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MTSU debate team to host Irish champions for March 21 exhibition

MTSU’s Blue Raider Debate team will again host the Irish Times National Champions for a friendly rhetorical exhibition as the team continues an impressive season that has led to top finishes around the region.

Debating the topic of whether university education should be free, this year’s exhibition with the three-member Irish team from University College Dublin’s Literary and Historical Society will take place at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, in the State Farm Lecture Hall of the Business and Aerospace Building.

The event is free and open to the public. A searchable, printable campus parking map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap.

Pictured, from left, are the Irish Times National Champions team of Aisling Tully, Dara Keenan and Leah Morgan. They are competing against a trio of MTSU debaters at a March 21 exhibition in the State Farm Lecture Hall inside the Business and Aerospace Building. (Submitted photo)

The Irish Times National Champions debate team of Aisling Tully, left, Dara Keenan and Leah Morgan from University College Dublin’s Literary & Historical Society will compete against a trio of MTSU debaters at a March 21 exhibition in the State Farm Lecture Hall inside the Business and Aerospace Building. (Submitted photo)

MTSU debaters Skye Irish, a junior from Rockwood, Tennessee; Christopher Cowherd, a freshman from Marietta, Georgia; and Tristan Horn, a freshman from Pleasant View, Tennessee, will be debating the Irish team, Aisling Tully, Dara Keenan and Leah Morgan.

The Irish team’s MTSU visit is part of its U.S. tour that includes stops at several other universities.

MTSU also hosted the Irish Times champions in 2015. This year’s visit comes after the Blue Raider debate team’s stretch of successes since November 2016.

The MTSU team has competed in five tournaments, including a win in the Southeast Debate Tournament against the best team in the region.

“They have become the No. 1 debate team in Tennessee since the 1980s,” says debate team coach Patrick Richey, director of forensics at MTSU.

Dr. Patrick Richey

Dr. Patrick Richey

“Tennessee is the most competitive state in the nation,” Richey adds. “They compete in individual as well as team events and also public speaking events. They’re even breaking into forensics and have done really, really well.”

MTSU debate team member Skye Irish says that being on the team will help her with her future endeavors, which include law school.

“It doesn’t matter what views you have,” she says. “Debate is unique and welcoming, and we do as much as we can to help anyone out.”

“Debate team has been the most stable part of my college career,” says MTSU senior Alex Lempin, who serves as the team’s captain of individual events. “I have become a better public speaker, and it has helped me with my interview skills and to really think critically.”

“We have done really well in our team events and our individual event,” Lempin adds. “We made our presence known regionally and statewide and have placed at both levels.”

MTSU’s Blue Raider Debate team has about 15 to 20 active members who represent a variety of majors from political science to communications to religious studies. Team members say they hope to continue their success throughout the 2017 season.

For more information about the debate team, visit www.mtsu.edu/debate, or contact Richey at Patrick.Richey@mtsu.edu.

— Faith Few (news@mtsu.edu)

New fitness room at Rec Center gives more focus to intense workouts

The new functional fitness room has recently opened in the Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center on campus to give students, faculty and staff a more private and concentrated focus during their workout.

The new room at the Rec is open from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday–Friday, and it features a more private and updated environment so students can concentrate on body-focused workouts.

Lindsay Joyce, fitness coordinator in the new Functional Fitness Room inside the MTSU Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center, demonstrates how to use the TRX equipment for suspension training. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Lindsay Joyce, fitness coordinator in the new Functional Fitness Room inside the MTSU Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center, demonstrates how to use the TRX equipment for suspension training. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

The room has a turf and weightlifting section, squat racks, bumper plates, kettlebells, TRX equipment used for suspension training and box platforms.

Lindsay Joyce, the fitness coordinator, wants to encourage participants to get out of their comfort zone and branch into different styles of training.

“TRX is a suspension training bodyweight exercise where the participant uses his/her own bodyweight to develop strength, balance, flexibility and core strength all at the same time,” Joyce said. “Since it uses your bodyweight and gravity, it can be modified for all fitness levels. We want members to have a fun and safe environment, but also have the ability to train hard and be healthy.”

The functional fitness room allows members to perform a variety of Olympic-style lifts of use their body weight with a variety of equipment much different from the original weight room.

“The fitness room is something new that I like,” MTSU senior Darius Gallaher said. “It gives me the freedom to do the workouts I want to do without feeling restricted by outdated equipment.”

With a high energy and welcoming environment, the functional fitness room has more flexibility to create more short circuit, interval, and agility training sessions that allow students to maximize their fitness potential.

In order to use the room, you must be a member of the Rec or have some affiliation with MTSU. All students have memberships that are included with their tuition. Faculty and staff also have free memberships and can purchase membership access for family, Alumni are also able to purchase memberships.

For more information about the functional fitness room, visit http://www.mtsu.edu/camprec/fitness/Functionalfitness.php, or contact Lindsay Joyce at Lindsay.Joyce@mtsu.edu.

— Faith Few (news@mtsu.edu)

MTSU business major Darius Gallaher works out in the new Functional Fitness Room inside the MTSU Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU business major Darius Gallaher works out in the new Functional Fitness Room inside the MTSU Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Students urged to complete survey about campus life before March 13 deadline

MTSU administrators are urging students to take advantage of the opportunity to share their thoughts about the overall campus environment by participating in an online survey seeking to capture their opinions.

The “Campus Climate Survey” can be accessed through a student’s university email account and can be completed up until the Monday, March 13, deadline.MTSU Wordmark

The university has partnered with outside vendor Campus Answers to conduct the survey in order to ensure the anonymity and validity of the responses.

Students have been invited to complete the survey via multiple email notifications in recent weeks that include a link to the online survey.

Questions include how welcome students feel on campus, if they feel that the campus is inclusive in both on-campus social settings, such as clubs, organizations and other extracurricular activities, as well as in academic settings.

MTSU will use the survey results to promote awareness, provide education and training and improve policies and opportunities to enhance our community.

Students pass between the buildings on the east side of the MTSU campus, including the Business and Aerospace Building, the College of Education building, the new Student Union, the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building and the John Bragg Mass Communication Building. In the distance construction continues on the new Student Services Building and parking garage next to the Health, Wellness, and Recreation Center. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

Students pass between the buildings on the east side of the MTSU campus, including the Business and Aerospace Building, the College of Education building, the new Student Union, the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building and the John Bragg Mass Communication Building. In the distance construction continues on the new Student Services Building and parking garage next to the Health, Wellness, and Recreation Center. (MTSU file photo by Andy Heidt)

Horse expo at Miller Coliseum gives MTSU grad student hands-on work

The Southern Equine Expo returned to the Tennessee Miller Coliseum for the fifth year last weekend, continuing its mission to improve the care of horses through the education of their owners.

According to its website, the expo has built its reputation by bringing high quality clinics, educational seminars and hands-on demonstrations all taught by nationally and internationally known horse enthusiasts.

Robyn Stewart

Robyn Stewart

The event not only brings educational opportunities to the Murfreesboro area, but it also gives MTSU students like Robyn Stewart the chance to become immersed into the horse industry through paid experience.

“I enjoy working at the expo because if you come in with an open mind, everyone has the opportunity to learn something new,” said Stewart, who is pursuing her graduate studies degree in horse science. She helped with ring set-up, and she announced clinicians to the audiences in the lower level arenas during the Feb. 24-26 expo.

Michael Gascon, a competitor in the colt starting challenge, is shown at the Southern Equine Expo held Feb. 24-26 at Tennessee Miller Coliseum. (MTSU photo by Faith Few)

Michael Gascon, a competitor in the colt starting challenge, is shown at the Southern Equine Expo held Feb. 24-26 at Tennessee Miller Coliseum. (MTSU photo by Faith Few)

“Whether you ride English horses or Western horses, you are still able to come to the expo and leave with some new information,” Stewart said.

From trail riding to trick riding, there are several competitions along with the seminars that take place over the three-day event. For example, there’s the “colt starting challenge” in which the rider will train an un-broken horse over the three-day period. There’s also the familiar 4D barrel race where horse and rider teams compete for the fastest time around a cloverleaf pattern.

Patrick Keyser, CEO and manager of the expo, has brought the event to life the past five years, aiming to make each year bigger, better and more educational than the last.

“I want people to take away an appreciation. By hearing from clinicians in every discipline of the horse industry, there are lots of techniques that you can learn from to become a better horseman,” said Keyser, who also worked for MTSU as a clinical specialist of equine reproduction.

Dr. Holly Spooner

Dr. Holly Spooner

Located off West Thompson Lane in north Murfreesboro, the Tennessee Miller Coliseum is a public event facility owned by MTSU and booked by various vendors to host events such as the Southern Equine Expo throughout the year.

At MTSU, the horse science program is taught within the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience. Although MTSU wasn’t involved in putting on the expo, Dr. Holly Spooner, director of the horse science graduate program, said the expo “provides a unique opportunity for our students to experience a diverse, industry-wide event.”

“Students learn what it takes to put on this great event, from personnel management to working with world-renowned clinics, and of course interacting with the general public,” she said. “One of our program goals is always to bring more people into the horse industry, and this expo helps in that.”

For more information about the MTSU horse science program, visit www.mtsu.edu/programs/horse-science/.

For more information about the Southern Equine Expo, visit www.southernequineexpo.com. For information about the Tennessee Miller Coliseum visit www.mtsu.edu/tmc/index.php.

— Faith Few (news@mtsu.edu)

MTSU graduate student Robyn Stewart is shown at the Southern Equine Expo held Feb. 24-26 at Tennessee Miller Coliseum. Stewart worked the event helping with ring set-up and announcements. (MTSU photo by Faith Few)

MTSU graduate student Robyn Stewart is shown at the Southern Equine Expo held Feb. 24-26 at Tennessee Miller Coliseum. Stewart worked the event helping with ring set-up and announcements. (MTSU photo by Faith Few)

Vendors display their goods at the Southern Equine Expo held Feb. 24-26 at Tennessee Miller Coliseum. (MTSU photo by Faith Few)

Vendors display their goods at the Southern Equine Expo held Feb. 24-26 at Tennessee Miller Coliseum. (MTSU photo by Faith Few)

The Southern Equine Expo was held Feb. 24-26 at Tennessee Miller Coliseum. (MTSU photo by Faith Few)

The Southern Equine Expo was held Feb. 24-26 at Tennessee Miller Coliseum. (MTSU photo by Faith Few)

MTSU business students offer ‘BEST’ selves at spring career fair [WATCH]

This year’s BEST Career and Internship Fair at MTSU again drew employers from throughout the region on hunt for talented students looking to jumpstart their careers.

Dozens of students took advantage of the opportunity to sell themselves to potential future employers at the Business Exchange for Student Talent, or BEST, event held Wednesday in the Student Union Ballroom. Here’s a recap:

Sponsored by faculty in the management and marketing departments in the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, BEST takes on a “speed networking” format in which groups of students meet with employment recruiters stationed at tables throughout the ballroom. After a 15-minute exchange, students move to another table.

“It’s important for our students to connect with their next stage in life, whether it’s graduate studies or whether it’s the start their career,” said Laura Buckner, internship coordinator in the Department of Marketing. “They’re here at MTSU for a reason, and that’s to move forward in life. … Every business is looking for good talent.”

The primary purpose of BEST is to help students get full-time jobs. The three-hour fair is geared toward students majoring in marketing, business administration, management and entrepreneurship within the Jones College, although other students can also attend. Faculty encouraged students to dress professionally, bring copies of their resumes and do a bit of research in advance to become familiar with the employers.

Participating companies were hiring for positions such as entry-level marketing, sales, logistics, retail and management professionals. Internships were also available.

For more information about the Jones College of Business and its programs, visit www.mtsu.edu/business.

— Video by Sarah Mustian (sarah.mustian@mtsu.edu)

MTSU’s EXL Program recognizes three outstanding community partners

The Experiential Learning Program at Middle Tennessee State University has once again presented a group of local organizations with its 2016 EXL Outstanding Community Partner Awards.

MTSU’s EXL Program, which provides students with hands-on learning in a specific work or service, presents these awards to organizations who help make “learning-by-doing” possible through their exceptional work with the students.

Since its establishment in 2006, the EXL program has engaged students directly in service, with more than 200 courses now approved as EXL courses universitywide. In addition to taking EXL courses, students can sign up to be EXL scholars, which requires them to complete assessment activities, including an e-portfolio, and perform an MTSU service component to receive the designation as an EXL scholar upon graduation.

Presented with the 2016 Outstanding Community Partner Awards are Murfreesboro Islamic Center’s Ossama Bahloul, Nissan North America and Stones River Manor Assisted Living.

Dr. Ossama Bahloul, center, former imam for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is presented the 2016 MTSU Experiential Learning Program’s Outstanding Community Partner Award in this undated photo. Pictured with him are assistant professors Jenna Gray-Hildenbrand, left, and Rebekka King. (Submitted photo)

Dr. Ossama Bahloul, center, former imam for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, is presented the 2016 MTSU Experiential Learning Program’s Outstanding Community Partner Award in this undated photo. Pictured with him are assistant professors Jenna Gray-Hildenbrand, left, and Rebekka King. (Submitted photo)

Ossama Bahloul, former imam of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, has served as a partner to the EXL Program’s Religion and Society course since fall of 2014. Bahloul welcomed MTSU students to the center and answered their questions concerning the practice of Islam and its role in current events. Assistant professors Rebekka King and Jenna Gray-Hildenbrand noted in their nomination letter for Bahloul that students reported this learning opportunity as one of their favorites.

“His knowledge, compassion, and warmth make him especially approachable to our students, many of whom have had limited exposure to traditions outside of their own religious communities. At the heart of experiential learning is the type of transformation our students experience at the Islamic Center. This process of critically examining this experience sets them on the path towards being fully engaged scholars and citizens.”

“The partnership between MTSU and the Islamic Center elevated the educational process to a higher level,” Bahloul said. “It has been beneficial for myself to interact with the MTSU faculty as well as the students. It has assisted me in deepening my understanding of the faith community. The relationship has evolved into a friendship that I will always value and cherish.”

In this 2013 file photo, two teams of MTSU students prepare for their presentation on civility before a group of Nissan executives at the automakers Franklin, Tenn., headquarters. The student presentations were part of a semester project in an Experiential Learning (EXL) Principles of Management class taught by Dr. Jackie Gilbert. Nissan was presented a 2016 EXL Outstanding Community Partner Award for its work. (MTSU file photo by News and Media Relations)

In this 2013 file photo, two teams of MTSU students prepare for their presentation on civility before a group of Nissan executives at the automakers Franklin, Tenn., headquarters. The student presentations were part of a semester project in an Experiential Learning (EXL) Principles of Management class taught by Dr. Jackie Gilbert. Nissan was presented a 2016 EXL Outstanding Community Partner Award for its work. (MTSU file photo by News and Media Relations)

Nissan North America was nominated by Department of Management professor Jackie Gilbert due to the automaker’s continued collaboration with the EXL Principles of Management course. Students enrolled in Gilbert’s course receive the opportunity to create their own civility policies and pitch their ideas to a group of Nissan Associates at their headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee.

“Nissan graciously hosted my Principles of Management students, who presented on the topic of civility policy to a corporate audience,” Gilbert said. “This process involved several meetings with Rob Wilson, director of diversity and inclusion at the time, who recruited four corporate ‘judges,’ hosted a private luncheon for my students, and coordinated a monetary donation from Nissan to MTSU Jones College of Business.”

In addition to choosing a winner and making a donation of their behalf, Nissan also provided students with feedback and hoped to implement the students’ ideas in its own company policies.

In this undated photo, MTSU Aging Health and Development instructor Stephanie Bush, left, presents a 2016 EXL Outstanding Community Service Award to Stones River Manor, represented by CEO Kirkland Mason, center, and activity director Kandi Smith. (Submitted photo)

In this undated photo, MTSU Aging Health and Development instructor Stephanie Bush, left, presents a 2016 EXL Outstanding Community Service Award to Stones River Manor, represented by CEO Kirkland Mason, center, and activity director Kandi Smith. (Submitted photo)

Stones River Manor Assisted Living has served as a partner to MTSU’s Aging Health and Development students for the past seven years by providing learning opportunities on health, wellness and the aging process.

AHeAD instructor Stephanie Bush noted that “without the Manor’s support, the class would not be as successful as it currently is. A strong partnership is essential in order for the course to run successfully and remain in existence.”

Kandi Smith, activity director at Stones River Manor, along with her assistants Ashley Hurt and Cindy Crabtree, mentor students and provide weekly on-site trainings. This mentoring and training allows students to have a greater understanding of the aging process.

EXL color logo webIn addition, Stones River Manor also provides the class with a budget to complete planned activities for Manor residents. The organization has also partnered with other experiential learning classes by raising awareness on local hunger, hosting food drives, and by offering internship opportunities to students.

For more information about MTSU’s Experiential Learning Program, visit www.mtsu.edu/exl or contact EXL Director Carol Swayze at 615-898-5542 or email Carol.Swayze@mtsu.edu.

— Faith Few (news@mtsu.edu)

ICYMI: Still time to register for accelerated Spanish course

MTSU is again offering a breakthrough learning experience during spring break with its accelerated language program that will get participants excited and confident about speaking Spanish.

Registration is open for the five-day program, which will run from 6 to 9 p.m. March 6-10 at the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building.

The course is offered by the Center for Accelerated Language Acquisition at MTSU. CALA Spanish instructor Brian Roberts said that the course structure is based on brain research to give learners a special interactive experience that results in accelerated knowledge of the language.

Click the image to see class offerings and to register for the 2016 Summer Language Institute.

Click the image to see class offerings and to register for the upcoming five-day accelerated Spanish class.

“The course aims to develop conversational abilities in a fun, low-stress classroom, and you will use movement, songs, games and stories to acquire the language naturally,” Roberts said.

“CALA courses develop participants’ abilities in some of the most commonly used communicative tools. At the end of the course, participants are able to recognize the rhythm of the language and are capable of producing enough language to compose basic communicative needs in Spanish.”

One student who took the course last semester shared this feedback with course organizers: “What I liked most was the laughter and high energy through storytelling. Everyone seemed to build off each other, and we were all excited about learning, which got me excited.”

Discounts are available for MTSU students, alumni, faculty and staff. To register or for more information, including course fees, visit www.mtsu.edu/cala or contact Roberts at brian.roberts@mtsu.edu.

— Faith Few, student writer (news@mtsu.edu)

MTSU Spring Poll 2: Obamacare, immigration, Trump claims, guns, more

Tennessee voters dislike Obamacare and want it repealed, but not until they’ve seen details of a replacement plan, the latest MTSU Poll shows.

They also support banning immigration from “terror-prone regions” but think illegal immigrants already here should be able to stay and apply for citizenship, and they split about evenly over believing, doubting or not knowing what to think about President Donald Trump’s repeated claim, without supplying evidence, that millions of illegal voters prevented him from winning the popular vote during the 2016 election.

“Most of these opinions divide sharply along political party lines,” said Ken Blake, Ph.D., director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “But there are some perhaps surprising areas of cross-party agreement.”MTSU Poll combo logo-NEW WEB

In still other findings from the latest poll:

  • 51 percent favor requiring people to get a permit before carrying a handgun.
  • 56 percent think abortion should be illegal in most, or all, cases.
  • 67 percent want seatbelts on school buses, few think achievement testing in schools has improved schools’ performance, and opinion divides about evenly between those who support and oppose school vouchers.
Repeal Obamacare? Yes, but not so fast

Sixty-one percent of Tennessee voters have an “unfavorable” view of the health reform bill “known as the Affordable Care Act and sometimes referred to as Obamacare,” and just about as many (60 percent) think Congress should repeal it. Only 31 percent hold a favorable view of the law, and 32 percent think Congress should not repeal it.

But most of those who want Congress to repeal the law want to see details of a replacement plan first, the poll found. A follow-up question posed only to voters who said they wanted the law repealed found that 67 percent of these repeal supporters thought lawmakers “should wait to vote on a repeal until the details of a replacement plan have been announced.” A significantly smaller 28 percent of them thought lawmakers should “vote to repeal the law immediately and work out details of a replacement plan later.”

Not surprisingly, attitudes toward the Affordable Care Act are highly partisan, with 88 percent of Republicans holding unfavorable views of it compared to 58 percent of independents and only 16 percent of Democrats. A nearly identical pattern is evident in support for repealing the law: 87 percent of Republicans favor repeal, compared to 58 percent of independents and just 16 percent of Democrats.

Tennessee voters appear considerably more eager than Americans as a whole to see the law rolled back. Identical questions in a December 2016 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 49 percent of Americans wanted the law repealed.

Immigrants from “terror-prone” regions less welcome than illegal ones already here

A solid 56 percent majority of state voters support “suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions.” Thirty-one (31) percent are opposed, and the rest don’t know or give no answer.

They express relatively more benevolence, though, toward illegal immigrants already here. Asked about “illegal immigrants who are living in the U.S.,” 56 percent of voters in Tennessee say such individuals “should be allowed to stay in the U.S. and eventually apply for citizenship.” The next-largest group, 31 percent, say they “should be required to leave the U.S.,” and 6 percent say they should “be allowed to stay in the U.S. legally, but not be allowed to apply for citizenship.” The rest aren’t sure or give no answer.

These attitudes, too, have sharp partisan divides. Seventy-eight (78) percent of Republicans support suspending immigration from terror-prone regions, compared to 56 percent of independents and 19 percent of Democrats. In nearly a mirror-image split, 88 percent of Democrats think illegal immigrants living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship, compared to 58 percent of independents and 37 percent of Republicans.

State voters split three ways on veracity of Trump’s voting fraud claim

Tennessee voters divide into nearly equal thirds when asked whether Donald Trump, who won the electoral vote and presidency in the 2016 election, was right or wrong when he “said he would have won the popular vote as well had the results not included millions of illegal votes.”

About 28 percent say President Trump was right, 37 percent say he was wrong, and 34 percent aren’t sure. The rest give no answer. Fully 80 percent of Democrats say he was wrong. Republicans divide about evenly between the 48 percent who say he was right and the 42 percent who say they don’t know whether he was right or wrong, but a significantly smaller 10 percent say he was wrong. Among independents, 43 percent say he was wrong, and a significantly smaller 24 percent say he was right. In between, and statistically indistinguishable from either group, 32 percent are unsure.

President Trump has repeated the claim a number of times without providing evidence of its veracity. The claim has been questioned by journalists, fact checkers and the bipartisan National Association of Secretaries of State, a group that represents state election officials. Despite their ambivalence about the president’s claim, Tennessee voters appear confident that votes in Tennessee were counted correctly. Seventy (70) percent have “a lot” of confidence that “votes for president in the state of Tennessee were counted properly this past November.” Another 13 percent have “some” confidence, 6 percent have “not much” confidence, and 4 percent have “none at all.” The rest aren’t sure or give no answer.

Other findings on handguns, abortion, and school issues

Asked, “Generally, what do you think the law should say about people carrying a handgun with them in public?”:

  • 12 percent say the law should “prohibit people from carrying a handgun.”
  • 51 percent say the law should “require a permit to carry a handgun.”
  • 23 percent say the law should “require a permit to carry a handgun if the handgun is concealed from view but not if the handgun is carried in plain sight.”
  • 9 percent say the law should “allow people to carry a handgun without a permit, whether concealed or in plain sight.”

Asked, “Do you think abortion should be legal in all cases, legal in most cases, illegal in most cases, or illegal in all cases?”:

  • 11 percent choose “legal in all cases”
  • 25 percent choose “legal in most cases”
  • 30 percent choose “illegal in most cases”
  • 26 percent choose “illegal in all cases”
  • The rest say they don’t know or decline to answer

Asked, “What would be most likely to reduce the number of abortions performed: stricter abortion regulations, more access to birth control and sex education, both, or neither?”:

  • 13 percent say “stricter abortion regulations”
  • 31 percent say “more access to birth control and sex education:
  • 37 percent say “both”
  • 12 percent say “neither”
  • The rest say they don’t know or give no answer

Asked, “Some say requiring seat belts on school buses would keep children safer. Others say there are cheaper, easier ways to improve school bus safety. Do you think Tennessee should require seat belts on all school buses, or not?”:

  • 67 percent want seat belts required on all school buses
  • 22 percent don’t want seat belts required on all school buses
  • The rest don’t know or decline to answer

Asked, “Would you favor or oppose providing most families in Tennessee with tax-funded school vouchers that they could use to help pay for sending their children to private or religious schools if they wanted to?”:

  • 41 percent are in favor
  • 45 percent are opposed
  • The rest don’t know or decline to answer

Asked, as a follow-up, “What about if school vouchers were provided only to poor families whose children are attending low-achieving Tennessee schools?”:

  • 38 percent are in favor
  • 48 percent are opposed
  • The rest don’t know or decline to answer

Asked, “Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in testing in the public schools to measure academic achievement. Just your impression or what you may have heard or read, has increased testing helped, hurt, or made no difference in the performance of the local public schools?”

  • 17 percent choose “helped”
  • 33 percent choose “hurt”
  • 37 percent choose “made no difference”
  • The rest don’t know or give no answer
Methodology

Between Feb. 12-16, 2017, Issues & Answers Network Inc. completed 600 telephone surveys for the poll among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters aged 18 and over. Data were collected using a Tennessee statewide voter registration sample with 60 percent landlines and 40 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 13 minutes.

Quotas by gender and Grand Region were implemented. Data were weighted based on respondent age to ensure the data are representative of Tennessee registered voters. Landline numbers represent 58 percent of the completed interviews and 42 percent are from cell phones.

The survey’s margin of error is 4 percentage points, meaning one can be 95 percent confident that the population percentage being estimated lies within four percentage points, in either direction, of the result the sample produced.

For more about the MTSU Poll and to see previous poll results, go to mtsupoll.org.


MTSU Spring Poll: Voters weigh in on Trump, state leaders, gas tax

Feb. 22, 2017

Tennessee’s 11 Electoral College votes were an easy win for President Donald Trump in the November 2016 presidential election, with 61 percent of the popular vote in the state. Now though, only a narrow majority of the state’s voters say they approve of the job he has done as president since taking office in January, according to the latest statewide poll from Middle Tennessee State University.

Trump’s Tennessee “hangover” similar to Obama’s Tennessee “honeymoon”

The latest MTSU Poll of 600 registered voters was conducted Feb. 12-16 with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president?” the poll found that:

  • 51 percent approve
  • 32 percent disapprove
  • 17 percent don’t know or don’t answer

For comparison, when the spring 2009 MTSU Poll was conducted shortly after Barack Obama took office, it asked whether respondents approved of the job he was doing as president and found that:

  • 53 percent approved
  • 27 percent disapproved
  • 20 percent didn’t know or didn’t answer

Those were Obama’s best job approval ratings in Tennessee during his presidency. In most of the polls that followed, around 35 percent of Tennesseans said they approved of the job Obama was doing. Similarly, when asked to look back on Obama’s presidency as a whole in the latest MTSU Poll, only 39 percent said they approve, and 56 percent said they disapprove.

Obama lost the state of Tennessee with only 42 percent of the vote in 2008. Trump won the state with 61 percent of the vote in 2016.

Dr. Jason Reineke

Dr. Jason Reineke

“New presidents often enjoy a so-called honeymoon shortly after winning their first election, when unifying inaugural addresses and a public that hopes for the best contribute to even greater support and job approval than their winning vote totals,” said Jason Reineke, Ph.D., associate director of the poll. “But that doesn’t appear to be the case for Trump.”

“The numbers are very similar, but they represent more of a hangover for Trump, whose job approval at the outset of his presidency is actually worse than his winning vote total in the state,” Reineke said.

Accounting for a surprising win

The fall 2016 MTSU Poll, conducted between Sept. 28 and Oct. 2 of that year, found that 48 percent of all Tennessee voters and 54 percent of decided voters in the state chose Trump at that time. Trump went on to win the election with 61 percent of the vote in Tennessee.

The accuracy of polling about Trump has been in question since his surprise, national Electoral College win. To address this and determine whether Trump supporters were fairly represented in the sample, the spring 2017 MTSU poll asked respondents whom they had voted for in the 2016 presidential election.

Of poll respondents who answered the question and said that they had voted in the presidential race, 60 percent reported voting for Trump, just one percentage point different from the proportion of voters who chose him in the state on Election Day.

Poll respondents who said they had voted in the presidential election were also asked when they had decided on the candidate they chose. According to the results:MTSU Poll combo logo-NEW WEB

  • 52 percent decided before the party conventions
  • 31 percent decided between the beginning of the conventions and the end of the debates
  • 14 percent decided after the debates
  • 3 percent didn’t know or didn’t answer

Of those who said they made up their minds after the debates, 58 percent reported voting for Trump, while only 18 percent said they voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Although Trump had Tennessee wrapped up for some time, it appears that his ability to maintain his gains late in the race helped to increase his margin of victory in the state,” said Reineke.

For more about the MTSU Poll and to see previous poll results, go to mtsupoll.org.

Methodology

Between Feb. 12-16, 2017, Issues & Answers Network Inc. completed 600 telephone surveys for the poll among a random sample of registered Tennessee voters aged 18 and over. Data were collected using a Tennessee statewide voter registration sample with 60 percent landlines and 40 percent cell phones. The average interview length was 13 minutes.

Quotas by gender and Grand Region were implemented. Data were weighted based on respondent age to ensure the data are representative of Tennessee registered voters. Landline numbers represent 58 percent of the completed interviews and 42 percent are from cell phones.

The survey’s margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points, meaning one can be 95 percent confident that the population percentage being estimated lies within four percentage points, in either direction, of the result the sample produced.


MTSU Poll: Support mixed for gas tax hike, but many don’t know much about it

Feb. 22, 2017

About a third of Tennessee voters support Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to fund road projects through a plan that would increase fuel taxes while cutting grocery and other taxes, but fewer oppose it, and many remain undecided, according to the latest MTSU Poll.

“Support for the plan is fairly low among voters, but that’s not the whole story,” said Ken Blake, Ph.D., director of the poll at Middle Tennessee State University. “In a pattern reminiscent of attitudes toward the governor’s ‘Insure Tennessee’ plan two years ago, opposition is fairly low as well, many have read or heard little about the issue and simply have no opinion yet, and support for the plan rises markedly among those who have the most information about it.”

Dr. Ken Blake

Dr. Ken Blake

The latest MTSU Poll of 600 registered voters was conducted Feb. 12-16 with a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

In other findings, 57 percent approve of Haslam’s job performance, 50 percent approve of the job the Tennessee General Assembly is doing, and about half of state voters want another Republican to succeed Haslam. By comparison, more like a quarter would prefer a Democratic governor.

Support mixed for gas tax increase

When the current poll asked state voters about the governor’s “proposal to pay for road projects by raising taxes on gas and diesel fuel while cutting other taxes, including taxes on groceries”:

  • 38 percent expressed support.
  • 28 percent were opposed, a significantly smaller proportion.
  • 33 percent said they weren’t sure.
  • The remaining 1 percent declined to answer.

Support appeared significantly higher among the 52 percent of state voters who had read or heard “a lot” or “some” information about the proposal than among the 46 percent who had read or heard “only a little” or “nothing at all” about it.

Among those who had read or heard “a lot” or “some” about the proposal:

  • 51 percent expressed support.
  • 31 percent said they opposed it.
  • 18 percent said they didn’t know how they felt about it.

By contrast, among those who had read or heard “only a little” or “nothing at all about the proposal:

  • 24 percent expressed support.
  • 24 percent said they opposed it.
  • 52 percent said they didn’t know how the felt about it.

Asking about the governor’s “Insure Tennessee” health care proposal two years ago, the MTSU Poll found that support measured 34 percent statewide but rose to 49 percent among the third of Tennesseans who had heard about the plan. By contrast, support measured only 26 percent among the two-thirds who had little or no information about the plan. Ultimately, the plan failed to gain traction in the Legislature.

Haslam approval holding at solid majority; Legislature at 50 percent
Gov. Bill Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam

Fifty-seven percent of Tennessee voters approve “of the way Bill Haslam is handling his job as governor,” a figure virtually unchanged from his 58 percent approval ratings in the Spring 2016 and Fall 2016 editions of the MTSU Poll. Twenty-three percent express disapproval of the governor, and 19 percent don’t know.

Approval of Haslam measures 64 percent among Republicans, 60 percent among independents, and 46 percent among Democrats.

“MTSU Polls conducted during the administration of Haslam’s Democratic predecessor, Phil Bredesen, also tended to find relatively high bipartisan approval,” Blake said.

Meanwhile, 50 percent approve of “the way the state Legislature is handing its job,” while 27 percent disapprove, and 22 percent don’t know. The remaining 1 percent declined to answer. Approval of the Legislature is about the same as it was throughout 2016.

Undated photo of the Tennessee General Assembly convening at the Capitol in Nashville.

Undated photo of the Tennessee General Assembly convening at the Capitol in Nashville.

About half of state voters want a Republican as their next governor

Fifty-one percent of state voters prefer that the governor elected next year to replace Haslam, who is in his second and final term, be either a “conservative Republican” (33 percent) or a “moderate Republican” (18 percent).

Approximately a quarter (23 percent) would like either a “moderate Democrat” (14 percent) or a “progressive Democrat” (9 percent). Ten percent prefer “something else,” and a sizable 14 percent don’t know. The rest refused to answer.

“A Republican candidate would enter the race with a pretty stiff tail wind,” Blake said. “But recent history suggests a moderate from either party can build and maintain a winning coalition.”

For more about the MTSU Poll and to see previous poll results, go to mtsupoll.org.

VSA Tennessee’s Young Soloist Competition set for Feb. 22 at MTSU

VSA Tennessee is excited to introduce six young individuals competing in vocal and instrumental music at its Feb. 22 Young Soloist Competition at MTSU.

The annual event will last from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, in the Hinton Music Hall of the Wright Music Building on MTSU’s campus. Tickets are $5 at the door, and those age 13 and younger will be admitted free.

Competitors are vying to represent the state of Tennessee in the International Young Soloist Competition at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts later this year.VSA national logo web

The musicians performing at MTSU are part of VSA Tennessee, the state organization on arts and disability that was established in 2001 on the MTSU campus. Students in MTSU professor Lori Kissinger’s Organizational Communication in Communities EXL Class are once again handling logistics for this year’s event.

The statewide event is open to any vocalist or instrumentalist under the age of 25 with any form of disability. In addition, bands and musical groups can apply as long as one of the members of the group has a disability, according to the vsatn.org website. The state contest is part of an international competition, which will be held May 25 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and will feature winners from across the nation.

Lori Kissinger

Lori Kissinger

Laura Dodd

Laura Dodd

JP Williams, country music artist

JP Williams

Sen. Jim Tracy

Sen. Jim Tracy

Hosts for the state contest include state Sen. Jim Tracy as well as VSA’s International Young Soloist 2003 and 2004 winner, Laura Dodd, who will perform a song. Dodd has shared stages with some of country music’s best, including George Jones, Travis Tritt, Rascal Flatts, Patty Loveless, Bruce Hornsby, Josh Turner and Ben Vereen.

The Young Soloist event will also feature Nashville singer/songwriter JP Williams as a special guest for the night. Williams has built his solo artist resume, including openers for Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Travis and Jo Dee Messina, as well as a headliner spot for a college tour singing his original tunes for students throughout the northeastern U.S.

The 2016-17 Tennessee VSA Young Soloist program is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diane and Dr. David Black and the First Tennessee Foundation as well as fundraising efforts of the Kissinger’s fall 2016 and spring 2017 ORCO 3250 classes.

For more information about VSA Tennessee, visit www.vsatn.org or contact Kissinger at userk7706@comcast.net or 615-210-8819.

— Jessica Allen, jlh2gd@mtmail.mtsu.edu

VSA Tennessee will choose the top performers from among the six young individuals competing in vocal and instrumental music at its Feb. 22 Young Soloist Competition at MTSU. (Submitted photo)

VSA Tennessee will choose the top performers from among the six young individuals competing in vocal and instrumental music at its Feb. 22 Young Soloist Competition at MTSU. (Submitted photo)

MTSU alumnus Pete Fisher named CEO of Academy of Country Music

MTSU alumnus Pete Fisher is leaving his executive position with the Grand Ole Opry Jan. 30 to become CEO of the California-based Academy of Country Music.

After 17 years as vice president and chief executive officer of the Nashville-based Opry, the academy announced Fisher’s new role with the ACM on Jan. 9. He’s expected to relocate with his wife, Hope, to the West Coast in the coming weeks, according to an ACM news release.

Pete Fisher

Pete Fisher

Fisher earned a bachelor’s degree in recording industry management from Middle Tennessee State University in 1987 and was recognized as a distinguished alumnus in 2004. He also serves on the Board of Trust for the College of Media and Entertainment.

“As I enter my 30th year in the country music industry, I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities I have been given to serve those who both create country music and those who help connect that great music with fans all over the world,” Fisher said in a statement.

“I want to thank the officers and board for giving me this exciting opportunity to lead the academy into a new era. I look forward to collaborating with them and our passionate and talented staff, charting an exciting course into the future.”

At the Opry, Fisher managed the daily operations of the 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry House and produced its weekly shows, along with numerous audio projects and television specials.

academy-of-country-music-logo-web“Pete has served the Academy of Country Music for 14 years as an active, engaged board member and his skills as an innovative leader are proven,” Ken Tucker, chairman of the ACM’s board of directors, said in the release.

“Pete is a team builder, a champion of the importance of office culture and a person who believes strongly in discerning and following a strategic path alongside those around him. Through Pete’s successful leadership, the Opry became a place that recognized the importance of exposing legendary, contemporary and emerging artists equally.”CME-logo-web

Fisher will be only the second CEO in the ACM’s 53-year-history. Bob Romeo stepped down from the post in May 2016 after 13 years.

According to the ACM, Fisher’s entertainment experience ranges from artist management to music publishing with a special emphasis placed on service to a variety of music industry organizations.

Founded in 1964, the Academy of Country Music is a fan-focused artist and industry-driven organization, providing the financial resources to ensure the ongoing philanthropic work of ACM Lifting Lives, the charitable arm of the Academy. The ACM comprises more than 4,900 professional members nationwide and is headquartered in Encino, California. For more information, visit www.ACMcountry.com.

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