Rutherford County officials and MTSU President Sidney McPhee unveil signage for the university\'s new Bell Street property during an April 2013 ceremony in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP File Photo)
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- MTSU’s Quest for Student Success, its decision to accelerate its move into Conference USA and a gift by Nobel Prize laureate and alumnus James M. Buchanan were among the year’s top stories for the university in 2013.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, delivering his State of the University address in August, outlined challenges ahead in the 2013-14 academic year and said “nothing is more important than ensuring our students’ academic success.”
McPhee, speaking at the fall faculty meeting that launches each new academic year, said Gov. Bill Haslam has made retention and graduation the top priority of the state’s higher education system.
In October, MTSU unveiled a sweeping set of reforms that McPhee and Provost Brad Partel say will target processes and practices that create barriers to student success.
The Quest for Student Success plan, advanced by Bartel and endorsed by McPhee, calls for the university to identify and rework general core courses with high academic failure rates. It outlines plans to revamp academic advising and develop customized graduation maps for each student.
Other top headlines:
• In January, MTSU said it would become a full member of Conference USA on July 1, deciding to separate early from the Sun Belt Conference. MTSU announced Nov. 29, 2012, that it would join C-USA no later than July 1, 2014.
However, the university decided to negotiate with C-USA and the Sun Belt Conference to make the move at the start of the academic year.
• In April, MTSU announced it purchased the former Middle Tennessee Medical Center site near downtown Murfreesboro.
The university paid $11.1 million for the 17.4-acre site, which includes the 115,000-square-foot Bell Street Building, a 143,000-square-foot parking garage with 407 parking spaces, surface parking with 188 spaces, and a large green-space area that was the site of the old main hospital building.
• In May, a $2.5 million bequest from the estate of Buchanan to the University Honors College was announced in special ceremonies outside the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building.
Buchanan’s nephew Jeff Whorley, of Indianapolis, made the announcement in front of a crowd of university faculty and staff, as well as members of the community.
The Buchanan family also presented the university with the Nobel Memorial Prize Buchanan received for display on campus as a loaned exhibit.
• In August, the university announced it recorded its second-largest fundraising total in its history during the 2012-13 fiscal year, bringing in almost $14 million in gifts from more than 9,000 donors.
The totals from the last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2013, has helped MTSU pass the 85 percent mark toward its $80 million centennial campaign.
That effort stood in August at more than $70 million, with 17,721 donors. MTSU had its highest annual total of alumni gifts in 2012-13 as well, recording 5,287 separate donations.
• Also in August, MTSU was selected as one of the “Best in the Southeast” by The Princeton Review on its 2014 list of the nation’s top colleges.
Editors of the annual list, which recognized 138 institutions in the 12-state southeast region, called MTSU “a growing school on the rise,” where “you get a quality education and you aren¹t in crippling debt afterward.”
The Review, an education services company known for test preparation programs and college guides, said MTSU faculty “work hard to ensure equal opportunities for students who want to learn.”
• In September, MTSU welcomed the largest class of new freshmen and the largest population of new transfer students among the six universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents system.
The new freshman population increased by almost 2 percent over last year, growing to 3,179 as of the 14th day of classes, the date the Board of Regents uses as the system’s enrollment snapshot.
• In October, ground was broken on an indoor tennis facility at Old Fort Park. The facility is designed to enhance its tennis program while providing greater opportunities for the burgeoning local tennis community.
Located on Old Fort Parkway, the $3.7 million facility will feature eight indoor courts, electronic scoreboard, a professional tennis shop, locker rooms, lounge area and meeting area. The facility will be open to the general public and serve as the home of the Blue Raider men’s and women’s tennis programs.
• In November, the widow of country music icon George Jones announced that her family has established a scholarship fund that they hope will become a living memorial to the late singer.
Nancy Jones announced the creation of the fund at a Nashville ceremony to unveil a monument to her husband of 30 years.
• In December, McPhee was honored with a Person of the Year award by the global organization of Confucius Institutes in recognition of his work to strengthen educational and cultural ties between China and the U.S.
China’s highest-ranking education leader, Vice Premier Liu Yandong, presented the award to McPhee during the eighth annual Global Confucius Institute Conference in Beijing, which attracted more than 2,200 attendees from 110 countries.
• Also in December, the Blue Raiders football team earned its fourth bowl invitation in the Rick Stockstill era and first as new members of Conference USA.
The MTSU athletic program officially received an invitation to represent Conference USA in the 11th Bell Helicopter Armed Forces that was played on Monday.
It marked the fourth bowl game of bowl (I-A) era for the Blue Raiders and the eighth bowl game in school history.