A seven-figure financial gift from local real estate developer John Floyd promises to boost the professional prospects of students preparing to graduate from MTSU.
Floyd has pledged $1 million to help launch the Center for Student Coaching and Success (CSCS) at MTSU, which was officially opened during a Tuesday, Feb. 21, ribbon-cutting ceremony at its new home inside the Andrew Woodfin Miller Sr. Education Center on Bell Street.
Facilitated by Health and Human Performance professor and CSCS director Colby Jubenville, Floyd's gift focuses on helping soon-to-be graduates make a successful transition from college classes to gainful employment.
"Students make a commitment to higher education by investing their time, money and energy with the belief that we have the people and resources to help them become gainfully employed," Jubenville said. "This center was built to do just that."
Floyd, founder and owner of Ole South Properties, the state's largest independent homebuilder, said his gift represents the organic relationship between the university as an economic driver for the region and the success his company has enjoyed as a provider of affordable housing throughout Middle Tennessee.
"It comes around," he said. "I'm just reinvesting in the community. I've done extremely well in this community and MTSU in many ways represents a lot of my success."
Floyd started his career in real estate in 1983 at the age of 23. His Murfreesboro company recently completed construction of its 10,000th home, and averages building 650 to 825 homes annually.
Professional accolades include being named Tennessee Home Builder of the Year by the Home Builders Association of Tennessee in 2007 and inducted in the HBAT Hall of Fame in 2015. He was recognized by the Tennessee Housing and Development Agency as the "Builder of the Year" for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce honored him as the Business Legend of the Year in 2015.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee has expressed his desire to raise additional funds for the center that would enable Jubenville to extend the size and scope of his student mentorship.
"Mr. Floyd's investment into our university with this very generous gift will undoubtedly advance our ongoing reforms to help our students succeed in and beyond the classroom," McPhee said. "The addition of this center will be truly transformational for our campus and build on our aspirations to be one of the most innovative universities in the nation."
Through individual, peer, group and online coaching sessions, the center will help students make the leap from college to career by developing their knowledge, skills, desire, confidence, likeability and networks, allowing them, in Jubenville's words, to "win in the marketplace of ideas."
Jubenville's approach reflects McPhee's vision to help develop a new model for higher education. The center aligns perfectly with the MTSU Quest for Student Success -- a plan McPhee launched in 2013 that emphasizes student retention and graduation in line with Gov. Bill Haslam's Drive for 55 initiative. That initiative's goal is to increase the number of Tennesseans with degrees or advanced certifications to 55 percent to meet the workforce demands of the coming decades.
Floyd said he strongly believes in work the CSCS will accomplish.
"With this new center, the vision is that students will become gainfully employed even before walking across the graduation stage," he said.
Jubenville said traditional higher education focuses too much on imparting information and not enough on building the critical thinking skills through which students find their voice, gain confidence and become self-directed.
A former college football coach turned professor, author, international speaker, blogger and consultant, Jubenville offers an innovative approach to teaching that has led to remarkable success stories. Graduates of his program now occupy front-office positions in top-tier franchises like the Houston Astros, Tennessee Titans, and Talladega Motor Speedway, as well as local organizations such as the Nashville Sports Council.
"My focus at MTSU over the last 15 years is about helping students find their voice. And voice is the intersection of talent, passion, conscience and need in the world," Jubenville said. "There's an old saying that 'You can't give away what you don't have.' These kids are starved for somebody to show them the way. And so I teach them."
The new center he leads as a result of Floyd's gift will focus on five areas to help students understand how to systematically bridge the gap from graduation to gainful employment:
- Academic skills and critical thinking
- Emotional intelligence
- Personal branding
- Career development
The close relationship between Floyd and Jubenville played a crucial role in the development of the gift. According to Floyd, Jubenville helped him think differently to work through the 2008 recession that devastated many homebuilders.
"We all have challenges, and when you work through those challenges together, it forms a bond," Floyd explained.
Floyd later attended some of Jubenville's on-campus classes where he was able to witness the professor's decidedly out-of-the-box approach to inspiring and developing his students. Once Floyd saw Jubenville had a formula that worked and a proven track record of student success, he said he "got on board."
Joe Bales, MTSU's vice president for advancement, said the university greatly appreciates both Floyd's generosity and his foresight in supporting this unique project.
"As a successful businessman, he fully understands the importance of being well prepared to begin your career," Bales said. "His support for this innovative program will assure that our students will be ready to hit the ground running when they enter the workforce."
Harold Whiteside, Behavioral and Health Sciences dean, said Floyd's gift "enables us to take students beyond traditional college education, to make them more impressive in job interviews, teach them how to market themselves, how to understand themselves and others, and to be more influential and persuasive.
"This takes student success beyond graduation," he said.
Visit the Center for Student Coaching and Success website at http://www.mtsu.edu/cbhssuccess/ for more information.