• Sterling Fooshee

It's time to change the way you think about ETSU.

Most people don't think twice about ETSU. If you grew up in northeast Tennessee, it's just that big state school nearby. From the outside, there's nothing really remarkable about it. That's what I thought when I made my college decision.

I chose Milligan College, and I never considered ETSU. But at the end of my first semester, the numbers didn't look good. I did a little calculation and realized that the student loan debt would be too much for me after 4 years at Milligan. It's a great school, don't get me wrong, I just couldn't afford it. So I transferred to ETSU for lack of better options.

That first semester was roughly what I expected- large classes, no familiar faces, and most students were either asleep or texting. A pretty typical college class. But one thing I did not expect. In that big auditorium with 200 students taking macroeconomics, the professor was enthusiastic and engaging. Dr. Bhattacharjee (Dr. B) seemed to speak directly to those of us who were listening. That class sparked in me an interest for economics, a subject I previously found mind-numbingly dull.

But it wasn't just that one class. My history and theater classes (gen-eds I was supposed to suffer through before I got to the interesting stuff) were fascinating, and I was excited to go to class. And as I took more business classes, it only got better. The classes got smaller, and the professors were more engaged and interactive. During my last two years at ETSU, I tore through every book, article, and podcast about marketing, business, economics, and technology I could find.

While at ETSU, I started this business because I wanted to use the incredible insights from the academic world to help local small business owners. Before coming to ETSU I never thought I would say this, but ETSU instilled in me the desire to learn.

When I transferred to ETSU, no one really cared about campus events or athletics. Sure, there were a few devoted fans, but not a lot of students could be bothered. They commuted to class, and drove back home, like I did. But today, ETSU is a very different place. On fall weekends, ETSU is alive with excitement about the football game in the new stadium. In the spring, we follow the basketball team with hopes of another spot in the NCAA tournament. Last spring, we traveled to Asheville to watch the Bucs win the SoCon championship, ensuring a trip to the tournament. We left the arena that cold night, singing and cheering with other fans who made the trip. "Maybe there is something special about this school after all," I thought.

Dr. Noland, the president of ETSU, has slowly transformed the school over the past six years. I can testify to the difference he has made, there are visible changes since I first enrolled. But more significant than any new construction, the spirit of the school has changed. It's not what it used to be.

Maybe you think it is unremarkable, like I did. Maybe you're on the outside looking in, not sure what makes this place special. But it's time to change the way you think about ETSU.

Today, I am a graduate student working on my master's in digital marketing here at East Tennessee State University. And my story is not unusual. Ask my wife, and she will tell you a similar story from a different department, with different professors and classes.

There are truly remarkable things happening here, but you might never notice from the outside. I came to ETSU expecting a boring and unchallenging state school education, but I did not get what I expected. This is a special place with remarkable people, and I am proud to call myself a graduate and a student.

Go Bucs.

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