All posts by Emmanuel Freeman

TSU graduate beats the odds, proves that determination is key to success

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Wanya Smith will be honored virtually along with hundreds of graduates at Tennessee State University’s fall commencement on Saturday. But when he envisions himself actually walking across the stage to get his undergraduate degree, following closely behind are his children, Noah, 3 and Gabrielle, 3.  

Wanya Smith wants to be a school resource management director to help struggling families. (Submitted Photo)

Smith fathered the two children during his sophomore year at TSU. For some, the responsibility of actively caring for two children and balancing that with schoolwork might be too much. But not Smith. The sixth of 10 children, he had come to college determined to earn a degree – the first in his family to achieve that feat – and nothing was going to stop him.   

It hasn’t. On Nov. 28, Smith will be among more than 700 students who will receive undergraduate and graduate degrees. The 24-year-old is graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, with a concentration in Child Development and Family Studies.  

“I am actually split between being happy and feeling like, ‘It’s about time,’” says Smith, when asked about his excitement of graduating in spite of the struggles he faced during his matriculation.   

“I have been struggling with being excited for the last couple of months knowing that graduation is approaching, because it’s taken me much longer than what it was supposed to. I do know it is a big accomplishment knowing where I am coming from, where nine times out of 10 a regular person wouldn’t be where I am, with all the adversities.” 

Making it through college with mounting responsibilities of childcare for two toddlers, maintaining an off-campus apartment and schoolwork, amounted to a huge struggle that resulted in him staying longer in college, says Smith. To make it, he at times worked two full-time jobs, seven days a week overnight.   

Noah Smith helps daddy put on his graduation cap before the big ceremony. (Submitted Photo)

“I had to prepare for the kids coming and so I had to save up, and pay for my apartment, but I was not going to drop out,” says Smith. “After the children were born, I kept up having two jobs. I worked during the day at Dominos and then at night I worked as a valet downtown on Broadway. Of course, my grades started falling, I lost the only two scholarships I had, I changed major and that put me behind, but I was determined not to drop out,” says Smith, of Memphis, Tennessee.   

He says the thought of caring for two kids at such a young age did not seem so overwhelming, drawing from his experience of caring for four younger siblings, while growing up at home. Additionally, he says he surrounded himself with very caring mentors at TSU who motivated him.   

“I was mentally prepared,” he says. “I had to push on no matter the difficult days. The thought of my own two children and their future, and younger siblings looking up to me drove me to keep going and not give up or drop out.”  

Dr. Margaret E. Machara, professor of child development and family studies, who not only taught Smith, but was aware of his situation, calls the young man “an engaged student and an incredible individual.”  

“Wanya hasn’t had an easy road to achieve his degree, but even with his challenges, he’s progressed through the requirements in a determined manner,” says Machara. “He’s a proud father, who not only is making a difference in his childrens’ lives, but also looks for ways to improve conditions in the wider society. With his easy manner and mature sense of responsibility, Wanya will definitely make TSU proud.”  

George Davis, a TSU graduate and a mentor, met Smith when he (Smith) showed interest in joining Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. He describes Smith as “a resilient person.” 

“Wanya has the ability to adapt to his surrounding very quickly and very easily,” says Davis, who earned graduate and undergraduate degrees at TSU. “I really think that when Wanya encounters what others consider impossibility, he sees possibility. He always puts 100 percent in everything that he does. He is a resilient young man who can withstand a lot.” 

Smith says co-parenting is vitally important to him, and that he is actively involved in caring for his little boy and girl. For a career, Smith wants to become a school resource management director, to work exclusively with struggling families with young children, to help them get the resources they need.   

Amid his hectic college career, Smith also remained active in extracurricularactivities. Besides his fraternity, he is also a member of Hypnotize Dance Troupe, and Black Incorporated. He also helped establish Find Out Dance Troupe at TSU during his sophomore year. 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

Yamiche Alcindor, renowned journalist and White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, will give the address at TSU’s virtual fall commencement Nov. 28

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Yamiche Alcindor, a renowned journalist and White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, will deliver the commencement address when Tennessee State University holds its second virtual graduation ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 28.

The fall commencement will begin at 9 a.m. and will be livestreamed on the TSU homepage (www.tnstate.edu), YouTube (www.tnstate.edu/youtube) and Facebook (www.tnstate.edu/facebook).

More than 700 undergraduate and graduate students will receive degrees in various disciplines. 

Alcindor, noted for telling stories about the “intersection of race and politics,” has directly questioned President Donald Trump a number of times on a range of issues, including the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on black people and communities of color, the protests following the death of George Floyd, and the consequences of the President’s immigration policies. 

A contributor for NBC and MSNBC, Alcindor often appears on a number of shows, including “Morning Joe,” “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” and “Meet the Press” with Chuck Todd. She previously worked as a national political reporter for The New York Times, where she covered the presidential campaigns of Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), as well as Congress. She also wrote about the impact of President Trump’s policies on working class people and people of color. 

Before joining The Times, Alcindor was a national breaking news reporter for USA Today and traveled across the country to cover stories, including the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut., the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and the police-related protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore. 

In 2020, the White House Correspondents’ Association named Alcindor the recipient of the Aldo Beckman Award for Overall Excellence in White House Coverage, and the National Association of Black Journalists named her Journalist of the Year. She has also been honored with the Gwen Ifill Next Generation Award by Simmons University. 

A native of Miami, Florida, Alcindor holds a master’s degree in broadcast news and documentary filmmaking from New York University, and a bachelor’s in English, government and African American studies from Georgetown University. 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU, Publix partner to offer students free flu vaccines

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is offering free flu vaccines to all students through a partnership with Publix. On Nov. 10, nurses from Publix Pharmacy made their first campus visit to administer the vaccines. Students who signed up to be vaccinated also received a $10 Publix discount card.  

Graduate student JC DeMarko V. Burnett-Gordon gets his flu shot in Kean Hall. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

Kirsten Cole, a sophomore health science major from Chicago; and JC DeMarko V. Burnett-Gordon, a second-year graduate student from Nashville, were among the first students in line to get vaccinated. 

“I am really glad to get this (shot) for free,” said Cole. “I hope other schools are making this easy for their students because these are really scary times for us, especially being this far away from home.” 

For Burnett-Gordon, who lives off campus, he is also glad “TSU is stepping up” to keep its students safe. 

“There is a whole lot going on out there with COVID and everything else,” he said. “It is nice to get this out of the way, so there is no mix-up.” 

Publix Pharmacy nurses make their first campus visit to administer the free flu shots to TSU students. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

The TSU Student Health Center, which is working with Publix to administer the flu shots, strongly encourages students to take advantage of the free opportunity.

Dana Humphrey, head nurse in the Student Health Center, said based on student needs, the center will coordinate with Publix to determine dates and times for subsequent campus visits.

Ordinarily, she said it costs about $30 for a flu shot, but the university is underwriting the cost for students. The shots are also available to employees through their insurance. When being administered on campus, the vaccines are available on a walk-in basis. No appointment is necessary, but students must first check with the Student Health Center for the schedule. 

With the new surge in COVID-19, combined with the seasonal flu this winter, officials say this could put a serious strain on the health care system. Accordingly, public health experts are encouraging adults to get their flu shots to reduce the chances of hospitals being overcrowded with patients. 

“The flu season and corona could confuse people because we have probably 10 diseases that have the same symptoms as the coronavirus,” said Dr. Wendelyn Inman, a TSU professor and infectious disease expert. “It is difficult to tell if you have corona or the flu. I would advise people to go for their flu shot, so that you know that at least you have that covered.” 

Inman, who is also director of public health programs in the College of Health Sciences, was previously chief of epidemiology for the State of Tennessee. 

Dr. Carolyn Davis, TSU’s assistant vice president for student affairs, said making the flu shots available to students was just the right thing to do. 

“The health and safety of our students is always a major priority,” said Davis. “We made the vaccine free to our students to make sure they know it is available to them and right here on campus for their convenience. We are thankful to Publix for coming on our campus to administer the vaccine.” 

According to CDC guidelines, annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, with rare exceptions, because it is an effective way to decrease flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.   

For more information on the Student Health Center, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/campus_life/healthcenter_brochure%20072914a.pdf 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

NBA Star, TSU Alum Robert Covington credits alma mater for his success, gifts donation for new construction project

By TSU Athletics Media Relations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Houston Rockets forward Rob Covington is paying it forward to his alma mater Tennessee State University. In an announcement on Thursday, Nov. 12, the 2013 TSU graduate said the University played a major role in his personal and professional development, and now he will play a pivotal role in helping to develop its future basketball program at the “Covington Pavilion.”

TSU President Glenda Glover and university officials join Robert Covington and his family to kick off the Covington Pavilion project on the main campus. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

Covington’s gift is the largest of this magnitude to an HBCU by a former athlete who was a product of its program.

“I want to thank the city of Nashville for embracing me, and Coach Brian ‘Penny’ Collins, Dr. Mikki Allen (Athletics Director), President (Glenda) Glover and the University for giving me the opportunity to do something special like this,” Covington said.

“I love my alma mater, I’m not donating a new practice facility for the recognition or because I NEED to – I am doing it because I truly WANT to. I know what the school didn’t have when I was here as a student and I want future generations of kids to have the best resources available to them, to build their futures both on and off the court. I want them to step on this campus and feel like their dreams can come true here, because mine really did.”

TSU Athletics Director, Dr. Mikki Allen, left, and President Glover congratulate Robert Covington moments after the NBA star and TSU alum announced his project during a ceremony in the Gentry Center. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

Covington will fund the project, with construction slated to begin late spring in 2021. The facility will have two practice courts, locker rooms and offices for the men’s and women’s basketball programs.

“We are extremely proud of Mr. Robert Covington’s success and are grateful for his contributions to the University,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Most importantly, his success on and off the court speaks volumes about the caliber of students TSU and other HBCUs produce. We thank him, his family and the Allergic To Failure Foundation for this generous gift.”

TSU Director of Athletics Dr. Mikki Allen said the new facility will have an impact on the entire athletics program at the institution, but also speaks to Covington’s commitment to TSU.

“Rob and I have a shared vision for TSU Basketball becoming a nationally recognized program,” Allen said. “The fact that Rob has decided to make an investment of this magnitude accelerates this process and helps bring us closer to this vision becoming a reality.”

The President shares a moment with the Covington family near an architect’s rendering of the Covington Pavilion. Construction is slated to begin late Spring 2021. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“As the Director of Athletics, I’m extremely gracious and thankful for Rob becoming a stakeholder in helping to change the national trajectory of our basketball programs. The narrative is shifting in the landscape of college basketball recruiting in respect to HBCUs landing 5-star talent.  Through this historic gift, the Covington Pavilion will now undoubtedly put Tennessee State University in the mix.”


The Bellwood, Illinois native gave the TSU basketball  program a $75,000 donation back in April 2019, but is excited to take the program to the next level with this large monetary donation. Covington continues to have close ties to the University, and shares a special bond with Head Men’s Basketball Coach Penny Collins.

“Rob has been a beacon of inspiration for our student-athletes since he left Tennessee State University,” said Collins.

“To have a practice facility for our men’s and women’s basketball programs will be a game changer. It also shows how serious we are on taking the next step in being an extremely competitive program in the Ohio Valley Conference. Our players will be committed to making Rob proud. He has definitely set the bar for them to follow.”

Collins added, “Rob was already a legend and with this commitment he becomes iconic. His name and legacy will live on forever in the Land of Golden Sunshine.”

Alongside his family, Covington started a foundation named after his life mantra “Allergic To Failure” to give back to communities across the country. He and his family host annual givebacks throughout the year in his hometown of Chicago, Nashville and other NBA markets like Philadelphia, Minnesota and now Houston.

Covington said he made the best decision in attending TSU and is a proud graduate. 

“I made some of the best memories of my life at TSU,” he said. “Go to a bigger school? Nope. I wouldn’t change it for the world because the people who’ve had the most significant impact on my life, they wouldn’t be next to me today. It’s special to be at the forefront of something that can spark a major change as far as kids going to an HBCU and learning about black history, their culture and where they came from. Learning about your ancestors – you can’t always get that in the classroom. That’s a big thing, it’s very important.”

While the road to fulfill his dream of playing in the NBA took a tremendous amount of work, the small forward said it’s a path others at TSU can accomplish in any profession.

“I had an experience very few professional athletes had. It was life changing. I’m a walking product of a kid that went to an HBCU and created a narrative for myself. I feel like now is the time for change and progression all around. I’m in a great place to give back to the place that shaped who I am – not only as an athlete but as a man. My family and I are excited to be able to do this and to break ground on Covington Pavilion today!”

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

New partnership offers TSU students access to free virtual telehealth service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With the new surge in the coronavirus pandemic, TSU students who may not be comfortable leaving their room for a doctor’s visit, now have a new option – a free virtual telehealth service.

TSU President Glenda Glover

The university has partnered with myURGENCYMD, a national telemedicine firm, to provide 24-hour, seven-days-a-week virtual doctor’s visits at no cost to the university’s student population. The service connects students to doctors via phone, video and email.

“This is really a good idea for some of us who are scared to venture outside of our rooms,” said Terriana Holt, a senior human performance sports science major from Nashville. “It is also good if you have a personal medical problem. You can just talk on the phone with an anonymous person and get help.”

Fellow student Dominique Davis agreed.

“I think telehealth is really beneficial to the student body because it is very convenient,” said Davis, a senior business administration major from Danville, Illinois, who is president of the Student Government Association. “With COVID, a lot of times we don’t want to come out of our room, we just have that fear. I think this program is very, very smart.”

TSU President Glenda Glover said the partnership with myURGENCYMD is very timely “to ensure the health of our students.”

Dr. Dorsha James, CEO and Chief Medical Officer of myURGENCYMD, said students will have access to board-certified physicians. (Photo by TSU TSU Media Relations)

“This is a big deal, as the safety of our students and campus community continues to be our top priority,” Glover said. “We are thankful and grateful to this company for seeing the need and coming in to help us protect the health of our students during this time.”

Dr. Dosha CEO and chief medical officer of myURGENCYMD, said under the partnership, TSU students will be able to speak with board-certified physicians who can determine the best course of treatment, and may save the student from unnecessary emergency room visits and enormous costs.

“I created this company with students in mind,” said James, a 15-year veteran emergency medicine physician. “A large number of students come to the ER because they have limited options to see a doctor. This is especially true nights and weekends when student clinics are closed.”

Dr. Dorsha James, right, and some of her staff, set up a display in Kean Hall on the main campus with information on the services myURGENCYMD provides. Accompanying Dr. James were Courtney Johnson, Director of Campus Engagement, a TSU alum; and Brandon Mimms, member of the Student Engagement Team. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

Officials said the telemedicine service allows students to request and consult with doctors for conditions such as cold and flu symptoms, sinus problems, respiratory infections, allergies, STDs, urinary tract infections, and many other non-emergency illnesses. Use of myURGENCYMD also provides electronic records that allow the Student Health Center to view all of the students’ telehealth visits.

“With the ability to keep track of telemedicine visits, we are able to ensure that all of our students, off and on-campus, receive appropriate follow-up and care,” said Dr. Ivan Davis, director of Student Health Services.

Frank Stevenson, TSU’s associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, said this is a “unique opportunity for us to provide some extended health services for our students.”

“Students now have 24/7 access to health experts that will help them navigate any issues they may have,” Stevenson said. “It is available to all of our students. We are excited about that.”

Dr. Carolyn Davis, assistant vice president of student affairs, added that the university needed an “adjunct” to care for students when campus health providers were not available.

“MyURGENCYMD’s telemedicine service filled that need and also allowed us to offer telemedicine services to our students who may be taking online courses and don’t live near campus,” she said.

For more information on student health services at TSU, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/healthcenter/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU using technology, innovative incentives to curb coronavirus spread among students and staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – College campuses across the country are using creative ways to battle the latest surge of the coronavirus. At Tennessee State University – with one of the lowest number of cases among Tennessee colleges – officials are using technology and offering incentives to students to help curb the spread of the virus among the campus population. 

Healthcare personnel say students are proactive and anxious about coming into the health center to register to be tested for the coronavirus. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

The university has stepped up its rapid testing, encourages students to do more contact tracing using a new software, and has set up electronic temperature checks around campus. Tigers Mask Up, an initiative that offers students discount cash coupons for observing proper protocols, has also been introduced. Additionally, the university encourages free discussion of the virus among students and staff. 

“It is not a taboo to talk about cases and persons who are experiencing symptoms. The open discussion helps,” says Dr. Curtis Johnson, chief of staff and head of the TSU Coronavirus Pandemic task force. 

He says the Tigers Mask Up initiative, introduced by the task force, is intended to recognize the efforts of students who go the “extra mile” to ensure compliance. 

TSU introduces a mobile app for contact tracing among the campus population.

“The task force monitors what’s going on and makes recommendations to modify activities when necessary or initiate efforts to move us ahead, and so far, our efforts are paying off,” Johnson says. 

A New York Times survey of more than 1,700 colleges and universities shows more than 214,000 cases and 75 deaths (mostly college employees) since the pandemic began, with Tennessee colleges accounting for 6,540 of those cases.  Since TSU reopened for the fall with hybrid learning, the university has reported less than 75 cases, with mostly mild to no symptoms and no hospitalization. 

Johnson and others attribute TSU’s low number to the university’s vigilance with testing and students’ overall cooperation with protocols put in place to keep them safe. The TSU Student Health Center is averaging between 50-100 students who come in per day to be tested. 

Tigers Mask Up initiative recognizes the efforts of students who go the “extra mile” to ensure compliance. 

Dana Humphrey, head nurse of the Student Health Center, says testing is going very well and students are very open to coming in to get tested. 

“The kids are really engaged and trying to come and get tested,” she says. “They are proactive and really anxious about follow-ups and making sure they are healthy.” 

Frequent testing is widely encouraged among the student population. In fact, the Aristocrat of Bands, and all sports program on campus have made testing mandatory for their members. Band members are required to test once a week if they live on campus, and twice a week if they live off campus. Members of all sports programs are required to test once a week. 

Kristian Davis, a freshman biology major from Birmingham, Alabama; and Terriana Holt, a senior human performance sports science major, have tested a combined 15 times. Davis was positive on her first test and went into mandatory quarantine. She says she came into contact with someone who was positive. Davis has since been cleared. 

“I have been tested six times,” she says. “I tested positive and went into isolation for two weeks. The staff was really nice, making sure I had everything I needed. I am glad TSU is making sure we are safe.” 

For Holt, a member of the AOB, where she plays the trumpet, the experience with frequent testing “is no sweat,” she says. 

“I really don’t mind because it is for my health and for the health of my fellow band members and the health of the school in general,” says Holt, who has tested nine times. “I see it as just a precaution.” 

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, says students who test positive for COVID-19 are placed in an area identified as IQ, or isolation and quarantine zone where they receive “round the clock” service, including a health professional, meal service delivered three times a day, laundry service, and medication if needed. 

“We have had great success managing students who have tested positive in providing a safe and comfortable space for them to be in while they go through their time period mandated by the CDC,” says Stevenson. “We’ve had a couple of students who were taken to the hospital for checkup, but none have been admitted or hospitalized. For the most part, 95 percent of the students that we’ve encountered have had very mild to no symptoms.” 

Dr. William Hytche, assistant vice president of students affairs, manages activities in the IQ zone. He says students with positive cases are put in quarantine, while those who have been exposed or have been around someone who is positive, are put in isolation. Those in isolation are given a resting period to see if they develop the virus. In either case, a student stays in the IQ zone for a minimum of 10 days. To be released, Hytche says a student must be tested and produce two negative results over two days. 

“Students in the IQ zone have access to medical staff and must give a daily report of how they feel,” says Hytche. In addition to help with the student’s physical health, mental health services are also available. 

“If a student feels like, “The walls are closing in on me’, we get the university counselors involved who contact the student and evaluate their situation,” ‘Hytche says.

For updates or information on TSU’s COVID-19 protocols, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/return/ 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU unveils 500-pound bronze tiger statue on main campus as part of ‘Big Blue’ pride

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Calling it a symbol of strength and a representation of its Big Blue pride, Tennessee State University has unveiled a tiger statue on the main campus to coincide with this year’s virtual Homecoming ceremonies.

President Glenda Glover, administrators, staff, student representatives, alumni and community officials participate in the unveiling ceremony on the main campus. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

The specially commissioned bronze 6-foot long sculpture, weighing in at 500 pounds, was unveiled Oct. 23 in a virtual ceremony. Observing appropriate social distancing, TSU President Glenda Glover led student representatives, administrators, staff, alumni and community officials in an elaborate ceremony to showcase the new campus attraction. 

TSU’s renowned Aristocrat of Bands was on hand to provide entertainment.

The President acknowledges members of the AOB, student leaders and guests moments before she officially unveiled the new campus attraction. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“Today is a special day as we unveil a monument that will represent the spirit of TSU for the next 100 years,” Glover said to a round of applause. “Generations will mark their presence on this campus in front of this great tiger statue. Tigers are resilient, strong and powerful, as we are. Tigers are determined and confident as we are.” 

The Tiger, standing nearly 7 feet and mounted on a custom-made marble base, is located in front of the Floyd-Payne Campus Center across from the McWherter Circle. 

Glover congratulated the leadership of the last Student Government Association for conceiving the idea of the statue created by nationally recognized sculptor David Clark, who created Tom the Tiger at the University of Memphis.  

Outgoing SGA President Katelyn Thompson and members of her administration conceived the idea for the tiger statue. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“I want to thank our very courageous students and the student government leadership for their foresight,” she added, noting the university’s resilience during the pandemic. “This tiger statue is a symbol to the world that TSU is strong.” 

Katelyn Thompson, the outgoing SGA president, who spearheaded the project, thanked President Glover, her fellow students and the office of Student Affairs for their support in making the project a reality. 

“On this historic moment, we have waited patiently for this day. We brought this idea to the table and we all came together to create history,” Thompson said. “I want to personally thank the sculptor, Dr. Glover, Dean (Frank) Stevenson, Dr. (Tobias) Morgan, alumni, faculty and staff, but most importantly, our students. It was you who always kept pushing to keep going and continue on the legacy of tiger pride.” 

Tennessee State Sen. Brenda Gilmore, and Davidson County Council-At-Large member Sharon Hurt, two TSU alums and staunch supporters, were among officials who attended the unveiling. 

 “I just want to commend these student leaders who had the vision to even know before the pandemic that we would need a strong symbol that will represent TSU going forward,” Gilmore said. “This tiger captures the spirit of each one of you. I commend you Dr. Glover, the staff and everybody.” 

Also speaking were Grant Winrow, chair of the Homecoming committee, and Dominique Davis, the newly installed president of the SGA. 

Winrow referred to the Tiger statue as “something wonderful that will be on this campus forever.” 

“We are so excited this morning,” he said, citing the sculpture as a major achievement. “When you come here to learn and go forth to serve, this is what you get. You get people who have strived to do great things in this world.” 

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students, who was charged with bringing the tiger project to fruition just before the coronavirus pandemic, also thanked President Glover and the administration for their support. He gave special recognition to individuals in Facilities Management, Student Activities, the AOB and the office of Business and Finance. 

“When the idea was advanced, Dr. Glover instructed us to ‘make it happen’ and we moved right along,” Stevenson said, lamenting the onset of the pandemic just as the project started.  

“By the time they had created the head of the tiger, we sent all of our students home after being introduced to a pandemic that this country had not seen in a hundred years. The tiger kept being developed, the sculptor kept moving forward and with nobody on campus, the tiger was delivered in a box and put in storage. We are so proud of the many people who worked to get it out here today.” 

The excitement about the tiger among students was overwhelming. At a pep rally in Hale Stadium as part of the unveiling ceremony, this is how four students described the new attraction on their campus. 

Historical” – Julien Dooley, senior commercial music major from Atlanta 

Prenominal” – Cameron Brown, Mass Communications major from Birmingham, Alabama 

Legacy” – Tiara Thomas – Junior Political Science major from Olive Branch, Mississippi 

Groundbreaking” – Javia Dycus, junior Health Sciences major from Indianapolis, Indiana

According to Stevenson, a naming competition opened to students, staff, alumni and the community, will be held later to come up with an appropriate name for the tiger.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU continues Homecoming tradition with virtual coronation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University continued a Homecoming tradition with the crowning of a new Mister and Miss TSU and the royal Court. For the first time ever, the coronation was held virtually due to COVID-19 with all the usual glitz and glamour that the ceremony is noted for displaying.

President Glenda Glover

Hundreds of people — including parents, relatives, friends, fellow students and alumni — tuned in Friday night to witness the coronation of Naton Smith, Jr., and Mariah Rhodes, and their court. 

TSU President Glenda Glover congratulated the new king and queen after giving them the oath of office. Dr. William Hytche, assistant vice president of student affairs, followed the president. He charged the two students to take their roles seriously. 

“Taking on the responsibility of Mr. TSU and Miss TSU is steep in tradition, as many are looking up to you,” Hytche said. “This coronation with all of its tradition, is a time to celebrate our university and its heritage. Continue to shape our future here at TSU for those who come after you.” 

Moments before their coronation, the new Mister and Miss TSU entertained guests to a Hollywood-style stage production of “Cinderella.” Mariah Rhodes played Cinderella and Naton Smith, Jr., played the prince. (Submitted Photo)

Smith, a senior health sciences major from St. Louis, said as a student leader, his goal as Mister TSU is to continue building community and giving a voice to the voiceless. 

“I want TSU to continue being excellent and continue to break barriers,” Smith said. “During these tough times in our country and communities, it’s important for us to continue to stand together and be on one accord.”  

With a 3.2 grade point average, Smith is a member of the Honors College, and the Men’s Initiative, which focuses on character development, social engagement and mentorship for male students. He wants to become a doctor of physical therapy to work in the NBA. Eventually, Smith wants to open his own PT clinics in his community to cater to people who cannot afford health insurance.

Outgoing Mister TSU Damyr Moore and Miss TSU Jada Crisp crown the new queen. (Submitted Photo)

Rhodes, who becomes the 90th Miss TSU, is from Memphis, Tennessee. She is a senior political science major with a 4.0 GPA. She said although the university is cutting down on activities because of the pandemic, she plans to implement a number of events virtually to keep the students engaged. 

“This year is going to look different, but we are going to make sure students are part of everything,” said Rhodes. “We will be more transparent with students, making sure they are included in all decisions we make.”  

Rhodes wants to become a lawyer and eventually enter politics as an elected official focusing on education and criminal justice reform. She is the Student Court Chief Justice, an HBCU White House Competitiveness Scholar, and an honors intern with the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Dr. Tobias Morgan, assistant dean of student engagement and leadership, admonished the new king and queen to continue to uplift the spirit of the university. 

“Naton and Maria, Mister and Miss TSU, continue to shine,” he said “I am proud of you. Continue to uplift the campus community while making a distinct change because united, we all will rise.” 

Also speaking were Tiara Thomas, student trustee on the TSU Board of Trustees; and Dominique Davis, president of the SGA. 

Members of the new Royal Court are:

Mister Senior – Michael Caldwell, Mechanical Engineering – Atlanta

Miss Senior – Morgan Jackson, Health Sciences – Montgomery, Alabama

Mister Junior – Mario Eberhart, Health Management/Business – Atlanta

Miss Junior – Mallory Moore, Health Science – Birmingham – Alabama

Mister Sophomore – Widmark J. Cadet, Jr., Business Administration/Marketing – Chester, Virginia

Miss Sophomore – Kellyn Paige, Nursing – Jackson, Mississippi

Mister Freshman – Jordin Russell, Business Information Systems/Secondary Education – Huntsville, Alabama

Miss Freshman – Taryn Henry, Cardiopulmonary Science/Respiratory Therapy – Tallahassee, Florida.  

Moments before the coronation, the evening was kicked off with a Hollywood-style stage production of “Cinderella.” Backed by a beautiful cast including members of the royal court, Rhodes played Cinderella and Smith played the prince. Alicia Jones, former Miss TSU, played Cinderella’s fairy godmother. 

In place of the traditional Homecoming, TSU this year held a weekend of activities Oct. 23-25 under the theme, “Essentially TSU – We’re In This Together!” Other events during the weekend included a virtual scholarship gala, a homecoming tradition, and a Gospel Brunch hosted by TSU alum Dr. Bobby Jones, known in many circles as the Ambassador of Gospel Entertainment. 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State University

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU provides transportation for first-time student voters as election nears

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is continuing its GOTV (get out the vote) student initiative and has partnered with a private foundation to help students who want to vote early.  

The University’s Office of Student Affairs partnered with the Andrew Goodman Foundation to provide free transportation for students from Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee, to go home and early vote. The Andrew Goodman Foundation provided funding for transportation and food for students. 

The bus load of students, who are all registered first-time voters, left the TSU campus early on Saturday, Oct. 24, and returned later that evening after the students cast their ballots.

Kaya Johnson

Tennessee law requires that an individual voting for the first time must appear in person to vote early at either the county election commission office or at a satellite voting location. A large number of TSU students come from Memphis.  

Kaya Johnson, a freshman biology major, said this election is very crucial and she is glad TSU is helping to make sure students’ voices are heard.  

“It makes me feel like they really care about making sure our votes are counted,” Johnson said. “I don’t think a lot of schools are doing it. Voting for the first time, I am a little nervous, but I feel like I will choose the right person.”   

Fellow student Barrington Stanford, a sophomore aeronautical and industrial technology major, agreed.  

Barrington Stanford

 “To cast my vote for the first time, it is a blessing,” he said. “The fact that TSU is really stepping up and making sure that effort is made to get us to vote early really means a lot.”  

Students from Memphis are the second largest student population on campus.

Dr. Andre Bean, director of the TSU Men’s Initiative, who is coordinating the bus trip, said the goal is not only to get the students to vote, but to have a positive experience as first-time voters.  

“We just wanted to make sure that the students are able to get back home and vote early,” Bean said. “We wanted to make sure these students, especially with their requiring to vote in person, have an opportunity to vote.”  

Students will leave campus Saturday morning heading to Memphis, and will return after everyone has voted.

Inspired by slain ‘60s civil rights activist Andrew Goodman, the Andrew Goodman Foundation works to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy. The group supports youth leadership development, voting accessibility, and social justice initiatives on campuses across the country. 

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU students get ‘Dream Space’; virtual ribbon-cutting highlights university, industry commitment to excellence

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Dream of an initiative that puts smart devices in students’ hands and gives them a space to learn, explore and play all at the same time. Through a partnership with Vulcan Materials Company and its visionary The Yard initiative, students at Tennessee State University now have that opportunity with an all-new Dream Space. 

President Glenda Glover

Uniquely located in the Floyd Payne Campus Center, and equipped with Apple TVs, iPads, multiple monitors with camera systems, ideation resource tools and eco-furniture, the set-up in the Dream Space allows students to achieve collaborative learning.

 “I am just super excited about this Dream Space; it is awesome,” said Destiny Pennington, a junior public relations major from Detroit, at the virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new innovation center.

Mister TSU Naton Smith and Miss TSU Mariah Rhodes cut the ribbon to the Dream Space. (TSU Media Relations)

Fellow student Jeffrey Reed, a freshman business administration major from St. Louis, Missouri, was equally elated.

“Just imagine a place where you can sit right on campus and interact with CEOs from anywhere and gain knowledge about the professional world. This a great opportunity for students at this university,” Reed said.

President Glenda Glover recently led a host of university administrators, Vulcan officials, and student leaders in a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony, highlighting TSU’s commitment to support student ideas, scholarships and internships. The president described the Dream Space as “a major, positive investment in our students.”

“When you invest in TSU, you are investing in our best and brightest,” she told Vulcan Materials Company and its partner, The Yard.

“I would like to personally thank you for helping TSU to continue to empower tomorrow’s generation today. The Dream Space Reveal today would not have been possible without your generous contribution.  We recognize your commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity. We welcome your commitment to our students.

Darren Hicks, Vice President of Human Relations, Vulcan Materials Company, speaks at the virtual ribbon-cutting.

Last year, Vulcan Materials Company announced plans to support academic excellence programs at historically black colleges and universities. The company partnered with The Yard and built “a unique relationship” with HBCUs in the Southeast, including TSU. The company said Dream Space connects tech, talent and culture to advance innovation, infrastructure and inclusion, as well as a way for students to achieve academic success through technology and virtual learning to become entrepreneurs and successful employees. 

As part of the initiative, Vulcan and The Yard also launched the “Pitch Competition, as a pipeline for HBCU “students to go from classroom to boardroom.” The competition allows students to submit and defend innovative ideas. The winning idea is pitched to companies and industry leaders.

Erskine ” Chuck” Faush, Cofounder and Chair of The Yard, interacts with a Pitch Competition participant in the Dream Space. (TSU Media Relations)

Darren Hicks, vice president of human relations for Vulcan materials Company, who led a team to TSU last year, said through the partnership with The Yard, Vulcan made a commitment to create opportunities for students through scholarships and internships.

“When we visited Tennessee State University last year, we all confirmed that the talent that exists at TSU must also become part of our Vulcan family,” Hicks said. “So, we are all excited to be a part of launching our second season with students here in our Pitch Competition. We are excited to be here as part of the unveiling of the Dream Space, and we look forward to strengthening the relationship with TSU.”

Four TSU student participants in the Pitch Competition display gift items from Vulcan Materials Company and The Yard. They are, from left, Jeffrey Reed, Destiny Pennington, Tredarius Lassiter and Davin Latiker. (TSU Media Relations)

Erskine “Chuck” Faush, cofounder and chair of The Yard, said the goal of the Dream Space is to create and invest in students with physical spaces to encourage and empower global learning. He said the $1 million commitment from Vulcan Materials to fund student ideas and collaboration, scholarships, internships, career placements and Dream Spaces are supporting local communities and global economies.

“Thanks so much for allowing us to be a part of the TSU family. This is the place where excellence lives,” Faush said. “We are really happy and moved to be a part of the next generation of leadership. Our goal is classroom to boardroom.”

The Yard Cofounder and Chair Erskine “Chuck” Faush, left, presents a check for $10,000 to TSU officials to support Pitch Competition student winners. The officials are: Frank Stevenson, Associate VP for Student Affairs; Dr. Curtis Johnson, Chief of Staff and Associate VP; and Terrance Izzard, Associate VP for admissions and recruitment. (TSU Media Relations)

He said the Pith Competition, which started last year, has awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships and grants. Six TSU students participated in the Pitch Competition Oct. 8, with ideas ranging from app development for critical needs, to innovative ways to improve campus life, like a cybercafé. The top three winners were: Widmark Cadet, first place, $4,000; Tredarius Lassiter, second place, $2,500; and Destiny Pennington, third place, $1,500.

“We created the Pitch Competition, Leadership Talks and Dream Spaces so employers can experience first hand how talent, connectivity and collaboration drive growth,” Faush said, as he presented the Vulcan check to the university for $10,000 to support the student winners at TSU.

Terrance Izzard, associate vice president for Admissions and Recruitment; Dr. Curtis Johnson, chief of staff and associate vice president for administration; and Ashley Daniel, chief engagement officer The Yard/FSE, worked with Vulcan Materials and The Yard to coordinate the setup of the Dream Space.

Izzard described the Dream Space as a place for students to share ideas, collaborate around entrepreneurship opportunities, and educational and professional development.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
615.963.5331

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.