MTEC progress proves governments can cooperate, Ray says

Friday, December 11, 2009
County Mayor Eugene Ray, at right, conducts a tour of Middle Tennessee Education Center for, from left, county commissioners Linda Yockey and Janice Brothers; Shelbyville city council member Al Stephenson; and county commissioners Tony Barrett, Mark Thomas and Joe Tillett. (T-G Photo by Mary Reeves)

Bedford County Mayor Eugene Ray led several county commissioners, Shelbyville councilmen and others on a tour of Middle Tennessee Education Center, the satellite site for Middle Tennessee State University and Motlow State Community College. Five classrooms, a lobby and offices have been remodeled and renovated out of suites in the old Medical Arts Building on Dover Street, behind the old hospital.

The joint venture between the two institutions of higher learning is symbolic of what entities can do when they work together, said Ray.

"The city and the county -- we can work together," said Ray.

He said the collaboration between the governments made the satellite school a reality, and continued collaboration and cooperation could only mean good things for the city and the county.

"We can do something, whether in industrial development or anything else," he said. "We can do things like this for our county."

Middle Tennessee Education Center is already in action.

"We're already holding classes at the high school," said Ray. "Undergraduate and graduate. But when the next semester starts, it will be here."

The site will be the first satellite for MTSU. Motlow has satellite campuses in Smyrna, Fayetteville and McMinnville and a teaching site in Sparta. The two colleges coordinate their syllabi so that no duplicate classes are offered.

Some of the classes being offered in the spring semester, which begins Jan. 14, include Prior Learning Assessment; Engineering Fundamentals; Introduction to Aerospace; Mathematics for Teachers; research in Math Education; Beginning Algebra; English Composition I; Principals in Economics I; Introduction to Sociology; and United States History. They also offer hundreds of additional classes online.

"This is a collaboration room," said Ray in one of the classrooms. "There will be four clusters of computers, where students studying different things can sit together."

The project of renovating the old medical building into a college campus was originally estimated to cost more than $100,000, said Ray, but by using inmate labor, recycling materials, and the pro bono work from the engineering architect and the electrical engineer, it has cost about half of that.

The long term benefits, he said, range from an increase in sales tax revenue from the students coming in from four or five counties to go to school at MTEC, to improved industrial and business recruitment.

"If we can tell them we've got a college right here in town for their children, it can make a difference," he said.

He said he would also like to see Tennessee Technology Center at Shelbyville join in.