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.
“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.”
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? Where 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.
“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.
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.
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/.
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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.