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Faculty Focus: Dr. Joey Gray teaches recreation, sport with high energy

For the media theorist Marshall McLuhan, the medium was the message.

For leisure, sport and tourism associate professor Joey Gray, the motivation is the message.

Dr. Joey Gray; an associate professor in MTSU's Sports; Leisure and Tourism Studies program; stands on the second floor of the Student Health; Wellness and Recreation Center. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Dr. Joey Gray, an associate professor in MTSU’s Sports, Leisure and Tourism Studies program, stands on the second floor of the Student Health, Wellness and Recreation Center. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

“I’m very passionate about teaching,” said Gray. “I’m very passionate about advising.”

How passionate is she? When Gray became pregnant with twins and complications arose, she declined maternity leave.

“I sent my grad assistant into the classroom with a video camera, and I Skyped in and I taught via Skype,” Gray said. “I was on bedrest for about a month. So I put it on my belly and taught via Skype.”

Gray, her wife, Cindy, and the twin boys, Seth and Aiden, are all fine. And the teaching has been filled with both educational advancement and fun, qualities Gray does not find mutually exclusive.

“When I’m teaching, I’ll move around a lot, and I’m very animated in class,” she said. “I use humor a lot.”

Gray teaches sport courses, event planning courses, doctoral courses and provides professional development for doctoral students. She admits, though, that she savors working with undergraduates.

“They’re challenging, but they’re like new, shiny souls, you know, that you can shape and help guide,” she said.

Gray grew up in Smithville, North Carolina, and anticipated majoring in equine science in college. However, she changed her major at Averett University in Danville, Virginia, to sports management in preparation for a career as a softball and volleyball coach, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 1996.

She earned her master’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management from North Carolina State University in 2000 and her doctorate in leisure behavior from Indiana University in 2006.

Dr. Joey Gray, far left, talks with students on the field at MTSU's Floyd Stadium during the spring 2015 semester. Gray is an associate professor in MTSU's Sports, Leisure and Tourism Studies program. Students shown include, from bottom right, Connor Fite, Tara Fleming, JT Farmer, Takyra Wright and Requavius Macon. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

Dr. Joey Gray, far left, talks with students on the field at MTSU’s Floyd Stadium during the spring 2015 semester. Gray is an associate professor in MTSU’s Sports, Leisure and Tourism Studies program. Students shown include, from bottom right, Connor Fite, Tara Fleming, JT Farmer, Takyra Wright and Requavius Macon.

Gray’s discipline virtually requires both individualized attention to students and experiential learning. In her event planning class, students learn the rigors of logistics and teamwork as they design and execute such activities as a three-on-three basketball tournament and a cardboard boat race.

You won’t hear crickets chirping in Gray’s classes, either. Discussions are lively and uninhibited by distracted students playing around on social media.

If you’re caught using your cellphone in Gray’s class, you are required to write a five-page paper on cellphone use and leisure.

But Gray’s devotion to teaching is so comprehensive that her appreciative students reward her with their full attention.

She even created and implemented her own marketing plan for the leisure, sport and tourism program in 2014. The slogan is “Do what you love.”

Joey Gray obviously is one educator who lives what she loves.

MTSU’s Sports, Leisure and Tourism Studies program is part of the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences. Learn more about the program at http://mtsu.edu/programs/lsts.

— Gina Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

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