GREENEVILLE – As students appeared on the screen to tell their story on “The College Tour” national show about what makes Tusculum University and East Tennessee special, the first few words in the segments were frequently inaudible because their fellow Pioneers were cheering for them.
Those moments were some of many examples showcasing the buoyant atmosphere at The Capitol Theatre in downtown Greeneville Thursday, Feb. 8, for the premiere of “The College Tour” episode featuring Tusculum. Students, faculty and staff as well as alumni and community members packed the facility to share in the excitement of seeing Tusculum’s strengths extolled for the rest of the country to see.
“This fantastic event and episode emphasized the value of a Tusculum education as well as the caliber of our students and the faculty and staff who support them,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, Tusculum’s president. “When prospective students across the country watch this episode and see how we will prepare them in a caring Christian environment to be career-ready professionals, they will conclude that Tusculum is the right fit for them.”
Dr. Hummel expressed his appreciation to community members who attended the premiere. He said community support has been essential in helping the university to achieve its mission and students to succeed in their studies and in their lives after graduation.
Details about the episode
“The College Tour” filmed the episode in October and told the story through the lens of nine students and one alumnus. Each student discussed a different aspect of the Tusculum experience, such as active and experiential learning, affordability, athletics, the arts, civic engagement and the opportunity to grow in faith. Another message was about the beauty of the campus and the rest of East Tennessee and the ability to have fun in one of the more historic regions of the country.
Mike Maggert, the premiere’s emcee, the public address announcer at Tusculum home football and basketball games and an alumnus, expressed confidence that Tusculum’s appearance on “The College Tour” will make a difference.
“This is going to give Tusculum a leg up,” he said. “Large universities are well-known. The majority of large universities have the state they are in in their name, and many times, smaller universities and colleges are passed over even though they have been turning out quality alumni for centuries. This episode is going to get many eyes on Tusculum University. This is the gateway to the future for Tusculum.”
The Tusculum episode will drop on Amazon Prime May 28, but in the interim, the university will post the episode and segments on its website, social media and incorporate it in messages sent to prospective new students. Dr. Jacob Fait, Tusculum’s vice president of enrollment management and financial aid, led the project on the university’s end.
Highlights of the premiere
Tusculum pulled out all of the stops for the premiere. Tusculum family members and community guests walked an orange carpet and were photographed in front a Tusculum backdrop. Many wore Tusculum school colors – orange and black – and were greeted enthusiastically by the university’s cheerleading team as they entered. The Tusculum band performed lively music with the cheerleaders performing routines. The mayors of Greene County, Greeneville and the City of Tusculum – Kevin Morrison, Cal Doty and Alan Corley, respectively – presented a proclamation highlighting the university’s importance.
Then came the big moment came when the lights went down and the 29-minute episode played. In addition to the rousing greetings many student segments received, others at Tusculum University who are making a difference earned similar greetings. For many, it was an opportunity to once again see the faces of those they have come to know so well on this tight-knit campus.
Afterward, nine members of the cast — David Bowlin, Stephen Brewer, Isabelle Delbridge, Kobe Funderburk, Josie Norton, Grayson Patterson, Xavier Velazquez, Maggie Vickers and Todd Wallin – shared about their experience participating in the show and talked further about their lives as Tusculum students. Dionté Grey, a 2012 graduate, filmed his segment on campus but lives in California, where he serves as executive director of the nonprofit organization UrbanPromise Los Angeles.
“If you put your heart on your sleeve, your professors will walk hand in hand with you and they will get you wherever you want to go if you just put your mind to it,” said Norton, a junior seeking a bachelor’s degree in communication. “I feel like that’s one of the best things about Tusculum.”
During his segment, Bowlin, a senior who is also a communication major, discussed meeting with Dr. Hummel in the President’s Office. He said Dr. Hummel shared his values, passion and love of Tusculum with him. It became clear to Bowlin that the president cared for Tusculum students and wanted to emphasize the caring Christian environment component of Tusculum’s mission. Bowlin said he wanted to participate in that aspect of Tusculum’s journey as one of the university’s students. He expounded on that after the episode’s airing.
“That discussion was cool and unexpected and made an impact on me because I care a lot about my education but I care even more about Jesus Christ,” Bowlin said. “Seeing Dr. Hummel’s heart for that and harnessing that in me and on the university was something I really loved being a part of.”
Brewer, a junior seeking a bachelor’s degree in sport science and a member of the track and field team, participates in Student Support Services, which serves Pioneers whose parents have not earned a bachelor’s degree, those from low-income families and others with disabilities. Fifty-eight percent of Tusculum’s students are first-generation students.
He highlighted in his segment that the program is one of the best resources at Tusculum and has played a crucial role in his success. In his remarks after the episode, he talked further about SSS’ influence in keeping him moving forward academically.
“SSS is always mentoring to help make sure that we keep that student part of our title as student-athletes in front and maintain our grades,” Brewer said. “SSS is there to help us with anything and ensure we stay eligible for our sport.”
Did you know?
When he spoke during the event, Dr. Hummel highlighted Tusculum’s many successes in a series of questions, each of which starting, “Did you know?” Among the facts he touted were:
- Tusculum offers more than 60 majors, minors and pre-professional programs.
- The university has 23 sports and more than 600 student-athletes.
- Nearly 100% of students receive financial aid, and additional scholarships are available to Pioneers from Greene County.
- The university attracts students from about 35 states and more than 30 countries.
- Tusculum biology and chemistry students are conducting research on potential anti-cancer drugs.
- The university was ranked No. 1 in Tennessee in a list of best Christian Colleges by Bible Keeper, a Christian website.
- The president of administration for the National Basketball Association, Kyle Cavanaugh, is a Tusculum alumnus.
Dr. Hummel also noted Tusculum’s annual economic impact on the region is $58.3 million. That was one of the points raised by the mayors in Greene County as they presented their joint proclamation declaring Feb. 8 as Tusculum University Day in Greene County. Another item they highlighted was Tusculum’s status as the first higher education institution in Tennessee.
“Tusculum University has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to excellence in academia, arts, religion, athletics and community engagement and has nurtured a diverse and inclusive environment, fostering understanding, respect and collaboration among its students, faculty and staff,” the resolution states. “We highly encourage all residents of Greene County to recognize and celebrate the invaluable contributions that Tusculum University has made to our community.”
Ways to engage
Edward Roberts, Tusculum’s vice president of institutional advancement, highlighted that many businesses provide discounts to donors and friends of the university. The list of participating businesses is available at https://site.tusculum.edu/pioneer-partners-list/. Roberts also urged the community to continue financially supporting the university. To make a donation, please visit www.tusculum.edu/giving.
“For 230 years, Tusculum University has depended on the investment by people to accomplish our mission,” Roberts said. “Make your gift. It takes the investment of our community to help keep us strong in our mission.”
In addition to the 29-minute episode featuring the students, people can watch a conversation between Dr. Hummel and Alex Boylan, the show’s host, at https://vimeo.com/876163587. Also available is a discussion between Boylan and J’Quen Johnson, Tusculum’s assistant director of graduate and online enrollment, about admissions at https://vimeo.com/876195196. Boylan and Dr. Fait talk about financial aid at https://vimeo.com/876211612.