Tag Archives: Mark Brinkley

TSU Helps Students Explore Ancestry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – This holiday season, Erica Conn will get a gift from Tennessee State University she has longed to receive most of her life. Thanks to a new service being offered by the Office of International Affairs, Conn will trace her ancestry.

“I’m not sure where I am from, and my ancestry is not readily available to me because my ancestors were slaves,” she said.  “So my history for the most part is hidden.”

A senior office assistant in OIA, Conn is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public administration at the university. When she heard OIA would be collaborating with Helix, a personal genomics company, to provide ancestry DNA testing services for TSU students and members of the surrounding community, she convinced the office to let her volunteer as a tester so she could tell other people about the product.

Erica Conn

“I just think that it is super important for African Americans, but not just African Americans, anyone and everyone, to know where they are from, who their ancestors are, and what the commonalities are,” she said. “What are the norms from the particular culture? How can they draw from those things, and how can they be better because of those things?

Mark Brinkley, director of International Education in OIA, said helping students explore their ancestry is part of TSU’s initiative to help them become more comfortable with their culture.

“Seventy percent of our student population is African-American,” he said. “The proposition of study abroad is, as we say, ‘Why don’t you go and experience another culture?’ That becomes even more challenging when our students don’t know their own culture.”

To assist students with the process of exploring their ancestry, Brinkley said OIA has developed more programs focused on visiting the continent of Africa, as well as following the African diaspora.

“It’s a historic fact that 12.5 million people of African descent left Africa in the slave trade. Ten million arrived to the Americas. Only 400,000 came to what we call the United States,” he said. “That means that this African diaspora is really immense, and almost anywhere we go, Brazil in South America, the Caribbean, there is a heavy African influence from the ships stopping their before they got to the United States.”

Brinkley said some of the study abroad experiences currently being planned include Senegal, South Africa, Denmark, Mexico and Peru.

Conn, who is awaiting her test results, said she eventually hopes to visit her homeland.

“I will solve the mystery of where I am from and who my ancestors are, but as far as getting there, it’s going to be a bit costly, so I will start working,” she said. “I am going to Africa with my church in 2020, but we know that Africa is a large continent, and I’m not sure where I am from, so the place where we are going may not be remotely close to where I am from.  But I intend to go there, and try to find out as much information as I can.”

Mark Brinkley

Brinkley, whose test revealed that he is 80 percent West African, 16 percent European, 2 percent South African and 2 percent other. said the ancestry testing helps students answer two of the three fundamental questions they ask in their programs: Who am I? How do I know? How do I interact with others?

“It was very interesting this past summer when we were in South Africa. I opened up my welcome to them by saying, ‘I’m coming back home,’ because I know who I am, and I also know how I know that,” he said.

The Office of International Affairs is located on the first floor of Holland Hall. For more information about TSU’s Study Abroad and Exchange Programs as well as ancestory testing, contact Mark Anthony Brinkley at mbrinkley1@tnstate.edu or (615) 963-7660.

Department of Media Relations

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

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, 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.

TSU Celebrates International Education Week

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Office of International Affairs at Tennessee State University kicked off International Education Week 2018 with a workshop on regional diversity and inclusive excellence, and an open house showcasing its new headquarters in Holland Hall.

The week, which began Nov. 2 and concluded on Nov. 8, featured many activities, including a study abroad fair, a panel showcasing cultural diversity, an African dance workshop, and a cultural celebration and family fun night.

Students received walk-in study abroad advisement.

“We’ll be talking to students about what they should be thinking about in pursuing a study abroad experience, not the study abroad experience specifically,” said Mark Brinkley, director of International Education in the Office of International Affairs. “Some students are beyond that. They have already done their research, and they know what experience they would like to participate in. We are talking to those students about how do you apply to that program.”

Mark Brinkley, director of International Education in the Office of International Affairs, speaks with  students about activities planned for International Education Week 2018.

Brinkley said OIA’s new office suite, which is located on the first floor of Holland Hall, provides the space they need to holistically provide international students the support they need.

“We can now better serve our international population whether they be international education, study abroad or

international students and scholars services or the new Intensive English Center,” he said.

The OIA Office has designated meditation areas where students can pray and continue to observe their culture, as well as a conference room where study abroad workshops can be held.

“Our function here is to help those incoming international students understand the historically black college and university culture, and to share their culture on a global level with the existing student base here that doesn’t get to do the study abroad.”

Daniel Bernal, an MBA student from Bogota, Columbia, said that as a transfer student, OIA helped him make a smooth transition to TSU.

“When I came here it felt more like home, and I have done well with the help of the international office,” he said. “They are very helpful compared to my previous university, so everything got taken care of.”

Bernal, a former member of the TSU Men’s Tennis Team, is the second player in the university’s history to earn All-OVC recognition, joining Lawrence Washington, who was also a Second Team All-OVC honoree in 2012. He said the academic environment at TSU has been nurturing and supportive.

“The classroom sizes are not as big compared to bigger universities, so you get more attention,” he said.

Shashamk Nautiyal, a graduate student in Sports Medicine from New Delhi, India, who was recruited to play tennis at TSU, said he also likes the academic environment at the university.

“In any department, they take care of you. They make sure they help you with whatever you need, either academic or personal or even professional. I think that is the most valuable thing,” he said. “They make sure they provide the best learning environment for you to make sure you succeed in your college career.’

Brinkley said International Week 2018 will conclude on the Avon Williams Campus with a cultural celebration and family night that will include a puppet show and international cuisines.

 

Department of Media Relations

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

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, 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.

 

For more information about International Education Week 2018, contact (615) 963-5640.

TSU Offerings, Culture of Diversity and Inclusion Attracting International Students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Eman Abdulrahman Alharbi spent only three years at Tennessee State University, but she is leaving with a bit of proud history, as the first student from Saudi Arabia to earn a doctorate at TSU.

Eman Abdulrahman Alharbi received an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at last fall’s graduation. (Submitted Photo)

Her history-making feat, though, may be short-lived if the current influx of students from her country is any indication. She is part of a growing number of international students from Saudi Arabia that call TSU home. Records show more than 70 percent of the nearly 570 foreign students at TSU are from Saudi Arabia.

This is a good thing, university officials say.

“Ninety-nine percent of these Saudi students come here fully funded by their government as Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission scholars,” says Mark Brinkley, director of International Education in the Office of International Affairs.

Studies show the surge of Saudi students is not unique to TSU.

Nationally, Saudi Arabia ranks fourth with 4.9 percent of total 1.08 million international students in the U.S., only behind China, South Korea and India.

Students representing various nations, participate in a pageant organized by the Office of International Affairs. (Photo by OIA)

An annual report by the Institute of International Education and the State Department shows that the number of international students in the United States increased by 3.4 percent over the prior year. The rise marks the 11th consecutive year of expansion in the number of foreign students in the U.S. This is also a dramatic jump from the fewer than 600,000 who studied here just a decade ago, according to the report.

Experts attribute this rise to expanded higher education opportunities. At TSU, Brinkley says the university is offering what the students want and providing an environment that makes them want to stay, and that makes others want to come.

The biggest draw, he says, is the university’s highly accredited engineering program.

Saudi students offer a Taste of Saudi Arabia during a cultural festival at TSU (Photo by OIA)

“They select TSU because we have been able to offer the majors that they want to enter, particularly in the field of engineering,” says Brinkley. “Well over half of our engineering majors are SACM students.”

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the TSU College of Engineering, is not surprised by the influx of foreign students in his program. He says in addition to quality, the TSU program is designed around providing students an environment that appreciates differences in culture, race, origin and background.

““Our goal in the College of Engineering is to produce what we call the ‘global engineer,’ says Hargrove.  “This is a graduate who is prepared to demonstrate technical competency to work anywhere in the world. This objective has been supported by our study-abroad program and the invitation to international students to complete their engineering degree at TSU.”

South American students provide entertainment at a cultural festival on campus (Photo by OIA)

For Alharbi, who earned an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at last fall’s graduation, the TSU culture of diversity and inclusion was the welcoming factor.

“My advisor at MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University) where I received my master’s degree, recommended me to Tennessee State University, and I am glad I came,” says Alharbi. “The people made me feel at home. TSU has great professors, who never gave up on me even though there was a language barrier.”

Alharbi is not alone. Even though these international students come very determined to succeed, the language barrier can be a major stumbling block for many – not just Saudis. This is another area where TSU stands out – helping students navigate the language difficulty and succeed.

Officials of the Office of International Affairs: Mark Brinkley, Director of International Education, left; Dr. Jewell Winn, Executive Director of OIA; and Mark Gunter, Director of International Affairs (Photo by OIA)

Dr. Trinetia Respress is the interim assistant dean in the College of Education, who also mentored and advised Alharbi. She says professors must “actually be ready to go beyond and give extra support” to help these international students overcome the language barrier.

“As a person, I saw Eman to be a very tenacious and determined person who wasn’t going to allow anything to turn her around,” says Respress. “It is that she actually wanted it and she went after it. She is a very good student and very bright.”

Alharbi earned her doctorate in three years at TSU. Her interest is in higher education accreditation with a goal to help more Saudi universities gain international accreditation. And Her dissertation, “Preparing Saudi Universities for International Accreditation in the Area of Government and Leadership,” reflects that desire.

“My plan is to work with Saudi universities in evaluating outcomes and assessing the weaknesses and strengths in helping them get international accreditation,” says Alharbi. “I want to work with accrediting agencies and to bridge the disconnect between universities in the United States and my country in the area of accreditation.”

According to Brinkley, Alharbi represents the kind of “international ambassadors” that TSU cultivates.

“In most instances, our surge is the result of word-of-mouth referrals about the culture here at TSU being supportive,” says Brinkley. “That’s what draws them here. They find our programs to be academically and culturally supportive by offering the majors they are looking for and an environment suited to their needs.”

Department of Media Relations

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

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.

TSU expert says U.S. Travel Ban May Not Affect International Students with Legal Status, but still causes anxiety

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – International students with legal status in the United States should not be worried about the new travel ban, says a public policy expert at Tennessee State University.

Dr. Michael Harris, dean of the College of Public Service and a longtime expert on Middle Eastern politics, said there is “no language in the law that will affect these students.” However, the ban could impact those wanting to enter the U.S. other than to study.

Dr. Michael Harris

“No, students should not be concerned at all,” Harris said. “I don’t believe it (the ban) has any impact on students that are admitted to universities in the United States with an I-20.”

The Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status, also known as the I-20, allows student to stay in the country for the duration of their program. The I-20 is processed in the country of origin and makes it legal for individuals to come to the United States and learn, Harris added.

On December 4, the Supreme Court allowed the ban to go into effect, although legal challenges against it remain. This means that the government can fully enforce its new restrictions on travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim. For now, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred from entering the United States, along with some groups from Venezuela.

Tennessee State University has about 560 international students from 35 countries. (Courtesy photo)

While the ban does not impact current international students studying here, it still causes them great concern. This includes Nahal Jafari, a freshman psychology major at Tennessee State University.

The Iranian native said she cancelled all options to attend college in her country and chose to come to the U.S. for her studies, but thinks the ban may cause her problems in the immediate future.

“I am really worried because this impacts my student visa,” said Jafari, who was planning on going home during the summer break for vacation but thinks it may not be a good idea. “If I decide to change schools or go home to see my family, will I be able to?”

TSU has about 560 international students from 35 countries, with a good number from Iran, Iraq and Somalia, which are on the travel ban.

In most cases, citizens of these designated countries will be unable to immigrate to the United States permanently, and many will be barred from working, studying or vacationing here. For instance, Iran will still be able to send its citizens on student exchanges, though such visitors will be subject to enhanced screening.

Mark Brinkley is the director of international education in the Office of International Affairs (OIA) at TSU. Brinkley recommends all international students submit their current I-20 for review prior to departing the U.S.

He said if the I-20 is current, “students may re-enter the country without challenges from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

International students in middle Tennessee should go to their designated school official (DSO) to ensure they have all proper documentation and fully understand the new travel ban.

For more information on international studies at TSU go to http://www.tnstate.edu/diversity/.

Department of Media Relations

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

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.