(MURFREESBORO) With almost four decades of teaching experience to reflect upon, Middle Tennessee State University management professor Jill Austin accepted the university’s highest faculty honor on Thursday, Aug. 24, at the annual Fall Faculty Meeting held in Tucker Theatre.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee and alumnus Ronald Roberts, president of the MTSU Foundation, presented Austin with the 2023 Career Achievement Award in front of hundreds of her peers. In addition, 11 other professors were recognized with special awards and stipends for their contributions and accomplishments.
Austin, who began her career at MTSU in 1985 as an assistant professor, praised the MTSU community for support.
“I’d like to thank everyone who I’ve worked with at MTSU over my 38-plus years of teaching students, learning and then trying to help to make a difference,” Austin said. “I’d like to specifically thank the faculty and staff at the Jones College of Business and the Department of Management. The Department of Management faculty and staff have … been very kind to me.”
Thinking back over her start at MTSU, Austin noted changes in technology that have impacted her tenure.
“In 1985 ... found a bank of pay phones and made a collect call to my mom to tell her that I had arrived here safely,” Austin joked. “In 1990, former Dean Barbara Haskew provided computers for College of Business faculty members, all connected by modem phone lines. She sent out an email simply saying, ‘ET, phone home.’ That was her request for all the faculty to reply.”
Innovation in higher ed has been important to Austin.
“I’ve played a role in developing some policies and processes related to teaching technology,” Austin said. “And I have also benefitted from trying out teaching technologies when they have been new and introduced here.”
Austin was MTSU Faculty Senate president when initiatives were implemented to gain more resources for “academic computing activities.” She was one of the first MTSU professors to adopt video-conferencing technology and developed 10 different asynchronous online courses that allow students to learn in their own timeframe.
Although technology has changed over the past four decades Austin has taught at MTSU, her commitment to serving others has stayed the same.
“I strongly believe that serving in leadership and on university committees are important faculty roles,” said Austin, who served as department chair in what is now the Department of Management for 28 years.
One of the most important roles she embraced was leading a committee that developed the Experiential Learning Scholars program, or EXL, which takes students beyond the traditional classroom setting to learn in hands-on settings.
Austin also has chaired several major committees, including the Academic Master Plan Subcommittee and Merit Pay Task Force, as well as serving as co-chair of the MTSU National Women’s History Month and coordinator of the Jones College IGNITE career planning program.
Her passion for giving back goes beyond the university through volunteer service on nonprofit boards, including United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, and she served as board president of Kymari House, a conflict-free environment for families in transition.
Currently she is serving a second term on the MTSU Foundation board and is board president and co-founder of the Dow Street Community Music School in Murfreesboro since its opening in March 2023.
“We make a difference … by making a commitment to showing up by volunteering to help,” Austin said. “We can use our abilities … to lift others up. What we do as scholars and educators matters.”
She ended with a line from the Mary Oliver poem, “It Was Early”: “Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.”
11 More MTSU Professors Honored
Four recipients of the foundation’s 2023 Outstanding Teaching Awards are:
- Samantha Johnson, Department of Health and Human Performance
- Katie Schrodt, Department of Elementary and Special Education
- Rebecca L. Seipelt-Thiemann, Department of Biology
- Katie G. Gruber, Department of Communication Studies
Seven additional Foundation Award recipients are:
- Outstanding Achievement in Instructional Technology Award — Richard Lewis, Department of Media Arts
- Outstanding Public Service Award — Lucy M. Matthews, Department of Marketing
- Outstanding Public Service Award — DeAnne Priddis, Department of Communication Studies
- Distinguished Early Career Research Award — Mengliang Zhang, Department of Chemistry
- Distinguished Senior Research Award — Hanna Terletska, Department of Physics and Astronomy
- Distinguished Early Career Creative Activity Award — Tony Rodriguez, Department of Art and Design
- Distinguished Senior Creative Activity — Claudia Barnett, Department of English
During the gathering, MTSU also honored 11 new faculty emeriti, one dean emeritus, one vice president emerita and 69 newly promoted and/or tenured faculty members across campus.
The complete 2023 MTSU Foundation Awards program, which includes more details about the award winners and other honorees, is available here as a PDF.
MTSU’s 112th academic year begins Monday, Aug. 28, with the first day of fall 2023 classes.