TTU BusinessMedia Center Wins TBR Award for Academic Excellence and Quality

An innovative program from Tennessee Technological University (TTU) that provides regional businesses and organizations access to state-of-the-art multimedia technology so they can learn about the technology, use it for themselves and see how it can affect their operations has won the prestigious Academic Excellence and Quality Award from the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) Committee on Academic Policies and Programs.

TTU's BusinessMedia Center received the award yesterday at the quarterly TBR meeting in Knoxville. The program was recognized for its leadership in combining technology, student involvement, community partnerships and innovative educational approaches to impact economic development in Tennessee's rural counties.

In presenting the award, Regent Jack Fishman, chair of the Committee on Academic Policies and Programs, said, "This program exemplifies the type of community partnerships that make TBR institutions so valuable to their regions and their state. By working with the county governments and individual entrepreneurs in those counties, the BusinessMedia Center has been able to put emerging technologies at the disposal of rural counties and boost community economic development."

Kevin Liska, Director of the BusinessMedia Center, accepted the award on behalf of TTU, saying, "The center's successes today-improving the region's technology infrastructure, impacting rural communities and achieving national recognition-can be traced to key contributions from Tennessee Tech's leaders such as President Robert Bell, Dr. Marvin Barker, Provost, Dean Virginia Moore, co-creator of the Center, Dean Jack Armistead, co-creator of our community/technology internship, and Dr. Gary Pickett, who provides strategic guidance and implementation assistance. This group has always challenged the center and TTU's brightest students that make up the center to find innovative solutions and forge new partnerships that impact community stakeholders."

TTU's BusinessMedia Center seeks to provide regional businesses, industries, organizations and entrepreneurs with state-of-the-art business solutions. To stimulate the region to use emerging business technologies, the Center aggressively markets services through public relations, advertising, public speaking, community service and strategic demonstration projects. The BusinessMedia Center is designed to be self-supporting with customers providing revenue to reinvest in current technology. Consequently, the center is dedicated to innovation and quality service in responding to customers' needs. The center, in partnership with the Center for Manufacturing Research, enhances MBA student careers by providing opportunities for students to excel in using innovative business technologies to solve traditional business challenges. It also involves students from across the university's wide curricula.

"Our projects are like an interactive websit/video/movie/PowerPoint presentation all rolled into one little CD-ROM," says Amy Carpenter, a TTU student on the team. "The CDs are tailor-made to fit the needs of the project. It provides very effective marketing on the cutting edge of technology. I'm so proud to be part of the BusinessMedia Center team. The experience I am gaining there will give me an edge in the business world after graduation."

The BusinessMedia Center was established in 1994. Its first CD-ROM project featured Pickett County, Tennessee, and while successful, the project revealed the lack of a meaningful context for emerging technology in rural counties. The creative capacity of Tennessee Technological University's BusinessMedia Center firmly established the way these tools could affect local economies. As a result, the BusinessMedia Center has fostered creative vitality in all those involved with the center, from motivating students to impacting economies.

In 1997, the BusinessMedia Center intensified its outreach program with the development of the Tennessee Tech Virtual Incubator-a rural economic development tool that supports the growth and success of entrepreneurial companies in more than 14 rural Tennessee counties. The purpose is to saturate rural communities with leading edge technology. As the nation's first virtual incubator, it offers a fundamentally different approach to running a business incubation center by using virtual space to connect entrepreneurs with real world sales.

Since its launch, the incubator has helped more than 100 rural entrepreneurs and reached hundreds of other community members through its free seminars. The virtual incubator concept is a great way for small communities to create jobs without a large financial investment. Plus, this approach allows rural communities to strengthen their local infrastructure with emerging business technologies. Virtual incubators open up many new possibilities and opportunities without the bricks and mortar usually associated with building a business.

According to one client of the BusinessMedia Center, Andrea Burckhard, executive director of the Pickett County Chamber of Commerce, the Center has had a real impact in Tennessee's smallest county.Ê

"The center has given our county, with a population under 5,000, access to technology we otherwise could not have afforded," says Burckhard. "By providing equipment, software and the assistance of students on a variety of projects, the center has helped dozens of our county's businesses build websites and get on the Internet, which would not have happened otherwise. We have mailed potential tourists about 1,500 copies of the CD-ROM on Pickett County that the center developed for us, and since tourism is now the county's number one industry, getting the word out about what we have to offer is vital. Our partnership with the BusinessMedia Center has also led to significant growth in the membership of the chamber of commerce. Though we offer assistance to all businesses and individuals in the community whether they are chamber members or not, our membership has grown from 33 in 1999 to 160 today, with the growth a direct result of providing local businesses with access to new technologies."

Working in the BusinessMedia Center, hundreds of TTU students have had the opportunity-first by volunteering to master emerging business technology and then by using their recently acquired expertise-to win competitive work assignments and projects. Student roles at the BusinessMedia Center have shifted from working directly on projects to teaching classes and consulting with tenants. Team assistance from students and directors at the BusinessMedia Center gives incubator tenants topnotch leadership through university resources.

Tennessee Tech is leading the information culture with distance learning programs born from the Tech Incubator. The technique couples CD-ROM tutorials with the Internet to provide self-paced course material taught by live instructors via the Internet. By filling the niche of teaching others how to manufacture and produce information products, Tennessee Tech has been successful in supplementing other economic development efforts in participating counties.

The BusinessMedia Center is housed in the College of Business at Tennessee Tech. The college's mission is to enhance opportunities for TTU students to become successful leaders in an increasingly technological and global business environment. The College of Business is committed to leadership in information technology and information services. It emphasizes excellence in teaching and learning, applied scholarly inquiry and service to the profession and to regional constituencies.

The BusinessMedia Center demonstrates the enormous impact that can result from leveraging educational and community resources for the benefit of all. Since the center's inception in 1994, over $1.5 million in external funding has been received and 100% of those funds have been allocated to building technology infrastructure that helps the college and the university achieve strategic missions.

The Academic Excellence and Quality Award is given quarterly by TBR to an outstanding program in a TBR institution. Previous winners include the Community Partnership Program at East Tennessee State University, the Prevention Center at the University of Memphis and the discovery of a new planet by the Astronomy Project at Tennessee State University.

The Tennessee Board of Regents is the nation's sixth largest higher education system, governing 45 post-secondary educational institutions. The TBR system includes six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 26 technology centers, providing programs to over 180,000 students in 90 of Tennessee's 95 counties.