Monday, July 28, 2014

[027] MTSU students thrive in joint solar Habitat project with Vanderbilt

MURFREESBORO — Danielle Jellison and Elizabeth Kurtz arrived at MTSU from two different geographic backgrounds and for different reasons, but both embrace education and work ethic.

Kurtz, who is from Nashville (pop. 601,000-plus), and Jellison, who is from Hartsville, Tennessee (pop. 6,922), in Trousdale County, find themselves budding entrepreneurs in leadership roles in a university partnership to build a Habitat for Humanity home to win a national competition next year.

Along with more than 40 MTSU students, Kurtz and Jellison are part of an interdisciplinary Team Tennessee ( aiming to capture Solar Decathlon 2015 while gaining real-world experience that should expand their resumes and enhance their professional careers after graduating.

MTSU and Vanderbilt University students and faculty and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville are in an all-out effort to make Harmony House the best solar-built home in the nation. Their conceptual design for Harmony House will forge a connection between Southern living and modern green technologies.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon will challenge collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. The teams will spend almost two years creating 600- to 1,000-square-foot homes that will be judged in 10 contests to determine the winner.

Drawing from a variety of classes, students in construction management, interior design and electrical, mechanical and civil engineering will be involved in the planning, designing and building processes. The home will be built on the Vanderbilt campus.

The winner of the 18-team competition, which will be held in fall 2015 at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, will be the one that best blends affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. To learn more, visit

From the beginning, Jellison, 20, a commercial construction management major planning to graduate in December, found the experience “instantly engaging” and is proud to be working with Vanderbilt students. Kurtz, an interior design major anticipating a May 2015 graduation, agreed.

“In the past four months, my knowledge and design awareness has grown exponentially,” said Kurtz, 27, a Nashville native who earned her first degree in sociology in 2009 from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. “Particularly when it has come to things like solar power, construction and transporting a home — things that are not traditionally covered in as much detail in an interior design program — I have learned so much valuable information that I know I will use in my future career.”

Kurtz, who said she wants to attend the finale, serves as publicity chair for the American Society of Interior Designers/International Interior Design Association MTSU student chapter. Off-campus, she is a “big sister to a wonderful 12-year-old” through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee. She works part-time at Preservation Station, an architectural antique store in Nashville.

Jellison immediately assumed a role of project manager because that’s what she’s planning to after graduating from MTSU and later Vanderbilt, where she will study to earn her graduate degree and see the Solar Decathlon project through to its completion.

Jellison, who is serving a summer internship with Nashville-based Hardaway Construction, is president of the Associated Builders and Contractors student chapter and student representative on the Engineering Technology advisory board.

“I knew this was a great opportunity that I didn’t want to miss,” she said. “We will all gain invaluable experience in the process. … Our goal is to create something that showcases our best work as individuals in addition to our potential as team members.”

In late May and June, Team Tennessee members held two-day work sessions in Dickson and Watertown, Tennessee.

“We did things we’ve never done before,” Jellison said of a structural team’s work event, where they participated in the building of Habitat for Humanity homes. “We learned the process of how Habitat builds homes. As a team, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned how to break down a home and get ready for the transportation of the home.”

That’s important because Harmony House will be assembled, taken apart and moved multiple times in the coming months.

For a practice run, the house will move from the Vanderbilt campus to the Rutherford Boulevard side of MTSU campus around August 2015. Later, it will be disassembled and driven the 2,000-plus miles across the country to the competition site to be assembled once again. Following the finale, the home will be transported back to Nashville, where it is expected to be permanently located in East Nashville.

Students in the Concrete Industry Management department also are involved with Solar Decathlon. They include juniors Hassean Ismail and Ahmad Abed of Nashville and Morgan Corlew of Lebanon, Tennessee. Corlew is serving on the finance committee, and, along with Jellison and Kurtz, said communication will be vital.

Best of all, said Kurtz and Jellison, who have become friends through this process, the finished product will be a home for someone in need.

“At the end of the day, competition aside, this house is going to be a home and someone will be living in it, using all of the components we carefully chose and selected,” said Kurtz, who leads a strong MTSU interior design contingent. “I think that's always the most important part of design — the user.”

Associate professors Janis Brickey in Human Sciences’ interior design program and Tom Gormley in Engineering Technology’s commercial construction management program serve as advisers for the MTSU students. They and fellow faculty Sharon Coleman (interior design) and Kathy Mathis (engineering technology) offer input and suggestions during team meetings.

Rising sophomores Danny McClanahan and Tiffany Silverstein assumed leadership roles with the Vanderbilt students. Vanderbilt faculty advisers include Ralph Bruce, professor of electrical engineering; and Sanjiv Gokhale, professor in civil and environmental engineering. Civil and environmental engineering professors Curtis Byers and Lori Troxel also advise. Chip Wilson is construction director at Habitat-Nashville.

The partners’ website features a blog, countdown to the 2015 competition in California and digital photos of the progress.

[026] Veteran visual journalist leads MTSU's Center for Innovation in Media

MURFREESBORO — A longtime visual journalist who expanded her focus to train others to use mobile media will lead MTSU's nationally recognized Center for Innovation in Media, university officials have announced.

Val Hoeppner, who's served since last fall as journalist in residence in the School of Journalism in MTSU's College of Mass Communication, took the reins July 1 at the student-focused center, which houses all student media plus the university's National Public Radio station, WMOT 89.5 FM, under one roof.

"Val Hoeppner brings a special combination of journalistic experience, digital expertise and impressive teaching skills to her new role at MTSU," said Ken Paulson, dean of the College of Mass Communication.

"She'll build on the foundation of innovation established by our former director, Stephan Foust, and give our students the kind of skills and experience that will best prepare them for opportunities in a digital era."

Foust worked closely with college administrators to open the almost-$700,000 facility inside the Bragg Mass Communication Building in January 2012 and had directed its operations since. A veteran broadcast journalist and corporate communications consultant, Foust is retiring from the university.

The CIM job is a dream job, really,” Hoeppner explained, “as I get to spend my days helping student journalists find their voice and pursue a career as a storyteller. Our students’ stories may be written, photographed, voiced, filmed or sung.

“That’s the most unique thing about our College of Mass Communication and the center itself. We have a traditional newspaper that is going digital, a radio station that is both on-air and streamed, a television station using digital technology to broadcast and a record label using social media to bring attention to its artists.”

The Associated Press Media Editors lauded the Center for Innovation in Media soon after it opened 2 ½ years ago for its efforts in “reforming and reshaping its student media." The center received an honorable mention in the “Innovator of the Year for College Students” category in the 2012 APME Journalism Excellence Awards.

The Center for Innovation in Media combines the newsrooms for Sidelines, the student newspaper; WMTS-FM, the student-run radio station; Match Records, the student-run record label; MT10, the student-operated cable television station; and WMOT-FM, the 100,000-watt public radio station, in a single location.

MTSU’s center enables students from all media disciplines to hone their real-world skills by writing stories for print and the Web, creating audio versions of the same stories for broadcast on radio stations and providing video versions of those stories for use on MT10 and on the station and center websites.

Before joining the MTSU staff, Hoeppner served as director of education for the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute for five years and spent 20 years in newsrooms as a photojournalist, newsroom leader and multimedia director at The Indianapolis Star.

“I got into journalism to make a difference in people’s lives. I was lucky enough to do just that in a variety of newsroom roles,” Hoeppner said.

“The CIM is a great sandbox to play in, and every day I find new ways to stretch our storytelling skills.” 

Learn more about the Center for Innovation in Media at MTSU at its website,

[025] MTSU workshop trains teachers to help struggling readers

Hawaiian literacy expert trains 35 Tennessee educators

Yoshimoto, the statewide special education literacy resource teacher trainer for Hawaii, conducted a 40-hour training program that ran July 14-18 and was hosted by the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia at MTSU. Yoshimoto is considered a master trainer of the Orton-Gillingham instructional approach to reading, which emphasizes phonics-based, multi-sensory, hands-on learning.

The training, attended by about 35 educators from throughout the state, focused on how to not only help students who may be suffering from dyslexia, but any students struggling with reading, spelling, writing and reading comprehension. Using a variety of training tools ranging from a bingo-themed game to index cards, Yoshimoto kept his class engaged.

“Sometimes (student) reading comprehension is low, but their listening comprehension is high,” Yoshimoto told the group during a Thursday discussion about how to properly conduct one-on-one reading instruction.

“I don’t want you to overly focus on speed,” he said later as the training continued. “There’s more than speed to think about.”

Workshop participant Cindy Nickerson, a third grade teacher at Lascassas Elementary School in Rutherford County, is excited about using the teaching methods shared by Yoshimoto with her third-graders, who are in a critical transition where “they are switching from learning to read to reading to learn.”

“I wanted something that would help me with those students who are struggling with reading, and this is a very systematic approach that I think will help keep students on track and help those who are struggling catch back up,” she said. “This is one more tool to add to my tool belt to help me really address the differentiating needs of my students.”

Lenise Moore feels the workshop will greatly assist in her role as an instructional coach for teachers at Southside School, a Pre-K through eighth grade school in Lebanon, Tennessee.

“This is one of one of the best workshops I’ve attended for at-risk students,” she said, adding that workshop participants are learning how to effectively help students in one-on-one and small group settings.

“We still have middle schoolers who are struggling to read, so this will benefit them as well. We have several English language learners that will benefit, and we have struggling readers at all grade levels that this will help.”

Dr. Jim Herman, director of the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia, said Yoshimoto, who has taught thousands of educators across the U.S., Canada and Singapore, has developed his own comprehensive program within the Orton-Gillingham framework.

“Teachers should have this in their backgrounds to teach,” Herman said. “It’s great for general education, but it’s great for special education also. A special education teacher could really use this to upgrade their reading instruction.”

Herman said there was a waiting list of teachers seeking Yoshimoto’s training and plans are to bring him back to campus next year for a similar session.

“I believe if all teachers had this reading training, our reading scores would go up. It’s that good.”

For more information about the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia and its training programs, visit, call 615-494-8880 or email

[024] MTSU alumna-turned-Buddhist nun explains her life on ‘MTSU On the Record’

MURFREESBORO — MTSU alumna Dolma Johanison, whose personal path has taken her from toting a gun to becoming a nun, will be the guest on the next edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Johanison will air from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Monday, July 28, and from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, on WMOT-FM (89.5 and

Johanison graduated from MTSU in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Her career includes a stint with the Army National Guard, a job as a criminal analyst at the Pentagon, and her current profession, an acupuncturist in Poolesville, Maryland.

However, she considers her conversion to Buddhism to be the defining moment of her life. In 2008, she took more than 200 vows at Poolesville’s Kunyang Padyul Choling temple to become a nun, dedicating her life to alleviating suffering wherever she finds it.

“We all possess what is referred to as ‘the Buddha seed,’” Johanison said. “And ‘the Buddha seed,’ upon watering and nourishment, will grow and flourish internally, reaching our spiritual attainment, ascending to a higher level of being.”

To listen to previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, go to the “Audio Clips” section of and click “more.”

For more information, contact Gina Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.

[023] MTSU pact with Guangxi University to yield 140 students

Progress makes south China institution one of MTSU’s most productive partnerships

NANNING, China — The year-old partnership between Middle Tennessee State University and Guangxi University will enable 140 students from the south China institution to eventually come to the Murfreesboro campus.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee learned the news Wednesday at a meeting on the Nanning campus with Guangxi administrators as well as deans and professors in its colleges of business, foreign language and mathematics and information science.

Guangxi Vice President Shang Nahong told McPhee that 53 students will eventually enroll at MTSU to study finance in the Jones College of Business; 34 will study business administration in the Jones College; and 46 will study mathematics in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

The Guangxi students will enroll at MTSU as soon as they complete course requirements on their campus.

“This is tremendous,” McPhee told Shang. “This means that Guangxi University has become one of our most productive and successful partnerships in less than a year. We are thrilled and appreciative.”

The students will enroll in a newly developed “three-plus-two” program between the universities, which will allow Guangxi students to finish their undergraduate degrees and earn graduate degrees while on the Murfreesboro campus.

McPhee, accompanied by state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and two professors from the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, Elliot Altman and Iris Gao, also engaged in talks about expanding the “three-plus-two” program to other majors.

The relationship between MTSU and Guangxi was first forged in May 2013, when McPhee and Ketron visited Nanning and announced the opening of a student recruitment office at Guangxi.

The office marked the university’s first overseas representative office and reflects MTSU’s growing commitment to Guangxi, an autonomous region on China’s border with Vietnam. The region is also home to the Guangxi Botanical Garden of Medicinal Plants, at which MTSU works with as a research partner and collaborator.
Then, in November, Guangxi University President Zhao Yanlin visited MTSU and signed a memorandum of understanding following a roundtable discussion between McPhee and executives from both universities. Guangxi officials later toured campus and met with their MTSU counterparts for further discussions.
Ketron, the state’s Senate majority caucus leader and a 1976 graduate of the university, said he was pleased to learn the relationship he helped forge last year was benefiting both institutions.

“I’m very excited about the news you have given us today,” Ketron said. “Since our world economy is now global, the relationship between MTSU and your university is very important and seems to be leading the way in our state, if not our country.”

McPhee and Shang also agreed for six professors from Guangxi to come to MTSU this fall to collaborate with faculty and learn more about the Murfreesboro campus.

“We have established partnerships with universities around the world, but when we talk about training teachers, MTSU is our priority,” Shang told McPhee.

“We are serious about our partnership with our Chinese universities,” McPhee said. “We are very selective — there are many who want to partner with us — and we want to partner with universities like Guangxi that will produce results.”

Founded in 1928, Guangxi has an enrollment of more than 24,000 students, similar to MTSU’s. Also like MTSU, most of its students are undergraduates and it is known for its wide variety of majors within its 30 colleges.
Its academic disciplines include various degree programs in public management; business and commerce: culture and mass communication; agriculture; and science, as well as specialties within education, science and engineering.
Guangxi boasts academic exchanges with more than 150 universities or research institutes in 35 countries or regions.