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Outstanding MTSU Alumni Spotlighted

MTSU has recognized outstanding alumni who exemplify excellence and distinction through their professional careers, loyal support, and service to the wider community.

From 1960 to present, the MTSU Alumni Association has recognized accomplished alumni with the association’s highest honor: the Distinguished Alumni Award.

This year’s recipient is Katie Vance (Class of 2005). She is a partner and creative director of Powell Architecture + Building Studio, an award-winning architecture, interiors and construction firm in Nashville.

This year’s Young Alumni Achievement Award, given to a graduate 35 or younger making a positive impact in the world, goes to Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter Tay Keith (Class of 2018) of Memphis. He already has an impressive list of musical collaborations which includes Drake, Travis Scott, Beyonce, DJ Khaled and more.

For the ninth consecutive year, the True Blue Citations of Distinction are awarded. Categories include one for military service. This year’s winners include:

Achievement in Education (MTSU Faculty) – School of Agriculture faculty member Alanna Vaught was instrumental in launching a new Master of Education program in leadership in agricultural education.

Achievement in Education (Non-MTSU Faculty) – Jackie Morgan, Senior Outreach Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank Atlanta-Nashville Branch and recognized as an established communicator and proven leader in economic education strategy, policy, development, and training financial.

University service — Ed Arning, former director of sports information for MTSU who entered private industry before returning to college as director of two major project areas within the Marketing and Communications Division.

Community service — Elveta Cooper, a UPS area human resources manager who has been involved in many community organizations.

Military Service – Brig. General Robert Powell, of Summerville, South Carolina, a cyber security expert in the U.S. Army, the first Army Reserve cyber general and the 17e general officer in the 50+ year history of the MTSU ROTC program.

The Alumni Association will recognize them at several events during the MTSU reunion on October 14-15.

Here are more details on the 2022-23 winners:

Distinguished Graduate

Katie Vance (‘2005), College of Behavioral and Health Sciences

One of the top designers in Nashville’s burgeoning hotel and restaurant scene, Vance’s work includes Butcher and Bee, Butchertown Hall, The Green Pheasant, The Russell Hotel and The Cordelle. Vance founded Porter Flea, a well-known modern craft market, to propel Nashville’s independent craft and design scene. She is the recipient of the 2021 Nashville Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award. Her work has been praised by regional and national publications, including “Garden & Gun”, “Architectural Digest”, “Domino”, “Dwell” and “Southern Living “. She has served on numerous juries for the midterm and final exams of MTSU’s interior design department.

Young Graduates Excellence Award

Tay Keith (’18), University College

Brytavious Lakeith Chambers, known professionally as Tay Keith, earned his bachelor’s degree in integrated studies and media management from MTSU. He was nominated for Best Rap Song for his work on “Sicko Mode” at 61st Grammy Awards in 2019 right after graduating. He often returns to his alma mater and was made an honorary professor at MTSU in 2021. That year he also partnered with McDonald’s to promote a new menu item.

Keith was the producer of hits such as Lil Baby’s “Never Recover”, Drake’s “Nonstop” and BlocBoy JB’s “Look Alive”. His label, Drumatized Records, launched an internship program with MTSU, giving students the opportunity to work with the label and its staff to learn all facets of the music industry.