Maria Clayton
Department of English

Hi, I'm Dr. Maria A. Clayton and I'm one! I'm one of Tennessee's Best at Middle Tennessee State University.

I'm an associate professor of English and primarily, I teach rhetoric and composition courses at all levels since that's my area of specialization. Another interest is pedagogically sound integration of technology in teaching, so all the courses I teach are either online or heavily web-assisted.

My work at MTSU began in the spring semester of 1992 as an adjunct instructor, then my status changed to full-time instructor in 1994. With a goal of achieving my terminal degree, I became a graduate student in MTSU's Doctor of Arts degreeprogram in English in summer 1994; I still continued to teach full time. In 1998, the year I completed my D.A. degree, I was hired on tenure track as an assistant professor in the English Department and received tenure and promotion to associate professorin 2002. I will be going up for full professor soon—wish me luck!

I moved to Murfreesboro from Clarksville, where my then-husband had retired from the military after 21 years. His new job at Bridgestone/Firestone brought us to the 'Boro, which seemed to be a wonderful city to live in. There was even theprospect of Middle Tennessee State University. "Wouldn't it be great if I could get hired there!"; I thought. In fact, we settled here instead of in McMinville because of the University and because of the potential it held for me and our two sons. One of them, the younger, is a 2005 MTSU graduate with a bachelor's of arts degree in Business Administration.

So many things keep me in Murfreesboro: thewarm climate; a wonderful, friendly city that despite its growth maintains a small-town feel; family (because we have now sprouted roots here!); and, of course, MTSU—the last two being the most important. After migrating from Cuba in 1961 and making Kansas City, MO, my home, my husband's 21 years in the military and inherent moves all over the world made making any oneplace home difficult at best. I can't express how happy and content I am to have found Murfreesboro and MTSU at the end of all those travels. I am home.

Without a doubt, working with students has to be the best part of my job. Oh sure, I travel a good bit to conferences and presentations; I serve on countless committees and share wonderful insights about my fields of interest and about higher education with colleagues; I contribute to my discipline's dialogue on current issues of interest, and participate in many other aspects of this profession, but none, none without exception, compares to the enjoyment and the re-energizing that takes place when I'm with my students. Whether it's a class of true freshmen at 6:50 a.m. (!) or a section of students that I meet only online, or a group of prospective education majors taking a modern grammar course, they all teach me something, share something of themselves; theyleave me with a feeling that what I do matters. Despite the occasional less positive exceptions among them, I have always felt that I get much more out ofworking with my studentsthan I give.

In my relationship with students, Itry to strike a balance—a professional friend. My aim is to be their mentor/coach, their editor, their facilitator. In that way, when I have to put a grade on their work—the all-inevitable grade—it comes from a position where the student has been thoroughly informed and coached on how to achieve not only competence, but mastery and excellence, in his or her work. At all times, my goal is to keep the lines of communication open for further dialogue.

I can't point to one single event as the highlight of my time here; I prefer to think of it as a cumulative series of events, even including day-to-day exchanges with students, fellow faculty, and our very supportive administrative staff. I simply enjoy being here. If I had to pick one, though, it would have to be the fact that a former,non-traditional student who graduated several years back once named me as the most influential person in his college career on the form that every senior completes. I can't tell you what that meant to me; it brought me to tears because James' story if full of trials, all of which he's overcome. Today, he has received countless honors and awards as a Loyola Law School graduate and is now a practicing junior lawyer in California. He just sent me the latest award he's received, this one for his pro-bono work in L.A. He is clearly my most prominent success story.

MTSU is a teaching institution well on its way to also becoming a research institution, having both parts solidly tied together and feeding off each other. It is a place where growth is the rule. As a result, MTSU is a fertile place to call home, where one can grow as educators, as researchers, as colleagues, as friends.

The campus atmosphere is a positive one. There is a spirit of collegiality,of collaboration among learners (which includes faculty because we are always learners), almost a "we're-glad-to-be-here"; feeling.

In terms of the local community, Murfreesboro, although not well-known outside of Tennessee, offers residents a rich historical environment, ample venues in which to enjoy cultural pursuits in the arts, state-of-the-art medical facilities, and a wealth of entertainment, dining, and shopping opportunities. It is a growing small town that manages to retain its small-town feel; all one has to do is visit any of the shops and locally-owned restaurants to find evidence of that appealing atmosphere (Kleer-Vu, City Cafe, The Front Porch, and many more). If more extensive involvement is desired in any of these areas, Nashville, the famous Music City, is a short 35-minute drive away!

Setting aside some of the individual elements that distinguish MTSU from its peer institutions, such as the Recording Industry and Aerospace programs and the like, in general, I'd have to say thatthe people that make up this Universitygo out of their way to nurture students, to make them feel welcome, to let them know they matter, to let them know that each one counts and that we're happy he or she is here.

And we would be happy to have you here, as well. Come join us at Middle Tennessee State University. You'll be glad you did!