WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander have secured $1.8 million in federal funding to help Middle Tennessee State University enhance its science, aviation and health programs, and establish a transportation hub at the campus.
“This funding will help MTSU augment its programs, conduct research and further initiatives that will impact not only the university, but also the surrounding community and entire state,” said Gordon, an MTSU alumnus. “The nurses and teachers educated at MTSU often establish their careers in nearby communities. Ensuring they have the best resources during their education will benefit our families later on.”
The university funding was included in a comprehensive bill providing annual funding to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Transportation and science-related agencies, such as NASA. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the legislation Dec. 19.
The Senate already approved the legislation, and it now goes to the president for signature.
“This is a great step for a great institution,” Alexander said. “I’m proud of the work MTSU does in science, aviation and health education, and as MTSU puts this money to work, our entire state will profit. Without the leadership of the dean of Tennessee’s congressional delegation, Congressman Bart Gordon, this funding would not have been possible.”
Joe Bales, vice president for development and university relations, said, “We are extremely grateful to the entire Tennessee delegation, especially Sen. Lamar Alexander and Congressman Bart Gordon, for their support of these initiatives. The funding will support a variety of needs on campus, including enhancing our K-12 teacher training efforts and allowing us to develop a major initiative addressing childhood obesity.”
Science and aviation programs get boost
MTSU’s science, aviation and teacher training programs stand to benefit from the funding.
The university will receive $478,000 to develop programs to recruit high-caliber students and train them to become K-12 math and science teachers.
Another $470,000 will be used for research to better train air traffic controllers and pilots. MTSU researchers will help to determine the best methods to train air traffic controllers and pilots to use the next generation of technology. MTSU is one of only 14 universities across the country that participates in the Federal Aviation Administration’s program designed to train air traffic controllers.
“New technology is being developed to result in safer, less congested skies,” said Gordon. “MTSU can help to ensure the nation’s air traffic controllers and pilots keep our skies safe as the new technology is implemented.”
The university will also receive $94,000 to fully equip its observatory complex, which is located in the area between Peck Hall and Cope Administration Building. Previous funding secured by Gordon enabled the university to create its naked eye observatory, which allows visitors to locate astronomical objects or track the motion of the sun by using 12 uniformly spaced columns as pointers.
Bales said the university would use the funds for additional equipment to go into the building that will house the university’s telescope. Construction is underway now on a plaza that will connect the telescope to the observatory.
Health programs to receive funding
Gordon secured $335,000 to enable the university to combat obesity in children and teens and $238,000 for improvements to the School of Nursing.
Bales said MTSU plans to establish a Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth to combat childhood obesity. The center would enhance understanding of childhood obesity, encourage physical activity among youth and advocate healthy lifestyles. The center would work with schools and community agencies and operate through MTSU’s Health and Human Performance Department.
The funds for the nursing school will enable the university to add lab equipment that will provide nursing students with hands-on learning experiences.
“The U.S. faces a predicted shortage of more than 1 million nurses by 2020,” Gordon said. “MTSU can train talented professionals to address the shortage in Tennessee and across the nation.”
Transportation hub planned
MTSU also will receive $196,000 to establish an intermodal transportation hub that could link existing and future transportation systems, such as the Raider Xpress campus bus system and the city’s Rover buses.
“If public transportation is more accessible, more people will use it,” Gordon said. “The hub will help community residents who need to get around campus for meetings or ball games, and students could use it to get around town.”
Bales said the funding will be used for initial planning of a hub, which would be located on MTSU’s perimeter and serve as a transfer point for riders. It would feature a park and ride facility to serve MTSU and the community, and the facility would include restrooms, covered shelters and other amenities.