TSU Student Leaders Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness

By Angel Higgins

The event has a special meaning for organizer, TSU student Tamauri Murray

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The goal of the Tennessee State University Office of Student Activities and Leadership is to enhance the skills of those elected or selected to serve in the student government association. Mister Junior Tamauri Murray is doing just that by using his platform to bring awareness to breast cancer awareness.   Murray organized the TSU Goes Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Walk for student leaders to participate on Saturday, October 21.  For the Birmingham, AL native, the event had a special meaning and to have his peers involved made it even more significant.  

The event had a special meaning for organizer, TSU student Tamauri Murray and his mother Tuwanna Murray who is a breast cancer survivor.

“I wanted to make sure I used my position as Mister Junior to emphasize breast cancer awareness. This walk is one of the ways I have done so. While my mom is home fighting her fight in Birmingham. It’s my mission to do my part here in Nashville.”

Tamauri’s mother, Tuwanna Murray, is a breast cancer survivor and the walk was in her honor. His mom found out her diagnosis on June 20th after finding a lump in her breast and having a mammogram. He recalled the day his mother told the family.

“This summer I was working at TSU as a University Ambassador and went home for the weekend in between orientations. My mom sat me and my sister down and told us she felt a lump and was diagnosed with breast cancer. I really did not know how to process it. I did not cry and instantly lost my appetite. So many questions were asked, lots of which my mom did not have answers to yet,” says the computer science major.”

The TSU leader emphasized how important it was for him to use his platform to bring awareness to breast cancer after seeing his mom go through surgery and chemotherapy. Throughout all the ups and downs the Murray family has been through since Tuwanna’s diagnosis, she keeps God on her side and is very proud of what her son has accomplished.

“I could not do it without my support squad, that includes my son, Tamauri,” Tuwanna Murray said.

Student Government Association Executive Vice President, Chrishonda O’Quinn, at the TSU Goes Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Walk

“Since he found out, he checks up on me and supports me while in Nashville. I am so proud of him and the efforts he has put forth being Mister Junior. Tamauri organizing the walk just made me smile harder than ever. My love for him and his sister will forever be unmatched.”

Several hundred participated in the walk as a part of the national observance of Breast Cancer Awareness for October. The event began near the Walk of Fame Park off of 4th Avenue South in Nashville.  Student Government Association Executive Vice President, Chrishonda O’Quinn said the initiative was really important for students to be a part of and to represent the University.

“Tamauri wanted to partner with Student Activities and Leadership for the walk. It feels really nice to be here not only in support of the survivors and people who have been through it but his mother as well. The administration and I are grateful to be a part of this walk.”

O’Quinn and Murray serve as members of the TSU 83rd Student Government Association.  

TSU’s Isabelle Langham Named to NACADA Advisory Board

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Isabelle Langham, the executive director of Student Success at Tennessee State University, has been appointed to the Emerging Leaders Program Advisory Board of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), the Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA is widely recognized as the leading association globally for the advancement of student success through excellence in academic advising in higher education.

Isabelle Langham speaks with first year students during New Student Orientation in Gentry Center.

“It is an honor to be selected as an ELP advisory board member for NACADA,” she said. “I am eager to collaborate with fellow leaders in the field and work toward enhancing academic advising practices worldwide. Together, we can make a profound impact on student success and positively transform the higher education landscape.”

A member of NACADA’s 2022-2024 Class of Emerging Leaders, Langham joins a remarkable group of individuals who will play a vital role in shaping the future of academic advising. The esteemed advisory board is responsible for collaborating on initiatives aimed at advancing effective advising practices and promoting student success. Langham will serve for two years.

Jason T. Evans, TSU’s Chief Operating Officer, commented on Langham’s accomplishment, saying, “We are immensely proud of Isabelle Langham’s recognition by NACADA. Her appointment to the advisory board is a testament to her exceptional leadership and dedication to supporting student success at TSU. We have no doubt that her contributions on a global scale will benefit not only our university but also the entire academic advising community.”

 Isabelle Langham, Executive Director of Student Success, right, talks to an incoming freshman and his mother during a session of New Student Orientation recently in the Health Sciences Building, on the main campus.

At TSU, the Office of Student Success, led by Langham, serves a diverse student population, including incoming first-time freshmen, readmitted freshmen, continuing freshmen, and new freshmen transfers. With a caseload of over 4,000 students last year, Langham emphasized the importance of the ELP in supporting her work. 

“Being selected for the Emerging Leaders Program last year was not only a professional honor but an opportunity to share new trends and leadership insights with my colleagues,” Langham said. 

“I am grateful for the chance to contribute to the success of my alma mater and our students and to work with an incredible team of leaders in the Office of Student Success. I am also thankful for the work of those before me, like the late Fannie Hyde-Perry, who shared a love of our hometown Moss Point, Mississippi, and service to TSU as a former New Student Orientation director.”

For more information on the Office of Student Success at TSU, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/studentsuccess/advisement_center.aspx.

TSU moving forward with plans for new alumni welcome center

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University already feels like home for many. But now when it is time to return to the university, alumni will have a 10,773 square-foot facility to welcome them. TSU is slated to have a welcome center on campus in the near future to serve as a home away from home for alumni.

Dr. Carletta Harlan, a Welcome Center Committee member and former Foundation Board member, states that the Center will be a facility that alumni will be very proud of when they return to the TSU campus.   

“We have such pride in our alumni,” Harlan, a TSU alumna, said. “Our alumni have set the stage in various areas, and we want to highlight them. The center will welcome alumni from far and wide to come home to the ‘land of golden sunshine.’ 

Rendering image of the backside of the TSU alumni welcome center

Harlan also said she looks forward to this facility drawing in even more alumni to come back home for major events throughout the year, especially homecoming. 

The proposed $4.5 million facility promises multi-faceted meeting and gathering spaces, offices, and creative workrooms for hosting a wide variety of educational and entrepreneurial programs. It will provide opportunities for social and civic interactions, and areas for displaying alumni achievements and University history. The facility will feature a rooftop terrace and deck, offering views of the campus.

“A facility of this magnitude is much needed on our campus,” Dr. Curtis Johnson, vice president for administration and chief of staff, said.  “It aids in the planning for the institution. It will be able to welcome alumni and serve as a beacon to attract alumni as well.”

The TSU alumni Association, foundation board and university established a committee to develop the proposal. Plans for the new alumni center began in 2019 and the physical site will be located off Dr. Walter S Davis Blvd, according to Johnson.

The facility will be funded with donations, with the lead gift of $1 million dollars donated by alumni Amos “Scoe” and Brenda Otis.  Mr. Otis is the founder, president, and CEO of SoBran, Inc. Mrs. Otis is a retired broadcast television production and management professional and published author. This welcome center will be the first privately funded building gifted to TSU by private donors. The Otis’s are partnering with the TSU Foundation in raising additional private gifts to support the creation of a space.

Johnson said the TSU Alumni Welcome Center project will be a testament to the vibrant community and shared history of our alumni.

TSU alumni, along with business and community partners are encouraged to help bring this vision to life, by making a donation to support the welcome center, at www.tnstate.edu/foundation/

TSU’s We Are One Homecoming Attracts Record Crowds

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s 2023 homecoming drew thousands of proud alumni, family, and friends from across the country to celebrate the annual week of activities. With the theme “Through Resilience and Perseverance, We Are One,” Tennessee State University proudly kicked off the weeklong celebration with the Robert N. Murrell Oratorical Contest and Gospel Explosion, followed by other traditional events like the coronation of Mister and Miss TSU, the homecoming parade down historic Jefferson Street, and, of course, the football game. This year also featured plenty of star power in the land of ‘Golden Sunshine.’

TSU student leaders cheering on the football team during the 2023 homecoming game at Nissan Stadium.

Homecoming chair Grant Winrow said this year’s events were ‘nothing short of perfection.

“We did a great job executing some fantastic enhancements to homecoming,” Winrow said.

“The highlight of my homecoming is that we had a wonderful time celebrating without any incidents reported. It was a very intentional effort that we partied with a purpose, with all the fundraising that took place.” Winrow also noted how livestreaming the legendary homecoming parade for the first time ever was a huge success, with thousands of viewers.

There was a warm welcome extended to the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Medical/Dental Accelerated Pathway Program cohorts during a white coat ceremony to honor students on their journey toward becoming medical doctors, dentists, and healthcare professionals.

TSU was the first stop on The Shop UNINTERRUPTED HBCU Tour. Guests for the live taping included TSU alumnus Dwane “Key Wane” Weir, Jr., actress and producer Crystal Renee, The Shop co-creator Paul Rivera and comedian KevoStage served as hosts.

TSU’s homecoming continued with a music concert featuring Kash Doll, Boosie, Moneybagg Yo, Glorilla, and more for students to have an unforgettable night with some of their favorite rap artists. In the midst of events, Mr. and Miss TSU, Davin Latiker and Victoria McCrae, had their special night, their coronation, during homecoming to officially wear the crowns as queen and king.

“To me, coronation is truly a magical experience,” said McCrae, who was crowned as the 94th Miss TSU. “It is a moment that you not only cherish with the currently reigning royal court but with all royals, admin, family, and students. Being coronated is an indescribable feeling. It is a true moment of happiness and an overwhelming sea of joy.”

TSU President Glenda Glover waves to the crowd of thousands at the 2023 homecoming parade heading down historic Jefferson Street

Davin Latiker believed that coronation represents a significant moment of recognition. “It is a night dedicated to acknowledging the remarkable achievements of the individuals within the royal court,” he said. “It’s an event that celebrates excellence and serves as an opportunity to reflect on the journey that brought us here.”

Hollywood came to campus as TSU was the first stop on The Shop UNINTERRUPTED HBCU Tour. Guests for the live taping included TSU alumnus Dwane “Key Wane” Weir, Jr., a Grammy award-winning music producer and songwriter who has worked with Beyonce, Drake, Jazmine Sullivan, and Big Sean just to name a few.

Hundreds of alumni, family and friends at the inaugural alumni “We Are One” Day party at TSU.

He was joined by actress and producer Crystal Renee, from Tyler Perry’s Sistas and Zatima television shows. The Shop co-creator Paul Rivera and comedian Kevin Fredericks, professionally known as KevOnStage, served as hosts. The TSU show will air in November on the show’s YouTube Channel and will also feature President Glenda Glover, the Aristocrat of Bands along with Mister and Miss TSU Davin Latiker and Victoria McCrae.

For alumni, the party was in full swing with DJ D-Nice. The DJ to the stars entertained homecoming crowds for two days, on Friday at the Ultimate Day Party and Saturday at the TSU Official Tailgate Event.

Coach Eddie George and the TSU Tigers are 4-2 this season after winning the homecoming game over Norfolk State.

Debbie Howard, director of the office of alumni relations, said that homecoming goers called this year’s events one of the greatest of all time. “With so many events being held on campus now, whether it’s the pep rally, the step show, the addition of the inaugural alumni day party or the parade, it just felt like home to many,” Howard said. “To many alumni, this homecoming was one to cherish for a lifetime.”

Homecoming culminated with the TSU football Tigers improving to 4-2 this season, with a win over Norfolk State. And of course, the Aristocrat of Bands stole the halftime show.

Tennessee State University’s Homecoming 2023 was more than an event but was a testament to the pride, unity, and excellence as one.

TSU Holds Annual White Coat Ceremony, Pipeline for Medical and Healthcare Students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – From Houston, Texas, to Tennessee State University, the Lord family said the 12-hour drive was well worth it to witness a significant milestone in their son’s journey towards becoming a medical professional. Ethan Lord, a freshman biology major, is part of TSU’s third annual White Coat Ceremony, an event marking the progress of students on the path to becoming doctors and dentists through the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Medical/Dental, Accelerated Pathway Program.

Dr. Connie Graves

The program is a collaborative effort between Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College aimed at creating a pipeline for future healthcare professionals. Ethan has aspirations to become an orthopedic surgeon.

“I am grateful and excited,” Ethan Lord said. “It feels good to be recognized. My parents drove 12 hours last night, so I am thankful for that.”

Lord’s mother, who is a pediatrician, acknowledged the challenges ahead but expressed unwavering support.

Cohort 1 presented Dean Barbra Murrell with a framed photo from 2020 symbolizing their journey together and appreciation for her unwavering support.

“We just want him to know that we will be behind him,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing him mature and solidifying his goals.”

Ethan’s father is a physical medicine and rehab specialist.

“The white coat ceremony is a traditional event; we knew the significance of it, and Ethan wanted us to be here.” Lord spoke highly of Ethan being a mature student and knows that he will do well in the program.

Cohort one officially receiving their white coats to kick start their medical and dentistry journeys.

During the ceremony, TSU President Glenda Glover expressed gratitude, especially to parents, while also acknowledging the legacy of TSU alumnus Dr. Levi Watkins Jr.

“We honor Dr. Levi Watkins and the role he played in advancing medicine, performing lifesaving research and, in fact, saving lives through his invention,” President Glover said.

“I look forward to you becoming role models and essential healthcare professionals. I am just as excited and eager to watch you as you become role models for other TSU students.”

Dr. Dawn, left, and Edward Lord III, right, drove 12-hours to witness their son Ethan receive his white coat during the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Medical/Dental, Accelerated Pathway Program.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Connie Graves, emphasized the significance of the event, reminding the students of those who paved the way for them. Inspired by Dr. Watkins’ legacy, she spoke about excellence, authenticity, and activism, challenging the students to fulfill their dreams.

“There is excellence in this room, and there is activism in this room,” Graves said. “And on this day as you receive your white coat, you have accepted the challenge. Congratulations as you enter your journey into the field of medicine.”

Students from cohorts 1-3 received their white coats during the ceremony. Barbara Murrell, chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute and fondly referred to as Dean Murrell, was also recognized for her vision to establish the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute and her dedication to ensuring the program’s success. Cohort 1 presented Dean Murrell with a framed photo, symbolizing their journey together. The group also presented President Glover with a white coat to demonstrate their appreciation for her unwavering support.

Cohort 1 presented President Glover with a white coat to demonstrate their appreciation during the ceromony.

Dean Murrell thanked the students for their contribution to TSU and the nation and emphasized their role as “the cure.”

“To cohort one, you started off with us, we grew together, we made it through to this day together, and now we are going to medical school together. I thank all of you for choosing TSU and what you have brought to the university and what you will bring to our nation.”

McKhia McCrary

McKhia McCrary, a senior from cohort one who will be attending Meharry next fall, highlighted the importance of HBCU pathway programs in providing resources to underrepresented communities. She ended with some advice for the third cohort students about pursuing medicine and dentistry.

“Always remember your why,” McCrary said. “Classes get hard, you’re active on campus, but if you remember your why, you can push through anything. Remember why you went into the medical field and why you’re needed.”

To learn more about the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Medical/Dental, Accelerated Pathway Program, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/watkins/

TSU student leaders hurt, disappointed over of $2.1 billion underfunding, call on Atty. Ben Crump

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University student leaders said their emotions ran the gambut from disbelief, hurt, to disappointment following the announcement that the State of Tennessee underfunded their university by a reported $2.1 billion. The top five leaders believed the next best step was to seek advice from a legal heavyweight to discuss the underfunding crisis. Those top five, Derrell Taylor, student government association president, Chrishonda O’Quinn, executive vice president, Shaun Wimberly, Jr., student trustee, along with Mister and Miss TSU Davin Latiker and Victoria McCrae, called on Attorney Ben Crump.

TSU student leaders spoke with U.S congressman Steny Hoyer in Washington, D.C. after the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Education revealed that the university is owed over $2.1 billion by the State of Tennessee.

“Attorney Ben Crump is a notable activist and is nationally recognized for his advocacy within African American communities,” said SGA President Taylor.

“It was imperative for Ben Crump to visit our campus, as this issue has escalated to a national level, and should be addressed on a larger platform.”

On October 3, Attorney Crump came to TSU, at the invitation of the student leaders, and spent the day with them to discuss the underinvestment of TSU. He and the students shared details of their meeting during a press conference.

“If the state refuses to provide the owed funds, students and alumni will have to do what is best for TSU, and these students are adamant about their next steps to address this unjustifiable inequity,” Crump, a renowned Civil Rights, said.

“Correcting this egregious funding discrepancy can ensure that our HBCUs thrive and that the students they educate reach their full potential is an urgent priority.”

O’Quinn, the SGA vice president, and a business major said Crump’s presence conveyed a message of support from the prominent attorney.

“The current students take this matter seriously and will not back down, and that we will do what it takes to make sure the underfunding issue remains national and will not die down. Attorney Ben Crump was also needed because the student leadership wanted additional support and guidance on this issue.”

Taylor, a business major as well, and Memphis native added that the Crump visit inspired him even more to work to” right this wrong.”

“Overall, Attorney Crump inspired me to stand up and speak up for what I know is right. He encouraged us all to be intentional about receiving a quality education, and he has provided me with the confidence to inspire other students as well. I feel this is incredibly unfortunate, as I have seen history repeated in a variety of forms. It is my hope that these wrongs are corrected with our state legislature, and moving forward, we don’t have to experience the feeling that our education is not as valuable as our counterparts.”

O’Quinn reflected on hearing about the initial announcement regarding the billions in underfunding and her optimism also following Crump’s visit.  

“It is quite unbelievable and simply isn’t right. This has continued to happen for no other reason than the color of our skin. Any other reasoning for this occurring, in my opinion, is false. And the idea of whether we receive the 2.1 billion should not be a discussion. The numbers say enough.”

“I hope the other students feel as empowered as I did when Attorney Ben Crump spoke with student leadership.”

TSU’s College of Engineering looks for success with $2.25 Million NSF Grant for first-year students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Ethopine Choping always wanted to build a home for her East African single mother of two. Choping initially wanted to become an architect, but thought, why design the structure of her mother’s home when she can build dams and bridges for the entire city she’d live in?

“Coming from a disadvantaged community is what inspired me to become an engineer.”

An engineering professor assisting a student during an in class assignment.

Choping’s family moved to the United States from Ethiopia in the late 1990s. She later moved to Tennessee to start her college journey at Tennessee State University in 2021 to pursue a degree in civil engineering. She will be graduating in spring 2024.

“The faculty is the reason why I decided to come to TSU,” she said. “They are so dedicated. That’s what convinced me to go to TSU, and my first semester experience is what convinced me to stay.”

Choping recalls returning to TSU the following year, but many of her classmates did not due to the rigorous academic curriculum and financial obligation. 

Ethiopine Choping presenting a study of photoelastic effect in zinc.

These are two of the reasons Tennessee State University’s College of Engineering is continuing its commitment to fostering a community of budding first-year engineering students. Earlier this year the college received a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation to continue this endeavor. The grant will create a five-year pilot engineering curriculum that includes a pre-engineering program and an immersive engineering studio dedicated to undergraduate research experiences (CUREs), focused on student retention and graduation. College of Engineering Associate Professor Catherine Armwood-Gordon said the college is excited about providing scholarships to first-year students through the grant. 

“We’re looking at ways to support students’ progression through their mathematics and success in the first term,” Dr. Armwood said, noting that she is grateful to be able to provide students with scholarships and resources to excel. 

 Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Ph.D. Graduate student Brandon Jones, center, and Engineering student Marvellous Eromosele.

The focus on student retention also extends to the female population within the College of Engineering department.

According to Dr. Armwood, who also serves as Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, TSU has graduated over 600 students from the College of Engineering from Spring 2018 -2022. Yet fewer than half of these graduates were women pursing engineering degrees. Currently, there are over 228,900 engineers employed in the United States. Only 13.7% of all engineers are women, according to Zippia. 

Alexia Brown, a TSU freshman studying mechanical engineering, said she looks forward to being a part of the 13% female engineering population post-graduation.

Camron Henderson

“It’s empowering to see women succeeding regardless of the industry,” Brown, of Jackson, MS, said. “It pushes me to finish my degree and to continue on this path.”

As a first-year college student, Brown started college just last month and said she already feels like she’s right at home.

“Everything has been really well,” she said. “I love my classes, and I love my professors.” She also noted that she is excited about the college receiving grants for first-year students as the overall goal is to enhance the retention and success of students in engineering programs at TSU.

Funds from the first-year student grant will be able to support the engineering population growth by awarding more than 80 students a year.

TSU freshman Camron Henderson, a computer science major from Atlanta, said he has hopes that the freshman student grant will be resourceful for out-of-state students like himself. “I’m very happy to know the university has received this grant,” Henderson said. “It will bring more retention to the college.” Henderson is the freshman class treasurer and said his time at TSU, ‘so far has been great,” stating that he loves his teachers as well.

Alexia Brown

TSU grad Tupac Moseley is currently pursuing a master’s in computer and information systems engineering at TSU and said the college is worthy of the $2.25 million investment. “I hope that students, after me, have an even better experience. This will help them transition smoothly into the college of engineering.

This department was extraordinarily helpful throughout my senior year,” he said. “The college cares about me and it only felt right to come back to TSU to pursue my next degree.” This is the third time the National Science Foundation has provided an Implementation Project grant to the university. The first two grants were approximately $1 million each.

Tupac Moseley is currently pursuing a master’s in computer and information systems engineering at TSU

A STEM Enhancement Institute is also being established as part of the grant to provide support to students who struggle with their STEM courses in their pre-engineering program. $150,000 per year will go toward the STEM institute.

To learn more about TSU’s engineering programs, visit www.tnstate.edu/engineering/.

Dr. Robbie Melton named top 50 women leaders in education

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Robbie Melton, has been named as one of the top 50 women leaders in education for 2023. The Women We Admire site states that the selected women are instrumental in guaranteeing that educational establishments maintain their adaptability and responsiveness to the ever-changing demands of society.

The recognition showcases the achievements of women in leadership roles, in diverse educational institutions across the nation. 

“This honor acknowledges our collective efforts in education, enriched by the unwavering support of my family,” Dr. Melton said. 

“It underscores the importance of diversity, inclusion, and our collective dedication to empowering future generations.”

The website states that while the first U.S. universities enrolled only men, women have made great strides in higher education. Dr. Melton is ranked number 11 on the list of the 50 honorees. In addition to serving as the interim Provost and VP of Academic Affairs, she is also the VP of Technology Innovations for the SMART Global Technology Innovation Center and global researcher and international consultant for Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Dr. Melton’s past honors include the 2019 USDLA Hall of Fame, 2018’s Distinguished Women of Legend, OLC Leadership in 2017, WCET Lifetime Achievement in 2016, Top 30 Technologists in 2014, and the Apple Distinguished Educator in 2013.

Dr. Melton said she was shocked about the recognition and appreciates the celebration of women who are working relentlessly within the field of education.

“This is a celebration of every woman, teacher, and student working tirelessly for a more equitable world.”