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PARTNERS EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING • BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY • ENGAGEMENT • RECIPROCITY • GLOBAL REACH

2016 • VOL. 1 NO. 1

Back in the Saddle An MTSU effort pairing veterans with the true stars of the Horse Science program yields promising results


Table of Contents 4

Hands-On Approach The EXL program puts minds and bodies into the field

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Back in the Saddle An MTSU effort pairing veterans with the true stars of the Horse Science program yields promising results

12 MidPoints Notable stories of engagement from across the MTS-Universe

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Water Works An MTSU partnership with TDEC bodes well for both Tennessee’s workforce and its water supply

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A Campus for All Tens of thousands of young Tennesseans travel to MTSU each year for reasons other than college attendance

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Answering the Call MTSU’s new Mechatronics Engineering major, one of the fastest growing in Tennessee, is supplying industry’s needs while preparing students for lucrative careers

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STEM Partners

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The Uncommon Thread By involving students like Erin Porter in Very Special Arts projects, professor Lori Kissinger strives to bring art to all

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A Proper Burial Dr. Shannon Hodge and her archaeology students help the Nashville Zoo reinter the human remains of its plantation past

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For a Song One of MTSU’s newest professors aims to keep the memory of a country music legend alive and help students build careers

PARTNERS Middle Tennessee State University Winter 2016 / vol. 1, no. 1 Partners Editorial Committee Peggy Carpenter, Faye Johnson, Allison McGoffin, Rosemary Owens, Carol Swayze University Editor Drew Ruble Art Director Kara Hooper Contributing Editors Sara Brookfield, Darby Campbell, Carol Stuart Contributing Writers Gina Fann, Gina K. Logue, Stephanie Stewart-Howard, Carol Stuart, Vicky Travis, Patsy Weiler, Randy Weiler Design Assistance Darrell Callis Burks, Keith Dotson Brian Evans, Micah Loyed, Sherry Wiser George University Photographers J. Intintoli, Andy Heidt Special thanks to Central Magnet High School, The MTSU News and Media Relations team, Stones River National Battlefield University President Sidney A. McPhee University Provost Brad Bartel Vice President for University Advancement Joe Bales Vice President for Marketing and Communications Andrew Oppmann Address changes should be sent to Advancement Services, MTSU Box 109, Murfreesboro, TN 37132; alumni@mtsu.edu. Other correspondence should be sent to Partners Magazine, Drew Ruble, 1301 E. Main St., Box 49, Murfreesboro, TN 37132. 3,000 copies printed at Falcon Press, Nashville, Tenn. Designed by MTSU Creative and Visual Services.

View this magazine online at www.mtsu.edu/partner.

cover photo: Andy Heidt

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1015-2389 / MTSU is an AA/EEO employer.


EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING • BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY • ENGAGEMENT • RECIPROCITY • GLOBAL REACH

Beyond Campus Walls

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xperiential learning. Industry partnerships. Community Engagement. These are the key components of MTSU’s community-centered approach to higher education, which results not only in greater student success but also an enhanced quality of life for residents across middle Tennessee. The proof is in the pudding when it comes to spotlighting MTSU’s commitment to these crucial roles. This new University publication highlights some of MTSU’s most remarkable efforts to enhance education through applied learning and thoughtful reflection while also meeting key community needs. Consider the following: EXL. In 2006, MTSU established an Experiential Learning Scholars (EXL) program, a campuswide effort in which the University emphasized hands-on activities and public service as an integral part of the learning experience. National research and MTSU data reveal the connection between experiential learning and higher student achievement. With the success of this program over the past decade, other institutions are looking at adopting MTSU’s model for student engagement and achievement. Recently, the University launched a new curriculum initiative called MT Engage, which emphasizes active learning and critical reflection from the moment students first arrive. These applied learning activities also provide significant value added to the communities in which our students learn, serve, and work. Examples of MTSU’s stellar experiential learning efforts can be found in stories included in this magazine. Industry partnerships. Also in this magazine are examples of MTSU’s successful partnerships with industry. One example is a new agreement between the Tennessee Department of Environ-

EDITOR’S LETTER ment and Conservation and MTSU to prepare workers for in-demand positions in the water supply and sanitation sector, which is expected to experience an employment growth rate of 45 percent in coming years due to regulations, infrastructure growth, security, and customer demand. (See page 16.) “This collaborative effort is a perfect example of the innovation that Tennessee needs,” said Mike Krause, executive director of the Drive to 55 initiative in the Office of Governor Bill Haslam. (The Drive to 55 is an effort to raise the percentage of Tennesseans with a postsecondary degree, certification, or credential to 55 percent.) “We commend MTSU for continually seeking ways to contribute to the community and the state,” Krause said. Community engagement. MTSU has been recognized nationally for its community engagement efforts by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University was among only 240 colleges and universities across the country to receive the 2015 Community Classification that lauds colleges and universities that focus on community engagement. MTSU was first recognized for its efforts in 2008. The University prides itself on fostering relationships beyond campus that allow students, faculty, and staff to participate in projects and educational initiatives that advance the institution’s academic mission. From the study of local water quality to the use of campus resources to help military veterans successfully return to civilian life, this first edition of Partners magazine shows rather than tells the many ways MTSU students and faculty reach beyond the classroom and into the real world to apply their knowledge for the betterment of all. And from an editor’s perspective, it doesn’t make for a bad read, either. MTSU

National research and MTSU data reveal the connection between experiential learning and higher student achievement.

—Drew Ruble

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photo: J. Intintoli

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The EXL program puts minds and bodies into the field. by Patsy B. Weiler

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xperiential—it’s a long word: the kind you dream of placing on a Scrabble game’s red triple-word square to rack up a lot of points. Pair it with learning—Experiential Learning— and you’ve got the name of a University College department making high scores in hands-on student success. But first, a definition: Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience. This type of education takes students out of the traditional classroom and actively asks them to use their knowledge and skills in a real-world environment, enhancing their personal and intellectual growth and often benefiting the community. Since 2012, Carol Swayze has been director of MTSU’s Experiential Learning (EXL), founded in 2006. Under her leadership, more than 500 class sections were designated as EXL during the 2014–15 academic year. “I have one main goal in EXL. I want to see students graduate and become a success,” Swayze said. “In EXL classes, the lecture notes jump off the page and are called to action in a real-world opportunity. Students take ownership of the experience and retain what they’ve learned. When they get excited about what’s going on in their classes, it leads to retention and graduation.”

Exhibit A

Sophomore Marissa Williams’s EXL encounter came early. The first class she entered as a freshman in August 2014 was Dr. R. Drew Sieg’s introductory Honors Biology class. The Biochemistry major was unaware it was an EXL class until she received an email from her

Dr. R. Drew Sieg performs research on cedar glade soil samples with Central Magnet students Alivia Lingle, Jennifer Curtis, and Kayley Stallings.

professor explaining that the class would be a hands-on lab in antibiotic research. “I got really, really excited when I found out we were going to do research that had a real-world application,” Williams said. The class investigated bacteria in the unique soil environment at Flat Rock Cedar Glade near the University as part of the Small World Initiative (SWI) launched at Yale University in summer 2013. The SWI seeks to harness the collective power of undergraduates across the globe to discover new antibiotics from soil microorganisms to help address the world health issue of drug-resistant bacteria, according to its website. MTSU is the only university participating from Tennessee of the more than 60 institutions in five countries contributing to the study. “We are running out of antibiotics quicker than we can find new ones,” Sieg said. “What we are doing with this program is crowdsourcing drug discovery. We know finding a new antibiotic will take longer than a semester, but the collective effort of all the students increases the potential of finding candidates for new drugs.” According to Sieg, the students isolated bacteria from the soil samples and then tested the bacterial cultures for antibiotic production that someday might be used to prevent infections common in hospitals. Their data was submitted to Yale as part of the ongoing study. The experience impressed Williams. “I learned so much more valuable material than I would have in a general biology class,” she said. “I learned what it means to do scientific research and how to be empirical and concise. Those skills are transferrable to students in many majors but most certainly are applicable to every science class I’ve had since. Taking an EXL class is 100 percent worth it.” Fellow student Justin Marsee described participation in the SWI project as an “amazing experience.”

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photo: Andy Heidt

Hands-on Approach, continued from page 5

Dr. Kim Sadler and her students clear out invasive species (honeysuckle and Chinese privet) at Stones River National Battlefield.

“Because the lab work actually meant something, I was more motivated and invested into the procedure,” Marsee said. “I chose MTSU because of its new Science Building but also the out-ofclassroom opportunities that came with it.” During the current 2015–16 academic year, the pool of young soil sleuths was expanded to include high school students. Sieg is teaching a yearlong, dual-enrollment biology class at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro. Central Magnet has the distinction of being the only public high school in the country to be participating in SWI’s pilot program and will start its cedar glade research in spring 2016. Also participating in the high school initiative, which Sieg is leading and hopes to roll out to other locations in the future, is a private secondary school in Texas.

Spreading the Word

Dr. Kim Sadler, a Biology professor and Sieg’s colleague, is teaching a nonmajor Honors EXL section of the bacteria/cedar glade study. Sieg traveled to Yale for SWI training and later taught Sadler, whose busy schedule prevented her

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from making the trip. The two are the only MTSU faculty members participating in the program. “I first heard about EXL from Kim,” Sieg said. “She took me under her wing. I liked the idea of having an EXL class because I think it is important to have a civic engagement with science.” Sadler is an active EXL faculty member. Since 2013, she has engaged her introductory nonmajors biology class of nearly 120 students in an ongoing effort to remove invasive plant species at Stones River National Battlefield. For her work, she was awarded an EXL Outstanding Faculty Award. “I explain to students we are going to be learning biology and also have an opportunity to do ecological restoration, develop a better understanding of biological protection, and recognize it is important to preserve our national heritage,” Sadler said. To accommodate the schedules of such a large group, Sadler allows students to do fieldwork early, late, and sometimes on weekends. She has seen a 99 percent participation rate.


BARK AS BIG AS ITS BITE Dr. R. Drew Sieg didn’t keep students on a short leash when they were sniffing out a place to perform their research along the Stones River Greenway System in Murfreesboro. “While trying to select an appropriate site, they noticed the city’s Bark Park and wondered what happens with all the waste that runs off,” Sieg said. Members of his EXL Honors General Ecology class were soon digging into a semester-long study to determine how the water quality of the Stones River was being affected by pet waste. “It was an exposure for them to what real science is like,” Sieg said. “Students had to write the proposal, apply for funding, experiment, get the data, analyze it, and prepare their findings.” Senior Biology major Mason Riley offered this bit of advice for being successful in an EXL class: Be prepared to study hard and get your hands dirty outside the classroom. “Usually experiments are conducted within prefabricated confines or with expected outcomes that must be reached before lab is concluded for the week,” Riley said. “In this class, the opportunity to conduct an open-ended experiment allowed for a freedom that gave me a fervor to complete the project and do a succinct presentation of our findings to the Bark Park officials.”

Malissa Gwaltney, 32, a nontraditional student who is a history and preservation enthusiast, found that the opportunity brought biology to life. “The work they are doing to preserve native plants and grasses that were found there during the Civil War is fascinating,” she said. “We were tasked with identifying, cutting, and dragging [away] invasive plants such as privet and Japanese honeysuckle.” “The rangers came by immediately after we cut [the plants] to spray with heavy-duty Roundup, so the plants would not heal themselves and grow back,” she said. “Recently, I was helping my family clear a fence row of privet—so my EXL knowledge paid off!” The help from MTSU students is an important resource for the historic site, said David Adams, a battlefield biological technician. The joint work of Sadler’s students and other volunteers helps the park recreate and preserve the grounds as they were at the time of the battle. According to Adams, the invasive plants had so drastically changed the landscape that it had become hard to tell visitors the site’s story. continued on page 8

Sieg knew he was barking up the right tree, so to speak, when students wanted to go to the park early. “It was the first class I’ve run where students were so engaged with the process,” Sieg said. “They would ask if they could go out to the site three hours before lab started just so they could get a head start on things. The students really felt connected to the project.” Throughout the semester, the team took stream samples above and below the dog park. Many ideas were discussed, but they settled on three distinct techniques to monitor water quality. • Fecal Indicator Bacteria (FIB). One technique was identifying FIB, common microbiological contaminants found in waste from pets, humans, and other organisms that enter streams by rain and irrigation runoff. • Benthic Macroinvertebrates. Studying insects or snails that live at the bottom of a river can help determine water pollution levels. • Nutrient Levels. Levels of nutrients such as nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia can indicate a flow of nutrients into the stream from fertilizer, fecal matter, or other sources. When the students’ data didn’t conform to their hypotheses, it prompted them to hunt for more answers and search for other contamination sources. “Just like in a real scientific survey, they soon wished they had three times the amount of people and five times the amount of time,” Sieg said. “This was our first big, broad survey, and we can now start building on it.” Students also designed a brochure and made a professional presentation of their findings to Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department representatives, who were pleased with the outcome. “Afterward, it was exciting because I had a couple of students that went out and surveyed the water in streams behind their houses,” Sieg said. “They knew how. The information stuck.”

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Hands-on Approach, continued from page 7

“We have a very small staff in the natural resource management division,” Adams said. “Having the extra help is huge as it allows us to accomplish tasks and get work done that otherwise might not happen. It is impressive to see all they have accomplished.” Adams and his coworker, Mike Rhoades, were recognized with the EXL Outstanding Community Partner Award. “It is really nice working with the students. You get to see their light bulb go on. Seeing how nice the grounds look after their work really clicks with them,” Adams said. Sophomore Ashley Stroud, a Geosciences major, agreed that her outdoor lab experience “made the classroom material hit home.” “You can learn terms and memorize information about invasive species, but you don’t understand them until you see what they can do to the plant community. The class helped me decide my career path,” she said.

David Gotcher, University College interim dean, echoed similar thoughts, firmly connecting projects like Sadler’s to the overriding goal of experiential learning. “Connecting academics with the work environment, students are able to experience what a particular career field is like,” he said. “It offers students the ability to network in that field, and it provides the opportunity for students to make sure the career field is indeed right for them.” Sadler has noticed her class reap other benefits, too. “I found their preconceived notions about working outside and giving back to the environment and to the people that visit these public places changed dramatically afterward,” Sadler said. “Nearly all of them stated they found the work rewarding.” Experiential—it’s a long word. But it describes an important factor for student success at MTSU. MTSU

EXTRAORDINARY EXL High Graduation Rates

Hands-On Experience

Based on a report from the Provost’s Office, six-year graduation statistics for first-time freshmen who entered in 2007 indicates that students who took an EXL course had an 86 percent graduation rate compared to a 44 percent rate for students who did not—a whopping 42 percent difference!

All EXL classes offer at least one outside-the-classroom activity to enhance learning.

Nationally Recognized President Sidney A. McPhee was presented the 2015 William M. Burke Presidential Award for Excellence in Experiential Education by the National Society for Experiential Education. A $2,000 scholarship for a deserving student involved in experiential learning accompanied the award. The EXL program received the 2013 Distinguished Credit Program Award from the Association for Continuing Higher Education.

Many Opportunities EXL classes cover a broad spectrum of learning opportunities in seven different categories: cooperative education/internships, study abroad, applied learning, service learning, creative activity, teacher education, and laboratory experiences.

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Embraced by 9,400 Students During the 2014–15 academic year, nearly 9,400 students were enrolled in EXL classes in 27 different departments.

Strong Faculty Engagement Nearly 230 faculty members have taught EXL classes.

Develops Leaders EXL classes help develop self-confidence and leadership skills.

$8.3 Million in Community Service EXL classes have contributed $8.3 million worth of volunteer services to the local area.

Diploma with Distinction Students have the opportunity to graduate as EXL-designated scholars, increasing their employment and advanced education opportunities.


An MTSU effort pairing veterans with the true stars of the Horse Science program yields promising results by Carol Stuart

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aniel Costin, a 20-year Navy veteran from Antioch, gets excited when he talks about his participation in an MTSU-led equine-assisted therapy program that helps veterans like him better manage ailments such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Costin said that working with horses has taught him a great deal about coping and working things out. “Like around any animal, you can’t have a bad day and get much cooperation,” he said. “Working with them makes you face yourself and your day and adjust your attitude accordingly. Sometimes I think animals are actually easier to deal with than people!”

Daniel Costin

A partnership between the Horse Science program and the Alvin C. York Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center, located just down the road from the University’s stables at Tennessee Miller Coliseum, allows students to serve veterans in recovery and get hands-on experiences in their chosen fields.

photo: Kayla Hickey McNeese

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Saddle Up, continued from page 9

The Center of Equine Recovery for Veterans program, or CERV, began in 2013, when Equestrian Team member and Agriculture minor Amelia “Miller” Henard proposed it during her internship with Veterans Recovery Center (VRC) recreational therapist Brian McSpadden. Instructor Sarah English later created the curriculum and started the collaboration with McSpadden and the VRC as her master’s project in the Equine Education concentration. Students now have class assignments and volunteer hours required for CERV’s 10-session weekly program during English’s Experiential Learning classes in equine-assisted therapy. “It promotes community for the veterans,” English said. “A lot of them come and really are very withdrawn, don’t want to have any interaction with people, and don’t really trust people. But they come because they’re interested in learning more about horses or they maybe rode horses in the past. “It’s really neat to see as they develop a bond with the horse, and then the Horse Science student that is assigned to be their assistant. And by the end it’s really this feeling of camaraderie. . . . It’s been kind of beyond what we expected.” photo: J. Intintoli

military service, including severe depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. “It’s not just about getting near or even on a horse or going out on a trail ride and trying to keep control, it’s about having to be accountable to yourself,” Costin said about equine therapy. “On the way there, if you have a situation on the road, you have to shake it off, you’ve got to let it go, you’ve got to keep a good frame of mine. So it makes you live life where it is.”

“Horses are so sensitive in reading body language because that’s how they communicate, and that’s how they adapted to survive.” English said she’s been told on several occasions that veterans who did not want to participate in other programming offered at the VRC were willing to visit the Miller complex to work with the horses. “So this was kind of the first step to get more engaged,” she said. Students from English’s equine-assisted therapy classes taught the veterans horse behavior and communication, safety, grooming, and other skills all the way up to riding. She modified the curriculum with the support of a psychologist to include some mental health goals. “Horses are so sensitive in reading body language because that’s how they communicate, and that’s how they adapted to survive,” English said. “They pick up on things that the veterans—or any of us—are not really even aware that we’re projecting. And so it really helps veterans to understand more about own their body language and social skills, communication. They learn it really easily.”

Horse Science student Britt Smith and veteran Bobby Willis

A Hero’s Return

Costin, 52, grew up riding horses on a farm near Kewanee, Illinois. Before getting involved in the CERV program, he hadn’t been on a horse in more than 15 years. Deployed in two theaters during the Gulf War, Costin served on the USS Ranger aircraft carrier, which experienced pilot deaths, and the USS Harry W. Wilson, which conducted contraband interdictions on foreign vessels. Costin is considered permanently disabled from both mental and physical problems related to his

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Because of his previous horse experience, Costin has become a leader working with students, veterans, and horses. He helped one of the young horses, sired by one of the University’s two Tennessee walking horse stallions, get more established in the program, teaching her to bow and do other tricks.

Ripple Effect

Costin is not alone in benefiting from the equine therapy program. English has other stories of success: • One veteran with severe PTSD didn’t recognize he had major anxiety or nervousness most of the time. One day his horse was dancing in place when therapist McSpadden asked him what was going on with the horse and got the veteran to take some deep breaths. “Right away the horse took a deep breath and just stood there,” English said. “When [the veteran] was


SADDLE UP! Horse Science students also volunteer for therapeutic riding programs for disabled youth at Saddle Up! in Franklin, Great Strides in Shelbyville, and other area programs. “For preparing for people to get involved in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies, they have to have that hands-on experience,” instructor Sarah English said. These therapeutic riding programs involve providing recreation for children with autism and physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy. “They can really struggle to have enough volunteers to do all the lessons,” English said. “Typically, each student can need between one and three volunteers to help them. So by having MTSU students out in the community, that’s providing extra volunteers for all of those programs.” English’s class in equine-assisted therapy also does mandatory volunteer training at Saddle Up! Dr. Holly Spooner, Horse Science graduate director, started clinics where graduate students help teach horsemanship skills, health care, and nutrition to therapeutic riding instructors and volunteers.

back at home and he started to have that feeling of anxiety, he could remember what it felt like when he was on the horse and took a breath and was able to relax.” • Another veteran who didn’t get involved in the VRC activities until she participated in the horse program now serves as a peer mentor at the VA and volunteers on some fundraising committees. • One participant now volunteers at a therapeutic riding program in Murfreesboro and also took the summer advanced horsemanship class for veterans. • Another veteran was afraid to leave his house to go to the end of his driveway to get the mail. But he volunteered halfway through the equine therapy program to speak to an Equine Event and Facility Management class that put on a benefit horse show to help with CERV expenses. • A veteran who was extremely withdrawn and wouldn’t talk with anyone had gone to the VRC for years. “It took him quite a while before he was even willing to touch the horse

Benefits for those with difficulty walking or the inability to walk include stimulation that can help with brain development because, according to English, riding a horse moves the pelvis the same way walking does. Also, children with autism often need heightened sensory experiences, which can help them focus on other skills. Saddle Up! has been a partner with the MTSU Horse Science program since 2008. Each year, Saddle Up! provides volunteer training and opportunities for students enrolled in a partnership class. The therapeutic riding program at Saddle Up! has 140 riders per week, which requires hundreds of volunteer hours to keep the program going. The MTSU students who do their required service hours with Saddle Up! are typically “sidewalkers,” working directly with special riders. “Our riders benefit from the help these students provide them as they learn to ride a horse,” said Saddle Up! volunteer services director Kim Kline. “And the MTSU students gain first-hand experience in how therapeutic riding lessons make a difference for that child.” MTSU

and groom the horse. But by the last day he was out there on the trail ride,” English said. “He even extended his hand and said ‘Hi’ to another faculty member he had seen only a few times. We were all just kind of flabbergasted, because that wasn’t part of our goal, but it was the most interaction anybody had seen out of him in like five years.” Former MTSU student Christie Gibbons (’14) had returned to college after a 20-year break when she was first introduced to horse therapy through one of her equine science classes. “I have always said horses were my therapy and I was able to see firsthand how programs like CERV can help those who struggle daily with emotional, mental, and physical disabilities,” she said. “So many moments left a lasting impression on me.” MTSU is recognized as a leader in equine therapy programs and has hosted national and regional conferences related to equine-assisted activities and therapies and therapeutic horsemanship. The VA partnership in particular represents a way that MTSU’s equine curriculum stays relevant for student education, experiential learning, and community engagement. MTSU

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MidPoints Notable stories of engagement from across the MTS-Universe from staff reports

Coming Clean

As any Blue Raider can attest, MTSU is committed to student learning outside the classroom, to partnering with industry on real-world solutions, and to service and outreach to our community. This new magazine is filled with feature stories that illustrate those standards as they play out in the University’s day-to-day workings. Of course, there are far too few pages here to fully explore all the stories of the outstanding endeavors undertaken by MTSU faculty, staff, and students. The following pages, then, offer a few “snapshots” of activities taking place at MTSU which impact students and the community. True Blue!

Cynthia Allen of the MTSU Stormwater Program led a student project to clean up the wetland area that is part of Sinking Creek, which is an impaired stream in the Stones River watershed. This area used to have more quantity and diversity of wildlife, but those numbers have been on the decline. With the help of student volunteers, the program completed multiple other successful community cleanups

to protect water supplies on campus and in the surrounding community. Campus cleanups have also been held near the detention ponds along Rutherford Boulevard on the east side of campus. These efforts by dozens of mostly student volunteers have resulted in the collection of hundreds of pounds of trash around the detention ponds that collect the campus’ stormwater runoff. Student volunteers have also participated in past cleanup events at the spring beside the Oaklands Historic House on North Maney Avenue in Murfreesboro and other community locations.

A Walk on the Wild Side Youthful fascination with big cats has led Honors student Logan Whiles to an international zoo research project. Whiles is currently conducting research on the clouded leopards that previously intrigued him at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. “My project is mainly focused on investigating stress in relation to rearing methods in captive clouded leopards,” said Whiles, explaining that certain hormone levels have been shown to indicate stress in the animals. Because the clouded leopard is at high risk of extinction in the wild, several zoos internationally have begun efforts to breed and raise the species in captivity. That has proven somewhat successful, but still poses challenges. With captive breeding, the species has exhibited stress-related behaviors such as pacing, hiding, tail biting, and fur plucking. By studying stress hormones in the captive animals, Whiles says he and others in the field hope to not only provide the animals with a more comfortable environment and life experience, but also to perfect breeding protocols in order to increase numbers and protect the species.

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A survey Whiles developed went out in May 2015 to 40 zoos, asking for historical data on their clouded leopard populations, including hormonal measures (where available), as well as cub survival rates, and information on the general health of the animals. He hopes to present his results to the Clouded Leopard Species Survival Plan, a committee organized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to efficiently manage its captive clouded leopard population.


The Festival Factory The 2015 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, a four-day music celebration, served as the ultimate classroom for MTSU students, who received hands-on training in journalism and video production for class credit. It was the second year of a partnership brokered between MTSU and the organizers of the annual festival, held in nearby Manchester. About 40 students, faculty, and staff from the newly rebranded College of Media and Entertainment braved the heat and rain for the opportunity to promote 24/7 coverage of the festival. The majority of students worked the cameras and control boards for MTSU’s $1.7 million Mobile Production Lab, capturing performances on the festival’s Who Stage. The rest were hands-on multimedia journalists, filing stories and videos for area news media outlets including The Tennessean. Students shot 16 different acts, all non-rehearsed and in one take, using the industry standard of eight cameras. Senior Amanda Pierce, production manager for the truck shoot, said the experience helped her learn to stay organized and to problem-solve quickly. “We are making a promotional video for Bonnaroo,” she said. “That’s a crazy thought to spend four days at Bonnaroo instead [of] in a traditional classroom.”

Street Cred MTSU media students have access to big projects that aren’t always available to students in other parts of the country. The University’s proximity to Nashville and its long-standing and still-growing ties to the music industry make for extraordinary learning experiences. Below are some examples. As an estimated 14,000 fans on Lower Broadway in downtown Nashville enjoyed the music of Capitol Records artists such as Luke Bryan in October 2012, 53 MTSU media students were modulating audio, operating high-definition cameras, conducting interviews, and recording the concert for the label. A year later, students were back doing the same for the second annual Capitol Street Festival. Freedom Sings is a celebration of free speech and music that has toured college campuses across the nation under the direction of Ken Paulson, dean of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment and president of the First Amendment Center. When the event celebrated its 15th anniversary with two concerts at Nashville’s landmark Bluebird Cafe, MTSU students were there working behind the scenes to deploy the college’s 40-foot, $1.7 million HD mobile video production lab, manage social media content, help with public relations, and cover the event for student media outlets. Students have worked at subsequent annual events as well.

On day one of the festival, Pat Embry, then-director of the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, joined Journalism associate professor Leon Alligood to make coverage assignments for journalism students out in front of Bonnaroo’s press tent. The burgeoning journalists, reporting for MTSU’s Seigenthaler News Service, interviewed artists and covered performances for exclusive quotes and footage. The students contributed a number of advance and breaking feature stories, mini-reviews, and photographs for media client The Tennessean as well as the Murfreesboro Pulse and MTSU’s student news outlet, Sidelines. One such student, John Connor Coulston, found himself the sole media person in the comedy tent Saturday evening as the audience was treated to a surprise performance from Hangover star Zach Galifianakis during comedian Chris Hardwick’s set. Another unexpected cameo came when Mad Men star Jon Hamm joined Galifianakis onstage for a non-sequitur bit during which Galifianakis was a dog and Hamm was his owner, feeding him treats. Coulston immediately captured images and wrote an article about Hamm and Galifianakis’ appearances, which was featured in The Tennessean. For Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment, this is exactly the type of experience he hopes his students will embrace. “I graduated law school and walked out the door and wasn’t sure if I could be a lawyer. But these students walk out the door knowing they can shoot rock concerts,” Paulson said.

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MidPoints, continued from page 13

Psychology at Work The Center for Organizational and Human Resource Effectiveness (COHRE), housed in the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences at MTSU, received a contract with the Tennessee Highway Patrol for $250,000 over five years to develop a promotional process for approximately 400 sergeant and 100 lieutenant candidates per year. The contract will also give paid practical experience to Industrial/ Organizational Psychology students in the development and implementation of a legally defensible selection process.

Be Nice Jackie Gilbert, professor in the Department of Management and Marketing, recently helped craft legislation and guidelines for workplace anti-bullying laws for government agencies. Gilbert was part of a group of advocates who helped shape the Healthy Workplace Act, which was signed into law in June 2014 by Gov. Bill Haslam. The legislation gives legal protection to government agencies that adopt a model policy to combat abuse in the workplace or craft comparable guidelines of their own. Tennessee became the 26th state to introduce the Healthy Workplace Bill and the first to pass it. Gilbert has incorporated anti-bullying concepts into her teaching. For instance, two student teams in Gilbert’s Principles of Management–Experiential Learning class recently squared off—not in an MTSU classroom, but in the very real-world environment of the Nissan Americas headquarters in Franklin. Gilbert connected with Nissan executives to secure an opportunity for her students to present competing proposals for a corporate civility policy. Gilbert’s students spent the semester researching and creating their own workplace “civility” policies and practicing presentations that were made in April 2015 for more than two dozen Nissan associates, including human resource executives. Nissan, which made a donation to MTSU on behalf of the winning team, hopes to use some of the concepts outlined by the students in crafting its own civility policy.

Par for the Course MTSU assistant athletic director Whit Turnbow is proof that one good deed leads to many others. The frigid morning he tweeted an offer to find a winter coat for anyone who needed one, Turnbow was shocked by the need he discovered. What didn’t surprise him was the generosity of the MTSU family. Students, alumni, and local sports fans who rallied to support his effort donated hundreds of coats and the cash to purchase more. The coat drive grew so dramatically that it earned a name—the True Blue Turnbow Project. Now it is an annual event. Turnbow remembers being chilly in his car as he drove to campus at 6:45 a.m. for a team meeting. He could only imagine how cold it was for a man he saw on the street walking without a jacket. Turnbow picked up his phone and tweeted, “Thinking about the kids who don’t have a warm place to wait on the bus or a winter jacket. . . . If you know someone like this, DM me, and I will personally see to it that they get a new coat.” His tweets went viral among teachers in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County schools and in Bedford County, where Turnbow’s brother was a coach. “Suddenly there were 30, 50, then 70 requests,” he said. He called Murfreesboro businessman Matthew Neal, who offered to drop everything and meet the coach at Walmart. They walked out with $600 worth of jackets. The Murfreesboro school system alone received 100 coats, along with mittens, gloves, and scarves, says central office employee Lisa Trail. “The MTSU community, especially athletics, reaches out to [our] students on a regular basis,” Trail said. “MTSU is a strong community supporter and has a tremendous outreach to our students.” When Athletic Director Chris Massaro suggested collecting coats at a men’s basketball game, fans donated hundreds of winter jackets. The Student-Athlete Advisory Council and members of the men’s and women’s golf teams collected them at the doors of Murphy Center. At a later women’s game, fans made donations of $20 to $200 “right out of their pocket,” Turnbow said. For a time, it was impossible to buy a winter coat in Murfreesboro. They had all been snapped up by members of the MTSU community. “People who brought coats said, ‘I had to drive to Smyrna or even Nashville to get this,’” Turnbow said. “We cleaned out Walmart, Kmart, and Old Navy.” Now, as each winter in middle Tennessee approaches, Turnbow starts planning for the next drive. “We’ll replenish the supply at the schools,” he said. “Our job will be to make sure they have coats to keep students warm.”

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Serving it Up On July 15, 2015, the City of Murfreesboro and MTSU officials unveiled the long-anticipated Adams Indoor Tennis Complex, an eightcourt facility that greatly enhances the Blue Raider tennis program while increasing playing and tournament opportunities for area residents. The new $6.2 million, 70,000-square-foot complex, which is at Old Fort Park in Murfreesboro, is the latest partnership between the city, MTSU, and the nonprofit Christy-Houston Foundation.

Sharpening Our Skills Employers increasingly cite the need for college graduates entering the workforce to possess greater “soft skills,” which include the ability to communicate clearly, to work well in a team environment, to solve problems, and even to show up for work or meetings on time. They are professional and personal traits that characterize good working relationships with others. Business owners say soft skills are as essential as technical ability in performing a job and are absolutely necessary to make business relationships productive for all involved. A recent collaboration between the Jennings A. Jones College of Business and an internationally recognized professional development training organization holds perhaps the greatest potential to profoundly teach soft-skills development. An exclusive partnership has been forged with Dale Carnegie Training to embed soft-skills training into the college’s curriculum.

Peter Handal, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training Worldwide, said the partnership with MTSU represents “a unique opportunity for our organization,” adding “For over 102 years, we’ve been developing the engagement levels of employees across multiple industries as companies realize that the engagement level is a key differentiator in creating growth. . . . The partnership with MTSU will create students who not only understand business issues but also are able to thrive by having developed communication, leadership, and other human relations skills that are crucial to business success.” MidPoints continued on page 26

Carnegie, author of the seminal self-improvement book How to Win Friends and Influence People, famously developed courses in self-improvement, salesmanship, corporate training, public speaking, and interpersonal skills that are taught nationwide by institutes bearing his name. Because of the new alliance, Jones College students will have taken at least one such course for credit before obtaining their degrees. MTSU’s partnership with Carnegie Training of Tennessee will not be duplicated at any other university in the state, and, in fact, will be unique across the country.

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An MTSU partnership with TDEC bodes well for both Tennessee’s workforce and its water supply 16 Partners Magazine

by Vicky Travis photo: Darby Campbell


Mike Keeton knows hard work—he’s been at

“Fleming Training Center offers cutting-edge technology and advanced classes in a variety of water areas, and this partnership will allow traditional and nontraditional students to take full advantage,” said Bob Martineau, TDEC commissioner. “Having qualified candidates for these jobs is essential for protecting public health and the environment.”

Keeton also knows the value of a bachelor’s degree. Without that degree, he could only advance so far in his career.

Mike Krause, executive director of Gov. Bill Haslam’s initiative to have 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by 2025, lauded the new agreement. “This collaborative effort is a perfect example of the innovation that Tennessee needs in order to meet the Drive to 55,” he said. “We commend MTSU for continually seeking ways to contribute to the community and the state.”

it for 24 years. As chief plant operator at the Oneida Water Department, he and his crew are responsible for delivering clean water to 5,000 customers in the small east Tennessee town near the Kentucky border.

For this hard-working, family-first guy, that degree is now only about two years away. MTSU provided the path to it. “Even if I’m 50 when I get it, it will still make a difference,” Keeton said. The door to going back to college opened wide for Keeton this spring, when MTSU and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) joined forces to create a pathway for nontraditional students like him who are incredibly valuable to the water industry for their experience and expertise. “This is a growth industry,” said Brandon Hulette, director of TDEC’s Fleming Training Center, which educates and certifies thousands of water treatment and management staff every year. “Demand exceeds supply. We have about 10 percent more openings than we have people to fill them. If [someone] is interested in work that makes a difference in people’s lives immediately, this is very appealing. Providing constant clean water, something many of us take for granted, balances theory and practical application.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the water supply and sanitation sector is expected to experience an employment growth rate of 45 percent in coming years due to regulations, infrastructure growth, security, and customer demands. That job growth is also expected due to anticipated retirements, the growing population and industry, and the size and complexity of modern facilities. As industry regulations advance, many entry-level jobs also now require a bachelor’s degree. To meet that job demand in Tennessee, TDEC’s Fleming Training Center and MTSU faculty and staff collaborated on the new degree for existing workers in the industry. For traditional college-age students, MTSU also began offering a major in Environmental Sustainability and Technology through the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

Experience Counts In all, the Fleming Center educates and gives 14 certification tests in four categories—water treatment, distribution, collection, and wastewater treatment—which include collegelevel math, science, and physics. With the agreement, MTSU will grant college credit for Tennessee water and wastewater operator certifications. It will also give credit for previous college work, some Fleming Training Center courses, military experience, and professional certifications. While hearing Hulette speak about the new MTSU partnership at a water technology conference in the spring of 2015, Keeton’s ears perked up. For him, the partnership means his certifications in water treatment and water distribution could count for 12 credit hours each toward his Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies. Students can choose their emphasis, which for Keeton may be environmental management. He’ll find out his total credits at a prior learning assessment in a future semester. Soon after the partnership announcement, about 50 nontraditional water-industry students like Keeton either made the jump back into school or are progressing toward it, Hulette says. “It’s our passion to help adult learners who have never gone to college or ones who started and stopped,” said Peggy Carpenter, assistant dean at MTSU’s University College, which serves adult learners. “For many, life got in the way, and they’ve been working. continued on page 19

“Fleming Training Center offers cutting-edge technology and advanced classes in a variety of water areas, and this partnership will allow traditional and nontraditional students to take full advantage.” —Bob Martineau, TDEC 2016 17


“My kids told me I just had to take advantage of this. Time to practice what I’ve preached.”

—Mike Keeton

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Water Works, continued from page 17

“The key is the prior learning assessment,” Carpenter added. “We learn in a lot of different places, not just institutions. We work with the student to earn credit for formal training or job experience. “MTSU is a leader in the state,” she said of the program as a whole. “One barrier for adult learners is fear. We build relationships and help them navigate the University.”

The Daily Grind Back in school for the first time since 1988, Keeton is settling into his busy routine. He works from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Oneida water plant, then heads over to Oneida High School where he is an assistant football coach. Back home at 6:30 or 7 p.m., he works on his MTSU courses online at the dining room table until about 11 p.m. “It was not an easy decision,” he said. “I kept asking my wife, ‘Can we do this? I’m too old.’ She said, ‘No, we’ve got this.’ ” Often on those late nights, his wife, Denise, stays up with him cross-stitching in the other room. “She is my energy source,” Keeton said. “I’m not going to say it’s been a piece of cake,” he added. “Those first couple of weeks, everything was just hitting me. I’d wake up in the middle of the night worrying that I can’t do this.” His grown children, a son who graduated from the University of Tennessee last year and a daughter who is a senior at Tennessee Tech, also encouraged him to go for it. “My kids told me I just had to take advantage of this,” he said. “Time to practice what I’ve preached.”

A National First The MTSU-TDEC partnership that focuses on a four-year degree specific to the water industry is the first in the country, Hulette said. There are programs that offer two-year degrees. “Once we came up with this idea, it was very clear from all areas of MTSU—from the president to the University College to Environmental Sustainability and Technology— everybody was on board to make this work,” Hulette said. It is no doubt an agreement that bodes well for both Tennessee’s workforce and its water supply. MTSU MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, shakes hands with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau, right, after signing an agreement April 16, 2015, at the State Capitol that will expand individual opportunities for earning MTSU course credit and certifications through TDEC’s Fleming Training Center in Murfreesboro, online, and at other statewide locations. Former Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan, center, also signed the agreement.

On the Beat The TDEC water agreement isn’t the only example of MTSU partnering with industry to fulfill a workforce need. MTSU and the MetropolitanNashville Police Department Training Division recently reached an agreement that gives officers greater incentive to get their college degrees. MetroNashville officers who have been through the department’s 5½month training academy can now potentially receive 36 to 40 credits toward a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies obtained through the University College and the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences. About 160 officers a year go through the academy, and Metro officers can get up to a 6 percent pay raise for getting a degree. Officers have the option of completing their degrees on campus, online, or via satellite classes held throughout the region. MTSU

2016 19


Kevana West, Antioch, vocalist, practices with her band at the Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp.

A CAMPUS FOR ALL

Tens of thousands of young Tennesseans travel to MTSU each year for reasons other than college attendance. by Drew Ruble

A

ll year round, MTSU is a hotbed for events and activities benefiting youth from across Tennessee.

The result is that our campus is a place where memories are made and where young minds, perhaps for the first time, experience a college environment and maybe hatch dreams to one day earn a degree. The following is a representative (but not complete) list of MTSU-related events, camps, and activities that positively affect the lives of schoolchildren across the state. True Blue!

Agribusiness/Agriscience Camps

Many Agribusiness/Agriscience youth camps are held throughout the year. Among them are Spring Fling, where nearly 900 pre-K through second-graders from La Vergne, Rockvale, Lascassas, Smyrna, and Murfreesboro come to the Tennessee Livestock Center. Most of these children have grown up in town and are not familiar with farming and agriculture. Agriculture students in an Agritourism class led by Dr. Alanna Vaught essentially produce and practice the art of agritourism by staging this annual event. Other ag-related camps each year include the Goat Camp and Goat Classic, where youth from across the state bring their own goats and learn more about preparing them for competition.

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Aviation Camp

This camp introduces rising eighth- through 12th-graders to all aspects of aviation and offers the opportunity for three days of flight-oriented instruction in the professional pilot advanced camp.

Coding Camp

The need to expand Camp STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) at MTSU and offer more hands-on opportunities for computer-savvy youth materialized in the first Coding Camp in June 2015. Youngsters from Murfreesboro and Franklin attended. Coding is the process of designing, writing, testing, troubleshooting, and maintaining the source code of computer programs. Using a number of fun programs, Gayle Porterfield, who teaches sixth-graders at Mitchell-Neilson Elementary School (with assistance from high schoolers who are proficient in computer programming), helped the youngsters improve their knowledge of coding.

Confucius Institute Camp

The University and China’s Hangzhou Normal University partnered in 2009 to establish MTSU’s Confucius Institute, which works to enhance understanding of Chinese language and culture. The Summer Chinese Camp is a great opportunity


for children to get formal language lessons and enjoy colorful activities. Campers learn basic vocabulary and conversation and experience Chinese culture through games, crafts, calligraphy, and art.

DigiGirlz

Nissan partnered with MTSU and Microsoft to host the Microsoft DigiGirlz math-science event at Nissan’s North American headquarters. It was attended by 125 midstate high school girls, who had a chance to get a better understanding of what a career in technology is all about. Girls took a closer look at the STEM disciplines and learned about women who are making their marks in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Education Day

Each year, nearly 7,000 students from 12 Murfreesboro City Schools and Homer Pittard Campus School keep Monte Hale Arena’s noise level at the max during the Education Day field trip. Last year, the event occurred during a Lady Raiders-Clemson Tigers basketball game. For some students, Education Day is their first time on a college campus.

Forensics Camp

Students from high schools in four different states come to MTSU for this camp to learn more about crime scene investigation in a hands-on environment. Campers are helped by Forensic Science students, who coordinate group activities such as laboratory evidence analysis. Unusual among other American universities, MTSU has an elite squad of undergrad and grad students who work actual crime scenes across Tennessee. They are chosen by world-renowned crime scene investigator and MTSU professor Hugh Berryman.

Girls Raised in Science

Girls Raised in Tennessee Science (GRITS) is a National Science Foundation grant program under the direction of Chemistry professor Judith Iriarte-Gross. The major goal

of GRITS is to disseminate information about STEM education and careers to young women in middle and high school. Iriarte-Gross has used the grant to attract more participants to her annual Expanding Your Horizons Conference each year. Approximately 400 middle and high school girls now attend. Iriarte-Gross spends entire semesters leading 18 of her students through projects designed to help young children understand the science behind science. College students under her leadership at the last conference led fifth-graders at Murfreesboro’s Discovery School through a rotation of seven science experiments. One, for instance, tested the strength of an eggshell, and another involved cooking with solar ovens.

Journalism Camp

The new Innovation J-Camp in the College of Media and Entertainment’s Center for Innovation in Media guides aspiring journalists through many aspects of a profession that has gone high-tech and digital. The emphasis is on teaching high school students how to tell stories for mobile, social, digital, and video audiences.

Rock and Roll Camp

The annual Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp gives girls between the ages of 10 and 17 an empowering, positive place for self-expression through music. The camp is a program of Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities (YEAH!), a Murfreesboro-based nonprofit organization.

Camp PRiSM

At Camp PRiSM (Practices in Science and Mathematics), Murfreesboro City Schools students interact with MTSU students and faculty in inquiry-based learning and independent exploration. The camp, which meets at Mitchell-Neilson School, lasts for two weeks during the summer. Students have a chance to gain increased awareness of the STEM disciplines.

Science Olympiad

More than a dozen high school teams and 10 middle school teams competed last year for berths in the State Science Olympiad during the annual Regional Science Olympiad at MTSU. The event took place primarily in MTSU’s new $147 million Science Building.

MT Sampler Camp

What do you want to be when you grow up? Middle school students from across the region who are beginning to think about college and careers can find a variety of ideas during the MT Sampler Camp. Director Nancy Stubblefield, an advisor in the College of Media and Entertainment, arranges for area middle schoolers to experience the basics of business, horse science, chemistry and physics, education, art, and much more during the weeklong camp. MTSU

Tori Broiles hands out harvesting baskets at the Agriculture Education Spring Fling in the Tennessee Livestock Center.

2016 21


Answering the Call by Randy Weiler and Drew Ruble

MTSU’s new Mechatronics Engineering major, one of the fastest-growing majors in Tennessee, has fast become a darling of Tennessee industry, enjoying numerous reciprocal partnerships

Mobile

robots that can move traffic safety barrels for road repairs, freeing workers from a dangerous task. Surgical robots that let doctors perform operations through small incisions or get enhanced views of an abdominal cavity. Specialized robots for planetary exploration. All are examples of mechatronics systems, a design process that combines mechanical, electrical, and robotic work with computer programming and control systems. In the summer of 2013, MTSU launched a Mechatronics Engineering program. That fall, the first donation—$15,000 from the southeast chapter of the International Beverage Packaging Association to endow student scholarships—was received. Why the support? Chapter member Jimmy Davis, an MTSU alumnus, past president of the Engineering Technology Advisory Board, and owner of the Murfreesboro-based Davis Groupe, which supplies machinery, tools, and parts to Toyota, General Motors, and Nissan among others, described the new program as a “game-changer.” “The Engineering Technology Department is taking it to the next level,” Davis said. Bud Fischer, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Science at MTSU, the college which houses the new degree program, agreed. “It’s created a program that’s designed by industry that creates an engineer who has the ability to do multiple types of engineering,” he said. According to Fischer, mechatronics fits MTSU and its Engineering Technology Department to a tee. “It’s taking the theories of engineering and putting them into practice, making it truly applied engineering,” he said. “It fits us so well because it is a degree in engineering that has a huge hands-on component, which is what we really are and really what engineering technology is.”

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Manufacturing’s New Landscape There’s a high demand for skilled workers to maintain and repair mechatronic systems. People trained and certified in mechatronics engineering can expect high-growth opportunities and wages. Engineering Technology chair Walter Boles said President Sidney A. McPhee encouraged him as far back as 2011, noting that Motlow State Community College had a mechatronics program “and we should get involved.” Boles and other University officials had attended meetings where representatives from Nissan and Bridgestone were emphasizing that, worldwide, there’s a shortage of people with these qualifications. “We need to pump people into the workforce,” Boles said. State senator Bill Ketron (’76), a small-business owner and a member of the Engineering Technology Advisory Board, said the economic impact of the new program will be significant. “Once we start training these young people and the industries and manufacturing concerns realize there’s a good, trained, and educated workforce for their needs, they’ll start locating here,” he said. A key aspect of the major is the range of partnerships involved. Collaborators include Motlow, Rutherford County Schools and elected officials, and global corporate heavyweight companies such as Nissan North America, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operation, and Siemens. In fact, MTSU is the only Siemens Level 3 qualified university in the world. The company has international certification exams for Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications. In nonprofessional terms, Level 1 is like an operator’s


license for complex automation equipment and Level 2 is for troubleshooting and repair. With the advent of MTSU’s B.S. program, Siemens consulted with MTSU and created a Level 3 certification for engineering design of complex automated systems.

“This is a remarkable achievement,” McPhee said at the time of the announcement of the NSF grant. “Any time the University is in a position to receive such a competitive award, it is something to be proud of.”

Prior to the program’s launch, Ahad Nasab, the program’s coordinator, attended a Siemens Level 1-A certification workshop in Pennsylvania. He also traveled to Berlin in August for a Level 1-B workshop and to conduct talks on developing MTSU’s Level 3 certification.

Bridgestone Americas corporate manager Keith Hamilton called the grant announcement “a great day, one of many for MTSU. This has opened a lot of eyes across Tennessee.” Hamilton also noted that while the industry statewide needs up to 2,900 engineering graduates yearly, universities are currently only producing 900 to 1,200.

“We had a very productive week at Siemens Technical Academy [in Germany],” Nasab said. “Besides the training workshop, we held daily talks on streamlining the Siemens objectives with our new mechatronics engineering program.” MTSU and Siemens have worked closely on development of the Level 3 certification, which requires a bachelor’s degree. Once the model and the requirements are developed, the resulting methods and literature will be distributed worldwide for others to consider Level 3 certification, said Nasab, who is in charge of establishing courses, recruiting students, cooperating with high schools and community colleges, and finding external funding for equipment. Additional future collaborations with Siemens are expected. Such support and push from industry has certainly aided the program’s rapid growth. For instance, the department now boasts $500,000 in mechatronic and automation equipment in a Voorhies Engineering Technology Building laboratory space. Ramping Up In just a few years, the program has grown to 235 students, making it one of the fastest-growing higher education academic programs in the state. The program also recently celebrated the awarding of a $614,172 National Science Foundation grant to recruit qualified female and minority applicants. At least 15 incoming freshman students for each of the next three years will receive scholarship awards for up to $10,000.

McPhee added that MTSU is fortunate to have “opportunities to collaborate with Siemens, Bridgestone, the chamber of commerce, and other companies that are a part of this incredible innovation of a new degree program (mechatronics engineering). …This is what MTSU is about—being responsive to the need of our community and making sure we continue to be part of the solution … so they’ll have the workforce that’ll attract industry for the 21st century.” Better by Design As but one small example of the type of work occurring in the Mechatronics Engineering program at MTSU, students are currently collaborating with the Ann Campbell Early Learning Center, a child development center also housed on campus, to develop affordable and lightweight motorized wheelchairs for disabled children. The proposed wheelchair design will be adjustable in dimensions so that as the child grows, the wheelchair will change dimensions accordingly. It will also be collapsible and fit in the trunk of a sedan car. Developing more intelligent mechanisms that can improve quality of life and solve some of the world’s most intractable problems is a never-ending pursuit. With industry partnerships and cooperation, MTSU’s Engineering Technology Department can now apply its considerable resources to that important effort. MTSU

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MidPoints, continued from page 15

As Good as Gold Dr. Charles Chusuei’s technology, developed in collaboration with MTSU students, could transform patient care in emergency rooms and health centers worldwide. It involves the detection of something one can find a bottle of in almost every home— hydrogen peroxide. The ability to monitor hydrogen peroxide on a molecular level has a host of practical applications in fields as diverse as health care (early cancer detection) and food service (spoilage detection).

first needed to control the shape of the ZnO compound itself. (The more complete the coverage by the ZnO of the CNT, the better the sensor.) It required, among other things, finding just the right temperature (90 degrees Celsius) of the solution in which the suspended ZnO nanoparticles were formed and the pH (7.365) for maximum reactivity, as well as establishing just the right amount of time for sonication (the application of sound energy to agitate the solution).

Researchers have developed a variety of nanotech-based sensors for detection purposes. For the most part, those technologies have used sensors dependent on carbon nanotubes (CNT) coated with oxides derived from precious metals—gold, palladium, ruthenium, etc. As the word “precious” suggests, it’s not cheap to use such metals. Chusuei found that the expensive way to do things was hardly the only way. In an effort to establish a cheaper biosensing material, Chusuei turned to zinc.

The real-world potential of the research has Chusuei and his students excited. The cheaper the materials, the more widespread the possible application of the technology. Cancer is not the only affliction potentially addressed by this research, nor is hydrogen peroxide the only substance detectable. Another vein of inquiry includes the detection of lactic acid, a marker for anaerobic respiration (the presence of which can indicate that a patient is not breathing well or getting enough oxygen). As Chusuei points out, such sensors could detect signs of physical distress that show up well “before changes in heart rate or blood pressure would be registered.”

An earth-rich element, zinc is much more abundant and, therefore, cheaper than the precious set. But in order to establish it as a viable substitute, Chusuei and his student research team

Traditional Approach MTSU’s collaboration with a Chinese botanical garden bodes well for the health of a nascent Tennessee industry. The Tennessee Center for Chinese Botanical Medicine (TCCBM), steered by Dr. Elliot Altman, who helped start the new Ph.D. program in Molecular Biosciences, and China native and MTSU research assistant professor Iris Gao, enjoys an exclusive partnership with the foremost botanical garden in China to do the sole analyses of thousands of traditional Chinese plant extracts. The center will screen the extracts for anticarcinogenic, antiviral, or antibacterial properties that could lead to the development of advanced Western pharmaceuticals. An analysis of 52 plant extracts from the Guangxi Botanical Gardine of Medicine Plants recently provided by the garden identified 29 with promising 26 Partners Magazine

results, including 12 with anti-cancer activity; eight with promising anti-inflammatory activity; and one that may be useful to treat diabetes. This set of 52 extracts is in addition to the almost 40 results identified previously showing promise in the treatment of cancer, viral infections, and other ailments. In related news, ginseng, a popular over-thecounter supplement used to boost the immune system, has put down roots at MTSU. The herb was one of the first from traditional Chinese medicine to be widely implemented, with primary users of ginseng including those suffering from colds or flu and those whose immune systems are suppressed, such as cancer patients. In November 2013, state and University officials announced the MTSU Ginseng Initiative to grow and harvest the plant at the 438-acre School of Agribusiness and Agriscience Experiential Learning and Research Laboratory. Alumnus and state senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) stated at the time of the agreement that ginseng could become Tennessee’s next “statewide cash crop.”


Not So Run of the Mill MTSU’s exercise science experts have worked wonders with people who suffer from incomplete spinal cord injuries. Now the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has given them the opportunity to perform a comprehensive study that could change how health professions treat these patients, who retain some sensation or motor function. With a $388,894 NIH grant, Drs. Don Morgan and Sandy Stevens have been recruiting, testing, and following up with clients suitable for treatment in MTSU’s nationally recognized underwater treadmill laboratory. Participants will help the scientists determine the effect of underwater treadmill training on mobility, health, and quality of life of the partially paralyzed. The study is unusual for a university not connected to a college of medicine or a teaching hospital. According to Morgan, “We’re doing work here at MTSU that, as far as I know, is not being done anywhere else in the world at this level.”

West by Middle MTSU’s Confucius Institute, one of more than 440 such institutes in 120 countries around the globe, works to enhance the understanding of Chinese language and culture and create opportunities for exchange and collaboration between communities in Tennessee and China. The partnership was recently granted a five-year, $500,000 extension. MTSU recently opened a new Chinese Music and Cultural Center on University property as a result of an additional $1 million grant provided by the Hanban Confucius Institute in Beijing. The new center promotes music as a vital element in education and understanding of Chinese people and culture, and constitutes another component of MTSU’s extremely successful international outreach, which has earned the University recognition as a leader in global studies. The 3,200-square-foot center is housed in the Miller Education Center at the site of the former Middle Tennessee Medical Center building on Bell Street. The center showcases instruments from many of China’s national ethnicities. For instance, at the ceremony announcing the new center, Hangzhou Normal University donated the center’s first instrument, a guzheng, which dates back to ancient times and is a 21-stringed instrument that rests on legs much as a steel guitar does and is plucked by a seated musician. In other recent activity related to the Confucius Institute partnership, more than 30 Chinese schoolchildren visited Murfreesboro this past summer as part of an educational and cultural exchange. The visitors from Dongcheng Education Group of the Hangzhou university enjoyed a special day at the Discovery Center and a trip to east Tennessee to visit the Lost Sea attraction, part of Craighead Caverns near Sweetwater. Teachers and administrators from both countries met to exchange ideas.

2016 27


MidPoints, continued from page 27

Statewide Results The University and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently partnered to launch the Tennessee Business Barometer, a new quarterly index capturing the mood and outlook of business leaders statewide through online surveys. Dr. Tim Graeff, professor of Marketing in Jennings A. Jones College of Business, coordinates the index. The first edition indicated that Tennessee business leaders are optimistic about future growth.

Good Partners MTSU became a partner in Blackman High School’s new Collegiate Academy, offering college-level courses at the high school this fall and assisting in the development of academic enrichment programs. The agreement allows Blackman juniors and seniors who meet eligibility standards to take up to six hours of MTSU courses at no cost. Credits will count on high school and college transcripts. Qualified high school juniors and seniors in Rutherford, Williamson, and Bradley counties may now take tuition-free online courses for college credit through MTSU’s expanded dual-enrollment program. Online offerings range from courses in aerospace to recording industry. MTSU’s dual-enrollment model is perfectly aligned with Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, which identifies earlier engagement by students as a key factor for raising the state’s levels of educational attainment. For Fall 2015, MTSU admitted 599 dual-enrollment students. At least 500 students were expected to be enrolled by the first day of classes.

Up, Up and Away MTSU signed a memorandum of agreement with the Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, resulting in an aerospace education partnership to benefit area youth. Civil Air Patrol has a cadet program for youths age 12 to 21 that can benefit from access to MTSU’s aerospace facilities, which include a $3.2 million, 360-degree air traffic control tower simulator.

Spanning the Globe MTSU and Universidad Andina del Cusco (UAC), a private university in Peru best known for programs in tourism, accounting, and nursing, forged a partnership that will allow officials to explore ways to make it easier for students from each institution to study at the other. It is MTSU’s 39th international academic partnership (in 18 countries) and only the second such tie with an institution in South America.

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Going Retro MTSU has partnered with two Turkish universities to pursue groundbreaking automotive research and development surrounding the plug-in hybrid technology developed by MTSU professor Dr. Charles Perry. MTSU has signed a letter of intent with Meliksah University and Firat University in Turkey to pursue an academic and industrial partnership to further develop Perry’s retrofit wheel-hub motor. Developed on campus, the device could cut vehicle gas consumption in half. “Turkey is like the Detroit of Europe,” said Dr. Andrienne Friedli, director of MTSU’s Center for Advancement of Research and Scholarship. “Many European automobile companies manufacture cars there, and because of the high price of gasoline, people in the region are already spending $1,000 to retrofit their cars to use cheaper fuels.” Perry invented a novel method of converting a standard gasoline-powered vehicle into a plug-in hybrid powered by a combination of gas and electricity with minor alteration of the vehicle’s rear wheel hub. A wheel-hub motor is just that—a motor attached, or retrofitted, into the rear wheel structure of a vehicle. Perry said the competitive advantage of his new motor is that “we don’t cut, weld, or modify; we just bolt on this motor to the rear wheels of the vehicle.” The wheel-hub motors in each rear wheel provide additional electric traction to the vehicle from energy stored in a battery, thus reducing the amount of fuel used by the main engine. The battery can be charged from an electrical outlet and is also charged during braking when the wheel-hub motors are in regenerative mode. Perry has gained international attention for his technology.

Going abroad Professor Jette Halladay has long recognized the importance of exposing students to other cultures and has therefore regularly traveled to other countries with her students. Her study-abroad trips aren’t merely classes, though; they are service-oriented, and because the students she takes are theater artists, they serve through performances. She took 20 students to Finland, Russia, and Latvia where they created a show called American Tall Tales, which performed for various audiences in all three countries. Since then, she has made other student trips to Finland, Russia, Latvia, Honduras, Great Britain, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Denmark, and Guatemala. One top highlight for Halladay was winning an award in the Baltic Festival after performing in a medieval castle. The awards presentations took place at midnight in the courtyard and were in Latvian. By taking such trips, students gain great résumé material, according to Halladay. For instance, her students have found casting directors intrigued by their experience performing around the world. Travel also opens up her students’ worlds to new ways of thinking and living, she said, and they make friends in many countries. MidPoints continued on page 41

2016 29


The Uncommon by Vicky Travis

By involving students like Erin Porter in Very Special Arts projects, professor Lori Kissinger strives to bring art to all

30 Partners Magazine 30

photos: Andy Heidt


“Art Education majors don’t always have the opportunity to be with English-language learners or special-needs children. This was a great opportunity to work with them..” —Erin Porter (pictured at left with Lori Kissinger)

L

ori Kissinger’s work as a full-time instructor in the Department of Communication Studies and Organizational Communication at MTSU dovetails nicely with her work as executive director of Very Special Arts (VSA) Tennessee, which opens the art world to special-needs students. VSA, created by former U.S. ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith in 1974, has affiliates worldwide that provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increase access to the arts for all. Kissinger’s combined passions recently brought together hundreds of MTSU students and faculty in various departments to realize her vision to showcase the special relationship between art and students who are often excluded from that world. In May 2015, an international quilt and the 40 Days Around the World Digital Arts Festival were featured in Todd Art Gallery. The digital festival, which showcased 40 art programs for special-needs students here and abroad, went live June 16. (Find it at www.40days.vsatn. org.) The 100-by-100-foot international quilt with panels from VSA affiliates in 36 states and 38 countries then went to Washington, D.C., for receptions at the State Department and the Capitol. “This doesn’t happen without MTSU,” said Kissinger, who also said she was blown away by campus support for the project. “No wonder I bleed Blue,” said the Indiana native.

Turning Empathy into Effort

Kissinger’s passion for artistic expression began after a serious bout of scarlet fever as a child. After being quarantined with a poor prognosis, she healed but lost some hand-eye coordination. As a result, recess at her parochial school in Indiana wasn’t fun, but dreaded. A cruel teacher made playing ball a forced activity for everyone, so she regularly escaped and hid underneath a church pew. In the quiet safety of a church, she wrote songs. In high school, a choir teacher took notice. But Kissinger froze on stage, so she learned to play piano. But it was harp lessons that awakened her love of music. She eventually learned to play 100 instruments, specializing in folk music. Shyness moved aside as she performed at festivals and parks, teaching her audiences about the music’s history. “There were no nerves then,” she said. “I had a passion for it, and I was giving it away.”

After college, Kissinger became a children’s librarian in Evansville, Indiana, and planned to get a library science master’s degree. She did, but a nudge from her boss to take a job with the local arts council led her in an unexpected direction. Just 23 and still quite shy, she was asked to become the council’s executive director after just six months. For the next 11 years, she learned on the job how to write a grant, how to speak at meetings and in TV interviews, and even how to deal with the mayor. Early in her new job, her quiet persuasiveness dissolved his opposition. “It was trial by fire,” she said of that job. Now, part of her organizational communication class includes real-world experience writing grants. “I don’t want them to go through what I went through,” Kissinger said.

Filling the Void

While in Indiana, Kissinger discovered VSA accidentally as she worked on a grant for the arts council. Once she performed with special-needs children, she saw the power of art education for the disabled. “These kids, so many times, were told what they couldn’t do,” she said. “Maybe they just need to do it in a different way. It’s about empowerment.” For instance, Kissinger once worked with a nonverbal boy and discovered just how much was inside by introducing him to the harp. He answered questions by plucking strings. Kissinger eventually started teaching at the University of Southern Indiana. While there, she earned her second master’s degree from Indiana State University. Her husband’s job change brought the Kissingers and their son to Tennessee in 2001. She taught as an adjunct at MTSU, Belmont, and Volunteer State Community College. She joined MTSU full time in 2003. When Kissinger found out there was no VSA Tennessee chapter, she called the VSA national leadership, who said that if she’d create bylaws, they would find someone to lead a chapter. More than a decade later, Kissinger is still working hard, often seven days a week, teaching at MTSU and leading VSA Tennessee. “Lori is hugely dedicated to serving people with disabilities through the arts and has single-handedly grown VSA

2016 31


The Uncommon continued from page 31

Not Going Solo Some of Tennessee’s most talented young musicians annually showcase their gifts at MTSU during the state’s VSA Young Soloist concert. This past year, competitors had a very special guest joining them for the concert— country music artist and renowned bass vocalist Josh Turner (pictured). The youth are part of VSA Tennessee, the state organization on arts and disability established in 2001 at MTSU and directed by Lori Kissinger, an instructor in the Department of Communication Studies and Organizational Communication. Students in Kissinger’s Organizational Communication in Communities EXL class handled logistics for the 2015 event, as they have for past concerts. The event is open to any vocalist or instrumentalist age 14 to 25 with any form of disability. The contest is part of an international competition held annually at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and features winners from across the nation. The competition has received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant in successive years. The Tennessee VSA Young Soloist program is also sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diane and Dr. David Black, the Memorial Foundation, First Tennessee Foundation, Affinion, and Publix Supermarket Charities. MTSU

32 Partners Magazine

Tennessee exponentially over the years,” said Stephanie Litvak, manager of VSA Affiliates. “She really brought in the community connections that are needed for success.” “This is my niche as a teacher,” Kissinger said. “I’ve thought about pulling back, working less on VSA, but to be a better teacher, I need to stay involved.” The international quilt project and the 40 Days Around the World Festival celebrated 40 years of VSA’s influence. Last year, as its leaders brainstormed ways to involve state affiliates in the anniversary, Kissinger suggested creating something for Jean Kennedy Smith: a quilt with squares from all over. The response? Great idea. Now do you want to lead it? That wasn’t her intention when she came up with the idea, but Kissinger accepted. As the project grew in scope, and the digital component came alive, her enthusiasm brought several MTSU departments on board. Textiles students from the Department of Human Sciences put the quilt together with help from visiting disabled students. A campaigns class worked on promotion. Students and advisors from Recording Industry, Electronic Media Communication, and WMOT also participated. Interns in Political Science, Organizational Communication, Education, and Art including Erin Porter, an MTSU major in Art Education, created an Americans with Disabilities Act display of information and layered artwork by middle schoolers and senior citizens, which went to Legislative Plaza in Nashville in March. “Art education majors don’t always have the opportunity to be with English-language learners or special-needs children,” Porter said. “This was a great opportunity to work with them. Lori puts lots of care into everything,, and it really shows.” At one point in the planning, Kissinger got word that a planned Washington, D.C., presentation of the quilt was no longer happening. “Then I met a little girl with special needs who was helping with the quilt who asked about it going to D.C.,” she said. That was it, she thought. This had to happen. “I called (U.S. Rep.) Diane Black and sent a ‘Hail Mary’ email to the State Department,” Kissinger recalled. Black invited Kissinger to a Capitol reception. Meanwhile, the State


Department agreed to display the quilt in its gallery and then in its Hall of Flags. The ADA exhibit was also planned to go to the Capitol reception. After its summer presentation, plans call for the quilt to travel to embassies around the world.

Home Base and Launching Pad Kissinger said that none of these accomplishments would have been possible without the support of the University and the efforts of MTSU students. Kissinger’s department has roughly 300 students majoring in Organizational Communication, said Sharon Smith, interim chair. Its 500 graduates have entered for-profit and nonprofit fields such as event planning, human resources, and fundraising.

Student Hannah Holladay interned with Kissinger from August 2014 to May 2015, and her work included coordinating a VSA event. “It turned on a switch in my heart,” she said. “I recommend her classes to everyone.” As an intern, Holladay dealt with emails from all over the world as she helped coordinate projects between countries and their U.S. partners for the digital arts festival. When she saw Japan didn’t have a partner, she created and led a handweaving project with Metro-Nashville schools. Overcoming nerves, she taught Antioch High School special education students how to weave. “Words can’t describe how sweet they were,” Holladay said. Another VSA project showcasing art related to river life had Egyptian children learning about the Nile River while children in Memphis learned about the Mississippi River. As evidenced by the digital arts project alone, Kissinger is a tireless worker and advocate. Incredibly, she still somehow finds time for other good works projects. For instance, in the last three years, she has raised more than $50,000 for various MTSU departments to support programs that marry service learning for MTSU students with high schoolers and students with disabilities. True Blue! MTSU

Oh, Christmas Tree Each year, young local artists have applied their talents and enthusiasm to an MTSU-based project to help remind Tennesseans that they need a little Christmas—now. Students from Lori Kissinger’s Organizational Communication in Communities EXL class served as artist assistants to nearly two dozen young men and women who attend the Transition Academy of Rutherford County Schools and the Tennessee School for the Blind. The artists used paint, glue, holiday decorations, and plenty of laughter during a recent workshop to create unique ornaments for Tennessee’s state Christmas tree in Washington, D.C. “The artist who created the design came in and talked to our MTSU students to make sure they were on board with that design,” Kissinger said. “Every state has an artist who designs the ornament each year, and then the children create it.” The VSA Tennessee ornaments later became part of a more than 90-year-old tradition of celebrating Christmas with a national tree. Every year, one-of-a-kind ornaments are made by everyday Americans to hang on the 56 trees— one for every U.S. state and territory and the District of Columbia—that surround the National Christmas Tree. President Calvin Coolidge launched the tradition in 1923, when he walked from the White House to the Ellipse to light a 48-foot fir decorated with 2,500 electric bulbs in red, white, and green. Almost a century later, the tree-lighting ceremony is a family must-see in person in Washington, D.C., or on television in special National Park Service and National Park Foundation programming. MTSU 2016 33


by Gina K. Logue

“It was like having it laid out there in Technicolor. When the remains are historical as opposed to ancient, they feel closer in time.” —Sophie Plant-Moran (pictured at right with Dr. Hodge) 34 Partners Magazine


Dr. Shannon Hodge and her archaeology students help the Nashville Zoo reinter the human remains of its plantation past

I

n the preindustrial South, cotton was king and Africans brought here against their will labored long hours to pick it. Now, because of what expert bio-archaeologist and MTSU associate professor of Anthropology Dr. Shannon Hodge and her crew recently accomplished at a Nashville construction site, 20 slaves whose eternal slumber was to be disrupted by modern commercial development have new resting places.

“It was like having it laid out there in technicolor,” Plant-Moran said. “When the remains are historical as opposed to ancient, they feel closer in time.”

The bodies of nine adults and 11 children were recently reinterred on the site of Grassmere Historic Farm at the Nashville Zoo in preparation for the construction of an entrance kiosk near the original burial grounds. A plaque at the site of the new cemetery reads, “Here lie 20 unknown individuals who lived and worked on this property, reinterred with reverence at this site on the 12th day of June 2014.” Hodge’s colleague at MTSU, Dr. Kevin Smith, first took interest in the cemetery when he was a graduate student at Vanderbilt. The zoo, however, did not begin making plans to relocate the cemetery until 2013. That’s when Hodge was called in to handle the delicate work. She performed DNA analysis on the remains, and her work offered remarkable experiences for her student researchers, who were involved in every aspect of the process, from excavating to washing to inventorying and DNA testing.

The stones were placed with the remains at graves in the new cemetery.

“It was a real beginning-to-end experience for the students,” Hodge said. Sophie Plant-Moran, a senior from Yellville, Arkansas, did the skeletal inventory, laying out the bones in their correct anatomical positions. photos: Andy Heidt

JoBeth Sorensen, who has graduated and now lives in Clarksville, also helped with the inventory, which included flat underground stones that might have been used to mark the original graves.

“This project gave me a self-pride that no other project has before,” Sorensen said. “Being able to give people that were mistreated in the past a restful place to lay and to show the truth of their history to the living was astounding.” The bodies of infants and children were not suitable for testing, but much data was gleaned from the remains of the adults. Hodge said the crew was able to determine age, gender, and, to a degree, the injuries and illnesses the slaves had suffered. “We don’t have a cause of death in particular for any of these individuals,” Hodge said. “Most likely they would have died of some infectious disease that doesn’t leave its trace on your skeleton.” After analysis, the bodies were reinterred with the greatest of care. “We’re working under the assumption that they were buried in family groups,” Hodge said. “So we wanted to make sure they were back in their original arrangement so that families were still

buried together. It would be inexcusable, personally and professionally, not to uphold that degree of respect.” The Grassmere Farm, which originally was willed to the Children’s Museum of Nashville to educate people about animals, was passed down through five generations of family ownership. It includes a house built in 1810, a livestock barn, gardens, outbuildings, and cemeteries. Census records dating between 1830 and 1860 show that there was an average of 30 to 35 slaves living and working on the property. While this was the zoo’s first foray into collaboration on an archaeological project, Tori Mason, the zoo’s historic site manager, certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility of future similar partnerships with MTSU. “We tend to find shards of pottery and buttons and things like that,” Mason said. “We know that there was a lot of activity, especially up around the historic farm with different structures that were here.” The site once had a barn for sheep and lambs and other buildings. Mason believes there may have also been a blacksmith’s forge. The Nashville Zoo officials received a Commissioner’s Award from Nashville’s Metropolitan Historical Commission in May for its role in the cemetery relocation project that MTSU steered. “It brings tears to my eyes every time I think of the project,” Sorersen said. “A piece of me and my heart will always rest with those people.”

More information on page 36

2016 35


A Proper Burial, continued from page 35

Home Sweet Home

Making It Official

Professor Shannon Hodge and her colleagues Drs. Hugh Berryman and Derek Frisby are working to bring a few of the American soldiers who died in the Mexican-American War home to Tennessee. Repatriating them is a complicated process, but when the remains are returned, Berryman and Hodge will examine them for evidence of trauma and what the soldiers’ daily lives were like. The three professors plan to give the fallen soldiers a full hero’s welcome when their remains return home.

With help from Dr. Shannon Hodge, a 700-year-old statue known as “Sandy” was recently named the official state artifact of Tennessee. The ancient siltstone figure is a kneeling man and was created by a Native American artist between 1250 and 1350 C.E., during the Mississippian period. Sandy was discovered by a farmer in 1939 at the Sellars Farm site, a late prehistoric mound and village in Wilson County.

photo: Andy Heidt

Rutherford’s Ancient Past

The discovery of a Native American cemetery at Black Cat Cave archaeological site led the City of Murfreesboro to hand over possession of the cave to MTSU because the University is likely better able to preserve, protect, and continue to study its history. Well known among locals as the reputed site of a speakeasy during Prohibition, the cave recently was the object of an excavation by a team of MTSU professors and students. Dr. Shannon Hodge and her students, along with Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation, conducted the study of prehistoric and historic occupations of the cave. The field study happened in spring 2014, soon after the city discovered vandalism and heavy looting at the cave, including graffiti and illegal digging. The study confirmed the presence of a prehistoric cemetery at the site, and radiocarbon dating determined that human artifacts and remains recovered from the cave date back 5,000 to 7,500 years to what is known as the Middle Archaic Period. Until last year’s vandalism drew its attention, the city had no knowledge of any evidence of prehistoric or ancient activities in the cave. “The discovery of ancient human remains within the confines of Black Cat Cave has required sensitivity to the peoples and rituals of the ancient past,” Hodge said. “As a scholar of prehistoric culture, I appreciate the efforts of the City of Murfreesboro to protect and preserve this cultural resource.”

36 Partners Magazine

For nearly 50 years, Sandy was the icon of the Tennessee Archaeological Society and the figure’s image has been included in many publications on ancient Native American art and archaeology. (The statue was featured in Time in 1941.) Bills sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), and Rep. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) passed through the Tennessee House and Senate, naming Sandy the official state artifact in recognition of the region’s ancient past and to honor the legacy and accomplishments of Native Americans who lived here before the arrival of European settlers.

A Novel Approach Professor Shannon Hodge’s human osteology students recently completed skeletal inventories of 45 sets of human remains from archaeological sites in Tennessee. This is a continuing project, which began in Hodge’s fall 2012 class, to complete an entire inventory of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) collections held by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Division of Archaeology (TDOA), on behalf of the Tennessee State archaeologist, Mr. Mike Moore. This project, when complete, will bring TDOA into compliance with the NAGPRA of 1990. Along the way, Hodge also developed a way of taking molds of the teeth of skeletons in order to preserve them for further study, providing archaeologists with a new way to investigate the past while respecting the wishes of living Native Americans for the treatment of their ancestors’ remains. With existing computer-aided technology used by dentists for restorations such as crowns, Hodge produced replicas of human teeth for study so that the natural teeth could be returned to the grave. “Each natural tooth and replica were . . . compared under a scanning electron microscope to see if the copy was accurate enough to stand in for the original,” Hodge said. “We discovered that the technique works very well.” MTSU


EXL Stars MTSU

’s Experiential Learning Program honored a group of community partners for their support in providing students with practical, hands-on experiences that allow them to put their knowledge to work.

1

The Outstanding EXL Community Partner Award recognizes organizations that welcome MTSU EXL students and provide them with hands-on opportunities for service learning via internships, special projects, and even jobs that benefit both the students and the organization.

2

Outstanding Community Partner Award winners for the 2014–15 academic year: 1) Nancy Bogle, cafeteria manager at Barfield Elementary School in Rutherford County Schools, has served as a preceptor for two upper-level program courses for several years;

2) David Adams and Mike Rhoades, rangers at Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro, worked with MTSU EXL classes for the past three years and have coordinated, supervised, and managed the ecological restoration work at Stones River by Kim Sadler’s Biology 1030 EXL classes;

3) Yvonne Dadson,

clinical dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, allowed MTSU students to follow her daily

3

for a week learning all the various responsibilities that a clinical dietitian has; and 4) Lisa Mitchell, Debbie Mankin and Amy Swartz, with literacy nonprofit Read to Succeed, facilitated students developing and implementing a health literacy needs assessment in the community in order to determine what health literacy interventions were needed for providers and community members. MTSU

4

2016 37


One of MTSU’s newest professors aims to keep the memory of a country music legend alive and help students build careers

C

harles “Odie” Blackmon (’96), coordinator for MTSU’s Commercial Songwriting concentration, has thrived as a Nashville songwriter. A Grammy nominee for Lee Ann Womack’s “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” (CMA Single of the Year in 2005), Blackmon has also written hits for country music superstars including George Strait (“She’ll Leave You with a Smile”) and Gary Allan (“Nothing on but the Radio”), among others. His songs have graced albums that have sold more than 20 million copies.

38 Partners Magazine

photo: Andy Heidt

by Stephanie Stewart-Howard


Right Place, Right Time While the George Jones–MTSU connection was being made, Blackmon was interviewing for a position at the University. He thought it would be a dream come true to teach the George Jones class that Recording Industry chair Beverly Keel intended to create. When he came to the job interview, he already had a third of the curriculum planned and told Keel if she hadn’t assigned it to any faculty member yet, he’d love to do it. (Blackmon already had teaching experience at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music.)

It should come as no surprise that a top Nashville songsmith like Blackmon treasures the music of the late George Jones and also understands the contributions the man nicknamed “Possum” made to Nashville and the country music industry. Blackmon says he’s honored that his return to his alma mater led to a project that’s burnishing Jones’ legacy. With the blessing of Jones’ widow, Nancy, Blackmon has partnered with John Allen, CEO at New West Records, an Americana record label in Nashville, to create a George Jones tribute album. And he is making sure MTSU students will be part of the experience.

Planting the Seed Jones died in 2013 after a six-decade career of songwriting and performing that helped define country music. Shortly thereafter, Nancy Jones funded a scholarship for the Recording Industry Department as a way to keep her late husband’s legacy alive and help others. “George received help from people as he strove to have a country music career, so I am thrilled that we will be able to help young people in the name of George Jones,” she said at the time the scholarship was established. “I know he would have loved this.” Jones’ donation has been followed by contributions that have increased the George Jones Scholarship Fund to more than $170,000. The first scholarship recipient was Ashley Doris, one of Blackmon’s best students.

Blackmon’s lesson plan was a thorough exploration of Jones’ life and music, from his birth during the Great Depression to the influence of that period’s music and culture on who he became and what he achieved. “It gives you a sense of who George was, what he came from, and why he felt the way he did and had the demons he did, and it brings into focus the real golden era of his recording,” Blackmon said. Blackmon wanted to do even more to tell the whole George Jones story. He fashioned the idea of a tribute album, and he wanted the project to be something other than contemporary country. He imagined recording Americana artists like Jim Lauderdale, Kacey Musgraves, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Buddy Miller, Mike Farris, Nikki Lane, Old Crow Medicine Show, and others. He shared his notion with Stacy Merida, who spearheads MTSU’s student-run Match Records. She encouraged him to go to Keel with the idea. The project was greenlighted by Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Media and Entertainment, and then pitched to Allen at New West Records in Nashville. Allen loved the idea and a deal was hammered out that leaves room for MTSU to benefit from the proceeds of the eventual record. The project will be a collection of styles interpreting Jones with an Americana flair. Keel and Nancy Jones wrote letters to prospective artists. “We’re in the process of actually finding out who among our wish list of potential artists will participate right now,” Blackmon said. The project should give students a chance to help with publicity and solicit Grammy votes when the time comes. It will also be a teaching tool for accounting and music business classes.

2016 39


For a Song, cont. from page 39 “I have known Odie for a long time from my publishing and A&R background,” Allen said. “We have similar sensibilities when it comes to artists and songwriting, so he felt comfortable sharing this idea. We both felt that this can’t be a knee-jerk tribute record. The production and arranging must be done right so that it moves George’s music forward with an interesting juxtaposition of established artists and rising stars that ‘get’ the heritage of the catalog but still make the songs their own.”

Daily Grind

Partners in Craft

Ramping up MTSU’s involvement in all things George Jones isn’t the only work Blackmon has been doing.

A partnership between the Nashville office of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) and the Department of Recording Industry routinely pairs students in MTSU’s Commercial Songwriting concentration with veteran songwriting and publishing mentors. The experience can lead to networking and training opportunities for burgeoning student songwriters even before graduation. Early each semester, industry mentors begin meeting with enrollees in beginning and advanced songwriting classes.

The winner of Blackmon’s Advanced Commercial Songwriting class competition got the chance to trade ideas with hit songwriter Erin Enderlin (’04), a friend of Blackmon’s. Opportunities for students to pitch original songs directly to publishers have been created, and the relationship with performing rights organization ASCAP has been deepened and expanded. Concerts headlined by alums including Eric Paslay have raised money to hire new adjunct faculty members who will focus on photo: Andy Heidt

students interested in genres outside the commercial country realm. Along the way, Blackmon published a textbook, Music Theory and the Nashville Number System: For Songwriters and Performers. Blackmon is a natural mentor for aspiring student songwriters. Who better to look up to than a songwriter who had his first cut on MCA Records and who negotiated his first publishing deal while enrolled at MTSU? These days, Blackmon’s efforts, whether directed toward MTSU students or George Jones’ legacy, are bringing the University’s songwriting program even more welcome attention. MTSU Above, right: ASCAP President and songwriter Paul Williams, seated right, and founding Commercial Songwriting concentration coordinator Hal Newman listen to a question from then-senior Stephen West.

40 Partners Magazine

Also, ASCAP hosts a private showcase each semester, Hot on the Row, featuring MTSU student songwriters and attended by music industry publishers. At a recent 2015 event, publishing companies Sony/ATV, Warner/Chappell, BMG, Sea Gayle Music, Creative Nation, and Round Hill Music were on hand to listen to performances by students Nick Carpenter, Zach Russell, Kyle Crownover, and the group Maybe April, which includes MTSU’s Katy Bishop and Kristen Castro along with Alaina Stacy. The Commercial Songwriting concentration is led by successful songwriter Odie Blackmon, an MTSU alumnus himself, who works to give students real-world experiences, including classes like Jingle Writing, that prepare budding songwriters for life in the business. “That class was one of my favorites,” said songwriting student Stevie Woodward. “Not only did it allow me to work on something that I genuinely love doing, but it challenged me as a songwriter and pushed me to work my hardest on aspects of songwriting I hadn’t focused on before.” The Department of Recording Industry, part of the new College of Media and Entertainment, also houses the only college chapter of Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI). MTSU


MidPoints, continued from page 29

Jones College of Business Global Entrepreneurship Week keynote speaker Dr. Ming Wang.

Spreading Goodwill

Starting from m Scratch

Every dollar spent by Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee creates an additional $3.30 in benefits to the 48 counties it serves, and total economic impact of the notfor-profit is approaching a half-billion dollars. These are among the findings of a new study by the Business and Economic Research Center (BERC) at MTSU, which also predicts a 66 percent growth in the local Goodwill’s employment impact.

Sparking the ingenuity of budding Midstate entrepreneurs is the goal of the annual Global Entrepreneurship Week celebration at MTSU. The event, which takes place each November and is hosted by the Jones College of Business and the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC), is held in conjunction with the annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, an international celebration of innovators and job creators.

Within a decade, the organization is forecast to be responsible for an annual presence of 21,000 people in the workforce, largely through the efforts of its Goodwill Career Solutions centers and thousands of employer partners.

Patrick Geho, state executive director of the MTSU–Tennessee Small Business Development Center, encourages students at the University and anyone in the surrounding community interested in starting their own business to attend the week’s events.

Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee President and CEO Matthew Bourlakas joined the author of the economic impact assessment, Dr. Murat Arik, BERC director, in releasing the results at Goodwill’s Nashville headquarters on Oct. 28, 2015. “This study validates what we have long suspected—that Goodwill is much more than a nonprofit and social enterprise. It’s an economic engine that propels businesses and communities forward while giving a hand up, rather than a handout, to those individuals who need it most,” Bourlakas said in a Goodwill news release.

“Anybody can be an entrepreneur.”

In 2013, the BERC and the Center for Nonprofit Management conducted an assessment of the entire Nashville MSA nonprofit sector, and last August, the MTSU facility partnered with the Nashville Health Care Council to release a study of the impact of Nashville’s healthcare industry.

“The purpose is to let everybody know that anybody can be an entrepreneur. You’re not born that way. It’s a state of mind and has to be cultivated,” he said. “We’re trying to get these students and others in the community to think entrepreneurial regardless of their discipline.”

Looking East

The week always features a series of guest speakers coming to campus to share expertise on topics ranging from how to glean commercial ideas from research to pursuing entrepreneurship following a corporate career.

MTSU added an international partner with expertise in mechatronics engineering with a pact signed in spring 2014 with Shanghai Second Polytechnic University (SSPU). President Sidney A. McPhee and President Yu Tao of SSPU signed a memorandum of understanding to allow the universities to exchange students and faculty and develop joint research projects. The Chinese institution was founded in 1960 and has an enrollment of about 20,000 students. Engineering is the main discipline among its 31 undergraduate programs, and it specializes in teaching the manufacture of motor vehicles and aircraft and energy generation. Yu said his university has cooperative agreements with 50 of the world’s top 500 business enterprises, including Siemens and Volkswagen. MTSU

The TSBDC offers expert counseling, training and database resources, and professional referrals to small business owners and prospective owners at offices throughout the state, at no cost to its clients.

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MidPoints, continued from page 41

From the Ground Up Under the guidance of Rutherford County Area Habitat for Humanity, students participated in the nonprofit organization’s inaugural panel build in the state in October 2015. A panel build is a one-day event in which only the interior and exterior walls of a house are constructed. Dedication of the home that students constructed for Zach and Nikki Newbold and their children, Zoe and Eli, is anticipated around the end of April 2016. The home is located at Castle and University streets in Murfreesboro. “It was a nice experience,” said Dionne Gray, a student from Memphis. “I had never done anything like that before, and it’s going to a good cause. So it was a lot of fun.” “It’s not just physical labor,” said Jackie Victory, director of student organizations and

service. “And it’s not just their time. In the very end, it’s something where a family has a home where they didn’t truly have a home before.” One house takes approximately 200 students to build, with each student working a four-hour shift. When the Newbold’s home is complete (the house is the fifth that MTSU students have built), MTSU will have had more than 1,000 students assist, volunteering at least 4,000 hours of service. (Editor’s note: Spring 2015 MTSU Greek Week also participated in Collegiate Build with Rutherford County. Sixty students participated, serving 240 hours.) MTSU students actually boast 10 years of involvement with Habitat for Humanity. In that time, MTSU has raised more than $130,000 for the Rutherford County charity through events like the MTSU See Spot Run 5K for Humanity (each race has 35–40 volunteers serving six-hour shifts on race day), Habitat Letter Writing parties (1,500 students have raised $18,000 over the past 1½ years through this effort), and the Student Government Association’s Annual Chili Cook-off during Homecoming.

By Students, For Students The path to student success includes ensuring access to needed resources. At MTSU, student assistance programs like the MTSU Food Pantry and Raiders Closet are an important part of that. Homeless and foster-care students and students who are between paychecks or whose campus meal plans have run out are among those who benefit most from the MTSU Food Pantry. Stocked entirely by donations, the pantry has distributed thousands of pounds of food in the last few years to students in need. Many on-campus organizations have contributed. For instance, the Ann Campbell Early Learning Center held a food drive in conjunction with community partner Jones Therapy Group in late 2014 that resulted in more than 3,000 pounds of donated food collected for the pantry. Among the other large contributors to recent MTSU food drives were the Department of Economics and Finance and the Department of Health and Human Performance. Located in the Student Services and Admissions Center, also known as MT One Stop, the MTSU Student Food Pantry is available to any currently enrolled student who shows a valid student ID. Students with longer-term food needs are referred to community partners such as Greenhouse Ministries. In 2015, another helpful student assistance program is Raiders Closet, an outreach of Jones College of Business, which helps students acquire donated professional attire for internships and job interviews. MTSU’s Raiders Closet entered into a partnership with Amelia’s Closet, a nonprofit organization in Murfreesboro that offers free clothing to low-income women trying to rebound from a recent setback. Lastly, the College of Education recently created the Clothing Our Educators Boutique, which provides proper professional wardrobe for young educators in need as they enter the classroom. 42 Partners Magazine


The Art of Happiness Seven MTSU art students had the opportunity to learn firsthand why people in Scandinavia continually top the United Nations World Happiness Report. Their own report—“Passport to Happiness”—took the form of an art exhibit hung in Todd Art Gallery. The Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are known for relatively high incomes, good healthcare and schools, generous parental leave and vacation time, and inexpensive child care. Professor Debra Sickler-Voigt took seven of her students on a special study abroad program to Denmark and Norway in May to study art, stay with families, and teach in local schools. Students made stops in Copenhagen and Oslo, swam above the Arctic Circle, visited Legoland Billund, climbed mountains, and admired fjords, churches, and museums while immersing themselves in the region’s culture. The resulting exhibit, created by MTSU students and Danish and Norwegian children during the study-abroad program, featured multimedia pieces and artifacts made in Denmark, Norway, and America, all focusing on happiness.

Read to Succeed Many of us take reading for granted, but for people with low literacy, every day presents a struggle to comprehend information regarding things as fundamental as their health. Thankfully, Drs. Stuart Bernstein and Cathy Crooks of MTSU’s Psychology Department are making big strides in addressing literacy issues, especially where health is concerned, and they are doing so in connection with local literacy organization Read to Succeed. Nationwide, 14 percent of adults scored below basic on the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. In Rutherford County, that works out to more than 20,000 people who struggle to read and understand information about giving children vaccines, taking prescription medication, or determining ingredient interactions on over-the-counter drugs. With the help of students, Bernstein and Crooks approached Read to Succeed with a plan: First, they would do a needs assessment with health care providers, then a needs assessment with low-literacy clients. Those needs assessments highlighted the necessity for more health literacy in the community. Many participants said they sign medical forms without understanding them. Nearly all health care providers said they regularly encounter patients with low literacy and don’t know how to meet their needs. Most expressed interest in additional training to help improve communication and support. The Dollar General Literacy Foundation presented an $8,000 grant to Crooks and Bernstein to bolster their ongoing efforts toward improving health literacy among Murfreesboro children. The grant has helped to fund the creation of the Collaborative Learning and Leadership Institute at MitchellNeilson Elementary School. There, Crooks and Bernstein, in collaboration with other faculty, students, and community partners, address educational and environmental issues that affect student and family success. 2016 43


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Ready for Liftoff MTSU’s new Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Operations degree program, one of just five in the nation, is preparing students to take flight in a burgeoning, billion-dollar industry. However, the area of industry in which UAS has made the greatest headway so far is firmly planted on the ground—agriculture.

unmanned aircraft systems led a group of MTSU Aerospace And Agribusiness/Agriscience students to Mendoza, Argentina, in December 2014. Led by faculty members Dr. Tony Johnston (Agriculture) and Doug Campbell (Aerospace), the group used data they gathered from the trip to help with grape and olive production for wine and oil.

Unmanned aircraft allow large-scale farmers to monitor their crops remotely. This sort of “precision agriculture” is the specialty of Farmspace Systems LLC, a west Tennessee company with whom MTSU does collaborative research. That kind of real-world involvement will give MTSU graduates an advantage since the degree program was developed with real-time input. And because of these relationships, even students taking intro UAS courses have already gained field experience working with Farmspace and other partners. As an example, an Undergraduate Research Experience and Creative Activity (URECA) grant testing

MTSU has long been on the cutting edge of unmanned research in an institutional setting. In 2011, for instance, MTSU forged an educational partnership with the U.S. Army’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program Office in Huntsville, Ala. This Army partnership on unmanned studies, which was the first of its kind, enabled MTSU to provide testing and research of UAS, while the Army supplied UAS technology to the University’s Aerospace program. This relationship, in combination with civilian partnerships with firms like Farmspace, places MTSU in the unique position of working with both the governmental and commercial sides of UAS.

View from Above Dr. Jeremy Aber is among MTSU faculty working with Geosciences majors to utilize the University’s geographic information systems (GIS) lab. Through a research grant, Aber is involved in a Board of Regents project to conduct geosciences research with the help of his undergraduate students. Aber’s geosciences research taps into a variety of available technologies—from lab resources to cell phones, GPS, Twitter, and even videogames. According to Aber, the GIS lab, which students use, boasts the equipment, technology, and software needed for all kinds of projects and is comparable to those located at major research institutions. Among Aber’s planned projects is one that will utilize blimps, kites, and a digital infrared camera to obtain aerial images. The goal is to monitor vegetation around Murfreesboro’s public greenway, next to the Stones River. Other research includes implementing an augmented reality app to expose hidden geographies and using geotagged tweets to map various phenomena. 44 Partners Magazine


The Power of Preservation Focusing on students has been part of the foundation of MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) since it was established in 1984 by the Tennessee General Assembly as MTSU’s first Center of Excellence and one of nine original centers at Tennessee Board of Regents universities. The CHP became a full-time research and public service entity in 1991. Its mission is two-fold: to help Tennessee communities identify and use their heritage assets (historical sites, artifacts, and narratives that tell stories of the past) and to support and direct student research and experiential learning opportunities. Through the years, the CHP has helped communities develop historic preservation plans, historic structure reports, heritage tourism plans, National Register nominations, and more. Along the way, M.A. and Ph.D. students in Public History have worked

Healthy Partnership MTSU is planning ways to help local citizens fulfill their resolutions to eat healthier meals. The Produce for Better Health Foundation, a Delaware-based nonprofit organization, has given MTSU’s Nutrition and Food Science Program a grant of nearly $1,500 to help MTSU students and alumni enlighten the public about how to choose the best fruits and vegetables economically, how to read labels, how to eat produce in season, and how to prepare it properly. The funding will pay for a training manual, teaching materials, and coupons that will reduce the cost of produce for participants. In partnership with the Kroger supermarket at 2050 Lascassas Pike in Murfreesboro, the trainees began conducting daytime and nighttime tours of Kroger’s produce department in February 2016. Kroger spokeswoman Melissa Eads said the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain is happy to support MTSU in this effort. “We have a good relationship with MTSU and are always looking for

alongside program director and state historian Carroll Van West and his staff, putting “boots on the ground,” as West calls it, and getting real-world historic preservation experience. “There is no better way to learn history and develop a passion for it than to go put your hands on it,” West said. “It’s a great competitive advantage because when our students go on interviews they talk about their projects, and employers know from the get-go that they have real experience.” West and his staff have expanded the CHP’s reach to include the Midsouth, which West defines as the area within about a six-hour radius from Murfreesboro. “It makes for long days, but it really broadens the student experience,” he said. “Our students get to say they worked on something in Appalachia or in the Mississippi Delta. You can’t go other places to get that, so again, it gives them a competitive advantage.” In the early days, the CHP tackled about four projects a year. Today, West, his staff, and students engage in 15 to 20 projects annually. As have many distinguished graduates before them, those students are likely go on to careers in historic preservation, finding jobs in a variety of public and private settings including state historic preservation offices, military bases, national parks, federal agencies, historic sites and museums, preservation or cultural resources management consulting firms, and departments of transportation.

ways to support it whenever we can,” Eads said. The data collected through the spring semester will go into a report to be submitted to the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

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Veterans face unusual and daunting challenges once they enter college life. The bureaucracy surrounding admissions and registration can vex today’s veterans, who are used to the modern military’s streamlined processes. Such burdens are compounded by the psychological stress of military service and sometimes even a sense of alienation on campus. Year after year, MTSU has been recognized by national publications such as Military Times and G.I. Jobs magazines as one of the top universities in the U.S. for veteran education. (Military Times separately named the Jennings A. Jones College of Business among its 64 Best for Vets Business Schools in 2014). As evidence of why MTSU accrues such rankings, consider that in 2011, MTSU became the first institution in the state (and one of the first in the country) to partner with the Veterans Administration’s new VetSuccess on Campus program. MTSU also recently hired a new senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives, Keith M. Huber, who leads MTSU’s ongoing push to help student veterans be successful at college. Huber joined MTSU after retiring as a lieutenant general from the U.S. Army following nearly 40 years on active duty as an infantry and Special Forces officer. The recent creation of a full-blown Veterans and Military Family Center on campus is just the latest step in MTSU becoming the most militaryfriendly university in America. The 2,600-square-foot center constitutes the largest and most comprehensive Veterans and Military Family Center at a university in Tennessee, providing one-stop service and support for the more than 1,000 student veterans and their family members. Everything a student-veteran needs to succeed is available in this single location, from scheduling courses and completing government paperwork to getting questions answered about benefits and employment opportunities. Recently, Gov. Bill Haslam announced that MTSU would receive a $91,000 state grant to support its vet-success efforts. The Journey Home Project, co-founded by country music legend Charlie Daniels, recently committed $50,000 to help equip the new center.

Vet Air Every year, MTSU partners with the Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro to give selected veterans a flight to remember in honor of their military service and their love for flying. MTSU Aerospace professor and pilot Terry Dorris has conducted the flights in recent years from the Murfreesboro Airport. Tony Johnston, a veteran himself and professor in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience, works with Dorris and Veterans Home activity director Barbara Cochran to orchestrate the flights. 46 Partners Magazine

Johnston said that for some veterans, the flights become a final check on their bucket lists. He recalled a previous flight where one of the veterans passed away just two weeks after his flight. In May 2015, eight veterans who served their country with pride received an airplane ride. There were eight men in total—seven from the Tennessee State Veterans Home and the eighth a former military member from Tullahoma.


Global Reach and Responsibility Students annually serve more than 300 patients at four different places in the highlands outside Guatemala City.

For the past few years, College of Behavioral and Health Sciences nursing students have participated in the signature Education Abroad Program by making a trip to Guatemala, visiting one of the country’s poorest regions. They offer a hand to people in need by providing some of the most basic medical care under the supervision of professors Amanda Flagg and Richard Meeks. The global ambassadors who traveled to Guatemala first opened a health clinic there in 2013. The students were able to bring some comfort, caring, and happiness to a very self-sufficient and industrious group of people whose health care needs were both critical and unmet. Students annually serve more than 300 patients at four different places in the highlands outside Guatemala City. Stories from the trip abound. One Nursing student said that when she thinks about complaining that something has gone wrong in her life, she simply remembers the Guatemala trip and immediately shifts her thinking to being thankful that she has “clean water without leaving her house” and that she was able to attend school past the sixth grade “without having to pay.” Another student remembers the emotion that came pouring out of a Guatemalan mother when the student ambassadors were able to provide her with eyeglasses. Support for the trips comes from various entities, including Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital and Textbook Brokers, among others. Experiential learning like this is a requirement for educating nursing students for their future profession. Such education is not just happening in the developing world, though; it is also happening in middle Tennessee.

The School of Nursing recently expanded its affiliation with Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia. No longer just a clinical affiliate, the program’s collaboration now includes a partnership in research as the medical facility seeks to attain Magnet status (a coveted designation that signifies that nurses are valued, are integrated in shaping research-based practices, and are rewarded for advancing the practice). Dr. Jenny Sauls, director of the School of Nursing, sees this as a tremendous accomplishment, where faculty and students are already seeing value and gaining professional benefits from the association. “Faculty members Amanda Flagg and Sherri Stevens now serve on the hospital’s Research Advisory Board, while Shelley Moore and Michelle Finch are conducting on-site research,” Sauls said. “Most recently at Maury Regional’s sponsored Research Fair for nursing students, two of our undergraduate students brought home a second- and third-place award from the 132 poster submissions. We are truly proud of our students and faculty who are contributing to making this one of our best efforts!” In addition, in the area of community health, Dr. Sharon Whiteside took advantage of the college’s ever-expanding partnership with Nissan to provide her students with a hands-on learning experience staffing the global car company’s annual flu clinic at the Smyrna plant. Whiteside, along with other faculty members, supervised third- and fifth-semester nursing and medical-surgical students working as an interdisciplinary health team to service a community client. Gregory Sirising, a fifth-semester senior, said of the experience, “This is my second year participating in the flu clinic, and it has helped me to become more confident in dealing with clients and perfect the skills taught in the classroom.”

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Partners Magazine 2016 Vol. 1, No. 1  

What's new in Experiential Learning at Middle Tennessee State University. Inside: a look at a cooperative program between the Horse Science...

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