NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Kean Hall was filled with cheers and congratulatory statements Tuesday when the university recognized its best and brightest students at the annual Honors Day Convocation.
More than 2,800 students with grade point averages of 3.0 or higher were recognized for academic excellence. Among the honorees were 302 President’s List scholars. These are students who have maintained 4.0 GPAs throughout their matriculation.
TSU President Glenda Glover; interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Alisa Mosley; interim Dean of the Honors College, Dr. Coreen Jackson; other senior officials, deans, faculty and student leaders participated in the convocation.
Malick Badjie, a 2003 TSU graduate and executive director and head of Africa for Robeco, an international asset and investment management firm, was the keynote speaker. Badjie was a member of the Honors College at TSU.
In her welcome remarks, Glover congratulated the honors students for their achievements and thanked Badjie for agreeing to “come back to TSU to inspire our students”
“Today we honor ‘honors,’” Glover said. “We are proud of you and the Honors College for continuing this tradition of excellence. For 54 years, TSU has been committed to mentoring and motivating students to pursue academic excellence through the Honors College. We thank you and honor you.”
Badjie told the honor students that in their pursuit of excellence they must learn to be humble, resilient, think global, never give up and ‘Think Work Serve,’ the TSU motto.
He said in life success is “attributed too quickly” because one has graduated college, attained a new job, or received a promotion.
“When anyone tells me, ‘You are successful,’ I cringe because success is a journey, it is a destination,” said Badjie, who has more than 15 years experience in the investment and institutional asset management industry, including senior positions with BlackRock, a Wall Street investment firm now the largest in the world. “Success is about improving yourself every single day. It’s about pushing yourself further and further, saying, ‘I am going to do everything within my ability to continue improving myself.’”
Amber Hawkins and Wateasa Freeman, two outstanding students, listened keenly as Badjie spoke about resilience and humility.
“His (Badjie) insights on leadership and not giving up are very inspiring to help students be the best they can,” said Hawkins, a senior President’s List scholar from Memphis majoring in political science.
For Freeman, a psychology major with a 3.8 GPA from Columbus, Ohio, Badjie was just the “right person for this occasion.”
“Today is very significant and means a lot to honor academic greatness, and he exemplifies that,” said Freeman. “His achievements show he is truly an example of the excellence on display today.”
Badjie, a native of Gambia, recounted difficulties he faced trying to fulfill a dream of obtaining a college degree, such as scholarship offers not materializing. But his luck would soon change in a chanced meeting with Dr. James Hefner during a forum at Mississippi Valley State University.
“At the program I sat next to this man I didn’t know and offered my seat to his wife, who came in later,” Badjie said. “Apparently, the man was impressed by the courtesy and my knowledge of the discussion at the forum. He struck a conversation with me in which I told him about my difficulties. He introduced himself as president of Tennessee State University and offered me a full scholarship to TSU.”
At TSU, Badjie majored in political science, was on the Dean’s List every semester, joined the Honors Program, tutored math and accounting majors, was a member of the Honda All-Stars debate team, and graduated with honors.
“So, every part of my life has always been about setbacks and how I reacted,” he said. “It’s always been about taking the opportunity. So, for me, TSU was the ultimate dream because I had nothing.
“Never give up. People will always doubt you. Dream big; dream beyond your possibilities. Imagine anything you can imagine right now. Never let anyone tell you, “You can’t.”
With a combined roster of 98 for fall and spring, the Honors College will graduate its largest class in school history this year, compared to 67 in 2017 and 42 in 2016.
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With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.