Friday, August 29, 2014

[063] MTSU closes Sept. 1 for Labor Day holiday

MURFREESBORO — MTSU will be closed Monday, Sept. 1, for the Labor Day holiday. No classes will be held and all business offices and academic departments will be closed.

Classes will resume at their regularly scheduled times Tuesday, Sept. 2. All offices will reopen at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Students who take Saturday classes are expected to attend them Aug. 30.

There will be plenty of foot and automobile traffic in and around campus Saturday, with the Blue Raiders 6 p.m. home football season opener against visiting Savannah State.

Here are weekend openings and closings around campus:

• Student Union  open from noon to midnight Saturday through Monday (Aug. 30-Sept. 1) and reopening at 6 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2;

• Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center — open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. The rec center reopens at 6 a.m. Tuesday;

• Campus Pharmacy —open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, closed Saturday through Monday and reopens at 8 a.m. Tuesday;

• Student Health Services — open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, closed Saturday through Monday and reopening at 8 a.m. Tuesday;

• James E. Walker Library — open from 7 a.m. Friday to 2 a.m. Saturday, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday. It will reopen at 7 a.m. Tuesday; and

ARAMARK/MT Dining — For hours of operation during the weekend and Monday, visit

[062] Leaders begin mapping auto manufacturing strategy at MTSU

MURFREESBORO — With Middle and East Tennessee being a major player among four states and 69 counties, leaders from across the region gathered at MTSU recently to discuss future strategy on advanced manufacturing of automobiles.

And in the far-reaching aspects of it all, there will be far-reaching implications for MTSU in the Tennessee DRIVE for the Future Manufacturing Community initiative. The effort is part of the Obama program initiated in 2013 called Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, or IMCP.

“Our students will be working on many advanced technologies that don’t even exist today, and that’s the goal,” said professor Charles Perry, who serves as chairholder of the Russell Chair of Manufacturing Excellence in the Department of Engineering Technology at MTSU. He was among 80 people — from academics, industry and government — who attended the Tennessee Valley DRIVE meeting in the Business and Aerospace Building.

The IMCP program is an initiative designed to revolutionize the way federal agencies leverage economic development funds. It encourages communities to develop comprehensive economic development strategies that will strengthen their competitive edge for attracting global manufacturer and supply chain investments.

Tennessee Valley is one of 12 IMCP groups eligible for $1.3 billion in federal economic assistance from 11 federal agencies and program.

Tennessee DRIVE for the Future, led by Chuck Shoopman, assistant vice president with the Institute for Public Service at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, will seek collaboration between colleges and universities including those in the UT and Tennessee Board of Regents systems, manufacturing, workforce development and others.

“We (MTSU) have an opportunity to gain federal grant money for the purpose of workforce development, boosting research assets and utilizing the supply chain,” Perry said.

Professor Andrienne Friedli, assistant to the vice provost for research and director of the Center for Advancement of Research and Scholarship, said with MTSU’s year-old mechatronics engineering program established with nearly 100 students enrolled and the Science Building open, the university looks forward to contributing to workforce development and innovation in support of the automotive industry, including the supply chain.

“Hosting the first planning meeting was an opportunity for MTSU to help broaden the community of participants and to brainstorm about the best strategies to capture federal funding for the DRIVE region,” Friedli said. “The mechatronics engineering program has already submitted one National Science Foundation proposal with a letter of support from the DRIVE executive committee. Along with partners in the DRIVE team, we hope to win grants designed to strengthen the auto industry through academic, government and industry collaboration.”

Through IMCP, the federal government is rewarding best practices by coordinating federal aid to support communities’ strong development plans and managing grant programs across multiple departments and agencies.

No money is guaranteed to the group, Shoopman said, adding that if they do not apply for funding, no money will come their way.

“We’ve got a new asset here and we’ve got to take advantage of it,” Shoopman said. “If we don’t submit any proposals, we won’t get any money.” He urged the partners to work together to leverage relationships, ideas and assets of the region.

Tennessee Valley includes Middle and East Tennessee, southern Kentucky, northern Alabama and northwest Georgia. Middle and East Tennessee feature Nissan North America plants in Franklin and Smyrna, a General Motors plant in Spring Hill and the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga.

Breakout session presenters included James King, TBR vice chancellor for Tennessee Technology Centers; John Townsend, TBR executive director for Workforce Development; Dan Marcum, executive director of Southern Middle TN Entrepreneur Center and NEST TN; John Morris, president and CEO of Technology 2020; Tom Brewer, president of Tennessee Automobile Association and director TTU; and Paul Jennings, executive director at the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services.

Attendees heard a live Skype presentation from Bernard Swiecki, assistant director of the Automotive Communities Partnership and Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research. He shared how Mexico has made a major impact in the auto manufacturing industry.

“This is driving excellent opportunities for higher education,” said Ginger Hausser, TBR director of external affairs. “… This is a workforce issue and an economic issue. By coming together, we think we can really advance the automobile industry in the region.”

The DRIVE executive board will meet in September in Nashville.

[061] Register now for Sept. 20 Creative Writers Conference at MTSU

MURFREESBORO — Friday, Sept. 5, is the deadline for area writers to register to attend the Sept. 20 Creative Writers Conference of Middle Tennessee in MTSU’s James Union Building.

The daylong event will feature a keynote address by Tony Earley, author of “Jim the Boy,” “Somehow Form a Family” and “Mr. Tall.” Other award-winning authors scheduled to speak include poet Jeff Hardin, novelist Darnell Arnoult and essayist D.T. Lumpkin.

This second annual conference is sponsored by MTSU Write, a non-degree writing program at Middle Tennessee State University — formerly The Writer’s Loft — and is open to the public. More details are available at

General admission to the 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. conference is $60. Writer's Loft alumni, MTSU faculty and students can register for $40 each. Current MTSU Write participants can attend free. The registration fee covers all workshops and a buffet dinner.

"Beginning and experienced writers will gain insight and inspiration from this extraordinary line-up of speakers, while getting to chat and mingle with the community of writers we have in Middle Tennessee,” said MTSU Write director Karen Alea Ford, who also is an adjunct professor in MTSU’s Department of English.

“Our first conference was such a success that we wanted to keep it going.”

Earley, who is the Samuel Milton Fleming Chair in English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, also is the author of “The Blue Star” and “Here We Are in Paradise.” He was included in The New Yorker's inaugural best "20 Under 40" list of fiction writers and Granta's "20 Best Young American Novelists."

Hardin’s poetry collections include “Fall Sanctuary,” “Notes For a Praise Book” and the soon-to-be-published “Restoring the Narrative,” which already has won the Donald Justice Prize for Poetry.

Arnoult’s works include “What Travels With Us” and “Sufficient Grace.” She is writer-in-residence and co-director of the Mountain Heritage Literary Festival at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. Her honors include the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Literature and the 2007 Tennessee Writer of the Year Award from the Tennessee Writers Alliance.

Lumpkin, a lecturer in MTSU’s English department, has been published in The Mid-American Review and the Oxford American and was the recipient of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Intro Journals Award. He also is a facilitator of the creative writing workshop on the Death Row unit at Riverbend Maximum Security Penitentiary in Nashville. 

The MTSU Write non-degree writing program is year-round and open to anyone interested in being mentored by a professional writer of fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Students work from home, spending three semesters honing their skills and preparing their work for publication.

For more information about the MTSU Write program, visit its website at or email Ford at

[060] MTSU students to tickle the ‘soft underbelly of Europe’ in 2015 trip to Italy

MURFREESBORO — MTSU students interested in World War II are making plans now for staging their own Italian campaign next year as part of a new study-abroad course.

Dr. Derek Frisby, an associate professor of global studies and cultural geography, will lead the group of up to 30 individuals on a 15-day trek through Sicily and Italy in July 2015.

“The soft underbelly of Europe,” as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described Italy, is an often underappreciated theatre of operations in the war, Frisby said.

The itinerary will take the group to the beaches where British, Canadian and American forces invaded Sicily in July 1943 and trace the route Gen. George S. Patton’s forces took to Palermo.

“Italy controlled the Mediterranean, and that was crucial to European supply routes and logistical efforts,” said Frisby. “The Italian campaign was part of an effort to relieve pressure on the Russian front.”

From there, the students will visit the active volcano Mt. Etna and the dormant volcano Mt. Vesuvius. Also, they will tour the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii, which was destroyed when Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D.

The critical World War II battle site of Anzio and Salerno are on the agenda, along with tours of the Vatican, the Coliseum, the Forum and some wine-tasting and craft-sampling in the cities of Naples and Florence.

“This trip is really about warfare and culture and the memory of warfare,” said Frisby, who noted he welcomes the opportunity to include some ancient and cultural history, as well.

Dr. Louis Haas, a history professor who specializes in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, will be part of the group to provide his expertise in these areas. Haas has conducted extensive historical research in Florence.

Frisby said the cost will run at least 20 percent less than what an average commercial tour would run. Group airfare will cost $1,885 per student. The total per student cost will be between $4,200 and $4,500, including tuition and fees.

The true benefit of the trip is its origin as a faculty-created, faculty-led course. Frisby said it enables the professor to improvise and alter the schedule if students find something else of interest along the way.

“It allows faculty members to customize the experience for the students,” Frisby said. “The professors get to know the students before they leave. They get to talk to the students and discuss what their research interests are.”

Frisby, who has led World War II-focused study-abroad excursions to Pacific islands and western Europe, will require a deposit of $500 from each student in the next 30 days to reserve positions.

To learn more about the class, contact Frisby at 615-494-8620 or

Financial aid is available through the Office of Education Abroad. For more information about financial aid, call 615-898-5179 or

[059] MTSU president emphasizes retention, graduation, jobs to faculty Remarks come during State of University Address

Now in his 14th year of leading the Blue Raider campus, McPhee gave his traditional State of the University address before the hundreds of faculty and staff who have returned to campus to start the fall semester next week.

McPhee touted the ongoing improvements to campus infrastructure and facilities, including the opening of the new Science Building this fall ahead of schedule. A ribbon cutting is set for Oct. 15. Renovations of the Davis Science and Wiser-Patten buildings begin in early spring 2015. 

The president also pointed to academic improvements such as the launch of the mechatronics engineering program and increases in research funding in graduate studies. And he praised the athletics department for its successful transition to Conference USA and the continued success of student athletes in the classroom.

But the key portion of his address dealt with the changes within higher education. McPhee reminded faculty of the State of Tennessee’s emphasis on degree completion as a primary metric for institution funding rather than student enrollment. That’s why the university launched its Quest for Student Success initiative last fall, with a goal of raising the graduation rate from 52 percent to at least 62 percent by 2020.

“We have accepted and embraced this new state emphasis on student success and institutional performance,” McPhee said. “Our future success and survival as an institution depends on our ability to graduate students and prepare them for gainful employment. These are the metrics that matter.”

To help improve such measurements, the university has hired 50 more advisers and employed new software to better monitor student progress and assist at-risk students earlier in their academic careers. The university has also hired a new vice provost for student success to manage this effort.

In conjunction with the initiative, the Mathematical Sciences Department received the 2014 President’s Student Success Award for Innovation in Academics for revamping its courses to improve student outcomes in courses that had high failure rates. The recognition brings with it $25,000 in additional funding for the department to continue its effort.

Such innovation must continue, McPhee said, pointing out that of the 21,000-plus undergraduates enrolled last fall at MTSU, only 37 percent were 20 years old or younger. The average age of MTSU students is 26 and the median family income is approximately $70,000, compared to $120,000 at the University of Tennessee.

“These statistics speak to the fact that we have reached far beyond the typical, so-called ‘traditional’ freshmen — newly graduated high school seniors — and serve a much broader and diverse audience.”

Student must do their part, McPhee noted, and those that don’t will be “shown the door.” But faculty engagement is just as critical.

“If you don't start thinking about student success …  you're not going to have a job,” McPhee said. “You're not going to be able to feed your family.”

The university has to find a way to retain its current students while recruiting high ability students that come to campus ready to succeed, he said.

“Any of the ideas advanced through our Quest for Student Success do not include watering down academic programs or reducing rigor. We have a moral imperative to not only enhance the present academic experience but also to continue to add value to the degrees already obtained by our alumni,” McPhee said.

“Thus, we are not lowering the bar; we are — in many instances — raising the standard for all of us, including the students.”