3 at MTSU bestowed 2024 Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Awards

May 10, 2024 at 10:47 am by WGNS

: Recipients of the 2024 Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Awards take a group photo April 29 at the Tennessee Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. The group included MTSU students Elliot Certain, seated left, and Brian Maxwell, standing third from left, and professor Jill Austin, seated center. At far right is state Rep. Harold Love Jr. of Nashville, son of the late state Rep. Harold Love Sr. for whom the awards are named.

Nashville, TN - Two Middle Tennessee State University students Elliot Certain, a social work major, and Brian Maxwell, a video and film production major, and faculty member Jill Austin, management professor, were bestowed the 2024 Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award at the state Capitol.

Each year, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission administers the Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award to 10 individuals in higher education who demonstrate a lasting, meaningful impact through service, are recognized and valued by peers and community leaders, and embody the legacy of the late state Rep. Harold Love Sr., the namesake of this award.


“Community service is essential to keep our communities strong,” said Austin. “It takes all of us helping a little to make a difference for people in our communities. I learned to be a volunteer as a young child from my mom and dad; they spent countless hours in volunteer roles in our small community.”

“To have my efforts recognized in such a way is such an honor!” exclaimed Certain. “I work very hard to better my community, and it’s nice that others can benefit from the results of my work.”

An Honors Buchanan Transfer Fellow, Certain has worked with several organizations, both on and off campus. At MTSU, he is passionate about the American Democracy Project and is the founding president of the Student Social Work Organization. Outside of the University, he worked with the Tennessee Equality Project, an organization that fights for LGBTQ+ rights in the state legislature.

“Elliot volunteered over 60 hours with the Tennessee Equality Project and provided exceptional work, particularly in his work with the ‘Fighting Injustice Together’ panel,” said Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project. “He is now interning with one of our lobbyists, which shows real commitment to understanding how government relations and advocacy work together.”

Additionally, Certain interned with the AmeriCorps VISTA program as part of the Literacy Mid-South Program, working directly with children in the Memphis community. And, prior to transferring to MTSU, he collected 1,200 pounds of food for the student pantries at Motlow State Community College.

Maxwell, also and Honors Buchanan Transfer Fellow, has volunteered at Able’s Special Needs Recreation, Adam’s Place and Waterford retirement homes, and local libraries for children’s book readings. The 43-year-old college senior's two youngest sons have autism, and he has been able to raise thousands of dollars for Autism Speaks. Additionally, he has served as a volunteer at the Rutherford County Correctional Work Center in Murfreesboro, facilitating classes and providing educational topics to men incarcerated at the facility.

“Brian is one of the most dedicated volunteers we have. He has an unwavering passion for helping justice-involved individuals,” said William Cope, superintendent of the RCCWC. “From teaching, mentoring, to providing fellowship, he shows a real passion for those individuals who a lot of the general public see as ‘throw away’ people.”

Over the years, professor Austin has dedicated her time outside of campus to many noteworthy causes, including the United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, where she served as chair of the Community Impact Committee from 2013 through 2015, and again from 2020 to 2023.

She served as board chair for Kymari House and was a Rutherford CABLE President’s Advisory Council member. And she is a member of the MTSU Foundation Board.

Austin notably led the effort at MTSU to create the Experiential Learning Scholars Program that includes a component of community service for students that can be part of their degree programs. The EXL program is a comprehensive program that provides experiential learning opportunities to students across disciplines at MTSU.

One of the major components of that program is service-learning activities — students’ volunteering to address community needs. Austin served as a leader in the EXL program for 10 years; five years as chair of the committee to plan and implement the program, and five years as the manager of the program.

“I appreciate being named a recipient of the Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award,” she said. “It has been my honor to contribute time to nonprofits such as Dow Street Community Music School, United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties, and other nonprofits over the last 25 years. I believe that every day one person can make a difference in someone else’s life is a good day.”

About the Harold Love Award

The individuals selected to receive recognition represent the many dimensions of community service/volunteer work, public service, charitable service, and leadership roles in community organizations. The award recipients serve as ambassadors for community service among the diverse higher education communities in Tennessee. Each recipient receives a $1,000 cash prize.

Community service recognition programs for higher education students and faculty/staff at the campus level were created in Tennessee through legislation enacted by the General Assembly in 1991. In 1997, the awards were named for state Rep. Harold Love Sr., who was instrumental in passing the enabling legislation before his death.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission was given the charge to develop rules and regulations by which to implement these programs for public and private two- and four-year postsecondary institutions across the state. A selection committee of institutional and board representatives is convened each year to review each nomination submitted by the campuses and to select the five student and five faculty/staff recipients.

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