Tag Archives: Dr. Michael Harris

TSU College of Public Service Listed As One of Best In The Nation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – US News Rankings recently listed the Tennessee State University College of Public Service as one of the best public affairs programs in the nation.  The ranking, which is done annually, specifically evaluates masters in public affairs and administration programs based solely on peer assessment surveys completed by deans, directors and department chairs across the nation.

Dr. Michael Harris, dean of the TSU College of Public Service and professor of public administration, said the ranking is a reflection of the world-class work members of the college are doing to educate and serve their students, residents of Middle Tennessee, and beyond.

Dr. Michael Harris

“We work to provide a relevant and current education for leaders in the public sector. We also have a significant impact on the local economy, with regards to economic development because our graduates who work in the public sector all make a difference in our economic development and economic growth, as well as the social infrastructure of the community,” said Harris, a nationally-syndicated columnist.

Dr. Cara B. Robinson,  interim chair for the Department of Social Work and Urban Studies and acting director of the Center For Aging, said Harris’ leadership plays a major role in the college’s success.

“I think this recognition is really built on the fact that we have fostered a culture of innovation that prepares students to be on the front edge of what public service careers really require,” she said. “Dr. Harris has just done a good job of making sure that we are all willing and able to recruit students, help place them when they graduation and reach out to the community to make sure the students are prepared for careers in public service.”

Robinson said the wide array of courses the college offers as well as conferences like the Conference on Elderly Abuse, which the Center on Aging Research And Education Services cohosts in June, have a lot to do with its success.

“We have everything from nonprofit management courses, to executive leadership, public policy and social work, and they all cover things that put us at the forefront,” she said. “In addition, we have reached out to community members to be involved in our classrooms.”

Robinson said the hours they offer classes has also helped attract nontraditional students.  Alfred Degrafinreid II, Vanderbilt University associate vice chancellor for Community Relations within the Division of Government and Community Relations, said while he worked for the state Legislature, he would walk from work to the Avon Williams Campus to attend his evening classes.

Alfred Degrafinreid II

Degrafinreid, who earned a BS in Speech Pathology in 2006 and a MPA in 2008, both from TSU, also secured his law degree from the McKinney School of Law at Indiana University.

“The program really prepares students for the public service workforce.  I have experience on the local, state and federal levels of government, and I credit my success in working on all three levels of government to going through this program, which really prepared me for real life experiences, managing budgets,” said Degrafinreid, who served as deputy campaign manager for former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen’s recent U.S. Senate race. Nearly 100 percent of our graduates in our different programs immediately get jobs.  Our graduates are always off to rewarding and meaningful careers.”

Degrafinreid said TSU teaches its students to leave the university and serve the community, state, country and world.

“I’m proud that Tennessee State develops leaders and teaches students to fully embrace the ‘Think. Work. Serve.’ motto. It is very important to enter the university and go forth to serve. That’s something TSU always teaches students from the time they are freshmen until graduation.”

For more information on the Tennessee State University College of Public Service, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/cpsua/

Department of Media Relations

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

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 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, 24 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.

‘Let My People Vote,’ TSU Students Host Forum To Address Voter Suppression

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University students in the College of Public Service hosted a forum recently to have a candid discussion about voter suppression.

‘Let My People Vote’ Poster (Submitted Photo)

The forum on Feb. 27 at the university’s Avon Williams Campus included a panel discussion, as well as a screening of “Let My People Vote,” an award-winning short documentary about voter suppression.

Keturah Barnett, a student in the Master of Public Administration Program at the university and cofounder of the Know Your Rights Program, said voter suppression is an issue that affects people from all walks of life.

“Voter suppression doesn’t just affect minorities.  It affects young people, students, ex-offenders and others,” she said. “When you think of voter suppression, a lot of people say that happened years ago in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, but it is still happening today.  And with the midterm elections that took place last year in 2018 in November, we saw a lot of that in state’s like Georgia and Florida.”

Keturah Barnett (Submitted Photo)

Barnett, who has worked at the Nashville Juvenile Public Defenders Office since 2016, said she hoped the event would inspire students to engage in the political process by voting, as well as challenging current laws and holding elected officials accountable.

Dr. Michael Harris, dean of the College of Public Service and a nationally-syndicated columnist, was pleased to see members of the larger Nashville community, as well as TSU students and faculty, at the screening.

“It is imperative that the College of Public Service stand at the forefront of engaging on issues related to voter suppression and access.  The history of and current efforts to suppress voters in African-American communities undermines the democratic processes black institutions, including TSU, have fought to improve and revolutionize for centuries,” Harris said. 

Dr. Anthony Campbell, assistant professor of Public Administration in the College of Public Service and the faculty member who worked with students to organize the event, stressed the importance of grappling with this issue.

Dr. Michael Harris (Submitted Photo)

“This filmmaker has developed a documentary that shows how the black vote has been suppressed in Florida for a long time and leading up to this last election, typically felons but more broadly people of color,” he said.

“Let My People Vote,” directed by Gilda Brasch, follows formerly homeless Desmond Meade, now the State Director for Florida Live Free Campaign, as he canvasses the streets of Tampa, Florida, on the last day of early voting before the 2016 presidential election.  At the time of the filming, Meade, who earned a law degree from Florida International University’s College of Law, could not vote or practice law in Florida because he has a felony.

Gilda Brasch (Submitted Photo)

Brasch’s documentary has won many awards, including the 2018 Best Short Documentary at the BronzeLens Film Festival in Atlanta and the 2018 Audience Award For Best Short Film in the Florida Film Festival.  It was also featured at the Meet The Press Film Festival  with The American Film Institute. She said she created the documentary so viewers could see what voter suppression looks like in the current political climate.

“If people are interested in voting rights, followed the recent midterm elections and saw what happened to Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, then when they watch ‘Let My People Vote’ they will actually get an opportunity to see real people at the polling places having their votes surpressed,” she said.

Brasch said she was shocked by how quickly she found examples of people being turned around at the polls.

“We just got out of the rental van, and turned the camera on, and we got all those testimonies immediately in the space of probably 45 minutes to an hour.  It’s not like we had to go stand out there for hours.  It’s immediate in these districts,” she said.

Martesha Johnson (Submitted Photo)

Immediately following the screening, students hosted a panel to discuss the issue.  Panel members included: Metropolitan Nashville Public Defender Martesha Johnson, Davidson County Election Commisioner A.J. Starling, Project Return Associate Director Elizabeth Hayes and others.

Barnett  said the goal of the event was to provide a forum for a conversation they believe is timely and necessary.

“Voting is a fundamental right for everybody.  It is something that any American should be able to do without being hassled,” she said.  “Going to the polls should be just as easy as going to the grocery store.”


Department of Media Relations

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

About Tennessee State University

With more than 7,000 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, 24 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.