MTSU to play host to state’s largest naturalization ceremony
In the year of the 225th anniversary of The Constitution’s signing, Middle Tennessee State University will act as a federal courthouse as 300 new citizens are naturalized on Sept. 17.
The ceremony will be a collaborative effort conducted through the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the American Democracy Project.
In 2005 as the American Association of State Colleges and Universities was in the process of creating the American Democracy Project, a piece of legislation was in the works to prompt state-funded colleges and universities to celebrate Constitution Day.
“The issue is everybody seems to get the Declaration of Independence but the Constitution, which is in fact the very basis of our entire system, is not up close and personal to most students,” said Mary Evins, associate professor of history and MTSU’s ADP coordinator. “Students love to tout the First and Second Amendments. Everyone wants their freedom of speech, and everyone wants his or her right to bear arms. So then I ask students, disregarding the First and Second Amendments, what else is the constitution about? I get a lot of blank stares.”
At least two MTSU students will take their oath on Monday, including Mayank ‘Mike’ Patel, a senior majoring in biology.
“This country has offered me so much already,” Patel said. “I just can’t wait to be known as an American.”
The American Democracy Project seeks to increase students’ civic involvement by incorporating real world policy issues into the classroom, according to Evins.
“We view higher education as being a three-legged stool, as having three prongs,” Evins said. “It’s considered the three c’s– college completion, career and citizenship. If you forget that third piece, you’re really forgetting the very heart and soul of what education is about.”
Since arriving at MTSU three years ago, Evins has made ADP and working on the naturalization ceremony a primary focus.
“She’s [Mary Evins] fabulous, she’s probably on a passion level maybe on a scale of 10, she’s a 15 and on commitment level the same thing,” said Faye Johnson, assistant to executive vice president and provost. “That passion, that commitment and that knowledge, really she’s got it all.”
The ceremony on campus is the largest naturalization ceremony in the state’s history, according to a source at the USDC. Naturalization ceremonies are conducted once a week with total 60 new citizens per ceremony.
“I have attended two other naturalization ceremonies,” Johnson said. “The moment for me is when they raise their hands to take their oath, that’s a marker that says clearly and publicly that they have gone from non-citizens to citizens. You have a sense of it: It’s so personal and so intimate.”
Beginning at 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. students, faculty and community members can sign up in various buildings on campus to read a portion of the U.S. Constitution.
The Rutherford County Election Commission will be onsite to register the new citizens, as well as those who still want to register prior to the upcoming election– the last to register is Oct. 9.
Events at the Murphy Center will begin at 12:30 p.m. with a reading of the Constitution. The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. with court being called into session by USDC Magistrate Judge Joe Brown.
Incoming Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, Gary Wade, will deliver the keynote address before the new citizens take their oath of national allegiance.
Parking for the events will be available in the lots off Greenland Drive by the Tennessee Livestock Center.
For those who cannot attend, the USCIS has granted MTSU permission to live stream the naturalization ceremony, which can be viewed at http://itsc3.fsa.mtsu.edu/itsc/flash/.