Monday, May 21, 2018

[425] MT Engage scholarship winners praise program’s push for personal growth

For MTSU junior history major Caroline Parker, being named the overall winner for the inaugural MT Engage Scholarships validated the hard work she had put into applying for a timely financial award to help complete her degree.

Scholarship applicants were required to create an e-Portfolio presentation to submit with their application. The e-Portfolio serves as an electronic record, created by students throughout their academic journey, that helps market them toward a career or graduate degree.

 “When I finished (the e-Portfolio), I realized that I had really enjoyed what I had done,” said Parker, a Memphis, Tennessee, native also minoring in Russian studies, with plans to go to graduate school. 

“I was really proud to see … the transitions through my academic career. It was really very humbling to see how I had grown, especially in the History Department, which I consider my home.”

MT Engage, the university’s latest Quality Enhancement Plan, announced Parker and the other winners of its inaugural scholarships at the second annual spring reception held Thursday, April 12, in the Student Union Ballroom.

Launched in fall 2016, the goals of MT Engage include fostering a culture of engaged learning and integrative thinking, enhancing student satisfaction with that learning, and increasing student retention and graduation rates.

Since the program started, it has attracted almost 5,750 unique students in MT Engage classes, with a current enrollment of 2,857 students in 162 course sections.

Other scholarship winners included Sara Mooreand Natalie Zuraffrom the College of Basic and Applied Sciences; Savannah Richardsonand Risa Witherowfrom the College of Liberal Arts; Brandon Hafeliand Jessica Sullivanfrom the College of Media and Entertainment; and Ally Cherryand Malina Langhamfrom the Jones College of Business. 

Langham, a sophomore from Nashville, Tennessee, is double majoring in Japanese and business administration while minoring in honors economics and finance and anthropology.

“I figured it was a challenging opportunity for me to create an e-Portfolio because I really didn’t know what it was,” she said, adding that she had heard the e-Portfolio mentioned in a previous MT Engage course.

“It actually really helped me realize how much I’ve learned about myself since I’ve been here at MTSU and also helped me realize what assignments really show who I am as a person and as a hard worker.”

She thinks MT Engage is a great idea because as she transitioned from high school into her college freshman courses, MT Engage allowed her to work on her teamwork skills, her leadership skills and my presentation skills “all in one semester.”

The e-Portfolio has separate parts, she noted, including reflections on topics such as family life, background, morals and values, and “what makes me, me.” Another part focused on campus involvement in which she discussed being a member of Kappa Delta sorority; a work showcase section allowed her to include course specific assignments that “reflected my best work.”

Langham wants to use her language skills to eventually work with businesses in Japan one day as well as participate in a program that would relocate her there to teach English.

To be eligible, scholarship winners had to have passed two or more MT Engage courses, attended an e-Portfolio training, have minimum GPA of 2.75, completed 60 hours of coursework and be current students in good academic standing. The scholarships are valued at $6,000 over four semesters.

MT Engage is the university’s latest Quality Enhancement Plan. The QEP is a requirement by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, or SACSCOC, the regional accreditation body for higher education institutions in the South.

MT Engage Director Mary Hoffschwelle applauded all of the students who participate in the program.

“At our student reception, we recognize you, the students, and your achievements in integrative learning,” Hoffschwelle said. “We hope you have enjoyed your courses and we’re here to celebrate the work you have done.”

In highlighting MT Engage’s benefit to students, University Provost Mark Byrnes mentioned a recent visit by a national education consultant who noted that in interviewing college graduates from throughout the country, many struggle with answering the question of how their college experiences helped develop the necessary skills for a particular job.

MT Engage’s focus on integrative learning prepare MTSU students to answer that question.

“As a university we want you to understand that there’s a method behind what we ask you to do … but it’s also a benefit to you if you’re able to ask that question confidently and effectively at the end of your time here,” Byrnes said.

“I’ve seen a lot of initiatives come and go … and rarely have I seen an initiative take off as quickly and as effectively as this one has.”

Students attending the reception received a free professional headshot for their e-Portfolios as well as an MT Engage T-shirt. The event also featured displays from MT Engage students participating in the Reading History Initiative, an MTSU program that links reading and U.S. history courses for college freshman who require additional literacy skills.

Also attending the reception was MT Engage featured guest, Candyce Reynolds, a professor and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy in the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon.  Her work has focused on the use of the e-Portfolio to promote student learning and program assessment.

The MT Engage staff includes Hoffschwelle, Assistant Director Lexy Denton, Assessment Coordinator Scott McDanieland Secretary Jayme Brunson. The office is located in the James Union Building, Room 306. Call 615-898-2761 or 615-904-8281 for more information.

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