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Belmont University Announces 2020 Humanities Symposium Lineup for Sept. 28 – Oct. 2

Belmont’s 2020 Humanities Symposium is scheduled for Monday, September, 28 – Friday, October 2. Now in its 19th year, the symposium will investigate the essential relationship between democracy and dialogue in bringing to fruition the “more perfect union” envisioned even if imperfectly by the founding fathers, how the making of such a union can only come about and be sustained through a constantly occurring process, an “act…not a state” as Congressman John Lewis so aptly put it in his last words.

Ahead of Belmont hosting the October 22 Presidential Debate on campus, the third and final in the 2020 election season, this year’s online symposium will consider how such dialogues occur, past and present, in the United States and globally, through attention to language, imagery, symbol, story and space. Presentations and papers by guest scholars and by Belmont faculty and students will address questions such as “what calls us toward community” and “what deepens divides?”

Dr. Susan Neiman, the director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany, will be discussing her most recent work, Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil. Belmont’s David Dark and Neiman will host a conversation on the main ideas of her book for students to learn more.

Washington University sociologist Dr. David Cunningham will explore the dimensions of division and dialogue, place and space in relation to historical and contemporary racial violence through his event, “The Weight of the Past: Engaging Legacies of White Supremacy and Racial Injustice.” With an eye on ongoing struggles over the memorialization of the racialized past through monuments and the commemorative landscape in America, Cunningham will discuss how the legacies of racial injustice continue to invade and inform our spaces, discourses and worldviews.

Dr. Rachel Louise Martin, a writer and public intellectual, has published work in O Magazine, Oxford American, The Atlantic online and CityLab. She will share and discuss how “change occurs when thousands of ordinary people living in quiet backwaters decide to fight for the American dream,” through her presentation, “’A Mother’s Advice is Always Safest:’ The Woman Who Wrote the Letter That Changed American History.”

Dr. Joy Jordan Lake’s session will be interactive by looking at social justice inside of classic literature and the change these novels provoked. Having written multiple other novels, Dr. Lake focuses on narratives of enslaved women of color and white women of the mid-19th century.

The 2020 Humanities Symposium “A More Perfect Union: Dialogue and Democracy” strives to start productive conversation and thoughts amongst the student body as Belmont hears from well-credited speakers. An overview of the schedule can be found below, while more information, links and summaries of featured programs are available on the Humanities Symposium’s web page.

Monday, September 28

10 a.m.
Space, Thirdspace and in-between: Concepts of Connectedness in the East and West
Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and Japanese Language Dr. Christopher Born

1:30 p.m.
Toward a More Perfect Union: The Role of Dialogue in the Pursuit of Happiness
Belmont faculty panelists Pete Kuryla (History), Nathan Griffith (Political Science) and Dorren Robinson (Media Studies)

Tuesday, September 29

2 p.m.
Featured Speaker: Dr. David Cunningham, Chair, Department of Sociology at Washington University
The Weight of the Past: Engaging Legacies of White Supremacy and Racial Injustice

3 p.m.
Featured Speaker: Dr. Susan Neiman, Director of the Einstein Forum, Germany
What We Can Learn from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil: A Moderated Discussion

Wednesday, September 30

11 a.m.
Learning to Live Together in the Same House: Reflections on My Father’s Time as a Volunteer Lawyer in Mississippi, Science Fiction and the Challenge of Achieving True Dialogue
Belmont English Professor Dr. Maggie Monteverde

1 p.m.
Featured Speaker: Andrea Fanta, Nashville Public Library
Votes for Women: Enshrining a Moment and a Movement

2 p.m.
Featured Speaker: Dr. Rachel Louise Martin
“A Mother’s Advice Is Always Safest:” The Woman Who Wrote the Letter That Changed American History

5 p.m.
Reflections on Black Voices and Democracy
Belmont English Professor Dr. Heather Finch and her class

Thursday, October 1

10:30 a.m.
Featured Speaker: Dr. Joy Jordan Lake
Unearthing the Past, Rebuilding the Present: the Role of Fiction in Addressing History, Re-Imagining Human Community and Enacting Social Change

6 p.m.
Readings by the Winners of the Sandra Hutchins Symposium Creative Writing Competition

Friday, October 2

11 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
One Vote: Every Vote Tells a Story documentary film followed by discussion
Christine Doeg and Dr. Mike Pinter, Belmont Math and Teaching Center

2:30 p.m.
Closing Open Mic Discussion: Speaking of Voting
Dr. Mike Pinter, Belmont Math and Teaching Center

Watkins Series Bridges the Professional and Academic World for Students

Last month, Watkins College of Art hosted a panel on the Role of the Curator as part of the Creative Professionals Lecture Series. The collection of events seeks to make the art world tangible to students by inviting interdisciplinary practitioners—such as artists, designers, curators, educators and historians—to present and engage with students and the community.

The panel consisted of Karlota Contreras-Koterbay (Gallery Director and Curator for the Slocumb Galleries at East Tennessee State University), Katie Shaw (Owner and Director of Red Arrow Gallery) and Mark Scala (Chief Curator at the Frist Museum of Art). They discussed the importance of risk-taking in curation, and how empathy, intersectional collaboration and bold advocacy are key components to cultivating a dynamic and welcoming space.

Karlota Contreras-Koterbay at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, November 7, 2022. Photo by Sam Simpkins

Contreras-Koterbay, an Appalachian-based Filipinx curator and artist, shared wisdom she’s gained in her time as an art administrator at ETSU. She describes her team as “cultural diplomats,” or bridgers of communication from artists to the community. “We’re not just taking care of material culture. We are curating engagement from object to relationships,” said Contreras-Koterbay. “Academic galleries and museums have a mission to support the enhancement of educational experience and promote learning… So it’s very important for us that we don’t just show images.”

These efforts remain resonant in Belmont’s own art galleries. Watkins’ Director of Galleries & Programming Katie Mitchell explained her curatorial process, sharing that the focus is always on centering the gallery schedule around the elevation and expansion of curriculum offered. Watkins considers content, material and technique/practice, but also seeks balance among who is showcased.

“Art is a visual language that promotes storytelling in highly personal ways. Every creative’s art is different and speaks to how they perceive the world around them,” Mitchell said. “I want our students to feel represented in these spaces, and with regard to race, gender and artistic practice, I want our students to be in connection with exemplary creative professionals that push the boundaries of what they think is possible.”

The Nashville Portraits with Artist Jim McGuire: September 26, 2019

“I seek to capture as holistic a picture as possible,” she continued. “We’ve shared everything from Jim McGuire’s prolific photographic career in country music to the powerful narrative painting by Sudanese refugee James Makuac.” Watkins also uses their gallery space to celebrate currently enrolled students, alumni and faculty with annually rotating exhibition series.

Most recently, one of their galleries was occupied by work from Andrés Bustamante, a Colombian-born sculptor. His exhibit Reflexión was informed by his experience as a young immigrant and seeks to depict the abstract concepts of human emotion and divinity as well as advocate for using creativity as a launching point for social impact and helping underserved communities prosper.

Reflexión by Andrés Bustamante opens at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, Nov. 10, 2022.
Photo by Sam Simpkins

“We are able to manifest. We are conscious creators,” he said at his gallery opening talk. “If I can plant one seed in my community that says ‘you are worthy of love, you are worthy of creativity, you are worthy of healing,’ then that’s what I want to create.” Read more on Watkins’ current exhibits and see the gallery schedule.

The next installment of the Creative Professionals Lecture Series will be Monday, Dec. 5 at 5:00 p.m. with founder and co-director of the Black Craftspeople Digital Archive, Dr. Tiffany Momon. Made possible through grant funding provided by the Tennessee Arts Commission, these events seek to lift up diverse and innovative voices and are free and open to the public.

Interested in Watkins College of Art? Apply today!

Belmont University and The Gregg Allman Estate Announce Endowed Scholarship

Belmont University and the Gregg Allman Estate today announced the creation of the Gregg Allman Endowed Scholarship for students in Belmont’s Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business. Endowed posthumously, the scholarship in Gregg Allman’s name honors his Nashville heritage and continues his notable legacy by continuing to support music business and entertainment education. Allman before his death created two similar scholarship funds at the University of Georgia and Syracuse University.

“The Allman Family is proud of the newly established Belmont University scholarship made in Gregg Allman’s name and memory. We hope these future assets will go towards helping up and coming musicians pave the way to achieving their dreams. Our beloved father would be thrilled with this endeavor,” said Gregg Allman’s son Devon Allman.

A celebratory concert for the anniversary of Allman’s 75th birthday will be held Thursday, Dec. 8 at the historic Beacon Theatre in New York City, one of Allman’s favorite venues. Those slated to perform at Midnight Rider: Gregg Allman’s 75th Birthday Jam include Old Dominion, Brothers Osborne, NEEDTOBREATHE, Charles Kelley, Shakey Graves, Shaun Munday, Lucie Silvas, Jackson Dean, Gavin DeGraw, Kameron Marlowe, Pete Levin and more. Tickets are still available. Net proceeds from the jam will benefit the newly endowed Belmont scholarship.

“This is an awesome opportunity to celebrate Gregg’s Nashville roots and to partner with Belmont University,” said Michael Lehman, Gregg Allman’s longtime manager. “Later in his life, philanthropy was important to Gregg through music education. I’m grateful to continue that legacy with Belmont’s Curb College and look forward to what’s ahead.”

The scholarship will specifically support students within Belmont’s Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business, home to more than 2,700 undergraduates with majors in music business, audio engineering technology, entertainment industry studies, songwriting, media studies and motion pictures. The college serves as a world leader in music business and entertainment education and is the only freestanding college of its kind.

“Gregg was, without a doubt, a rock and roll pioneer and we are grateful for his legacy to live on at Belmont University. Through Gregg’s estate and his team’s generosity, more students will have the opportunity to study and pursue successful careers in the entertainment and music business,” said Dr. Sarita Stewart, Interim Dean of Curb College.

A founding member of the Allman Brothers Band with a storied solo career, Allman proved himself to be an iconic singer/songwriter and exceptional practitioner of American blues. Allman amassed a remarkable list of honors throughout his five decades as a musician, including the Allman Brothers Band’s 1995 induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award at the 54th annual GRAMMY® Awards.

Gifts to the Gregg Allman Scholarship Fund at Belmont can be made at belmont.edu/give. Select “scholarship” in the Area of Support field > then select “Gregg Allman Scholarship.”

Photo of Gregg Allman by Danny Clinch

Belmont University Joins Excelencia in Education

Belmont University announced that the University is joining Excelencia in Education, the nation’s premier authority in efforts accelerating Latino student success in higher education, and President Dr. Greg Jones has joined the organization’s “Presidents for Latino Student Success” network.

This important national network is comprised of college and university presidents and chancellors who are committed to making their institutions learning environments where Latino students can thrive. The institutions in Excelencia’s network are transforming higher education.

Of the thousands of colleges and universities across the country, the more than 150 leaders of the 175 institutions in the network enroll one in four of all Latino students in higher education. More importantly, these institutions account for one in three of all Latino graduates.

Excelencia professionals, the leadership network and their campus teams actively collaborate to put evidence-based practices and strategic analysis of student data to use supporting and advancing the talents, skills and contributions of Latino students and the institutions.

Sarita Brown, co-founder and president of Excelencia said, “Higher education leaders with skills and vision are fundamental to our country’s strong recovery. Those prepared to engage and intentionally serve Latino students, while serving all their students, will lead the way.”

Excelencia is honored to work with the trendsetting presidents and chancellors who have accepted this challenge. The leaders in the network have made common cause with Excelencia to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.

“I am thrilled to join Excelencia’s Presidents for Latino Student Success network,” said Dr. Greg Jones. “We are working to make Belmont a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community and want Belmont to be a place where students feel like they belong. Joining Excelencia’s network is another step in creating an environment where all students can thrive.”

Through the network, Dr. Jones will collaborate with Excelencia to leverage collective expertise and resources, foster partnerships and amplify current efforts at the national level. Learn more about Presidents for Latino Student Success network and the other institutional leaders across the country affiliated with Excelencia.

Belmont University Set to Host Slate of Free Christmas Events

Belmont University will celebrate the holiday season with the annual tradition of the holiday spectacular, “Christmas at Belmont” and several other holiday performances that are open to the public and free of charge

The lineup of concerts will kick off on Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the McAfee Concert Hall with New Music Ensemble. The concert will feature performances of original works by composition students and significant works of 20th and 21st century classical styles.

The Nashville Children’s Choir, a premiere choir for young singers in residence at Belmont University as part of Belmont Academy, will present its annual holiday concert at McAfee Concert Hall on Dec. 10 at 4 p.m.

An ensemble for high school wind, brass, and percussion players throughout Middle Tennessee, The Belmont Academy Youth Wind Ensemble brings together students from diverse musical backgrounds to perform compelling wind literature. The ensemble will present a free admission concert in the McAfee Concert Hall on Dec. 11 at 3 p.m.

The Belmont Camerata, Belmont’s resident faculty chamber ensemble, will present A Camerata Christmas at the historic bell tower on Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Individual members are well-known in the area as soloists in opera, recitals and with orchestras, and are members of the Nashville Symphony.

On Christmas Eve at 1 p.m., Professor Emeritus Dr. Richard Shadinger will be featured in the Christmas Eve Carillon Concert on Dec. 24 at 1 p.m. The annual concert continues a tradition begun during the Ward-Belmont days.

The annual holiday spectacular Christmas at Belmont will be held Dec. 3 and 4 in the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and will feature familiar carols, classical masterworks, world music and seasonal favorites. More than 600 student musicians will join the School of Music faculty to present this Nashville tradition. 

Though tickets for the shows are sold out, Christmas at Belmont 2021 will be shown in Middle Tennessee by Nashville Public Television (NPT-Channel 1) on Monday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 22 at 8 p.m. and Christmas Day at 10:30 a.m. (CST). National viewers can enjoy the holiday spectacular on PBS Dec. 22 (check local listings for broadcast times). The 2021 Christmas at Belmont concert can also be viewed via the Nashville Public Television website.

Additionally, Belmont’s Fisher Center for the Performing Arts is hosting a variety of holiday performances that have tickets available for purchase. 

Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m.Tommee Profitt’s The Birth of a King Live in Concert. This epic one-night performance will feature 19 incredible artists, a 50-piece orchestra, 100-person choir and a full band.

Country music artist Josh Turner will make a stop at Belmont on his King Size Manger Tour on Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Turner will perform songs from his first Christmas album, “King Size Manger,” a collection of new and traditional holiday songs and hymns, and his classic country hits.

Peanuts’ timeless holiday television special comes to life on stage with the national tour of A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. The critically acclaimed holiday celebration brings Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Linus and the Peanuts gang together live on stage as they uncover the true meaning of Christmas.

Singer-songwriter Dave Barnes and guests perform classic originals like “Christmas Tonight” and “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” along with holiday favorites at A Very Dave Barnes ChristmasDec. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 15 at 7 p.m., Balsam Hill presents Christmas with Michael W. SmithThe multi-platinum, Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter and his special guest and friend Michael Tait will bring a night of his biggest Christmas hits and traditional favorites.

The Fisher Center’s Christmas events will conclude Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. with Zach Williams and special guest Ben Fuller on the I Don’t Want Christmas to End TourAttendees will hear Zach’s Christmas album in its entirety, along with some fan favorites from his recent albums, live this December.

Tickets for all Fisher Center events can be purchased at www.thefishercenter.com

Sophomore Commercial Music Major Esther Okai-Tetteh Chosen to Study at Apple Creative Studios Nashville 

Sophomore Esther Okai- Tetteh
Photo by Keren Trevino

In September, sophomore commercial music major Esther Okai-Tetteh joined fellow creatives from the Nashville Music Maker Cohort of Apple Creative Studios in the Roots Theater at the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) to showcase their projects to family and invited friends.  

NMAAM partnered with Apple to sponsor fifteen creatives aged 18-24 for a five-week program. Apple Creative Studios is an initiative for young people from underrepresented communities that provides mentorship, training and resources that wouldn’t be easily accessible otherwise. Creative Studios expanded to seven more cities around the globe this fall, with Nashville as a new launch site.  

“We were just in awe the entire day,” Okai-Tetteh said. “They told us, if you finish the program you get to keep all the gear. I was like, of course I’m going to finish the program.” 

The Belmont sophomore was provided with a MacBook Pro equipped with Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro and Spatial Audio, Air Pods max, a microphone and access to Apple Music studio as a member of the Nashville cohort.  

Before coming to Belmont, Esther was an accomplished songwriter who won the NafMe Student Songwriters Competition in 2020. She never envisioned herself doing anything separate from music and made the decision to attend Belmont to study commercial voice with an emphasis in music business. “With that comes very specific challenges like having to prove that this is a worthy career or forgiving the doubt,” she said.  

Her undergraduate experience so far has not only served her professionally through classwork and opportunities like Apple Creative Studios, but the Nashville native is also being developed on a personal level. “When I first got here doubt was my best friend. I did not want to put myself out there because I thought there was someone better than me,” Okai-Tetteh said. “But there always is. I think that forgiving the doubt that is trying to come into my life has been the biggest journey.” 

Her time with Apple Creative Studios helped enhance her production abilities, and peer support continues to help navigate Music City’s competitive market. “If someone has a music video coming out, they send it in the group chats and we all go watch it,” she said. “We all go stream it. If someone has a show, we’ll be there in the front row. 

Esther attributes much of her feelings of being grounded and rooted on campus to Belmont’s Black Student Association (BSA). Okai-Tetteh’s parents are from Ghana, and she has spent most of her education attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs).  

“Going to a PWI, it was hard to navigate who was part of the shared experience I had,” she said. “Finding the group that understood what it’s like to be in those spaces for a long period of time or a long period of your life and not being against you for it warmed my heart.” 

The songstress says that her two music genres are Americana and Neo-Soul. She is most inspired by the Americana artist, Yola, who is from Ghana and has similar physical traits with Esther’s mother who is also her musical inspiration.  

“Representation is so powerful,” Esther said. “It’s activism to be able and willing to put yourself in a space that a majority of a group will say is not for you. Some little baby who looks like me is going to look up at me and say, ‘She looks just like me. I want to be like her, because I can. Because that’s possible for me.’ That’s what YOLA did for me.” 

Esther is a 2021 YoungArts Alumna, and her band “Fly to the Sun” has music on Spotify. She hopes to use her music to inspire others and be an agent of representation and activism in the future.  

Belmont Alumnus Graham Spencer Named 2022 Blue Ribbon Teacher

Belmont alumnus Graham Spencer has been named a Blue Ribbon Teacher for 2022 by Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). Spencer, who is currently a math teacher at Goodlettsville Middle School in Nashville, Tennessee, was honored for his excellence in teaching and his dedication to making a positive impact on the lives of students. In addition to being named a Blue Ribbon Teacher, Spencer has also been recognized as the teacher of the year at his school and as a distinguished teacher by the Tennessee Education Association.

He is passionate about helping students discover their interests and potential and strives to create a classroom environment that is both challenging and supportive. “After graduating from [Belmont] and working for an awesome, socially minded company, I realized I wanted to have a bigger impact on my community. Teaching was the clear next step.”

Spencer, a double alumna (Accounting, ‘16 and Master’s in Teaching, 2018), is currently working on another Belmont degree. “I just started the Strategic Leadership in Education PhD program at Belmont, and I am excited to further my education with the purpose of being able to have a greater impact on the students of Nashville….The phenomenal professors at Belmont were and continue to be a huge support to my success in the classroom.”

Click here to learn more about the College of Education at Belmont.

Belmont Freshman Lawson Touliatos stars in New Holiday Film

Freshman philosophy major Lawson Touliatos will star in the new holiday film, “It’s Christmas Again,” set to premiere for one night only in theaters on Nov. 29. “It’s Christmas Again” unfolds Jake Young’s unexpected Christmas journey after a skateboarding accident gives him a chance to experience Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth. 

After learning about the project from his agent, the Memphis native auditioned and landed his first major role as the movie’s main character. 

“The music aspect drew me to the project itself,” Touliatos said. “It was one of the very few things I’d auditioned for that let me sing, which was nice. With it being a Christmas musical, I really like the idea of having new Christmas songs. It was a lot of fun.” 

The cast and crew will watch the premiere at AMC Dine-in Thoroughbred 20 theater in Franklin, where the movie was filmed. Learn more about the cast and crew, view sneak peek videos and photos and get tickets on the It’s Christmas Again webpage. Hear songs from “It’s Christmas Again” on Spotify.  

About It’s Christmas Again 

Writer, director and producer Sandra Martin and cinematographer and producer Isaac Alongi have been members at Life Mission Church in Kansas City, KS for more than 20 years.

The couple combined their giftings to produce “It’s Christmas Again,” a fun, family-oriented musical that Life Mission Church Lead Pastor Clint Sprague says is “theologically sound and culturally relevant.”

Belmont Receives ALL IN’s Most Engaged Campus for College Student Voting 

Belmont University earned the inaugural ALL IN Most Engaged Campus for College Student Voting recognition. This program recognizes participating institutions that worked to increase nonpartisan student voter registration, education and turnout and ensure equitable access to the polls for their campuses. 

In 2020, Belmont earned the Gold Seal from ALL IN for having seventy-nine percent voter participation, and has since been acknowledged on multiple accounts for notable voting-related activity. 

The Most Engaged Campuses for College Student Voting is part of ALL IN’s mission to advance voting efforts on college and university campuses across the country. The recognition distinguishes the involvement of senior leadership on college campuses and requires an executive team representative to sign the Higher Education Presidents’ Commitment to Full Student Voter Participation. Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost David Gregory signed for Belmont, earning the University “Most Engaged Campus” status. 

“Trying to help increase college student voter participation has been a huge push, nationwide,” Assistant Director of Student Engagement Derian Hamblin said. “Just recognizing how important young voters are and how much they need to make their voices heard through the voting process is what we are trying to do.” 

Spearheaded by the Student Government Association (SGA), ALL IN’s “Most Engaged Campus” recognition acknowledges the substantial efforts Belmont has made to increase voting awareness and participation among students. 

This semester, a voting resources section was added to the SGA webpage. During Voter Education Week and on National Voter Registration Day SGA provided resources to help students register to vote at ‘It Must Be Wednesday’. SGA also hosted a ‘Donut Forget to Vote’ event where they passed out donuts to students in the Beaman Student Life Center as “a sweet reminder that your vote is your voice.”  

Belmont was the site for two polling places for the November midterm election – one being the Curb Event Center for District 18-2 and the Sports Science Center housing the poll station for District 18-3. The campus participates in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) which reports voter turnout data. Belmont’s report will be available following the finalization of November election results.  

Student Formation Hosts PULSE Getaway and Student Leadership Advance


119 aspiring student leaders made their way to the Nelson Andrews Leadership Center at Camp Widjiwagan on Nov. 12 for the annual Pulse Getaway & Student Leadership Advance, presented by the Belmont Office of Leadership Development (BOLD).

PULSE gives students opportunities to learn and practice the leadership behaviors outlined in “Encourage the Heart” from The Student Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. Bruin leaders dove into learning ways to show appreciation, respect boundaries, and create a sense of community for all.

PULSE began with Dr. Mona Ivey- Soto, Associate Professor in the College of Education, sharing a powerful Leadership Lately talk about the power of trauma-informed, resiliency focused leadership and the importance of leading with love. Participants engaged in breakout sessions facilitated by BOLD and graduate students in the Graduate Opportunities in Leadership Development (GOLD) program.  Campus partners from Residence Life, Fitness & Recreation, Bruin Recruiters, New Student Orientation, Belmont Ambassadors, and the Office of Student Engagement each recruited for leadership positions in their areas. Ninety-five percent of students agreed that they will use the tools and skills they learned at PULSE in their pursuit of leadership and service.  This character forming leadership retreat continues to make a positive impact on students.

BOLD student leaders connected with their peers while enjoying board games, karaoke, relay races, indoor and outdoor campfires, and the giant swing. This was a time for students to getaway and be fully present with their peers.

To close out the experience, undergraduate students shared their leadership journeys during Tower Talks. These inspiring stories brought many students to tears as they reflected on their leadership development over the last several years at Belmont.

PULSE is leaving a lasting impression on the whole Belmont community. Ninety-four percent of students agreed that “Encourage the Heart” sessions introduced them to new leadership behaviors, skills, and commitments that they can put into practice now. Along with that ninety-one percent of students agreed that PULSE helped them become more confident in their leadership abilities. BOLD ensures diverse and inclusive leadership development opportunities for ALL Belmont students.  Check out pictures from Pulse here.

BOLD Connectors will be the final BOLD event being offered this semester. Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 student leaders will review their leadership progress to continue working toward earning their co-curricular certificate in leadership. Click here to learn more about BOLD and GOLD experiences being offered next Spring.

Four-Legged Healthcare Heroes

Dr. Christi Williams and Layla

Dr. Christi Williams, physical therapy associate professor and 2005 Belmont alumna, recently self-published the book Healthcare Heroes: How Therapy Dogs Change Lives! along with co-author Dr. Angela Bozik (‘22). The book highlights the impact therapy dogs have on the health care industry with both patients and providers.

Written at a middle school reading level for accessibility, this book is for everyone. Young children enjoy the book’s full-size photos, and adults have learned about the importance of therapy dogs within a variety of health care settings. The book’s goal is twofold: to educate and inspire. “I want people to read this and think, ‘My dog could do that!’ and encourage people to go through the training to get their dog registered to be a therapy dog,” said Williams.

Bozik, a 2022 occupational therapy alumna, worked alongside Williams as a co-author on the project as part of her occupational therapy senior capstone project. Her dog Maisy—featured in the book—is a newly certified therapy dog.

Service Dogs vs. Therapy Dogs
What is the difference between service dogs and therapy dogs? Service dogs are specifically trained for one person to fill in gaps for someone with a disability (i.e., mobility, seizure alert, etc.). Therapy dogs are pets trained, tested and certified to work with various people. Once certified, the dog and owner can visit numerous facilities and settings.

Williams has always had a passion for dogs. In fact, during her Belmont Physical Therapy interview as a prospective student, she was asked what first made her interested in the field. “I remember saying that I saw a special on TV of kids with cancer working with a dog, which was what first made me look into what physical therapy was,” she recalled. “Fast forward, I never did anything pediatrics or cancer or dogs –completely outpatient orthopedic physical therapy, so it never crossed my mind again.”

After transitioning from full-time practice to full-time teaching, Williams knew she eventually wanted to train a service dog, but realistically thought it would not happen until she retired. She could, however, train her own dog Layla, a sweet, Labrador retriever to be a therapy dog. She received special permission to bring Layla to campus as the two trained for Layla’s therapy dog certification. “Belmont labs are set up just like health care facilities, so it was the perfect layout to practice. Layla was introduced to many diverse people and was exposed to physical therapy and occupational therapy settings.”

The two began volunteering at pediatric oncology centers and neuro ICUs working with both patients and providers. “The impact I saw so quickly made me step back as a PT. All this time, I’ve been working to help people as a physical therapist,” she said. “Then I realized that me being an everyday person, walking in with a dog, how much change that created immediately.”

The decrease in pain levels and stress among patients was profound, as Williams described, and prompted her to conduct research at Belmont on therapy dogs, specifically on using dogs for anxiety reduction before exams.

Drs. Christi Williams and Angela Bozik with Maisy

Within Physical Therapy Curriculum
Therapy dogs are not new, but little is known about access and laws within health care settings. In fact, they are extremely underutilized within health care simply due to a lack of knowledge and training. Williams has integrated service and therapy dogs within physical therapy curriculum at Belmont in the “Psychosocial Aspects of Health” course to educate future providers to use them in practice. “The majority of health care providers simply don’t know what service and therapy dogs are, or what they can do,” said Williams.

A unique offering, Belmont is one of the only physical therapy programs that integrate therapy and service dogs within curriculum. Through this course content, Williams hopes to prepare future physical therapists on how to use dogs in practice, and the impact therapy dogs can have on both patients and providers.

Looking Ahead
Williams is hoping to share her book broadly, especially in waiting rooms, hospitals, outpatient rehab centers, dental clinics and more. Through her visits with Layla to local facilities, she’s seen an impact far beyond the patient. “Long term, this can be huge for the health care world,” said the physical therapist. “I have seen the effect a dog has on providers, which was not my goal when I first started this. It has such a massive impact on nurses and others on the care team.”

All proceeds from the book are being donated back to therapy dog organizations. “This work is holistic, and doesn’t stop here,” said Williams. She will be on sabbatical from teaching in spring 2023 and is researching, interviewing and gathering content for a second book.

You can purchase Healthcare Heroes! How Therapy Dogs Change Lives on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble.