NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University graduate students received some inspiring words from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who spoke at TSU’s Spring Commencement Ceremony Friday evening.
Before Bottoms’ address, TSU President Glenda Glover congratulated the graduates.
“This is your day,” said Glover. “We thank you, and we’re depending on you to continue the tradition of excellence.”
Bottoms, an Atlanta native who became the 60th mayor of Atlanta last December and only the second woman to be elected to that post in the city’s history, is also a highly accomplished lawyer and successful public servant who advocates for high quality public education, job opportunities and economic growth.
During her address, she told the graduates not to be afraid to share their struggles, their “scars,” because they don’t know who may be inspired by them – especially in the case of youth.
“As you enter this next season of life, think of those little boys and little girls who need to hear your stories, and be uplifted by your stories,” said Bottoms. “How you graduated from TSU, and how you got to the other side.“
Alongside her public service career, Bottoms has maintained a private law practice for more than 20 years, and has served as general counsel for a multi-million dollar business, as well as a Judge (Pro Hoc) in Fulton County State Court.
She told the graduates that their achievement of a higher education will better equip them to be successful.
“The world is waiting on you to make a difference,” said Bottoms. “Walk in your purpose; the best is yet to come.”
Mercedes Hence, who received her master’s in criminal justice Friday, took Bottoms’ words to heart. She said the mayor’s accomplishments are inspiring, especially because she’s an African American woman.
“The fact that she is the mayor of Atlanta, that’s just empowering, inspiring,” said Hence, who has a job lined up with AmeriCorps where she will be assisting with public health research.
Between its graduate commencement and the undergraduate ceremony scheduled for Saturday, May 5, TSU will graduate more than 1,000 students. And officials say a “substantial number,” like Hence, have already gotten job or internship offers.
Among them is Jonathan Robertson, who received a master’s degree in nursing on Friday. He got his bachelor’s in nursing at TSU, and said he liked the university so much that he decided to continue his education at Tennessee State.
“It provided great experiences, and great practicum opportunities,” said Robertson, who will be working as an interventional pain specialist in his hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Recent data comparison shows that TSU is on an upward trajectory when it comes to job placement for new graduates.
Within three months of receiving their degrees, nearly 52 percent of students who graduated in December had received “some form of employment opportunities,” according to the TSU Career Development Center. That’s just 6 percent shy of the national average of graduates who had jobs within six months of graduation, according to College Track, an online database that guides parents and students in college selection.
Dr. Tracey Ford, TSU’s vice-president for Student Affairs, attributed part of TSU’s success to the “outstanding job performance” of former students who are employed with companies around the nation and the world.
“Our students who have become great employees at these world-renowned companies are making such an impact that it causes the employers to want to continue to recruit at Tennessee State University,” said Ford.
Last year, TSU received a $2 million career development grant from the United Negro College Fund. The money gave Career Development Center staff the tools to prepare and ultimately help TSU students secure employment immediately upon graduation.
In addition, Hence said TSU faculty, in particular, went out of their way to provide guidance and support.
“From the lowest point to the highest point, they were there to guide me,” she said. “Just life lessons in general.”
NOTE: TSU’s Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Saturday will be in the Howard C. Gentry Complex instead of Hale Stadium, and it will start at 8 a.m. Gentry has a seating capacity of 8,000; guest overflow will be moved to Kean Hall. Families are asked to arrive approximately 45 minutes to an hour prior to the start of the ceremony at the selected location. Once capacity is reached, guests will be directed to Kean Hall. Shuttles will be available to assist with relocating.
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About Tennessee State University
With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.