TSU political analysts say pandemic sets stage for historic 2020 General Election, predict strong turnout by young voters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Young people, galvanized over social injustice, are predicted to have a strong turnout in the General Election in November, Tennessee State University political analysts say. Their strong voting numbers are expected in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Junior Tiara Thomas

Brian Russell, a political science professor at TSU, says the deaths of George Floyd and other black men and women due to police brutality is one main example of injustice that has energized young people to seek change, particularly in the case of elected officials.

“Think about how many people have gone out on the streets and protested,” says Russell. “That shows that people are motivated to do something, to make change.”

“When young people do come out in high numbers, things happen that don’t usually happen,” adds Russell. “Think about in 2008 when President (Barack) Obama was elected. That was an election when more young people than normal came out to vote.”

Russell says COVID-19 will affect voter turnout to some degree, but he doesn’t expect it to dampen the fervor to vote he’s seeing in young people around the country. TSU History Professor Erik Schmeller agrees.

“I’m always impressed with how worked up our students can get, and how they focus that on things,” says Schmeller, who is also the director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at TSU.

“National organizations are also pushing the message, that this is your opportunity to get engaged and make a difference. Vote.”

Junior Tiara Thomas of Olive Branch, Mississippi, is among a number of students at TSU who are heeding that directive, and encouraging others to do the same. The political science major is the creator of TSU Votes, a social media platform that makes students aware of voting dates, what’s happening nationally in politics, as well as works with other voter advocacy organizations to ensure students stay informed.

“Not voting for my generation is not an option,” says Thomas, who also has a podcast that allows students to express their views about politics in general. “And I try to make sure that my peers know that.”

Russell Waters, a junior from Huntsville, Alabama, works with Thomas to spread awareness about voting. When students return in the fall, he says he plans to have flyers ready with election information, such as election deadlines, and using mail-in ballots if necessary.

Junior Russell Waters

“We’re really focusing on the General Election,” says Waters, a computer science major. “It’s a very important election. So, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing until Election Day.”

TSU students are not alone in their effort to make sure people vote. President Glenda Glover and TSU were recently selected by The General® Insurance to participate in Shaquille O’Neal’s social media challenge to encourage voter registration for the 2020 General Election.

The #MyStartingFive challenge was launched by SHAQ and Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum, alongside the national, nonpartisan non-profit organization, When We All Vote, whose mission is to increase voter participation in elections. The organization, launched by co-chair and former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2018, seeks to educate eligible voters on the power of their voice and their vote, and take action. Participants in the challenge will nominate five people to register and pledge to vote in November’s election via the When We All Vote #MyStartingFive voter registration portal: whenweallvote.org/mystartingfive.

To learn more about the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/servicelearning/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU celebrates 2020 graduates with first-ever virtual commencement ceremony

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University celebrated its Class of 2020 with a historic virtual commencement Saturday. More than 700 graduates and undergraduates were honored during the program.

President Glenda Glover

TSU President Glenda Glover greeted the graduates and welcomed alumni, staff and guests watching the program livestreamed on all the major social media platforms.

“It is my distinct honor and privilege to extend heartfelt congratulations to you,” Glover said. “I applaud you for having reached this extraordinary milestone in your academic career. It does not matter how long it took you, you are being honored today because you are graduating. You have endured. We honor your sacrifice. You have overcome obstacles, you have multiplied your talent, you increased your resources.”

Dr. Harold Love, Jr.

State Rep. Harold Love, Jr., a TSU alum, who brought the keynote address, told the graduates that while COVID-19 has been a hindrance to many things, they must reflect on their achievement as a successful story during this time.

“Many years from now, when we look back on 2020, we will reflect on the bright spots and good things we can point to as an indicator that COVID-19 did not completely eliminate the wonderful things of life,” said Love, who earned bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from TSU.

“In that moment, you will be able to declare that ‘yes,’ COVID-19 caused the world to change how we interact with each other, but in the midst of all of that, you graduated from college. Your gifts and graces are desperately needed to make this world a better place. Like so many before you, you heard the clarion call to enter, to learn, and to go forth to serve with an education you received from Tennessee State University. Don’t let the 24-hour news cycle cause you to have fear about what you will do next. Use that creative mind to discover cures, educate the next generation, or help someone else cope with the challenge of life.”

SGA President Katelyn Thompson

Although the delivery was different, the commencement exercises remained generally the same. The program began with a slideshow of the graduates, followed by a presentation by Student Government Association President Katelyn Thompson.

“We did it,” said Thompson, a Memphis native and double major, who received degrees in criminal justice and psychology.

“Four years ago, we took our first step as first-year students at this prestigious university. As we matriculated through our journey, we were blessed with additions to our family. Congratulations to each of you. TSU has taught us to be resilient in the face of adversity. Although we had such an abrupt stop to our day-to-day campus life, we still had the fight, the vision and the determination to accomplish this milestone.”

Tommy Evans of Belleville, Illinois, said he missed walking across the stage, but is appreciative to TSU for making sure that students received recognition another way. 

Orica Kutten received the Academic Excellence Award for the high GPA in her class.

“I’m excited, because either way, we’re being celebrated for our accomplishments,” said Evans, a criminal justice major and senior class vice president. 

Seliene Munroe Bignall, who received her doctorate in education administration, agreed. 

“I feel very, very blessed,” said Bignall of Nashville. “It has been a long journey, especially with what’s going on here and around the world.”

During the ceremony, Orica Kutten, who received her bachelor’s degree in biology, was presented with the Academic Excellence Award for achieving the highest grade point average in her class.

Just like in the past, deans of the various colleges presented candidates to President Glover for the conferring of degrees, as the graduates’ names scrolled across the screen.

Reaction to the first-ever virtual commencement was overwhelmingly positive. One comment on Facebook described the ceremony as “a grandiloquent job.”

“I watched the virtual commencement. It was a beautiful virtual presentation,” the commenter said.

Another added, “Congratulations, it was a nice commencement, and well presented.”

For the next academic year, the University is set to reopen on August 17 under a comprehensive plan that officials say will provide additional COVID-19 safety protocols to protect the health and safety of the campus community. To learn more about TSU’s campus operation plans for fall reopening, visit www.tnstate.edu/return.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU 2020 graduates optimistic about job market, despite difficulties posed by coronavirus pandemic

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the job outlook for college graduates might seem a bit disheartening because of the financial hardship businesses are enduring, but many Tennessee State University students say they are optimistic about their future because of how TSU has prepared them.

Damyr Moore, the outgoing Mister TSU, received his degree in mass communications and integrated marketing. (Submitted Photo)

Lawrence Tommy Evans graduated in May with a degree in criminal justice. He has completed required background checks and physicals with the FBI and another with the Davidson County Police Academy, where he is seeking employment.

“My chances look good and I am keeping my hopes up,” says Evans, of Belleville, Illinois. “In criminal justice, there is always a process which I am going through, such as the background check. But beyond that, I know I am prepared after going through a very rigorous program during my four years at TSU.”

Like Evans, fellow May graduate Damyr Moore, who earned a degree in mass communications and integrated marketing, says while he has not landed a job, he is making the necessary connections and believes “something will come up soon.”

Lawrence Tommy Evans received his degree in criminal justice in May. (Submitted Photo)

“With everything going on right now, I am just trying to stay focused and prepared,” says Moore, of Atlanta, who is the outgoing Mister TSU. He is looking for employment in marketing, public relations, web design, or graphic design.

“That’s one thing TSU taught me – how to be prepared for anything in the future,” adds Moore. “I am looking for anything that allows me to be creative in ways that help to further the vision of the company through bringing in fresh ideas.”

Reports show that the Class of 2020 has a particularly difficult time ahead in navigating the tough job market, made more uncertain with the outbreak. The overall unemployment rate was 11 percent in June — that number jumps to 19.8 percent for those age 20-24, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, employment and career experts say adequate preparation is always the best tool to help get a job.

Antoinette Hargrove Duke, the associate director of the Career Development Center at TSU, says in addition to helping students prepare for the job market, such as through interview coaching, internship search, and career assessments, the center uses different platforms to keep students and companies connected.

“We work with many companies and franchisees throughout the year to prepare our students through internships, co-ops, and employment opportunities,” says Duke. “We are committed to our students and will continue to prepare them for working in any corporation.”

In the last year, Duke says the Career Development Center has worked with major local and national entities, such as Lockheed Martin, the Predators, Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Braves, Innophos, Inc., The General, Nashville Soccer Club, Bank of America, and Deloitte, among many others.

Abdul Alsafri, also a May graduate, says the extra nudging from the Career Development Center has been very encouraging and helpful in his job search.

“My classroom work prepared me for the job, but the Career Development Center gave me the tools I need in looking for a job and how to make myself attractive to employers,” says Alsafri, of Saudi Arabia, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in management and information systems.

“The center gave me so many resources and links on career building. They gave me hope and I am very grateful.”

On Saturday, August 1, Evans, Moore and Alsafri were among more than 700 spring graduates honored with a 2020 Virtual Commencement.

The University is set to reopen on August 17 under a comprehensive plan that officials say will provide additional COVID-19 safety protocols to protect the health and safety of the campus community.

To learn more about TSU’s campus operation plans for fall reopening, visit www.tnstate.edu/return.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU campus construction intended to enhance students’ living, learning; new Health Sciences Building to open in August

 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With the completion of a new Health Sciences Building set for next month, Tennessee State University officials say ongoing construction projects around campus are on schedule and are intended to enhance students’ living and improve their learning environment.

President Glenda Glover

“The new projects are part of a long-term plan to improve academic programs and increase our residence hall inventory, while enhancing the overall status of the university,” says TSU President Glenda Glover. 

“We are extremely excited about welcoming our students and about the future and the new look our campus will take on with the construction. It’s been a long time coming for our students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

In March, amid the coronavirus pandemic, TSU sent students home, closed the residence halls, and asked employees to work remotely, but the construction continued. 

A rendering of the 700-bed residence hall under construction on the main campus. The project, expected to be completed in about 18 months, is estimated at $75.2 million. (Submitted Photo)

As the university prepares to reopen on August 17, officials say all of the projects are still ongoing and on schedule, but construction activities will not have any negative impact on student housing or movements.

Among the projects, the new, ultra-modern Health Sciences Building with classrooms, spaces for clinical simulations, labs and offices, will greet new and returning students when it opens in August. It is estimated at $38.3 million. A 700-bed residence hall estimated at $75.2 million, and expected to be completed in about 18 months, is under construction in the open space between Watson Hall and the Performing Arts Center. Other projects soon to be started are the Gateway Arch, Alumni House and Welcome Center, and a Field Research Organic Laboratory.

Dr. Curtis Johnson, Chief of Staff and Associate Vice President, says ongoing construction will not interrupt students’ movement around campus. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

 “These projects are going to be as less intrusive to students’ ability to move around as possible,” says Dr. Curtis Johnson, chief of staff and associate vice president at TSU. “It won’t hurt student housing. It may be noisy for them during some construction periods, but it won’t interrupt them being able to get into their residence halls or to be able to move around.”

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, agrees. He says every effort is being made to ensure that students are not inconvenienced in any way.

Frank Stevenson

“We will be intentional about minimizing the inconvenience to students,” says Stevenson. “We are bringing up a huge edifice that is going to be something very special, and as such, there may be a need on the part of students to make some minor adjustments in terms of that construction site.”

He says the current residence halls are ready to welcome new and returning students for the fall semester.

“We really are excited about our students coming back. We left rather abruptly in the spring,” says Stevenson. “We miss the students in terms of the opportunity to see them on campus. We really are excited about this fall. Even though it is different, we are making sure we provide a safe environment, good experience and a quality education for the students.”

With the new construction, some previously designated parking areas are being taken up to make room for the new student housing, but Johnson says the overall plan is ensuring that no parking space is lost.

“All we have done is to relocate some parking spaces,” he says, adding, “That means that we might have to take a few more steps to get to certain locations than we did before. But we are not losing any parking. In fact, we may pick up a few more than we had before.”

Johnson says although campus may look different with all of the projects going on, students are generally excited to see positive changes around them, especially in infrastructure and the future of the university.

“It is always good when the student can say, ‘I remember what it used to be but it is better now.’ That is what we are trying to make – a better TSU,” he says.

TSU announced July 8 it will reopen August 17 under a comprehensive plan that will provide additional COVID-19 safety protocols to protect the health and safety of the campus community, along with student discounts.  

To learn more about TSU’s campus operation plans for fall reopening, visit www.tnstate.edu/return.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU grad student receives doctoral degree after 17 years, credits having ‘grit’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When Seliene Munroe Bignall decided to write her doctoral dissertation on the concept of “grit”, she probably didn’t realize how true to life her journey would be. After nearly 20 years to get her degree, Bignall will be among the hundreds of Tennessee State University graduates honored in a 2020 Virtual Commencement on Aug. 1.

“I feel very, very blessed to be completing my doctoral studies,” says Bignall, who is getting her doctorate in education administration. “It has really been a long journey.”

Seliene Bignall

On Saturday, she will join the University’s more than 700 spring graduates being recognized at 9 a.m. CDT. The ceremony will be live streamed on the TSU homepage (www.tnstate.edu), YouTube (www.tnstate.edu/youtube) and Facebook (www.tnstate.edu/facebook).

Bignall worked as a campus crime prevention counselor at TSU for almost 10 years. She started her doctoral program in TSU’s Department of Educational Leadership in 2003, taking night classes at TSU and a couple of classes during the summer. But she decided to take a break in 2010 because she felt she was neglecting her family, particularly her daughter, who was about to be a junior in high school.

“One night I came home and she stayed up for me,” recalls Bignall. “She said, ‘mom, I don’t get to see you at all anymore.’ It broke my heart. The next day I went in to see my advisor and I told her I am going to take a break. I will always need my child, way more than I will need an advanced degree.”

After a few years, Bignall returned to TSU and continued to pursue her degree. She says she decided to make “grit” the topic of her dissertation after watching her husband, Dr. Orville Bignall, a physics professor at TSU, encourage his students to complete their degrees – to not give up.

“I saw how my husband nurtured students, and encouraged them to finish,” says Seliene Bignall, adding that her husband was a motivating factor in her doctoral completion. “Many of them don’t.”

So, she decided to focus on what it takes for African American students in particular to qualify and complete programs, like Engineering, and she chose the concept of grit, or perseverance.

Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis is chair of TSU’s Department of Languages, Literature and Philosophy. She says Seliene Bignall, who is currently a counselor at a Nashville elementary school, is living justification of her dissertation topic.

Seliene Bignall and her husband, Dr. Orville Bignall. (Submitted photo)

“Seliene didn’t need the textbook definition because she defines grit every day,” says Morgan-Curtis. “I firmly believe that it took her so long to finish this degree because she puts herself last. Every day she gives to others: to her students, to her family, to the students who become her family. And it was only when she decided that the degree would allow her to do and be more and show the students that it could be done, that she took and made the time to complete the degree.”

Whether in college or aspiring to be, Bignall says she wants all students to know that they can be successful. And if they are doubtful, she will share her journey.

“And I will tell that person one word – grit. Never give up,” says Bignall.

TSU is a leader in helping educators pursue degrees in educational leadership. In June, the University received the other half of a $600,000 grant to train educators to become assistant principals in Middle Tennessee school districts.

Officials said the effort is part of a longstanding collaborative partnership between the university, the Department of Education and K-12 systems aimed at attracting more qualified applicants for positions in school leadership.

“Tennessee State University is taking the lead in the state’s assistant principal training program, as a further recognition of the quality of our programs,” said Dr. Jerri Haynes, dean of the College of Education. “Through this program we are helping to fill the void or shortage of assistant principals, especially minorities.”

To learn more about TSU’s Educational Leadership program, visit https://bit.ly/2DfCiNq.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU honors spring graduates with 2020 Virtual Commencement on Aug. 1

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The pandemic is preventing Tennessee State University from having a traditional graduation, but graduates say they will still be thrilled when they are recognized virtually on Saturday, Aug. 1. 

TSU President Glenda Glover

The University’s 746 spring graduates are being honored with a 2020 Virtual Commencement at 9 a.m. CDT. The ceremony will be live streamed on the TSU homepage (www.tnstate.edu), YouTube (www.tnstate.edu/youtube) and Facebook (www.tnstate.edu/facebook).

“While we recognize the importance of a traditional commencement for our students and their families, we must balance it with the associated risks at this time of COVID-19,” says TSU President Glenda Glover. “This decision was not easy because our graduates have earned the honor of participating in a traditional commencement. But on Saturday, though virtual, we will celebrate them with the same Big Blue spirit as if they were in person.” 

Senior Tommy Evans of Belleville, Illinois, says he will miss not walking across the stage, but is appreciative to TSU for making sure that students receive recognition another way. 

“I’m excited, because either way, we’re being celebrated for our accomplishments,” says Evans, a criminal justice major and senior class vice president. 

Seliene Munroe Bignall, who is getting her doctorate in education administration, agrees. 

“I feel very, very blessed,” says Bignall of Nashville. “It has been a long journey, especially with what’s going on here and around the world.”

While they will miss the traditional graduation, students say they understand that because of the coronavirus, safety comes first. They also laud their soon-to-be alma mater for what it’s doing to make the campus safe for students coming after them. 

In March, as a result of the virus, like other higher education institutions around the country, TSU sent students home to finish the semester and employees began working remotely. The University immediately began a deep cleaning and sanitizing of the campus. 

Evans was among some of the students who remained on campus through the end of the semester, and says he was impressed with steps the University took to make the campus safe.  

“They did a very thorough cleaning,” says Evans. “I felt very safe.” 

The University is set to reopen on August 17 under a comprehensive plan that officials say will provide additional COVID-19 safety protocols to protect the health and safety of the campus community.

To learn more about TSU’s campus operation plans for fall reopening, visit www.tnstate.edu/return.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU uses national coding hub to help Apple deepen partnerships with HBCUs, bridge technology gap in underserved communities

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is helping Apple deepen its existing partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities by using its national coding hub to reach even more HBCUs, allowing them to expand coding and creativity opportunities to their own communities.  

TSU President Glenda Glover

Apple announced it is adding 10 more HBCU regional coding centers that will serve as technology hubs for their campuses and broader communities. This effort is part of Apple’s Community Education Initiative, designed to bring coding, creativity, and workforce development opportunities to learners of all ages. TSU now serves as the national hub for training and providing support to educators from these institutions.

“Tennessee State University is proud to be a national hub for this great initiative, as we give HBCU students and their communities access to an opportunity to expand their knowledge and gain important workforce development skills,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Coding and app development are a growing part of the global workforce, and we want to help make sure people of color, especially our students, are equipped with the knowledge and skills to be competitive, and successful.”

The tech giant has been working with TSU for the past two years to launch and expand the school’s HBCU C2 initiative, which brings coding and creativity experiences to all 100-plus HBCUs. 

Ten HBCUs, which have been working alongside Apple and Tennessee State University for the past year, will now become hubs to promote coding in their broader communities: Arkansas Baptist College, Central State University, Claflin University, Dillard University, Fisk University, Lawson State Community College, Morehouse College, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University at Shreveport, and Tougaloo College. Apple expects to double the number of HBCU partners by the end of this summer, expanding the network of schools offering coding, creativity, and career pathway opportunities.

Dr. Robbie Melton is TSU’s associate vice president of the SMART Global Technology Innovation Center and dean of Graduate and Professional Studies. She is also a champion of the HBCU C2 initiative. She is proud of what the program has already accomplished, and sees unlimited potential for the future. 

Tennessee State University’s Dr. Robbie Melton has been working alongside Apple for the past two years to bring coding and creativity to HBCU peer institutions, with goals to reach every HBCU. (TSU Media Relations)

“In two years, I want all HBCUs to be coding and creating,” said Melton. “In two years, you’re going to see many more people of color entering the STEM workforce — and in two years we’re going to double the number of Black women in technology through this program.”

 Each hub is designed to create a multiplier effect, building capacity at the HBCUs that extends beyond the campus through partnerships with local K-12 schools, community partners, local governments, and other community stakeholders. Melton views the added regional hubs as a key element of the program’s holistic approach. 

“A hub is a core of empowerment that goes beyond the campus,” said Melton. “It’s about going into the community, into the home, into businesses so that when people code, it becomes part of their lives and it’s helping them solve big problems. This initiative is going to help those who have been broken through COVID-19, broken through racism — and it’s going to empower them through knowledge and skills.”

Last month, Apple launched a new Racial Equity and Justice Initiativefocused on challenging systemic barriers to opportunity for communities of color by advancing education, economic equality, and criminal justice reform efforts.

”Apple is committed to working alongside communities of color to advance educational equity,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. “We see this expansion of our Community Education Initiative and partnership with HBCUs as another step toward helping Black students realize their dreams and solve the problems of tomorrow.”

TSU held a recent virtual HBCU Csummit, bringing together nearly 300 educators from across the HBCU community. The goal of the program was to share best practices and hear from colleagues about workforce development, connecting with their communities, and to bring coding to students of all ages.

To learn more about TSU’s HBCU Cinitiative, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/hbcuc2/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU program helps address shortage of special education teachers in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is using a $375,000 grant from the state Department of Education to address the need for more special education teachers across the state.

The SPED Endorsement Program allows certified teachers within Tennessee to receive their special education endorsement at no cost to them or their school district. At least 70 teachers are scheduled to take the online course in the fall.

“The College of Education plays a critical role in addressing special education teacher vacancies across Tennessee by providing a pathway for current teachers to add special education endorsements at no cost,” said Dr. Jerri Haynes, dean of the College of Education.

“TSU has a history of preparing educators in K-12 settings. It has been preparing educators since 1934 and is a leader in higher education, pioneering education, and preparing teachers. A lot has changed since then, but our commitment to training educators remains the same.”

Statistics show a need for special education teachers in Tennessee. The National Center for Education reports that 12.1 percent of the state’s student population has an Individualized Education Program, below the national average of 13 percent. In its analysis of the ability of each state to meet the needs of its students with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education rated Tennessee as “needs assistance.”

The program at TSU will allow an educator to become the teacher of record for instruction, and develop and implement Individual Education Programs (IEP) for the Special Education Interventionist K-8 endorsement. Participants will receive services at no cost for tuition or fees. Also, TSU will cover the cost of one administration of the Licensure Assessment(s) associated with the endorsement through the grant funds. 

Dr. Judith Presley is the program’s coordinator. She said program participants are enthusiastic.  

“Several students have contacted me and expressed their excitement to have the opportunity to be a part of the program and the benefits of receiving the training,” said Presley.

Brady Risner of Collinwood, Tennessee, is among those enrolled to take the course in the fall, and she’s grateful for the opportunity.

“I was thrilled to be accepted,” said Risner, a second-grade teacher at Collinwood Elementary. “I’ve always had a soft spot for children with special needs. I taught in a transition class before, where there were struggling students, and it really opened my eyes to see that I have a passion for that.”

Nicki Hartsfield, who is also enrolled this fall, said she realized she wanted to become a special education teacher after being a special Ed assistant.

“I found out about the (TSU) program through our central office,” said Hartsfield, who is currently a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Leoma Elementary School in Leoma, Tennessee. “This gives me another opportunity to help kids.”

The grant is the latest TSU has received from the Tennessee Department of Education in the last year. In June, the University received the other half of a $600,000 grant to train educators to become assistant principals in Middle Tennessee school districts.

Officials said the effort is part of a longstanding collaborative partnership between the university, the Department of Education and K-12 systems aimed at attracting more qualified applicants for positions in school leadership.

“Tennessee State University is taking the lead in the state’s assistant principal training program, as a further recognition of the quality of our programs,” said Haynes. “Through this program we are helping to fill the void or shortage of assistant principals, especially minorities.”

To learn more about TSU’s College of Education, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/coe/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Nursing Graduate Returns Home After Fighting COVID-19 in New York, Credits University with Preparing Her

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Keisha Coleman is finally home for a well-deserved rest. For three months straight and working 13-hour shifts, the traveling nurse and Tennessee State University graduate was on the front line caring for COVID-19 patients in New York.

Keisha Coleman is taking a month off after caring for COVID-19 patients in New York. She plans to return to the front line. (Submitted Photo)

“I love my patients and I miss them but I was excited to come home,” says Coleman, a critical care nurse who worked in the intensive care units at several hospitals in New York.

“I didn’t want to leave them, but I was ready to come home just to see my family because they were home worried for me as well. My mom couldn’t sleep, she would text me late nights on the job to see if I am okay.”

Coleman always wanted to work in critical care and she says TSU prepared her well for the challenge. After earning her associate’s degree in nursing in 2017, she worked at Nashville General Hospital and St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in the Intensive Care Unit. After some time at St. Thomas, Coleman says she decided to be a traveling nurse, “and just then, COVID came.” Her first assignment was New York, one of the country’s hardest hit states.

“It was tough and scary at first, but I do think TSU prepared me well to be the nurse and strong woman I am,” says Coleman. “At some point of my assignment, instead of the usual two, I had four to five critical patients, who were sedated, on ventilators and paralyzed. It was scary when you have all of these critical patients you have to take care of.  You get to thinking about yourself, your health. Some nurses got infected. I can honestly say I was nervous about contracting the virus, but I came back home and I tested negative.”

Keisha Coleman earned her nursing degree from TSU in 2017. (Submitted Photo)

Like many healthcare workers on the front line in the early days of the pandemic, Coleman says the task was daunting – long hours, influx of patients and shortage of critically needed PPE’s, or personal protective equipment.

“From day one we were limited on PPEs that were needed to go in the rooms to take care of patients,” says Coleman. “When I got there, we had all COVID patients. When we gowned up, we had to go to multiple rooms with that one gown. Normally, we would take off that gown prior to leaving the room. Since we were so limited, we had to use the same gown in different patients’ rooms. It was so bad that at some points we had to use bleach to wipe down our gowns to reuse them. We were limited on gloves, masks and certain medications.”

Amid the shortage, Coleman says the patient load continued to climb, as hospitals ran out of space for patients and places to store the mounting number of dead people.

“After a lot of those patients died we didn’t have any rooms,” recalls Coleman. “We were putting them on the roof, in the basement and some in a tractor trailer outside. As all three places were full, we started putting bodies on a sled and just dump ice on them,” she says.

By the end of May, Coleman says things started to slow down. Some patients who had been admitted for up to three months began to get better – being able to walk, learn to talk, and breathe on their own.

“It was a good feeling,” she says. “I didn’t want to leave them, but I was ready to come home. But I am glad I went. It really was a humbling and rewarding experience. It is good to have this experience firsthand to tell my future children, and that I was on the front line helping.”

While Coleman’s situation was dire, she is one of several TSU nursing school graduates among the thousands of healthcare workers around the country responding to the influx of patients suffering from COVID-19. They’re conducting screenings, communicating to patients’ families, and above all, caring for the critically ill.

Dr. Pinky Noble-Britton, associate professor and director of TSU’s BSN program, says like Coleman, TSU nursing students are prepared to perform at the highest level of their profession in administering safe patient care.

“We push them and they are expected to use whatever resources they have to their best ability,” says Noble-Britton.

Knowing that her work is critical, especially with the new surge in coronavirus cases across the country, Coleman says she plans to take another month off and then head back to helping COVID patients.

“I plan to go back and help in one of the other states, like Florida, Texas or Arizona, which are epic centers,” says Coleman. “My plan is to travel and change lives, and just to know that I made a difference.”

Coleman also plans to return to TSU to earn her BSN degree. The program is now accepting applications for Fall 2020. The Traditional B.S.N. at TSU provides an instructional environment that teaches students how to provide holistic, ethical and culturally sensitive care to clients across the lifespan. To learn more about TSU’s nursing program, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/nursing/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU uses covid-19 exercise to help with Fall Reopening Plan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With Tennessee State University planning to reopen this fall, state health and emergency management officials say the university is moving in the right direction to ensure a safe environment for its reopening plan.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission joined TSU President Glenda Glover and other TSU officials in a COVID-19 tabletop exercise on the university’s main campus.

President Glenda Glover talks to the media about the importance of the tabletop discussion on TSU’s fall reopening plan. (TSU Media Relations)

“Today’s tabletop was very critical in our reopening plan, in that it covered areas that we need to know about, and emphasized things that we had missing in our plan,” Glover said. “It was very strategically timed today because we have to communicate something to students this week. So, this was very good, very complete and very comprehensive.”

The tabletop was coordinated by the three agencies that praised the positive level of cooperation between TSU’s administration and staff in trying to come up with a comprehensive plan for the campus, including safety protocols, testing and tracking.

Representatives from the university’s Pandemic and Fall Course Delivery Task Forces, as well as student affairs, emergency management, legal affairs, athletics, police, and academic affairs, among others, attended the workshop. (TSU Media Relations)

“What we saw here with TSU is that you have an administration that’s being collaborative and finding ways to mitigate the threat of COVID-19,” said Jeff Brown, a planner with TEMA and key facilitator of the tabletop.

“They want to open campus up and I think they are taking the right precautions through communicating with each other and coming up with contingency plans on how to deal with any potential problems down the road.

The goal of the tabletop was to identify areas in the group’s emergency response plan that needed improvement in addressing coronavirus outbreak scenarios.

Members of the university’s Pandemic and Fall Course Delivery Task Forces, representatives from student affairs, emergency management, legal affairs, police, academic affairs and others attended the workshop. Scenarios included real-life on “what-if” situations, such as positive tests in dormitories, cluster outbreaks, how to respond to COVID-19 within athletics, situations, and how to handle mass gatherings.

 Dr. Curtis Johnson, chief of staff and head of the TSU Pandemic and Fall Course Delivery Task Forces, said the tabletop exercise helped to make individuals in key areas evaluate their policies and processes.

“Today’s process put individuals who are decision-makers involved in managing those decisions in one room to talk about the what-ifs, such as ‘when this occurs,’ ‘should this occur,’” Johnson said.

“It also helped in ensuring that our policies and processes are in line with the state and federal government, the CDC, and that the university is protecting everyone as best as possible.”

The exercise also assessed the validity of TSU’s current emergency response plans; challenges posed by COVID-19; how the university coordinates responses with the campus health services; and reviewed plans to clarify lines of accountability and communication to enable timely, well-coordinated, and effective response.  This is extremely crucial as TSU continues its plans for reopening. The University has said it will move forward, but understands that those plans could change as cases increase. 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.