Fourteen courses and project funded through grants from TTU's Quality Enhancement Plan

Music recording techniques, Spanish for health services and environmental economics are just a few of the new courses Tennessee Tech University is or will soon be offering.

These are among the first 14 courses and projects being funded through the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan, a campus-wide initiative to improve student learning by enhancing students’ critical thinking and real-world problem solving skills through active learning.

“Funding for QEP proposals is an incentive and a resource that all faculty and university units can apply for to help provide real-world experience in order to improve student learning,” said Ada Haynes, TTU’s QEP director.

“It helps the university accomplish projects by providing funds that might not otherwise be in a particular department’s budget,” she said.

A total of $250,000 will be committed over a five-year period to support grants, assessment and administration, with half of that money coming from the TTU Foundation and the other half coming from the president’s budget, Haynes explained.

Up to $3,000 may be awarded for each funded proposal. Approximately 120 were submitted this year, with 14 of them funded at a total of $32,000.

“These are the very first QEP grants the university has awarded, so it was a difficult task for the committee to narrow down its choices. There were some excellent proposals submitted, and I expect to see some of them resubmitted for consideration again next time,” Haynes said.

Among this year’s funded projects, Joshua Hauser, assistant professor of music, submitted one for $3,000 for the creation of a recording techniques course that will provide students with experience in all aspects of creating an audio CD.

“The goal is to provide students with an opportunity to work on all of the aspects of producing a CD from start to finish — not just as performers, but also as producers, engineers, composers, arrangers and editors,” he said.

Hauser’s proposal outlined that students in the course will work in teams to complete each aspect of the production, and the final product will be available as an educational and promotional tool for musicians throughout the region and distributed at workshops, clinics and through online retailers.

The course will include several phases, which will require students to first contact major music outlets to determine the greatest needs in new recorded repertoire, then contact publishers to obtain mechanical licenses for the works to be recorded.

Other steps in the process will include contacting and coordinating details through a recording label or music distributor, developing technical skills and proficiency needed to record and edit the project by attending clinics provided by recording experts from Nashville studios, editing raw takes together into a finished performance and creating album art and liner notes.

“A final real-world assessment of the project will be to submit the finished CD to music education and trombone journals for outside review,” Hauser said. “These reviews will assist the participants in determining the final scope and effectiveness of the finished product in promoting themselves, the music program at TTU and music education at the college level.”

Another of this year’s funded projects provides $1,000 to Mark Groundland, assistant professor of foreign languages, to provide a Spanish for health services class, aimed at TTU’s nursing students and others planning to work in the healthcare industry.

“At present, the health system is in dire need of professionals who are able to communicate effectively with Hispanic patients who do not speak English,” Groundland said.

“This course is being created to address a critical problem facing the Hispanic population in our community. It will prepare our students to play a valuable role in the challenge of giving healthcare to this commonly underserved group in our society,” he continued.

The course, which is currently being developed in consultation with faculty from the School of Nursing, will require students to work in teams by role-playing, interviewing, performing laboratory work and making field trips to healthcare settings such as hospitals and health clinics.

Students will also develop basic instructional videos for Hispanic patients, as well as situational scenarios for healthcare professionals and future students.

A preliminary symposium on Latino culture and healthcare in Tennessee is also planned for sometime this semester, and health care professionals from around the state will be invited — along with the TTU community — to attend.

Funding in the amount of $1,000 was provided to Jon Jonakin, professor of economics, finance and marketing, for his natural resources and environmental economics course.

“Students enrolled in this course will gain a better appreciation of resources and environmental issues when these issues are seen and understood to exist in the students’ immediate vicinity,” Jonakin said.

The goal of his proposal, he continued, is to identify, track the history of and propose solutions for current local or regional resource and environmental problems.

Among the potential topics of investigation would be water pollution related to storm water runoff, the mining practice known as mountaintop removal, policies designed to protect wetlands from farming and development, and energy conservation measures taken at TTU.

A final project that utilizes environmental economic theory and methodology will be required of each participating student team.

“Central to their research will be the need to identify and meet with the local ‘key informants’ — citizens and government officials, whether municipal, county or state — who are involved with and affected by the issue,” Jonakin said.

Other QEP funded projects include:

• $3,000 for assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering Steven Click to provide a course that allows students to work together and in conjunction with the City of Cookeville to solve real-world transportation problems.

• $3,000 for facilities engineer Larry Wheaton to work with engineering and education students to develop a management aid and tool for use by county school systems to monitor and manage utility budgets, track energy costs and monitor systems that are not operating properly.

• $2,500 for assistant professor of counseling and psychology Zack Wilcox to incorporate a component into his health psychology course that will enable student teams to implement interventions for increasing physical activity levels of specified groups of people within the Cookeville community.

• $1,500 for associate professor of manufacturing and industrial technology Ismail Fidan to provide enhanced student learning by implementing a hands-on design and visualization enhanced undergraduate and engineering education, with the focus on interactivity both inside and outside of classes so that students obtain experience in both classroom and industry domains.

• $3,000 for biology professor Mike Redding to provide an opportunity for upper-class science students to serve as mentors to elementary and secondary students in the development, conduct and presentation of age-appropriate science projects.

• $3,000 for associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Lenly Weathers to challenge students to work on an environmental problem, such as developing and demonstrating a cost-effective, energy efficient treatment technology to remove arsenic from drinking water in rural, isolated communities.

• $3,000 for associate professor of decision sciences and management Tom Timmerman to create a new course in success skills for business studies, which will be aimed at increasing student success by connecting freshmen with each other and with the university community and by developing their critical thinking skills in a business simulation.

• $2,900 for history professor Katherine Osburn to design an interdisciplinary program in sustainability studies that will engage students in addressing environmental problems through real-world problem solving, make TTU a leader in environmental education and create a sustainable campus.

• $3,000 for associate professor and chairperson of earth sciences Michael Harrison to develop a geoscience field experience capstone course that will take students — over TTU’s spring break — to a selected field region to be determined by faculty members which exemplifies important geologic processes or events.

• $1,050 for associate professor of chemical engineering Don Visco to implement a project in his chemical engineering thermodynamics course sequence that will also students to develop their own homework problems focused on real-world issues and design and construct experiments relating to various course concepts.

• $1,050 for associate professor of political science Lori Maxwell to implement a program that allows political science honor students from the Pi Sigma Alpha organization to mentor students in her introductory level American government and politics course, as well as elementary and high school students.