Graduate Q&A: Amy Stafford

Amy Stafford, Graduate Student in Environmental Informatics

Amy Stafford

When I graduated from Maryville College, I knew that I wanted to build upon my degree with supplementary skills. I realized I lacked the depth of skill that would enable me to enter a technically driven area of my field. I felt that going into a more focused graduate program would help develop my skills.

When I looked into Tennessee Tech, I was immediately drawn to Environmental Informatics in the School of Environmental Studies due to how well it coincided with my career interests. The program involves coursework in multiple disciplines and incorporates them in an environmental context while equipping students to succeed in the industry as professionals.

I have developed marketable skills and have a better understanding of what I want to do as a profession. I’ve
discovered a love for data analysis and visualization and learned methods and techniques to convey information effectively and persuasively to people both inside and outside of this field. I feel I will be fully prepared to enter the workforce.

I think that I would like to work in data visualization within the environmental field. Ultimately, while I still am not certain of the specifics, I do know I’d like it to be interdisciplinary in nature and be within the environmental industry.

Tech gets new governing board

University separates from TBR and governs its own affairs

After more than 40 years of governance by the Tennessee Board of Regents, Tennessee Tech will be governed by its own Board of Trustees.

The Tennessee General Assembly passed the FOCUS Act last session. The act, one of Gov. Bill Haslam’s legislative priorities, allows the TBR to focus its efforts on community colleges and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology while providing greater autonomy for TBR’s four-year state universities.

“With the passage of the FOCUS Act, Tennessee Tech will be embarking on a new chapter in its history,” said Phil Oldham, Tech’s president. “This gives us the autonomy to move freely, thoughtfully and quickly to adapt to changing public needs, providing the most relevant, cost-effective educational opportunities to drive Tennessee’s future economies.”

There are 10 members of Tech’s board; nine voting and one nonvoting. The governor appointed eight of the members last fall (six who are alumni). The two members not appointed are a Tech faculty member, who was elected by the Faculty Senate, and a Tech student. The student is the nonvoting member and will be selected by the board from a list of three students provided by the university’s Student Government Association.

More information about the Board of Trustees can be found at

Building for the future

The new science building will be the anchor of a new quad, located immediately north of Browning & Evins halls. Architect’s rendering provided by Upland Design Group, in association with Bauer Askew Architecture and Research Facilities Design.

New science building at Tech expected to be largest academic building on campus

Tennessee Tech received a massive vote of support for its STEM-based education in the form of $85 million in the State of Tennessee budget to fund a new science building. At 150,000 square feet of usable space, the building will be the largest academic building on campus.

“The Science Building design and construction offers us the opportunity to continue creating the signature experiences we envision for all students,” said President Phil Oldham. “The building will be designed to meet the unique needs of our faculty and students, plus it will help us reshape the campus as we continue to prepare for growth.”

The building will house the university’s chemistry department and a portion of the biology department. There will also be labs for Earth sciences, physics and environmental science.

The first phase of the project, determining what is needed in the building, has been completed; currently, the project is in the design phase.

In keeping with the university’s master plan, the building will be located immediately north of the Capital Quad residence halls on the site of a current parking lot. The parking will be relocated to a new lot being constructed on the west side of campus, next to Tech Village.

The university’s master plan calls for the creation of a new academic quad, which will be anchored by the new building.

To view a copy of the university’s master plan, visit

Tech building, pavilion honor legacies with new names

Oakley Hall dedication plaque presentation.
A dedication plaque is presented at the naming ceremony. Left-to-right: Tech President Phil Oldham; Millard Oakley; J.J. Oakley; Chelsea Rose, executive director of the Tennessee FFA; and Kevin Braswell, vice president for University Advancement.

Millard Oakley and his wife, J.J., have been active and enthusiastic supporters of education and other efforts to improve life in the Upper Cumberland for decades.

It’s no surprise then that this fall, a ceremony and re-opening was held outside the newly christened Oakley Hall. Extensive renovations had shuttered the building, previously known as South Hall. It was built in 1954 to house the university’s library annex and student center, and was the original location of the home economics department in 1915.

It is now home to the College of Agriculture and Human Ecology and the Department of Foreign Languages.

Millard Oakley attended Tech in 1947 and earned his bachelor’s degree from Cumberland University School of Law. He served in the Tennessee General Assembly, on the Tennessee Board of Regents and is a member of TTU’s Foundation.

Since 2009, TTU has leased Oakley’s farm in Livingston for $10 a year. At more than 1,400 acres and with several hundred head of brood cows, the lease has quadrupled the available land for agriculture students and faculty to use as a living classroom.

When many agriculture programs in the country rely on textbooks and computer simulations to teach, the generous lease of the farm has allowed TTU students to gain hands-on knowledge and skills, which helps them to launch their careers upon graduation.

A new pavilion at Shipley farm was also named for the late Brenda Waters, in honor of her and her husband Gary’s lasting commitment to support agricultural education at Tech. The pavilion is across the street from Hyder-Burks Agricultural Pavilion. It will be used for workshops, seminars, picnics, events and potentially a farmers market.

$4 million NSF grant for cybersecurity education at Tech

Tennessee Tech’s Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center received a grant from the National Science Foundation for nearly $4 million to establish the Tennessee CyberCorps: Scholarship For Service program. To date, this is one of the largest grants Tennessee Tech University has ever received.

Tech has the only CyberCorps program in Tennessee, and is one of 63 such programs in the U.S.

Ambareen Siraj
Ambareen Siraj

Continue reading “$4 million NSF grant for cybersecurity education at Tech”

Carpe Carp

by Kory Riemensperger

There’s a silent invader in Tennessee rivers, lakes and streams. Some people fear it, some are making light of it, and some are simply trying to understand it.

In the ‘70s, Arkansas fish farmers introduced two species of Asian carp, silver and bighead, to curb algae growth. In floods, the fish escaped into nearby rivers. Since then, they have swum into many American river systems. Tech fisheries professor and U.S. Geological Survey Scientist Phillip Bettoli says anecdotal evidence suggests the carp are now reproducing in Tennessee.

The silver carp is known for its tendency to jump out of the water when frightened. A single jump can start a chain reaction of frightened fish. In YouTube videos, waterskiers try to net the jumpers or even slice them with a sword.

Bettoli said that his students have brought motorcycle helmets to go fishing before: these carp can weigh up to 60 pounds; collisions with people or property can cause serious damage.

At Tech, graduate research assistant Josey Ridgway and Bettoli are developing a scientific way to understand the environmental impact of these large, invasive fish. With nets and electrofishing tools, they measure the weight, height, sex and age distribution of carp in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The age of a silver carp can be determined by examining its otolith, a bone found in the inner ear of most fish. Like the rings of a tree, examining the bone reveals a fish’s age and helps researchers study a species’ movement patterns.

“They’re not that bad in Tennessee yet,” said Bettoli. “And that’s what the fear is, particularly where we’re seeing adults reproducing, something we haven’t seen before. It could be exciting times ahead for everybody.”


The new logo: vision for the future

Event_News_NewLogo_4FEB16_00052The golden eagle is one of Tennessee Tech’s most enduring symbols. Students chose it as Tech’s mascot in honor of the eagles that, according to campus lore, flew over Cookeville. Eagle statues adorn offices and public spaces in almost every building, and the famed Derryberry eagle, stolen by Tech students in the 1950s, greets all campus visitors.

This year, another eagle has been added to the mix. Tech’s new logo features our most iconic and beloved image perched in front of a strong T.

“After a century spent building a solid foundation, Tech, like this eagle, is ready to soar,” said President Phil Oldham. “Like eagles, we are ready to be bold, swift and fearless leaders, and to take our place among other leaders in education and technology.”

The previous logo had been in place for fewer than 15 years. As Tech has changed and adopted a new vision, the interlocking TTU no longer met Tech’s needs; it didn’t represent the strength of this university, either in the immediate future or for the next 100 years.

President Oldham’s vision and the university strategic plan, Flight Plan: Focused for the Future, define success as a renewed commitment to improving student success, adopting transformative technology, creating distinctive programs and improving our infrastructure. That plan has become the campus reality, with the construction of the iCube, home to 3-D virtual reality technology, the campus iMakerSpace and an increased focus on innovative research by faculty and students.

The new logo was launched in January with a campuswide celebration. Large banners were unfurled between columns on several buildings. Students and others marked the occasion in the cold with hot chocolate and giveaways featuring Tech’s newest eagle.

Upon seeing the logo for the first time, many students said things like, “When I see this, I think, ‘Tech. This is where I’m going to take off and fly,’” and “It doesn’t feel like Tech without the eagle.”

Centennial Calendar
















Sept. 11 to Nov. 20, 2015

Faculty will exhibit work at the Appalachian Center for Craft.

Sept. 18, 2015

The downtown kick-off celebrates those who fought for public higher education in Cookeville. TTU’s Golden Eagle marching band will lead the campus community downtown for an exhibition opening, awards, a concert, reenactments and a Golden Grads reunion. A book of photos and essays will be released.

October 2015

Music composed for wind and brass student ensembles will premiere.

Oct. 26 to Nov. 24, 2015

An alumni invitational art exhibition will be in Roaden University Center’s Joan Derryberry Art Gallery.

Nov. 14, 2015

Happy Birthday TTU Homecoming will feature reunions, pep rallies, the parade, tailgating, a pregame show, football and living history campus tours. The Golden Eagles will take on the Austin Peay Governors.

Jan. 26 to Feb. 25, 2016

A commemorative exhibition will feature Joan Derryberry’s paintings in her namesake gallery.

Spring 2016

The Center for Craft will host a juried student exhibition.

April 1, 2016

The black-tie, reservation-only Centennial Gala will take place in a landscape of diamonds and light.

April 11 to 16, 2016

Centennial will end with the Spring Finale Festival on Centennial Plaza.

Visit for more information.

A stronger corps

After almost losing the ROTC Golden Eagle Battalion nearly two years ago, Tech has continued to improve the program, its facilities and the opportunities afforded to its students.

Tech’s ROTC program moved from the West Stadium to the building that formerly housed University Police, behind Matthews-Daniel Hall. The university also built a rappel tower and had a ribbon cutting in April to dedicate both. President Phil Oldham was the first to rappel down the tower (pictured here).

A group of alumni and others have formed an advisory board to help guide and promote the program into the future. The number of scholarships for ROTC students has expanded as well. These and other efforts are part of an ongoing effort to meet the goals and objectives U.S. Army Cadet Command has set to keep Tech’s ROTC program alive. V

Around Campus

















This year, Tech opened iCube, a virtual reality lab, in the Angelo & Jennette Volpe Library. The lab includes a 3-D scanner that has digitized the Derryberry eagle; a VisCube (pictured) that allows a person to explore, for example, a human heart; Oculus Rift virtual reality technology, which is not yet publicly available; and a “makerspace” to allow students to build prototypes. iCube is one more way TTU is helping students and faculty explore, innovate and create.