Press Releases

MTSU to Help Train Chinese Airline Pilots

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; January 25, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With MTSU’s nationally recognized aerospace program as a focal point, five groups announced the establishment of an agreement in principle today to work together to help train Chinese pilots on their new Beechcraft King Air 350 Extended Range airplane currently housed in Smyrna, Tenn.

Along with state Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, officials from MTSU, the Civil Aviation Authority in China, China-based Flying Dragon General Aviation Co. Ltd., Franklin, Tenn.-based PacUS LLC and Smyrna-based Corporate Flight Management announced the agreement during a morning meeting in the new Student Union Building.

Civil Aviation Authority in China officials discussed their interest in helping MTSU and Corporate Flight Management gain approval for training pilots on the new plane.

“We are spreading our wings internationally,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee. “We’ve had this national reputation. Now we’re moving on the international front. And what a country to partner with. The aviation industry in China is about to explode. The airspace is going to fully open. And major companies like FedEx and UPS, they’re just waiting in the wings for this explosion, and MTSU will be in the forefront. “

Mike Vaughn, president of PacUS LLC, orchestrated all parties coming together on the agreement.

“Today, the success is realized,” Vaughn said, sharing that it all began two years ago when MTSU held a general aviation conference with the China National Aerospace University (Beihang University) at the MTSU’s flight center at Murfreesboro Airport.

“Since then, our business has grown,” he added. “We are comfortable doing business with China as Tennesseans. Trade is part of our heritage and we are proud to represent our state through commerce. Today is a milestone for us and we look forward to more sales and visits from China in the future.”

The Beechcraft King Air will be based in Qinghai, in the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau. The airplane will fly with a rear-tail, boom-mounted magnetometer used for geophysical and geochemical exploration in the Tibetan Plateau. Valued at more than $10 million, the U.S. export deal was arranged by the Franklin, Tenn.-based international business management company, PacUS LLC, and its Hong Kong affiliate, CFM China Ltd.

Vaughn added that wheels will be turning in all the application processes “in the next 30 days or so.”

Speaking through interpreter Jenny Wei, an MTSU aerospace graduate student who interns for Corporate Flight Management and PacUS and who will graduate in May, Chinese team leader Renhao Zhang said he “is excited to be here for the acceptance of the aircraft (King Air),” and “glad to see the cooperation” between all parties.

Zhang represented the Civil Aviation Authority in China Northeast Division. He was joined by fellow CAAC Northeast Division associates Bo Liang and Bin Yang, and Guowei Wang of China Flying Dragon during both today’s announcement and their week-long visit to Middle Tennessee.

Ketron, representing Gov. Bill Haslam, spoke of how this alliance means “the opening of doors and creation of jobs, helping the economy.”

The Civil Aviation Authority in China is the equivalent to the U.S.’s Federal Aviation Administration.

Dr. Ron Ferrara, interim chair of the MTSU aerospace department, said students would benefit from “more exposure to international students and it might open opportunities for them overseas.”

The airplane is housed at Corporate Flight Management’s hangar at the Smyrna Airport. Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China also is interested in purchasing maintenance services here.

Negotiations for selling the planes began in 2011 when Chinese Aero Geophysical Survey Remote officials visited Tennessee. The plane, which is the first of its type in China, will be delivered to Harbin, China, for their Aero Geophysical Survey Remote Sensing Center for Land and Resources, a division of China’s Ministry of Natural Resources. Company officials are in Rutherford County for the final on-site inspection before the plane is shipped to China.

Press Releases

Nobel Prize-winning Economist, MTSU Alumnus James Buchanan Dies

Press release from Middle Tennessee State University; January 9, 2013:

Nobel Prize-winning economist and MTSU alumnus Dr. James M. Buchanan died Wednesday morning in Blacksburg, Va., family members said. He was 93.

Buchanan, a 1940 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and a Rutherford County, Tenn., native, received the 1986 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his leadership in developing the public choice theory of economics.

Of receiving the Nobel award, Buchanan once wrote: “If Jim Buchanan can get a Nobel Prize, anyone can. Recognition and acceptance of this simple truth are very important.”

Buchanan is the only MTSU alumnus so far to win the honor.

“The university mourns the loss of Dr. James Buchanan, whose legacy as a scholar in economics, Nobel laureate and educator will live on as the namesake of our most prestigious academic honor, the Buchanan Fellowship,” said MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee.

“Dr. Buchanan, born in rural Rutherford County, always treasured his Tennessee roots and was a proud alumnus of our university. His passion for economic theory was ignited by a professor on our campus, and his generosity to MTSU has allowed many more students to find their calling.

“His continued involvement and connection to this University brought honor to our institution. We are forever in his debt.”

A stridently independent thinker, Buchanan earned the Nobel for “his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision-making.” Within the economics discipline, his contribution is known as the field of Public Choice, which brings the tools of economic analysis to the study of public decision making.

His book, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, which he co-authored with Gordon Tullock, is considered a classic work on public choice theory.

After he received the Nobel Prize, Buchanan continued to write and lecture on his interests around the world into his 94th year. He lived in Blacksburg, Va., and was married to the late Anne Bakke Buchanan, who died in 2005.

Buchanan spent much of his academic career in Virginia with tenures at the University of Virginia; Virginia Tech, where he established the Center for Study of Public Choice; and George Mason University, to which he and the Center for Study of Public Choice moved in 1983 and from which he retired in 2007. He also taught at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Florida State University and UCLA.

In 1997, MTSU established the Buchanan Scholarship in his honor to recognize top students, known initially as Buchanan Scholars. When visiting MTSU in 1997 to address the first group of Buchanan Scholars, he shared these words of encouragement:

“Economics, the discipline that was to become my scientific home, requires expository writing skills, logical structures of analysis, and a grounding in ultimate reality. And political economy, the branch of moral philosophy from which economics springs, requires philosophical coherence. I came away from Middle Tennessee with all of these …”

In 2006, McPhee established the Buchanan Fellowship program in the University Honors College intended to attract top scholars from across the state and country. Only 20 applicants each year are selected as Buchanan Fellows, the highest academic award given to an entering MTSU student.

Rutherford County author and MTSU emeritus professor in economics Reuben Kyle will soon release a book, From Nashboro to the Nobel Prize: The Buchanans of Tennessee, with proceeds going to the Buchanan Fellows program.

The grandson of Tennessee Gov. John P. Buchanan, James M. Buchanan grew up on a Depression-era farm in the Gum community of Rutherford County. He attended Buchanan School, which was named such because it was built on land once part of the Buchanan family farm.

In his book of personal essays, Better Than Plowing, the down-to-earth Buchanan pointed out that his family’s humble roots instilled within him a strong work ethic — he earned money for college books and fees by milking cows — that set the stage for his distinguished career.

Buchanan graduated in 1940 from what was then Middle Tennessee State Teachers College with majors in mathematics, English literature and social science. He went on to a graduate fellowship at UT-K and an economics fellowship at Columbia University.

Duty to country called during World War II, and Buchanan entered officer training in the U.S. Navy ROTC program, eventually serving on the staff of Adm. Chester Nimitz in Hawaii.

Following his Naval service in the Pacific, Buchanan earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago.

The prolific scholar and author would serve later as the advisory general director of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he also served as a distinguished professor emeritus.

Speaking at the MTSU spring commencement in May 2000, Buchanan challenged graduates to question the day’s political leadership, which seemed to lack the Middle Tennessee values he held so dear.

“An open politics makes no distinction between the Ivy Leagues and the bush leagues when it comes to telling us what we want our government to do. The people, yes, but all the people, treated as equals, and not some more equal than others. Along with this attitude, there is an abiding mistrust in allowing others, no matter whom, to control too many elements of our lives.”

During Buchanan’s visit to campus in 2000, then-MTSU President James Walker made Buchanan the third recipient of the MTSU President’s Award, which recognizes those who have distinguished themselves through exemplary service to MTSU; extraordinary contributions to education, the community or society; or remarkable professional achievement.

Buchanan is survived by two sisters, Lila Graue of Fayetteville, Ark., and Elizabeth Bradley of Pearland, Texas, as well as three nephews: Doug Graue, Jim Whorley and Jeff Whorley.

An announcement regarding memorial services is pending.

You can listen to a brief audio clip of Buchanan, along with two other MTSU-affiliated Nobel winners, at

Press Releases

MTSU Filmmaker Continues to Collect Honors, Awards for Short Film

Press release from Middle Tennessee State University; December 7, 2012: 

The kudos keep rolling in for “The Miracles on Honey Bee Hill,” the latest independent short film from MTSU professor Dr. Bob Pondillo and his crew of students and alumni.

The 23-minute film, which was two years in the making, has been an official selection at nearly 40 film festivals worldwide. It was translated into Czech and shown Nov. 8-14 at the Mezipatra Film Festival in the Czech Republic.

The latest honor is the “Best Short Narrative” award, which was presented Nov. 16 at the Big Mini-Film Festival at Long Island University in Brooklyn, N.Y.

On Nov. 10, “Miracles” captured “Best Film” honors at the ARTLightenment Film and Arts Festival in Nashville. In addition, the movie won six technical awards for best art direction, sound, costumes, visual effects, makeup and sound design.

Other top awards for “Miracles” include:

  • the “Best Achievement, Short Screenplay” award at the 2010 SoCal Film Festival in Huntington Beach, Calif.;
  • “Outstanding Short Film,” “Outstanding Actress in a Short Film (Lucy Turner),” and “Outstanding Short Screenplay,” Northwest Ohio Independent Film Festival, Lima, Ohio, July 8, 2012;
  • “Best GLBTQ Film,” Best Shorts Competition, La Jolla, Calif., July 16;
  • “Best Romantic Comedy-Short Film,” 16th annual International Indie Gathering Film/Music Festival, Cleveland/Hudson, Ohio, Aug. 17-19;
  • “Special Jury Award: Social Change,” Social Media Film Festival, Las Vegas, Nevada, Sept. 8-9;
  • “Best Director—Short Film (Bob Pondillo),” Long Beach QFilm Festival, Sept. 14-16; and
  • “Best Short Film,” “Best Director—Short Film (Bob Pondillo),” “Best Movie,” Mississippi International Film Festival, Oxford, Miss., Oct. 26-28.

Each of these awards is the result of the film’s acceptance by each festival as “official selections” from among hundreds of entries. The judges deemed those “official selections” superior to other films in their respective categories.

Pondillo, a professor in the Department of Electronic Media Communication, enlisted colleague Cosette Collier, a recording industry professor, in engineering the film’s song, “My Special Someone.” Another recording industry professor, Dr. Bob Wood, composed the score.

With a mostly juvenile cast, “Miracles” tells the story of Millie, who is beloved by everyone in her church until she introduces the congregation to her soulmate, Ed.

A DVD of “Miracles” is available for a $15 donation to the Tennessee Equality Project at More information is available at as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Education News

Haslam Praises Tech Centers for Efficiency, Putting Grads in Jobs

While the state’s four-year schools would reduce spending by the millions under Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget, public trade schools that turn out welders, cosmetologists and repairmen will face more modest cuts that average less than $50,000 per school.

The plan, which largely shields the state’s technology centers from a proposed 2.5 percent decrease in state spending next year, points to Haslam’s emphasis on applying tax dollars where he believes they are most cost-efficient. During a tour of the Tennessee Technology Center at Nashville on Wednesday, Haslam said the technology centers are on the front line of providing the sort of job training the state and companies here need.

“Our technology centers are doing great work, and they’re providing the real labor workforce training our employers need,” Haslam said. “When you have an 80 percent completion rate and about an 80 percent placement rate, that’s a really good track record.

“I’m a fan of what’s happening here. We want to see if we can do more of this.”

Haslam this week proposed cutting higher education by 2 percent, which translates into a $20.2 million reduction.

But the state’s new funding formula for higher education emphasizes outcomes rather than simply student enrollment, so the technology centers figure to stand up well in that system.

The technology centers are listed as a $1.3 million cut in Haslam’s budget proposal, but with 27 locations across the state that averages only $48,000 per school. The Nashville center Haslam toured has a budget of $2.3 million and 899 students, $2,600 per student.

“For most folks, I don’t think there is any drastic impact there in terms of this year’s budget on how it will affect the technology centers,” Haslam said. “We worked hard to where we’re providing direct services like this to try to minimize the impact.”

Haslam proposed a $30.2 billion budget, which includes a 1.6 percent raise for state workers but is down overall from last year’s spending plan.

The University of Tennessee system, which operates separately from the state board that oversees the technology centers, is facing $7 million in reductions in the governor’s proposal, including $3.4 million from the UT-Knoxville campus.

Haslam has proposed cuts of $1.9 million at the University of Memphis, $1.7 million at Middle Tennessee State University and just over $1 million at East Tennessee State University. Tennessee Tech is looking at a reduction of $825,000, and Tennessee State would see its budget reduced by $686,000 in the plan.

Technology center officials say their system provides a model that works well, with an emphasis on putting people in jobs without burdening them with a lot of debt. They point to the fact students can have a significant amount of their costs covered through Pell grants and the state’s Wilder-Naifeh technical skills grant, the technology centers’ version of the state’s lottery scholarship program.

The Wilder-Naifeh grant is named for two legislators behind it, the late Lt. Gov. John Wilder of Somerville and Speaker Emeritus Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, who is still a member of the General Assembly. The grant, introduced in 2004, provides up to $2,000 per year for students who meet attendance requirements and maintain a C average or better. The total financial aid available can cover about 70 percent of students’ costs, officials say.

The technology centers are largely trying to get away from the federal student loan program, said James King, vice chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, which oversees them.

“I don’t want our students leaving here with debt if they don’t have to,” King said.

The technology center approach can result in more immediate employment than the traditional four-year model at a major university.

“We’re graduating folks on time. Our students come in, they get out, and they can get on with their lives,” King said.

Taxpayers can be assured the technology centers are motivated to place graduates in jobs because their accreditation depends on it. The centers are accredited by the Council on Occupational Education.

“It’s not just placement into some job. It’s placement into the field where they’re trained,” King said.

All but one of the state’s technology centers is a free-standing facility, one in Chattanooga being the exception. The programs cover more than 50 fields of study. Haslam’s tour on Wednesday exposed him to programs as diversified as nursing and welding.

Mark Lenz, director of the Nashville school, conducted Haslam’s tour.

Haslam was hardly the first dignitary to visit the Nashville campus. Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, who have made contributions to education in Tennessee from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, visited the Nashville school last November.

The 27 technology centers help make the Board of Regents system the sixth largest system of public higher education in the nation. The Regents system includes six four-year universities — Austin Peay, Tennessee Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee State, East Tennessee State and the University of Memphis — and 13 community colleges.