MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — MTSU students and administrators received lessons in leadership Wednesday (Aug. 3) from a person of experience at both the collegiate and municipal level.

Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland addressed the annual Center for Student Involvement and Leadership summer retreat at Murfreesboro Police Headquarters on Day One of a two-day retreat. Current Student Government Association President Jada K. Powell presented him with his own SGA polo shirt to commemorate the occasion.

A 1997 MTSU alumnus who served as student body president from 1995-1996, McFarland covered a wide range of topics from issues challenging the city today to the qualities of leadership he finds most important. One of those qualities is not feeling threatened by associates who know more about certain subjects than he does.

“I’ve tried to do the best I can to surround myself with people who challenge me and who are smarter than me,” McFarland said.

McFarland singled out communication, etiquette and interpersonal skills as key factors in distinguishing top personnel from the rest of the pack. Powell found his comments on communication to be of particular interest.

“When we’re communicating with each other, especially as leaders, we have to understand that some people communicate differently than others,” Powell said. “So we have to find common ground.” 

“You have to have a level of humility to be able to be a true leader,” McFarland said. “One of my big personal mottos is ‘be quick to take blame but slow to take credit.’”

He also credited his MTSU fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, with helping him to hone his public speaking skills and leadership abilities.

“Getting involved in a fraternity really changed my experience … because it gave me a group that I had something to do with,” McFarland said. “That really pushed me to get involved in SGA.”

The mayor cited Middle Point Landfill as one of his top priorities. He said there are some significant environmental issues his administration is working to address. Among the possible solutions is an anaerobic digester, which turns solid waste into natural gas that can, in turn, be sold.

He also cited traffic as a byproduct of Murfreesboro’s considerable growth. While noting that most of the roads in the city are actually state roads, McFarland stated that the city has spent $240 million on transportation projects in the last six years.  

The mayor said growth also was a factor in MTSU’s decision to move the university’s flight training program from Murfreesboro’s airport to Shelbyville’s airport. The Shelbyville airport is nearly three times larger in size, while the Murfreesboro airport had more operations in March 2020 than even Nashville International Airport.

“Murfreesboro is the third busiest airport in Tennessee behind Nashville and Memphis,” McFarland said.

Powell said the interaction with McFarland “was an amazing opportunity for myself and my executive board to learn about what’s going on in the city of Murfreesboro so that we can inform our students on ways to get acclimated to a new city, especially students who are moving here from out of state or from different parts of Tennessee.”

Other aspects of the retreat included a tour of the police department and a goal-setting session for the SGA Executive Board, as well as a discussion of the book “Relationship Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College” by Peter Felten and Leo M. Lambert.

For more information on the Center for Student Leadership and Involvement, go to To learn more about the Student Government Association, go to