2023 Spring Academic Highlights

MTSU’s new General Education curriculum, the True Blue Core, is on schedule for launch in fall 2024. Faculty are hard at work redesigning courses from the current Gen Ed and developing exciting new courses that will give students more choices. The Core features a new focus on student learning outcomes that provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their majors, careers, and lives. Another feature of the Core is Blueprints, in which a student can choose thematically related courses that align with their interests and/or major. For more information, gened@mtsu.edu.

The MT Engage program geared toward getting students fully immersed in the classroom experience was made a permanent part of the University’s second Quality Enhancement Plan. Launched in 2016, MT Engage is designed to support students’ academic engagement in their courses through investing in faculty development and promoting high-impact teaching practices to better support students from all backgrounds. The program would not be possible without the support of faculty and staff. Faculty can get a course MT Engage certified—on a completely voluntary basis. MT Engage courses include active learning practices, such as assignments that are problem-based, collaborative, or involve undergraduate research, and help students reflect on their learning by documenting their ongoing growth in an ePortfolio. Currently, 336 courses are certified.

MTSU’s 2022–23 Employee Charitable Giving Campaign raised a record-setting amount of almost $145,000 pledged, beating the $142,500 campaign goal. Faculty and staff once again rose to the occasion, with 830 participants who demonstrated their True Blue spirit

of giving with pledges totaling $144,906. Even as inflationary pressures have impacted us all, I’m not surprised that our employees recognized that it was more important than ever to give back during this time to assist the most vulnerable among our neighbors and friends throughout the community. MTSU prides itself on being a good neighbor and finding ways to make this great community even greater. I’m so very grateful to all who participated in another record-setting campaign and committed to share their financial resources with area nonprofit organizations that do such great work in supporting those in need. MTSU’s annual Charitable Giving Campaign is led by a committee of faculty and staff volunteers to rally financial support for worthy causes. The campaign is fueled largely by monthly payroll deductions from employees over the next year, but also allows one-time, lump-sum gifts at the donor’s discretion. Participants can designate gifts to 140-plus organizations from a list of 10 independent charities and three federated groups of charities, Creating Healthier Communities, Community Shares, and local United Way organizations.

MTSU again made U.S. News & World Report’s Top 100 national list for Top Performers in Social Mobility for our efforts to help disadvantaged students reach their educational goals. In its 2022–23 evaluations of 1,500 colleges and universities, the publication ranked MTSU at No. 82 nationally for social mobility; No. 156 for Top Public Schools; No. 130 for Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (at schools where doctorate not offered); and No. 206 in Nursing. The University also was ranked No. 299 among the top National Universities. MTSU, which first made U.S. News’ Top 100 in Social Mobility in 2020, devotes considerable effort to serve first-generation and underrepresented college students.


MTSU’s College of Education was one of only 32 institutions to be recognized by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation for quality as an education preparation provider. This recognition shows that we are among the top educator preparation providers in the nation.

About 70 local teachers arrived on the MTSU campus Sept. 27 to enjoy the College of Education’s inaugural Teacher Appreciation event. MTSU would not be able to effectively prepare teacher candidate students without professional teachers serving as mentors or without local district support.

The Center for Fairness, Justice, and Equity at MTSU opened in 2022, led by Director Michelle Stevens (pictured above). The center aims to cultivate an inclusive and diverse College of Education by intentionally recruiting diverse faculty, teacher candidates, and educational personnel from a multitude of backgrounds. Tennessee’s teacher workforce is not representative of the students being served. About 38% of Tennessee students are people of color, but only 14% of Tennessee teachers are. Data shows a particularly concerning demographic mismatch between Black male students and teachers: only 2% of teachers are Black men. The center also equips current College of Education students, faculty, and staff with cultural competency training opportunities.


The Honors College will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, beginning with Homecoming festivities in fall 2023 and more activities through spring 2024.

During the 2021–22 academic year, more MTSU students than ever before applied for national scholarships and fellowships, resulting in a record number of Gilman Scholarships (20) and Critical Language Scholarships (3). The University also had students selected for Fulbright, Goldwater, Japanese Exchange Teaching (JET), and National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) awards.

Each year four outstanding MTSU students are selected to receive campus awards, and this year all four are Honors students. In addition, one of the four also received a
state award. Winton Cooper and Kap Paull claimed the President’s Award and the Provost’s Award, respectively. Cooper, the 2021–22 Student Government Association (SGA) president and an Environmental Science major, received the President’s Award. Paull, majoring in Allied Health Science, received the Provost’s Award.

Two students from the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, Dara Zwemer and Cynthia Torres, won two other campuswide awards. Zwemer, a Buchanan Fellow and Psychology major, garnered the Robert C. LaLance Jr. Award in recognition of her determination, sacrifices, and contribution to the community. Torres, an Honors Transfer Fellow and Psychology major, was recognized with the Community Service Award. Torres, who has organized and 

facilitated various support groups to benefit those touched by addiction, infidelity, and trauma, was also awarded a Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award and accompanying $1,000 cash prize in the spring. The statewide awards, created to recognize higher education students and faculty/staff, are named for the late state representative who was known for his compassion and good humor.


MTSU’s first four budding medical school students successfully advanced in a special partnership with Meharry Medical College’s School of Medicine in Nashville. Maria Hite of La Vergne, Claire Ritter of Nashville, Pierce Creighton of Lascassas, and Kirolos Michael of Brentwood completed their first three years of study in prescribed undergraduate premedical school curriculum and are now several months into four years of medical school study. It’s all part of the Medical School Early Acceptance Program, a collaboration between MTSU’s College of Basic and Applied Sciences and Meharry.

The program intends to increase the number of primary care physicians serving medically underserved populations and alleviate health care disparities in rural Tennessee. Another four MTSU students are in their third year of the program. Eight are in their second year and four in their first, for a total of 20 current program participants. The program was announced in 2018.


With the rise in demand for flight training, the MTSU Flight School has found it necessary to implement a multitiered plan for fleet growth to keep up. At the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester, the department took possession of two additional Piper Seminole aircraft. With the addition of these two aircraft, we will be able to reach levels of multi-engine training never before seen at the University. We now have the largest multi-engine fleet and the largest total fleet in MTSU history. The MTSU Flight School currently maintains a fleet of 36 training aircraft, five of which are Piper Seminoles. The Aerospace program celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2023.


With an extensive background in international accounting and licensed as both a lawyer and CPA, Jarett “Jerry” Decker hopes to bring his global and legal experience to bear as the new Joey A. Jacobs Chair of Excellence in Accounting and professor of practice within MTSU’s Jones College of Business. A former head of the World Bank’s Centre for Financial Reporting Reform in Vienna, Decker has advised governments on reforms to improve corporate accounting, auditing, and governance in more than 30 developing and transitional countries. Decker also served as the first deputy director and chief trial counsel for the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, created by Congress in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals. Prior to that, Decker was senior trial counsel for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Chicago.

Jones College of Business launched the Lifelong Learning Series, a program which provides the general public with timely presentations about current topics in business, similar to TED Talks. We make them available via live, in-person attendance and livestreaming. We also archive the presentations on our college YouTube channel for the convenience of anyone who wants to view them.

Jones College continues to develop market-driven programs. In 2021–22, we enhanced our program in Professional Selling by establishing a dedicated center that is part of the University Sales Center Alliance (USCA). This alignment with USCA is already making our program better known nationally, and it gives our students more opportunities to shine via national sales competitions.

In other areas of Marketing, our faculty built an M.B.A. concentration in Strategic Marketing Analytics and an undergraduate concentration in Digital Marketing, both of which launched in fall 2022.

We’ve also embarked on an effort to create a B.S. degree in Cybersecurity. Our Information Systems program has always been the locus of IT security education at MTSU. It makes perfect sense to offer
a B.S. in Cybersecurity to meet the enormous demand for skilled security professionals.

We have created a standalone M.S. in Supply Chain Management to accompany our B.B.A. in Supply Chain Management. The Greater Nashville region is a hotbed of logistical activity. We made sure the master’s program offers higher-level skills to undergraduate students who may have majored in Supply Chain Management, either at MTSU or another university.

Our new Human Resource Management concentration is part of the revamped B.B.A. in Management and Leadership. It is drawing so many students that the Management faculty are working on a Human Resource Management concentration in the M.S. in Management.


The new B.S. in Public Writing and Rhetoric added its first students. Eric Detweiler from the Department of English is serving as director of the interdisciplinary program, which launched in fall 2022.

Liberal Arts hosted the Holocaust Studies Conference—MTSU’s 14th biennial academic gathering of Holocaust Studies scholars and Holocaust survivors. The 2022 event culminated with an address from Holocaust survivor Sonja Dubois, who shared her story as well as the journey to completing her memoir, Finding Schifrah.

MTSU has entered an agreement with Belmont University to provide a preferred admission program through Belmont’s College of Law for qualifying students. The program enables students to earn their B.A. or B.S. in Political Science with a Pre-Law concentration and their Juris Doctor (J.D.) in only six years. Students will complete most of their undergraduate degrees prior to admission to the J.D. program and, upon completion of requisite coursework during the first year of their J.D. program at Belmont, students will fulfill remaining requirements of their MTSU undergraduate degrees.


Professors Benjamin Stickle and Carter Smith received $800,000 in federal grant funding for their work on “Tennessee Bureau of Investigations: Tennessee’s Human Trafficking Task Force Initiative.” The award came from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance Enhanced Collaborative Model (EMC) Task Force to Combat Human Trafficking: Supporting Law Enforcement’s Role. Stickleadditionally received $705,000 in federal grant funding for his work on “Addressing the Needs of Incarcerated Parents and their Minor Children” from the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Elizabeth Whalen earned the Best Paper Award at the International Society of Travel and Tourism Educators Conference for “You can’t win if you don’t play! Perceptions of event gamification on behavioral outcomes.”

Chandra Story received a grant from the Tennessee Department of Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) for Building Community Capacity to Address Mental Illness in the context of COVID-19.

Rebecca Oldham was selected as the 2022 recipient of the Emerging Teaching/Mentorship Award for the National Council on Family Relations as a new family science faculty who has demonstrated excellence in teaching and mentorship practices.

Kristi Julian, Interior Design professor and program coordinator in the Department of Human Sciences, was honored with the 2022 Keith Hooks Volunteer Excellence Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the Council for Interior Design Accreditation and interior design education.

As part of their partnership with the National Retail Federa- tion (NRF), Gina Pisut and the Textiles, Merchandising, and Design program student group Fashion and Design Students (FaDS) attended the NRF Foundation Student Program in New York City Jan. 12–15. At this event, students had the opportunity to learn from retail executives in marketing, merchandising, talent, entrepreneurship, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, supply chain, and technology as well as explore various career paths in the retail industry and meet with dozens of recruiters from their favorite brands.

Here are some stats from the School of Nursing:

  • B.S.N. program ranked 213 out of 1,500 nationwide

  • M.S.N. program ranked No. 3 in Tennessee

  • 95% first-time pass rate for NCLEX (state board exam)for 2022

  • 94% job placement prior to graduation for 2022

  • $70,000 awarded in scholarships for Nursing students

The “self-talk” going through MTSU Psychology Professor Tom Brinthaupt’s mind was clear on his face as he walked among his applauding colleagues to accept the University’s highest teaching honor. Brinthaupt, who has spent 32 years in the Department of Psychology and who specializes in “self-talk”—the internal conversations we have with ourselves—was the 2022 recipient of the MTSU Foundation’s Career Achievement Award.


Walker Library was busier than ever last fall with regular daily visits upward of 3,500. From August to the end
of the Fall 2022 semester, users visited the library 268,466 times.

Walker Library also partnered with ITD to shift the circulation of wireless hotspots to Library Technology. We cataloged and integrated 250 wireless hotspots during
the month of September and checked all of them out
for the semester. In addition, we received 25 additional laptops that we circulated to students for two-week loan periods. As we replaced existing laptops, we increased this number to 40. In addition, the library offered another 45 laptops available for three-day checkouts.

Karen Reed was hired as the new research and data librarian. We are excited for this position to help us work more collaboratively with faculty on their research and data needs.

User Services collaborated with Mark McLeod’s 3D Design class as it aligns with our strategic priority to bring student art and creative works into the library.

The Anti-Monument Art Exhibit went on display Dec. 1 in the Walker Library Reference Area. It has drawn a lot of attention from students already and will remain on display through February.


Last fall, on the new extended reality XR stage in the University’s Bragg Media and Entertainment Building, classes began preparing students from the department’s Animation and Video and Film Production programs to reach new heights in virtual production for film, television, and animation. The XR-capable facility, a roughly $1 million investment, is the only one at a Tennessee university and among few such facilities at any university anywhere in the world.

The Commercial Songwriting program moved to its home in MTSU’s Miller Education Center. The new space features state-of-the-art songwriting classrooms along with private writing studios where students can hone their skills and their compositions. At the core of the center is a welcoming gathering area called the Sandy Knox Lyric Lounge, encouraging collaborative conversation and productive downtime.

Katie Foss took over as director of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media from Greg Pitts, who stepped down as of January. Marie Barnas, who has been serving as interim chair for the Department of Media Arts since Professor Billy Pittard stepped down last May, has been named permanent chair of the department.

MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry—and the College of Media and Entertainment that houses it—are marking the eighth year on Billboard magazine’s latest international list of top music business schools, once again earning acclaim for the program’s diversity, depth, and longevity. According to the industry publication, “opportunities abound” for students’ professional development at MTSU, thanks to participation in events such as Bonnaroo and the CMA Music Festival; the presence of an active on-campus music venue, the Chris Young CafeĢ; and the student-run record label, Match Records.

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