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Staffers encourage new faculty at orientation for busy academic year

Newly hired MTSU faculty members have received their introduction to the offices and departments that will serve them as the start of the 2015-16 academic year approaches.

More than 70 new faculty members were invited to the second floor of the Student Union Tuesday, Aug. 18, where they visited table after table of fellow employees armed with information to help them navigate the university infrastructure.

Four of MTSU's newest faculty members take a moment to learn more about getting publicity for their students' work and their own during New Faculty Orientation Day Tuesday, Aug. 18, in the lobby outside the Student Union ballroom. Dr. Heather Rhodes, center, a new full-time member of the Department of Economics and Finance, and professor Meena Khalili, center right, a new addition to the Department of Art, listen to News and Media Relations staffer Gina K. Logue, right, explain how their expertise can be used in public relations. New Jones College of Business faculty member Lucy Matthews, left, an assistant professor of marketing, joins new aerospace professor Christina Hiers, center left, in filling out contact information for future media questions. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)

Four of MTSU’s newest faculty members take a moment to learn more about getting publicity for their students’ work and their own during New Faculty Orientation Day Tuesday, Aug. 18, in the lobby outside the Student Union ballroom. Dr. Heather Rhodes, center, a new full-time member of the Department of Economics and Finance, and professor Meena Khalili, center right, a new addition to the Department of Art, listen to News and Media Relations staffer Gina K. Logue, right, explain how their expertise can be used in public relations. New Jones College of Business faculty member Lucy Matthews, left, an assistant professor of marketing, joins new aerospace professor Christina Hiers, center left, in filling out contact information for future media questions. (MTSU photo by News and Media Relations)

The event continued today, Aug. 19, with a series of briefings from university President Sidney A. McPhee and representatives from seven of MTSU’s nine colleges about available faculty services, followed by special faculty meetings among the colleges.

“We are very pleased to have such an impressive, diverse and enthusiastic group of new faculty members this year,” said Dr. Newtona “Tina” Johnson, interim vice provost for academic affairs.

Some of the newcomers shared their visions for assisting students when they enter MTSU classrooms for the first time.

“I’m working on a version of ‘Uncle Vanya’ that I think will be a little bit more accessible,” said Halena Kays, a new assistant professor of theatre, referring to the classic play by Anton Chekhov.

Dr. Newtona "Tina" Johnson

Dr. Newtona “Tina” Johnson

Kevin Krahenbuhl, a new assistant professor in the Womack Department of Educational Leadership, said he’ll focus on the relationship between teaching and learning with an emphasis on cognitive science —understanding how the brain functions in communicating and processing information.

“Based on the number of new faculty that attended this morning’s very successful new faculty orientation, I believe our academic departments and colleges have recruited an energetic and committed group of educators,” said Johnson.

“I wish our new colleagues the best as they embark in their professional journey at MTSU.”

Some of the personnel assisting new faculty included staffers from the Center for Educational Media, University Police Department, the Office of News and Media Relations, the James E. Walker Library, Creative and Visual Services, and the Office of the Provost.

Fall 2015 classes begin Monday, Aug. 24, at MTSU.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Green Beret accepts challenge of leadership in MTSU ROTC program

Lt. Col. Jackie McDowell has been an active-duty U.S. Army Green Beret for more than a decade and was deployed five times between Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Aug. 18, he accepted  a new challenge: professor and leader of the MTSU Department of Military Science and its ROTC program.

Lt. Col. Jackie McDowell

Lt. Col. Jackie McDowell

As McDowell entered his new Army assignment at MTSU, he and his staff received an added boost for training cadets.
Army ROTC logo
A six-station obstacle course, built by the Tennessee Army National Guard’s 212th Engineering Company out of Paris and Camden, Tennessee, with support from ROTC alumni, now stands proudly on the east side of the MTSU campus adjacent to the rappelling tower.

The cadet corps, now numbering nearly 30, will receive an additional 30 to 40 new members this week, depending on:

  • how many pass the Army physical fitness test Thursday, Aug. 20, in Floyd Stadium;
  • sign required paperwork; and
  • participate in the 11:15 a.m. Friday, Aug. 21, swearing-in ceremony.

McDowell replaces Lt. Col. Joel Miller, who is taking a new position as a professor of history at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, this fall.

Military science is one of 11 departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

To learn more about military science at MTSU, visit www.mtsu.edu/arotc1. For more information about the college, visit www.mtsu.edu/cbas.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

Veteran MTSU professors take interim aerospace, ag leadership roles

Taking on new leadership challenges in their MTSU careers, professors Wendy Beckman and Jessica Carter have accepted interim chair and director’s roles in their respective Department of Aerospace and School of Agribusiness and Agriscience.

“Wendy and Jessica will do an outstanding job,” Dr. Bud Fischer, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, said of Beckman and Carter, who began their new roles Aug. 1.

“Both are incredibly qualified and understand the future needs of their departments.”

Both departments are part of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

Dr. Robert "Bud" Fischer

Dr. Robert “Bud” Fischer

As leader of one of the nation’s top university aerospace programs, Beckman replaces Professor Emeritus Ron Ferrara, who retired July 31.

Carter, a professor in animal science entering her 14th year at MTSU, replaces Dr. Warren Gill, who chose to return to classroom teaching and conducting research after overseeing the agriculture-based programs grow to nearly 500 students.

“I hope to continue building on the success the aerospace department has experienced under Dr. Ferrara,” said Beckman, who arrived at MTSU in 2005 from Saint Louis University. She most recently served the department as coordinator in both the professional pilot concentration and graduate studies.

“The department’s faculty are very dedicated and passionate about sharing their love of aviation with our students, and I look forward to working with them to move the department forward,” Beckman added.

Dr. Jessica Carter

Dr. Jessica Carter

Carter said she is “looking forward to serving students, faculty and staff in a different role” and appreciates the growth of the agriculture program during Gill’s eight years as director.

“I hope to continue to seek the best students for our program and help them to succeed while they are here at MTSU,” Carter added. “Student recruitment, enrollment and retention are key areas that I want to focus on.”

Carter’s vision includes helping faculty secure external funds for research and continuing the development and improvement of the university’s Experiential Learning and Research Center, also known as the MTSU Farm and Dairy, in Lascassas, Tennessee.

The ag department also looks to expand its milk-processing unit to eventually provide its tasty milk in bottles for public sales, Carter added.

Carter, who grew up on a family farm in central Kentucky, holds degrees from Western Kentucky and Texas Tech universities.

Dr. Wendy Beckman

Dr. Wendy Beckman

Beckman, who has degrees from Saint Louis University, Missouri-Rolla and North Carolina State University, said she intends “to continue to offer one of the most respected undergraduate aviation degree programs in the country. This will be accomplished by continuing to focus on the student experience within the department, including both curricular and extra-curricular offerings.”

Developing and expanding on strong industry relationships that the Department of Aerospace currently enjoys is a goal, Beckman said, along with increasing research opportunities for both students and faculty.

In addition to professional pilot, MTSU’s Department of Aerospace features a new academic concentration for unmanned aircraft, commonly called drones. Other concentrations include flight dispatch, maintenance management, administration and technology.

Aerospace and the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience are two of 11 departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences. For more information, visit www.mtsu.edu/cbas.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

MTSU’s new journalism director speaks to ‘MTSU On the Record’

The MTSU School of Journalism’s new director was the guest on a recent edition of “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Dr. Gregory Pitts first aired Aug. 17 on WMOT-FM (89.5 and www.wmot.org ). You can listen to their conversation below.

Dr. Gregory Pitts

Dr. Gregory Pitts

Pitts, former chair of the Department of Communications at the University of North Alabama in Florence, Alabama, began his new job Aug. 1.

While at UNA, he guided the department to accreditation through the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications and paved the way for creation of a student-run radio station.

In groups of three, Midstate high school students attending the MTSU Innovation J-Camp edit their video projects July 16 in the Center for Innovation in Media in the John Bragg Mass Communication Building. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

In groups of three, Midstate high school students attending the MTSU Innovation J-Camp edit their video projects July 16 in the Center for Innovation in Media in the John Bragg Mass Communication Building. The aspiring young journalists spent a week learning new skills that they can apply to their careers. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)

“In real estate, they say ‘location, location, location,’” said Pitts. “Well, in journalism, it’s ‘get the facts right, get the facts right, get the facts right.’ And, ethically, you’ve got to make sure that you’re not outrunning your headlights in trying to get the story distributed before you know that you’ve got it right.”

Pitts earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University in 1982 and 1983, respectively, and his doctorate from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1992.

His research and teaching fields include advertising sales, international media, media management and radio-television programming.

Pitts replaces Dr. Dwight Brooks, who is now the new vice dean of Hofstra University’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication in Hempstead, New York. Brooks served as professor and director of MTSU’s School of Journalism from July 2009 until July 2015.

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 professor to discuss ‘Old City Cemetery’ in Aug. 20 talk

MTSU anthropology professor Dr. Kevin Smith will discuss the past of and future for Murfreesboro’s historic “Old City Cemetery” Thursday, Aug. 20, as the special guest of the Rutherford County Archaeological Society.

The free public discussion is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro, located just off the Public Square at 225 W. College St.

Dr. Kevin Smith

Dr. Kevin Smith

Smith, a nationally recognized archaeologist and former chief of the anthropology program in MTSU’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology, will speak on “Two Centuries of Hallowed Ground: The Archaeology and History of Murfreesboro’s Old City Cemetery.”

1 Old City Cemetery heritage lecture

Murfreesboro’s Old City Cemetery on East Vine Street, shown in this file photo, is the topic of discussion at a free public lecture set Aug. 20 at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County. (Photo courtesy of the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County)

Smith began teaching classes as an adjunct at MTSU in 1988 and has been a full-time faculty member since 1994. He first began working in 2003 at the Old First Presbyterian Church site on East Vine Street and its adjoining “burying ground,” circa 1820, with a student field crew to help contribute to Rutherford County’s upcoming bicentennial celebration.

The site also served as the temporary capitol building of Tennessee in 1822, after the Rutherford County Courthouse had burned, and eventually became the public burial ground for the city of Murfreesboro.

Smith’s presentation will address the archaeological projects in the Old City Cemetery and its significance as a founding location for Murfreesboro, the launch of President Andrew Jackson’s first election campaign and eventually the Trail of Tears, use as a hospital and its destruction during the Civil War, and the possible futures of the site.

The Rutherford County Archaeological Society meets monthly at the Heritage Center and welcomes guest speakers, the community and professional archaeologists to discuss the county’s past and how to document and learn from it.

For more information on the Rutherford County Archaeological Society, visit http://facebook.com/groups/RCAS.TN or contact Laura Bartel at lbanthro@gmail.com.

— Gina E. Fann (gina.fann@mtsu.edu)

MTSU president meets with prime minister in native Bahamas

NASSAU, Bahamas — The prime minister of the Bahamas visited with MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis just before the Blue Raiders played Thursday in the first of three preseason exhibition games at the Commonwealth’s national gymnasium.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, right, meets with the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Prime Minister Perry G. Christie, center, and Allyson Maynard Gibson, left, attorney general and minister of legal affairs of the Bahamas, just before the Blue Raiders men's basketball team played Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in the first of three preseason exhibition games at the CommonwealthÕs national gymnasium. (MTSU photo)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, right, meets with the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Prime Minister Perry G. Christie, center, and Allyson Maynard Gibson, left, attorney general and minister of legal affairs of the Bahamas, just before the Blue Raiders men’s basketball team played Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in the first of three preseason exhibition games at the CommonwealthÕs national gymnasium. (MTSU photo)

Bahamian Prime Minister Perry G. Christie met with McPhee, Davis and the team’s assistant coaches Wednesday night at the team’s hotel. On Thursday, the president went to the prime minister’s office to confer with Christie and several of the country’s top ministers.

Christie asked McPhee and Davis about the university’s academic specialties, international collaborations and athletics programs. The Blue Raiders were set to play three different Bahamian squads on Thursday, Friday and Saturday during their seven-day trip to the Commonwealth.

“It was an honor to meet the prime minister and share with him the accomplishments of MTSU’s faculty, students and student-athletes,” McPhee said.

The prime minister also praised McPhee, a native of the Bahamas, for his career in higher education, as well as MTSU’s recent accolades for its Quest for Student Success initiative. A top priority for the university, the initiative aims to improve student retention and graduation rates in support of Gov. Bill Haslam’s emphasis on increasing the number of Tennesseans with post-secondary credentials.

“It is important for us not only just to salute him, but to do it in the context so that the country is aware and has reason to manifest its pride in what he has achieved,” Christie said of McPhee.

— Andrew Oppmann (andrew.oppmann@mtsu.edu)

Bahamas map

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, meets with the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Prime Minister Perry G. Christie just before the Blue Raiders men's basketball team played Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in the first of three preseason exhibition games at the CommonwealthÕs national gymnasium. (MTSU photo)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, left, meets with the Commonwealth of the Bahamas Prime Minister Perry G. Christie just before the Blue Raiders men’s basketball team played Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in the first of three preseason exhibition games at the CommonwealthÕs national gymnasium. (MTSU photo)

Professor has ideas on how to make a cooler cow on ‘MTSU On the Record’

Finding a way to help cattle beat the heat was the focus of a recent edition of the “MTSU On the Record” radio program.

Host Gina Logue’s interview with Dr. Warren Gill, a professor in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience, first aired Aug. 10 on WMOT-FM (89.5 and www.wmot.org ). You can listen to their conversation below.

Dr. Warren Gill

Dr. Warren Gill

Gill and Vanderbilt University professor James West are engaged in research aimed at using gene splicing to produce Angus cattle that are more heat-resistant and, therefore, more efficient in processing what they eat. The black hide of the Angus breed makes it unable to adapt to regions with high temperatures.

“I do think a lot more people realize that as the world population is heading more toward 9 billion, something like that, in just the next 25 years or so, we’re going to have to figure innovative ways to feed this huge population,” Gill said.

Gill recently stepped down from his eight-year post as director of MTSU’s School of Agribusiness and Agriscience to return to classroom teaching and expand his research work.

Under his direction, the school developed and expanded the university’s longtime working farm and dairy into the cutting-edge MTSU Experiential Learning and Research Center.

 

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.

A video clip of the interview can be seen below.

https://youtu.be/LBF_4xR7ypE

MTSU, city team up to study, secure Native American site [+VIDEO]

The discovery of a Native American cemetery at the Black Cat Cave archaeological site has led the city of Murfreesboro, Middle Tennessee State University and other public and private partners to secure the cave area and discuss plans for its future.

Well-known among Rutherford County locals as the reputed location of a speakeasy during the 1920s Prohibition Era, Black Cat Cave recently became the subject of an archaeological excavation by a team of MTSU professors and students.

Conducted in spring 2014, the MTSU field study came soon after city officials discovered vandalism and heavy looting to the cave, including graffiti and illegal digging.

The study confirmed the presence of a prehistoric cemetery at the site, and through radiocarbon-dating it was determined that the human artifacts and human remains recovered from the cave date back 5,000 to 7,500 years to what is known as the Middle Archaic Period. 

http://youtu.be/XvPfPW0lbL0

Dr. Shannon Hodge

Dr. Shannon Hodge

“The discovery of ancient human remains within the confines of Black Cat Cave has required sensitivity to the peoples and rituals of the ancient past,” said MTSU archaeologist Dr. Shannon Hodge. “As a scholar of prehistoric culture, I appreciate the efforts of the cjty of Murfreesboro to protecting and preserving this cultural resource.”

“Because this site has a previously unknown prehistoric Native American cemetery on it, Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation officials have been conscientious about treating the site with respect and marking sure that the site is secure. We couldn’t have asked for better partners.”

The public-private partnership to protect and preserve the archaeological site has resulted in an innovative gate system to prohibit public access to the north Murfreesboro property.

The new cave gate consists of steel columns supporting horizontal bars spaced approximately 5 inches apart. The design balances cave security with biological transparency, an important part of the design because it allows air and water exchange in the cave system as well as retaining the habitat for cave-dwelling species.

“We recognize, with the help of our MTSU partners, that Black Cat Cave is a cultural resource that must be preserved,” said Lanny Goodwin, director of the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department.

“We appreciate the work of the university’s scholars and students, as well as the engineering firm Griggs & Maloney to preserve and protect this newly found evidence of prehistory.”

The City of Murfreesboro hired an engineering firm to design this new gated entrance at the Black Cat Cave archaeological site in north Murfreesboro. Public access is no prohibited after MTSU archaeologists discovered prehistoric Native American artifacts at the site. (Photo by Jim Davis/Murfreesboro Parks & Recreation)

A new gated entrance marks the Black Cat Cave archaeological site, designed by an engineering firm hired by the city of Murfreesboro. Public access is now prohibited after MTSU archaeologists discovered prehistoric Native American artifacts at the site. (Photo by Jim Davis/Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation)

Griggs & Maloney Inc., a Murfreesboro engineering and environmental consulting firm, teamed up with the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department, the MTSU Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Rollins Excavating Company to plan, design and construct the new gate system. The Native History Association also participated in the planning.

MTSU WordmarkThe cave’s entrances had been closed and fenced by the city because of  vandalism and potential liability for injuries. A man-made concrete floor had covered-up the natural cave flooring.

Until last year’s vandalism drew its attention, city officials said they had no knowledge of any evidence of prehistoric or ancient activities within the cave.

The city partnered with Aaron Deter-Wolf, a prehistoric archaeologist with the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, and MTSU’s Hodge and fellow archaeologist Dr. Tanya Peres.

Peres and Hodge directed the team of MTSU student volunteers to do the study. Their work included clearing away garbage and assessing the damage done to the natural cave walls and cultural features.

Dr. Tanya Peres

Dr. Tanya Peres

Peres was able to radiocarbon date charcoal samples from the site with funds from a Tennessee Historical Commission grant.

“The ultimate goal is to protect this Native American site from future episodes of vandalism and looting, while gaining important archaeological information to better understand the long-term use of the cave by various groups that lived in Rutherford County,” said Peres, who recently left MTSU to take a position at Florida State University.

MTSU archaeology students assess looter damage inside Black Cat Cave in Murfreesboro in this 2011 file photo. (Submitted photo)

MTSU archaeology students assess looter damage inside Black Cat Cave in Murfreesboro in this 2011 file photo. (Submitted photo)

Traditionally, historians and archaeologists believed that for thousands of years much of Rutherford County was a “no-man’s-land” between neighboring groups, used simply as a hunting ground.

This site, however, proves that prehistoric people lived and thrived in the rich environment and abundant natural resources in the county, Hodge said.

In its natural state, Black Cat Cave had a 5- to 6-foot limestone shelf which formed a horizontal opening, approximately 120 feet in length.

During more modern history, the cave’s opening was barricaded with boulders and a failing, aged fence for safety. The boulders and fence have been removed and replaced with the new design.

Griggs & Maloney Vice President Ryan Maloney said the new gate system is designed to protect cultural and natural resources and “prevent public access to a potentially hazardous environment.”

The new gate system includes a “heavy duty, hinged opening” that will allow future archaeological study, Maloney added.Logo_of_Murfreesboro

In addition to modern artifacts, including glass fragments from the cave’s speakeasy days, the 2014 dig and screening uncovered stone artifacts and other evidence from the Middle Archaic Period dating back more than 5,000 years.

The evidence includes ancient remains of freshwater mussel and snail shells brought into the cave and discolored soil layers, which are evidence of human activity such as a hearth for a fire.

“Despite previous historical writings to the contrary, this new evidence shows that people lived in what is now Rutherford County for thousands of years,” added Peres. “This is a rich prehistoric cultural past in Rutherford County that we are just beginning to understand.”

Peres has studied other prehistoric sites in Rutherford County, including what is known as the Magnolia Valley Site in the southwestern corner of the county.

The site at Black Cat Cave will help tell part of the story of prehistoric occupation in the area and could expand understanding of how Rutherford County was used by prehistoric people.

“As archaeologists, one major focus is to preserve these resources not only for us, but for people who are going to come a decade, a hundred or a thousand years after us,” Hodge said. “We want them to be able to know as much and gain even more.”

The MTSU team is continuing to study evidence from the site.

Volunteer archaeologists as well as personnel from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology sift through dirt inside the Black Cat Cave archaeological site in north Murfreesboro in this 2014 photo. Public access to the site is closed after prehistoric Native American remains and artifacts were discovered within the past year. (Submitted photo)

Volunteer archaeologists and personnel from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology sift through dirt inside the Black Cat Cave archaeological site in north Murfreesboro in this 2014 photo. Public access to the site is closed after prehistoric Native American remains and artifacts were discovered within the past year. (Submitted photo)

MTSU archaeology students partnered with personnel from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology to do a field study on the Black Cat Cave archaeological site in north Murfreesboro. Public access to the site is closed after prehistoric Native American remains and artifacts were discovered. (Submitted photo)

MTSU archaeology students partnered with personnel from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology to do a field study on the Black Cat Cave archaeological site in north Murfreesboro. Public access to the site is closed after prehistoric Native American remains and artifacts were discovered. (Submitted photo)

MTSU faculty talk ‘Money in Politics’ at League of Women Voters event

A pair of MTSU faculty members will lead a timely discussion on “Money in Politics” on Tuesday, Aug. 11, at the Heritage Center of Murfreesboro, located just off the Public Square at 225 W. College St.

Kent Syler

Kent Syler

Ken Paulson

Ken Paulson

Panelists Ken Paulson and Kent Syler will consider how history and recent Supreme Court rulings inform the issue of political campaigns as protected speech under the First Amendment.

The presentation and panel discussion, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Murfreesboro/Rutherford County, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 11 after a brief social time and refreshment period at 6 p.m.

League of Women Voters logo webPaulson is dean of the College of Mass Communication at MTSU and president of the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center. He formerly edited USA Today and led the Freedom Forum and Newseum.

Syler is special projects coordinator for MTSU’s Albert Gore Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University. A political science professor who’s taught at the university since 2002, Syler also served as chief of staff for former Congressman Bart Gordon for more than 25 years.

Membership in the League of Women Voters of Murfreesboro/Rutherford County is open to men and women of all ages. For more information about this program and the League, visit www.lwvrutherford.org.

MTSU’s Gill steps out of director’s role into classroom, research

While wanting to transition quietly from the MTSU School of Agribusiness and Agriscience director’s role to faculty member, Warren Gill still had to face the music and the accolades.

Campuswide and beyond, dozens of people attended a celebration July 30 honoring Gill’s eight years leading the department as it grew from 300 to nearly 500 undergraduate and graduate students.

MTSU's Warren Gill, left, who will be stepping down as director in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience July 31 and heading to the classroom and research projects, receives congratulations from alumnus and graduate student Eric Limbird. Students, faculty and alumni attended a July 30 celebration in Gill’s honor in the Stark Agribusiness and Agriscience Center's conference room. (MTSU photos by Randy Weiler)

MTSU’s Warren Gill, left, who will be stepping down as director in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience July 31 and heading to the classroom and research projects, receives congratulations from alumnus and graduate student Eric Limbird. Students, faculty and alumni attended a July 30 celebration in Gill’s honor in the Stark Agribusiness and Agriscience Center’s conference room. (MTSU photos by Randy Weiler)

Gill, 64, is stepping down, moving to the classroom as full professor with tenure and wanting to continue stem cell and “modern genomic research to benefit humans and animals” with Vanderbilt University’s James West, Gill said.

“I’m doing it under protest, but already looking forward to it,” Gill said before the department’s chocolate cake and MTSU chocolate milk event for him Thursday. His last official day as director was Friday.

“My time here has been wonderful,” he said. “It’s had its challenges. When I first got here (fall 2007), we were in a financial bind. There was some talk of selling our new farm, but a lot of alumni, students and friends of the university were asking to keep that.

“Not only did President (Sidney) McPhee keep the farm, he gave us $4.4 million to develop the farm into an outstanding education and research facility.”

The MTSU Farm and Dairy officially are called the Experiential Learning and Research Center on Guy James Road in Lascassas, Tennessee.

“It gave the community, students and alumni a feeling of ownership not only for the farm, but the whole program,” Gill said.

At a faculty retreat Gill scheduled his first fall at MTSU, the question came up as to “what would we like to be known for,” he recalled.

MTSU's Warren Gill, left, shares a laugh with Mary Ellen Sloane of the James E. Walker Library and John Hood, director of government and community affairs, during a celebration in Gill's honor July 30 in the first-floor Stark Agrriscience and Agriscience Center conference room. Gill is stepping down as director of the agriculture program and plans to teach and continue research.

MTSU’s Warren Gill, left, shares a laugh with Mary Ellen Sloane of the James E. Walker Library and John Hood, director of government and community affairs, during a celebration in Gill’s honor July 30 in the first-floor Stark Agrriscience and Agriscience Center conference room. Gill is stepping down as director of the agriculture program and plans to teach and continue research.

Their agreed-upon response: “Hands-on, but scholastically rigorous.”

“Not many people knew about our program,” said Gill, who came to MTSU after working for the University of Tennessee Extension. “We have an excellent program and great teachers.”

Interim Director Jessica Carter, his successor beginning Aug. 1, shared how Gill “brought a lot of enthusiasm to the program. Through his networking, he was able to accomplish a lot of things. … He always has a smile on his face. That helps with department morale. The students notice his positive attitude as well.”

Ron Cooper (Class of 1964) has known Gill since joining the MTSU Ag Alumni Board five or six years ago.

“He has done a super job,” Cooper said. “I’m very impressed with him. He’s student-oriented. He’s been a bright light since he’s been here.”

A graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for his bachelor’s and master’s in animal science and animal nutrition, respectively, and the University of Kentucky (doctorate in animal nutrition), Gill said he plans to teach freshman orientation, beef production and “ag in our lives” for upperclassmen.

Tennessee agriculture Commissioner Julius Johnson was among those attending.

In the spring, College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer recognized Gill, aerospace chair Ron Ferrara and Department of Military Science professor Joel Miller. All were stepping down from their leadership positions.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)