TSU featured in Coca-Cola commercial

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – If you’re a college football fan you might have seen Tennessee State University featured in the “Scream,” Coke Zero Sugar television commercial. The national spot highlights passionate fans cheering for their respective college teams. TSU is the only historically Black institution (HBCU) in the beverage advertisement.

“The Tennessee State University family is proud to have been selected for the Coca-Cola commercial, allowing us to be showcased in households, across the country and around the world on a national platform,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.

“We are honored that this corporate giant included TSU in the campaign and for the attention it is bringing our institution. We have been committed to elevating our brand, and being a part of the commercial continues that effort.”

The TSU scene has five students gathered in a dorm room displaying the University’s athletics logo, while watching the game from a laptop wearing TSU gear and face paint. Coca-Cola said the concept was to show that being an active fan is hard work. The 60-second spot can be seen during nationally televised collegiate games and shows fans watching their college teams live in the stands, on television, livestreaming, or listening on the radio. 

“It is exciting to see TSU Athletics included in this new spot airing during college football season,” said Dr. Mikki Allen, director of TSU Athletics. “Coca-Cola has been an outstanding partner for our programs and I appreciate their commitment for continuing to advance HBCUs.”

To watch the “Scream,” Coke Zero Sugar commercial visit https://youtu.be/ZurOAPr5pdY

TSU’s Grammy award-winning band to make historic appearance in Chicago Thanksgiving parade

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands will make another historic appearance when they march in the 2023 Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. The AOB, as the band is fondly called, will be the first band from a historically black university (HBCU) to participate in the “Windy City” parade that begins at 8 a.m. CST. For Chicago native band members, the appearance has a special meaning to perform in front of the home crowd of their families and friends.

Marshun David Mcgee, Jr.

“As a native of Chicago, doing the Thanksgiving parade is not only nostalgic but an important part of my life,” said Marshun David Mcgee, Jr.

“I remember doing the parade when I attended Thornton Township High School in Harvey, IL. This parade is known for its uplifting spirits.”

The TSU senior went on to explain how the parade all began.

“Starting in 1934, the purpose was to uplift those from The Great Depression. Seeing that we are currently getting over a pandemic, it is an honor to perform with the Aristocrat of Bands as the first HBCU collegiate band to attend. As a psychology major and music minor, it is my goal to uplift everyone’s spirits through music!”

Jibril Robert Lee

Fellow band member Jibril Robert Lee said while he’s marched in several parades, this will be his first nationally televised parade.

“As a first-year graduate student studying data science, this will without a doubt be a moment my family will look back on for years to come.”

“Not to mention the legacy that TSU has allowed me to build while I walked across the stage this past May with my bachelors in Computer Science,” Lee added.

The Chicago Thanksgiving parade is rated the number two best Thanksgiving Parade in the country by TimeOut.

Holiday favorite “This Christmas” will be one of the songs AOB will perform. Dr. Reginald McDonald, director of bands, said this is a fitting way to close out 2023.

“This has been a remarkable year for the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands,” McDonald said.

“From being the first collegiate band to win a Grammy, to our second live performance at the White House within seven years, and to conclude our year with a historical performance in the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, as the first HBCU band, is truly a humble experience.”

 The long-time educator said he has been at TSU for 23-years, while teaching for over three decades.

“Teaching beyond the classroom has always been one of my goals. The opportunities of 2023 have been incredible teaching moments”

The 2023 Chicago Thanksgiving Parade route is on State Street from Ida B. Wells Drive to Randolph Street. TSU alumni outside of the Chicagoland area can watch the band on the national broadcast on Pluto TV, from 8 am – 11 am CST on November 23, Thanksgiving morning.

College of Agriculture’s  De’Etra Young receives USDA National Teaching Award

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is proud to announce that Dr. De’Etra Young, Associate Dean for Academics and Land-grant Programs, received the prestigious U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Teaching Award. The national award, presented by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the USDA, recognizes excellence in agricultural sciences teaching and student engagement. Dr. Young is one of two recipients this year for the annual award and said she is honored for this recognition.

Dr. Manjit Misra, director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Dr. Young.

“This recognition celebrates my dedication to education and symbolizes the rich legacy of Tennessee State University, an HBCU committed to preparing students for success,” Young said. 

“At TSU, we take pride in our mission to excel in teaching and learning, offering experiential learning opportunities and fostering professional development for our students. This award is a testament to the University and College of Agriculture’s commitment to innovation in the classroom.”

The annual award includes a $5,000 stipend for teaching enhancements at TSU. Young is recognized as a leader in undergraduate research that is driven by her passion for environmental science and urban forestry. She has been committed to motivating students, like junior Blake Wright, to have that same passion and drive.  The Dallas, TX native is studying agricultural sciences. 

Blake Wright

“Even when I started my freshman year, Dr. Young had helped me so much.” Wright said.

“I was able to get accepted for an 1890 farm bill scholarship, and she makes sure students are aware of leadership opportunities. She overcomes challenges, presents great opportunity, and this national recognition is long overdue.”

As a mentor, Young has created many aspiring researchers over time, who have also gained national recognition for their contributions, according to the APLU website. CheKenna Fletcher, stated that she wouldn’t be in the position as a first-year Ph.D. student in agricultural sciences without Young’s support.

“Her tireless commitment to guiding students through their academic journey and beyond is unmatched,” Fletcher said.

CheKenna Fletcher

“From crafting heartfelt recommendation letters to being a constant source of encouragement, she embodies selflessness like no other, proving that leadership leaves no room for personal rest but thrives in the success of others.”

Dr. Chandra Reddy, the dean of the College of Agriculture, said Young is very deserving of this award as she is a role model to many TSU students and faculty.

“Dr. Young is an exceptional teacher, mentor, and advisor,” Reddy said.

“Dr. Young’s passion to engage high school and undergraduate students in research makes our novel summer apprenticeship and dean’s scholar’s program so popular with participating students and their families. I congratulate her on behalf of my colleagues in the College for getting selected for this prestigious national teaching award.”

Young, who has been at TSU for ten years, has been awarded more than $30 million in funding as a principal investigator (PI) and Co-PI.

Dr. Young assisting college of Agriculture students during the fall semester.

 “We applaud the 2023 winners of the Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards for Food and Agricultural Sciences,” said Wendy Fink, Executive Director of the Academic Programs Section at APLU.

“Through their dedicated and focused passion in mentoring and instruction, they serve as inspirational leaders for their students and other faculty striving to serve their students better.”

Dr. Young received her bachelor’s degree in Urban Forestry at Southern University and A&M College, and a masters and a Ph.D both in forestry from Texas A&M University. Visit our website to find more information about TSU’s Agricultural Sciences program or majors.

TSU leads artificial intelligence impact in higher education

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has positioned itself as a trailblazer in the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into higher education. A five-week online AI course is just one of the ways Dr. Robbie Melton has had TSU bridge the digital divide by bringing this latest technology to the Nashville community and others. Melton, who also oversees the smart innovation technology center, taught the free AI course that attracted over 160 participants globally.

“I strategically positioned TSU to serve as the professional development center for the HBCUs, looking at the opportunities, the possibilities, and the challenges regarding AI,” Dr. Melton said.

Dr. Robbie Melton

Reflecting on the course, Dr. Melton noted that the participants, “walked away with a full knowledge base, not just in written applications but also in AI in the arts, photography, video, and music.” The course exposed participants to dozens of diverse AI tools. Melton initiated faculty, staff, and student webinars about AI over a year ago, showcasing TSU’s commitment to staying ahead as technology continues to evolve. The recent course, titled ‘The Impact of AI in Higher Education,’ highlighted technological opportunities from a higher education standpoint. TSU Dean of the college of Liberal Arts Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, said participating in the weekly course was well worth the time.

 “Other people have to go to conferences or sign up for workshops, while at Tennessee State University, we have the privilege of having internationally recognized experts like Dr. Melton and her Smart Center team readily available,” she said.

Morgan-Curtis noted that the courses and tools provide an opportunity to stay abreast of developments in generative AI.

“Generative AI will be a benefit in education, but it does not replace expertise,” she added, emphasizing the importance of integrating new technologies into education.

Eula Todd, a graduate student at TSU studying leadership education, believes HBCUs specifically must embrace AI to avoid ‘being left behind.’

“We have an opportunity to be at the table at the ground level,” Todd said. “We have to find a way to incorporate it, where it makes the learning experience better for students.”

Alonzo Rhodes Sr., a local physical education teacher, highlighted the practical benefits of the AI class. “I put the information in, and it comes to life for me,” he said.

TSU students in the Smart Innovation Technology Center utilizing the center’s Alienware gaming desktop computers. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

Rhodes is integrating AI into lesson plans and assessments, not only benefiting his physical education students but also enhancing his personal and professional development.

Melton’s approach with technology initiatives has been instrumental in shaping the university’s leadership role in AI education. The 5-week course came to an end amid President Joe Biden’s most recent executive order regarding AI, one that Melton says aligns with TSU’s commitment to ensuring that AI is trustworthy and beneficial to society.

“The order recognized the opportunities and the possibilities. It didn’t just shut it down.  It made people be cognizant of the dangers and cybersecurity, so it was a great balance.”

In October, President Biden signed the executive order that seeks a balance between the needs of technology companies, national security, and consumer, as well as the foundation for future legislation.  

The university’s commitment to innovation and inclusivity through AI ensures not only learning about cutting-edge technology but also its trustworthiness and benefits for society.

To learn more about the AI efforts or the Smart Innovation Technology Center visit www.ai-tnstatesmartcenter.org/artificial-intelligence.

Basket Drive Provides Families With Thanksgiving Meals

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University student leaders and organizations will make the Thanksgiving holiday one to remember for some local families. On Saturday, November 11, over 100 students held a successful food drive to prepare food baskets for families in need.  TSU students, faculty, staff, and alumni donated non-perishable food items for the baskets that will be distributed during the holiday season to help families.

“This Project 111 service event consisted of students and the community packing Thanksgiving baskets for those in need,” said Chrishonda O’Quinn, SGA executive vice president.

“The number 111 is significant because TSU has been in existence for 111 years. The objective was to pack 111+ Thanksgiving baskets. I’m pleased the TSU community answered the call.  We exceeded our goal.”

The sophomore delegation and O’Quinn presented the drive as part of their Project 111: Community Service. Mr. Sophomore Brandon Diggs voiced how important it was for the sophomore class to participate in the drive.

Mr. TSU Davin Latiker, left, and Miss TSU Victoria McCrae, with Mr. Sophomore Brandon Diggs, right, preparing Thanksgiving baskets

“We wanted to show each other, the faculty, students, and staff that although we are only in our second year here at Tennessee State University, how powerful we are as a collective working together to make a change in our community,” said Diggs.

It was estimated that there were roughly 300-400 items donated, as food filled four tables plus the stage in the Elliott Hall auditorium.

“Directly after the event, we dropped the donations off to the Nashville Rescue Mission,” O’Quinn add, in response to where the food would be donated.

Members from the Psi Phi Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity Inc, Sisters in Different Shoes Inc. and SGA used their personal cars to take the items to the shelter. Diggs remarked how Nashville Rescue Mission was very proud to see them.

“As HBCU students, we should give back to our community in general because we are the community. We are making the history and culture of our institution day by day; we write the narrative not only for ourselves but for the ones around us.”

SGA Executive Vice President, Chrishonda O’Quinn and TSU students posing with a finished Thanksgiving basket

Noting that service is an essential part of the student experience at TSU, O’Quinn said student leaders are expected to lead service initiatives.

“It is important to give back to the community since it is consistent with the universities’ goals of social responsibility, community development, and historical preservation. It enhances not just the educational experience of the students but also the communities they serve.”

Over the past weeks SGA leaders have led student participation in a breast cancer walk and a mental health and wellness week.

Alumna has TSU inspired designs at Urban Outfitters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The next time you shop at Urban Outfitters look for signs of TSU at the clothing retail stores. That’s because TSU alumna Faith Reeves has brought her creative touch to Urban Outfitters, where she designed an array of TSU apparel and accessories. Reeves graduated from TSU in spring 2022 with a degree in family and consumer sciences and a concentration in fashion merchandise. Her journey to the fashion industry began instantly after being selected as a 10-week buyers intern at Urban Outfitters (UO) just days before graduation.

Faith Reeves wearing TSU inspired hat and denim jacket she designed during her internship with Urban Outfitters.

“I was sitting in my dorm at the time, and I remember getting a call from a New York number,” she said, reminiscing about the call from Urban Outfitters. “Thank you, God, I was so emotional and really excited to be selected.”

The decision to apply for the program was influenced by one of her professors who saw potential in Reeves’ talent. The internship was a blend of design and research on the fashion industry and TSU history, she said. From concept to creation, Reeves and five students from other HBCUs designed exclusive UO capsule collections celebrating the culture and community of their schools. The proceeds from the UO Summer Class ’22 capsule collection support a donation of $55,000 to participating schools, according to their website.

Reeves’ designs not only showcase her alma mater but also landed her a spot in a campaign shoot featuring the products she designed. The products, including shirts, hats, jeans, and jackets, were upcycled with special details in honor of the Land of Golden Sunshine.

Faith Reeves wearing TSU-inspired Urban Outfitters denim jeans with patches of AOB photos.

Reflecting on the experience, the Springfield, TN native highlighted how she learned the ropes of buying and designing and applied it to her next opportunity. After her internship, she embarked on a designer apprenticeship in San Francisco with Old Navy for a year. Now, Reeves is in the midst of interviews, exploring opportunities that align with her passion. Reeves says the Urban Outfitters internship not only provided her with a platform to showcase her creative skills but also a chance to contribute to something meaningful for her alma mater

Former CNN anchor guest speaker for TSU fall commencement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University will hold its fall commencement Saturday, December 9, 2023, at 9 a.m. in the Gentry Center Complex. Nearly 700 students will walk the stage to receive their degrees during the ceremony. This year’s speaker is award-winning journalist and former CNN anchor Don Lemon. Lemon anchored the long-running CNN primetime program, Don Lemon Tonight as well as CNN This Morning.

“I was honored to get the invitation from President Glenda Glover to be the guest speaker for this important milestone in a student’s life,” said Lemon.

“I look forward to sharing parts of my journey and what I’ve experienced as a journalist, in hopes of inspiring the class of 2023 to leave their mark on the world. Make it a better place for human beings, as they embody the TSU motto of think, work, serve.”

Lemon has won a variety of distinguished awards for his work which has spanned nearly three decades, including an Edward R. Murrow award, multiple Emmys and a Peabody award, among others. In addition to CNN, Lemon has served as an anchor and correspondent at the NBC and MSNBC television networks, as well as at local stations in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis. 

His work as a journalist includes countless global breaking news stories from the anchor desk, as well as on location. He has covered the war in Ukraine, for which he received a Peabody award in 2022. Also, the death of Osama Bin Laden, the inaugurations of the 44th and 45th Presidents of the United States, the school shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Newtown, Connecticut, and the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, George Floyd and Tyre Nichols. He joined CNN as a correspondent in 2006.

Commencement will include 328 undergraduate students and 324 graduate students. University officials encourage graduates to arrive one hour before the ceremony due to parking. While masks are not required, this is flu season and everyone is asked to exercise caution.

TSU fall commencement will also be live streamed from the University’s YouTube channel at www.tnstate.edu/livestream

Hundreds expected for Fall Preview Day

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University announces its much-anticipated Fall Preview Day, the premier open house event designed to showcase the university to prospective students and their families. The event, scheduled for Dec. 2, will begin at 2 p.m., in the Kean Hall Gymnasium, offering an extensive range of activities across the main campus.

Fall Preview Day 2023 is expected to attract hundreds of high school juniors and seniors, along with their families, from various states across the nation. Visitors from across Tennessee and as far away as California, Texas, Michigan, and Wisconsin will have the unique opportunity to experience TSU campus during the fall and gain valuable insights into the university’s academic offerings and admission processes.

“We invite prospective students and their families to join us for Fall Preview Day and explore the possibilities that await them,” says Dr. Portia Johnson, Director of Recruitment and Campus Visits. 

“This event is an ideal opportunity to see firsthand how TSU can shape their academic and personal growth, and we look forward to welcoming them to our campus.”

During preview day, visitors will have the opportunity to interact with academic and financial aid advisors, as well as deans and chairs of various colleges and departments. These representatives will provide valuable information about the wide array of programs, scholarships, and other offerings available at TSU.

Jason T. Evans, TSU’s Chief Operating Officer, emphasizes the importance of Fall Preview Day in providing prospective students and their families with an immersive experience of what makes TSU an exceptional educational institution. “Fall Preview Day allows these students and their loved ones to witness firsthand the outstanding programs, resources, and services that set our university apart,” says Evans. “They will engage with our exceptional faculty members, advisors, and current students, who will share their experiences and illustrate the transformative learning environment at TSU.”

Fall Preview Day attendees will also be treated to a TSU Tigers basketball game in the Gentry Center Complex. This engaging activity will showcase the vibrant campus culture and the enthusiastic support for TSU athletics. Free tickets will be provided at a limit of three persons per family.

To obtain more information about the event and register for Fall Preview Day 2023, please visit the official website at 

TSU honors military service men and women with Veterans Day program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  Tennessee State University honored the retired men and women of our nation’s armed forces during its annual Veterans Day celebration. The program featured TSU cadets, students, and guest speaker Chief Operating Officer and retired Lt. General Jason Evans.  The event was held in Poag Auditorium. Evans encouraged people to never forget and always honor those who fought for us.

AFROTC Det. 790 performing the ceremonial act of presenting and displaying the national flag, also known as, “posting the colors.

“As we recognize those that have served our nation with honor and distinction, veterans have earned our undying gratitude,” said Lt. General Evans. “As a nation we must ensure that we never forget the services and sacrifices of our veterans.”

Cadet Madison Taylor shared how proud he was to be a part of the program and to see TSU celebrating veterans.

“I think the University observing this day was amazing,” Taylor said.

“It goes to show that veterans do have support and appreciation out there for their services and commitment. We united as a community and honored those who have defended our freedoms.”

Tribute Speaker, Retired Lt. General Jason Evans

Taylor’s fellow cadet, Deja Story, agreed with him on the significant of the observance. Story, a mathematical science major, expressed her gratitude toward veterans and also what it meant to her for TSU to observe Veterans Day annually and in this manner.

“This makes me feel proud that I go to this university and that the day is being observed because sometimes veterans are overlooked in everyday life. This was our chance to give thanks to those who have selflessly aided to the defense and well-being of our nation.”

Tennessee State University is a “Certified Vets Campus.” This designation means that the University provides support services especially for veterans in an effort to ease their transition from military service to college life.

TSU receives $2.3 million grant to combat maternal mortality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  Tennessee State University is set to address the increasing death rate of new mothers across the state and the country with a grant $2.3 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The five-year grant will support the establishment of a research center dedicated to applied maternal health disparities research. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), maternal mortality rose from 861 maternal deaths in 2020 to 1,205 maternal deaths in 2021, a 40% overall increase.

 Dr. Wendelyn Inman, TSU’s Interim Public Health Program Director, addressed the urgent need for action as the United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths across the globe.

Interim Public Health Program Director Dr. Wendelyn Inman, right, discussing research on maternal mortality with second-year Master of Public Health student J’La Jenkins. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“That should be unheard of,” Inman said. “Part of it is because we don’t have culturally competent providers. Providers aren’t sensitive to their needs.”

TSU has been allocated $483,400 of the HRSA grant for the first year. Inman, who is the principal investigator for the grant, noted the significance for underrepresented women, emphasizing the importance of being part of research from the beginning, rather than entering at a later stage, when it might be too late.

“That will make a big different to some women’s life, and some child who gets to keep their mother.”

The CDC is categorizing maternal mortality as death while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy. This is irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes. Statistics from the World Health Organization, from 2021, revealed “the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black (subsequently, Black) women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times the rate for non-Hispanic White (subsequently, White) women (26.6.) Rates for Black women were significantly higher than rates for White and Hispanic women.”

TSU second-year Master of Public Health student J’La Jenkins believes cultural competency is important, even within her program.

 Dr. Wendelyn Inman

“Especially being a Black woman of childbearing age, knowing the importance of how high the rates of maternal mortality are among Black women that look like me,” Jenkins said. “It is important that we have TSU, which is in the heart of a Black community, to be the research center for this work.”

Jenkins added that receiving this grant enables TSU to increase the public health workforce representing underserved communities. She said the numbers are declining and that receiving this grant from HRSA shows the University’s commitment to turning those numbers around.

“Not only is this going to impact me, but generations after me. I was astonished at how the university is currently underfunded, but we are still able to be the house of this research center,” she said.

From 2017 to 2020, the State of Tennessee reported that 113 women died during pregnancy or within a year of pregnancy from causes related or aggravated by pregnancy. These pregnancy-related deaths accounted for 35% of all deaths during that period. A published report from the State also saw a 2.5% increase in birth related deaths for non-Hispanic Black women compared to their non-Hispanic White counterparts. Cardiovascular diseases, compounded by disparities, emerged as leading causes. TSU, along with 15 other HBCUs, received funding to establish research centers. Dr. Inman expressed the importance of involving the community in the research process to ensure a diverse and inclusive approach from the ground up. Inman said this research, alongside other HBCUs, will create research turned into interventions to help within the community.

Dr. Quincy Quick

“We are going to have research centers so we can train doctoral, master’s level, and undergraduate students to join the public health workforce and the health care workforce to make a difference from the inside out. HRSA knows that if we can get more African American providers out there, we will see better outcomes. This will also highlight the pivotal role it plays in addressing the root causes of maternal mortality.”

Dr. Quincy Quick, TSU’s Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs, stressed the grant’s significance.

“Receiving funding from HRSA at TSU will bolster our capacity and capabilities in public health research, specifically as it relates to maternal mortality rates,” he said.

“This is particularly significant given that the state of Tennessee has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.”

Both Inman and Quick believe the HRSA grant, and HBCU maternal mortality research initiative will place underrepresented women at the forefront. Just as important, it positions TSU to provide groundbreaking research to address this health disparities and to train a diverse and inclusive public health workforce that can bring the meaningful change needed to save lives for the state of Tennessee and beyond.