Friday, June 15, 2018

[488] MTSU announces record $278M Siemens software donation for mechatronics program at trustees’ meeting

MURFREESBORO, Tenn.— Germany-based Siemens, one of Middle Tennessee State University’s partners in its mechatronics program, has given the institution software with a commercial value of $278 millionto teach state-of-the-art computer-aided design.

President Sidney A. McPheeannounced the donation, the largest in-kind gift in the university’s history, Tuesday, June 12, at the quarterly meeting of the MTSU Board of Trustees.

Trustees also approved tuition and fee ratesfor the coming academic year, a 1.5 percent pay increasefor employees and a plan to adjust salaries based on market, and plans to seek a building for the School of Concrete and Construction Management. A new student trustee was also welcomed.

The Siemens Product Lifestyle Management Softwaregrant will give MTSU access to the same technology that companies use to develop and manufacture robotic systems in a wide range of industries, including automotive, aerospace, machinery and high-tech electronics.

“This is one of the largest in-kind gifts that Siemens has awarded, and we are the only university in Tennessee to have access to such technology,” McPhee told trustees.

“Students in our engineering technology and mechatronics programs will have the most advanced software for computer-aided design, modeling and systems simulation.”

Siemens, one of the world's largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, is a leading supplier of efficient power generation and power transmission solutions and a pioneer in infrastructure solutions as well as automation, drive and software solutions for industry.

Walter Boles, chair of MTSU’s Department of Engineering Technology, told trustees that access to this software will help MTSU students be more competitive in the job market, since graduates with Siemens PLM software skills are highly valued by companies looking to fill advanced technology roles.

More than half of the top 1,000 manufacturing companies cited by Industry Week magazine use Siemens PLM software and, in the automotive, aerospace, machinery and high-tech sectors, the total is close to 80 percent.

NASA used the software to design Curiosity, the Mars rover; Calloway uses it to design golf clubs; and Space X used it to develop its Falcon rocket and Dragon space capsule.

Along with Boles, McPhee singled out two MTSU alumni, Judith Bevels, a senior service account executive at Siemens Building Technologies USA in Nashville, and state Sen. Bill Ketronof Murfreesboro, for their work in helping the university obtain the gift.

The president also recognized Jimmy Davisof the Davis Groupe, a source for equipment used in all aspects of manufacturing, and Keith Hamilton, a retired training executive with Bridgestone Americas.

“The manufacturing climate in Tennessee, coupled with the need for highly skilled employees, is a huge factor, as Siemens is highly committed to educating a global workforce in digitalization and recognizes the incredible need in this area,” Bevels said.

Bevels said the gift also acknowledges efforts put into motion by the state of Tennessee for workforce education, including “Gov. (Bill) Haslam’s passion about these programs.”

The gift also supports and recognizes MTSU’s status as “the only Siemens Level 3 Certification Program in the U.S.,” she said, noting that the company was one of the stakeholders in the creation of the university’s mechatronics degree program.

Boles said the program, which accepted its first students in 2013, originally projected an enrollment of 50 by 2018 and now boasts 330 students. It is MTSU’s fastest-growing undergraduate degree program.

One of MTSU’s trustees, Chris Karbowiak, executive vice president of Bridgestone Americas, said the gift will be transformational.

“Our company is a beneficiary of the mechatronics program,” she said. “The work being done here is so tremendous and so influential.”

McPhee said the College of Basic and Applied Sciences will host Siemens officials this fall for a ceremony and demonstration of the software’s capabilities.

During the June 12 meeting, trustees also approved a 2.88 percentincrease in tuition and fees for students beginning in the fall 2018 semester. The increase is within the range set by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and next goes to THEC for final review.

MTSU’s full-time undergraduate tuition and fees of $9,206 for the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters will remain the lowest of the state’s three largest universities. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville charged $12,970 last year and has yet to set tuition and fees, while the University of Memphis will charge $9,701 in the coming year.

In other business, trustees:

     Approved a cost-of-living allowance of 1.5 percent, or $500, whichever is greater, for all full- and part-time employees as of June 30. The board also approved a compensation plan and provided money for market adjustments and related benefits based on the plan.

     Endorsed a plan to seek state funding for construction of a building for the School of Concrete and Construction Management.Private industry has raised or pledged money toward the project, McPhee said, noting the school’s strong ties to the workforce.

     Learned of plans to create two new academic programs, a bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in art therapy, in the College of Liberal Arts.

     Learned that freshman applications have exceeded 10,000for the fall 2018 semester. It’s the first time that number has topped 10,000 since 2011. Also, registration at the university’s new-student orientation sessions this summer is up 10 percent for freshmen and 3 percent for transfer students.

     Learned that former MTSU President Sam Ingram, who led the university from 1979 to 1990, has decided to retire from his role as president emeritus effective June 30. Ingram has been in the emeritus role, serving as an adviser to the president, since he stepped down from the university’s top position.

Welcomed Peyton Tracy, who graduated in May with his bachelor’s degree and will pursue an MBA degree this fall from the Jones College of Business, as the new student trustee, replacing Lindsey Weaver. Tracy, a former Student Government Association senator, was among three names presented by the SGA for McPhee’s consideration for the board. Weaver, a former SGA president who received her master’s degree from MTSU in May, is now assistant director of student leadership and engagement at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee

[487] Reading, feeding, playing go together in new MTSU center program for children

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. —Underserved children in a five-county area will get the “spark” they need to ignite healthier lifestyles thanks to MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services.

With $100,000 in funding from the Tennessee Department of Health, the MTSU center will develop, oversee and provide technical assistance for an initiative to integrate healthy eating, active living and a tobacco-free lifestyle into an after-school literacy program for minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged youth called SPARK 2 Read.

Dr. Don Morgan, an MTSU professor of health and human performance, said the program “builds on previous research showing that physical activity can strengthen learning and brain-body connections.” 

The MTSU Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth, which Morgan directs, has been working with the Center for Health and Human Services on a previously issued grant to implement the overall SPARK program at nine rural elementary schools in Meigs, Hickman, Benton, Sullivan and Rutherford counties. Project outcomes are expected in August.

Nationally, SPARK has been recognized as an exemplary program by the U.S. Department of Education and identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a national model for combatting childhood obesity. Now it will be combined through MTSU into a literacy initiative for children aged 5 to 14 in up to 12 schools. They are:

  • Hickman County: East Hickman Elementary and Centerville Elementary;
  • Meigs County: North Meigs Elementary and South Meigs Elementary;
  • Benton County: Briarwood Elementary, Holladay Elementary, Big Sandy Elementary;
  • Sullivan County: Lincoln Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary;
  • Rutherford County: Three Murfreesboro City schools that have yet to be identified.

Murfreesboro’s “Read to Succeed” program is another partner in SPARK 2 Read. Executive Director Jolene Radnoti said her staffers can’t wait to be a part of it.

“When physical activity and learning are paired, new brain cells develop and cognitive functions are enhanced,” Radnoti said. “SPARK 2 Read will help children soar to new heights.”

The Center for Health and Human Services seeks to improve the well-being of Tennesseans. In partnership with the Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services, CHHS initiates and strengthens academic programs in health and human services to support workforce development and promote healthy communities.

For more information, contact Cynthia Chafin, CHHS assistant director, at 615-898-5493 or

[486} ‘MTSU On the Record’ discusses alum’s role as new THP commander

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. —The new commander of the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be the guest on the next “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Col. Dereck Stewart will air from 9:30 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, and from 6 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 24, on WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5 and

Stewart, an MTSU alumnus, assumed control of the THP June 1. He is the first African-American to head the agency. At various times in his tenure, he oversaw the agency’s Field Operations Bureau, the Support Services Bureau and the Tennessee Department of Safety’s Research, Planning and Development Division.

He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, the Executive Leadership Institute, the FBI National Executive Institute and Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command.

Stewart said his top priority is policing the highways, cracking down on drunken, drugged and distracted driving. He said he is grateful for 37 new field operations positions authorized by Gov. Bill Haslam.

“We have about 921 authorized positions within the state,” Stewart said. “We’re currently staffed somewhere about 860. We have probably maybe 650 or so that work the roads every day.” 

To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, go to

For more information about the radio program, contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800. 

[484] MTSU, Election Commission partner on new True Blue Voter student registration program

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — As the 2018 midterm election approaches, MTSU announces a dynamic new program to boost the participation of college students.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, MTSU Board of Trustees Chairman Stephen Smithand Rutherford County Election CommissionAdministrator Alan Farleyintroduced the True Blue Voter Initiative Tuesday, June 12, at the Miller Education Center in Murfreesboro.

The True Blue Voter Initiative is designed to engage students in civic participation and leadership through voting. The Rutherford County Election Commission will provide expertise to inform MTSU students about absentee voting and voter registration.

Farley said the True Blue Voter Initiative represents a “model partnership” between MTSU and the Election Commission. However, he stressed that this effort extends beyond just Rutherford, adding that they can assist students in registering to cast ballots in any Tennessee county.

Throughout the summer CUSTOMS orientation sessions and other events in the fall semester leading up to the Nov. 6 election, the Rutherford County Election Commission, the MTSU Student Government Association and the leadership of the MTSU American Democracy Project will provide expertise on registration procedures and voting practices.

The primary task of the partnership is to assist students in becoming successful voters through individualized processes that best fit their unique circumstances.

“Chairman Smith envisioned a partnership model with MTSU and the Rutherford County Election Commission working together to promote student voter registration,” Farley said. 

“Thanks to his idea, the True Blue Voter Initiative and the booth at CUSTOMS orientation are mitigating the roadblocks and efficiently launching MTSU students as active citizens and registered voters.”

Increasing student voter participation
According to the National Study of Voting, Learning and Engagement, 44.5 percent of MTSU students voted in 2016. That’s an increase from 44 percent in 2012. However, it’s still below the national average of 50.4 percent for college students. 

McPhee said the university was happy to support this effort to develop “True Blue citizens who value and exercise their right to vote.” 

“Civically engaged college students are more likely to carry forward their civic engagement as they move into careers and future home communities, becoming engaged and active citizens for life,” McPhee said. 

“The initiative sets an example for other colleges and universities throughout the state to connect with students on campus during events like orientation and in other places where they live and study, making it easy and convenient for them to register to vote,” Farley said.

The True Blue Voter initiative will build on the success of the American Democracy Project, led by Mary Evins, historian and associate professor in the University Honors College. MTSU is one of some 250 campuses across the country that seeks to promote civic knowledge and participation through ADP.

“The MTSU American Democracy Project pushes continually to increase student voting, which is an ‘all-in challenge’ across every sector of campus,” Evins said. 

“We are absolutely thrilled that the True Blue Voter initiative is engaging fresh energy from the Rutherford County elections team, our board chair and (MTSU) administration to take on this work with us.”

“Active involvement and personal investment in the classroom and in the community are hallmarks of the MTSU experience,” said trustees chairman Smith, also an MTSU alumnus. “It’s what we do!”

For more information, contact Cathy Sgambati, public relations specialist, at 615-898-5348 or

[483] Vietnam vet, Purple Heart recipient receives Quilt of Valor from MTSU

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Terry Oxfordof Bowling Green, Kentucky, knew he and his son, Jason, were driving to Murfreesboro Monday (June 11) for a special presentation at Middle Tennessee State University. Not long after arriving, Terry Oxford understood the full impact.

MTSU Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Centerofficials presented Oxford, a Vietnam veteran and two-time Purple Heart recipient, with a Quilt of Valorand walking stick for his heroism.

To view video from the presentation, visit

The gift of a quilt is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing quilts for their valor and sacrifice. “They are stitched with love, prayers and healing thoughts,” said Jill Shaverof Murfreesboro, who collaborated on the quilt with Maggie Klenkeof Lebanon, Tennessee.

A humble Oxford, who spent three years in the U.S. Army, lived outside Chicago, Illinois, for about 20 years and wound up in sales work with Citigroup Inc., told presenters, led by Keith M. Huber, MTSU senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives, he “did not know about these (quilts).”

“This is such a fantastic thing to do,” Oxford, 75, said later, knowing the history behind the Quilts of Valor. “A lot of veterans — especially Vietnam veterans — got very little recognition. What they’re doing here is admirable.”

“And this gentleman (pointing to Huber) is a driver (for the center). The quilt’s a great gift.”

Earlier, during the quilt presentation, Shaver’s husband, Keith, presented Oxford with a walking stick painted with ribbons for the two Purple Hearts, a Green Beret patch and ribbons for his Vietnam service.

Huber, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, also asked Oxford if he could present him a silver commemorative “Challenge Coin,” which he accepted, and told the veteran, “I’m your action officer, willing and available to assist with any issue you have with the VA (Veterans Affairs).”

Huber gave the Oxfords an overview of the Daniels Center and the abundance of opportunities available to the combined 1,000 student veterans and family members. He told them about the $120,000 gift for the center from Charlie and Hazel Daniels’ Journey Home Project.

Also attending the ceremony was Hilary Miller,director of the center that features 2,600 square feet on the first floor of the Keathley University Center and an additional 600 square feet on the third floor — an area housing the Transitioning Home Office.

An MTSU alumnus, Jason Oxford is director of corporate development for the Nashville Predators. He and his family live in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

For more information, call 615-904-8347.

MTSUhas more than 240 combined undergraduate and graduate programs.

[[482] MTSU media crew braves elements to wrap another successful Bonnaroo ‘classroom’

University contingent adjusts as wet weather poses challenges on last day of music fest

MANCHESTER, Tenn. —Hot dust turned to soggy mud Sunday in Coffee County, but that didn’t stop students from Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Media and Entertainment from getting their work done at the 2018 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

MTSU’s crew of about 35 students was among those who were asked to leave the festival’s main grounds when a thunderstorm swept through the region that morning. The rain cleared and all returned by noon, but the weather took away valuable prep time for the students and faculty covering Bonnaroo.

“One of the fun things about doing a concert festival is that you have to work with the elements,” said Robert Gordon, an assistant professor in the Department of Media Arts, overseeing MTSU’s $1.7 million Mobile Production Lab at Bonnaroo. “Today, it started to pour and it was just raining like crazy, which really kind of delayed our start up. So, we had to work real fast to get everything together for us to start.

“It’s hard enough when it’s dry, but when it’s raining on you it can be a challenge, but that’s good for the students.”

Watch a short video at

Still, despite the downpour, it was difficult to dampen the enthusiasm about the work put forward by MTSU’s students and faculty at this year’s music festival.

Students from all three of the college’s departments were represented at Bonnaroo. Video and film production and photography majors from the Department of Media Arts and audio production majors from the Department of Recording Industry captured performances of emerging artists on Bonnaroo’s Who Stage, while multimedia majors from the School of Journalism and Strategic Media covered acts for area media outlets.

“Our hope is that many of our students at Bonnaroo walk off the festival grounds saying, ‘That was four days of challenging work under hot, dusty and wet conditions — and this is exactly what I want to do as a career,’” said Media and Entertainment Dean Ken Paulson. “That kind of realization is invaluable.”

At the production truck alone, 14 students, including six undergraduate video majors, five undergraduate audio majors and three graduate audio majors, and four faculty and staff from the College of Media and Entertainment worked on the truck for five days, including setup.

They used six cameras and eight microphones and 32 audio feeds to record 17 acts, producing 13 hours of programming consisting of over 2 TB of HD video (overall) and 98 channels of multitrack audio (per set), totaling roughly 600 GB of high-quality digital audio.  

“MTSU’s Media Arts Department has one of the best live TV production programs in the world,” said Media Arts Chair Billy Pittard. “Covering the Who Stage at Bonnaroo is one of the many special things the program does. You can find our big blue truck at dozens of other events and locations like MTSU football and basketball games, the Nashville Symphony, the Bluebird Cafe and Bluegrass Underground.

“And just like the stars on the stage and the athletes on the field, our production students have to practice, practice, practice to be able to perform flawlessly.”

Recording Industry Chair Beverly Keel thanked Bonnaroo for allowing MTSU for the fifth consecutive year to use the event as a learning opportunity for students.

“The Bonnaroo officials have been so generous with the access and responsibilities they have given our students,” Keel said. “Quite simply, only at MTSU can students get this unique and exciting real-world experience.

“But what makes this so rewarding for students is that we don’t just provide them with the hands-on experience and wish them luck. We have professors to be by their side, educating and guiding them every step of the way. Bonnaroo is the classroom.”

[481] MTSU professor gives students sound advice, guidance on audio production at Bonnaroo

Michael Fleming coaches select media students on excelling at live performance work 

MANCHESTER, Tenn. —Capturing and recording high-quality sound coming from the Who Stage at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival means solving a lot of different challenges, most of them surprises with little or no warning.

Michael Fleming, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University’s Department of Recording Industry, uses Bonnaroo each year to teach a select group of audio students on ways to solve the problems and perhaps anticipate what could go wrong in a live concert setting.

Consider this: The Who Stage is out in the open, with only a roof, in the middle of a 700-acre farm, and open to dust, rain and ambient noise from boisterous fans. Different acts, with different styles and instruments, quickly rotate on and off the stage, leaving only a few minutes for Fleming and his student teams to adapt and adjust.

But this is kind of real-world problem solving that helps MTSU graduates gain an edge in a competitive and growing field of audio engineering, Fleming said.

“Bonnaroo is a remarkable test, because it requires our students to exercise all of their relevant skills simultaneously,” he said. “You need the core engineering knowledge to design and operate a complex recording and mixing system, but also to troubleshoot the system under time pressure and physical stress.”

Not to mention at Bonnaroo, there’s sleep deprivation and summer heat in the mix as well.

“And the speed,” said Tevin RaShad Turner, a graduate student in recording arts and technologies, who is the leader of the eight-student audio team. “How fast something can happen that you didn’t expect and then you have to troubleshoot and know your signal flow.

“You can prepare for it in class, but it doesn’t prepare you for the actual speed of Bonnaroo.”

That means you have to be prepared, Fleming said. “We can’t just run to the shop or phone a friend down the hall if we encounter technical difficulties.”

Fleming describes audio as “an applied engineering discipline, but it's always in the service of some form of art or communication or entertainment.” At Bonnaroo, that means working in concert with both a professional third-party sound-reinforcement company, that projects the performance to the audience, as well as MTSU’s onsite Mobile Production Lab, which is capturing video shot by students and audio captured and mixed by Fleming’s team.

“Audio is what glues these components together,” Fleming said. “Sound without a picture still works — it’s a record or radio, but television without sound is not very satisfying.”

Recording Industry Chair Beverly Keel said Fleming “guides them through hands-on work during the demanding, live-performance setting of Bonnaroo.”

“He is patient and brilliant and gives them a detailed analysis of how and why things work the way they do,” Keel said. “His ability to remain calm and patient helps our students deal with the pressure of live sound. He teaches them the importance of organization, planning, communication and working well with others.

“Our students couldn’t find a better teacher to guide them through their eye-opening work at Bonnaroo.”

This is the fourth year MTSU’s Mobile Production Lab has been at Bonnaroo and Fleming said he works to introduce something new each time to the effort.

“We adapt and innovate with new methods and technologies like audio over IP (AoIP) and immersive recording techniques, so this keeps me and our students, fellow faculty and staff continually evolving,” he said. 

[480] MTSU radio stations showcasing Bonnaroo culture from ‘Radio Roo’

WMOT, WMTS providing special digital content, broadcasts at music festival

MANCHESTER, Tenn. —The nondescript set of white tents and port-a-potties that make up the media compound at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival seem dull compared to the rest of the event’s 700-acre farm.

Yet inside these tents, students from Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Media and Entertainment covering Bonnaroo are having a great time and working hard, delivering content on a surprising number of platforms — including terrestrial radio.

MTSU’s low-watt, but high-spirit, student radio station, WMTS, joined its big sister, the 100,000-watt Americana public radio giant WMOT, in working from Radio Roo, the makeshift set of broadcast studios set up for live broadcasts and reporters working on taped packages.

It’s the second year that WMOT has broadcast from Bonnaroo, but WMTS has been a frequent visitor to the farm. But this year’s appearance by WMTS includes a new push for real-time digital coverage, as well as taped packages for later broadcast.

On the air since 1996 and at 88.3 on the FM dial, the student station has a limited broadcast reach – only in the city of Murfreesboro on air – but has found a home on WMOT’s third HD channel and can also be heard via livestream on its website, New this year, however, is that WMTS has moved from the status of a student club to part of the academic programs within the college, which means it will get more MTSU support and resources.

“Bonnaroo is a fantastic experience for our student radio team at WMTS. They learn to create vibrant content for both the web and on air,” said Val Hoeppner, director of MTSU’s Center for Innovation in Media, which houses both WMTS and WMOT. “While they don’t have the ability to be live on the radio, they offer their audience a unique look into festival culture through mobile and social stories.”

WMTS, Hoeppner said, will bring Bonnaroo culture to listeners in Murfreesboro through interviews and news pieces throughout the festival. “This year WMTS is working hard to reach their audience on their website through photo galleries, quick interview clips and festival news,” she said.

Melissa Summitt, a music business senior who has worked for WMTS for four years, said she has loved being able to experience Bonnaroo as a radio reporter.

It’s been great, she said, “getting to experience everything at the festival, sit in this air-conditioned (studio), which is really nice, and talk to some of the artists who have played and see what it is like from their perspective.”

Here’s a short video featuring Summitt:

Meanwhile, WMOT, which has grown from 44th in the Nashville market to 25th thanks to the change to Americana format in 2016, is broadcasting live from Radio Roo with artist interviews, festival news and happenings. Program director Jessie Scott and Hoeppner had live interviews and music during Scott’s afternoon drive-time show Thursday and Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, Scott and morning host Whit Hubner will broadcast during the afternoon. 

“WMOT is always looking for ways to promote Americana artists and serve our community,” Hoeppner said. “Our broadcasts from Bonnaroo allow our listeners to experience the festival through the eyes of Americana artists performing at one of the best festivals in the country.”

Meanwhile, one tent over from Radio Roo, the eight student journalists that make up this year’s MTSU Seigenthaler News Service team at Bonnaroo, were pounding laptops and uploading photos and videos for media clients who hired them to cover the festival.

It marks the fifth straight summer that the Seigenthaler News Service, named in honor of MTSU’s legendary First Amendment activist and former Tennessean editor and publisher John Seigenthaler, has offered up coverage of Bonnaroo.

Last year, MTSU students filed more than 30 bylined reports, along with 16 sets of photos and any number of social media posts, for media partners The Tennessean and its USA TODAY NETWORK affiliates, as well as the digital entertainment guide, an initiative of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

“Covering a music and arts festival often means late-night hours followed by early morning deadlines, which is fabulous real-world experience for the students,” said Pat Embry, an adjunct professor and former journalist who returned to again help MTSU coordinate its Bonnaroo operations.

"Sleep can be a scarce commodity for the average working journalist.”

One such sleep-deprived student was Andrew Wigdor, a multimedia journalism senior whose overnight coverageof Bonnaroo ran on The Tennessean’s website. 

“The night life at Bonnaroo has really exploded this year, with so many new opportunities in the campgrounds, so it was awesome to be able to cover all of it first hand,” Wigdor said.

Helping keep students like Wigdor on focus and on task is Leon Alligood, a former Tennessean reporter turned associate professor in MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media. "Working at Bonnaroo puts our students in a real world, real deadline situation,” he said.

“Getting them out of the classroom so they can put into practice what they've been taught in the classroom is a valuable experience."