Two agriculture professors earn national recognition

By Charlie Morrison, Alexis Clark

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two Tennessee State University College of Agriculture professors have been recognized for their outstanding contributions in research and excellence in education. Dr. Dilip Nandwani, a botanist and professor of organic agriculture, was named the 2024 American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) Fellow. While Agriculture professor and soil scientist Dr. Jason de Koff was recently named the winner of the 2024 Agronomic Education and Extension Award.

Dr. Nandwani is the first scientist from a Historically Black College and University or 1890 land-grant university to receive the prestigious honor. He has spent more than three decades teaching, researching, and mentoring in agriculture science and education.

“I am honored to be recognized by the American Society for Horticultural Science as a Fellow,” said Dr. Nandwani. “This award acknowledges 30 years of teamwork in horticultural research, Extension, and teaching, emphasizing our commitment to advancing society through horticultural education and principles.”

Dr. Nandwani is one of eight scientists named ASHS Fellows in the 2024 class. ASHS Nandwani manages TSUs certified organic farm, which includes fruits, vegetables, and herbs used for research and education efforts. Newly elected Fellows will be honored at an awards ceremony during an ASHS Annual Conference in September.

Dr. de Koff will also attend a ceremony to receive his American Society of Agronomy accolade, the Agronomic Education and Extension Award, recognizing excellence in education. The award includes a certificate, a complimentary ticket to the ceremony, and $2,000.

“This award is truly an honor,” said Dr. de Koff. “Working in Extension has allowed me to serve others, which is why I love what I do. I look forward to continuing to engage with and learn from all the stakeholders we serve.”

Dr. de Koff is active in the agronomy community, serving as President of the Tennessee Association of Agricultural Agents and Specialists, Chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee in the Southern Region Program Leaders Network, and holds many other leadership roles. As a research scientist, he has received over 60 local, state, or national awards and $44 million in grants as Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator, including TSU grants.

“College of Agriculture Dean, Dr. Chandra Reddy, said that these achievements highlight the dedication and impact of TSUs College of Agriculture professors. “Dr. Nandwani and Dr. de Koff’s work continues to advance the fields of horticulture and agronomy, benefiting both the academic community and society at large,” said Reddy. He noted that these are important national recognitions by their peers in their fields of expertise. “Both faculty members have been with TSU for over a decade, and we are proud of their diligence and commitment to service.”

For more information about the College of Agriculture, visit TSU College of Agriculture.

TSU students awarded Ascend Credit Union scholarships

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – First-generation college students at Tennessee State University are gaining well deserved recognition for their hard work and dedication. Recently, two TSU students received $5,000 scholarships from Ascend Federal Credit Union, aimed at supporting the educational pursuits of diverse, first-generation students across Middle Tennessee.

TSU students Dasia Rodgers of Flint, Michigan, and Dimitrius Ausby of Chicago, Illinois, were each awarded $5,000 for their academic achievements by the largest credit union in Middle Tennessee. The students’ respective colleges selected them as recipients of the Ascend scholarship.

Rodgers, a rising senior studying business administration, has a 3.84 GPA.

“You apply for so many scholarships and sometimes the chances of being selected are slim to none,” Rodgers said. “I was shocked when I received the email in June. I was really proud of myself.” She noted that being a first-generation college student is a goal that’s bigger than herself but also for her family. She looks forward to a career in the sports marketing industry after college. “It’s the reason why I put so much effort into my academics,” she said.

Ausby, a rising sophomore studying computer science, shared similar sentiments about being the first in his family to attend college. “I want to be better than the last generation, so I’m trying to pave the way for the next generations to come,” Ausby said. “And I feel blessed about this opportunity.”

Along with focusing on his career, Ausby is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Google Student Development Club, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Ausby said the scholarship will reduce financial burdens and will help him strive to become a data scientist after college.

The credit union also awarded scholarships to two students at Fisk University.

Ascend President and CEO Matt Jernigan said the power of education can transform lives and communities. “By awarding these scholarships to first-generation students at Fisk and TSU, we are not just investing in their futures, but also in the future of our Middle Tennessee communities,” Jernigan said. “We are proud to support these exceptional students as they embark on their educational journeys and strive to make a lasting impact on the world.”

Dr. Ashanti Chunn, the Assistant Director for TSUs You First Project, said championing first-generation students is critical and sponsoring their success reaches beyond academics. “It is laying the foundation to building a lasting footprint,” Chunn said.

“To be a first-generation student is to accept the opportunity to create a new heritage and to blaze a distinctive path for those over whom you have the greatest influence. Tennessee State University understands that this special group deserves every support that we can provide them and therefore their needs are at the center of the work that we are doing.”

Chunn noted that first-generation students are optimistic, courageous, resourceful and determined. “Undoubtedly, Dasia and Dimitrius possess these qualities and were aptly recognized for them.”

These scholarships not only ease financial burdens but also inspire the next generation of students. For more TSU first-generation resources, visit or

TSU hosts nursing summer camp for middle school students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University School of Nursing and Nurses Middle College (MC) Nashville hope to inspire 32 middle school students to become the next generation of healthcare professionals. The group of rising 7th and 8th graders recently visited TSU as a part of a nursing summer camp, where they learned CPR and patient care simulations. They received instruction from the School of Nursing faculty and learned about the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, cardiac arrest, identifying life-threatening situations, and more.

Middle school students attend the nursing camp gather in TSUs Health Science Building’s patient care simulation area. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

Khloe Garrison, a Rose Park Middle Magnet 8th grader said the camp experience was one to remember as she learned techniques and terminology she hadn’t been exposed to before.

“Camp has been really cool,” Garrison said. “We did CPR on the (mannequin) babies. Seeing people here at TSU who look like me inspires me because I know they’ve achieved it, and it makes me believe I can too.”

TSUs Executive Director of Nursing Dr. Courtney Nyange said the University was proud to partner with NursesMC Nashville for the nursing camp. Dr. Nyange added that hosting the summer program helps the nursing school fulfill its mission to foster students of all backgrounds to become the leading healthcare professionals of tomorrow.

Middle school students, camp counselor demonstrations CPR skills during NursesMC camp. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“The opportunity to contribute to the continued diversification of the nursing profession in Tennessee and the nation is a privilege that our School of Nursing is honored to have and has embarked upon as an institution for decades,” Nyange said. “Our partnership will help create a pipeline of students who will be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and compassion needed to become successful nurses, capable of delivering high-quality client care.”

Dr. Cathy Lovelace, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, provided the one-day CPR training workshop for the participants.

Dr. Courtney Nyange being interviewed by a local news reporter to discuss the nursing profession and creating a pipeline for underrepresented healthcare professionals. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

Amir Rahman, who is a Nolensville High School student, participated in the event as a camp counselor. “It’s important that everyone came together and empowered each other,” Rahman said during the camp. “HBCUs are important, and I know the camp students appreciate this.”

Rahman, who aims to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse, has TSU on his list of potential colleges after high school.

 NursesMC Nashville Executive Director Dr. Andrea Poynter, who formerly served as a nursing professor at TSU for four years, said seeing the students’ excitement was one of the many highlights of the camp.

Amir Rahman

“The biggest takeaway is just them being able to learn how impactful they can be to people in their families and their communities,” Poynter said. “This exposure will be memorable to our aspiring next-gen nurses. Due to the hands-on clinical opportunities, the diverse school and local community, the level of preparedness from nursing graduates from TSU is so impactful.”

In addition to TSU, NursesMC Nashville partnered with HCA Healthcare TriStar Division and Belmont University to offer students diverse hands-on experiences. The TSU and NursesMC Nashville summer camp exemplifies the university’s commitment to nurturing future healthcare professionals through early exposure and practical campus experiences.

Students receive gifts from the School of Nursing during the NursesMC camp, hosted at TSU. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

NursesMC Nashville, launching next year, will be a tuition-free public high school in Davidson County, integrating nursing education, workforce experiences, and industry credentials to prepare graduates for college and careers in healthcare.

To learn more about the summer camp and the new NursesMC public nursing high school coming to Nashville, visit To learn more about TSUs School of Nursing, visit

TSU Interim president marks first day with Gov. Lee, Rotary Club meeting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University Interim President Ronald Johnson marked the beginning of his tenure with a significant community event on his first day in Nashville. President Johnson attended the July 8th Rotary Club of Nashville meeting, which featured Gov. Bill Lee. Rotary President and TSU alumnus Dr. Alfred Degrafinreid II recognized Johnson, who attended as guest of TSU Board Dr. Marquita Qualls.

Dr. Marquita Qualls, left, Interim President Ronald Johnson, center, and Rotary President Dr. Alfred Degrafinreid II attends the Rotary Club of Nashville meeting July 8. Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University.

President Johnson described the Rotary meeting as eventful, as he had the opportunity to meet with the governor and dozens of business leaders and stakeholders to continue fostering access and information for the university’s portfolio.

“What we’re working on is sustaining a future-ready Tennessee State University,” Johnson said. “We want to elevate our impact and elevate our competitive edge.”

Johnson emphasized the importance of building relationships with community leaders and counterparts with an effort to maintain “leverage.”

“That’s what we need as an HBCU, as a land-grant institution, even as an institution that’s looking to go from R2 to R1,” Johnson added. “If you make that connection, then we will be writing a new history for Tennessee State, a history that is a renaissance, not a recovery.”

Gov. Bill Lee, a longtime Rotary member, was the featured guest speaker for the July 8 meeting.

Gov. Lee, a longtime Rotary member, noted that the state of Tennessee must continue to create pathways for student success across the state.

“At the end of the day, we need to elevate our entire educational system, so we can continue to create workers that are going to be needed by the companies that are coming,” Gov. Lee said.

This week’s meeting was a TSU affair as it marked both President Johnson’s first day in Nashville and Dr. Degrafinreid’s first day as Rotary president.

TSU President Dr. Ronald Johnson, left, poses with TSU alumna Dr. Phyllis Qualls at a Rotary Club meeting attended by several TSU alumni.

“Dr. Johnson was exposed to 215 leaders from across the region and he got a chance to really make sure that Tennessee State University was recognized in a positive light in terms of him coming here on his first day to learn about our region,” Degrafinreid said.

Another major milestone was the record attendance. Hundreds of participants, many of which were TSU alumni, came together to discuss service-related issues and how the organization can create better opportunities for citizens in the region and for HBCUs. “Dr. Johnson’s visit allowed him to meet many Tennessee State University alumni who are members of this club, and they could reaffirm that we’re here to support him and we’re here to support Tennessee State University.”

Over 200 leaders from across the region were in attendance for the Rotary Club of Nashville meeting.

Rotary is a global enterprise that partners with institutions to gain access beyond local boundaries. In the near future, the organization looks forward to establishing a Rotaract Club at Tennessee State University to help train students for leadership roles, service, and community engagement, Degrafinreid said.

President Johnson said, with the support of TSU alumni and community leaders, he looks forward to leading TSU toward a future of growth and innovation.

Over 800 First-time Freshmen Expected for Orientation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – More than 800 first-time freshmen will embark on the “Land of Golden Sunshine” on July 16-24 to participate in New Student Orientation (NSO). Called the ROAR Experience, NSO is an immersive event over several days designed to introduce new first-time students to TSU’s thriving campus culture and community. This will also give parents and students an opportunity to ask any lingering questions regarding financial aid, course advisement and selection, and student activities. Current TSU students will share their experiences while faculty representatives will discuss their respective academic units.

LaMar-Octavious Scott, director of Admissions at TSU, says NSO helps equip students with the necessary tools to fulfill enrollment requirements before the fall semester begins. He says NSO also offers the new students and their families a glimpse into the vibrant Nashville area and showcases the abundant opportunities available on campus.

“The ROAR Experience is a wonderful opportunity for the incoming students and their families to see the campus and experience the culture of the Nashville area,” says Scott. “We want to provide an array of sessions that promote access, opportunities, and the student life experience at TSU.” 

Students will participate in groups based on their major. All sessions run from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., each day with check-in at 9 a.m. Students should contact [email protected] or Office of Admissions to register, pay fees, and confirm their assigned orientation date. 

Among attendees at NSO will be over 275 high-achieving high school seniors who have already committed to TSU following the Admitted Students Day event in May. Julian Kendrick, a prospective psychology major from Champaign, Illinois, emphasizes the positive impact of Admitted Students Day and looks forward to further enriching his experience at NSO.

“Admitted Students Day left me more inspired to come to TSU,” says Kendrick. “The culture here feels like family, and I believe I will fit right in. The remarkable academic programs and the enriching HBCU experience were my deciding factors in choosing TSU.”

The event, to be held on the main campus, in Kean Hall, will feature tours, program previews, and information sessions on various student services. The NSO strives to provide essential insights and interactions to ensure a seamless transition for the incoming Tigers.

Chelsea Morgan, assistant director of Undergraduate Admissions, emphasizes the pivotal role of orientation in setting students up for success.

“Orientation is the students’ key to success,” says Morgan. “It will equip them with the information and resources needed to navigate their first semester and beyond. We’re here to help you explore campus, meet new friends, and have a roaring good time.”

For more information on admissions at Tennessee State University, visit

TSU expands global impact with Ghana Experience Program

By Alexis Clark, Chrishonda O’Quinn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University continues to make strides as a global institution. In collaboration with the HBCU African Education Coalition (HAEC), TSU has launched the Ghana Experience program to promote cultural exchange, global awareness, and academic enrichment. The initiative brought together 60 TSU students and staff who embarked on a transformative journey from June 1-16 to various regions of Ghana, including Accra, Akosombo, Kumasi, and Cape Coast.

Newly elected SGA president Chrishonda O’Quinn with students from the Wesley Girls’ High School in Accra, Ghana.

Mark Brinkley, who serves as director of International Education in TSU’s Office of International Affairs, explained how the HAEC partnership and the Ghana Experience program align with the university’s mission to provide students with transformative global experiences.

“This unique program will offer an invaluable opportunity for TSU students, faculty, and staff to engage with Ghana’s rich heritage, diverse cultures, and educational landscapes,” Brinkley said.

During the two-week immersive program of cultural exchange, participants engaged in educational seminars, community service projects, interactive workshops, and visits that provided an understanding of Ghana’s history and educational system.

TSUs Chrishonda O’Quinn and Jalen Mask were both Student Logistical Coordinators for this initiative and were selected for the Ghana Experience. O’Quinn, a senior and the newly-elected SGA president, said the study abroad program was a personal cultural awakening for her but also an opportunity to share the importance of education with young girls from the Wesley Girls’ High School in Cape Coast, Ghana.

TSU student Jalen Mask with Ghanaian student during Summer 2024 study abroad trip.

“This understanding is crucial in shaping your relationships, how you lead, and how you view yourself,” O’Quinn said. “Additionally, it sharpens your cross-cultural communication skills and helps you appreciate the privilege of having access to the resources we have. Giving back to the educational system in Ghana brought me pure joy.”

Mask, a rising junior, is a biology major and future medical doctor. He said the experience made him passionate about being a contributor to a global society.

“My TSU study abroad experience in Ghana has culminated in a higher sense of self-identity, resilience, and passion for who I am,” Mask said. “Being immersed in the culture makes me ambitious to continue making a positive difference in this world as a global contributor. Through this opportunity, my horizons have been broadened, and I am eager to continue showing up as my authentic self and defying the odds.”

TSU is set to open a SMART center at St. Martin de Porres.

The Ghana Experience also included other HBCU students and administrators from Clark Atlanta University, North Carolina A&T, Morgan State University, Hampton University, and Howard University.

Building on the success of the Ghana Experience, TSU is set to open a SMART center at St. Martin de Porres, one of the partnering institutions in Accra, Ghana. This initiative marks a significant step in TSU’s commitment to global education and fostering international partnerships.

To learn more about study abroad opportunities at TSU, visit