Tuesday, September 26, 2017

[101] MTSU Online celebrates 20th anniversary, accepts international quality award

Only university in state to obtain ‘Exemplary Endorsement’ from online organization

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Middle Tennessee State University celebrated 20 years of its online educational offerings Monday by announcing record enrollment for online courses and accepting an international award for online course quality.

Offered through University College, MTSU Online began in fall 1997 with seven classes and 53 student enrollments. It has grown tremendously since to now offer over 400 courses while achieving a record 10,000-plus enrollments for this fall and more than 21,000 enrollments annually.

“I am extremely proud of the steady and remarkable growth and progress of MTSU Online, and I am very mindful of the important role it has played in our development as a major, comprehensive university,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee told the crowd gathered in the atrium of the Miller Education Center on Bell Street where University College is based.

The not-for-profit Online Learning Consortium, which assesses the quality of online educational programs around the world, formally presented the university with its Exemplary Endorsement plaque recognizing MTSU Online for “outstanding quality.” Announced earlier this year, the designation stems from a comprehensive scorecard developed by OLC to assess online programs.

MTSU is the only Tennessee university to have received this designation.

In presenting the award, Jennifer Mathes, director of strategic partnerships for the Online Learning Consortium, said the endorsement “reflects an institution’s commitment to provide a quality learning environment for their students, because it’s all about the students. … You should be proud of this achievement at MTSU.”

McPhee noted that nationwide, nearly one third of all college students take at least one online course and that two-thirds of those online learners are at public institutions like MTSU. Online course delivery allowed MTSU to build its Adult Degree Completion Program started 10 years ago to the largest such program in the state today, offering the needed flexibility for working adults seeking degrees.

“Our institution was one of the few universities that recognized early the amazing potential and game-changing influence that online delivery would have on higher education,” McPhee said, pointing out that the age of MTSU Online Learners ranges from 17 to 82 years old.

One of those students enrolled during the past two decades was MTSU Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Smith, who spoke at Monday’s celebration. The Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame member studied finance during his baseball playing days of the 1970s, but left before getting his degree.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in liberal studies in 2011 through MTSU Online, recalling how he “earned credits at night, on weekends, on business trips, in between meetings and whenever I could find time to get the job done.”

“Only a handful of people knew I was trying to earn my degree,” he said. “I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, or make a big deal out of the fact that I had again become a college student. MTSU Online allowed me to work at a comfortable pace and in a way that best suited my needs.

“So, this is a fact: If not for the MTSU Online program, it’s doubtful I would have been able to finish my studies and earn my degree.”

Smith gave special thanks Dianna Rust, an associate professor in University College who played a key role in the early development of MTSU Online. Speaking at Monday’s celebration, Rust praised the work of all of those involved with starting and building MTSU’s program, particularly the online faculty “who are the backbone of our program,” she said.

She also recognized faculty mentors, department chairs, student support services personnel, technical support staff, as well as those who did the legwork required to obtained the Online Learning Consortium recognition.

Rust gave special thanks to Cindy Adams, manager of MTSU’s Distance Education Faculty Services, for providing “tremendous leadership” for the program and overseeing the two-year OLC endorsement process.

For more information about MTSU Online and University College offerings, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/university-college/ or call 615-494-7714.

[100] MTSU survey: Tennessee consumer optimism rebounding from summer dip

Latest statewide snapshot shows positive signs as holiday shopping season approaches

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The most recent statewide survey of Tennessee consumers by MTSU’s Office of Consumer Research indicates the economic outlook has rebounded from a slight decline earlier this year.

The Tennessee Consumer Outlook Index rose to 157 from 123 in June based on “more positive perceptions of the current economy and growing optimism about the future of the economy,” noted Tim Graeff, director of the Office of Consumer Research in MTSU’s Jones College of Business.

“For the first time since this survey began in September 2015, a greater percentage of consumers have positive views of the current economy than have negative views,” Graeff said. “This suggests consumers believe the economy is turning in a positive direction.”

The current survey of 620 Tennessee consumers was conducted between Sept. 1-11 with a margin of error of 4 percentage points. The quarterly survey consists of a series of questions that measure areas such as how consumers feel about the local, state and national economies as well as their personal financial situations and the job market.

Other September report highlights:

• Tennessee consumers are increasingly more upbeat about the job market and the availability of jobs.
• Expectations for the future job market also improved.  (This improved outlook for the job market mirrors the recent drop in unemployment rates for the nation and for Tennessee.)
•  There was also a net increase in the percent of consumers who expect to increase their spending this year compared to last year. 

“Additionally, a more positive outlook regarding the job market could help to lay the foundation for increased consumer spending as we head into the ever-important holiday shopping season,” Graeff added. “Taken together, these results are good news for businesses and retailers.”

In addition to tracking an overall index, the survey includes sub-indices that measure consumers’ views on their current financial situations, future expectations and purchasing plans. 

You can find the full latest report, which has breakdowns by geographic region, and previous reports at http://mtsu.edu/consumer/tnoutlookreports.php.

For more information, contact Graeff at 615-898-5124 or Tim.Graeff@mtsu.edu. Or visit www.mtsu.edu/consumer.

[099] MTSU president joins Rep. John Lewis in D.C. for panel discussion on leadership, mentoring

Phi Beta Sigma sponsors gathering during Congressional Black Caucus event

WASHINGTON, D.C. — MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee joined civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis for a panel discussion at the nation’s capital Wednesday (Sept. 20) sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity on intentional leadership and calling youth to community service.

The discussion, held during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Legislative Conference, included business, media and fraternity leaders. A video recap can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nj-QXR40OG4.

Other panelists included Micheal Cristal, the fraternity’s international president; R. Donahue Peebles, chairman and CEO of the Peebles Corp.; Chris V. Rey, the fraternity’s international director for social action; Joseph Madison, Sirius XM radio host; and Rod Carter, an anchor on WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida.

Lewis was honored by Phi Beta Sigma with its highest award, induction into its Distinguished Service Chapter. The Georgia congressman “has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls ‘the Beloved Community’ in America,” said Carter, the panel’s moderator.

Both Lewis and McPhee talked about the importance of higher education, and how such institutions can be a source for mentors who can both connect with and inspire youth.

Lewis reflected also upon his days as a student at Fisk University, when he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, and how a professor-mentor gave him inspiration and confidence he needed. Lewis became known as an advocate of nonviolence, despite numerous arrests and serious injuries, and at age 23, was an architect of the August 1963 March on Washington.

“You have to be persistent and consistent,” Lewis said. “Today, our young people are much better educated, with all this information and all these resources. And we need them out, to get out there and push.

“If not,” he warned, “people will try to take us back.”

McPhee, drawing upon his decades in higher education, including 17 years as MTSU’s chief executive, added that in order to inspire change in today’s youth, it is important for mentors to be “intentional and that we show up every time as it relates to young people.”

“To be an effective change agent, you really have to know yourself. You also need to be transparent,” McPhee said. “The one thing that young people can pick up on is when you are faking it, when you are not really into what you said.”

Cristal said the fraternity was “honored to be hosting this important panel discussion on conscious men serving our communities.”

“My overall goal is to lead our organization to be intentional in providing our members the tools and insights they will need to become better servants in our global community,” he said.