Student Organizations

The student organizations at Middle Tennessee State University didn’t burst into existence in a miniature big bang: they were created by students to serve the MTSU community or one or more student sub-communities. Organizations may be social, academic, athletic, or professional in nature. After the initial creation of the groups, students have worked to establish and maintain the organizations, acts that often require a significant amount of ingenuity and creativity.

At the CUSTOMS student organization recruiting event on June 5th, 2018, I took the opportunity to talk with representatives from a variety of student organizations about the greatest challenges and rewards of creating, maintaining, and being involved with a student organization.

The challenges expressed by many groups include finding dedicated, involved members and simply getting the word out, letting students know that the organization exists and informing them about what it does. That can be quite a challenge with MTSU currently boasting over 320 student organizations! Other challenges mentioned by group representatives included distributing the workload, dealing with a constant turnover of members as some students graduate and others enroll, and establishing good leadership and the protocols for a smooth-running organization. Some groups have rather more specific challenges, such as including a wide spectrum of beliefs and opinions. Collage, a “student-produced, bi-annual magazine of creative arts,” is faced with a unique problem, according to Editor-in-chief Rebecca Clippers: finding staff is easy, but getting enough good submissions, the creative materials featured in the magazine, especially prose, is difficult.


However, with the challenges of starting and running a student organization come significant rewards, and the most often noted is finding a sense of community, of making friends and finally feeling you “fit in” somewhere on MTSU’s busy and diverse campus, of relationships found and cemented. With that comes the camaraderie of shared experience, sharing knowledge with others, and seeing the group come together to work toward common goals. Again, some representatives noted very specific goals, such as Avraz Anwar of Pre-Scripts, a pre-professional medicine organization, who noted the chances to network within a professional field, and through that networking to find job-shadowing and volunteering opportunities.


The representatives from two of MTSU’s newest student organizations, MTSU Bowling and Cause for Conversation (C4C), noted similar rewards that are almost certainly shared by those involved in every group: the idea that you have created something, that you can watch ideas evolve into events and activities, that you experience the sense of hope that the organization to which you’ve devoted your time and energies will last and grow!

Bowling 2c4c

If you’re not already a part of one of MTSU’s many student organizations, you should be. For a full list of currently active groups, see the MyMT organizations directory.  Or, if you perceive a need for a new student organization, create one! The guidelines are available on the Students Organizations and Service website.

Thank you to the following groups and their representatives for talking with me in the preparation for this post:

Baptist College Ministries (BCM): Nathan Longwell, Tyler, & Jonathan
MTSU Bowling: Katherine Shattuck
Cause for Conversation (C4C): Sarah Pope, Emily, Megan, & Christian
Collage: Rebecca Clippard & Morgan
Debate: Jordan Nickell, Joshua, & Steven
Fencing: Chadwick Silan, Jane, & Nathan
La Comunidad: Elman Gonzales & Sergio
MT Lambda: Maxwell Pearson, Tina, & Kimberly
Student National Medical Association: Jared Millard
Omega Delta Psi (Recording Industries): Nick Barron & Josh
Pre-scripts: Avraz Anwar & Aelana
Religious Studies Association: Joshua Clemens & Allison
Sandbox: Cory Nelson, Brandon, & Bryce


Text and photos by Alvin Knox

Septic Purity: a poem by Angel L. Thurston

In this poem, Angel L. Thurston offers a verse variation of the Norwegian fairy tale “East of the Sun, West of the Moon.”

Septic Purity

A pound on the door
revealed a bear,
His fur as white
as the fog in the air.
Before the peasant could
mutter a word,
the bear mauled the man
and wife, and every child
in the room,
except the one
who was young and fair.
She slept on a cot;
he drugged her soul.
Away he took her,
to a faraway kingdom.

When they arrived,
he gave her a silver bell.
When she rang it,
he pounced on her,
her body writhing beneath
his razor claws.
Her eggshell skin
gleamed with blood.
As she slept,
blood stained her legs.
She awoke and cried, and lit
a candle to see the pool.
Then she saw a man,
and tallow fell on his face.
The burn woke him
and he bruised her
tainted hips.

The next morning
she lay on grass.
Her body ached as
fresh blood emitted from
her weak body.
She came across three hags
who told her she was impure.
Each one gave the girl an item—
a golden carding comb,
a golden apple,
a golden spinning wheel—
to present to the queen
so the queen would make
the girl pure again.

East, west, south, north.
Each wind took her
closer to the castle
East of the Sun,
West of the Moon.
She presented each
golden item to the queen.
The vile lady turned away the gold,
but agreed to take away her impurity
if the girl were to kill her son.
In the prince’s chamber,
as night fell,
the girl slit his throat.
As she turned over the queen’s son,
she saw his lifeless face,
looking down at his horrid beauty,
and turned away as
his blood stained the white sheets.

Angel is an English major senior at Middle Tennessee State University. She will be graduating from MTSU on May 5, 2018. Angel’s first publication—the flash fiction piece Wintry Dreams—appeared in the 2016 anthology Wolf Warriors III, edited by Jonathan W. Thurston. Angel, inspired by her brother’s writing and the many books she read, has been writing since she was in the seventh grade. Her dream is to have a novel written and published—not for fame, but as an inspiration and guide to others. Along with her brother, her boyfriend David has been her greatest inspiration by encouraging her every step of the way, even when she was too depressed to return the gestures. Angel can be found reading children’s literature, young adult novels, or fairy tales in a local cat café, sipping away sweet coffee and petting cats (even though she has never done this, she is present there in soul, mind, and heart).

**feature image from



“Old Fashioned” — Jessica Yellowitz


MTSU Creates is pleased to welcome Songstress Jessica Yellowitz back to our pages with her song “Old Fashioned,” the second song on her E.P. The Very Beginning.

In case you missed the last post about her, Jessica is a commercial songwriting major at MTSU and a long-time singer/performer/guitarist. As the school year draws to a close, her schedule hasn’t slowed, but is filled with spring and summer travel and tour dates, mostly in or near her Virginia home.


Part of the tour included a stop at The Whiskey Room, in Franklin, TN, where she performed in a song-writers’ spotlight with two other MTSU songwriter/performers. Catch a glimpse of that performance, and check out more of her songs on Soundcloud and/or Spotify. You can keep up her busy schedule on her website or Facebook page.


My Life, My Light, My Love: Photography by Mamie M. Lomax

“My work focuses on 19th and early to mid-20th century gravestones and other aspects of historic cemeteries. The silence is pleasantly deafening in the cemeteries that I have visited, and each has brought different inspiration to me. There is something beautiful about being in a cemetery right before the sunsets.”



“These pictures are from Rose Hill Cemetery in Columbia, TN. Rose Hill is the fifth stop on my cemetery journey through Middle Tennessee. The journey continues with Mt. Olivet cemetery and Old City Cemetery in Nashville, TN next on the list.”


Mamie M. Lomax is a journalism student at MTSU. She is working on her portfolio in order to debut her work officially. She works as a barista in her spare time, as well as dabbles in bass, writing and being a pug mom.  You can find her on Instagram at _mamiemMamie Lomax.cropped.

Art & Design Open House

On March 17th, I had the unusual opportunity to be on campus on a Saturday, and I was surprised by the amount of activity I found. Parking lots were full; visitors to campus strolled the wide sidewalks from Peck Hall to the Student Union. Though on campus for the Linguistics Olympiad, I had the chance to visit the Art and Design Open House in the Todd art building, and I soon found myself wishing I had nothing else to do. A variety of workshops and demonstrations beckoned from the galleries, classrooms, and hallways, and it was with regret that I moved far too rapidly from one to the next and still got to see less than half of what was offered. Of course, if I had been blessed with more time, I would have settled in at my first stop, rolled up my sleeves, tie dyed a tee shirt with Amanda Micheletto-Blouin, and seen nothing else.

A sign coming into the Todd Building suggested there were twelve activities, and I visited only six—an encaustic workshop, led by Erin Anfinson

the Art Ed Printmaking room with Mary Ellis and Brigette Adkins

an inking demonstration by Doug Dabbs

silk screening with Tanner Pancake

an etching demo by Kenny Page


and the tie dye workshop. Others I didn’t get to see included sculpture, letterpress, button making, vinyl cutting, sand casting, 3-d printing, and illustration. Hmmm…math isn’t my strong suit, but I’m guessing extra activities were added after the sign was made. Regardless, if a similar event comes along again, I will be there, ready to dig in and enjoy, and I hope you will be too!

Poster image

Mohamed Abotaleb: Charles Bukowski’s “Bluebird”

Mohamed Abotaleb is a sophomore Media and Entertainment major at MTSU. His video was produced, however, for an English 2030 class in the fall of 2017. His artist’s statement, below, doesn’t mention the fact it took five or six attempts (after many more practice readings) to capture just the right tone and emphasis in the audio recording. We think it was worth the effort!

“The video is based on the poem “Bluebird” By the famous American poet “Charles Bukowski.” Bukowski writes about the reality of the world, regardless of how harsh it is. The whole poem is a metaphor for his emotional struggle, and the blue bird he is talking about throughout the poem represents his personal struggle to express his true feelings. I chose this poem because I love poems that relate more to the real, harsh world we live in. Most times, I find myself or my close friends saying that they hide their true feelings about certain topics to avoid damage or anxiety. This poem tries to show the world and criticize the judgmental nature of our society, how it looks upon people, expecting them all to withdraw their feelings and assimilate into one large emotionless, mindless entity.

“Finding footage online that represented the feelings was quite challenging but truly worth the effort. I shot some of the video on my iPhone, which was quite convenient because I have it with me all the time. I wanted to capture something that related to the poem. I also used phone’s internal mic. It was good enough to capture my voice and filter surrounding noise. I edited the footage with Adobe Premiere and used music I previously bought from a music store. I hope you, as a viewer, connect with the poem and video emotionally, and hopefully the footage conveys the feelings the author intended.”

See more of Mohamed’s video work on his Vimeo account!

Star Blaster: Sandbox at HackMT


Between the afternoon of Friday, January 26th and the morning of Sunday, January 28th, 23 teams of college students from across Middle Tennessee competed in the HackMT event at MTSU, “a 36-hour gathering of young programmers, software developers, visual designers and others teaming up for projects in the Science Building” (


The Sandbox student organization was represented by members Cory Nelson (organization President, coder), Stephanie York (Vice President, artist), and Hannah Owens (artist), joined by MTSU students David Ludwig (coder), Raine Taylor (music design, coding), Cris Clouse (coder), and Bryce Ault (coder). Over the duration of the event, the Sandbox team created Star Blaster, an interactive video game, entirely from scratch: coding, artwork, and music.

You can check out the code (and download the game!) in the group’s Git Repository.

“Life is Sweet” — Jessica Yellowitz

Jessica Yellowitz is a commercial songwriting major at MTSU and a long-time singer/performer/guitarist. Perhaps you’ve seen her performing in the tour room lobby, where she plays for prospective students and their parents, or heard her sing The National Anthem at the MTSU women’s basketball game on January 18th. Hailing from Northern Virginia, the 20-year-old has performed mostly in the Washington D.C. area, but we’re looking forward to seeing more of her in Murfreesboro and the Middle Tennessee area.


Jessica’s single “Life is Sweet” was noted as one of the top ten songs in the national Faith, Love, and Song songwriting competition in 2016, and MTSU Creates is proud to present it to you. Jessica has been recording at Suckerpunch Recording Studio in Bethesda, Maryland, and her EP The Very Beginning is available on iTunes. You can also hear Jessica on Soundcloud, Spotify, and YouTube.


To learn more about Jessica, check out her web and Facebook pages:


“Never Yours”: a new song from Anna Waggoner


“Never Yours” is the most recent release from MTSU singer-songwriter, Anna Waggoner. After writing the song on piano in just a few hours, she originally imagined the finished recording as a stripped down, piano/vocal version. However, with the help of MTSU producer Matt “Maccabee” Drozd, who recorded and produced the song, the final recording of “Never Yours” is even more breathtaking than Anna could’ve dreamed when she wrote it. Maccabee’s suggestion to add multiple instrumental layers to the track made it sound fuller, which juxtaposed the emptiness of the song’s emotion.


Anna Waggoner.Never Yours.supplemental pic

Anna wrote the song and performed all piano, guitar, and vocal parts on the track. MTSU RIM student Garret Rounsavall plays bass on the track, and MTSU Film student Matt Do took the Cover photo. The song is now on SoundCloud, and will also be on the upcoming EP release from MTSU’s Recording Industry Fraternity, Omega Delta Psi. Anna feels blessed to have collaborated with such talented people, and she hopes you love the track as much as she does.


For more information on any of the people who helped out with “Never Yours”:

More original tunes from Anna

Original music from Maccabee

More photography from Matt, Instagram: @matttdo 

Info about Garret, Instagram: @garret1993


“‘Kiss My Wookie!’: The Quote that Changed It All” an essay (plus!) by Holly Marie Hearl

Holly Marie Hearl brings a lot of life experience to MTSU. A nontraditional student, she has, among other things, served in the Navy and worked as a cook in a restaurant. Her literacy narrative essay “’Kiss My Wookie!’: The Quote that Changed It All” was created for her English 1010 class. Enjoy!!!

“Kiss My Wookie!”

The Quote that Changed It All

My relationship with writing throughout my school years can be described as tumultuous and chronically abysmal.  I have so few memories of writing in school that I can only conclude that writing must have been a traumatic exercise and I’ve blocked the majority of it out. Most of what I can recall of my formative writing experiences were related to creative projects, with a few spectacular failures and accidental successes mixed in. Of the few isolated incidents that come to mind, all took place within the span of my junior and senior years, in one classroom that belonged to Mrs. Penny Baril. Mrs. Baril taught multiple levels of English at Montville High School in Montville, Connecticut until she retired in 2015. I had the pleasure and pain of being her student two years in a row from 1999-2001.  I learned almost from day one of junior year that writing essays was a very important part of her classes and accounted for a large part of her students’ grades. I also learned that writing was not my strong suit, and this was a constant source of stress, fear, and self-doubt.

Mrs. Baril’s classroom was the last room on the right in the back hallway lined with the 300 block of lockers, before crossing the double doors into the Language Hall. Her room had a wall of windows that looked out over an abandoned baseball diamond. All the desks were arranged together in a giant horse shoe that faced a wall with three dusty chalkboards and a tattered projection screen. Her desk was tucked into the back-left corner of the room between two filing cabinets and was always covered in organized chaos. A small desk lamp highlighted the disarray. The pen and paper littered center of the desk, surrounded by haphazard piles of paperwork. Odd sized notebooks leaning against stacks of books, and three coffee cups, two of which were filled with colorful pens and pencils.  Mrs. Baril was tall, with long red hair that never seemed tamed and had a firm alto voice.  She was an eccentric, peace and love hippie who claimed to hate country music, but loved Garth Brooks. She took teaching writing seriously, but wasn’t by nature a serious person. Even though Mrs. Baril was the most challenging teacher for me, due to all the essay writing her classes required, I consider her my favorite. Her classes may have been hard, but she never saw me and my struggle with writing as a lost cause.

I spent most of my junior year in Mrs. Baril’s class trying to get a firm grasp on my writing skills. It seemed like I was writing an essay every week, sometimes two. Every time a writing assignment came around, I did my best to meet the requirements only to fall drastically short of the mark. By the time the holidays arrived I was disheartened. I wondered how I was going to pass her class by the end of the year. I was frustrated about my poor grades on the essays I turned in and the anxiety that built up before each writing project only seemed to hinder me, making any preparations I made useless. I know I would not have passed her class that year without the few creative writing projects and the group presentations that were part of the finals for each semester. I had failed the essay on the summer reading day one and barely passed the essay portion of the midterm. The handful of essays between were a sad bunch of C’s and D’s. The semester after the holidays went a bit better and I managed to get my first A paper in her class. It was one of those happy accidents, when the essay was based on a topic I could choose. I was being a total smart ass and wrote an essay on How to write an Essay. Even with my small improvements I only passed junior year with a C and it was hard won. So, imagine my joy when I learned she would be my College AP English teacher senior year.

With the emotionally crippling news that Mrs. Baril would once again be subjecting me to a year of writing misery, I felt a bit like Sisyphus. My metaphorical boulder was another year of fighting to get passing grades on my writing assignments. The summer reading for junior year had been a dry and numbingly boring novel called The Captains and the Kings and it was the only book required. For senior year, I was pleasantly surprised to find a good variety of books to choose from on the summer reading list for Mrs. Baril’s class. I chose a book that appealed to me on multiple levels, Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia. It had action, and adventure, and romance.  It was a guaranteed good read and made the nerd in me happy too. It was a great book and I enjoyed reading it. I found that because I enjoyed the story and became emotionally invested, it was much easier for me to prepare for writing the essay. I could bring two 3×5 notecards to class, with thoughts and quotes, to help me with my essay. I prepared like I’d never prepared before. I re-read the book, took multiple pages of notes, and filled my two notecards with so much information I could have written two essays with them.

I was determined to start my senior year in Mrs. Baril’s class with an A on my summer reading essay. I wanted that A on not just an academic level, but a personal one as well. I wanted to prove that my writing skills had improved over the summer. I showed up to class with a sense of confidence and purpose. I had my notecards, my book, and a heart full of optimism. Mrs. Baril greeted me with a warm smile filled with encouragement when I walked into class. Pulling me aside she asked, “Are you prepared for your essay?” For the first time, I could say yes to her. “Yes!” I replied excitedly. “I really liked the book I chose. It was filled with action and romance.” She smiled at me as I rushed on. “It was so funny. My favorite line in the book was when Han Solo yelled “Kiss my Wookie!” at Warlord Zsinj during a huge space battle!” At this the smile faded from her face and she looked at me in confusion. “Holly, what book did you read?” “I read The Courtship of Princess Leia.” I replied. Mrs. Baril looked at me in alarm and then said the worst possible thing she could have to me. “That book wasn’t on this year’s summer reading list. That was on last year’s list.”

You know that tingly feeling of dread that crawls up your spine to the back of your head when something catastrophic happens or you get caught in a lie and know the wrath of your parents is about to descend? At first you get flushed and hot, then suddenly break into a clammy sweat, and a mass of dread presses your chest in with certain doom. I felt that and more. Panic, devastation, abject terror. The blood drained from my face and my heart started flying in my chest. Eyes wide in shock I couldn’t focus on anything. My breathing was short and choppy. My throat tightened, and my eyes started filling with tears of frustration. I had done everything right this time around. I had done the work and really thought about what I needed to take away from my summer reading so I could write the best essay I could.  It seemed that the universe didn’t care that I was trying my hardest to start my senior year off on a positive note. All the preparations had been for nothing, it seemed. Mrs. Baril helped me to her chair. “I swear, Mrs. Baril, I read a book from the list I got in the mail.” I cried. Reaching into my back pack, I pulled my copy of The Courtship of Princess Leia out, which had the list folded up as a book mark. I handed the paper to her. “This is the list I got.” I whispered thickly. “What am I going to do now?” I wondered aloud. “How am I supposed to write an essay on a book I didn’t read?”

Mrs. Baril handled the problem with much more grace than I did. While I was busy freaking out and preparing myself for yet another abject failure, she was head first, and wrist deep in one of her filing cabinet drawers. With a shout of triumph, she walked back to me, and crouched to eye level with me. “It’s ok.” She started. “It’s not your fault you got the wrong summer reading list in the mail. I am not going to give you a F for your essay. Here.” She placed a sheet of paper in front of me. As my blurry vision cleared I read the essay question on the sheet and at the top of the page was The Courtship of Princess Leia Essay Question. “It’s a good thing I never throw anything away!” Mrs. Baril laughed lightly. I wrote my essay that day with breathless joy and tear tracks on my face. I smiled the entire time I was penning thoughts to that piece of paper. I remember it being the most effortless essay I had written up to that point. I got an A+ on that essay and came to a profound realization. I learned that I can write and be successful if I invest myself, and find something enjoyable to focus on.

I don’t recall if I ever thanked Mrs. Baril for the massive amount of time she spent on me junior and senior year. I know that while my writing improved greatly over the course of senior year, I only got one more A paper. Looking back on all the writing assignments I did over those two years, I found a pattern. All the essays and projects that I scored the highest on were related to creative writing and subjects that I was personally interested in. I was captured in the experience of using my creativity to write about something I was emotionally invested in. Writing creatively was, for me, the key in being a successful writer. I had finally found my niche, my voice, in the open and unfiltered lawless realm of creative writing. I found I could immerse myself with limitless possibilities and no boundaries on what and how I could write. I carried this knowledge into the rest of my writing senior year and it has grown into a hobby that enjoy to this day.


In addition to an essay, a graphic novel page featuring the climax of the literacy narrative was created as part of the English assignment. Said Ms. Hearl, “I really had no idea how to approach designing a graphic novel page. On my best days, I’m not what someone would deem tech savvy…. I downloaded a dozen picture and collage apps on my phone, … [but] no one app could manage to do everything I needed….  I didn’t want to just settle for a basic page with pictures that didn’t inspire me. I finally had to settle with a multi-step process where I found my pictures and even staged a few photos myself. I then ran them through one of the apps for the filter I wanted and assembled the pictures in another app in the configuration that I had envisioned…. Once I had a system in place, I enjoyed the creative aspect of it.”

kiss my wookie.grapic novel.Hearl