Thursday, March 23, 2017

[366] Siemens officials tour MTSU mechatronics, engineering facilities

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Representatives from Siemens and other interested parties visited MTSU March 22, touring the Department of Engineering Technology’s mechatronics and other lab facilities as it considers building on the current partnership.

Dana Soukoup, vice president of Siemens Building Technologies Division in Chicago, Illinois, was joined by fellow Siemens officials Judith Bevels of Murfreesboro and Sara Mould of Nashville; Jimmy Davis of Murfreesboro-based The Davis Groupe; and Keith Hamilton, who retired in 2016 from Bridgestone Americas Inc. and continues to promote mechatronics engineering at all levels.

Mechatronics engineering is a multidisciplinary field of engineering with a combination of systems in mechanical, electrical, telecommunications, control and computer engineering.

Mechatronics is based on a three-level international certification program created by Siemens, a German engineering company. To date, MTSU is the only Siemens-certified Level 3 four-year mechatronics program in the world. To learn more, visit

Engineering Technology Chair Walter Boles led the entourage on the tour of mechatronics and engineering facilities. College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer joined them for tours of the new Science Building and just-renovated Davis Science Building.

In a hands-on lab, MTSU graduate assistant Joel Clements of Murfreesboro and junior mechanical engineering technology major Tony Cheatham of Knoxville, Tennessee, shared about the Experimental Vehicles Program in engineering technology.

The group had a business lunch with MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, interim Provost Mark Byrnes and other MTSU officials.

Later, they toured the mechatronics facility at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Smyrna, Tennessee, and met with state officials in Nashville.

Engineering technology is one of 11 departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

[365] MTSU learns of Laila Ali’s fights, victories in and out of boxing ring

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — With a flurry of Hollywood-style lighting and audio of Muhammad Ali stating “I AM the greatest,” Laila Ali took the stage Wednesday night, March 22, as MTSU’s Black History Month and Women’s History Month keynote speaker.

However, the story she told to an attentive James Union Building audience was not one of glitz and glamour but of hard lessons and harder work.

Ali, the youngest daughter of the late heavyweight boxing champion and humanitarian, spoke of the hardships created by her parents’ divorce when she was 8 years old, a stepfather she described as “mentally abusive” and hanging out with the wrong people. She credited a three-month stint in a juvenile correctional program after a shoplifting arrest for turning her life around.

“That program really gave me the structure, the nurturing and the support that I needed and helped get me back on track,” said Ali.

Laila Ali competed as a professional boxer from 1999 to 2007, earning the female super-middleweight titles of four governing bodies of boxing and the light-heavyweight crown of the International Women’s Boxing Federation. She retired undefeated with 24 victories.

A former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, Ali promotes equality for women in professional sports, fitness and wellness. She also is a regular panelist and contributor for “We Need to Talk,” a panel discussion program on the CBS Sports Network.

As a business entrepreneur, Ali recently debuted a signature line of hairstyling tools with Helen of Troy hair care products. Her charitable endeavors include support for Feeding America, Peace 4 Kids and the American Dental Association.

Dawn Stigall, a sophomore fashion merchandising major from Memphis, Tennessee, said she found Ali’s talk “very eye-opening.”

“I didn’t know about her going to jail … just the rough patches she went through to get to where she is today,” said Stigall. “Being a major celebrity’s daughter, I thought that she would be so privileged.”

Ali spoke of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Prince and Stevie Wonder’s constant presence around her father, but she said he still kept his door open for visits with all kinds of people.

Married to former NFL player Curtis Conway and the mother of two children, Ali said that although she also knows celebrities, her closest girlfriends are her hair-care buddies.

“I don’t ever want to become disconnected like some people do, you know, and just be living in a bubble,” said Ali.

[364] Traditional string music greats bring free March 27 concert to MTSU

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — MTSU will ring with the rhythms of traditional string music Monday, March 27, when old-time American music masters and scholars Ken Perlman and Bobby Taylor bring their talents to a free public concert.

Perlman, who plays the banjo, and Taylor, who plays the fiddle, will share music and stories about America’s Appalachian music traditions at the 8 p.m. event in MTSU’s State Farm Lecture Hall, Room S-102, in the Business and Aerospace Building.

MTSU's Center for Popular Music is presenting the event. A campus map with parking notes is available at

Perlman is a pioneer of the five-string banjo style known as “melodic clawhammer” and a master of fingerstyle guitar. He is considered one of the top clawhammer players in the world, known in particular for his adaptations of Celtic tunes to the style, and his guitar specialties include finger-picked renditions of traditional fiddle tunes.

Along with his music teaching, banjo-camp instruction, performances and recordings, Perlman is an active folklorist and author who collected tunes and oral histories for “The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island,” a two-CD anthology called “The Prince Edward Island Style of Fiddling,” and an ethnography, “Couldn’t Have a Wedding Without the Fiddler: the Story of Traditional Fiddling on Prince Edward Island.”

Taylor is a fourth-generation West Virginia fiddler who learned from some of that region’s legendary masters. He’s won many awards for his fiddle playing and received his home state’s highest folk life honor, the Vandalia Award, from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

He coordinates contests at renowned events including the Appalachian String Band Music Festival and also serves as contest judge for multiple state and national championships, teaches fiddle workshops and presents historical showcases on fiddle styles with his band, “Kanawha Tradition.”

You can get a preview of the pair’s performance at

The Center for Popular Music, one of the nation’s largest and richest repositories of research materials related to American vernacular music, is part of MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment. For more information on the Center for Popular Music and its projects and special events, visit

This program is part of MTSU’s annual Scholars Week celebration of student research, scholarship and creative projects. For more information, visit