All posts by Lucas Johnson

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remembered as a ‘giant’ on the nation’s highest court

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg may have stood a little over five feet, but those remembering her say she was a giant on the nation’s highest court, and her influence will be felt for generations.

TSU President Glenda Glover

Tennessee State University joined the country in mourning her death.

“If ever there was a crusader for justice, she was that, and more,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Early on in her legal profession, Justice Ginsburg helped to reshape history as a staunch advocate for equal protection and opportunity for women under the constitution. She consistently delivered votes on the most divisive social issues, including voting rights, health care, and affirmative action. And it is in that same spirit of perseverance, equality and justice, that we will continue her legacy.”

Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, a Women’s Studies faculty member and dean of the College of Liberal Arts at TSU, said Ginsburg “achieved icon status usually reserved for film and music stars.”

Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis

“Besides Thurgood Marshall, I cannot think of another member of SCOTUS to be this recognizable as an individual,” said Morgan-Curtis. “At 5-foot-1, she towered over everyone else on the bench. She was a giant, in her own right.” 

Morgan-Curtis added that Ginsburg’s work with the American Civil Liberties Union, where she founded the Women’s Rights Project, pushed the protections of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment for both men and women, as well as minorities.

“The fact that states cannot set different drinking ages for men and women results from Ginsburg’s work as an attorney. The protection for men as care givers comes from her work.” 

Dr. Shameka Cathey

Morgan-Curtis said Ginsburg’s majority opinions also “pushed fair and equal protection under the law, and many argue that her dissent in the Ledbetter case was the blueprint for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.”

That legislation, which dealt with equal pay and amended part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was the first bill signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2009.

Following Ginsburg’s passing, an effort is underway to replace her prior to the Nov. 3 presidential election. TSU Political Science Professor Shameka Cathey said the replacement of Ginsburg before the election “could put our country in limbo.”

“We would have a nation of people who are swinging to the left, with a Supreme Court on the right,” said Cathey, whose focus includes civil rights and African American politics. “The impact could lead to a Supreme Court turning back the clock on civil rights, voting rights, and many other vital rights central to the heart of our democracy.”

Junior Tiara Thomas

However, regardless of who replaces Ginsburg, TSU junior Tiara Thomas said her impact will not be diminished.

“Justice Ginsburg made a space for women in society, when there seemed to be none available,” said Thomas, a political science major from Olive Branch, Mississippi. “And this is what my peers and I can do to keep her legacy alive. We will continue to fight for safe spaces for ourselves, to advance and change the world.” 

To learn more about Women’s Studies at TSU, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/cla/programs/womensstudies.aspx.

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 remembers actor Barry Scott who established a theater at the University

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Current and former Tennessee State University students and faculty say the influence of alumnus Barry Scott will continue long after the accomplished actor is gone.

Scott passed away on Sept. 10 at the age of 65. One of his many accomplishments was being the founder and producing artistic director of the American Negro Playwright Theatre at Tennessee State University, where his parents and grandparents graduated.

Scott was known to be an authority on the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He wrote and starred in Ain’t Got Long to Stay Here as a tribute to King. According to a biography of Scott on the website of his management company, he was so convincing in his portrayal of King, that Coretta Scott King once cornered him between acts of a play to compliment him on his realistic portrayal of her husband.

Scott’s acting credits include television’s “I’ll Fly Away” and “In the Heat of the Night.” He was also a member of the Screen Actors Guild, Actor’s Equity Association, American Film Radio and Television Association and served on the board of the Tennessee Arts Commission.

Scott’s voice could be heard on commercials and PSAs around the country. He did voice work for ESPN, CBS, ABC, NBC, Disney, SPIKE TV – TNA Wrestling, The Discovery Channel, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, McDonalds, The American Heart Association and more.

TSU senior Jayla Barnes of Franklin, Tennessee, says she’s proud to follow in Scott’s footsteps.

“He paved the way for me,” says Barnes, a communications major with a concentration in theater. “Having had someone of his caliber at TSU, and being able to say that I go to the college that Barry Scott was once at, is amazing,”

Theater major Justin Gunn agrees.

“inside TSU’s Performing Arts Center are posters of different plays, and there are some that Mr. Scott directed, like Romeo and Juliet,” says Gunn, a senior from Chicago. “Now, when I look at those posters, I think about him, and his influence.”

Former TSU dean of students Barbara Murrell says she admired Scott’s “focus on his craft.”

“I had great respect for him,” says Murrell, who each TSU homecoming has an oratorical contest in honor of her late husband, Robert N. Murrell. “He was a gentleman, and a talented actor and orator.”

Lawrence James is a professor of theater at TSU and former interim head of the university’s Communications Department. He says Scott’s theater company was among the first that was “founded by an African American and that produced predominantly black material.”

“A number of our students worked with him and for him,” says James. “I know they will carry a lot of what he gave to them during his time here at TSU.”     

TSU alumnus Jeff Obafemi Carr, also an actor, wrote in a blog about his opportunity as a youth to act in a passion play opposite the older Scott.

“Even then, Barry Scott was one of our heroes,” recalls Carr. “We couldn’t believe the number of lines he held in his memory with just a few days of practice. I still recall the pride in being cast in my first cameo role opposite Barry, as Pontius Pilate.”

Carr adds that Scott was an excellent mentor and someone he and his friends wanted to emulate.

“We wanted the power, presence, and voice this man projected. This man who looked like us; this man who was one of us.“

NOTE: The featured design is from Jeff Carr’s blog. To read his blog, visit: https://bit.ly/3mlChts.

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 remembers trailblazing golf coach Dr. Catana Starks

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Dr. Catana Starks, a Tennessee State University alumna who became the first African-American woman to coach an all-men’s team at the collegiate level, is being remembered as a humble trailblazer whose legacy will live on in those she inspired.

Dr. Catana Starks

The history-making golf coach, whose story was made into a movie in which she was portrayed by Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson, passed away Sunday at the age of 75.

“Our hearts are saddened by the passing of Dr. Catana Starks,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “She was a trailblazer, a true champion, whose legacy will continue in all those she inspired, on and off the golf course. Dr. Starks epitomized the excellence that TSU strives to instill in all its students. The thoughts and prayers of the entire TSU family are with her family and loved ones.”

Starks coached the TSU men’s golf team from 1986 until 2005 when she led the Tigers to a National Minority Golf Championship. The team shot a record-setting 840 as a unit.

Starks returned to Nashville in 1980 to become the swimming coach for the Tigers. When TSU entered the Ohio Valley Conference, the athletic department dropped the swimming program to add golf and named Starks as the head coach.

During her time as a coach, Starks earned her doctorate degree, began teaching, and eventually became the department head of Human Performance and Sports Sciences at TSU.

Under her guidance, the team also produced Sean Foley, who went on to be Tiger Woods’ swing coach; Sam Puryear, who became the first African American men’s head golf coach in any major conference (Michigan State); and Robert Dinwiddie, an All-American who went on to play on the European professional tour.

Puryear called Starks a “true coach.”

“She was a true advocate and believer in the term student-athlete,” said Puryear. “She helped make me a better student, athlete and now coach. I am paying a lot of her messages and lessons forward.”

Former TSU golfer Eric Wilhite (1988-92) said Starks was “like a second mom for our entire golf team.”

“I have so many memories and learned a ton of life lessons that I continue to practice today,” said Wilhite. “Her dedication to the TSU golf program was amazing. But her commitment to develop us as men is what I appreciated the most. I am very grateful I had a chance to play for a special person and TSU Legend.”

In 2011, Starks’ story inspired the movie “From the Rough” starring the late Michael Clarke Duncan and Henson, who portrays a fictionalized version of Starks named Cassandra Turner. The character parlays a successful stint as coach of a women’s swim team at a historically black university into a shot at building a men’s golf team. With the availability of black players scarce, Turner scours Europe, Australia and Asia for hidden talent and constructs a uniquely multi-racial team.

Michael Critelli, a producer who helped develop the film’s story, said what stood out most about Starks when he talked to her was her humbleness.

“She was a very humble woman, who was very reluctant to talk about her many accomplishments,” said Critelli. “One of the of the biggest challenges I had constructing her life story for the film was that she would not brag about what she had done. I would have to find out about her achievements from other people.”

And it is through others, that Starks will live on, added Critelli.

“Her legacy is most pronounced in the many people she inspired, and who are inspiring others through her example,” he said.

 To learn more about golf at TSU and other sports, visit https://www.tsutigers.com/mgolf/.

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 $20K from Tractor Supply company to address students’ needs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is using a $20,000 donation from Tractor Supply Company to help fulfill the needs of students, particularly during the pandemic.

The funds will be used by TSU’s College of Agriculture to help “students in need of financial support,” says Dr. Chandra Reddy, the college’s dean.

Braxton Simpson

“We are very excited and are very thankful to Tractor Supply Company for this support,” says Reddy. “We have so many needs in the college, but our biggest need is providing support to outstanding students that are in dire need of funding. This investment in our students by Tractor Supply company will go a long way in preparing future agricultural leaders in the country.”

TSU senior Braxton Simpson of Atlanta is majoring in agricultural business. She says she’s glad the funding will be used to help students with financial hardships, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It allows students to stay focused and not worry about paying for school,” says Braxton. “We’re very grateful for the donation.”

Jamie Isabel with advancement and university relations at TSU says the contribution is the “impetus of a major relationship that we are currently working on” with Tractor Supply.

“Our students, graduates will be very pleased to have Tractor Supply as a corporate partner,” says Isabel. “The contribution is indicative of the support that TSU is receiving from corporate America.”

Over the last several months, TSU has worked diligently to ensure students have the tools they need to complete their coursework as a result of COVID-19.

Emmanuel Wallace

In March, TSU students had to transition to remote learning because of the coronavirus. The University purchased laptops and tablets for those students who needed them. TSU recently resumed classes for the fall, but has an alternate plan that includes students continuing to learn remotely if there’s a surge in COVID-19 cases.

TSU junior Emmanuel Wallace of Memphis, Tennessee, is an agriculture major concentrating on food and animal sciences with a pre-vet focus. He says he’s pleased with the University’s effort to help students, and is grateful for the contribution from Tractor Supply.

“As a whole, TSU is doing everything it can,” says Wallace. “This (donation) is very helpful, especially during the pandemic.”

To learn more about the College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

For more on TSU operations affected by the coronavirus, and student information, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/covid19.

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 economists discuss nation’s coin shortage with disappearance of pocket change during COVID-19

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University economists are expressing their views about what’s being done to address the nation’s coin shortage. They agree the coronavirus is a factor, but one says the issue actually began before the pandemic.

Dr. Achintya Ray

With more people staying home because of COVID-19, buying less and shifting their spending online, the natural flow of pocket change through banks, restaurants and retail stores has dried up. Businesses are feeling the pinch, and have gone as far as making announcements and posting signs to make customers aware while they shop.

TSU economist Dr. Achintya Ray says he believes there’s a deeper issue that began even before COVID-19.

“The coin shortage is definitely driven in part by the pandemic,” says Ray. “However, the decline in the circulation of coins is also driven by a movement toward cashless transactions that has been going on for some time. The pandemic has accelerated that movement.”

To boost circulation, the U.S. Mint is on track to produce more coins this year than it has in almost two decades, roughly $1.6 billion in coins a month, says TSU economist Dr. Fadi Fawaz. And then there are the businesses inviting people to bring in their rolled coins in exchange for cash, and maybe even a free sandwich, like one Chick-fil-A in a South Carolina mall.

“All of this is helpful,” says Fawaz, who is also a financial expert. “But the main thing is for people just to use them (coins) more.”

The current coin shortage is not new in American history. Fawaz recalls the penny shortage in 1999.

“We had what we called the penny drought, where people weren’t interested in using pennies anymore,” says Fawaz. “They started storing them in jars. Businesses back then were buying jars of pennies.”

The U.S. Mint back then did something similar to what it’s doing now.

In the first quarter of 1997, the Mint produced 2.1 billion pennies. In 1998, that increased 29 percent to 2.7 billion pennies and in 1999 it produced 3.6 billion pennies. It eventually stepped up its penny production to six days a week, 24 hours a day.

Dr. Fadi Fawaz

Ray says the use of “cash and coins may also be tied to socioeconomic status,” adding that there should be more of an effort to help individuals who are “unbanked or underbanked.”

“Sections of the society that are not closely tied to the financial system are going to be disproportionately affected by the coin shortage and movement to a cashless society,” he says.

“A quarter of the U.S. households are either unbanked or underbanked and they have very limited means to successfully participate in a cashless society. Focusing on a more inclusive financial system and reducing the unbanked population are going to be key” in helping resolve the problem.

In July, the U.S. Coin Task Force was established to pinpoint how to restart the supply chain. And last month, the Mint put out a public service announcement, with the head of the mint asking Americans to use exact change when making purchases and to turn coins in for cash at coin recycling kiosks. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted out a call for people to “help get coins moving!” by spending any extra change they have at home or depositing coins at a bank. 

For more information about TSU’s Department of Economics and Finance, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/economics/faculty_staff.aspx

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, UT partnership prepares Ag students for success in vet school

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University has partnered with the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UT-CVM) to help TSU agriculture students transition to vet school once they complete their degrees.

College of Ag Dean Dr. Chandra Reddy

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) identifies qualified TSU freshmen and immediately sets them on an academic trajectory to successfully meet the requirements for admission into UT-CVM, or other institutions of veterinary medicine.

“The MOU between TSU’s College of Agriculture and UT’s College of Veterinary Medicine provides a pathway for students majoring in animal science at TSU to get into the veterinary school at UT. We are very pleased with this new arrangement between the schools,” said TSU College of Agriculture Dean Chandra Reddy, who was instrumental in finalizing the agreement.

“It will help increase minorities in the veterinary profession and help us prepare our students appropriately for veterinary college. Health care for pets is a huge demand in society today. Many of our students are interested in the veterinary profession and we welcome this opportunity to prepare and place students in this competitive and demanding field.”

Dr. Mike Jones, director of Student Services, Diversity, and Recruitment at UT-CVM, shared Dr. Reddy’s sentiment about the TSU and UT-CVM Pre-Veterinary Emphasis (PVE) Scholars Program. 

Dr. De’Etra Young

“I’m very excited about it,” said Jones. “Veterinary medicine is considered one of the least diverse of all health care professions. We want to serve the needs of the underserved.”

The agreement between the universities began in 2016 when Jones, a UT-CVM professor of Avian and Zoological Medicine, came to TSU to speak to agriculture students in the student organization Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS). Dr. James P. Thompson, the dean of UT-CVM, sent Jones with the mission to form an agreement with TSU to recruit its students into UT’s vet college.

There, Jones met Dr. De’Etra Young, the MANRRS advisor, who works closely with TSU’s top students. For the next four years, Jones and Young worked on the MOU, which was signed in June.

“We are excited to enter this new partnership with UT-CVM,” said Young, who is now interim associate dean of Academics and Land-grant Programs at the College. “We are increasing our efforts to provide experiential learning and hands-on experiences to prepare our students for graduate studies or the workforce. This new arrangement will assist us in preparing our students appropriately for veterinary school.”

TSU sophomore Cierra Woods, pre-vet focus

Students will be notified in September if they are accepted into the program. The students will be assigned mentors — one each from TSU and UT-CVM. The mentors will work together to advise each student, monitor their progress, ensure ongoing commitment, and support other training opportunities, such as summer jobs or internships.

Assistant Professor Carollyn Boykins-Winrow teaches animal science classes at TSU and will be serving as mentor to the students selected for the program.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the students,” said Boykins-Winrow. “The students will know what to expect from UT and UT will know the preparation the student went through to get there.”

TSU junior Emmanuel Wallace is an agriculture major concentrating on food and animal sciences with a pre-vet focus.He agreed the programwill be beneficial to freshman students.

“I think it is awesome,” said Wallace, of Memphis, Tennessee. “It will tell them what classes they need to take, as well as give them the overall hands-on experience they need to be successful.”

TSU junior Emmanuel Wallace, pre-vet focus

Cierra Woods, a sophomore Ag major at TSU who also has a pre-vet focus, said she is glad students will have the opportunity to work with a variety of animals.

“People always think domestic animals, but there are so many animals you can work with,” said Woods. “I think everyone should have the opportunity to try something different.”

Both Woods and Wallace are interns in a partnership the College of Agriculture has with the Nashville Zoo to also prepare students for vet school.

For more information about the partnership and the TSU and UT-CVM program, contact Dr. De’Etra Young at (615) 963-5123 or email dyoung23@tnstate.edu.

To learn more about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

NOTE: College of Ag communications specialist Joan Kite contributed to this story.

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 political analysts predict Kamala Harris selection will further galvanize young voters, spark interest in HBCUs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s selection of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate will not only further energize young voters, but also renew interest in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

TSU President Glenda Glover

That’s what political analysts at Tennessee State University have to say after Biden made the announcement this week. If he wins in November, Harris would become the nation’s first female vice president, first black vice president and first black female vice president. 

Geraldine Ferraro was the first female vice-presidential candidate on a major party ticket, in 1984. In 2008, Alaska’s then-governor Sarah Palin was Republican John McCain’s running mate.

TSU President Glenda Glover said Biden’s announcement was a great moment for our country, African-Americans, and for women.

“Senator Harris’ selection is a full circle moment for HBCUs and African-American Greek organizations that worked tirelessly to give the black community a voice from the turn of the century, through Jim Crow and the civil rights movement, to present day,” President Glover said.

“As the president of Tennessee State University, a premiere HBCU, and as International President of AKA, in which Sen. Harris is a member, I am doubly proud of this selection. I also commend Vice President Joe Biden for his insight to bring someone of Sen. Harris’ stature to the ticket. She is intelligent, experienced, charismatic and above all qualified for the job.” 

Glover added, “African-American women have been the backbone of this country, and now an African-American woman has the opportunity to ascend to the second highest office in the nation; with the opportunity to create policies that will impact us for generations to come.” 

Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, a Women’s Studies faculty member and dean of the College of Liberal Arts at TSU, said Harris is “historic on several levels.”

Morgan-Curtis said Harris’ selection is a continuation of the “wave of activism” during the 2018 midterm elections in which there were historic firsts for women of color. To name a few, Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and Democrats Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids became the first Native American women elected to Congress.

Junior Tiara Thomas

TSU junior Tiara Thomas said it is inspiring to see someone who looks like her get a step closer to being the second most powerful person in the United States. 

“I think what Kamala Harris is doing for black women is what (former President) Barack Obama did for black men in America,” said Thomas, a political science major from Olive Branch, Mississippi, and the creator of TSU Votes, a social medial platform. “It gives us another crack in the glass ceiling.”

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm became the first Black American and the first woman to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. Now, said Thomas, Harris is standing on her shoulders.

“it’s cool to see history kind of reinvent itself,” said Thomas. “To see a black woman actually be put on the (presidential) ballot, it’s amazing.”

In the four hours after Biden announced Harris as his running mate, ActBlue, the Democrats’ main fundraising platform, reported more than $10.8 million in donations. TSU political analysts predict Harris will have a similar effect on voters.

They say her selection will not only galvanize female voters, but all voters, particularly young ones, disgruntled over continued social injustice, like the deaths of George Floyd and other black men and women due to police brutality.

“I’m always impressed with how worked up our students can get, and how they focus that on things,” said Erik Schmeller, a history professor and director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at TSU.

“National organizations are also pushing the message, that this is your opportunity to get engaged and make a difference.”

TSU Political Science Professor Brian Russell predicts Harris, an alumna of Howard University and a member of the prominent black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., will cause more young people to consider attending HBCUs, especially if Biden is elected president.

“It’s going to energize a lot of younger African-American students to look in the HBCU direction,” said Russell. “That’s going to be exciting.”

To learn more about the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at TSU, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/servicelearning/.

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 President Glenda Glover stresses safety in virtual Faculty-Staff Institute, says University meeting COVID-19 challenges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – As Tennessee State University reopened this week, President Glenda Glover assured employees that TSU has taken steps to make sure students and the campus community are safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

TSU President Glenda Glover

Dr. Glover spoke during a virtual Fall 2020 Faculty-Staff Institute on Monday. Students moved into residence halls on Tuesday, August 11, and officially begin the fall semester on August 17.

“Our number one issue is your safety,” said Glover. “We have built in some safeguards to ensure your safety. We’re facing external challenges like never before. I remain grateful to you for your hard work, your devotion, your dedication.”

The President referred to the implementation of a comprehensive safety plan that includes a 14-day “safer in place” policy upon arrival for all students in residence halls. The policy requires students to stay in their places of residence unless they need to perform essential activities, such as getting food, or going to medical appointments.

She also noted a Pandemic Task Force that has been meeting just about every day to address issues related to the coronavirus, and a Fall Course Delivery Task Force she created to help develop the best strategy for classes this fall.

Under the plan, all classes will be online for the first two weeks, and there will be both in-person and online instruction throughout the semester, which will end by Thanksgiving. Additionally, classrooms have been assessed to determine the number of students that can occupy the rooms, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Computer labs have also been marked to determine the number of persons allowed to use them at the same time. Desks and high-touch surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day for classes, labs, and public areas between usage.

Other safety measures for the campus include wearing of face coverings and social distancing at all times; regular cleaning and sanitizing of buildings; temperature checks upon entering campus and randomly throughout campus; installation of shields throughout the campus; and establishment of a non-emergency COVID-19 phone line and email for reporting concerns.

During the Faculty-Staff Institute, Dean of Students Frank Stevenson said the university is focusing on the well-being of students by offering counseling and telehealth services.

“Students will have access to speak with a doctor 24 hours, seven days a week,” said Stevenson, who is also associate vice president for Student Affairs. “We want them to be successful.”

Despite the pandemic, Glover noted that the University “remains in sound financial condition.” She said first-year enrollment is up, as well as graduate student enrollment. The University’s endowment has also continued to grow, with an increase of more than $20 million since 2014.

The President also highlighted a new $38.3 million state-of-the-art Health Sciences Building scheduled to open sometime this month on campus.

“History will judge if we came together and did all we could to secure a strong future for our University, while building on its past,” Glover said.

Lecture halls receive thorough cleaning. (TSU Media Relations)

Dr. Kimberly Triplett, TSU Faculty Senate chair, said she’s optimistic about the year ahead.

“These are challenging times for the University due to the global coronavirus,” said Triplett. “But it’s my hope as we come together as a collective body … we will continue to make progress and continue to move the University forward for our students.”

To further assist students, the University decided to freeze tuition this year and offer discounts of up to 15 percent on fees and tuition for those who take all online courses. These discounts will depend on the student’s in-state or out-of-state status. Also, students who choose to do so will be allowed to cancel their housing and receive a full refund of their deposit.

Since students transitioned to remote learning in March as a result of COVID-19, TSU has made sure that they have digital devices, such as laptops, to successfully complete their coursework. TSU officials reiterated during the FSI meeting that going forward they will continue to make sure students have what they need, as well as faculty.

Dr. Cheryl Seay is executive director of TSU’s Global Online and the lead person in helping TSU faculty who may need assistance with online instruction. She said sessions are held seven days a week via Zoom to address faculty questions or concerns, and she’s pleased with the participation and adjustment. 

“The faculty have really stepped up to the plate, and shown their commitment,” said Seay. “They are doing everything they can to embrace this. I’m just really proud of our faculty.”

Additionally, the University is giving its alumni and others affected by the virus an opportunity to retool by partnering with Apple to help those individuals learn how to code and design apps. The “Everyone Can Code and Create” course will be offered online this fall through TSU’s National Center for Smart Technology Innovations, which is supported by the tech giant.

“TSU is the only institution that is taking what I call a comprehensive approach to help all of our stakeholders of alumni, faculty, students, staff and community,” said Dr. Robbie Melton, the Center’s director and head of TSU’s Global Online program. “We’re not leaving anyone out, due to the fact that COVID-19 hasn’t left anyone out.”

For information about more programs, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/online/.

To learn more about TSU’s campus operation plans for fall reopening, visit www.tnstate.edu/return.

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 political analysts say pandemic sets stage for historic 2020 General Election, predict strong turnout by young voters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Young people, galvanized over social injustice, are predicted to have a strong turnout in the General Election in November, Tennessee State University political analysts say. Their strong voting numbers are expected in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Junior Tiara Thomas

Brian Russell, a political science professor at TSU, says the deaths of George Floyd and other black men and women due to police brutality is one main example of injustice that has energized young people to seek change, particularly in the case of elected officials.

“Think about how many people have gone out on the streets and protested,” says Russell. “That shows that people are motivated to do something, to make change.”

“When young people do come out in high numbers, things happen that don’t usually happen,” adds Russell. “Think about in 2008 when President (Barack) Obama was elected. That was an election when more young people than normal came out to vote.”

Russell says COVID-19 will affect voter turnout to some degree, but he doesn’t expect it to dampen the fervor to vote he’s seeing in young people around the country. TSU History Professor Erik Schmeller agrees.

“I’m always impressed with how worked up our students can get, and how they focus that on things,” says Schmeller, who is also the director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at TSU.

“National organizations are also pushing the message, that this is your opportunity to get engaged and make a difference. Vote.”

Junior Tiara Thomas of Olive Branch, Mississippi, is among a number of students at TSU who are heeding that directive, and encouraging others to do the same. The political science major is the creator of TSU Votes, a social media platform that makes students aware of voting dates, what’s happening nationally in politics, as well as works with other voter advocacy organizations to ensure students stay informed.

“Not voting for my generation is not an option,” says Thomas, who also has a podcast that allows students to express their views about politics in general. “And I try to make sure that my peers know that.”

Russell Waters, a junior from Huntsville, Alabama, works with Thomas to spread awareness about voting. When students return in the fall, he says he plans to have flyers ready with election information, such as election deadlines, and using mail-in ballots if necessary.

Junior Russell Waters

“We’re really focusing on the General Election,” says Waters, a computer science major. “It’s a very important election. So, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing until Election Day.”

TSU students are not alone in their effort to make sure people vote. President Glenda Glover and TSU were recently selected by The General® Insurance to participate in Shaquille O’Neal’s social media challenge to encourage voter registration for the 2020 General Election.

The #MyStartingFive challenge was launched by SHAQ and Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum, alongside the national, nonpartisan non-profit organization, When We All Vote, whose mission is to increase voter participation in elections. The organization, launched by co-chair and former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2018, seeks to educate eligible voters on the power of their voice and their vote, and take action. Participants in the challenge will nominate five people to register and pledge to vote in November’s election via the When We All Vote #MyStartingFive voter registration portal: whenweallvote.org/mystartingfive.

To learn more about the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/servicelearning/.

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 grad student receives doctoral degree after 17 years, credits having ‘grit’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When Seliene Munroe Bignall decided to write her doctoral dissertation on the concept of “grit”, she probably didn’t realize how true to life her journey would be. After nearly 20 years to get her degree, Bignall will be among the hundreds of Tennessee State University graduates honored in a 2020 Virtual Commencement on Aug. 1.

“I feel very, very blessed to be completing my doctoral studies,” says Bignall, who is getting her doctorate in education administration. “It has really been a long journey.”

Seliene Bignall

On Saturday, she will join the University’s more than 700 spring graduates being recognized at 9 a.m. CDT. The ceremony will be live streamed on the TSU homepage (www.tnstate.edu), YouTube (www.tnstate.edu/youtube) and Facebook (www.tnstate.edu/facebook).

Bignall worked as a campus crime prevention counselor at TSU for almost 10 years. She started her doctoral program in TSU’s Department of Educational Leadership in 2003, taking night classes at TSU and a couple of classes during the summer. But she decided to take a break in 2010 because she felt she was neglecting her family, particularly her daughter, who was about to be a junior in high school.

“One night I came home and she stayed up for me,” recalls Bignall. “She said, ‘mom, I don’t get to see you at all anymore.’ It broke my heart. The next day I went in to see my advisor and I told her I am going to take a break. I will always need my child, way more than I will need an advanced degree.”

After a few years, Bignall returned to TSU and continued to pursue her degree. She says she decided to make “grit” the topic of her dissertation after watching her husband, Dr. Orville Bignall, a physics professor at TSU, encourage his students to complete their degrees – to not give up.

“I saw how my husband nurtured students, and encouraged them to finish,” says Seliene Bignall, adding that her husband was a motivating factor in her doctoral completion. “Many of them don’t.”

So, she decided to focus on what it takes for African American students in particular to qualify and complete programs, like Engineering, and she chose the concept of grit, or perseverance.

Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis is chair of TSU’s Department of Languages, Literature and Philosophy. She says Seliene Bignall, who is currently a counselor at a Nashville elementary school, is living justification of her dissertation topic.

Seliene Bignall and her husband, Dr. Orville Bignall. (Submitted photo)

“Seliene didn’t need the textbook definition because she defines grit every day,” says Morgan-Curtis. “I firmly believe that it took her so long to finish this degree because she puts herself last. Every day she gives to others: to her students, to her family, to the students who become her family. And it was only when she decided that the degree would allow her to do and be more and show the students that it could be done, that she took and made the time to complete the degree.”

Whether in college or aspiring to be, Bignall says she wants all students to know that they can be successful. And if they are doubtful, she will share her journey.

“And I will tell that person one word – grit. Never give up,” says Bignall.

TSU is a leader in helping educators pursue degrees in educational leadership. In June, the University received the other half of a $600,000 grant to train educators to become assistant principals in Middle Tennessee school districts.

Officials said the effort is part of a longstanding collaborative partnership between the university, the Department of Education and K-12 systems aimed at attracting more qualified applicants for positions in school leadership.

“Tennessee State University is taking the lead in the state’s assistant principal training program, as a further recognition of the quality of our programs,” said Dr. Jerri Haynes, dean of the College of Education. “Through this program we are helping to fill the void or shortage of assistant principals, especially minorities.”

To learn more about TSU’s Educational Leadership program, visit https://bit.ly/2DfCiNq.

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.