Tag Archives: Office of Diversity and International Affairs

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 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.

Panel takes on global diversity and inclusion at TSU event

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Students attending a recent event sponsored by Tennessee State University’s Office of International Affairs were encouraged to be “curious of cultures other than your own.”

The event, “Where I Come From,” was held Nov. 5 and wrapped up the university’s International Education Week. A mix of students, faculty and staff were in attendance to hear a panel discussion on how to engage international and domestic students on the campus.

The panelists included James R. Threalkill, regional director for diversity and inclusion for construction management firm, Skanska USA; Marcela Gomez, president and founder of Marcella Gomez & Associates and the Hispanic Marketing Group; and Kasar Abdulla, a social justice educator, advocate and TSU alumna.

Even though the panel discussion took place a few days before the Nov. 8 presidential election, its topic of inclusion was quite timely, considering the increased division across the country following the election.

“Certainly the decisions made in the White House will affect your house,” said panelist Abdulla, a Kurdistan native who fled her home at the age of 6 due to the Iraq invasion. “The world is connected, and to seek to understand you have to seek knowledge and wisdom and apply that to a global perspective. TSU’s Office of International Affairs is making that knowledge available to you.”

Gomez, a native of Colombia, South America, has lived in Nashville for 22 years. She said it is important for students to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from diverse people.

“I was always a C-student and would sit and write notes to friends instead of paying attention,” she said. “I realized I missed many opportunities to do something greater in my life. African-Americans, Latinos, and Kurdish communities have unique struggles. We need you (students) to be leaders, make change and reach out to a global community.”

James Threalkill, an Emmy Award-winning artist and long-time diversity champion, said we must rekindle a thirst and curiosity for knowledge and education.

“It is important to be culturally and intellectually curious of cultures other than your own,” Threalkill said. “There’s a struggle for inclusion in this country right now.”

Abdulla said people shouldn’t be afraid to embrace their cultures, even if they’re criticized for their beliefs.

“I am visibly Muslim,” Abdulla said. “Some choose not to, but I refuse to fall into that fear. After 9/11 many of my friends wanted me to take it off (head covering) because they thought someone might try to hurt me, but I refuse to play into the fear and negative vibes of the uneducated. You can’t tell black people to stop being black just because there’s racism in this country.”

International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. It is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education designed to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and to attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.

“The world is bigger than the United States,” Gomez said. “The world is bigger than where we are.”

To learn more about the Office of International Affairs, visit 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 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 25 graduate and seven doctoral programs. 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.

 

 

 

 

Tennessee State University Helps Students Travel the World with Passport Fair

Monique Miller (left), a sophomore Nursing major at Tennessee State University, discusses the passport application process with Linda Coffield, passport specialist. The University held a special passport fair  to help make international travel easier for students, faculty and staff. (photo by Rick DelaHaya, TSU Media Relations)
Monique Miller (left), a sophomore Nursing major at Tennessee State University, discusses the passport application process with Linda Coffield, passport specialist. The University held a special passport fair to help make international travel easier for students, faculty and staff. (photo by Rick DelaHaya, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The next time Monique Miller travels she hopes to hear the words, “may I see your passport please?”

The sophomore Nursing major at Tennessee State University was able to move one step closer to her goal Tuesday when she attended the University’s 3rd annual Passport Fair, where she submitted her application for the all-important travel document that will help her see the world.

Miller wants to travel to France, New Amsterdam and Berlin this summer to study developmental psychology and knew today’s passport fair would help move her along her way.

“Ever since I started here, I wanted to study abroad,” said the Indiana native. “The (passport) fair was convenient and they even waived some fees so it was the perfect time to get the process started.”

Now in its third year, the Passport Fair is a joint effort by the Student Government Association and the Office of Diversity and International Affairs, to help make international travel easier for students, faculty and staff. According to Mark Brinkley, director of International Education, acquiring a passport has been one of the biggest barriers to the study-abroad program and a reason the two organizations joined forces.

“We started this program three years ago when then SGA president, David Rowles, saw a need to help our students participate in study abroad programs,” said Brinkley. “We were able to work with the U.S. Department of State to bring the one-stop passport fair here to students so they really have no reason not to apply for one.”

Government officials traveled from South Carolina to the University this week specifically for the Passport Fair, and not only will help students here, but will also travel to Vanderbilt and Belmont universities as part of a joint venture.

“This is a first for any Tennessee Board of Regents institution and we’ve been able to help not only our students here at Tennessee State, but also some of our partner institutions,” added Brinkley. “We know our students are not the only ones who travel outside of the U.S. We want to help all global travelers, whether they be our students or our neighbors.”

Since the Passport Fair began in 2012, nearly 120 students have applied and received passports. Brinkley said he expects to help an additional 20-30 through this year’s fair.

“This truly is an opportunity for students to receive a cross-cultural experience through the study-abroad programs,” added Brinkley. “But the first step is getting the passport.”

 

 

Department of Media Relations

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

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. 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.

Office of Diversity and International Affairs at Tennessee State University Receives Grant to Strengthen Ties with Japan

University becomes one of the first HBCUs to receive funding through the Japan Foundation

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –The Office of Diversity and International Affairs (DIA) at Tennessee State University has been awarded a $6,138 grant from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnerships to assist in strengthening its outreach and partnership with Japan. TSU is one of the first HBCUs to receive funding from the agency.

Motohiko Kato, Consulate General of Japan at Nashville
Motohiko Kato, Consul-General of Japan in Nashville

“We are very proud to be one of the first HBCUs to receive this grant and plan to engage in many more partnerships that allow our students the opportunity to experience education from a global perspective so that they are better prepared to meet the demands of our global world,” said Dr. Jewell Winn, DIA executive director. “TSU has always been committed to diversity and inclusion, and has opened our doors to all students desiring a quality education. We look forward to continuing to build partnerships that create strong academic and research opportunities for our students and faculty.”

The grant announcement comes at a great time for the University as it kicks off International Education Week November 10-15. The Japan Foundation has become more assertive in outreach to HBCUs. On Monday, Nov. 10, DIA will host the newly appointed Consul-General of Japan in Nashville, Motohiko Kato, at a luncheon. Discussions will focus on research, teaching, exchange and study-abroad opportunities for students and faculty members through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.

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“International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of education and exchange worldwide,” Winn said. “Tennessee State University is among the most diverse institutions in the Tennessee Board of Regents system and among HBCUs across the country, and these efforts allow us to showcase all the great things we have to offer not only to international students, but those here in the United States.”

Additionally, on Wednesday, Nov. 12, DIA will present the Ms. Collegiate International Pageant at 6 p.m. in Poag Auditorium. The pageant provides personal and professional opportunities for young women, and is the first such event offered on campus with the sole purpose of exposing the campus community to the beauty, opinions, talent and intelligence of young women from countries around the world. The pageant will have representations from Somalia, Saudi Arabia, India, the Dominican Republic, Iraq, Nigeria, Liberia, Jamaica, Laos and Panama. The winner will receive a book scholarship, along with other amenities and recognition as a campus leader representing international students. The event is free and open to the public.

On Thursday, Nov. 13, a Japanese cultural festival and exhibition will be held in Jane Elliott Hall on the main campus from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. Students from McGavock High School will participate in the festival as part of the University’s ongoing recruitment efforts. The week will conclude with joint activities with other area high schools and universities.

International Education Week began in 2000. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the U.S. Department of Education. This annual observance is celebrated in November of each year across the United States and in more than 100 countries.

 

For more information on the Office of Diversity and International Affairs, call 615.963.4977.

 

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. 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.

University to Hold Passport Fair Thursday, April 10

passport1NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – In an effort to make international travel easier for its students, Tennessee State University will hold a Passport Fair, Thursday, April 10. The event is open to the community and will take place from 9 a.m. until noon, and from 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the Research and Sponsored Programs building, room 163.

“Acquiring a passport has been one of the largest barriers to the study abroad program,” said Mark Brinkley, director of International Education. “We want to make sure that all our TSU students and community partners have the opportunity to travel outside of the country, and the Office of Diversity and International Affairs is here to help make that process more accessible.”

According to the Institute of International Education, more students are traveling abroad for international experiences, and reports that more than 283,000 U.S. students studied abroad for credit during the 2011/2012, an increase of more than 3 percent over the previous year. Most students choose to spend six-to-eight weeks outside the country, with most electing to study in the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.

“Whether you’re studying in Switzerland, having spring break in Cancun, or backpacking in Europe, someone is going to ask to see your passport,” added Brinkley. “During the passport fair last year, more than 100 people applied for a passport and we were able to help with the process.”

Along with students, the Passport Fair will be open to the public. University officials have stated they already expect to help not only students from TSU, but also Vanderbilt, Belmont, Lipscomb, Middle Tennessee and Austin Peay State Universities, as well as the general public.

PASSPORT-FAIR“We know students are not the only ones who travel outside of the U.S.,” Brinkley commented. “We want to help all global travelers, whether they be students or our neighbors.”

To apply for a passport, travelers will need:

  • Completed Form DS-11 if you are applying for the first time, or under the age 16. Fill out Form DS-82 if you can submit a previous U.S. passport issued to you in the past 15 years, when you were age 16 or older.
  • Certified copy of your U.S. citizenship evidence. NOTE: photocopies, notarized copies and hospital birth certificates are NOT acceptable.
  • Valid photo ID. Examples include driver’s license, state-issued ID (student IDs alone are not acceptable)
  • A photocopy, front and back, of your valid photo ID
  • One color passport photo, size 2”x2” with a white or off-white background

Passport Fees: NOTE only checks and money orders will be accepted. NO CASH will be accepted.

  • Adult passport (first-time applicant) fee $135 per passport book; $55 per passport card; or $165 for both
  • Adult (renewal) fee $110 per passport book; $30 per passport card; or $140 for both
  • Checks and money orders need to be payable to the “U.S. Department of State”
  • Passport forms can be downloaded at http://www.travel.state.gov

For more information, contact Mark Brinkley at 615.963.7660 or email mbrinkley1@tnstate.edu.

 

 

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

 

About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. 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.

Conference Looks to Reposition HBCUs During Diversity and Inclusion Summit March 23-25

DiversitySummitNASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Presidents from three major Historically Black College and Universities will join Tennessee State University president, Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover, for the Presidents’ Panel during the Diversity and Inclusion Summit on HBCUs March 23-25.

Speaking on Repositioning HBCUs for the Future, university presidents Dr. Carlton E. Brown from Clark Atlanta; Dr. William Bynum Jr., from Mississippi Valley State; Dr. Kevin D. Rome, from Lincoln University of Missouri; and Dr. Glover will lead a panel discussion on the relevancy of HBCUs in today’s rapid pace of change in higher education. The discussion takes place on Monday, March 24 beginning at 8:45 a.m. at the Avon Williams campus downtown.

The Summit, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and International Affairs, will provide diversity professionals, key institutional partners and students the opportunity to hear from national leaders who have made significant inroads in the area of diversity and inclusion in the HBCU college and university environment, according to Dr. Jewell Winn, Chief Diversity Officer at the University.

“Attendees will have the opportunity to share ideas and advance what diversity looks like across HBCUs around the nation,” said Winn. “We will share information on not only diversity, but also inclusion and campus retention. As HBCUs move forward we need to address the relevancy of the institutions and figure out how to hold on to the history, but also on how to diversify institutions to better meet the needs of all students.”

The three-day conference takes place at the Avon Williams campus auditorium and officially kicks off Monday, March 24 beginning at 8:30 a.m. with welcoming remarks followed by the President’s Panel.

Breakout sessions and presentations will include the following topics:

  • Recruitment and retention
  • Classroom Strategies for promoting diversity and inclusion
  • Campus programming for various populations
  • Effective leadership models and approaches for diversity at HBCUs
  • Social justice service-learning approaches
  • Building internal and external partnerships to support diversity and inclusion
  • Diversity and inclusion in policy development
  • Utilizing and leveraging research and data for diversity and inclusion
  • A student’s perspective of Diversity at HBCUs

According to Winn, the student perspective on diversity and inclusion at HBCUs will be a “major component” of this years’ summit. Students from Vanderbilt, Fisk and Tennessee State Universities will prepare responses to the presentation and deliver them on the final day of the event.

“We need to be mindful of the student’s perspective as HBCUs move into the future,” added Winn. “The students need to be a part of the inclusion conversation to see what they think HBCUs need to be in the future and how they transition to an all-inclusive environment.”

For more information on the summit, contact the Office of Diversity and International Affairs at TSU at 615.963.5640 or email dish.summit@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

 

 

About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. 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.

10-Day International Symposium to Pair TSU, Colombian Students in Cultural Immersion Exercises

ODIANASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – For the second year in a roll, the Office of Diversity and International Affairs will host a weeklong symposium on global perspectives and cultural awareness, under the theme “TSU Without Borders.”

The symposium, to be held on the main campus in the Research and Sponsored Programs Building March 8-17, will bring together 10 university students from Colombia, in various disciplines, who will be paired with 10 TSU students on research projects to be presented at the symposium.

According to organizers, the symposium is part of the University’s “cultural immersion initiative” also called CI2, intended to challenge the students through 10 days of intense research, studying, sharing and social activities.

As the second phase of a research project under the Martin Luther King Jr. Fellowship Program, the symposium follows a Jan. 10-19 visit by 10 TSU students to Medellin, Colombia, where they were paired with their South American counterparts on a joint-research project.

“The purpose of their research was to outline the need to consider cross-cultural dialogue about competing conceptions of leadership, creativity and sustainability,” said Mark Brinkley, director of International Education at TSU.

Calling it an innovative collaboration between higher education institutions, Brinkley said the project is aimed to promote academic exchange and collaboration between TSU and Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia.

The South American students, mostly of indigenous Afro-Colombian heritage, are from the University of Antioquia, the National University in Medellin, and the Technological University of Chocó. They were paired according to their gender and research area of interest, according to Brinkley.

As part of their U.S. visit, the Colombian students will tour cultural sites in Memphis, including the Civil Rights Museum, to be sponsored by The Links, historic Peabody Hotel, Beal Street, as well as tour the Gaylord Hotel and the mall at Opry Mills in Nashville.

For more information go to https://www.tnstate.edu/diversity/ or call 615-963-5640.

 

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

 

 

About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. 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.

HBCUs Looking Beyond Black Students to Stay Competitive

Courtesy of Diverse Issues in Higher Education
Reginald Stuart
Dec. 8, 2013

Tennessee State University’s FUTURO chapter float during the University’s homecoming parade in October. (Photo credit: Daryl Stuart)
Tennessee State University’s FUTURO chapter float during the University’s homecoming parade in October. (Photo credit: Daryl Stuart)

When Tennessee State University (TSU) staged its homecoming parade in October, the parade returned to its roots, beginning on Jefferson Street, the main business corridor of the historically Black neighborhood connecting three widely known historically Black colleges — TSU, Fisk University and Meharry Medical College.

While looking back, the event also gave hints of TSU’s future. Amid the entourage of school bands from Nashville and across the region, as well as signs touting a new direction for TSU, the parade included a float featuring the institution’s first Hispanic student campus organization, FUTURO.

In just more than a year, FUTURO, which means “future” in Spanish, has helped the Tennessee State community become more comfortable with the university enhancing its appeal beyond Blacks, its historic target audience of students, based on years of legalized racial segregation and several decades of tradition.

“It’s nice to be able to show that we, too, have that sense of pride, celebrating that legacy and history,” says Dalila Duarte, 29, a third-year, TSU Ph.D. candidate from Chicago. “Now, it’s not why are we here, but how can we collaborate.”

Duarte, an American-born daughter of immigrants from Cuba and Mexico, says the atmosphere on campus toward Hispanics has gone from puzzled resentment over their presence to learning how much both cultures have in common. This year, the president of FUTURO is a young Black man from Tennessee, a Spanish major who speaks Spanish as well as many Hispanic students.

Diversifying demographics

While many institutions with histories of appealing to niche groups, based on law or tradition, have had open doors for decades, what’s happening recently at TSU and other historically Black colleges is new: they are now aggressively pursuing long-talked-about, yet cautiously embraced, affirmative action and diversity agendas as part of their survival strategy.

Faced with intense competition for their historically “safe pick” of students, HBCUs are becoming more like their non-HBCU peers, campaigning for the nation’s diverse demographics. HBCUs see this strategy as essential to growing enrollment and achieving a level of campus diversity that will make their institutions more appealing and their students competitive in the workforce.

“I think we see across the board HBCUs are diversifying,” says Dr. Kim Bobby, director of the inclusive excellence group at the American Council on Education, the principal umbrella organization of higher education groups, and former chief diversity officer at the University of Puget Sound. “They are doing a lot of different kinds of outreach.”

Indeed, the fears expressed by those urging caution, particularly older HBCU alumni, are based on a strong body of history. The “older” alumni say they want progress, but not the kind they experienced with the desegregation of elementary and secondary schools. The process essentially decimated Black schools, as Blacks had little or no political power to help determine how school systems were to be consolidated. In a matter of years, from the 1950s through the 1970s, hundreds of Black elementary and secondary schools were shut down and their teachers, principals and other staff largely demoted or fired.

Proponents of pushing the diversity envelope at HBCUs note many of the nation’s Black Americans who consider themselves college-ready are increasingly choosing colleges for more than historical reasons. That’s especially true when it comes to those who grew up in the post-segregation era. HBCUs have lost their monopoly on Black students and, despite continued underfunding in the open market for students, are having to meet the demands to change or disappear.

“We are out there letting people know how inclusive we are and narrowing the gap,” says Dr. Jewell Winn, chief diversity officer at TSU and director of the university’s new Office for Diversity and International Affairs.

“Snowball effect” at HBCUs 

Winn and officials at other HBCUs say, despite what many people think, more progress has been made in the area of diversity at HBCUs. They assert too much of the general public, including many alumni of HBCUs, share an inaccurate perception that there is no diversity at HBCUs and other institutions with a history of targeting a niche group.

North Carolina Central University, one of several state-controlled public HBCUs in the state, is ramping up its hunt for Hispanic students. It has joined Hispanic groups in hosting community events, published its website and scholarship aid information in Spanish and English and expanded the campaigning of its student ambassadors beyond traditional neighborhoods.

“It’s not a pulling teeth kind of thing,” says NCCU Director of Undergraduate Admissions Anthony Brooks, referring to the efforts at his institution. “We’ve seen a kind of snowball effect over the years, and a lot of recruiters do it on their own.”

Florida A&M University has also made diversity a high priority as the institution looks toward the future. In its 2013 entering class, the law school counts 42.3 percent of its students as African-American, 31.7 percent as Caucasian, 17.6 percent as Hispanic, 2.8 percent as American Indian and 3 percent as Asian. Women make up nearly 60 percent of the class, the university says.

In Mississippi, historically Black Alcorn State University broke the head coach color line in 2012 when it appointed Jay Hopson, a White Mississippian who grew up not far from the university, as its head coach. There has already been a sprinkling of Whites as assistant coaches and team members at several HBCUs across the nation.

Environment spurs diversity

While most HBCUs are recognizing the need to take decisive action, some institutions have slowly evolved over the years, as Virginia’s Bluefield (VA) State University did. At the once all-Black institution, Whites make up more than 90 percent of the student body, faculty and administration ranks.

In Arkansas, historically White Henderson State University, a four-year state controlled institution, has evolved over the past 30 years into an institution in which students of color make up more than 30 percent of its enrollment.

“A lot of recruitment is not about money,” says Dr. Glen ones, an alumnus and president of Henderson State, and a former national president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. “Money is important. But environment is as important. Do [prospective students] feel welcomed? Do they feel supported, included and see they can grow?”

As a young Black man finishing high school in the post-segregation era, Jones visited Henderson, which was near the community where he grew up. He chose Henderson due to its proximity to home and its environment. Over the years, he has spread word of his experience as a student at Henderson State and, in the process, has had as much impact as a recruiter in helping change the institution’s mix and feel.

Environment has certainly played a role at the University of Texas San Antonio, the rapidly growing public four-year liberal arts institution, designated by the federal government as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

“We are blessed in our south Texas region to be located in a very diverse area,” says Dr. George Norton, associate vice president for student affairs at UTSA. “We have not had any recruitment strategy that targeted prospective students based on race and/or ethnicity. Our recruitment strategy has targeted well-prepared students.”

Norton says UTSA has been able to maintain a high level of diversity based on the combination of strategy and guidelines, despite raising admissions standards three times in the last five years. Separately, the university has been aggressively raising funds to provide financial aid to students in need of help, as many of its students are the first in their families to enter college and have little money to support such goals.

UTSA’s total enrollment is approximately 28,533. A little more than 12,200 of those students are classified as Hispanic, 11,351 as non-Hispanic Whites and 2,171 as non-Hispanic Blacks. The university counts some 1,612 students as Asian, 128 as American Indian and the remainder is composed of a wide variety from around the world.

“We live in a global society,” says Bobby, stressing the importance of moving ahead while appreciating the history of such institutions as HBCUs. “Students want to go to the best school they can. Every school stands on its own merits.”

 

 

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

 

 

About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. 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.