MTSU Mag: Research on medievalism in pop culture, cooler cows

The January 2016 edition of MTSU Magazine spotlights the research of two professors — one focused on medievalism’s impact on pop culture and the other on the effort to genetically engineer heat-resistant livestock.

  • Whether it’s “Game of Thrones” or “Vikings” — another popular television series that airs on the History Channel— Warner Brothers’ multi-film version of the King Arthur legend scheduled to hit theaters in 2016, or video games with names like “World of Warcraft,” the Elder Scrolls series, and “Dragon Age” or “Game of War” (think supermodel Kate Upton), examples of medievalism permeate 21st-century American pop culture. MTSU English professor Amy Kaufman, who studies medievalism, a mythologized version of the Middle Ages, looks at the entertainment Americans consume and the ideas that entertainment has about the time period in which she specializes. “Pardon the pun, but medievalism is really experiencing a Renaissance these days,” Kaufman says.MTSU Magazine-Jan2016 cover_web
  • In 2013, MTSU biology professor and former agribusiness/agriculture chair Warren Gill had just attended a conference where ranchers and farmers discussed the challenges of developing livestock that could withstand the scorching temperatures typical of so many of the world’s impoverished regions. The Brahman cattle raised there are inefficient breeders and grazers relative to the amount and quality of the beef they produce; however, they’re heat-tolerant, with short, white coats. Angus cows, bred for cooler climates, are the opposite in every way, down to their tender, abundant beef and double layers of long, black hair. “What we need,” Gill thought, “is a short-haired, white Angus.” By November 2015, the first fertilized white Angus eggs were ready for transfer to their bovine incubators. If the transfers take and the pregnancies are viable — Gill is hoping for 25 percent success — the calves will be born midsummer on his Petersburg, Tennessee, farm.

Other articles in the new edition include:

  • an interview with MTSU graduate and NBA referee Ben Taylor, one of only 63 referees in the world deemed qualified to officiate American professional basketball games;
  • a closer look at the recent opening of MTSU’s new Veterans and Military Family Center, a first in the state of Tennessee; and
  • a list of 10 annual events that take place on the MTSU campus that are less about boosting the University’s bottom line and prowess and more about simply benefitting the local and statewide community.

Readers may also download MTSU Magazine free for their iPads and iPhones. The MTSU Mag app, available in the iTunes store, includes special multimedia content built into every issue that’s not available in the print editions.

Android users can find a page-flip version of the magazine here and also access the magazine by downloading the free issuu app in Google Play.

Laptop and desktop users can find the content from the latest edition here and here.

Printed copies of MTSU Magazine, which has been recognized for excellence by the Tennessee College Public Relations Association, the Nashville Public Relations Society of America and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, are distributed twice annually to more than 100,000 alumni readers.

The publication also is distributed to interested community members, including state lawmakers and members of the Tennessee Board of Regents.

MTSU Magazine also is available online at www.mtsumagazine.com.

— Drew Ruble (drew.ruble@mtsu.edu)

Film of professor’s ‘Portraits’ captures black classical divas [+VIDEO]

MTSU School of Music vocal professor Dina Cancryn has a new song in her heart for Black History Month: sharing the stories of some of the first classical singers of color.

Cancryn created “Portraits: The First African-American Divas of Song and Opera,” a theatrical production that depicts Elizabeth Taylor-Greenfield, Sissieretta Jones and Marian Anderson sharing their history and their fabulous voices, a decade ago.

Cancryn Portraits title card webNow a special performance of “Portraits,” captured on video, is available for public screenings after its Feb. 1 “premiere” in MTSU’s Wright Music Building.

“Most people don’t know these ladies,” Cancryn explains, a note of surprise in her voice. “They’re just not spoken of. And that’s part of the reason I dedicated this to my daughter, because if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have written this.”

Cancryn, a soprano with a lengthy resume of national and international performances, was at home on maternity leave and flipping through videos on TV while her then-infant daughter napped.

Frustrated at the “one-dimensional” aspect of what she saw, and channeling her longtime interest in African-American musicians’ contributions to classical music, she began to write.

Dina Cancryn, vocal professor

Professor Dina Cancryn

“I wrote ‘Portraits’ thinking at the time that I’d love to have something for my newborn daughter to see that, as a people, we are not one-dimensional, and that there are contributions made on a variety of scale and genre,” she says.

“These women are not the first three African-American opera singers, but they are three of the first. I found their stories to be quite compelling.”

The project evolved into a theatrical production that toured for about seven years across the Southeast. When Cancryn received a small grant from MTSU’s Faculty Research and Creative Activity Committee to film the production, another phase of “Portraits” got underway.

“Considering we had a very small budget, for which I’m very grateful indeed, I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” Cancryn says. “James Manning, executive director of Oaklands Mansion, donated use of the mansion and free rein of all the different rooms so that we could film on location there. … I’m very appreciative of that, because it helped to give this a more intimate feel.”

Their weeklong filming schedule took Cancryn, the performers, pianist/vocal coach Joseph Walker and an MTSU crew that included director Ty Whitaker, Jon Jackson, Mitch Pryor, Jordan Kirkman and Aaron Trimbal back in time as they worked at Oaklands and inside Hinton Hall to recreate the performances of these divas and capture them on film.

Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson

Sissieretta Jones

Sissieretta Jones

Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield

Elizabeth Greenfield

MTSU alumna Courtney Clark portrays the gifted Greenfield, whose 1851 debut as the first African-American classical singer led to her nickname “The Black Swan,” coined for the lovely tone of her voice as well as her gracious presence.

Cancryn performs as Jones, renowned for her vocal clarity and enunciation as well as her status as the highest-paid African-American performer at her turn-of-the-century career zenith.

Nashville-based vocalist Sonya Sardon portrays contralto Anderson, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated singers who also was lauded for her trailblazing civil rights efforts, including her Easter 1939 Washington Memorial concert and her return for the 1963 March on Washington, where she sang “He’s Got the Whole Word in His Hands.”

The women come together on the screen now as they never could in life, performing an arrangement of the spiritual “Done Made My Vow to the Lord” specially created for Cancryn’s “Portraits” by her School of Music colleague, Grammy-winning musician Dr. Cedric Dent.

“My goal now is to have this disseminated to middle schools and high schools all over the country so that young people can see what these African-American women have contributed to history,” Cancryn says. “There would be no Leontyne Price or Jessye Norman or Denyce Graves without Elizabeth Greenfield.

“I’m not taking anything away from the Beyonces and the Nicki Minajes of this world at all, but I feel like there’s a need for balance, to let young people of any culture or color see that we’re not monolithic as a people. … Our contributions are like an artist’s palette.”

You can watch a preview of the production below. To arrange to screen “Portraits: The First African-American Divas of Song and Opera” at your school or organization, contact Cancryn at dina.cancryn@mtsu.edu.

For details on more MTSU School of Music concerts, call 615-898-2493 or visit the MTSU School of Music “Concert Calendar” link.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)


Millennials and money management are ‘MTSU On the Record’ topic

A recent edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program focused on what millennials think about money and how they intend to manage it.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Don Roy, interim chair of the MTSU Department of Marketing, and Tim Graeff, director of MTSU’s Office of Consumer Research, first aired Feb. 1 WMOT-FM (89.5 and www.wmot.org ). You can listen to their conversation below.

Drs. Don Roy and Tim Graeff

Drs. Don Roy and Tim Graeff

Roy and Graeff collaborated on the Millennial Money Mindset Report for iQuantifi, a Franklin, Tennessee-based financial advice firm.

The company surveyed 500 randomly selected Americans nationwide between ages 21 and 35 online between Feb. 12 and 15, 2015. They’re part of the millennial generation, a demographic that reached young adulthood around the year 2000.

Among its findings: 72 percent of the millennials surveyed said they have financial goals, and the most frequently cited goal is “increase overall level of savings.”

“They tend to want to save money more for what I would consider short-term goals than long-term goals,” Graeff said.

millennnial money management graphic“More of them said they wanted to save money for a vacation than said they wanted to save money for retirement or even for buying a house.”

Only 29 percent of the survey respondents said they’ve sought financial advice from professional advisers. Twenty-three percent said they have used blogs or websites.

“Millennials also exhibit what I would call timeless consumer behavior, and that is relying on good old word-of-mouth communication with friends and family,” said Roy.

You can find the entire report by entering your email address here.

To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com.

For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.


MTSU names Alan Thomas interim VP of business, finance

Veteran MTSU executive Alan R. Thomas has been named the university’s interim vice president for business and finance, President Sidney A. McPhee announced recently.

Thomas, who was associate vice president for business and finance, succeeds John Cothern, who retired Dec. 23 as MTSU’s senior vice president after four decades of service to Tennessee higher education.

Alan Thomas

Alan Thomas

“During his more than 20 years at MTSU, Alan has led or assisted with several major initiatives and improvements at the university,” McPhee said.

Thomas is now responsible for the management of the university’s budget and financial planning; the Office of Business and Finance; Campus Planning; Facilities Services; Human Resource Services; University Police; and the Administrative and Business Services Department, which includes the MTSU Post Office, Phillips Bookstore, Vending, Procurement and Logistic Services, Contract Office, Distribution Services, and Receiving and Moving Services.

He also oversees other administrative offices, including Event Coordination; Production Services; Parking and Transportation Services; Murphy Center Complex; Tennessee Livestock Center; and the Tennessee Miller Coliseum.

Thomas is a 1987 graduate of MTSU with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting. He received his Master of Education in Administration and Supervision degree from MTSU in 1998.

Thomas and his wife, Kandi, have lived in the Rutherford County or Murfreesboro area since 1990. They have one daughter, Briana, who is attending MTSU and is also a member of the MT Cheer team.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)

MTSU, Kroger partner to educate public about fruits, vegetables

As Americans make New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier meals, MTSU will be planning ways to help them fulfill those resolutions.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation, a Delaware-based nonprofit organization, has given MTSU’s Nutrition and Food Science Program a grant of nearly $1,500 to help MTSU students and alumni enlighten the public about fruits and vegetables.kroger-logo-web

The funding will pay for a training manual, teaching materials and coupons that will reduce the cost of produce for participants.

In partnership with the Kroger supermarket at 2050 Lascassas Pike in Murfreesboro, training will begin in early January 2016 for four seniors and two alumnae who are now interns with National HealthCare Corporation, a firm that offers skilled nursing, rehabilitative care, assisted living and similar services.

The trainees will begin conducting daytime and night tours of Kroger’s produce department in February for students in the career orientation and nutrition coaching courses, who are required to participate, and for students at the Campus Recreation Center.

The tours will continue until finals week in April 2016.

Dr. Lisa Sheehan-Smith

Dr. Lisa Sheehan-Smith

“We’re going to introduce all the participants to a variety of produce from fresh to frozen to canned to dried,” said Lisa Sheehan-Smith, a professor of nutrition and food science and a registered dietician.

Participants will learn how to choose the best fruits and vegetables economically, how to read labels, how to eat produce in season and how to prepare it properly.

Sheehan-Smith said research shows that Americans exclude fruits and vegetables from their diets unnecessarily to the detriment of their overall health.

“They think it’s too expensive to eat healthy,” she said. “Rather than buying fresh, being afraid that it goes bad quickly, they just don’t buy anything.

“People can eat nutritiously even when they’re really, really in a hurry. We rely too much on a heavily fast-food, processed food diet.”

Kroger spokeswoman Melissa Eads said the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain is happy to support MTSU in this effort.

MTSU Wordmark“We have a good relationship with MTSU and are always looking for ways to support it whenever we can,” said Eads.

The tours will be conducted by seniors Rachael Wiley of Mt. Juliet, Tennessee; Rachel McGinnis of Elkland, Missouri; Amanda Molinar of Nashville, Tennessee; Morgan Sager of Franklin, Tennessee, and alumnae Maia Dutta of Nashville and Amanda Welker of Murfreesboro.

Sheehan-Smith said they will create a website where training videos and other information will be posted. The data collected through the spring semester will go into a report to be submitted to the Produce for Better Health Foundation by June 1, 2016.

She said her goal is to use the data to find extra grant money to continue the program beyond the spring semester and perhaps even expand it to additional grocery stores.

For more information, contact Sheehan-Smith at 615-898-2090 or lisa.sheehan-smith@mtsu.edu.

— Gina Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

‘MTSU On the Record’ gets insider’s view of constitution framers

The personal and professional impressions of a little-known participant in the U.S. Constitutional Convention was the subject of analysis on a recent edition of the “MTSU On the Record” program.

Dr. John Vile

Dr. John Vile

Host Gina Logue’s interview with John Vile, constitutional law expert and dean of the University Honors College, first aired Dec. 21 on WMOT-FM (89.5 and www.wmot.org ). You can listen to their conversation below.

Vile is the author of “The Wisest Council in the World,” a compilation of character sketches of convention delegates by one of their peers, William Pierce of Georgia.

Wisest Council cover webWhile contributing relatively little to the Constitution’s creation in 1787, Pierce’s comments about his colleagues, sometimes revelatory and sometimes snarky, provide unique insights into a pivotal event in American history.

For example, Pierce praised James Madison of Virginia, the so-called “Father of the Constitution,” by writing, “From a spirit of industry and application which he possesses in a most eminent degree, he always comes forward the best informed man of any point in debate.”

On the other hand, Pierce described James McHenry of Maryland as “a man of specious talents with nothing of genius to improve them.”

Of Alexander Hamilton of New York, who later became the first secretary of the treasury, Pierce wrote, “His manners are tinctured with stiffness and sometimes with a degree of vanity that is highly disagreeable.”

“There’s every indication through the literary allusions that he uses that he was classically educated, and part of classical education … often involved much more florid speaking than we’re accustomed to today,” said Vile.

To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com.

For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.


National accounting group honors MTSU’s Thomas with award

The American Institute of CPAs selected longtime MTSU accounting professor Dr. Paula Thomas as a recipient of its Sustained Contribution Award.

Thomas was among 41 recipients to receive the award during the group’s fall meeting in Hawaii. The award recognizes members of the institute “who have contributed measurably to the AICPA and the CPA profession through their volunteer service,” according to an institute release.

Dr. Paula Thomas

Dr. Paula Thomas

All of the recipients have served on an institute volunteer group for 20 or more years and have served at least once as a chair of an AICPA committee, task force or resource panel.

“The AICPA congratulates all of the recipients of this year’s Sustained Contribution Award,” said Kathy Johnson, CPA, a member of the AICPA’s award committee. “The work they’ve done in volunteer leadership roles at the AICPA has strengthened the profession.”

AICPA-logo_webThomas has spent more than 30 years molding future accountants as a member of the Jennings A. Jones College of Business faculty and was honored as the 13th recipient of the Career Achievement Award in 2014.

Founded in 1887, the AICPA represents the CPA profession nationally regarding rulemaking and standards, and serves as an advocate before legislative bodies, public interest groups and other professional organizations. For more information, visit http://www.aicpa.org.

— Jimmy Hart (jimmy.hart@mtsu.edu)

See the Civil War through children’s eyes on ‘MTSU On the Record’

A novel that provides a child’s-eye view of the most divisive conflict in American history was the topic of discussion on a recent edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Dr. June Hall McCash

Dr. June Hall McCash

Host Gina Logue’s interview with June Hall McCash first aired Dec. 14 on WMOT-FM (89.5 and www.wmot.org ). You can listen to their conversation below.

McCash, MTSU professor emerita of French and founding director of the University Honors Program, has penned “The Boys of Shiloh,” a Civil War novel aimed at 9- to 13-year-olds.

McCash Shiloh cover webThe story brings together Luke, a Confederate from Georgia, and Ethan, a Union drummer boy from Illinois, who become friends just before becoming embroiled in the Battle of Shiloh.

“I don’t talk down to children in this book,” McCash said. “The vocabulary is very much an adult vocabulary. The formatting is for people of the younger age. … I’m hoping that teachers will read it and consider it for use in their classes.”

McCash’s book also includes a map of the battlefield, a glossary of terms, an explanation of real historical figures mentioned in the text and a list of discussion questions.

McCash, who taught in MTSU’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, was named Georgia Author of the Year in 2011 and 2013 for her novels. She is a recipient of both the MTSU Foundation’s Distinguished Research Award and Career Achievement Award.

To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com.

For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.


New development officer has big goals for MTSU’s media college

MTSU’s newest development director is thankful for the “wonderful opportunity” to play a role in educating new media professionals and for the multifaceted media career experience that led her to academia.

Abby White joined the College of Media and Entertainment just before the 2015-16 school year started at MTSU.

Abby White

Abby White

A former staff editor for the Nashville Scene and Nfocus magazine and staff writer for the Nashville Post and the City Paper, as well a former radio account executive, magazine music editor and communications manager for Leadership Music, White came to the newly renamed college aiming to build even stronger connections with individuals, organizations and companies in multiple media and entertainment industries.

Those special connections are how the development directors in each of MTSU’s colleges create and expand scholarships and endowments, build student mentoring and internship programs, and foster expansion opportunities.

“I realized there was a major overhaul happening here at the college and thought it was an exciting time to be a part of that overhaul and find ways to support that next generation of leaders,” White says.

CME logo for webHer past work with media dean Ken Paulson on a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame digital archive project also convinced her to make the career transition.

“I thought that if I had the opportunity to work with him again, I could not pass it up,” White says.

MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment — the fifth largest communication program in the nation — changed its name this fall to reflect the 24-hour media cycle and the growing demand for informative, engaging and entertaining content.

“It’s an exciting time, and what’s going on in our college is really going to change the future of media,” White says. “We’re going to be a leader, and it’s my goal to help make that happen.”

For more information about MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment and its departments and majors, visit www.mtsu.edu/media. For details on donating to MTSU programs, visit the university Development Office website at www.mtsu.edu/development.

— Gina E. Fann (Gina.Fann@mtsu.edu)

History is open to the public! Learn about the program on ‘MTSU On the Record’

The validation of public history was the focus of a recent “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Dr. Rebecca Conard

Dr. Rebecca Conard

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Dr. Rebecca Conard, a professor of history and the director of MTSU’s public history program, first aired Nov. 30 on WMOT-FM (89.5 and www.wmot.org ). You can listen to their conversation below.

Conard is the author of “The Pragmatic Roots of Public History Education in the United States,” an article in the February 2015 edition of the academic journal “The Public Historian.”

Public History Program logo webShe chronicles public history’s complicated, pragmatic evolution, including its interaction with museum studies, historic preservation and archival studies. Public history graduates work in archives, museums, historic organizations, historical societies, historic sites, private consulting firms and historical agencies at all levels of government.

Conard also describes MTSU’s cutting-edge embrace of public history as a discipline, which began with the creation of a master’s degree in historic preservation in 1976 and continued with the first doctoral program in the country in public history.

In addition to historic preservation, the MTSU public history program includes concentrations in museum studies, cultural resources management, and archival management and administration.

“This year, we will undertake a search for a digital historian,” said Conard, “so that will be the next thing that we develop in the department, and that person will have a great role to play in the public history program as well.”

To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com.

For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.