TSU Alumna, NPR Producer Succumbs to Cancer

Teshima Walker
Teshima Walker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Award-winning journalist and producer Teshima Walker died August 16 after a two-year struggle with colon cancer. Walker, a graduate of Tennessee State University, is best known as the producer of Michel Martin’s popular news roundup show, Tell Me More.

Walker, a longtime NPR staffer, climbed the ranks of the news organization. In 2000 she joined the outlet as a journalism fellow for the program All Things Considered, and later became a producer for The Tavis Smiley Show and News and Notes. She joined Tell Me More in 2007 as a senior supervising producer and became the show’s executive producer in 2011. A Chicago native, Walker first came to NPR by way of WBEZ, where she was a senior producer for morning newsmagazine Eight Forty-Eight.

Walker’s NPR colleagues knew her as a “Southside Chicago girl to the core,” with an infectious laugh, and as someone who put herself aside for everyone.

“Teshima was a terrific journalist who worked tirelessly to bring new and diverse voices to air,” said Ellen McDonnell, executive editor for NPR News Programming. “She was a phenomenal advocate for the show, the staff and the audience. Tell Me More – and everyone who was lucky enough to work with Teshima – thrived under her leadership.”

“Teshima made us all want to dig a little deeper, think harder, and be better,” shared Tell Me More host Michel Martin. “She was everything you could want in a manager and friend: kind and open-hearted when you needed her to be, and tough, but fair, when you needed her to be. We are all very grateful for the time we had with her, and thank her husband, parents and sister for sharing these precious last days with us.”

Walker graduated from Tennessee State University with a degree in Communications. She was a lifetime member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Walker received her Master of Public Administration degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Walker was 44. She is survived by her husband, writer Jimi Izrael, her parents, William and Vonceal Walker, and her sister, Eureva Walker.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John A. 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, coeducational, 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 celebrates 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu

Engineering Professors Attract Funding for Scholarships and Research

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – For the past four years, two professors from Tennessee State University have been relentless in writing grant proposals to initiate and generate funding to begin research projects.  Between the two, they have generated more than $7 million to support research, scholarships, and the engineering curriculum to enhance the academic profile of the College of Engineering.

Dean of the College, Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, points out that the amount of funding the College has secured is remarkable given the competition for grant dollars.

“This is rather impressive since the competition typically results in about a 10-15 percent success rate,” said Dr. Hargrove, who along with Dr. Sachin Shetty, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, have secured grants from the National Science Foundation, Boeing and the U.S. Navy among others. “Because of the competition, re-submissions are very common in this highly competitive field of science and engineering solicitations.”

According to Dr. Hargrove, the opportunity to attract external funds through research helps develop students with their involvement, enhance the quality of the academic program, and integrates new knowledge in the classroom and laboratory.

“Our goal is to provide the best academic experience for our students, and research continues to broaden a student's competence and knowledge with a depth of expertise in a discipline of engineering,” stated Hargrove. “This makes our students more marketable and qualified for the many career pathways they may take.”

Among the many grants secured by Dr. Shetty, he has attracted external funding to support his research in cyber security and advanced visualization. He has collaborated with a multi-disciplinary faculty team within and outside of the University to receive more than $3.5 million from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, Boeing, and Amazon. He is currently working on multiple NSF funded research and educational projects along with Dr. Tamara Rogers, associate professor of computer science, worth $500,000 in cloud auditing.

With the popularity and growth of smartphones in the last decade for on-the-go financial, business and social transactions, Shetty has also sought out funding for identifying, understanding and mitigating new security risks to these “open softphones” critical to ensuring their continued viability and success in the mobile communications marketplace.

The Air Force has provided more than $700,000 in grants and contracts to support Shetty’s collaborative research with Dr. Mohan Malkani, associate dean and professor, along with Pennsylvania State University in the area of cloud and smartphone security. The Department of Homeland Security has also provided two grants worth $800,000 to support his research with Dr. Deo Chimba, assistant professor of civil and architectural engineering, in cloud security and incidence management.

His partnership with Dr. Hargrove and Rowan University to develop visualization software for engineering education has resulted in multiple National Science Foundation grants of more than $750,000.

Shetty has received several awards for his efforts, including recognition from the Annual TSU Research Symposium, a Department of Homeland Security Leadership Award, and Teacher of the Year from the College of Engineering.  He also serves as the Director of the Cyber-Defense and Security Visualization Laboratory in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

Dr. Hargrove, who not only serves as dean of the College but also as a professor of mechanical engineering, focuses his research on advanced manufacturing techniques, virtual and augmented reality, and energy storage devices.

He recently initiated research in advanced battery technologies, combining the multidisciplinary talents of professors in chemistry, physics and engineering.  Drs. L. Ouyang, Landon Onyebueke, Mohan Malkani, Richard Mu of Fisk University, and Hargrove recently traveled to a naval research facility to develop a partnership in batteries, and are currently developing a state-of-the art laboratory for battery testing and evaluation.  These efforts are part of the newly formed TIGER (TSU Interdisciplinary Graduate Engineering Research) Institute, a self-sustaining research unit obtained from a  $1.2 million award from the National Science Foundation.

The TIGER Institute will conduct applied research in cyber-defense, bioinformatics, advanced visualization, nano-materials, and energy systems. The U.S. Navy and Air Force, Boeing and the National Science Foundation sponsor current funding of the institute.

Dean Hargrove recently collaborated with Fisk University to receive a $1 million award to support the professional development of teachers.  Fisk University will offer several workshops to enhance the quality of teaching for Metro Nashville Public Schools. For his efforts and engagement with K-12 schools, Hargrove received the 2013 TSU Community Service Staff/Administrator Award.

The most recent award from the collaboration of Drs. Hargrove and Shetty is a $600,000 award for scholarships, and $400,000 for research in energy systems (batteries), both funded by the National Science Foundation.

“We believe our role as a College and academic unit is to contribute to the affordability challenge of our students by attracting external funds through research or scholarships,” said Hargrove. “Our goal is to enrich the student’s experience and provide the opportunity for learning.”

TSU Engineering Students Help “Bridge” Real-World Problem for U.S. Military

NASHVILLE (TSU NEWS SERVICE) – Tennessee State University engineering and computer science students are taking on some major challenges that could be helpful to the nation’s military forces.

Recently, they put their engineering calculations and theories to test to solve a real-world problem facing the U.S. Air Force.

The students, all six from the College of Engineering, joined other students from across the United States to participate in the annual University Design Challenge sponsored by the US Air Force Research Lab at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida.

In this year’s competition, students were challenged to build a portable bridge that could be used by a soldier or airman in a variety of situations.

Specifically, the students were asked to design a device that would allow military Special Operations personnel to cross over up to 20-foot-wide gaps with maximum weight of 350 pounds, typically the weight of a Special Ops member with all his gear. Additionally, the device should be convenient to transport, and should be versatile for use to scale buildings.

In a combined team effort, the TSU students and six others from Prairie View A&M University, joined forces to represent the Minority Leadership Program sponsored by Houston-based Clarkson Aerospace Corporation.

The TSU-PVAM group designed and entered two solutions in the competition. The first was able to complete the competition at the 16-foot range, and the second could be used to cross over an 18-foot-wide gap.

A Shalimar, Fla., local newspaper quoted TSU Electrical and Computer Engineering major Alvin Hughes as saying that while meeting the required parameter was quite a feat, the practical applications were another matter.

“The first semester was basically concepts,” said Hughes as he and other students quickly discovered that as opposed to the classroom, calculations on a computer do not always work in the real world.

Overall, the two solutions presented by the TSU/PVAM team received positive nods from the judges.

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, Dean of the College of Engineering, gave the TSU students high commendation for their participation in the Design Challenge, pointing to the “strong partnership” between the AFRL and his college.

“The College of Engineering has maintained a strong partnership with the Air Force Research Lab for more than two decades,” he said.  “This relationship extends beyond research in sensor networking and surveillance, but also applied projects for student learning.”

He called design competitions “an excellent method” for students to put engineering concepts to practice, while enjoying the camaraderie they obtain by working with other students and other institutions.

Other TSU students whop took part in the Design Competition were: Jasmine Knox and Kamisha White, Mechanical Engineering; Grantland Gray, Electrical and Computer Engineering; and January Wisniewski and James Calhoun, Computer Science.

Some of the other 16 institutions that participated in the Design Challenge were Ohio State University, Utah State University and Brigham Young University.

Return to Hale Stadium Adds Extra Flair to 101st Spring Commencement

The Reverend Jesse Jackson (center) congratulates Mr. TSU, Sidney Johnson (left) and Miss TSU, Danicia Hays on their successful graduation. Jackson delivered the 101st commencement address to more than 1,200 graduates May 11, 2013 at Hale Stadium. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)
The Reverend Jesse Jackson (center) congratulates Mr. TSU, Sidney Johnson (left) and Miss TSU, Danicia Hays on their successful graduation. Jackson delivered the 101st commencement address to more than 1,200 graduates May 11, 2013 at Hale Stadium. (Photo by John Cross, TSU Media Relations)

“Keep Hope Alive,” Jesse Jackson Tells Graduates

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  (TSU News Service) – The return to Hale Stadium Saturday in a large part contributed to the massive celebration that accompanied TSU’s 101st spring commencement when more than 1,200 graduates walked across the huge stage to receive their degrees.

Seeing the graduates’ faces in digital displays projected on two massive jumbotron screens as they receive their diplomas from TSU President, Dr. Glenda Glover and commencement speaker, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, gave parents, relatives and friends an extra thrill from the packed Hale Stadium.

Maria Ann Randall, 66, who came from Indianapolis to watch her niece, Melissa Walker, receive her degree in Arts and Sciences, said she was extra excited to be able to “actually see and hear Melissa’s name from way up in the stadium as the President gave her the degree.”

“This is really great and a good investment, and makes a proud moment even more meaningful,” said Randall, who was obviously surprised that this was the first time in more than 30 years a graduation was taking place at the stadium. “You all should do this more often.”

For Jackson, the civil rights icon, it was all business. The graduates needed to be reminded about what was expected of them, the challenges those before them faced, the possibilities that lie ahead, and making education more affordable.

“The American dream, which you pursue, is one big net, we are all in it and no one is out,” said Jackson. “The challenge is for all of us to renew our commitment and lift America from the bottom up, not just from the top down.”

Saying that there was too much wealth at the top while the middle class sank, Jackson acknowledged the current economic recovery, but added, “It is from the top down, not from the bottom up.”

“People are struggling to make ends meet; opportunities are getting fewer. As you leave from here there are some of you who will go home instead of going to work. But you must not surrender. Go out and look for more jobs and more education,” Jackson said.

Last semester, a significant number of the students, about 16,000 from HBCUs, were casualties of the federal government’s new and tighter rules governing Parent Plus Loans used by thousands of parents to help pay college costs. HBCUs lost about $166 million in Plus Loans because fewer parents were eligible to receive the government funding. TSU lost $1.6 million.

Jackson, who in the 60s marched along side Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the fight for freedom, sees this “discrepancy” as another roadblock or government “ploy” to deny minority access to quality education.

“After 50 years since the March on Washington led by Dr. King, today, we are freer but still less equal,” said Jackson, the two-time former presidential contender, and founder and CEO of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a multi-issue social justice organization. He referred to the “immoral war” in Iraq, violence and hate as reasons behind the inequality.

He reminded the graduates about TSU’s contribution to education for Blacks and the institution’s role in the struggle for equality.

“This was a hotbed of activity for talent,” Jackson said of TSU. “It is a monument to our struggle that we made the New South new. Segregation was more than skin deep. It was bone marrow deep and 50 years later, we’re freer but less equal.”

Asking the graduates and the audience to join him in chanting his famous “Keep Hope Alive” line, Jackson challenged the graduating class not to give up when faced with adversities.

“It is not where you came from or who you come from, but where you are going with what you have. No one here knows what you will be tomorrow, but keep hope alive,” he added, citing the 1968 Memphis, Tenn., uprising, when Dr. King went to support African-American sanitation workers who were striking for equal pay and for a union.

“Mr. (Henry) Baskin, your President, Dr. Glover’s father, was a garbage worker who, as a sanitation supervisor, was a leader in that march. So, from the daughter of a garbage worker to President of university – anything is possible, you only have to be determined. Don’t surrender; keep hope alive.”

In addressing her first commencement class since becoming president in January, Dr. Glover congratulated the graduates for their achievement, and thanked their parents, relatives and friends for the support.

“These students are out here today to celebrate their achievements because of you,” Dr. Glover said. “They could not have made it without you nudging them on and giving them the kind of support they need to be successful.”

The President, who called Jackson a friend, thanked the civil rights leader for his contribution to the movement for justice. She talked days earlier about the appropriateness of Jackson’s participation in the commencement and his speech to the students because 2013 marks 50 years since one of the civil rights movement’s defining moments.

“Since it is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, since [Rev. Jackson] is a notable icon of the entire civil rights movement, I thought it was just proper for him to encourage the students,” Glover said. “That march was about employment and economics, the same issues that graduates are confronting today. Fast-forward 50 years and we have Rev. Jackson to talk to us.”

 

 

 

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.

Young Kurdish Immigrant Beats Near Insurmountable Odds to Earn University Education, American Dream

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Ghariba Babiry is a classic American dream story.

Coming to the United States 15 years ago without understanding a word of English, no prior schooling, and soon to receive a college degree,  …with a potential teaching job in tow, that’s quite an accomplishment.

“It’s all still a dream,” she said.

For the young Kurd, it all started at about age 14 when she, her father, mother and three younger siblings had to flee the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein. They left their Kurdish homeland in northern Iraq for a new life in the U.S.

They landed in Nashville, Tenn.- a totally different culture and way of doing things.

“This was all a new experience and yet my siblings and I were required to cope and succeed amid some serious challenges,” Babiry said.

But challenge, for Babiry, was an understatement.  It was an awakening.

“For my first time ever in a classroom, I was thrust into the eighth grade at Cameron Middle School, with no understanding of English and totally dumfounded,” she said. “I had a separate interpreter with me in class about three hours a week to guide me through the instructions while the teacher was teaching. Worse yet, at 14 years of age, I was the oldest in the class but understood the least. This was very difficult. I tried to give up several times.”

Thanks to Babiry’s very persistent parents, she hung in there through the daily struggle of trying to complete class assignments – almost always the last to finish.

“My mother was constantly on me not to give up. ‘Never give up; don’t be illiterate like me; I can’t even write my own name,’ she would say,” Babiry added.“For my father, all he wanted me to think about was school. ‘I’ll provide you with everything I can after all I came to America for you, so that I can give to you what I did not have the chance to do in Kurdistan,’ he would say.”

The persistence, struggle and what seemed to Babiry then as harassment, paid off through developmental courses -in middle school, high school, community college. …and now Tennessee State University.

On May 11, she will be among more than 1,000 graduates who will receive their degrees when Tennessee State University holds its spring commencement at Hale Stadium.

She will be the third among her siblings to receive a college degree since arriving in the U.S. Two younger brothers, one in Mechanical Engineering and the other in Nursing, have also graduated from TSU. Her youngest sister is pursuing a nursing degree at Middle Tennessee Sate University.

“The idea of graduating May 11 is very surreal because I have been through so much and there were many times that I was not sure I would get through the Praxis exams,” said Babiry, who will receive her degree in Early Childhood Education. “It is even more special to know that my parents will finally see me graduate after many years of hard work. I am thankful to Allah the almighty for their support and for giving me the strength and some very important people who understood my situation and encouraged me along the way.”

While Babiry tries to forget the painful past, she is reminded of “teachers who treated me badly because I did not understand like the other students” did.

“I have made a promise not to do that to my students. Instead, I will be like those who did everything they could to make sure I fit in, understood and treated me with respect and not like I was a burden. A kind word and a little encouragement go a long way; believe me,” she said, giving recognition to some of her TSU professors, especially Dr. Graham Matthews, her senior advisor.

“I had some good teachers, but Dr. Matthews, Ms. (Deborah) Bellamy (also at TSU), and Dr. Tammy Lipsey (Reading Clinical Coordinator for the Metro School System) are heaven sent,” she said. “They were never too busy to make sure I was doing the right thing.”

In addition to her degree, Babiry has completed all certifications required for teaching, with the exception of the English Language Learners Certification or endorsement required to teach in the schools in her area. She should get that certification soon, she said.

She is currently a student teacher at Haywood Elementary School in Nashville.

“I am really enjoying student teaching. I love seeing my students’ faces every day and helping them,” said Babiry, who also worked as a substitute teacher with the Metro School System. “I have a heart for children.  Like many immigrants, I have experienced many hardships in my life, and I am certain that because of my experience, I will be the best role model for my students.”

Babiry seeks no pity, even though it took her seven years to complete her college work, including two years off to focus on passing the Praxis, which she attempted 13 times before finally passing, and spending her first two years of college taking ELL classes and developmental course, she feels stronger.

“This was all because of the difficulty with the English language,” she said. “But I am thankful I stuck with it. I am stronger, more confident, and with my education, I am ready to face the world.”

$334,000 Research Grant Seeks Technology on Identifying Hidden Enemy Intent in Military Warfare

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – A major problem U.S. military counter-insurgency operations face is the ability to easily identify hostile enemy group intent and hidden dangers in obstructed environments.

Such group activities are generally embedded in clutters in urban locations, involving well-trained individuals who blend in with the general population to carry out their mission. The results usually are surprise attacks and high civilian casualties.

A Tennessee State University mechanical engineering professor thinks he has the answer.  As a result of a proposal to the U.S. Army Research Office, he has won a $334,000 defense grant to investigate the possibility of developing an advanced technology that improves the capability of automated surveillance systems.

Dr. Amir Shirkhodaie, professor in the College of Engineering and director of the Center of Excellence for Battlefield Sensor Fusion, said his research will develop a new capability for behavioral pattern learning of partially obscure group activities that take place in confined, obstructed spaces.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a robust information-theoretic framework with supportive techniques that can detect obscure group activities in areas such as inside a vehicle, boat, airplanes or corner alleys of urban areas,” said Dr. Shirkhodaie.

He said this could greatly reduce the false alarm rates in surveillance operations that frequently occur as a result of miscalculation of enemy intent, and help shift the “balance of power” in peacekeeping operations.

“If we can deliver this kind of technology to the battlefield, this is a game-changer,” said Maj. Jay Deason, an aviator with the Tennessee Army National Guard, who has served two tours in Iraq, flying Black Hawk Helicopters.

He said while this technology would have limited application for air reconnaissance operations, it would be greatly useful to ground forces and civil affairs specialists, who identify critical requirements needed by local citizens in combat or crisis situations.

Civilians would also greatly benefit from this technology in homeland security, crowd control, and anti-drug and anti-crime operations, Dr. Shirkhodaie said.

Maj. Deason, who has also served one tour along the southwest U.S. border flying UH-72 helicopters, said this technology will greatly help the civilian population and in border patrol operations.

“This is very exciting. This technology has the capability to save lives,” Deason added.

The main objective of Dr. Shirkhodaie’s proposal, “Detection of Partially Observable Group Activities (POGA) in Confined Obstructed Spaces,” is to develop context-based taxonomy and ontology schema for coherent analysis and inferences of POGA.

The investigation will take place in three phases, including the development of a robust Adaptive Image Processing technique for detecting and tracking of behavior pattern of POGA; a Computational Intelligence technique based on a hybrid neuro-fuzzy system architecture; and a Multi-Layer Hidden Markov Model technique for probabilistic spatiotemporal state transition modeling that leads to context-aware discovery on anomalous group activity.

In student learning, Dr. Shirkhodaie said the project would greatly enhance research opportunities for TSU students in this area, as well as offer scholarly training opportunities for underrepresented minority students in the STEM disciplines.

The Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. S. Keith Hargrove who also announced three new research projects with Boeing for more than $500,000, congratulated Dr. Shirkhodaie on his award, adding that the grants represent the dedication and commitment of faculty to research and attracting students to the College of Engineering.

“The opportunity for academia and industry to collaborate to solve industry problems makes the company more competitive, and enhances the quality of our engineering programs for students and faculty,” said Dr. Hargrove.

The three Boeing projects include using artificial intelligence for the development of aircraft propulsion controls; the development of resilient control mechanisms to mitigate cyber attack in engineering embedded systems; and the development of mathematical models for energy harvesting and storage.

The faculty members involved in these projects are Drs. Sachin Shetty, Mohammed Saleh Zein-Sabatto, both professors of Eleectrical Engineering; and Dr. Landon Onyebueke, professor of Mechanical Engineering.

TSU Students’ Spring Break Projects Help Provide Comfort for Three Florida Families

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Spring break is the time when college students usually flock to the beaches, hang out at parties or just lay back and forget about school for a while.

But for a group of Tennessee State University students, spring break was a time to get their hands dirty to make life better for some less fortunate members of society. As a result of their hard work, three lucky families in Daytona, Fla., now have homes they can be proud of.

As part of a Student Activities “alternative spring break” program, and in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, about 45 students helped to rebuild and remodel homes in three economically hard-hit communities in Daytona.

Although this was an entirely Student Activities initiative, it was made so much easier with the encouragement, and personal financial and material support of TSU President Glenda Glover, who contributed $3,000 cash, and paid for gasoline to fuel the busses that transported the students to Florida.

“This clearly showed leadership and eagerness for the success of her students,” said Zachariah Williams, an Aeronautical and Industrial Technology major from New Orleans, about Dr. Glover’s contribution. “With our experience in the past, I was surprise that she did not only donate gas for the shuttles, but actually made a personal cash donation to make it easy for students to experience such a life-changing event.”

Referring to the students as “great ambassadors” of the University’s “Think, Work, Serve” motto, Dr. Glover said community service is an integral part of college life that students are introduced to as soon as they arrive on campus.

“As a University president, it is a moment of pride when students want to go above and beyond to help others,” she said. “It literally warmed my heart to know that these students would spend a part of their spring break volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.”

Last year, Tennessee State University students provided more than 20,000 hours of service to the Nashville community, with an estimated value of nearly $400,000. While this year’s numbers are still being calculated, TSU students continue to participate in a number of community service activities.

The SGA’s “Mr. TSU,” Sidney Johnson, a founding member of the I AM project, one of the organizers of the Daytona trip, said the idea of the rebuilding and remodeling plan was based on one of his organization’s core values of targeting freshman students to help them “foster the qualities that the ideal TSU man/woman possesses.”

“The idea of an alternative spring break was introduced at TSU to give students a sense of community while gaining meaningful experiences for their resumes or portfolios as they prepare to enter the real world,” said Johnson, a senior Supply Chain major from Memphis, Tenn. “This is not new; other universities offer the choice of an alternative spring break to engage students in meaningful hands-on activities, and the Daytona projects were good examples.”

Dr. Clarence Ball, Professor of Communications, who accompanied the students, said he was impressed by their (students) commitment and dedication to the projects.

“They show a high level of leadership and commitment that made the work so much easier and helped us to complete the projects in a very short time,” said Dr. Ball. “I was really surprised at how much the students liked and enjoyed helping those families.”

Also helping on the projects were members of the TSU Pep Club. Together, the students did landscaping, painting, refinishing, as well as some carpentry and masonry work.

To be sure, the trip was not all work and no play. They had fun visiting Universal Studios in nearby Orlando, took in the beaches, and visited Bethune Cookman University campus, also in Daytona.

The students were so impacted by their Florida experience, especially in helping to make life more comfortable for the three families in Daytona. Participants were all, “Yes,” and “Of course,” when asked if they would participate in another Alternative Spring Break. They left Daytona with a sense of achievement knowing that through their effort, three families now have a safe and sturdy place to sleep.

Submitted by:
Courtney Mickens, Sophomore Communications major

TSU Students Make Connection Between Educational Disciplines and Community Service

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Loréal Spear did not choose Environmental Engineering as a major at Tennessee State University by accident.

“I just love preserving the natural esthetics of the environment,” said the graduate student from Nashville.

Building on the “Think, Work, Serve” mantra, Spear said her interest also allows her to serve as a way of giving back to the community and helping to improve the environment in and around her hometown.

“I have actively participated in TSU’s Service Day and Hands On Nashville service events throughout my undergraduate and graduate career,” she said.

So, it came as no surprise on Saturday, March 23, when Spear joined nearly 200 TSU students, faculty and staff in a day of service as they worked to restore the natural habitats of the community.

The event was part of the Go Green North Nashville program and Hands On Nashville, where volunteers spread out into the surrounding community areas and took part in “Diggin’ It,” a day devoted to planting and rejuvenation.

Dr. Linda Guthrie, acting director of the Center for Service Learning, said the annual spring volunteer day is important not only for TSU, but also to the community that surrounds the University.

“Our community is close-kit and caring,” said Guthrie in an earlier statement. “We try to teach our students to look unselfishly beyond themselves, and to reach out to others and the world. The North Nashville area has supported the University from the beginning. We want to build lasting connections with our neighbors, and aid in the restoration of the natural habitats that surround our community.”

Projects included the TSU Riparian Reforestation, where volunteers replanted native trees along the flood-damaged banks of the Stones River; and Building TSU Rain Gardens, where volunteers dug and planted rain gardens to slow rainwater runoff into the soil.

Spear and fellow graduate student Jamal Henderson, a Civil Engineering major from Bridgeport, W.Va., joined others in TSU Energy Savings Tree Plantings, where volunteers strategically planted tress around the North Nashville community to provide shade and help cut energy costs.
“Giving my background in Architectural and Civil Engineering, these tree planting projects are very relatable as far as helping to improve the beauty and esthetics of the land,” said Henderson. “They improve energy usage and the environment.”

Another project was TSU Tree Potting, where volunteers planted tree seedlings into pots to be stored until the next fall planting season.

Service learning and community service is nothing new to the students, faculty and staff at the University. According to the Center for Service Learning, TSU offered 93 service-learning courses last year, while more than 2,000 students performed 20,000 community service hours at an estimated value of $400,000.

Just recently, TSU was named for the fifth year in a row to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.

Doing it for Me! TSU Extension Assistant Sheds 170 Pounds, Starts New Life

For three decades, Heather Gum gradually expanded from being husky, to overweight, to morbidly obese—to over 350 pounds and a size 30 at her largest. Gum recently returned from a trip to Hollywood where she taped an episode of “The Doctors,” a medical television talk show set to air March 20. She sent a letter to producers telling them of her life story and how she shed more than 170 pounds in 15 months. (courtesy photos)
For three decades, Heather Gum gradually expanded from being husky, to overweight, to morbidly obese—to over 350 pounds and a size 30 at her largest. Gum recently returned from a trip to Hollywood where she taped an episode of “The Doctors,” a medical television talk show set to air March 20. She sent a letter to producers telling them of her life story and how she shed more than 170 pounds in 15 months. (courtesy photos)

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  (TSU News Service) – As a 4-H teaching assistant with the UT/TSU extension service in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Heather Gum has recited the club’s pledge more times than she can remember.

The line that would always get to her was, “I pledge…my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.”

It was ironic that she was teaching children to live a healthy lifestyle when she herself was morbidly obese. After 30 years of overeating and bad choices, she tipped the scales at 367 pounds and had a 55½-inch waist.

“It really hit me that I needed to make a change, that I had lived this lifestyle for far too long,” said Gum. “But to start my journey I had to learn to love myself first.”

Gum recently returned from a trip to Hollywood where she taped an episode of “The Doctors,” a medical television talk show set to air March 20. She sent a letter to producers telling them of her life story and how she shed more than 170 pounds in 15 months.

“I told them everything, the problems I had growing up and how I got to be where I was,” Gum said. “I wanted to share my story so that others know they can lose an extreme amount of weight by just eating right and changing their lifestyle.”

According to Gum, she grew up in the era of “cleaning your plate” or eating everything, and never learned to feel full on her own. She ate because it was time to eat, not because she was hungry, but because it was there.

“This whole process started when I was 12 and I just packed on a layer of protection that I hid behind,” added Gum. “I was making bad choices such as sneaking food and eating a lot of junk food. It finally just caught up to me.”

On Feb. 14, 2011 at the age of 40, she made the decision of a lifetime. After eating a couple of Taco Bell 5-layer burritos for a quick lunch, she decided to make the life-changing decision to improve the health of her body. She wrote on her blog:

“I paused for a moment and told myself ‘This is It!’ My weight and size is an embarrassment.  My family loves me…but I know there has been times that they wish I didn’t look the way I do…I couldn’t help but have tears trickling down my plump rosy cheeks.  Where do I start?  There’s thousands of little reasons but one big one – I AM DOING IT FOR ME!” [sic]

Gum was referred to the Metabolic Research Center in Murfreesboro by another client, and according to Brittany Tucker, manager of the weight-loss center, she was ready to start her journey.

“You could just tell,” said Tucker. “She was excited about the process and the road that lay before her.”

The program consisted of twice-weekly weigh-ins, sessions of encouragement, blood pressure checks and documentation of health history.

“This is the easiest diet to follow because you are eating real food,” said Tucker. “Heather was loosing an averaging of 4-5 pounds every week.”

Gum had to learn to eat all over again. Now she was weighing her food as instructed by the center, eating lots of fruits, vegetables and lean meats.

“It was so easy,” she said. “I didn’t have to count calories. I just had to weigh my portions. I didn’t go anywhere without my scales.”

She also joined TOPS (taking off pounds sensibly) another support group which she had been part of on-and-off since 2005. After she shed 170 pounds, TOPS recognized her as the 2011 International Division Winner based on her age and the amount of weight lost during the calendar year. She was also the “biggest loser” at the Murfreesboro weight-loss center.

With the weight loss came a lot of firsts for Gum, including being able to sit in a chair without touching the sides, going kayaking, and just recently, snow skiing with her children in January. But one of the biggest moments was when her youngest daughter, now 11, was able to put her arms around her mom for the first time after losing 80 pounds.

“It was a special moment for the two of us,” she said. “I wondered how I ever got to that point, a point I am never going back to.”

Today, Gum is down to about 185 pounds and went from a size 30 to a 12/14. She still is not where she wants to be, because she estimates her excess skin from her weight loss at about 25-30 pounds.

“My goal is to get to a size 8/10,” Gum added. “But since insurance won’t cover that type of surgery, it might take a while. I am really pushing for insurance companies to cover the cost of the corrective surgery. I worked hard to loose all that weight and that is my reward? I think things really need to change.”

Her quest for insurance policy change is the reason for her appearance on “The Doctors.” She sent a letter to both the president of TOPS asking them to lead the charge in helping to change policy, and producers of the television program. While the TOPS organization discussed it at an international meeting, they thought it was too large an issue to take on. “The Doctors,” however, invited her to appear on the show about the issue of skin.

“It was a wonderful experience and amazing that they picked me to talk about weight loss and the effects it has on your skin,” said Gum. “Excess skin is as much mentally debilitating as the weight was physically debilitating. I just hope some good come out of this for others going through the same thing.”

The episode of “The Doctors” featuring Gum will air Wednesday, March 20 at 11 a.m. on WKRN Channel 2 in Nashville.

 

 

 

 

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.

TSU Graduates Receive Top Recognitions at 2013 Black Engineer of the Year Awards

NASHVILLE (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University graduates continue to make great inroads in industry and career achievements.

At the recently ended 27th annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Global Competitiveness conference (Feb. 7-9) in Washington, D.C., four TSU graduates were recognized in several key categories of the prestigious awards.

The awards recognize the achievements of African Americans in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It also encourages young black Americans to pursue careers in STEM fields.

This year’s award ceremony was hosted by the Council of Engineering Deans at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Lockheed Martin Corporation, US Black Engineer & Information Technology magazine, and Aerotek.

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, Dean of the College of Engineer, who was at the conference, is a member of the Council of HBCU Engineering Deans.

The conference, which is attended by hundreds of “elite” professionals and students representing the top tier of people in STEM, allows participants the opportunity to acquire and retain talent, and to learn and network among the best and brightest technology minds in the country.

The TSU graduates and recipients of 2013 Black Engineer of the Year Awards include:

Modern Day Technology Leader award: Lamar Blackwell – a 1996 TSU graduate with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering – As systems engineer staff, Blackwell is the Flight Controls Airworthiness Certification Lead at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. He also holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix.

Sheldon Rashad Greene – 2006 M.S. Electrical Engineering. Recognized for his “proven” ability to stand out as a technical contributor in the defense system and industry, Green is Senior Systems Engineer at Raytheon. He develops software architecture and requirement specifications at the giant defense contractor. He is also part of the engineering program at Northeastern University in Boston, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in Engineering Management and Leadership. Green recieved his B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Florida A&M University.

Tretessa Johnson – 1995 B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Johnson is Senior Staff Reliability Engineer at General Dynamics C4 Systems in Scottsdale, Ariz. She also holds an MBA degree from Arizona State University.

Community Service award: Rhonda Thomas – 1980 B.S. Electrical Engineering. Thomas is a General Engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C.

“On behalf of the College of Engineering, we want to congratulate these alumni for representing a high level of technical competence complemented by leadership skills in the workplace, said Dr. Hargrove. “Our educational challenge is to continue to produce quality graduates through innovative instruction and experiential learning that acknowledges an employment investment of our major industry and government recruiters.”

This is not the first time TSU graduates have been recognized at the BEYA awards. Previous two-time BEYA award recipient Terrence Southern – 2003 B.S. Computer Science – was recognized in the Modern Day Leader category in 2007, and at the 2012 conference he took the award for Most Promising Engineer.

In talking with the award winners, one thing is common. They all credit their TSU preparation for their academic and career successes.

“TSU provided me with the foundation that has allowed me to thrive academically and professionally,” said Thomas, adding that her involvement with the alumni association has taught her the importance of giving back especially to the youth.

For Southern, the two-time BEYA award winner is particularly thankful for the mentoring and leadership skills he developed at TSU as a resident assistant and founder of a professional organization.

“I find that to be successful in academia or in the work place, one must learn to prioritize, complete tasks, and learn to efficiently use time,” he said. “My TSU family prepared me for great challenges after college, which have helped me along the way.”