Friday, March 03, 2017

[335] MTSU’s EXL Program recognizes three outstanding community partners

Honorees lauded for enhancing students’ learning experiences

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The Experiential Learning Program at Middle Tennessee State University has once again presented a group of local organizations with its 2016 EXL Outstanding Community Partner Awards.

MTSU’s EXL Program, which provides students with hands-on learning in a specific work or service, presents these awards to organizations who help make “learning-by-doing” possible through their exceptional work with the students.

Since its establishment in 2006, the EXL program has engaged students directly in service, with more than 200 courses now approved as EXL courses universitywide. In addition to taking EXL courses, students can sign up to be EXL scholars, which requires them to complete assessment activities, including an e-portfolio, and perform an MTSU service component to receive the designation as an EXL scholar upon graduation.

Presented with the 2016 Outstanding Community Partner Awards are: Murfreesboro Islamic Center’s Ossama Bahloul, Nissan Americas and Stones River Manor Assisted Living.

• Ossama Bahloul, former imam of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, has served as a partner to the EXL Program’s Religion and Society course since fall of 2014. Bahloul welcomed MTSU students to the center and answered their questions concerning the practice of Islam and its role in current events. Assistant professors Rebekka King and Jenna Gray-Hildenbrand noted in their nomination letter for Bahloul that students reported this learning opportunity as one of their favorites. 

“His knowledge, compassion, and warmth make him especially approachable to our students, many of whom have had limited exposure to traditions outside of their own religious communities. At the heart of experiential learning is the type of transformation our students experience at the Islamic Center. This process of critically examining this experience sets them on the path towards being fully engaged scholars and citizens.”

“The partnership between MTSU and the Islamic Center elevated the educational process to a higher level,” Bahloul said. “It has been beneficial for myself to interact with the MTSU faculty as well as the students. It has assisted me in deepening my understanding of the faith community. The relationship has evolved into a friendship that I will always value and cherish.”

• Nissan Americas was nominated by Department of Management professor Jackie Gilbert due to the automaker’s continued collaboration with the EXL Principles of Management course. Students enrolled in Gilbert’s course receive the opportunity to create their own civility policies and pitch their ideas to a group of Nissan Associates at their headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee.

“Nissan graciously hosted my Principles of Management students, who presented on the topic of civility policy to a corporate audience,” Gilbert said. “This process involved several meetings with Rob Wilson, director of diversity and inclusion at the time, who recruited four corporate ‘judges,’ hosted a private luncheon for my students, and coordinated a monetary donation from Nissan to MTSU Jones College of Business.”

In addition to choosing a winner and making a donation of their behalf, Nissan also provided students with feedback and hoped to implement the students’ ideas in its own company policies.

• Stones River Manor Assisted Living has served as a partner to MTSU’s Aging Health and Development students for the past seven years by providing learning opportunities on health, wellness and the aging process.

AHeAD instructor Stephanie Bush noted that “without the Manor’s support, the class would not be as successful as it currently is. A strong partnership is essential in order for the course to run successfully and remain in existence.”

Kandi Smith, activity director at Stones River Manor, along with her assistants Ashley Hurt and Cindy Crabtree, mentor students and provide weekly on-site trainings. This mentoring and training allows students to have a greater understanding of the aging process.

In addition, Stones River Manor also provides the class with a budget to complete planned activities for Manor residents. The organization has also partnered with other experiential learning classes by raising awareness on local hunger, hosting food drives, and by offering internship opportunities to students.

For more information about MTSU’s Experiential Learning Program, visit or contact EXL Director Carol Swayze at 615-898-5542 or email

No comments: