A Short History of Jennings A. Jones College of Business

The middle Tennessee normal school evolved into a four-year teachers college in 1925 with the power to grant the Bachelor of Science degree. In 1943, the Tennessee General Assembly designated the institution a state college. This new designation represented a significant departure from the founding purpose and opened new avenues for expanding and diversifying curricular offerings and degree programs. The institution was advanced to university status and received its current designation on July1, 1965.

A program in commerce or business has existed here since 1939 when Elwin W. (Wink) Midgett came to Middle Tennessee State Teachers College in January 1939 to "start the business department at the state teachers college in Murfreesboro."; The first courses in business were offered by the division of social sciences in 1939. In 1946, a business department was established. "Wink"; Midgett served as the head of the business department from 1946 to 1964. The first degree in business was awarded in 1947.

In preparation for a university reorganization and name change to become effective on July 1, 1965, the School of Business and Industry was organized in the fall of 1964 as a separate administrative unit. The unit included the following departments:

  • Accounting
  • Agriculture
  • Business Administration
  • Business Education
  • Economics
  • Industrial Arts
  • Military Science

In 1965, the name of the business unit was changed to the School of Business and Industry and Firman L. Cunningham was named Dean. He served until his death in 1973. In 1969, the first MBA degree was awarded. The name of the business unit was changed in 1970 to the School of Business and Economics.

Finance was added to the economics department in 1968, and the Business and Economic Research Center was established in September, 1970.

In the Spring of 1971, after a reorganization study by a special university committee, all the industry departments were placed in a separate school and the School of Business and Economics was formed from the remaining departments. Those included:

  • Department of Accounting and Data Processing
  • Department of Business Administration
  • Department of Business Education and Office Management
  • Department of Economics and Finance
  • Business and Economic Research Center

Distributive Education (changed to Marketing Education in 1989) was added to the Department of Business Education and Office Management in 1973. The name was changed to the Department of Business Communication and Entrepreneurship in the fall of 2006. In the fall of 1975, the Business Administration Department was renamed the Department of Management and Marketing. In the same year, the Accounting and Data Processing Department was designated the Department of Accounting and Information Systems. In 1979, all courses in statistics were transferred from the Department of Management and Marketing to the Department of Accounting and Information Systems.

The University celebrated its diamond anniversary in 1986 with the theme, "Our Year to Shine."; The theme included reflections of yesterday, celebration of today, and anticipations of tomorrow during a year-long observance. The year 1986 was important in the University's history for another reason. For the first time, an alumnus won the Nobel Prize. Dr. James McGill Buchanan (BA 1940) received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science for his development of the theory of Public Choice, which deals with techniques of public sector resource allocation.

During the 1973-74 academic year Dr. P. William Vaught served as Acting Dean.

In 1974, Dr. Alex J. Simon was named Dean. He served until the end of 1975 fall term at which time Dr. Simon returned to full-time teaching.

1977, during Dean Vaught's tenure as dean, the school received its initial accreditation at the undergraduate level by the AACSB. Under Dean Vaught's leadership the School of Business was granted a Beta Gamma Sigma national honor society in business charter on April 10, 1978. This prestigious organization is only available to AACSB accredited institutions.

Dr. Ben B. McNew was named Dean in 1980 and served until 1988. In 1983, under Dean McNew's leadership, the School of Business received initial graduate accreditation and reaffirmation of undergraduate accreditation by the AACSB. In 1984-85 the Department of Accounting and Information Systems was split forming the new Department of Information Systems (changed to Computer Information Systems in 1986). Dean McNew initiated the establishment of the Jack O. Weatherford Chair of Finance, and the proposal which resulted in the Jennings A. Jones Chair of Excellence in Free Enterprise. Dean McNew resigned as Dean to become the first chairholder of the Carmichael Chair of Economics at the University of Central Arkansas.

Dr. E. Dwight Bullard served as Acting Dean from May until October 1988.

Dr. Barbara S. Haskew became Dean in October 1988 and served until the spring of 1995. In 1991 the School of Business became the College of Business. Under Dr. Haskew all of the programs of the College of Business received reaffirmation of accreditation by the AACSB. Dean Haskew was instrumental in filling and developing the Jennings A. Jones Chair of Excellence in Free Enterprise. Ambassador Joe M. Rodgers became the Chairholder and worked with three campus liaisons, Drs. James F. Steward, R. Earl Thomas, and E. James Burton. The Chair has been able to bring national and international speakers and local business executives to the campus to present seminars and programs to enrich classes and present topics of interest to the campus community.

During Dean Haskew's term as Dean, the College of Business received approval for a new Business and Aerospace Building. The 163,000 sq. ft., $22-million building includes 41 master classrooms, a 200-seat university computer lab, a 235 seat lecture hall, three student lounges, an organization meeting room, 5 meeting rooms to accommodate different size groups, an aerospace lab, weather center, wind tunnel, three lobbies, 150 faculty offices, 6 department office complexes, 5 centers, 2 endowed professorships, chairs of excellence centers, a graduate and undergraduate advising center, and a Dean's office complex.

In addition to service as dean, Dr. Haskew held a joint appointment as Interim Vice President for Development and University Relations during the 1993-94 academic year. She accepted the position of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs in the fall semester of 1995.

Dr. E. Dwight Bullard served as Interim Dean during the 1995-96 academic year.

In June 1996, Dr. Rick Elam became Dean. He oversaw the completion and moving of the college to the new building. Dean Elam made organization changes in the administrative structure of the college, pushed for curriculum change in the core requirements for business majors, and expanded the academic advising process for business students. Dean Elam announced at the beginning of the 1998-99 academic year that he would step down as Dean at the end of the year.

In 1997, Dr. E. James Burton became the Executive Director of the Jones Chairs of Excellence, and the coordination functions were moved from the College of Business to the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The University has two Jones Chairs:

  • The Jennings A. Jones Chair of Excellence in Free Enterprise
  • The Jennings and Rebecca Jones Chair of Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning

Dr. Burton became the Dean of the College of Business at the beginning of the fall 1999 semester. Dean Burton added an Assistant to the Dean and a Director of Leadership Middle Tennessee to the administrative staff during the 1999 fall semester. In 1999 responsibility for the Jennings A. Jones Chair of Excellence in Free Enterprise returned to the College of Business. The Jennings and Rebecca Jones Chair of Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning remains an interdisciplinary endeavor reporting to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Administrative support for this Chair is provided by the College of Business.

Jones College of Business received reaffirmation of business accreditation from the AACSB in 2001 and 2012. The Department of Accounting achieved initial accounting accreditation from the AACSB in 2003 and reaffirmation in 2012.

Dr. Burton initiated a codification of faculty performance expectations and a preliminary look at admissions standards for the College. Each of these remains in the active continuous improvement process.

During Dean Burton’s tenure as dean, alumnus Andrew Woodfin Miller Sr. donated $10 million to create for what would eventually become the Andrew Woodfin Miller Sr. Education Center. The center, constructed in a former medical clinic that was part of the Rutherford Hospital Complex on Bell Street, would have a substantial portion devoted to the Jennings A. Jones College of Business Executive Education Center. Alumnus Joey Jacobs also made a commitment of $2.5 million, matched by the State of Tennessee, to establish the Joey Jacobs Chair of Excellence in Accounting.

Dean Burton announced in 2012 that he would step down as Dean in June 2013.

Dr. David Urban became Dean in July 2013 with a keen eye toward developing graduate programs. He spearheaded the part-time MBA program’s transformation into a “Flex MBA” program with 12-month accelerated and 100 percent online options, launched in Fall 2015. An Online Program Manager (OPM), AllCampus, started promoting the Flex MBA in 2019 and dramatically increased enrollment in the program. Dean Urban also reviewed Jones College’s graduate admission standards, leading to increased flexibility for non-traditional students seeking graduate degrees.

Master of Science (M.S.) programs in Management, Finance, and Supply Chain Management started in 2013, 2015, and 2022. A Business Intelligence/Analytics concentration in the M.S. in Information Systems launched in 2015. Dean Urban established an Executive-in-Residence position to enhance professional development for graduate students.

Dean Urban spurred a comprehensive review of the undergraduate core curriculum, making room for the Dale Carnegie® Course as a required course in the undergraduate curriculum effective in Fall 2015. Dean Urban was also the catalyst for adopting Grammarly Premium as a way for faculty and students to improve the quality of their writing.

Jones College added a B.S. in Commerce, serving non-traditional students, and a BBA in Supply Chain Management. The Department of Management transformed the Management major into a major in Management and Leadership, including various high-impact, high-engagement teaching, and learning features. The department also modified the Entrepreneurship major to Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The college added undergraduate concentrations in Human Resource Management, Digital Marketing, and Professional Selling, and minors in Business Analytics, Non-Profit Management, and Financial Planning. Dean Urban also worked with the academic departments to eliminate 16 low-producing majors, concentrations, and minors. The IGNITE professional development program began in the Department of Management and Marketing but eventually opened to all undergraduate business students under coordination from the Dean’s Office.

The adoption of MTSU’s Quest for Student Success led to the construction of a new Advising Center in the BAS Building and the doubling of the undergraduate advising staff. These advising improvements led to substantial gains in student retention and persistence rates.

During Dean Urban’s tenure, Jones College received five gifts exceeding $1 million, several new scholarship endowments, funding for a new faculty/staff awards program, significant funding for the programs in Professional Selling and Business Innovation/Entrepreneurship, and a Student Emergency Fund. Other financial gifts supported physical space improvements in the BAS Building, such as the E. W. “Wink” Midgett Recognition Wall, the Jack Spann Risk and Insurance Laboratory, the Mel Adams/State Farm Agents Sales Laboratory, and the “I’m In” Accounting Success Lab. The college also benefited from sponsorship funding for special celebrations throughout the year, such as the “Back to Business Courtyard Bash,” “Global Entrepreneurship Week,” “Tom and Martha Boyd Ethical Leadership Week,” “Professionalism Week,” the Jones College Leadership Summit, the Jones College Community Awards Program, and the E.W. “Wink” Midgett Awards Reception. Annual giving topped the $1 million mark every year from 2019 to 2023.

In each of Dean Urban’s ten years as Dean, Jones College captured the Provost’s Cup for being the unit in MTSU’s Academic Affairs Division with the highest percentage of participation by faculty and staff in MTSU’s Charitable Giving Campaign.

Dean Urban sparked the development of several initiatives in branding and marketing via print, broadcast, online, and outdoor media, including creating a revised annual report, a new college magazine, and a new brand identity with logos and wordmarks for all administrative units in the college. Dean Urban also supported a partnership with the Nashville Business Journal for an online content hub—a forum for faculty and staff to share their insights with the broader community.

Jones College had no national rankings for its programs before Dean Urban’s arrival but consistently gained rankings in the top 50 or better nationally throughout his tenure. Dean Urban also accepted the Dale Carnegie® Global Leadership Award on behalf of Jones College in 2017.

In administration, Dean Urban drove the creation of a new college-wide strategic plan, instituted a variety of mechanisms for improving communication, and implemented a new system for evaluating faculty research quality. He reorganized the previous Department of Business Communication and Entrepreneurship and the Department of Management and Marketing into the current Department of Management and Department of Marketing. He hired over 50 full-time faculty and over 20 staff members.

In research, Dean Urban worked with faculty to start two new statewide surveys—the Tennessee Consumer Outlook Index and the Tennessee Business Barometer—that monitor perceptions of the economy among consumers and business leaders every quarter. He hired a new Director for the college’s Business and Economic Research Center (BERC), Dr. Murat Arik, whom he eventually appointed as the Jennings and Rebecca Jones Chair of Excellence in Regional and Urban Planning. He also hired Mr. Jerry Decker as Professor of Practice and Joey Jacobs Chair of Excellence in Accounting.

Dean Urban’s vision spawned the Political Economy Research Institute, led by Dr. Dan Smith, that focuses on applying free market economic principles to solving significant public policy challenges. Dean Urban also supported the establishment of the Center for Professional Selling, the Tennessee Council on Economic and Free Enterprise Education, and the Family Business Institute.

Dean Urban allocated internal funding to each department to encourage joint faculty-student research projects. He procured new research database subscriptions, research software licenses, and instructional software, including the Qualtrics Customer Experience Package, which allows data gathering/analysis/reporting regarding many aspects of the student experience, including developing performance dashboards. 

In addition to the new advising center, other critical improvements to the college’s physical plant included designing and constructing the Jones College Executive Education Center that opened in 2016. Additional improvements to the BAS Building—other than the ones privately funded--were: a complete renovation of the central computer lab; new computer labs for the Ph.D. program in Economics and the Business Intelligence/Analytics program; a new video production lab; a new Financial Analysis Center; a new Sales Lab to simulate group sales calls, a new faculty/staff meeting space; a new Entrepreneurship suite; a new digital display for the Robert E. Musto Tennessee Insurance Hall of Fame, and renovations to all faculty offices, several “master classrooms” and regular classrooms, the common hallways, the central courtyard, and the Dean’s Suite. 

Jones College transitioned to the 2013 AACSB revised accreditation standards and completed Continuous Improvement Reviews (CIR) in 2016 and 2021, resulting in 5-year accreditation extensions for the Business and Accounting programs. Jones College also acquired initial BBA-Information Systems accreditation from the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) in 2021.

Dean Urban stepped down from the dean position and joined the Department of Marketing faculty in 2023.

In July 2023, Dr. Joyce Heames joined Jones College as the new dean. She was previously dean of the Berry College - Campbell School of Business, a small private liberal arts institution near Rome, Georgia.


Name Title Years
Elwin W. (Wink) Midgett Department Head 1946–64
Firman L. Cunningham Dean 1964–73
P. William Vaught Acting Dean 1973–74
Alex J. Simon Dean 1974–75
P. William Vaught Dean 1975–80
Ben B. McNew Dean 1980–88
E. Dwight Bullard Acting Dean 1988
Barbara S. Haskew Dean 1988–95
E. Dwight Bullard Interim Dean 1995–96
Rick Elam Dean 1996–99
E. James Burton Dean 1999–2013
David Urban Dean 2013–2023
Joyce Heames Dean 2023–present


First Business Courses 1939
First Business Department 1946
First Business Degree 1947
Midgett Business Building Opened 1959
First School under University designation 1965
First MBA degree 1969
AACSB Undergraduate Accreditation 1977
Beta Gamma Sigma Charter 1978
AACSB Graduate Accreditation 1983
AACSB Reaffirmation of Accreditation 1992
Business and Aerospace Building Opened 1997
AACSB Reaffirmation of Accreditation 2001
AACSB Initial Accounting Accreditation 2004
Flex MBA 2015
Dale Carnegie Course 2015
Executive Education Center


AACSB Reaffirmation of Accreditation


ABET Accrediation of Information Systems B.B.A.


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