TSU’s New Direction Choir kicks off busy year with sight on winning top gospel competition

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University New Direction Gospel Choir is gearing up for another exciting and eventful itinerary filled with performances and competitions. With a reputation as one of the world’s leading gospel choirs, the group is already in high spirits and eagerly preparing for the challenges and opportunities ahead. 

State Rep. Torrey Harris (D-District 19), left, reads a proclamation from the Tennessee General Assembly to New Direction in recognition of the group’s outstanding contribution to the arts. Receiving the proclamation are New Direction President Kendrick Noel, right, and Director Justin Butler. (Photo by John Cooper)

Last week, the award-winning choir capped off an eventful April with its Annual Spring Concert at the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church in Nashville. Gospel great Kevin Davidson, of the contemporary gospel choir Kevin Davidson and the Voices, was the host of the packed evening of fellowship, singing, and entertainment. It featured the sensational Josh Bracy and Power Anointed.

On April 5, New Direction kicked off the month with an appearance at the Mr. Crimson Pageant on campus, sponsored by Delta Sigma Theta, where the choir sang its version of “My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord.” That event followed the group’s participation in the Good Friday Service on April 7 at Bridgestone Arena, featuring Christian music star Chris Tomlin.

Kevin Davidson, of the contemporary gospel choir Kevin Davidson and the Voices, was the guest host for the evening. (Photo by John Cooper)

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Justin Butler, director of New Direction, about the series of events and performances leading up to this year’s How Sweet the Sound Choir Competition in Atlanta on June 3, where the group hopes to take the top prize since its first runner-up appearance in 2013.

“We are super, super excited about being there and representing Tennessee State University,” says Butler. “Hopefully, we can walk away with the first-place prize. We believe we are going to win. This year we are looking to do one better and come home with that prize.”

Tenor Reginald McCollum, a senior who has been with the choir since his sophomore year, is just as optimistic about TSU’s chances at the competition. “It is very exciting to know we are actually going to be competing in How Sweet the Sound,” says the psychology major from New York. “To be able to go against so many wonderful choirs is a challenge we are ready for because we put in the time, we are very dedicated to our work and to our craft and what we sing.”

The sensational Josh Bracy and Power Anointed was the featured choir at the concert. (Photo by JohnCooper)

Considered as one of America’s top gospel choir competitions, How Sweet the Sound features large and small choirs, solo performances, spoken word, and dance. TSU will go against some big-name groups in the large choir category, including Anthony Sutton and Fresh Wind from Raleigh, North Carolina, and Nashville Community Gospel Choir. Featured guests will include Hezekiah Walker, J.J. Hairston, Tamela Mann, and Donald Lawrence.

Now in its 26th year, New Direction Gospel Choir is comprised mainly of TSU students and university staff as advisers, serving as a platform for students from all disciplines who are interested in improving their choral and musical talent. The group has been distinguished as an “outstanding group among gospel choirs” around the country and the world, with awards and other recognitions.

In 2011, the group won first place in the Fourth Annual National Black Collegiate Alumni Hall of Fame Gospel Choir Competition in Atlanta. Four years later, in 2015, New Direction was voted the “Nation’s Best Gospel Choir” at the National College Choir Explosion in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2018, they spent 31 days touring and performing in different cities across Europe, including an appearance in the Vatican, where they met and performed for the Pope. The following year, the choir was featured on BET’s hit show “Sunday Best,” a reality television gospel music singing competition series.

Terrance Izzard, an adviser with the group and TSU’s Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success, describes the New Direction Gospel Choir as a phenomenal group of performers who serve as university ambassadors. 

“Through their talent and dedication, they help us recruit and retain the best and brightest students from across the country,” says Izzard.  “They deserve all the accolades and recognitions. They work very hard, put in the time, and are always striving to be the best. This year, I have no doubt that they could walk away with the top prize at How Sweet the Sound.”

“To be a part of this group is still like a dream, and I cherish every moment I have been a part of them,” adds McCollum, who graduates this May. “People know you everywhere, no matter where you go, they know who you are and how you sound. I love this choir because it is such a unique group. I will miss them.”

For those interested in learning more about New Direction or how to become a member, inquiries can be sent to [email protected].

TSU student inspired by alumna Oprah Winfrey, anticipates commencement address as a dream come true

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Timbrel Williams has known since childhood what career path she intended to take after college. At age 8, Williams would line up her stuffed animals as audience members, mimicking what she saw on the Oprah Winfrey television show in her Chattanooga home. A show that inspired her journey, and love of journalism. William’s mother was amazed by her creativity and encouraged her to pursue her dreams. On May 6, Williams will be lining up to walk across the stage during Tennessee State University’s undergraduate commencement ceremony in front of the global media leader and philanthropist who inspired her to become a journalist, TSU alumna Oprah Winfrey.

Williams was hired at WKRN News Channel 2 working as an operations technician. (Photo submitted)

“One of the first Black journalist I saw on TV was Oprah Winfrey,” Williams said. “That’s how I started to gain my love for television.” Williams, who is receiving her degree in mass communications, said Winfrey’s impact on the Black community and her storytelling give the representation needed within the news industry.

Winfrey is the keynote speaker for the undergraduate commencement on Saturday, May 6 at 8 a.m., in Hale Stadium.

“I am so glad she can come back and pour into TSU for graduation day,” Williams said, noting how Winfrey’s path aligns with how she foresees her own future.

Last semester Williams was an intern for WKRN News Channel 2. This semester she was offered a position as an operations technician. Williams has spent her college career reporting for TSU TV news, interviewing students, and reporting stories about the campus community.  Williams will be graduating magna cum laude with a 3.7 GPA, with hopes of one day working for Good Moring America or hosting her own TV show.

Williams at WKRN News Channel 2 working as an intern last Fall.

Williams applauded the Department of Communications for her successful college career. “We have well-rounded professors who are patient and care about our students,” she said. “I feel well prepared to venture out and go into the real world.”

Joseph Richie, an associated professor for the communications department, applauded Williams for her role as an active student journalist.

“She is one of our most outstanding journalism students,” Richie said. “And she has mastered the subject. Timbrel will do very well.”

The Department of Communications is the fourth largest department on campus with 300 students in total. The department focuses on making sure student journalists are reporting facts and are open-minded in their focus, according to Richie.

“Oprah Winfrey represents every aspect of our program,” he said. “A person who got her training in news, now an entrepreneur and a multi-billionaire. She is the standard bearer when it comes to any of our students.”

Timbrel Williams and TSU President Glenda Glover at WKRN News Channel 2 when Dr. Glover made an appearance during Black History Month with other local community leaders. (Photo submitted)

Williams said she looks forward to graduating, sharing what she learned from her university, and telling stories that matter the most.

“It’s important to have Black journalists,” Williams said. “To see Oprah Winfrey break through that barrier, it’s amazing to see her journey. I went to TSU, and she went to TSU. This is a full circle moment and such a great opportunity.”

Spring 2023 commencement

Tennessee State University alumna Oprah Winfrey is coming home to headline TSU’s Spring Commencement as the keynote speaker for the undergraduate Commencement on Saturday, May 6 at 8 a.m. CDT, in Hale Stadium. Due to demand and security and safety protocols, this is a ticketed event and not open to the public. United States Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, Miss-Second District, will address graduate students at an indoor ceremony on Friday, May 5 at 5 p.m. CDT, in the Gentry Center Complex. Over 800 students will receive degrees in various disciplines. Both commencement ceremonies will be live streamed from the TSU YouTube Channel, www.tnstate.edu/livestream.

For more information on TSU 2023 Spring Commencement and full bios on Ms. Winfrey and Congressman Thompson, visit www.tnstate.edu/commencement.

TSU earns spot in top eight teams at the Honda Campus All Star Challenge national championship

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University Honda Campus All Star Challenge (HCASC) team earned a spot in the top eight teams at the National Tournament held in Torrance, California. HCASC is a knowledge bowl competition for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) sponsored by the American Honda Motor Company, which supports HBCUs.

Members of the HCASC TSU team competes against Tuskegee University during the national competition in California. From left to right: Kelley Zumwalt, Tyler Vazquez and Morgan Gill.

This tournament brought together 32 HBCUs from around the country. The TSU team earned a total of $12,000 in grant money from American Honda for earning a spot in the top eight teams.

The team’s coach, Dr. John Miglietta, who is a professor of political science, said the HCASC is a unique competition that brings together scholars and showcases their knowledge from many HBCUs throughout the country.

“We are very grateful for the support that American Honda provides to HBCUs,” Miglietta said. “The grant money we receive will benefit both our students and our HCASC program.”

TSU’s HCASC team earns a spot in the quarter finals after competing on a national level in California. From left to right: Tyler Vazquez , coach, Dr. John Miglietta, Morgan Gill, team captain Cameron Malone and Kelley Zumwalt.

The tournament was divided into two parts, followed by a single-elimination playoff with the top two teams playing a best two out of three.

TSU played in the Purple Division with teams from Alabama A&M, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, and Hampton University.

TSU compiled a 4-2 record, winning the division and advancing to the playoffs. TSU then lost a challenging match against Tuskegee University.

The team earned $10,000 in grant money from American Honda with an additional $2,000 grant due to one of the team players outstanding performance. Morgan Gill, a sophomore majoring in urban studies, was named the All-Star player in the Purple Division based on the number of toss up questions answered correctly.

TSU’s HCASC member Tyler Vazquez competing against a Tuskegee University student during a knowledge bowl competition in California.

“The team was very excited to finish in the top eight and play on the big stage,” Miglietta said. “It takes a great deal of preparation to get to that level.” The team is proud of its accomplishment and is preparing to win the overall competition next year.

The Team members are:

  • Cameron Malone (Captain), junior Electrical Engineering major from Oak Ridge, TN
  • Morgan Gill, sophomore Urban Studies major from Conyers, GA
  • Tyler Vazquez, sophomore Biology major from Winston-Salem, NC
  • Kelley Zumwalt, junior majoring in History, Political Science, and English from Loveland, CO

Check out the TSU HCASC team national quarter finals against Tuskegee University.

TSU announces new student government association leadership for 2023-24 academic school year

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  Tennessee State University Student Government Association has a new group of officers for the 2023-2024 academic year, many of which are familiar faces within the student delegation. The new student leadership, including a Mister TSU and a Miss TSU, was announced Friday during Tiger Fest, an annual event followed by student election commission week.

Student election commission winners during the 2023 Tiger Fest. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Derrell Taylor, a junior from Memphis studying business administration with a concentration in management, was elected as the 83rd SGA president. Chrishonda O’Quinn, a junior from Chicago, Illinois, studying business administration with a minor in mathematics, was elected as SGA vice president. Victoria McCrae, a rising senior from Memphis studying biology pre-med, was crowned as the 94th Miss TSU. Davin Latiker, a junior from Chicago studying mass communications, was elected as the new Mister TSU and will accompany McCrae.

O’Quinn, McCrae, and Taylor were all members of the junior delegation. Taylor, who previously served as the junior class president, said he is elated to serve as the next SGA president. “I am praising God and I am very grateful for this opportunity,” he said. “TSU, the mission begins now.”

Former Mister and Miss TSU welcomes the newly elected royaltys. From left to right; Tre’Veon Hayes, Mr. TSU Davin Latiker, Miss TSU Victoria McCrae and Sa’Mariah Harding. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Cristal Powell-Roach, assistant dean of student activities and leadership, said she looks forward to working with the dynamic newly elected leaders while the students embrace new opportunities for growth and development. “We have a great team,” Powell-Roach said. “I am very excited about our winners.”

O’Quinn said her biggest passions are representation and leadership. “I am eager to be a voice for the voiceless, to be a selfless, passionate, and strategic leader,” O’Quinn said. “And to work alongside not only SGA and administration but the student body to build our institution.”

McCrae, who previously served as Miss junior, said she had dreams of becoming Miss TSU one day. “I knew I wanted to be a queen since I got here freshman year,” she said. “I worked hard, and it has come to fruition. I am so blessed and thankful.”

While Mister TSU, Latiker said he is grateful for the opportunity as well. “It is great to enter this legacy and have the opportunity to expand my network, give back to my school, and serve the students.”

O’Quinn said she is confident that the student leaders will take proactive steps towards achieving their desired goals on campus with a positive narrative.

TSU leads conference to enhance research among nation’s HBCUs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University recently co-hosted an HBCU conference to highlight the groundbreaking research these institutions are conducting and to expand corporate partnerships. The main goals of the HBCU Engage conference co-hosted by University-Industry Demonstration Partnerships (UIDP), were to increase collaboration between HBCUs and corporate engagement. TSU, Fisk University and Meharry Medical College were co-hosts for the two-day event. 

 Dr. Quincy Quick, the Associate Vice President  of Research and Sponsored Programs, spearheaded the event on behalf of TSU.

 “This is a platform to make sure HBCUs are able to engage with corporate industries and partner with government agencies,” Quick said. “Ways that academic institutions can partner with corporate industries and help them develop products.”

The collaboration included representatives from federal agencies and corporations such as the Department of Energy, Amazon, and IBM. The event aimed to engage, educate, and exchange ideas among representatives from industry and higher education, as well as to facilitate learning from peers in government program leadership and research administration. 

Quick said his goal is to broaden the scope of the research enterprise at TSU to pursue the nation’s top research echelon with an “R1” designation under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning.

“This platform is new and innovative,” he said. “In a sense, HBCUs have not had a platform available to them like this before.”

The first day of the conference consisted of federal grant writing, meetings with sponsored research contracting, and partnering with nonprofit funders. Day two consisted of panel discussions, collaboration, and best practices for building research capacity through industry or government partnerships.

Overall, the event moves TSU a step closer to ‘R1” status as the university mobilizes its research enterprise – including teaching faculty, researchers, graduate school, staff, and students – to support its vision for the coveted designation.

About UIDP and its HBCU initiative:

UIDP is a recognized leader in addressing issues impacting academic-corporate collaboration, providing a unique forum for our member representatives to find better ways to partner. An increasing number of companies and R1 universities wish to pursue or strengthen collaborative research partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Many HBCUs are interested in utilizing partnerships to bolster research opportunities. The purpose of the UIDP HBCU Initiative is to develop guidance that provides company representatives and R1 universities with the necessary contextual information and best practices for developing a mutually beneficial HBCU engagement strategy.

Hundreds of Students TSU bound following Spring Preview Day

(TSU News Service) – Spring Preview Day 2023 was a blast! Tennessee State University’s premier open house for prospective students this year brought together nearly 2,000 high school seniors and juniors and their families from across the nation to view and get information about the university’s offerings and programs. At the packed, all-day event in Kean Hall on Saturday, the visitors interacted with academic and financial aid advisors, as well as deans and chairs, who set up displays and exhibits from their various colleges and departments. Current student leaders were also on hand to tell the prospective newcomers about the benefit of a TSU education.

TSU President Glenda Glover welcomes students and their families to Spring Preview Day 2023 in Kean Hall. (Photo by John Cooper)

Amari Johnson, a senior with a 4.32 grade point average from Greenwood High Schools in Greenwood, Mississippi; and Undradge Jamison, from Stewart Creek High School in Smyrna, Tennessee, were among the first to check out the displays in Kean Hall and have made up their minds. They are coming to TSU. Johnson is interested in biology with a pre-med focus, while Jamison wants to major in architectural engineering.

“I love dancing. So, when I was younger, I followed the (TSU) Sophisticated Ladies,” said Johnson, who has set her eyes on the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute, a pathway program with Meharry Medical College for students interested in medicine and dentistry.

Amari Johnson, middle, came to Spring Preview Day with her mom, Tamnral Johnson, left, and dad, Cary Weaver. (Photo by John Cooper)

“Over the years I found out a lot of things about the school and its programs, and Ms. (Barbara) Murrell reached out to me about the institute, since I was interested in becoming a surgeon and majoring in biology.” Johnson will not be dancing at TSU.

For Jamison, who has a 4.0 GPA, coming to TSU fulfills a dream. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his family. His father, mother and several aunts and uncles came to TSU. His older brother, a sophomore, is a member of the Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands.

Undradge Jamison, left, is fulfilling a dream to attend TSU. His mom, Kinya Jamison, and a long line of relatives came to TSU. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“This school has a great impact on my family. Besides, they have a great engineering program,” said Jamison. “My mind is made up. This is where I want to be.”

Earlier at the kickoff ceremony for Spring Preview Day, TSU President Glenda Glover, greeted participants and reminded prospective students about the outstanding programs at the university.

“Welcome to Tennessee State University,” President Glover said. “As you decide to become official TSU Tigers, know that this is the right place to start your journey toward success. We have great academic programs; we are the home to the two-time Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands. We have outstanding athletics programs and student life. As a TSU alum myself, I am committed to your success. We have people who will care for you while you are here. At TSU, you will meet great friends, faculty, and you will grow to become great scholars.”

Prospective students talk to academic advisors about future course selection, at Spring Preview. (photo by John Cooper)

Terrance Izzard, associate vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Success, added that Spring Preview Day is intended to give prospective Tigers and their parents a chance to experience for themselves what makes TSU the place to be.

“Today you get the fantastic opportunity to see a showcase of our remarkable programs, resources and services that make our university truly exceptional,” Izzard said. “Like President Glover said, you will meet outstanding faculty members, and advisors who will tell you about our offerings, scholarships, other programs, and the benefit of a TSU education. You will meet and talk with current students about their own journeys, campus culture and the learning environment that has helped them to be successful.”

Terrance Izzard, left, Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success, welcomes the Ward family, who just relocated to Nashville from New York. Pictured are: Karina (mom), Kaitlyn (coming to major in biology), Keith Jr. (brother), Kai (sister, and Keith Sr. (dad). Photo by John Cooper)

Keith Ward and his wife Karina, of New York, who recently moved their family to Nashville, like TSU and think the university is a “good fit” for their daughter Kaitlyn, who wants to major in biology.

“We are very excited for her and the choice she has made to come to TSU,” Keith said. Kaitlyn, an academic standout from West Creek High School in New York, who wants to be a physician assistant, is also interested in the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute.

Brenda Collier, left, from the College of Health Sciences, talks to Maryn Mitchell and her family about kinesiology, her intended major. From right are Monet Mitchell, mom; Maryn; Mycah Mitchell, brother; and David Mitchell, dad. (Photo by John Cooper)

“In all of my choices for college, Tennessee State is the best choice for me,” Kaitlyn said. “It is close to home, and it is affordable.”

According to organizers, this year’s participants in Spring Preview Day came from more than 15 states, with some from as far as California, Illinois, and Michigan.

Registration for summer and fall classes are in full swing at TSU. Registration began March 28 and will continue through April 29 for summer classes, while registration for fall classes will continue through August 19. Online, students are asked to register for classes at MyTSU, by visiting tnstate.edu/register.

TSU Band Director receives TMEA Outstanding University Music Educator of the Year award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Grammy-award winning Aristocrat of Bands Director, Dr. Reginald McDonald, has achieved yet another first. McDonald is a recipient of the Tennessee Music Education Association (TMEA) award for Outstanding University Music Educator of the Year. McDonald, who is also a tenured associate professor in the music department, is the first music professor at the university to receive this award.

“Anytime you win something of this magnitude, it is a huge honor and confirmation in regard to you as a teacher,” McDonald said. “This is confirmation that hard work pays off. Not for me, but for my students.”

The TMEA is a voluntary, non-profit organization representing all phases of music education at all school levels in the state. McDonald has been teaching music for more than 30 years.

As an experienced and committed teacher, over the years McDonald’s objective and expectations for his students has stayed the same. “My objective is to teach individual life coping skills and to develop the highest level of musicians.” He noted that life coping skills is his main priority due to teaching K-12 grades his entire career to minority students.

McDonald said his main goal for his students is to help development thick skin, a strong mind and to dream big. “My goal for them is to be able to accept the challenges of life and not run away from them.”

He has won teacher of the year five times throughout his career, including three awards from TSU. He has been a part of the TMEA since 2001 and was nominated to be the award recipient this month.

“Out of all the music professors in the state, I was chosen. I am honored and shocked,” he said. The award was not just a recognition of McDonald’s past achievements, but a reminder to him of the responsibility to continue being an outstanding music educator for years to come.

About TMEA

The Tennessee Music Education Association was officially formed in 1945 as a voluntary, non-profit organization representing all phases of music education at all school levels. The mission of TMEA is to promote the advancement of high-quality music education for all.

Mrs. Universe Juanita Brown Ingram receives royal welcome on return to alma mater 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It is always special when former TSU students return to campus, but for Juanita Brown Ingram, that moment on Wednesday was extra special. The red carpet was laid out, as TSU officials, student leaders and community officials were on hand, to welcome the reigning Mrs. Universe, a 1999 graduate and former member of the Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands. Ingram, the first African American woman to wear the coveted crown, was on campus for Tea Time, “A Conversation with Mrs. Universe,” organized by the Offices of Student Affairs, and Alumni Relations. 

Three former Miss TSUs returned to campus to help welcome Mrs. Universe. From left, are Mallory Moore, Miss TSU ’21/’22; Barbara Murrell, Miss TSU ’59/’60; reigning Miss TSU Sa’Mariah Harding; Mrs. Universe Juanita Brown Ingram; and Chandra Norman Lipscomb, Miss TSU ’79/’80. (Photo to AaronGrayson)

“It is exciting and an honor to be back to where it all began,” Ingram said at the event in Elliott Hall.  The former TSU honor student has gone on to world-wide fame as an attorney, author, actress, and award-winning TV producer. In addition to the Mrs. Universe crown, Ingram is the first African American woman to compete and win the titles of Mrs. Indiana United States in 2007, Ms. World International 2012, Mrs. UK Universe 2013, Mrs. Great Britain World 2011, and Mrs. UK International 2014. 

“A Conversation with Mrs. Universe” was organized by the Offices of Student Affairs, and Alumni Relations. Cristal Powell Roach, Assistant Dean of Student Activities and Leadership, left, Miss TSU Sa’Mariah Harding, and Debbi Howard, Director of Alumni Relations, welcome Mrs. Universe. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

The Tea Time, a “A Conversation with Mrs. Universe,” moderated by Miss TSU, Sa’Mariah Harding, gave Ingram the opportunity to share with TSU students what being a Mrs. Universe has meant to her, and how TSU helped to shape her future. In the audience were three former Miss TSUs, organizations and class queens, as well as Jordan Smith, the current Miss Fisk University. 

“I love the time that I was here.  I always said my experience at TSU is the reason why I am who I am today,” Ingram said, adding that being a member of AOB gave her an extra motivation for success. “I marched all four years in the band here. It thought me discipline, gave me tenacity, and the ability to overcome obstacles and to not shrink to a challenge. So, I think whether it was passing the bar or being Mrs. Universe, it really gave me the foundation to be who I am today.” 

Members of Women of Empowerment Inc., welcome Mrs. Universe Juanita Brown Ingram. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Cristal Powell Roach, assistant dean of Student Activities and Leadership, said bringing Mrs. Universe to TSU was an effort to inspire “our students” about the endless possibilities as they go after their own dreams, careers, and future goals. 

“She is an attorney, she is an executive producer, so she’s done a plethora of things. That’s remarkable,” Roach said. “So, we just wanted the young girls to know what she does and who she is. She is the first African American Mrs. Universe, so that’s huge.  So, we just wanted to create the opportunity.” 

Queens and representations of other campus organizations also participated in the welcoming ceremony for Mrs. University. In the back, standing, is Jeffrey Thomas, of the Office of Alumni Relations, the visionary behind ‘Queen & Co.” (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Debbi Howard, director of Alumni Relations, said “A conversation with Mrs. Universe,” was part of “Alumni Talks: ‘Queen & Co,’” a quarterly speaker series, where they bring in alumni to share success stories with students. 

“We acknowledge all of our former queens, and the visiting Miss Fisk University for accepting our invitation to be here today,” Howard said. 

Barbara Murrell, Miss TSU ‘59/’60; Chandra Norman Lipscomb, Miss TSU ‘79/’80; and Mallory Moore, Miss TSU ‘21/’22 were among former TSU queens who welcomed Mrs. Universe. Joining them was Aliyah Holmes, executive vice president of the Student Government Association, who made a special presentation to Ingram. 

Ingram earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from TSU. She and her family currently live in Singapore. 

Tennessee State University’s Oprah Winfrey and U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson to Serve as 2023 Commencement Speakers 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University alumna Oprah Winfrey is coming home to headline TSU’s Spring Commencement as the keynote speaker for the undergraduate Commencement on Saturday, May 6 at 8 a.m. CDT, in Hale Stadium. United States Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, Miss-Second District, will address graduate students at an indoor ceremony on Friday, May 5 at 5 p.m. CDT, in the Gentry Center Complex. Over 800 students will receive degrees in various disciplines across both days.

“Commencement is always a special time for our students and their families, as it marks a major milestone in our students’ lives and a sign of success for them,” says TSU, Dr. President Glenda Glover.

Oprah Winfrey

“To have Ms. Winfrey as our speaker will be a life changing moment for graduates and the University. She is someone who has walked the TSU campus as a student, sat in some of the same classroom, and knows first-hand the value of a TSU education. Ms. Winfrey and Congressman Thompson are trailblazers, history makers and HBCU graduates, adding to the excitement and anticipation for both commencement ceremonies.”

Winfrey is a global media leader, philanthropist, producer, actress and author. Over the course of her esteemed career, she has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world, making her one of the most respected and admired figures today. Growing up, Winfrey went to high school at East Nashville High School and attended Tennessee State University on a full scholarship, majoring in communications. While at TSU, Winfrey landed a job at Nashville’s WLAC-TV (now WTVF-TV), where she was both the youngest news anchor and the first black female news anchor. Despite being one credit short of her degree, Winfrey decided to leave school and Nashville to pursue her dream of being a broadcast journalist. However, in 1986, she returned to submit her final paper and officially graduated from TSU. Now, Winfrey is a dedicated philanthropist and has contributed more than $200 million towards providing education for academically gifted girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. Winfrey is a

United States Congressman Bennie G. Thompson

founding donor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Winfrey’s Morehouse Scholars Program has supported over 600 men graduate from college, and in 2020, Winfrey donated over $20 million in vital COVID-19 relief support to cities around the country, including her hometowns of Nashville, Chicago, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Kosciusko, MS.

Born in a state with a unique history of racial inequality, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson draws inspiration from the legacies of Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, and Henry Kirksey. The Bolton, Mississippi native considers it an honor to walk the path Mississippi civil rights icons paved decades ago. Serving his 15th term in the United States House of Representatives, Thompson represents Mississippi’s Second Congressional District where he has spent his entire life fighting to improve the lives of all people.

For more information on TSU 2023 Spring Commencement and full bios on Ms. Winfrey and Congressman Thompson, visit www.tnstate.edu/commencement.

Media interested in attending commencement should contact Kelli Sharpe at 615.963.7401 and by email at [email protected]. TSU Media Relations is also available to assist and can be reached at 615.963.5331.

TSU celebrates Occupational Therapy Month

Occupational Therapy Month is celebrated in April every year to recognize the contributions that help people improve their ability to participate in daily activities and achieve greater independence. From bathing to eating or helping with clothing yourself, the occupational therapy (OT) master’s program students at TSU are becoming healthcare professionals to provide for all ages to overcome physical, cognitive, or emotional barriers.

TSU student Emily Bailor, right, practices assisting fellow student with adaptive equipment to help with bathing. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“Whatever is ailing you, we look at how that is affecting your occupation,” said Emily Bailor, a second year OT master’s student, said. “If we can get someone back to doing their occupation it’s a direct increase to quality of life, which is our goal.” Bailor stated that OT is a huge part of the healthcare field. “Physical therapy will get you up and walking, but occupational therapy will get your clothes on.”

There are currently 60 TSU students in the program.

While Bailor wants to work with patients of all ages and needs, Justin Brown, a second year OT master’s student, anticipates working with burns or traumatic brain injuries. Brown, of Alabama, said he chose TSU’s affordable program because it, “feels like home.”

TSU student Justin Brown practices using adaptive equipment on fellow classmate for occupational therapy. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“To pursue a higher degree at an HBCU just shows it is prominent,” Brown, who attended TSU as an undergraduate, said. “I am trying to show kids that you can be Black and be an occupational therapist. Whoever you are, you can get a higher degree in your profession.”

The field is 82% prominently white, according to the American OT Association.  

Not only does Brown look forward to diversifying the field, so does Dr. Lisa Porter, an assistant professor in the occupational therapy department. This month Porter is heading to the American OT Association conference with a student to present a conversation related to underrepresented minority groups in their field. “Occupational therapy is a very white profession,” Porter said. “It is important to promote diversity to fit the population we are serving.”

Occupational Therapy students during a pediatric lab practicing clinical observations of sensorimotor abilities. (Photo submitted)

Along with attending the national conference, in honor of OT month, the program has had guest speakers.

OT students and staff also participated in TSU Mud Day this week to give children ages 3-5 different sensory experiences. It is a celebration hosted by the Child Development and Family Studies program.

Porter said OT also focuses on “working to help kids access their education,” from self-regulation to motor skills and mental health. “Our focus on occupation, not just your job but meaningful activities,” she said.

TSU mud day is  a celebration of the Week of the Young Child, which is promoted internationally by the National Association for the Education of Young Child. The April 13 event was a fun sensory experience hosted by The Child Development and Family Studies program in the Department of Human Sciences in collaboration with the Departments of Occupational and Physical Therapy. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

TSU has an affordable OT program and a Tiger Community Rehabilitation Clinic that is a free and student-run. The clinic offers outpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy services to the public. “Having a state school that isn’t as expensive as some of these private programs is important too because it should be more accessible to students,” Porter said.

For more information about TSU’s Occupational Therapy Program, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/ot/ . If you’re in need of OT or PT services, visit the Tiger Clinic website at www.tnstate.edu/tcrc/.