All posts by Michael McLendon

TSU Forum Explores Mental Health In The Black Community

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University College of Public Service recently held a forum about mental health in the black community on the Avon Williams Campus.

The event, CAN WE TALK? Black Mental Health Matters, featured an exclusive screening of two short films directed by actor and filmmaker Koffi Siriboe, best known for his role as Ralph Angel in the TV series Queen Sugar. The two films, WTF is Mental Health? and JUMP, both take an intimate look at mental health in the black community.

A panel discussion took place following the film to discuss the topic.

Andrea Word

Andrea Word, a graduate student in the master of social work program in the TSU College of Public Service, opened the program by sharing a personal testimony.  She said talking about mental health in the black community is often seen as taboo.

“We are still hesitant to go out and get help for mental illness or even to recognize what it is,” said Word, who works as a middle school teacher at Tennessee School For The Blind. “For many of those that go to church, it’s still taboo to mention it because they struggle with can God and a therapist function in the same space.”

The panel for the event will included: Dr. Keith Ekhator, social work coordinator for Metro Nashville Public Schools; Gwen Hamer, director of Education and Development for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Crystal Owens, mental health counselor for the Nashville Center for Trauma and Psychotherapy; and Reverend James Turner II, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church.


Department of Media Relations

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

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 Equips Students For Top Careers In Health Sciences

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s College of Health Sciences has thriving programs that prepare students for six of the top 25 best healthcare jobs listed in a recent article published by U.S. News & World Report.

The jobs included as part of the magazine’s 2020 Best Health Care Jobs list, are: nurse practitioner, speech language pathologist, registered nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist and respiratory therapist.

Dr. Ronald Barredo, Dean of the College of Health Sciences, says there will always be a great need for these healthcare jobs.   

“The good thing about healthcare is as long as there is sickness in the world, we will always have a job,” says Barredo.

Tierney Curtis (Photo Submitted)

Tierney Curtis, a graduate student in the occupational therapy program, says attending TSU gives her a great advantage as a future healthcare professional.

“Nashville is already a booming healthcare city so most of your clinical work and opportunities include going out into the Nashville community, and meeting people and making connections,” says Curtis, who received an undergraduate degree in health sciences from TSU in 2018. “I think the health sciences program at TSU is one of the best here in Nashville because they offer so many programs. We have professors that are here to help you that have been across different spans of healthcare.”

A West Memphis, Arkansas native, Curtis says she hopes to stay in Nashville after she graduates from TSU and work at a hospital in acute care, or work in pediatrics with outpatients, or in the school system.

Future Physical Therapist Zachary Prudoff says although he enjoys working with amputees, he is unsure what area of physical therapy he wants to explore as a profressional.

Zachary Prudoff, a doctoral candidate in the TSU Department of Physical Therapy,checks a patient’s blood pressure before administering a mobility test. (Photo Submitted)

“I think as I go through more classes, I get to understand the profession as a whole a little bit more, and it starts to help clue me in on what type of patients I might like to work with in the field, says Prudoff, who is a doctoral candidate in the department of Physical Therapy.

He says developing relationships with faculty is extremely important.

“In grad school, especially in physical therapy, our teachers are sometimes our greatest resources and it’s very important to foster a relationship of communication and mutual respect. They have been out in the field and practicing. They know things that you don’t know for sure, and they are there to help you.”

Barredo says all six of the programs that made U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Healthcare Jobs list are accredited at TSU. He says the programs in the TSU College of Health Sciences are in high demand.

“We’ve always had a lot more applicants than there are slots in the program, some more than others,” says Barredo, who is a recipient of the Catherine Worthingham Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association, the association’s highest award. “For example, in physical therapy last year we had about 200 applicants for only 36 slots, and that’s true for most every program.”

Dr. Ronald Barredo (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

This fall each of the six health sciences programs noted in the study, with the exception of the speech language pathology program which already has a clinic at the TSU Avon Williams Campus, will relocate into a new $38 million facility. 

Barredo says the shared space will provide opportunities for students to get a more comprehensive view of  the collaborative roles of health science professionals.

“Right now we are all separated in different buildings. So now there will be a lot more interpersonal collaboration in terms of patient care, research and service activities,” he says. “Instead of us doing things separately, we will be more consolidated and able to demonstrate that there is a lot more to healthcare than physical therapy, for example.”

Antoinette Duke, associate director of the TSU Career Development Center, says students such as those in the College of Health Sciences can visit the university’s career center to utilize a wide array of resources to prepare for life beyond TSU.

Antoinette Duke, associate director of TSU’s Career Development Center, advises student during 2020 Spring Internship Fair. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“We are doing everything in our power to partner with student organizations, the faculty, the staff and the professors to help them encourage our students to utilize this service that is there for them,” says Duke. “We have several resources to help prepare them.  For instance, if the student is not prepared for interviewing, one of the resources we have is Interview Stream. It allows our students to tap into that service to practice before they meet with a potential company or employer.”

For more information about the TSU College of Health Sciences, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/health_sciences/

For more information on the TSU Career Development Center, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/careers/

Department of Media Relations

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

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 Health Sciences Experts Share Advice For Students, People Concerned About Contracting Coronavirus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The coronavirus has existed for years, causing people to have respiratory infections, essentially colds.  However, Tennessee State University public health experts say the current outbreak is the result of a new strand, and that researchers are quickly trying to develop an antiviral drug.

TSU experts say students and Middle Tennessee residents can take precautionary measures to minimize their chances of contracting the coronavirus.

Dr. Wendelyn Inman, associate professor and interim Masters of Public Health program director at TSU, held an in-depth discussion with students in her Health Conditions In Functions and Disabilities Class about the coronavirus.

“The best protection is to get immunized to what we know. Many people are probably so worried about the coronavirus that they are getting the flu,” she explains.  “When the flu season starts, I always recommend to everyone the flu shot. When your immune system is alert, and it is alerted by the flu shot, other things don’t hit it as hard.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are 15 persons in the United States who have tested positive for the COVID-19, the official name given to this new coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan China. An East Tennessee woman recently tested positive for the coronavirus when she and her husband were about to leave quarantine on a cruise ship off the coast of Japan.

Brenda K. Batts

Brenda K. Batts, assistant professor and director of clinical education at TSU, says they should not be fearful because of the effective quarantining of people who have tested positive for the virus. However, she says there are still preventive measures that can be taken.

“Just really be very cautious about people who have coughs and colds and have high temperatures. If you are experiencing that, get checked by your physician, but don’t expose others or yourself,” Batts says. ”Make sure you use lots of hand washing and sanitizing techniques, such as when you go to gas stations, restaurants or whenever you go anywhere in the public. Keep some hand sanitizer with you and clean your hands very well.”

Coronavris symptoms, which can last from 2-14 days, include runny nose, fever, headache, sore throat, feeling unwell, and cough. To prevent the disease, the CDC recommends: washing hands; avoiding touching eyes, nose, mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; staying home when sick; covering cough or sneeze with tissue; and cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces.

Robyn Hanna, a senior public health major who works as a patient care technician at St. Thomas West Hospital in Nashville, says she’s not concerned about contracting the virus at work because of the thorough precautionary measures they are instructed to take.

“As soon as you walk through the doors, there’s a sign, ‘If you have any of these symptoms, here’s a mask. Put it on.’ It’s at every exit and every entrance,” says Hanna, a Mississippi Gulf Coast native.

“Working on the floors we know people that are diagnosed with diseases.  If they are being tested for it, they still get the precautionary items on the door. All the nurses and doctors and techs are vaccinated.  That’s a must at the hospital.”

Fellow students Joseph Racine and Meleah Haley have varying concerns regarding the disease that recently surfaced in China. Racine works as a car maintenance specialist at the Nashville International Airport when not attending classes. The senior occupational therapy major says he has noticed travelers at the airport wearing personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks. Racine says he is not afraid of contracting the virus.

“Most of the time that I am dealing with the rental cars that I touch, I have on gloves.  Most of us wear gloves, but the people who don’t, you just kind of let them know, ‘You might want to put on some gloves,’” says Racine.

Haley, a senior health science major with a minor in public health, says she is concerned about the virus, primarily because of her upcoming travel plans.

“I’ll be taking an airplane. I’ll be going to Miami. Everybody knows that’s a place where a lot of people are,” says Haley, a Cincinnati, Ohio, native who is considering wearing a protective mask while flying.  “I am really concerned about that. I’m even concerned about being in the airport and being on the airplane with all these cases of coronavirus.  I don’t feel threatened at the university.  I don’t necessarily feel threatened in the community, but I am definitely going to be alert.”

Dr. Wendelyn Inman, associate professor and interim Masters of Public Health program director at TSU, discussing coronavirus with students. (TSU News Service, Michael McLendon)

Dr. Inman supports wearing a mask while traveling, she says students and professors should understand that wearing masks to class for protection may create suspicion that they have contracted the virus.

“If you wear a mask, it is just as protective for you as the person wearing the mask to keep you from catching something,” she says. “But, if you are on a college campus and you put one on because you are concerned, everybody thinks you have it.”

Batts says students and employees who feel sick should not attend class or visit campus.

“I do think when students or faculty have colds or fevers, and they are coughing, that they should not be coming to campus.  They should be seen to make sure they don’t have any form of that virus,” she says. “Most of the time people transport any type of respiratory virus to the environment by tabletops, instruments, equipment and labs.”

Walretta H. Chandler, TSU’s Student Health Services nurse, says students experiencing flu-like symptoms should visit the university’s health center located in in the Floyd-Payne Campus Center, Kean Hall, Room 304. Students can also call (615) 963-5291 to schedule an appointment.

Visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html to learn more about the coronavirus. For more information on TSU’s College of Health Sciences, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/health_sciences/

Department of Media Relations

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

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 Holds Book Signing With Award-Winning Actor and Poet Rashad Rayford

Rashad Rayford

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  Award-winning actor, poet and speaker Rashad Rayford recently visited Tennessee State University to promote his new book, “Elevate Your Vibe: Ten Ways to Grow You.”

The book signing was sponsored by TSU’s Avon Williams Library and the National Hook-Up of Black Women, Inc.

Rayford, who was recently crowned Moth Story Hour Nashville Grand Slam Champion, has been featured at TEDx and on National Public Radio, as well as in the Wall Street Journal, HuffPo, and USA Today.

“This book is a tool to help us activate or sharpen the necessary attributes that we need to elevate to our highest selves,” said Rayford, also known as Rashad Tha Poet. “How can we add value to other people if we haven’t first acknowledged the value within ourselves?”

His company, Elevate Your Vibe, LLC, is a nontraditional speaking company that blends spoken word poetry, and inspirational speaking to help businesses tell more compelling and concise stories.

Department of Media Relations

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

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.

New Nashville Civil Rights Documentary Features TSU Alums

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When Tennessee State University Alum Tanya Coplen Gray approached her high school classmates about producing a short documentary to commemorate their 50th year high school anniversary, Gray had no idea how important the project would become.

“This short film was done as a labor of love.  We did this out of love for one another, and that’s really critical to me, to make sure people understand that is how it got started,” says Gray, who graduated from TSU in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in sociology. 

Gray, along with her Cameron High School classmates Deborah Majors Bell and Ida Venson Currie, serve as executive producers of  “The Past Is Prologue: The Cameron Class of 1969,” an award-winning documentary that recounts a significant, but largely-forgotten, chapter of Nashville’s civil rights struggle that happened during the late-1960s.

Featured are (l to r)Tanya Coplen Gray, Ola Hudson, Deborah Majors Bell, Ida Venson Currie, Mark Schlicher (Photo Submitted)

The film, which was produced and directed by Nashville filmmaker Mark Schlicher, and co-produced by Lisa Venegas, will air on Nashville Public Television, WNPT Channel 8 Sunday, February 16, at 10:30 p.m., and Wednesday, February 26, at 9:00 p.m..

In spring 1968, during a volatile period for race relations in Nashville and throughout the United States, all-black Cameron high school lost a high-profile basketball tournament game to Stratford, a mostly-white school. A spontaneous protest and scuffles broke out afterward, as many upset Cameron fans believed that the game had been unfairly officiated in favor of Stratford.

In response, school authorities barred Cameron High School from all athletics for an entire year, while Stratford received no sanctions. In response to the punishment, parents, students, and supporters in the community protested, marched in the streets, and enlisted famed civil rights attorney Avon Williams, Jr., to champion their cause in federal court, making it part of his long-running school desegregation lawsuit.

Currie, who secured a bachelor’s degree in English Education from TSU in 1974, says former Cameron Principal O.R. Jackson, marshaled the school’s faculty and staff to find ways for Cameron High School seniors to enjoy their final year in spite of the punishment.

L TO R: Mark Schlicher, student extras, and Shelena Walden at Cameron High School (Photo Submitted)

“He knew we were not going to be coming to the stadium on Friday night for football games. We were not going to be going to the gym in the afternoon for pep rallies prior to the games. So he brought the vision to the teachers, ‘Let’s do something for this senior class because they are hurting in certain areas,’” says Currie, a retired commercial insurance product developer and healthcare manager. “Mr. Jackson made sure we had our pep rally’s on Friday afternoons, even if we didn’t have a game to attend. He also orchestrated our senior class trip to Washington, D.C. during spring break, which served as yet another memorable diversion to the suspension.”

Bell, a graduate of the Metropolitan School of Practical Nursing at Vanderbilt Hospital and a retired licensed practical nurse, says in spite of the security and assurance they received from parents and community members, the unfair punishment left a lasting impression on their class.

“At the time, we were all young. We had no idea what a big deal this was. We lived in a neighborhood where we had a lot of black support, like our parents and our teachers,” says Bell. “Once this happened, that’s when I really found out that I was considered a second class citizen.”

Schlicher says the documentary, which was funded in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission THRIVE program, needs to be viewed by a broad audience because of its historical significance.

Featured are (front row, l to r) Aaron Finley, Fletcher Moon, Tamiko Robinson Steele, Shawn Whitsell (back row, l to r) Co-Producer Lisa Venegas, Mark Schlicher, Shanika Gillespie, camera operator Keevan Guy at Seay-Hubbard UMC upstairs meeting room. (Photo Submitted)

“It was an honor to be able to do the 25 or so interviews that were done with class members and with teachers, to learn the story and share it in a way that honored the struggle and the triumph that the Class of ’69 went through and the place they have in the civil rights struggle in Nashville,” says Schlicher, whose work as director or cinematographer has been shown nationally on PBS, the Smithsonian Channel, Lifetime, and TBN.

After receiving rave reviews from classmates following the film’s initial viewing, and subsequently winning “Best of Tennessee” at the 2019 International Black Film Festival, the group realized the film could serve a larger purpose.

“We want to put this documentary in every public library and to be able to hand it to school systems,” says Gray, a retired licensed clinical social worker.

They believe the documentary will spark important conversations about education, policy, neighborhoods and equity, as well as bring awareness.

Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Enoch Fuzz agrees. He plans to air the film at Kingdom Café, located at 2610 Jefferson Street, on February 1, at 8:00 a.m. during One Nashville, a breakfast gathering he initiated two years ago to bring people with resources, information and awareness together to help progressive projects like “The Past Is Prologue” succeed.

Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Enoch Fuzz (Photo Submitted)

“I was very touched by the story that these people told, and I know that it could benefit some of the people in Nashville. There are some good people in Nashville who want to understand race relations,” says Fuzz.

He says One Nashville gatherings, which are held every month on first and third Saturdays, have attracted leaders from throughout the city including the mayor, vice mayor, secretary of state, public defender and city council members.  He says some attendees are looking for meaningful projects to support, while others come seeking assistance.

“I was having people call me everyday with different needs, and I said these people need to meet one another. So rather than me meeting with everybody differently everyday, I came up with the concept of getting everyone in the same room,” says Fuzz.  “One Nashville gets people from all over the community in the same room.”

Mary Jackson Owens, the Cameron alum who told Fuzz about the project, hopes the film can garner financial support, so young people can learn about this almost forgotten moment in Nashville’s civil rights struggle.

“It hasn’t been talked about in 50 years. It’s time to have a conversation about it, and tell people about the history,” she says. “A lot of our children don’t know anything about being in an all-black school and the loyalty that we have for Cameron.”

“The Past Is Prologue: The Cameron Class of 1969,” also features TSU alum Ola Hudson and TSU Associate Professor and Head Reference Librarian Fletcher F. Moon.  Hudson, who graduated from TSU with a bachelor’s  degree in Vocational Home Economics in 1951 and a master’s degree in 1953, taught at Cameron High School from 1955 until 1971.  Moon, who portrayed his father, Rev. J.L. Moon, in the documentary, has worked at TSU for 36 years. 

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.

More Than 700 Student Volunteers Participate in MLK, Jr. Day of Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –More than 700 students gathered in Kean Hall Saturday before being bused to various locations throughout Nashville to volunteer as part of the annual Joint Day of Service in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Students from several institutions throughout the city registered for the event and enjoyed an early lunch before being greeted by university leaders and hearing Freedom Rider and TSU Alum Ernest “Rip” Patton share inspiring words about his experience as a civil rights activist.

Freedom Rider and TSU Alum, Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton, share inspiring words about his experience as a civil rights activist during one-on-one interview with TSU Sophomore Aubrey Sales.(Photo by Erynne Davis, TSU Media)

“This is your day, and this is your time to make a change because what we did in the 60s, we did if for generations to come,” said Patton, who attended Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial University, where he served as drum major with the Aristocrat of Bands.  Patton was one of fourteen students expelled from Tennessee A & I by the Tennessee Board of Regents for taking part in the Freedom Rides. He subsequently received an honorary doctorate from TSU in 2008.

“I did it for you. I’m using I as a plural. I made a change for you. I took a chance on my life.  I went to jail. I went to prison. And I’m still out there trying to make a change, but it’s up to you to carry the torch,” he said. “And not only that, when you make a change, you are making it for the generations that come after you.”

Volunteers gathered in Kean Hall before being bused to various locations throughout Nashville as part of the annual Joint Day of Service in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media)

Shirley Nix-Davis, director of Outreach for TSU’s Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement, said bringing the students together for this service activity gives them an opportunity to consider the importance of service and how they can help others.

“It’s important to bring the students together just because that was one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dreams, to see every race, every ethnicity, every color of person come together for one cause,” said Nix-Davis.

Volunteers were dispersed to work at 25 sites throughout the city, including Salama Urban Ministries, Schrader Lane Vine Hill Child Care Center, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and Tennessee Prison Outreach Ministries.

Participating educational institutions included TSU, Meharry Medical College, Fisk University, Lipscomb University, Vanderbilt University, Belmont University Trevecca Nazarene University and Nashville State Community College.

Brittanie Pruitt, a sophomore nursing major, volunteering at Harvest Hands Community Development as part of the annual Joint Day of Service in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media)

Brittanie Pruitt, a sophomore nursing major from Covington, Tennessee, who returned after participating in the day of service last year, said community service is critical.

“It’s definitely important to give back. Everybody needs a helping hand,” said Pruitt who spent her afternoon with a group of 25 volunteers organizing classrooms at Harvest Hands Community Development, a nonprofit organization that provides after-school programming in South Nashville. “You might need help one day, so it’s always important to give back.”

TSU Alum Chartrice Crowley serves as the director of Elementary Programs at Harvest Hands. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media)

Chartrice Crowley, director of Elementary Programs at Harvest Hands, said the volunteers helped organize a collage, featuring Freedom Riders from Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi as well as the organization’s historically Black college and universities’(HBCU) classrooms.

“All of our classrooms where our kids are when they arrive here are named after HBCUs,” said Crowley who graduated from TSU in 2015 with a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. “The volunteers are working on the information that will go outside the classroom about the founding of the school, their athletic programs, famous graduates, and all of that.”

Nix-Davis, who served as co-chair of the event along with Vanderbilt University Assistant Director of Active Citizenship and Service Meagan Smith, said 326 of 715 students who signed up for the event were TSU students.

Volunteers organizing classroom at Harvest Hands Community Development as part of the annual Joint Day of Service in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media)

“I am really really pleased about the turn out because it is raining,” she said. “We have some eager students who are ready to go out and do their thing for their universities.”

Other dignitaries in attendance at the morning kick-off included Congressman Jim Cooper, State Senator Brenda Gilmore and Metro Council member Burkley Allen.

For more information about TSU’s 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 UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 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.

Future Dentist Says TSU Has Made Her A Better Leader

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When A’yadra Rodgers began her search for a high quality educational institution, she placed Tennessee State University at the top of her list.

She says it was her relationship with Carlos Houston, president of the East Tennessee chapter of the Tennessee State University National Alumni Association, that sealed the deal.

“I actually babysat for him,” says Rodgers. “He would always say things like, ‘Have you been looking at TSU?'”

Houston’s persistence paid off, and Rodgers set her sites on becoming a TSU Tiger.

A’yadra Rodgers (Photo by Charles Cook, TSU Media Relations)

“Tennessee State was the first school I applied to and the first school I got accepted to,” says Rodgers, who graduated from Knoxville Catholic High School in 2017.

Rodgers says Houston played a major role in helping her secure a full scholarship to attend TSU.

After a transparent conversation with Houston’s wife Sheryl, who graduated from Tennessee State with a degree in engineering, Rodgers approached Houston about her need for financial assistance.

“Once she told me her grades and ACT score, I told her to let me make a phone call, and the rest is history,” says Houston, who graduated from TSU in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

“She got a full scholarship the next day, which was fantastic, but her GPA and test scores made her deserving of it,” he says. “She and her mother expressed in tears how grateful they were, and A’yadra said she would not let TSU down.”

Carlos Houston, president of the East Tennessee chapter of the Tennessee State University National Alumni Association. (Photo Submitted)

A junior dental hygiene major, Rodgers entered the university with the desire to become a nurse.  However, her aspiration changed as she became more aware of her true passion.

“When I first got here I had my mind set on nursing, and then I began to look more into it. I started to shadow, and I realized it wasn’t for me,” she says. “Then I started to think, ‘what do I love? Where do I like to go? Who am I around?’ And it was the dental office.”

After taking time to shadow her mother who works as a dental assistant, as well as watch the dental hygienists who work with her mother, Rodgers changed her major to dental hygiene and immediately began to excel. During her first semester in the program, Rodgers’ classmates elected her as class president and the Student Dental Hygiene Association’s first year recording secretary.

Rodgers also joined the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, Inc., an organization that she says gives her an opportunity to participate in breast cancer awareness walks, make donations to Second Harvest Food Bank, and volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House of Nashville.

A’yadra Rodgers (second from left) poses for photo with other members of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club, Inc. after volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House of Nashville, a charity organization that provides essential resources and a “home-away-from-home” for families of critically ill children receiving inpatient or outpatient medical care at Nashville area hospitals. (Photo Submitted)

“Being involved in this organization has been a blessing, helping me to become a leader in all aspects of my life,” she says.

Brenda J. Kibbel, assistant professor of Dental Hygiene, says Rodgers is an exceptional student.

“I expect great accomplishments in Ms. Rodgers’ future endeavors because of her compassion and involvement,” says Kibbel. “I just see so much potential in her as a young woman, and I expect great things.”

Rodgers, who plans to double major and earn an additional degree in health information management at TSU, says she plans to become a dentist.

“My goal is to go to dental school at Meharry Medical College. After that I can decide if I want to be an orthodontist, or anything beyond that,” she says. “I do want to do some work outside of the U.S., so I am looking at Africa.”

She credits her parents with inspiring her to succeed.

“I feel like they are always working to make sure me and my siblings are OK, and so just seeing that work ethic and how they are really trying their best is inspiring,” says Rodgers.

A’yadra Rodgers

Kibbel, who worked as a dental hygienist for years after completing her degree through a joint program between TSU and Meharry Medical College, says the career landscape for dental hygienists is vast.

“We now in this state can do independent practice coming under a dentist or we can work on our own in nursing homes. You can be an educator. You can be a researcher. There are a lot of job opportunities.  It’s good money, and it has flexibility,” says Kibbel.

Brenda J. Kibbel, TSU assistant professor of Dental Hygiene (Photo Submitted)

She encourages students who want to become dental hygienists to visit the department of Dental Hygiene.

“I’m really proud of our school. Our department strives to not make them just great students and pass the program, but to become great human beings who will be assets to our society, as well as the healthcare profession.”

Tennessee State University’s Dental Hygiene Clinic is located in Clement Hall on the main TSU campus. It provides a wide range of dental services to nearly 600 patients a year at reduced cost. This includes the campus, as well as the greater Nashville community.

To learn more about the Department of Dental Hygiene, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/dentalhygiene/.

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 38 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.

Slim & Husky’s-Atlanta Recognized by AJC On List of City’s Top 2019 Restaurant Openings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Slim & Husky’s, the famous hip hop pizza franchise founded by three Tennessee State University alums, recently received recognition from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as one of the “notable metro Atlanta restaurant openings of 2019.”

Clinton Gray III, Derrick Moore and Emmanuel “E.J.” Reed, all 2007 graduates of TSU, debuted the restaurant’s first Atlanta location in early May on Howell Road, offering teachers free pizza and a sneak peak at the venue. The owners say they plan to open a second Atlanta location on Metropolitan Parkway in Adair Park.

Plans have also been made to offer their unique array of pizza at new locations in Memphis, Chattanooga, Birmingham (Alabama), Austin, Houston and Louisville.

In 2010, Gray, Moore and Reed took their vision, passion and the almost $3,000 they had between them and paid a visit to the Nashville Business Incubation Center at the TSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic development. Within seven years they had built a multi-million dollar moving company that set the stage for opening the first location of Slim & Husky’s Local Pizza Beeria, at 911 Buchanan St., in 2017.

“We just wanted to provide something that would give the neighborhood some hope and also be inclusive to those who are first time homebuyers in the area,” Gray said then. “ We just want to bring everybody together over some good pizza.”

In December, the Metropolitan Nashville City Council recognized the trio with a resolution for  “winning the National Cheese Pizza Contest on Good Morning America, and for creating jobs and food options in underserved areas.”

With the vision of fusing pizza, hip hop and art, Gray, Moore and Reed have created a thriving restaurant that provides some of the best gourmet pizza in the nation as well as economic opportunities for college students.

For more information about Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria, visit https://slimandhuskys.com .

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 38 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.

Toys For Tots Brings More Than 2,000 Parents To TSU Campus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University continues to keep community service at the center of its mission this holiday season.

On Dec. 21, more than 2,000 parents walked away with toys for their children during the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots distribution on the TSU main campus.

Thousands of toys of different sizes and shapes, for boys and girls up to age 12, were collected and distributed.  Volunteers, including TSU students, staff, alumni, and representatives from area charitable organizations and churches, helped with the distribution in Kean Hall.

Parents excited to receive toys for their children waited patiently in a line that extended outside Kean Hall. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media Relations)

This event stems from a partnership between TSU and the Marine Corps Reserve in its annual toy distribution program. Prior to Saturday, TSU served as the official drop-off center for donated toys.

Christopher Terry, a senior electrical engineering major with a minor in computer science, served as a volunteer at the event, helping parents to gather and secure toys for their children.

Terry, a Memphis-native whose community service group, Generation of Educated Men, volunteered at the event last year, said assisting with Toys For Tots gives him an opportunity to spread joy during the holiday season.

“Growing up in Memphis I did this with my church, and it just feels wonderful being able to do this now at an older age,” he said. “I just love the fact that TSU continues to be a pillar for the Nashville community by giving back and supporting the communities around us.”

Associate Dean of Students, Dr. William Hytche(right), coordinator of the Toys for Tots program for TSU, with Christopher Terry(left), a senior electrical engineering major with a minor in computer science who volunteered for the event, and Benetta M. Sears(center), the local director of Simply United Together Foundation. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media)

As part of the partnership with the Marine Corp – the first with a university in the Nashville, Davidson County area – TSU received unwrapped toys for children up to age 12.

Associate Dean of Students, Dr. William Hytche, coordinator of the Toys for Tots program for TSU, said Simply United Together, a non-profit that coordinates the pickup of donated toys from Toys for Tots, spearheaded bringing the program to TSU. He said this year the program served a more diverse group.

“We have Hispanics now. We have our Caucasian brothers and sisters who are coming in, and that’s because they have closed their centers.  So the demographics have changed this year,” Hytche said. “The director of Simply United Together was offered to go to other institutions who wanted this program, and they were offering a lot of incentives for her to come to their schools. She said, ‘No. I think Tennessee State University is where I want to be.’”

Benetta M. Sears, the local director of Simply United Together Foundation, said the number of families served at TSU this year has increased exponentially.

Benetta M. Sears(left), the local director of Simply United Together Foundation, with representatives from Nashville Noticias, a local media organization that assisted with recruiting parents for the Toys For Tots event. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media)

“Tennessee State University is very positive. This is a community school also, and the people here are more willing and ready to serve the Nashville community as it grows and we have exploded,” she said.

Sears said she hopes the parents who participated will one day encourage their children to attend Tennessee State University.

For more information on Toys for Tots at TSU, call Dr. William Hytche at 615-963-5069.

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 38 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.

Award-Winning Filmmaker Returns to TSU To Premiere Latest Project “Wear The Crown”

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University Alum and Award-Winning Filmmaker Alan Nettles returned to campus on Dec. 14 to premiere his latest film project, “Wear The Crown.”

In ”Wear The Crown,” Nettles, who secured his Bachelor of Science degree in communication studies with a concentration in TV and film production from TSU in 2019, takes viewers inside the trying world of a family rocked by the news that their mother, Winnie Price, has been diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer.

The Phoenix Troupe (Photo Submitted)

The evening began at 6:30 p.m. in the Cox-Lewis Theater with a pre-show performance by a group of creative artists called the Phoenix Troupe.

Filled with touching music and engaging subplots, “Wear The Crown,” which took five days to shoot, showcases various locations in Nashville, including Tennessee State University, Arlington United Methodist Church and Diamond Sound Studios. The crew also shot on location in Cadiz, Kentucky.

“Our preproduction was also very intense. We had about six weeks of rehearsals with the cast,” Nettles said. “We had a lot of different marketing events that we participated in from September until now.  We did a huge crowd-funder campaign, and there were just so many different things that we were doing to really bring this film to life.”

Alan Nettles, founder and CEO of Moving4ward Productions (Photo Submitted)

Nettles, founder and CEO of Moving4ward Productions, the company responsible for the film, said “Wear The Crown” features numerous TSU alums, including Lynn Summers who portrays Winnie Price and Pamela Bennett, who portrays Mrs. Alexander.

Summers said the film takes a close look at the dynamics of family relationships.

“This film mirrors true society today.  These are the trials and tribulations we go through each and every day,” she said.  “Regardless of what happens, family is family.  We should still love one another, and we should still get together.”

TSU Alum Lynn Summers portrays Winnie Price in “Wear The Crown.” (Photo Submitted)

“Wear The Crown” was produced by an all-female team which includes: Cillea Houghton, producer; Janice Wheaton, executive producer; and Sabrina Moore, line producer.  This is the first time all three have produced a film.

Moore, a former nuclear engineer who recently graduated from TSU with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications, said the film encourages people to take ownership of their lives, particularly their health.

“This film spotlights not only the issue of cancer, but of gender identity, depression and just how to accept yourself wherever you are in life,” she said.  “Deal with your issues. Deal with your health. Deal with your mental stability.  You can deal with it.  Everybody is dealing with something in some shape, form or fashion, so take ownership of your body and your life.”

Nettles, whose debut film “3 Blind Boys on the Block” was named Best of Fest at the 2015 Chi-Town Multicultural Film Festival, said witnessing his aunt, Tracey Reid, battle cancer inspired him to make the film.  He said the cast and crew worked tirelessly to produce a high-quality project that should strike a chord with anyone who has grappled with depression, grief or sickness.

“I’ve had to sacrifice life in order to breathe life into this production,” he said.

Nettles credits many of his professors at TSU, as well as his parents, with giving him the guidance and support necessary to achieve his creative aspirations.

“The faculty in the Department of Communications truly does care about its students, and if you allow them to love you, they will love you. You just have to be open to receive them,” he said.

Houghton said she hopes the film gives a voice to the voiceless.

“It’s shining a spotlight on important issues that I think will kind of resonate with everybody, from cancer to mental health, which is such a prominent issue today,” she said.  “We just really hope they feel that their voice is in this story, that their story is in this film.”

“Wear the Crown” also features performances by the Phoenix Troupe, a group of African-American singers and creative artists, including 2014 Essence Festival “You’re My Star” contest winner Megan Broadnax; Jeffrey White of gospel duo Same Seed; Lynn Echo, who appeared on former BET show “Bobby Jones Gospel,” along with Kyiara Jackson, Aundra Keo Brown and April Sledge.  

The premiere event also included a screening of the short film, “Loose Change,” written and directed by Moving4ward Productions  assistant director of Creative Development, William Jenkins.  

The event also honored cancer survivors related to members of the cast with the presentation of a special gift.

For more information about “Wear The Crown,” visit https://bit.ly/2PtbH1Z .

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 38 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.