TSU to get major boost with infrastructure needs, research and increased federal aid  for students with final funding bill of 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University students and those enrolled at historically black colleges and universities across the country will see an increase in Pell grants. Eligible students will receive an additional $500 as a part of the $1.7 trillion 2022 Omnibus Bill unveiled by congressional leaders. The final funding bill of the year also includes increased funding for research and infrastructure for HBCUs.

President Glenda Glover

This is a major boost for TSU as the university undertakes several capital improvement projects, as well as efforts to achieve an R1 Carnegie research designation.

“We are thankful to Congresswoman Alma Adams, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the White House, and all others who were instrumental in getting this legislation passed,” said Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover. 

Included in the funding are several programs that will benefit TSU: $50 million for HBCU, TCU, and MSI Research and Development Infrastructure Grants, a program originally included in the IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act.

 “I am proud to have secured significant wins for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the federal omnibus for Fiscal Year 2023,” said Congresswoman Adams (D-NC), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus.

“These planning and implementation grants are designed to promote transformational investments in research infrastructure at four-year HBCUs, TCUs, and other MSIs.”

Glover, who also serves as the vice chair of President Joe Biden’s Advisory Board on HBCUs, added that the funding aligns with TSU’s plans for long-term growth and sustainability. 

“I am pleased to have helped with advocating to lawmakers and others the importance of the bill that makes HBCUs stronger and helps our institutions continue the work of strengthening our communities by providing a quality education to our students,” Glover said.

“We currently have major capital infrastructure projects and increased research activities underway, This bill will provide additional resources to assist TSU in successfully reaching our goals of enhancing and upgrading our campus footprint and becoming an R1 research institution.” 

TSU is in the middle of a major facelift to academic buildings, improvements to outdoor lightings and interior décor as part of a campus-wide infrastructure upgrade initiative that is expected to last through 2023.

The increase in Pell grant awards is the largest since the 2009-2010 school year. Approximately 65 percent of TSU students depend on some type of financial aid, including the Pell grant. Nationally, about seven million students, many from lower-income families, receive Pell grants every year to help them afford college.

Terrance Izzard, TSU’s associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success, echoed President Glover’s sentiments that the boost in funding for Pell grant award will help financially struggling students stay in school.

“Coming out of a pandemic, along with tough economic times, this increase in funding could not have come at a better time for parents and students,” Izzard said. “This certainly is big relief and lessens the added burden of students trying to achieve their educational goals amid high cost of tuition and other needs.”

For a detailed summary of the Congressional bill, visit https://appropriations.house.gov/sites/democrats.appropriations.house.gov/files/FY23%20Summary%20of%20Appropriations%20Provisions.pdf

TSU Police Department participates in active shooter training

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The TSU Police Department participated in an active shooter training on campus, enacting different response techniques in case of an actual on-campus threat. The TSU police department in collaboration with Vanderbilt University and Meharry Medical College police officials hosted the professional training seminar on campus using simunition rounds to assist in accomplishing the training.

TSUPD academy trainees participated in the action packed demonstration as well.

TSU police officers hovers over a manikin posed as a shooting victim during an active shooter training session. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“To keep us up to speed in lieu of everything that is transpiring at different schools and universities across the country, we want to be as prepared as possible,” says Chief of Police Gregory Robinson “We do this type of advance training to let our TSU community know we take our safety seriously.”

The training covered headline-grabbing shooting incidents, such as the recent University of Virginia fatal shooting, and provided lessons learned from them, increasing emergency preparedness and understanding critical response.

Robinson says officers are trained to respond to an active shooter and to proceed immediately to the area where the shots were last heard with a purpose of stopping the shooting as quickly and safely as possible.

TSUPD uses simunition rounds and role players to assist in accomplishing the active shooter training. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Lt. Tommy Phelps says as these unfortunate situations are more prevalent across the country, TSUPD prepares for the worse, but we hope for the best.”

“We have held classroom training and group training, but we have never done a formalized training where we are going to have simunition rounds,” Phelps says. “We are trying to teach these officers how to slow themselves down and have more cognitive thinking.”

Phelps noted that the officers gained a better understanding as far as situational awareness and that the effective training will, “make us (TSUPD) even better than what we are.”

Lt. Thomas Phelps speaks with colleagues moments before gearing up for the active shooter training at the Humphries building on campus. (Photos by Aaron Grayson)

Critical situations are dynamic and evolve rapidly, demanding immediate deployment of law enforcement resources to stop a shooting and mitigate harm to innocent victims. The 7-hour training sessions on campus were not open to the public, but Robinson says he looks forward to having a public training session next spring.

Visit this link to check out the active shooter training with TSUPD. 

TSU, local non-profit’s toy distribution event benefits nearly 5,000 area children and their families

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University and a local non-profit were able to spread lots of cheer during the holiday season. The university and Simply United Together partnered again to host Toys for Tots on the campus to make sure hundreds of Nashville children awoke Christmas morning with smiles on their faces.  On December 17,  nearly 2,000 parents were able to select gifts for their children during the annual toy distribution organized by TSU and Simply United Together, a nonprofit that coordinates the pickup of donated toys.

A volunteer, right, helps Erica Dowlen picks out toys for her two children. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Erica Dowlen, of Nashville, a mother of a 6-month-old and a 6-year-old, was among those picking up toys. She said with a new baby and barely enough income to cope, she had nowhere else to turn.

“I really didn’t have anywhere else to turn and I heard about TSU. I went and was able to pick out some nice stuff for my kids,” said Dowlen. “I am totally grateful because this was a down year for me. I had just had a baby. I wasn’t able to work as I wanted to provide from my kids.”

It’s estimated that nearly 5,000 children, boys and girls up to age 12, received toys as a result of the program. Volunteers, including TSU students, staff, alumni, and representatives from area charitable organizations and churches, helped with the distribution in Kean Hall on the main campus. Since 2018, TSU has partnered with Simply United Together, and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots to distribute toys on the TSU main campus. 

Volunteers help with distribution at the Toy for Tots giveaway in Kean Hall. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. William Hytche, coordinator of the Toys for Tots program for TSU, said the university is thankful for the continued partnership with Simply United Together to serve needy families during the holiday. 

“It is an important service that I think we do as a community,” said Hytche. “TSU is in the community, so we like to serve the community whenever we get the opportunity. We have had this partnership with Simply United for over four years and it has worked very well.” 

A volunteer helps stack up toys for parents during Saturday’s program on the main TSU campus. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Benetta M. Sears, the local director of Simply United Together Foundation, said she is thankful that TSU has continued to be a site to serve families, especially during this “very critical time.”

“Tennessee State University is very positive. This is a community school also, and the people here are more willing and ready to serve the Nashville community, and we are thankful to continue our partnership,” she said. 

For more information on Toys for Tots at TSU, please call Dr. William Hytche at 615-963-5069.

TSU receives $5 million grant that could lead to state being top hemp grower in region

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has received nearly $5 million in a hemp research grant, an investment that could make the state of Tennessee the number one grower in the Southeast region. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the investment this week, awarding the grant to the College of Agriculture towards a new partnership for a Climate-Smart Fiber Hemp Project.

This investment for sustainable hemp fiber research will promote market development of industrial hemp supply as a climate-smart commodity through incentives to underserved Tennessee growers enrolled into the program.

Dr. Emmanuel Omondi

Dean and Director of Research/Administrator of Extension Chandra Reddy said the department is excited to support hemp producers in the state, particularly with climate smart production practices.

“We have been at the forefront of identifying appropriate hemp varieties to grow in Tennessee and have been facilitating producers’ meetings on our campus,” Reddy says. “This multi-million-dollar project strengthens our Center of Excellence focusing on developing Climate Smart practices in managing Natural Resources, Renewable Energy, and Environment.”

The hemp project is a collaborative initiative to expand the production of industrial hemp as a climate-smart commodity, evaluate its greenhouse gas benefits, and promote the value of market development to a cross-section of production agriculture, including historically underserved producers across the state of Tennessee.

Dr. Emmanuel Omondi and PhD student Anand Kumar at Tennessee State University’s agricultural farm

The project is led by Dr. Emmanuel Omondi, Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Industrial Hemp Extension Specialist.

Omondi says the greatest percentage of funds will be used to provide support and incentives to historically underserved farmers owning up to 500 acres to grow fiber hemp. The fiber hemp will then be processed and supplied to the motor vehicle industry as raw materials for manufacturing critical motor vehicle parts such as fabrics and bioplastics, he says.

“Funds will also be used to continue research into the best management agronomic production practices such as crop rotations, reduced tillage, alternative sources of fertilizers, and good genetics for Tennessee.”

Omondi said he is excited about the opportunity and looks forward to having a, “strong team of multidisciplinary partners who are totally committed to the successful execution of this project.”

TSU alum Frederick Cawthon, President of Hemp Alliance of Tennessee (HAT), who is a key partner within the project, said the overall goal is to create opportunities for underserved Tennessee growers.

“Tennessee can become the leading producer of hemp in the Southeast United States,” Cawthon said. “It’s a proud moment in my career to work alongside my alma mater to create opportunities for Tennessee’s diverse hemp producers. We are committed to growing this industry responsibly, and we encourage all industries to examine how they can utilize this climate-smart and regenerative raw material.”

In collaboration with TSU for the project is HAT, University of Tennessee (UTK), and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) to address the global challenges posed by climate change.

Tennessee State University professor part of historic Civil War Trails marker unveiling in Nashville

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The first Civil War Trails marker paying homage to three African American regiments has been unveiled in Nashville. The marker is located on Foster Avenue near STEM Prep High School. Tennessee State University associate professor of history Dr. Learotha Williams played a major role in the historic project that details the story of the former slaves fighting in the city during the Civil War for the first time as United States soldiers. 

The historical marker is located on Foster Avenue near STEM Prep High School.

Williams said during the event that the marker site highlights the important contributions of the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT). 

“This battle, this marker, and this moment only represents a new chapter in our understanding of the Civil War in history and our collective memory,” Williams said. “Be mindful that this should be the starting point and not an end. There is much more that we have to discover and learn about the Civil War.” 

Dr. Williams helped bring the marker to light by providing his research about the regiments of the USCT. It was noted that this dedication took place 158 years to the exact date of the Battle of Nashville in 1864, involving the three Black regiments. 

The unveiled marker is the story of the former slaves fighting in the city during the Civil War for the first time as United States soldiers. 

Those attending included representatives from the Battle of Nashville Trust, Stem Prep High School, Civil War Trails, and Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. During the unveiling, several presenters spoke about the need to preserve and expand the number of markers that honor the impact African Americans made on the war. 

One of Williams’ history students, Jasmine Sears, said she is excited to see another part of history being honored in a positive light in Nashville. 

“I view the unveiling of this marker as a testament to the achievements of African Americans and their role in the development of Nashville,” Sears of Atlanta, GA, said. 

Jasmine Sears

“Many people don’t fully understand the impact African American soldiers had on a war that was fought so close to home, but I hope this marker will change that.” 

Sears said she looks forward to pursuing a career in public history to educate people on unknown history that is closer to them than they think. 

USCT regiments are also noted to have fought valiantly at Peach Orchard Hill, which is five miles south of were the new marker stands. Dr. Williams says he has hopes that a marker will be placed there in the near future.

The state of Tennessee joined the Civil War Trails program in 2008 with over 350 sites in Tennessee for guest to visit the footsteps of trailblazers like the men who were honored this week for their bravery on Dec. 15, 1864. 

In 2018, Dr. Williams also spearheaded and unveiled a historical marker recognizing victims of Nashville’s slave market. This marker is located at the corner of 4th Avenue North and Charlotte Avenue. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations).

Visit this link here to hear Dr. Williams’ remarks and see the unveiling of the historic marker. 

To learn more about the Civil War Trails visit www.civilwartrails.org/

TSU students to compete as finalist in Morgan Stanley HBCU Wall Street Exchange Case Competition

Four students from the college of business department of economic and finance will be headed to New York next year to compete as finalist in a Morgan Stanley HBCU Wall Street Exchange Case Competition.

Dr. Izadi and finalist during the Exchange Case Competition.

The students who were selected to advance in the next round of the competition are Leandra Sanchez and Jalen Hatton, who are both seniors studying finance, from Taos, NM, and Columbus, OH. Mylan Townsel, a senior from Memphis, majoring in economics and finance, and Julian Mitchell, a junior from Jackson, MS, also studying economics and finance.

Tennessee State University is one of four finalist out of 13 HBCUs who participated in the competition.

Hatton said he is more than proud to be a finalist representing the university. “It was a real team effort and we did our best,” Hatton says. “It’s a blessed feeling. The case scenario was a real world example … and it took a lot of collaboration and research.”

Students were given a case study to present and had three weeks to prep for the first round of judging. Morgan Stanley’s central regional judging committee selected four university’s as finalists to attend the Professional Development Bootcamp and Regional Case Competition.

TSU’s competition team sent a PowerPoint and video of their presentation for the finance scenario case study and were selected to advance to the next round in New York.  

Townsel said with many other HBCUs being apart of the competition, he was in shock when he was notified about being a finalist. “It was much of a surprise,” Townsel said. “We worked hard and put in a lot of effort and time. I look forward to meeting with Morgan Stanley representatives and getting able to go to New York.”

Dr. Selma Izadi

Dr. Selma Izadi, assistant professor of finance, in the college of business formed and advised the finance team of undergraduate students. “The team worked very diligently on the Wall Street Exchange Case … this is a great opportunity,” Izadi says. “The students invested a lot of time, including late night meetings, doing research, preparing this report, and recording the video.”

The case study was presented to Morgan Stanley representatives via zoom earlier this semester.

TSU alum Chuck West, who is a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley, is apart of the companies HBCU initiative committee and his goal was to ‘advocate for TSU students.’ “This opportunity is getting more kids to work for Morgan Stanley,” West says. “This is  just a small step on the grand scheme of getting our graduates hired.”

Chuck West

The students will have an all-expense paid trip to New York to present their case study findings and networking opportunities to land employment after graduation.

TSU students will be competing against Texas Southern University, Jackson State University, and Florida Memorial University. The official date of when the competition will take place in New York has not been announced as of Dec. 2022.

About Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley is a financial services company. Corporations, organizations, and governments rely on Morgan Stanley as a global leader in investment banking. The company advises clients on transactions including mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, initial public offerings (IPOs), convertibles, share repurchases, debt offerings, derivatives and more.

A Dream Come True as TSU Choral Group Prepares for Performance of a Lifetime at Carnegie Hall 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It’s a singers dream to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City in front of thousands. For the TSU Meistersingers, it was on their Christmas wish list – a once in a lifetime experience that has come to fruition sooner than expected. 

Next May, for the first time ever, 11 members of the TSU Meistersingers are set to participate in a festival performance with MidAmerican Productions at Carnegie Hall. 

The premier chamber choral ensemble is raising $20,000 to make the trip of a lifetime to perform with professional orchestras. 

Dr. Dunsavage left, and a few of TSU Meistersingers students after a performance at the McKendree United Methodist Church in downtown Nashville.

TSU senior Dominic Davidson, who is a voice major, says he looks forward to the choir raising the funds to be able to participate in a life changing experience. “I have actually always dreamed of performing at Carnegie Hall ever since I was a child,” Davidson of Hendersonville, says. “As a choir, we have always wanted this kind of opportunity. We love singing, we love music, and we love the power that singing gives us and brings to others.” The tenor singer says performing at Carnegie Hall will give him a new level of confidence and a greater appreciation for his gift of singing. 

Marla Lowery of Knoxville says she was in disbelief when they received the news about the performing. Lowery, a sophomore studying political sciences, says she has never performed in front of a crowd of thousands. “It will be great to network with other schools and to see how orchestras practice up until the actual performance day. This will be exciting,” Lowery, says. The alto singer has been hitting notes since elementary school and looks forward to showing off her vocal skills in New York. 

Rhameek Nelson, a senior music education major, says this experience will be an opportunity to better his education and bring exposure to HBCUs. “TSU has never done anything like this before,” Nelson says. “This will take our choir to the next level. The experience will show that … people who look just like me will have the same opportunity here at TSU. I chose TSU, and now they chose me to travel and perform to Carnegie Hall … this is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” says Nelson of Georgia. 

TSU Meistersingers during their last performance of the Fall semester.

Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Angelica Dunsavage, says she is just as excited as this will also be her first time performing at Carnegie Hall.  

“To be able to do a work, especially with a professional orchestra on the stage of Carnegie Hall is going to be a really amazing experience for the students,” Dunsavage says. 

“We would like the community’s help to be able to get us there.” 

So far, the choir has raised $3,500 by performing at cooperate and church events, along with small fundraisers on campus. Dunsavage says this experience will open doors to endless possibilities for the students and their careers.  

The $20,000 will cover airfare, housing and participation for the Carnegie Hall performance. The students are slated to stay in New York for the event May 10-14, 2023. 

See the TSU Meistersingers’ final performance of the semester at TSU Meistersingers – Fall 2022 (vimeo.com)

If you are interested in making a donation or would like to sponsor a student, please visit Meistersingers Fund (tnstate.edu). For more information contact Dr. Dunsavage at [email protected]

Former TSU Board of Trustees Member shares opinion on university growth

By Bill Freeman

Where are our state and federal leaders when it comes to the challenges facing Tennessee State University, Nashville’s only public state-funded HBCU?

Gov. Bill Lee campaigned hard on his work with prison-outreach group Men of Valor, highlighting the stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots. He should be aware of the challenges facing Black students and how hard it is — regardless of the color of your skin — to get a college education when coming from a disadvantaged background. TSU and its student population are overcoming hurdles, but our leaders have yet to lift a finger to help.

Tennessee’s senior U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn has also been quiet on the subject — though she has in recent months made her opinion on a well-educated Black woman quite clear. The nation was taken aback by her mistreatment of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson during Jackson’s confirmation hearing, asking if the judge had a “hidden agenda” and inspiring headlines such as Newsweek’s “Marsha Blackburn accused of racism over Ketanji Brown Jackson questions.” What a proud moment to be a Tennessean. While Blackburn has not made her opinion of TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover public, she may have similar unfounded suspicion of another Black woman in a position of leadership and responsibility. 

It’s no secret that one of TSU’s greatest challenges has been the expense of providing a solid education. Nashville’s meteoric growth has been a challenge for many residents, and city growth has a large impact on an urban university with housing and educational responsibilities. When families find it difficult to find and keep homes in Nashville, the challenges facing an urban university are just as great. Combine that with the recent surge in TSU’s enrollment, and the school now has one of the best problems you can have: surging attendance, with more students than they’ve ever seen before. High praise for TSU, but it is indeed a logistical challenge.

TSU was recently in front of the state Senate’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee to discuss the framework for financial support for additional student housing. But as Tennessee Lookout’s Sam Stockard recently pointed out, the “outrage over TSU was outrageous.” Instead of discussing the logistics of a clearly needed student housing increase, this 10-member committee — notably composed of nine Republicans and a single Democrat — grilled TSU over years-old financial audit findings. 

TSU has worked diligently to increase enrollment, and has achieved a dramatic increase of 2,000 more incoming freshmen this year. The treatment TSU received was out of line. The school deserves more respect and simply excels at recruiting new students. “TSU’s biggest sin,” writes Stockard, “appears to be a strong marketing program and an inability to say no.”

Some have pointed out that other schools — namely UT-Knoxville — would never have been treated this way. I have to agree. I love both schools and have supported them for many years, but the treatment Dr. Glover received from our state legislators was uncalled for. Dr. Glover is a rare find in the educational field. How rare? She has no peer in Tennessee’s other public universities. Out of every public university in the state of Tennessee, only two are led by a woman, and only two are led by a person of color. How many are led by a woman of color? One. Dr. Glover is the only Black woman to lead a public university in Tennessee. This is how we treat someone with a hard-earned and well-deserved position of authority? I agree with Stockard’s comment that UT-Knoxville President Randy Boyd would never have been treated this way — and I suspect that the other eight white men in charge of our public universities wouldn’t have been treated this way, either. 

Increasing enrollment is the primary goal of our public educational institutions. Nearly a decade ago, former Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” program was implemented with the goal of having 55 percent of all Tennesseans earn a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2025. TSU has arguably done more than its fair share of the work to reach that high bar, which was set back in 2013. They were charged with increasing enrollment, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. 

The bottom line is this: TSU’s housing needs are real. They deserve help from the state, they deserve better treatment from our state legislators, and they deserve better from our state government as a whole. 

TSU commencement speaker Symone Sanders inspires graduates to be prepared for life’s unexpected changes 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – National political strategist and commentator Symone D. Sanders-Townsend Saturday inspired Tennessee State University graduates to be prepared for the unexpected as they pursue their career goals. Giving the fall commencement address as more than 600 received degrees in the Gentry Center Complex, the former senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris said life will not always go as planned. 

President Glenda Glover, left, and commencement speaker Symone D. Sanders-Townsend, lead the graduation procession in the Gentry Center Complex. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

She left the graduates with three things she said helped her along the way. 

“Do not be focused on your plans that you are unwilling to consider the unexpected, find yourself, and fight for what you believe,” said Sanders, former CNN commentator and host of the new MSNBC program Symone

Before Sanders’ speech, TSU President Glenda Glover, in her opening remarks, congratulated the graduates and their parents and loved ones for their support. 

“I applaud you for having reached such an extraordinary milestone,” Glover told the graduates. “This is your day. And we will make the most of it, for tomorrow you step into the world as the servant leaders you have been trained to be. The servant leaders you’ve been called to be.” 

President Glover presents the late Teisha Lashelle King’s degree to her mother Gail King Randolph, as she holds her daughter’s photo. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Midway through the graduation, President Glover paused the ceremony to honor the memory of two Tigers who lost their lives shortly before graduation. Teisha Lashelle King, a business major and Amaya Victoria Taylor Sanders, a health science major, had completed the requirements for graduation. Dr. Glover awarded their degrees posthumously to their mothers. 

“This year unfortunately, we had two fallen Tigers, and we pause to honor their memories,” the President said, to rousing cheers from the crowd of parents and loved ones in the packed Gentry Center. 

“We will continue to hold them in our memory and prayers.” 

Sanders paid homage to Tennessee State University, a school she said has lived up to its founding mission to transform lives.

Priscilla Sandifer, second from left, displays her late daughter, Amaya Victoria Taylor Sanders’ photo and degree, as she’s embraced by President Glover, left, Dr. Ron Barredo, Dean of the College of Health Sciences; and Dr. Robbie Melton, interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“From your cutting-edge STEM programs to your deep commitment to social justice, Tennessee State University is a school that the rest of the country can look to as a model for excellence,” pointing to the success of the school’s marching band, the Aristocrat of Bands, for getting two Grammy nominations. “For the first time in history, the heartbeat of HBCU culture has been recognized by the recording academy. The AOB was recognized this year for not one, but two Grammy nominations.” 

It was also an extra special day for Janeiar Noel. She got a surprise visit from her brother Navy Airman Julio J. Noel, dressed in his military outfit, who travelled from his San Diego, California naval base to congratulate his sister.   

Janeiar Noel is congratulated by her mother, Gemma Williams, and her brother Navy Airman Julio Noel, after receiving her degree. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

The mother of three said obtaining her business administration degree, her brother’s surprised visit, and the commencement speaker’s inspiring message left her with the motivation to succeed. 

“I have kids who are looking up to me, and I need to set an example for them,” Janeiar said. “Life threw a lot of things at me, but I was able to persevere, and I am glad I could make my brother, my kids and my family proud.” 

Tyrell Jones, who earned a master’s in computer science, said he was able to pursue all of his passions. Jones also received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from TSU and was involved in student leadership and other activities. He said the speaker left him inspired. 

Tyrell Jones received his master’s degree in computer science. (Submitted photo)

“I was super inspired because throughout my master’s journey, I was trying to find myself, and that was one of the points Ms. Sanders talked about,” said Jones, who works with Lockheed Martin as a cyber security software engineer.

The fall ceremony was live streamed on TSU YouTube channel and can be viewed by visiting www.tnstate.edu/livestream.

Nashville firefighter receives undergraduate degree from TSU

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – He’s been fighting fires in Nashville for 11 years. But now, Edwin Feagins Jr., is one degree hotter after securing his diploma from Tennessee State University this week.

Feagins of Nashville, received a bachelor’s degree in human performance sports sciences with a concentration in exercise sciences. A milestone that he was once told that he couldn’t accomplish. After graduating high school from Pope John Paul II Preparatory School in Hendersonville, he began his higher education journey at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) in 2007.

Edwin Feagins Jr. (Photo by Ryan H from Ryanhmedia)

Feagins started off his first semester of college with a .7 GPA.

“My freshman year of college was a lot of newfound freedom and responsibility,” Feagins says. “I wasn’t a focused student at the time. And I was told by my advisor that four years of college isn’t for everyone.” Feagins said he was placed on academic suspension shortly after. But he knew he was capable of walking the stage eventually. Feagins re-enrolled at UTC and continued his studies there for three years, until he was accepted into the Nashville Fire Training Academy in 2011.

Feagins, 33, says his grandmother, who is a former Memphis educator, was proud of him for being a fireman, but told him to finish what he started by graduating college.

A holiday portrait of the Feagins family. (Photo submitted)

“I wanted to fulfill that promise for her,” he says.

Feagins received his associates of applied science degree in fire science at Volunteer State Community College in 2014. Four years later, he enrolled at TSU. “I went searching for that newfound freedom (at UTC) but in retrospect, I should have leaned on my resources that I had available to me right here at home,” Feagins says. “I am excited and extremely grateful for the opportunity to even attend TSU.”

It was difficult being a non-traditional student while sometimes working 24-hour shifts, but he kept faith and believed in himself, Feagins says, graduating with a 3.3 GPA.

He noted that he had instructors at the university like Dr. Jason Smith, that kept him going. “His passion is beyond the degree,” says Smith, the department chair of the human performance and sports sciences department. “The degree was important for him to continue giving back to the community. Edwin has devoted a lot of his time to the community and to people that are in need,” Smith continued.

Edwin Feagins Jr., has been with the Nashville Fire Department more than 10 years.

“He has a servant heart.”

Smith says that Feagins has extended his services by becoming an adjacent professor next semester, teaching CPR courses at the university.

District Chief of the Nashville Fire Department Moses Jefferies IV describes Feagins as a hard worker who has been a ‘tremendous asset’ to the fire department.

“Along with his work, he has shown dedication and a level of commitment that is consistent with the Nashville Fire Department to prepare its members physically to be able to do the job and deliver the best service possible to the citizens,” Jefferies says.

“He’s just really a great guy.”

In the near future, Feagins says he looks forward to creating health initiatives centered around fire fighter fitness with wellness and health disparities.