NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University alumni and friends returning for Homecoming this year can expect to see some major changes on their former campus.
The university is investing about $1.5 million to provide new upgrades to student living. Dallas native Justin Moody, a senior exercise science major, is already feeling the impact.
“I like this new look,” said Moody, as he walked into the campus center with its new fixtures. “I think it’s going to make everybody feel good about their school. I really like the direction the university is going into.”
The new upgrades and facelift, a two-phased project the university started this summer, come on the heels of a recent announcement that TSU will build two new residence halls as part of a $75 million expansion.
The campus center, a high-traffic, popular student-gathering area, is one of the places receiving an early upgrade. New lounge chairs and stools with matching tables and armrests in bright, assorted colors blended with matching TSU blue, now adorn the nearly 239,000 square-foot campus center. Some of the new furniture also has electronic fixtures like USB ports and electric outlets for charging phones and powering other gadgets. The layout also includes individual study areas with cubicles and lounges for relaxation.
Before the upgrade, cushionless steel benches provided the only means of seating in the center.
TSU President Glenda Glover, relaxing in a swiveling bonded leather lounge chair in the campus center and surrounded by students, said the decision for the facelift and upgrades had student input “to make sure they like it.”
“Today we unveil changes we have been making to enhance our students’ living condition all over campus,” Glover said. “Our goal is to upgrade their living quarters, study areas and play quarters to ensure that they are comfortable and enjoying their living environment.”
Dr. Tracey Ford, vice president for Student Affairs, said between now and December, the university will complete the first phase of the upgrades, which include new furniture in all six traditional residence halls and two campus apartments, computer labs, game rooms, lobbies, lounge areas, and the career and health centers. Upgrades also include painting some areas, new lighting, floors and solar shades.
“What we are trying to do is create a 21st century living and learning environment where our students feel safe and secure,” Ford said. “So this is not just about having a nice place to live, but one that provides an environment where students can thrive academically and do what they need to do in the classroom in order to be successful and graduate.”
Ford, who has been at TSU since January, said the project is part of President Glover’s vision and a mandate she (Ford) received when she was hired.
“The president and I talked about ways in which we could transform the student experience here at TSU. One of the top things we talked about was our residence halls. In that conversation she really charged me and pushed me to make some improvements in the residence halls to improve the living and learning environment,” Ford said.
As a result, Ford said she met with staff, resident assistants and students in every hall, and facilities management to come up with improvement plans to make the living environment better.
“The first strategy was to improve the common areas of the residence halls. By common areas we are talking about lobbies, lounges, computer labs, and things of that nature. That’s something that everybody can enjoy and everybody can touch and feel. So, what you see going on in the residence halls and other areas now is that plan coming to fruition. We are excited about what we have accomplished so far but realize we have a long way to go to fully execute all of the upgrades,” Ford said.
Nhadya Cambridge, a junior health science major, who lives in Rudolph Hall, likes her new surrounding.
“Before hand, the furniture in here was not really that bad but this is definitely an upgrade,” said the Houston native, sitting with a laptop on a new armchair tucked away in a space that two weeks ago was bare. “It’s more modern, comfortable and there is more seating space, especially in the lounges on the various floors. I see a lot more people in those lounges than before. It is a nice setup.”
Student Government Association President JerMilton Woods said the improvements “definitely boost school spirit.”
“It gives the students a little more environment for interaction, and a little more fun environment that is more conducive to student learning,” Woods said.
Latane E. Brackett, III is the director of the upgrade project. He said TSU’s Facilities Management was very instrumental in bringing the project to fruition, as well as in identifying the furniture manufacturer, KI National Business Furniture.
“My role is to bring her (Dr. Ford) vision of 21st Century Living and Learning Communities to life through student-centered process improvements and infrastructure upgrades, and our partners in facilities have helped us make this possible,” Brackett said.
The upgrade in student living comes at a time when TSU is shifting focus in other areas. A year ago, the university raised its academic standards. This fall, the university recorded its largest class of incoming freshmen in school history at more than 1,500. On Sept. 14, the university announced a $75,300,000 expansion as part of a student modernization program.
With the increased expense of off-campus housing and a record-setting freshman class, Glover said the new housing and upgrades to existing facilities are critical in the recruitment and retention of students.
“New residence halls represent a remarkable recruiting tool, and add to the life of any college campus,” Glover said. “The facelift and upgrades are all part of our overall effort to make existing facilities conducive and comfortable for our students.”
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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.