street is where we need to be, and community is going to grow around it.” And it did.

Puckett’s is reaching folks other ways, too. Tourists who stop in and then carry their cravings back home can get spices, sauces, and merch online. Puckett’s products are on shelves at Kroger’s and Publix and at Meijer in the Midwest, H-E-B in Texas, and Food City in east Tennessee.

The success of Puckett’s has garnered more accolades for Andy Marshall, from business and industry, the Tennessee General Assembly, and MTSU. It’s also financed the launch of more restaurant brands in Nashville and Franklin—Scout’s Pub, Deacon’s New South, Americana Taphouse, and Burger Dandy—as well as a food truck, Puckett’s Trolley.



A. Marshall Hospitality—home to all those brands—now has more than 400 employees.

It’s a big business, but still a family business.

Andy and Jan’s oldest daughter, Claire, was their chief operations officer but now runs her own food business, Hattie Jane’s Creamery, with three shops and retail products at six other locations. Their younger daughter, Emily, a former nurse, is now Andy’s executive assistant. Their son, Cliff, started out in the family business but left a couple of years ago. “He wanted to do something on his own,” Andy said, “get out of his dad’s shadow a little bit, as he put it.” He ended up back in the business his way, managing restaurants in Chattanooga. But he’d left without a firm plan in place.

“He was very emotional when we talked about it,” Andy recalled. “I said, ‘You do realize I left my dad’s business for the same reasons? It’s very natural. If you find your way back to the family business, that’s great—and if you don’t, that’s fine too.’ ”

Whether as part of the family enterprise or in striking out on their own, the Marshall children can rely on their parents’ sterling example of entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to excellence to create their own sure-fire recipe for success.


Andy Marshall

Grocery store career (1985–1995):

• Small Business of the Year twice, Hopkinsville, Kentucky

• President, Piggly Wiggly Association

• President, Tennessee Grocers Association

• National Spirit of America Award for entrepreneurship, U.S. Congress

Restaurant career (1998–present):

2014–16: Williamson County IMPACT Award, Nashville Business Journal (NBJ)

2015–17, 2019: Nashville’s Most Admired CEOs, NBJ

2017: Friend of Extension award, state level, Epsilon Sigma Phi

2017: Restaurateur of Year, Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association

2017: Joe M. Rodgers Spirit of America Award, MTSU

2019: Recognition by resolution, Tennessee General Assembly

2019: Ed Moody Award of Excellence, Boys & Girls Clubs of Middle Tennessee

2020: Member, Gov. Bill Lee’s subcommittee to the Economic Recovery Committee

A. Marshall Hospitality

2014–18: Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies

2015, 2018: Best in Business Award, NBJ

2023 | 33


For students like first-year M.B.A. candidate Katie Medrano, whose undergraduate degree was not in business, Jones College of Business’ partnership with Coursera is the perfect gift—free access to the prerequisites they need, online and on their time.

“Don’t worry if you don’t have any experience in business,” said Medrano, who earned her bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication. “It is giving me the foundational knowledge I need to pursue my M.B.A. They give you deadlines to help you plan your time. They give me enough time to complete it. I like the flexibility.

“You don’t have to quit your job to attend school. I was so excited when I realized I saved a year of my life through Coursera.”


Access to Coursera, with its enhanced and often accelerated learning experiences, is just one way Jones College is offering market-driven opportunities to Master of Business Administration students ( see sidebar on anti-money laundering, page 36 ).

In addition to prerequisites, some M.B.A. students may use the Coursera platform to pursue a variety of self-guided projects, certifications, and on-demand courses taught by leading universities and faculty around the world.

Students even have a semester to take such specialized courses after graduating with their master’s degrees, providing advanced education without cost or earning another degree.

First-year M.B.A. student Katie Medrano
Photo by J. Intintoli

Since MTSU entered the partnership in fall 2021, nearly 300 individuals—faculty, staff, and M.B.A. students at Jones College—have taken advantage of Coursera offerings.


Jones College has a limited number of licenses with Coursera, allowing students free access to the platform. Participants are assigned a license, which is returned after studies are completed.

“Our partnership with Coursera has multiple purposes,” said Sesan Kim Sokoya, professor and associate dean for graduate and executive education. “One, it provides an opportunity for some of our students to get the necessary requisite knowledge to take graduate business courses. This is especially true for those students applying for graduate business programs who do not have an undergraduate degree in business.



For students taking their M.B.A. prerequisites—often courses in finance, accounting, and statistics—through Coursera, Jones College does not give graduate credit that would be a part of their GPA. However, if the class is passed with a grade of B or higher, it fulfills the requirement and “is a good ramp to start the degree for many students,” Sokoya said.

Another first-year graduate student who came to MTSU to earn her degree is Savannah Beard, 27, of Clarksville. She is enrolled in MTSU’s Flex M.B.A. (a 12-month accelerated program with a 100% online option) and took advantage of Coursera studying on her day off from a full-time job.

“It was incredibly beneficial, and I am thankful I chose to take the courses,” Beard said. “My undergraduate degree was in history and did not give me the necessary background in accounting and finance.

“Two, the licenses we receive from Coursera also give our M.B.A. students the opportunity to pursue specialized professional credentials after graduating. It helps their employability and is a good way to market our University and the programs at the Jones College of Business.”

Companies like Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, and Meta (formerly Facebook) provide courses leading to specialized certifications on Coursera. Once completed, users can list the digital certificates on their résumés or place on LinkedIn as an icon called a badge, making them more attractive to job recruiters.

“We know that Jones College cannot possibly employ enough full-time faculty who cover the full range of expertise needed in today’s business environment. We have partnered with outside entities to meet the needs of the market,” Dean David Urban said.


Money laundering is a big and growing problem. A report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the estimated amount of money laundered globally in one year is 2%–5% of global GDP, or $800 billion to $2 trillion in current U.S. dollars.

The number of financial companies located in Nashville also is on the rise, which, in turn, increases local demand for anti-money-laundering professionals with expertise in detection, prevention, and enforcement.

In yet another partnership, MTSU’s Jones College is working with the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS)—the largest global membership organization dedicated to fighting financial crime—to provide training in compliance and anti-money-laundering (AML) practices. Such coursework helps individuals pursuing their Master of Business Administration degree build a stronger résumé and prepare for modern workforce demands.

The Investopedia website says anti-moneylaundering “refers to the web of laws, regulations, and procedures aimed at uncovering efforts to disguise illicit funds as legitimate income.”

Money laundering seeks to conceal crimes ranging from small-time tax evasion and drug trafficking to public corruption and the financing of groups designated as terrorist organizations.

“The ACAMS content in our classes is delivered with support from an ACAMS-certified instructor,” said MTSU Professor Sesan Kim Sokoya, associate dean for graduate and executive education. “As many industries increase their presence online and there are more virtual transactions, the need for AML professionals will continue to increase.”

He noted that “sanctions by both domestic and foreign governments have put companies on alert to do a better job” of addressing financial crimes such as money laundering. “Our partnership with ACAMS helps our folks be prepared to step into important positions in this growing field.”

“It is user-friendly and very easy to navigate. There were lecture videos for each topic. Math has never come easily to me, but I completed each course with a high A. I am grateful I did my prerequisites through Coursera and can now focus entirely on my degree.”

Medrano, 26, who works full time as coordinator in MTSU’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, took two Coursera courses during winter break and two in the Spring 2023 semester along with an introductory M.B.A. organizational leadership course.

“Coursera was the perfect option for me because not only was it free through MTSU, but it allowed me to do asynchronous learning to earn my credits, which is perfect because I can plan my classes around my job,” she said. “It means I can have time with my family, which is very important to me. We can eat our dinner together.”


Urban, leaving his dean position to return to a regular faculty position, is so impressed with Coursera that he’s taking courses himself in fall 2023.

“I believe so strongly in the value of the Coursera course content that I plan to complete two to three courses. . . . I expect the Coursera courses to help me in my personal retooling,” Urban said. Jones College is “on the cutting edge, providing short-duration certificate programs and other focused qualifications that will prepare people to advance in their careers without pursuing a full-blown degree program.”

Sokoya said the need for additional credentialing beyond the traditional degree and the availability of online coursework is only going to grow.

“It is a reality that graduate students want online delivery of courses. Across the nation, big schools or smaller schools, they all have online programs and classes. It is a new normal,” he said.

His observations are in sync with a 2022 Online College Students Report by Education Dynamics indicating 87% of undergraduate and graduate online students agreed or strongly agreed that online education was worth the cost. “Offering these types of programs draws both more students and professionals to Jones College and MTSU,” Sokoya said. “It is very attractive to them.”

Jones College has rolled out the digital welcome mat.



Whatever your interests or pursuits, consider graduate courses, certificates, and degree programs in MTSU’s Jones College of Business to help advance toward your goals.

M.B.A. in Business Administration

Concentrations in:

Concrete Industry Management

Health Care Management

Music Business

Strategic Marketing Analytics

M.Acc. in Accounting

Graduate certificate:

Assurance and Tax

M.A. in Economics

M.S. in Finance

M.S. in Information Systems

Concentrations in:

Business Intelligence and Analytics

Information Security and Assurance

IT Project Management

M.S. in Management

Concentration in:

Organizational Leadership

Graduate certificate:

Health Care Management

M.S. in Supply Chain Management

Ph.D. in Economics

mtsu.edu/business Apply

at mtsu.edu/graduate



After studies in psychology and education, MTSU Management Professor Deana Raffo became interested in leadership development and now concentrates her research and teaching in that area. Not too long ago, she even ended up studying the style of entertainment and entrepreneurial icon Dolly Parton, a native of the hills of east Tennessee (see page 27).

“I had been considering writing a paper on Dolly for some time, and I was lucky enough to find a kindred spirit in one of my M.B.A. students, Heather Heath,” Raffo said. “Together, we created a popular media case study on Dolly’s leadership style, using the theoretical framework of authentic leadership to inform our analysis.

“We curated a range of teaching tools, including videos, podcasts, popular press pieces, and assignment ideas for leadership educators.”

Raffo’s current research projects focus on leadership credibility, and she also heads up the Leadership minor and the weeklong, interdisciplinary Institute of Leadership Excellence intensive program each summer for students across campus.

“Leadership plays a crucial role in driving positive change, not just within our workplaces but in our communities and above,” Raffo said. “It empowers individuals to make a meaningful impact. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership.

“Effective leadership requires a deep understanding of ourselves and the unique strengths, interests, and passions that others bring in various contexts.”

Named the Jones College of Business’ Kathy and Bill Jones Outstanding Faculty Award winner recently, Raffo was named chair of the Department of Management after serving as interim chair in 2022–23. After earning her bachelor’s from Marshall University, Raffo came to MTSU for graduate school and never left, discovering “that the best job in the world is the ability to stay in college forever.”

She not only earned two master’s degrees and an Ed.S. at MTSU before completing her Ed.D., but also met husband Greg at Kirksey Old Main 25 years ago. In addition to spending time with friends and family—including sons Lucas, a college student, and Gabriel, a high schooler—Raffo enjoys reading, kayaking, and walking on the greenway with her dog.

At work, Raffo helps connect students with campus organizations or business internships and assists faculty members in identifying research that could involve business or community partners. Sometimes, there are so many interesting ideas and initiatives that Raffo wishes she didn’t have to say no to some.

She has presented more than 25 papers, published articles in journals like Gender in Management and Journal of Managerial Issues, and contributed to the book Leading with Spirit, Presence, and Authenticity.

Raffo believes Jones College’s range of real-world learning projects, professional development offerings, and connections to industry help empower students to succeed.

“I believe that the best way to cultivate a love of learning in others is to model it ourselves, which is why I’m always reading about new ideas and perspectives from both my colleagues and students,” she added. “In my research, I am constantly seeking new knowledge and insights that will inform my teaching.”

And that means even looking at the leadership skills of legends like Dolly.

2023 | 39



When business consultant Kenneth George applied for an MTSU lecturer position in 2018, the hiring committee asked him to discuss the opening to his cover letter:

“I believe it is the primary mission of education to help people become happy and productive. Sometimes we focus so much on the ‘productive’ that we forget to reinforce the ‘happy.’ Business leaders who are positive and earnest in making the workplace a center for creativity, who embrace the humanity of their staff, who look for ways to develop their employees, they are the model for success.”

“My customers were some of the largest companies in the world, and MTSU prepared me to be effective working with them,” he said.

Now, having spent 25 years in the business world, George helps dispel a “false narrative” for Jones College students that “contracts have an adversarial nature.”

“Once students understand that the purpose of a contract is to protect each party and serve each party’s interests, it allows for a healthy, meaningful business relationship to be documented,” he said. Named last year’s Outstanding Dale Carnegie Trainer at MTSU, George says that course reinforces the concept of “REALLY listening in a meaningful way and understanding the mutual benefits of strong relationships.” The unique partnership also gives students an extra boost to prepare for the Midstate’s booming business market, he says, helping students “to not just compete, but to thrive here.”

Now George (B.B.A., ’83; M.B.A., ’00) begins each of his business classes by writing “happy” on the whiteboard.

“We may write a lot of other things on the board during class, but when we leave, we erase everything but the ‘happy,’ ” George said. “This has become a mantra that we embrace.”

And when speaking on happiness at MTSU’s Bridge Leadership Conference and Presidium, he had buttons made with the word “Happy” under a Groucho-style icon—the one used on the Connection Point button for MTSU’s annual comedy show attendees. With glasses and bushy eyebrows and mustache, that image “greatly resembles me,” he quipped.

George had taught some community college classes before returning to his alma mater to earn his M.B.A. while working as a contract manager/negotiator at IBM and later Hewlett Packard. (He admits to not giving his “best effort” as an undergraduate.)

Since 2012, George also co-manages the Pickers Creek Winery in Lewisburg that his brother and sister-in-law started on the family farm. George’s youngest son is an MTSU senior Communication major, and another son is an engineer in Nebraska. George has four stepchildren too and “bunches of grandchildren.” He loves to read and connects with students over great books.

Additionally, he finds it important to “pay your rent” by being active in the community, serving on local boards and committees.

But George also finds his “happy” by helping students succeed and being around supportive “esteemed” colleagues.

“The students here at MTSU make every day joyful,” he said. “Their energy, their enthusiasm, it is like jet fuel for your soul. . . . They are an integral part of a future that is going to be better.”

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As a military spouse, Melissa Hawkins transferred to MTSU following her freshman year of college in her home state of Georgia. After two children and four more duty stations—two in North Carolina, in Arizona, and in Japan—she joined the University staff when her husband retired from the U.S. Marine Corps 20 years later and the couple decided to return to the area.

“Over the years as we have moved around, we have been blessed to meet the most wonderful friends,” Hawkins said. “Many of those friends have really become our family. We’ve met these friends either at workplaces or in church.

“I believe that having lived in different places afforded me opportunities to move outside of my familiar comfort zones and allowed for being able to learn from and get along with diverse groups of people.”

As a graduation analyst for MTSU’s Jones College of Business since 2018, Hawkins now works alongside academic advisors to ensure students are on track to complete their coursework.

Before earning her own Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1992, she loaded up with 21 hours her final semester, anticipating her husband’s transfer at the typical three-year mark—only to find out their move was delayed a few months.

“It’s a privilege to have a part in helping students graduate,” she said. “That’s what I am here for . . . to be a help. I always want to be helpful in some way so that both co-workers and students look to me as someone they can count on and trust.”

During the past three decades, Hawkins has had jobs ranging from bank teller—at three duty stations including in Okinawa, Japan—to fifth-grade teacher. All her positions allowed her to learn new skills and grow as a person while helping people, she said.

Starting this fall, Hawkins is embarking on a master’s program in Strategic Leadership at MTSU. She also makes clay earrings and enjoys traveling, sewing, journaling, and reading (especially murder mysteries and romance novels).

Hawkins and husband Dwayne lead a small group at World Outreach Church, are visiting Israel with a church group soon, and love doing puzzles, game nights, and progressive dinners with their adult daughters, Kapriona (Kapy) and Micadia (Kadie), and their significant others.

Starting out as a secretary in Student Life in August 2005, Hawkins moved to administrative assistant for the Graduate Studies dean prior to her current position. Now she serves in an auditing role to make sure the advising team is accurate on remaining requirements, and she alerts students nearing graduation if they’re lacking a course or short of a GPA requirement, etc.

Hawkins managed to survive that extra load but now faces a challenging end to each term, “losing sleep” worrying that no graduating student is left off the Commencement list.

“We do not want students to feel like they must navigate the demands of college alone,” Hawkins said. “We genuinely want to help and want each student to be successful.”

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Danielle Swartz had been serving seniors of a much older age group, as well as adults with disabilities, when she decided to pursue a master’s in higher education. She soon fell into a new career as an academic advisor. It was fitting—as an undergraduate transfer on a new campus years earlier, she had felt isolated until she met an advisor who made a difference.

Now, Swartz has been assisting MTSU students for more than five years in the Jones College of Business advising center. She even became a Dale Carnegie Certified Trainer after earning an award in the immersion course herself and now teaches soft skills to business students.

“I love meeting with each student,” Swartz said. “I love learning about them, what they want to be when they grow up, and I love being a supportive person in their lives.

“I believe in their dreams and abilities, and it’s important to me to help connect them to resources, faculty members, programs, anything to help them be successful.”

As an undergraduate, Swartz traveled coast to coast to attend the University of North Carolina–Greensboro. But after a year she returned home to Oregon to earn her bachelor’s in Social Service at Portland State University.

“I felt alone in navigating my new school,” Swartz recalled.

Then she found Laura Marsh, an extremely helpful advisor who knew her stuff. “I was intrigued by what she did, but I . . . had my senior blinders on to entertain changing my major.”

After college, Swartz lived in Mexico two months to hone her fluency in Spanish. During six years as a case manager with the Agency on Aging and Disabilities in Vancouver, Washington, she realized she loved serving the community—and kept meeting people with higher ed experience.

So she completed a master’s in Educational Leadership and Policy at PSU, then moved crosscountry to become a Nashville State Community College admissions counselor in 2016.

A year later, she joined MTSU’s Jones College.

“I love being on a college campus. I love the energy of the students, staff, and faculty. So many fresh ideas, research, the desire to learn and grow,” she said. Away from work, Swartz enjoys exploring the outdoors and talking Star Wars with her 6-year-old son. She also appreciates good food and coffee, gardening, and spending time with friends. Her biggest challenge as an advisor is sharing enough information in 30 minutes.

“We talk about so much more than which classes to take,” she said. “We talk about finding the balance between school, work, family, self-care. I am constantly encouraging students to get involved with IGNITE, talk with professors, go to tutoring, do an internship or two, study abroad, etc.”

Swartz has now instructed the Carnegie course eight semesters.

“I get to know students in such a different way,” she said. “I watch them grow, prove to themselves they can be strong and brave, and be proud of what they have accomplished. . . . They make me optimistic for the future.”

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Undecided about her major entering college, Murfreesboro native Maritza Oceguera chose MTSU because her hometown university offered affordability and so many program options that were highly ranked nationally. With the help of the Career Development Center and MTSU’s Instagram page, she came across a video about the Management program and ended up a Management major and Business Administration minor.

A May 2023 graduate, she also has served as one of MTSU’s Blue Elite student ambassadors assisting with special events and tours on campus.

“The reason I chose Business Management is because I have always loved working behind the scenes of events,” Oceguera said. “I love organizing and planning the details involved in executing an event.”

Hoping to eventually land in the media and entertainment industry, she works with the MTSU football team’s recruiting office and will stay on as a graduate assistant.

“I help with the planning and execution aspect of recruiting events,” Oceguera said. “I also inform the recruits and their families about important MTSU information and guide them on campus/ facility tours.”

She decided to apply to the Blue Elites after serving as a CUSTOMS student orientation assistant.

“I am a first-generation college student, so I know how it feels being unfamiliar with how the process of applying to college is,” Oceguera said. “After every tour, I feel very helpful and happy that I was able to help a family out with any questions.”

At nearby Riverdale High School, she was active in numerous organizations and as an officer for student government, Future Farmers of America, and the National Honor Society. At MTSU, she became involved in Greek life and served on committees including for Distinguished Lectures.

Oceguera was initiated into the business college’s Beta Sigma Gamma Honor Society and the Lambda Sigma Honor Society, is secretary of the Order of Omega Honor Society, has been on the dean’s list 2019–22, and earned the Bob and Ethel Stroop Bowling, David Patrick Richardson, and Archer-Johnstone scholarships.


“MTSU has an amazing financial aid program and offered me the most financial aid to make college affordable,” she said.

Oceguera believes that Jones College’s 15 undergraduate degree programs, 15 minors, and ranking in the top 1.4% of all business schools in the world help students find their path and succeed in that journey.

“They have helped me achieve my goals by offering many useful resources like IGNITE events, where I learned many beneficial skills I could use in my daily life, and offering experiential learning courses,” she said. “I also love the ability to develop close connections with my professors who have become mentors.”

Further, MTSU’s exclusive partnership integrating the Dale Carnegie Course helps students learn to effectively communicate, resolve arguments, and build human connections, she notes.

Outside of school, Oceguera enjoys painting, building theatrical props, making montage videos, and “going on last-minute trips and adventures.”

Not surprisingly, she loves hanging out with family and friends, meeting new people, and “walking around campus and bumping into friends and catching up with them.”

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When you make a gift of $1,000 or more annually, you automatically join the Walnut Grove Society. Such supporters exemplify the legacy of MTSU’s Walnut Grove, our stately gathering place since Julius Bayer brought back seeds from President George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and more importantly, our symbol of carrying education’s seeds forward to students.

Learn more at mtsu.edu/ supportjonescollege.

Whether you are looking to give back or pay it forward, we invite you to reach out to discuss your legacy at Jones College!

College of Business

Middle Tennessee State University

MTSU Box 101

Murfreesboro, TN 37132



Business and Aerospace N221c




We hope you enjoy this edition of Enterprise and are as excited as we are about the many accomplishments of our students, staff, faculty, and alumni. You can support our mission of excellence by contributing to scholarships, centers, programs, the student emergency fund, or faculty initiatives, or making a provision in your will. Your gifts enable Jones College to:

• Provide students in financial need with micro-grants and scholarships

• Enhance lear ning environments through continuous improvements

• Offer additional funding for student research and competitions

• Support student organizations and professional development opportunities

• Sponsor study abroad initiatives Visit mtsu.edu/supportbusiness to contribute to any of the programs you’ve read about in this issue.

Jones College of Business Dean’s Scholarship Fund Jones College Student Emergency Fund

Dean’s Strategic Vision Fund (pages 4–5)

Sales Program Enrichment Fund (pages 8–13)

Marketing Enrichment Fund—Neuromarketing (pages 14–18)

Tennessee Small Business Development Center (pages 20–25)

MTSU MBA Association Scholarship Fund (pages 34–36)

Management and Leadership Enrichment Fund (pages 38–41)

Supply Chain Management Enrichment Fund (page 51)

Information Systems and Analytics Enrichment Fund (page 54)




The Jones College of Business Center for Professional Selling team placed as Grand Champions of the Northeast Intercollegiate Sales Competition. MTSU students Cade Gregory , Thomas Goliday, Courtney Flickner, Luciano Donati , and Madeline Gronski competed in the event with 27 schools and over 200 students. Gronski earned Grand Champion in role-play. Donati took second runnerup in Spanish speed selling, while Goliday and Flickner reached the role-play semifinals.


MTSU named Joyce Heames as new dean of the Jennings A. Jones College of Business following a national search for the next leader of the award-winning college. Most recently dean of the Campbell School of Business at Berry College, a small private liberal arts institution near Rome, Georgia, Heames views Jones College as well positioned to build on its reputation as a regional leader in business education and a strong pipeline for workforce development in the region.

“The Jennings A. Jones College of Business is poised for so many wonderful things to happen, and it excites me to think about the connections that we can make with a lot of the new businesses coming into the area,” said Heames, a Management professor. “There’s such a growth in middle Tennessee right now, and I think that that is one of my strengths, to be able to build relationships. I enjoy that.”


As keynote speaker for Jones College’s Tom and Martha Boyd Ethical Leadership Week, former Tractor Supply Co. chair and CEO Joe Scarlett spoke to students on the importance of ethics in management practices and how to be the best leader one can be. Scarlett is founder of the Scarlett Family Foundation, which provides scholarships and educational support to students in middle Tennessee.

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Staff Sgt. William "Cole" Lukens, an MTSU business student and squad leader in the Tennessee National Guard, graduated from U.S. Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Georgia, last December.

As one of the toughest military training courses in the U.S. armed forces, Ranger School is the Army’s premier program for teaching small unit tactics and leadership. During the 61-day course, Lukens learned how to lead squads and platoons in dismounted operations, around the clock, in all types of climates and terrain. Lukens recently completed the Army Air Assault School and Mountain Warfare School. In 2021 he won the National Guard’s Best Warrior Competition and represented the National Guard’s 54 states and territories at the U.S. Army Best Warrior Competition.


MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business at Middle Tennessee State University held two student recognition ceremonies April 13. Jones College inducted 86 students into Beta Gamma Sigma, the national scholastic honor society that only permits chapters at business institutions who have attained prestigious AACSB accreditation. Only the top 10% of undergraduate students, top 20% of graduate students, and some of the most accomplished business practitioners are eligible to become members.

Almost 200 awards and scholarships totaling over $200,000 were conferred at the subsequent 2023 E. W. “Wink” Midgett Awards Ceremony for the Jones College of Business, which recognized business students who have excelled academically.


Aaron Jollay, a member of MTSU’s Zeta Gamma chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) honor society, is now among 1,000 alumni of Project Run With It (PRWI). PRWI furthers the community service component of Beta Alpha Psi and provides student participants with an incredible opportunity to engage in a real-world consulting project. In the high-intensity, highly compressed competition, PRWI participants make presentations to a panel of judges composed of BAP faculty advisors, NFP leadership members, and partners from the competition’s sponsor, Moss Adams.


Jones College of Business was a proud sponsor of the 2023 Nashville Business Journal 40 Under 40 awards, which recognize young professionals who have distinguished themselves in the greater Nashville area. Among the winners were three MTSU alumni: Joshua Black , Tiffany Childress , and April Harrington.

Joshua Black
Tiffany Childress April Harrington MTSU's Zeta Gamma chapter of Beta Alpha Psi
Kate Matthews (center) with parents Ryan Matthews and Lucy Matthews (Marketing associate professor)


Business students joined 167 other MTSU students presenting at the University’s 17th annual research exposition on March 24 at the Student Union Ballroom, wrapping up a week’s worth of scholarly activity across campus. The event showcased the research and creative activity students have been working on throughout the year from the STEM fields to music, dance, philosophy, and more.

Jones College of Business’ 2023 Scholars

Week winners:


1st Place—Damaujah Weaver-Atwater

Faculty advisor: Gaia Rancati

2nd Place—Emma Ankar

Faculty advisor: Gaia Rancati

3rd Place—Emilie Conners

Faculty advisor: Lucy Matthews


1st Place—Mayowa Isiolaotan

Faculty advisor: Gaia Rancati


Jones College of Business hosted a Cocktails and Conversations graduate alumni event, made possible with the help of partners at Fifth Third Bank and The Chef and I. Moderator and panelists were WKRN News 2 anchor Neil Orne, Giarratana LLC president and developer Tony Giarratana, Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee president and CEO Eugenia Clark, and Bridgestone consultant and community advocate Christine Karbowiak Vanek, who also serves as MTSU Board of Trustees vice chair.


The Department of Management hosted the second annual Supply Chain Summit and Career Fair, drawing 74 students and 27 industry partners for the April 10–11 event. The summit featured keynote speaker Bob King, CEO of Sage Freight, and sessions on logistics, professional development, Lean Six Sigma, résumé writing, and international issues. Companies participating in the career fair included Frito Lay, KCH Transportation, Dollar General, Tractor Supply Co., UPS, and Amazon.



Alumna Megan Bynum of Harvest Wealth Group in Murfreesboro, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Finance, was recognized as one of InvestmentNews’ 40 Under 40. Wisarut Suwanprasert , assistant professor of Economics, and his team, Multiverse of Data, won third place in the Big Data Expert track at the UN Big Data Hackathon.
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Bob King


Accounting alum Matt Jernigan has assumed duties as president and CEO of Ascend Federal Credit Union. He is a licensed certified public accountant and has been a key part of the Ascend executive leadership team since he was hired in 2005 as an internal auditor and became vice president of operations in 2009. He advanced to chief operations officer in 2014 and to executive vice president in 2017.


Minh Le (’11, ’12) has been named the 2023 president of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Nashville. Minh has been involved in PRSA Nashville for nine years and previously served on the board as treasurer, secretary, and director at large.


Bridgestone Americas Distinguished Lecturer Award: Michael Peasley, Marketing

State Farm Outstanding Professor Award: Ennio Piano, Economics and Finance/Political Economy Research Institute

Bill and Kathy Jones Outstanding Professor Award: Joshua Aaron, Management/Pam Wright Chair in Entrepreneurship

Outstanding Dale Carnegie Trainer Award: Mark Myers, Dean's Office

Dean’s Special Award of Merit: Maria Edlin King, Economics and Finance/Tennessee Council on Economic and Free Enterprise Education

E.W. “Wink” Midgett Awards

Distinguished Teaching Award: Monica Davis, Accounting

Distinguished Research: Ralph Williams, Management

Distinguished Service Award: Kristie Abston, Management

Award of Excellence: Sam Zaza, Information Systems and Analytics

Outstanding Staff Member Awards:

Sabrina Wright, Dean’s Office Emily Madison, Marketing

Michael Peasley Ennio Piano Joshua Aaron Mark Myers Maria Edlin King Monica Davis Ralph Williams Kristie Abston Sam Zaza
Sabrina Wright Emily Madison


First Community Mortgage Cares provided a $7,500 endorsement to the Andrew C. Rambo Memorial Scholarship, which supports an M.B.A. student.


Libby Gill, an executive coach, leadership expert, and awardwinning author, and Ryan Jenkins, bestselling author and co-founder of LessLonely.com, delivered keynote addresses on the topic of leadership at Jones College’s 2022 Leadership Summit: Innovative Leadership. More than 300 students, community members, and business leaders attended the event.


MTSU’s Jones College of Business presented its 2022 Leadership Summit Awards at a special reception in advance of the summit at Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro:

The Young Professional of the Year Award went to MTSU alumnus Megan Bynum, owner and a certified financial planner at Harvest Wealth Group LLC. The award recognizes someone who, at a relatively young age, has already been a role model whose accomplishments are outstanding and an inspiration to others—but who also has the potential to rise to even greater heights. Bynum graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and an M.B.A.

The Jennings A. Jones Champion of Free Enterprise Award was presented to alumnus Chuck McDowell, founder and CEO of Wesley Financial Group LLC, who recently founded Wesley Mortgage, the official mortgage provider of the Tennessee Titans. The award is presented to an individual whose achievements are in keeping with the highest traditions of the American system of free enterprise.

The Jones College Exemplar Award was awarded to Lori Williams , controller for Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp. This award goes to an alumnus or alumna of Jones College whose personal and professional behavior set an excellent example for current students and alumni. A seasoned accounting professional and CPA, Williams has over 35 years of experience in financial management and leadership. Williams received her bachelor’s in Accounting from MTSU.

The Spirit of America Award was presented to Jeff Ballard, a middle Tennessee native who joined Delta Dental of Tennessee as chief financial officer in 2015 and moved into his current position as president in 2022. The award commemorates the extraordinary accomplishments of Ambassador Joe M. Rodgers in business, government, education, and charitable endeavors. A CPA, Ballard earned his bachelor’s degree in Accounting from MTSU.

Libby Gill Ryan Jenkins
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First Community Mortgage’s Laura Wade, Kaitlyn Roper, and Megan Chastain with Jones College’s Carolyn Tumbleson (second from right)


MTSU students from the Gamma Iota Sigma MTSU Omega Chapter traveled to Chicago to participate in the Wholesale and Specialty Insurance Association (WSIA) Education Foundation's Extreme Risk Takers Symposium in March. Presley Hamby was awarded a WSIA summer internship.


The MTSU Computer Information Systems/ Supply Chain Case Study Team took first place at the Association for Information Systems (AIS) PayCargo Case Study Competition held at Florida International University in Miami.

Students: Lebogang Mosito (Computer Information Systems), Jonathan Dunn (Supply Chain Management), Priscilla Hammermeister (Supply Chain Management), and Cayson Seipel (Computer Information Systems)

Faculty Support: Michael Erskine, Melinda Korzaan, and Richard Tarpey


Nate Sowder, an ecosystem innovation manager at Fifth Third Bank, gave the talk “Stop Brainstorming, Start Innovating” as a speaker in the Jones Collegehosted Lifelong Learning Series. Videos of this engagement and previous Lifelong Learning Series events are available at youtube.com/ JonesCollegeMTSU


The Department of Accounting partnered with the United Way Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to provide free tax preparation services for low-income individuals this spring.


Alumna Jennifer Charles (’98, ’01), assistant district attorney in Nashville, and DaVita Taylor (’96), Nashville International Airport’s vice president for procurement and business diversity, were named among the Nashville Business Journal’s Women of Influence winners.


Sam Zaza, assistant professor in Information Systems and Analytics, received a prestigious award as Diversity and Inclusion Advocate of the Year at the 2023 Nashville Technology Council Awards reception. Zaza also was invited to serve on the DEI board of advisors for the flagship international Association for Information Systems (AIS).

Zaza (l) at the Nashville Technology Council awards


Almost 60 employers, from logistics to retail giants to insurance providers, financial services firms, and myriad others, sent representatives to campus March 21 for the annual Business Exchange for Student Talent (B.E.S.T.) Career Fair. The 2023 event included two sessions, a speed-style round where students sat down with employers for 15 minutes one-on-one before moving to meet with another and a traditional expo-style career fair. Students also had the opportunity to have a free professional headshot made by MTSU’s Creative and Visual Services.


MTSU’s Jennings and Rebecca Jones Chair of Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning (COEURP) Advisory Committee is

launching a new scholars program to assist students in their academic and professional development.

A nine-month research and engagement experience for undergraduate MTSU students, the COE-URP Scholars Program is designed to bring students, professors, and community members together to address pressing urban and regional concerns through academic research.

In addition to gaining relevant experience and learning key skills, students will receive a stipend of $3,900, a completion certificate, and the opportunity for a scholarly designation on their graduation diploma.


The 2023 Financial Literacy Week was a huge success. The week of events included a keynote presentation—“Mo’ Money, LESS Problems: The Importance of Planning for Your Financial Future Now!”—by bestselling author, speaker, and educator Anthony O’Neal during a morning session for area high school students and an afternoon session with MTSU students. Several $1,000 scholarships were awarded by the Department of Economics and Finance and sponsor Ascend Federal Credit Union.


On Oct. 20, 2022, MTSU’s Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) and Tennessee Council on Economic and Free Enterprise Education partnered to host a Dale Carnegie workshop on civil discourse for roughly 100 area high school students. Students then attended PERI’s lecture “Debating Democracy” with Georgetown University’s Jason Brennan.

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M.B.A. in as little as 12 months

• Online, in person, or both

• All core courses in seven-week terms

• At your own pace or accelerated program

E. Main St.,
Murfreesboro, TN
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