Category Archives: EVENTS

TSU students participate in virtual Joint Day of Service to honor legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University students and their peers from other area higher education institutions are not letting the pandemic stop them from honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The students will participate in a virtual MLK Joint Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 18. Before the coronavirus, students would gather at one of their schools before being bused to various locations throughout Nashville to volunteer as part of the special day.

This year, once students register, they will get a choice of four nonprofit organizations to virtually learn about the entities, how they are faring during the pandemic, and how to volunteer with the nonprofits. A short service activity will follow with a reflection activity on the students’ experiences.

Besides TSU, participating schools include Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, Belmont University, Trevecca Nazarene, Lipscomb University, Vanderbilt University, and Nashville State Community College.

“All of the schools agreed that despite the pandemic, students needed the opportunity to honor the legacy of MLK in a virtual setting through service,” said Dr. Erik Schmeller, director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at TSU. “Given the racial and political upheavals of the last year and more recently, we felt the Dr. King quote, ‘Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve,’ was particularly relevant and serves as our theme this year.”

Volunteers organize classroom at Harvest Hands Community Development as part of last year’s MLK Joint Day of Service. (TSU Media Relations)

The organizations participating this year are Greater Nashville Regional Council, Turnip Green Creative Reuse, Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary, and Project Transformation.

TSU junior Brittanie Pruitt, a nursing major from Covington, Tennessee, says community service is critical, particularly amid the current pandemic.

“It’s definitely important to give back; everybody needs a helping hand,” says Pruitt. “You might need help one day.”

On Saturday, Jan. 16, TSU’s Honors College will join the Interdenominational Ministers’ Fellowship in a Virtual Nashville MLK Day Youth Symposium. The theme is “Moving the Movement: Honoring Our Past, Present and Future.

For more information about TSU’s Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement, visit https://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 continuing to prioritize safety of students, employees with COVID-19 plan for spring return

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University officials are continuing to take steps amid the pandemic to ensure students and employees are safe when classes resume next week. A comprehensive plan that was put in place last semester was effective, officials say, and they plan to utilize it once again and enhance it where necessary.

Currently, the plan is to open residence halls on Jan. 21 and begin online classes Jan. 25 for two weeks. In-person classes will resume Feb. 8. The semester will conclude with a graduate commencement ceremony on April 30, and undergraduate ceremony on May 1.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are a top priority,” says TSU President Glenda Glover. “While there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel, it is important that we remain COVID-19 vigilant, which is why we continue to consult with TSU stakeholders and public health officials to ensure the well-being of everyone on campus.”

Dr. Curtis Johnson, chief of staff and head of the TSU Coronavirus Pandemic task force, says the university will “repeat the process used in fall 2020 for students returning to the university for spring 2021.”  

“The university experienced success in the process and will review the after-action comments and data yields,” says Johnson. “Meetings are presently occurring to ensure changes to improve services for students and employees are considered and instituted when and where possible. The university is conducting numerous cleaning and sanitizing processes to prepare facilities for the spring opening.” 

Like last semester, the university is implementing 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.

Classrooms will continue to be 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 are also being 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; and use of shields throughout the campus. There’s also a non-emergency COVID-19 phone line and email for reporting concerns.

The University will also work closely with the Tennessee Department of Health for contact tracing. For any positive diagnostic test results, TSU will operationalize the protocols in place, and will follow the state reporting guidelines.  A contact tracing team will be in place to identify potential secondary cases to limit the spread of infection. TSU has also established its own early contact tracing.

Frank Stevenson, TSU’s associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, says about 2,200 students will be living on campus in the spring, and that the university is doing everything it can to create a safe and comfortable learning environment for them.

“We will continue to provide (COVID-19) testing for our students on campus through our Health Center,” says Stevenson. “Students can schedule a time to be tested with our health professionals five days a week. We will also continue our telehealth services. This was a new initiative to provide services to students 24 hours a day, including mental health services.”

Since students began distance learning in March 2020, TSU has also worked diligently to make sure they have the electronic devices needed to complete their coursework, like laptops. Students say they appreciate the university’s effort in this regard, as well as what it’s doing to keep the campus safe during the pandemic.

“I feel very safe returning in the spring,” says Treveon Hayes, a sophomore elementary education major from Memphis, Tennessee. “At the beginning of last semester, I was uncertain. But with the requirements and guidelines TSU has put in place, I feel safer than ever. TSU has my trust.”

As for distance learning, the university has received thousands of dollars to assist with technology needs, including support for course redesign software and staff to aid in remote teaching and learning.

“What TSU is doing is great,” says Alexus Dockery, a sophomore from Memphis majoring in political science at TSU. “It will allow students to get the support they need, and further advance their education.”

TSU is scheduled to have a virtual Spring 2021 Faculty-Staff Institute on Jan. 19. To see a calendar of other spring events, visit https://bit.ly/3awJqUl.

To view TSU’s operational guidelines during COVID-19 and more, visit http://bit.ly/37DPoAY.

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 named one of ‘Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2021’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University begins the new academic year with a major accolade for the University’s president.

Dr. Glenda Glover has been named one of the “Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders of 2021,” by HBCU Campaign Fund, a national non-profit organization that advocates for student and higher education.

“I am honored to be included with this distinguished group of university presidents selected by HBCU Campaign Fund, a well-respected organization that advocates for our students and institutions,” President Glover said.

“It is particularly gratifying because of the common mission we share of ensuring the highest academic achievement of our students.”

According to HBCU Campaign Fund, presidents and chancellors selected for the Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders award have “proven their responsibilities for shaping policies, changing perspectives, and making decisions that affect millions of individuals in the higher education space, and the daily needs of what an HBCU or Minority-Serving Institutions contributes.”

“These individuals play a prominent and influential role in leadership and display the characteristics of the following responsibilities in the progression of effectively moving an institution forward,” said Demetrius Johnson Jr., president, CEO and founder of HCF.

See the complete listing of award recipients and fourth-class inductees via https://hbcucampaignfund.org/the-ten-most-dominant-hbcu-leaders-of-2021/.

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 researchers named among ‘1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two Tennessee State University researchers have been named among the “1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America” by Cell Mentor.

Dr. Frances Williams

Dr. Frances Williams, associate vice president of Research and Sponsored Programs and professor of electrical engineering; and Dr. Quincy Quick, associate professor of biology, were cited by Community of Scholars in its latest posting in Cell Mentors, a web resource that provides support and resources for emerging scientists.

Williams and Quick, acknowledged as top scientists in the nation, have extensive research, teaching and scientific backgrounds.

“It is an honor to be recognized as one of the ‘1000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America’ on Cell Mentor,” Williams said upon receiving news of her selection. 

“I am humbled to be included with some of my STEM heroes and sheroes.  I hope that students see the list and are able to envision themselves as the next generation of scientists and innovators that make a positive impact on our world.”

Williams is widely published, and holds a patent in the areas of advanced materials and devices, biosensors, and nano- and micro-electromechanical systems processing and devices. She has received grants totaling over $15 million as a principal investigator or co-principal investigator.

Dr. Quincy Quick

Quick, who investigates brain tumors and serves as scientific grant reviewer for several cancer journals in the nation, said it is a “humbling and grateful experience to be acknowledged for your work, along with your peers like Dr. Williams, as well as the other African American scientists” around the United States.

“The visibility from a minority standpoint is critical,” Quick said. “Often times our work at HBCUs is overlooked in comparison to other majority institutions. Acknowledging the breadth of all of the African Americans across all types of institutions is a critical exposure for everybody.”

In addition to research projects supported by federal state funding, Quick has mentored more than 80 students at the Ph.D., master’s and undergraduate levels, as well as a research mentor for several NSF and NIH training and developmental programs.

At TSU, students are also celebrating the selection of Williams and Quick as inspiring black scientists by Cell Mentor.

“It is no surprise that Dr. (Quincy) Quick would be recognized for an accomplishment such as this,” Mariel Liggin, a senior biology major from Louisville, Kentucky, said about her professor. “His dedication to science can be been in the classroom as well as in the lab. He is one of the reasons why I continue to pursue my major in biology.”

Of Dr. Williams, civil engineering graduate student Morgan Chatmon, congratulated her professor for the recognition.

“Dr.  Williams is a dynamic leader, powerful motivator, and beneficial contributor to the STEM staff and student at TSU,” said Chatmon, of Omaha, Nebraska.

According to the Cell mentor, The Community of Scholars is “a group of Persons Excluded because of their Ethnicity or Race (PEER) composed of postdoctoral fellows, early-stage investigators, instructors, and consultants with a common passion to advance scientific discovery while innovating diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.”

To see the complete list, visit: https://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/1000-inspiring-black-scientists-in-america(link is external).

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 political science team tops in state competition, wins moot court challenge championship

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has the best Moot Court Team in the state.  

The TSU team earned the title of state champions recently after coming out on top in the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislative Appellate Moot Court Collegiate Challenge, or AMC3. They beat out seven other teams in the March 19-20 competition, which was held remotely due to the pandemic. 

Alexis Bryant

At the start of the competition, participating teams were given 16 case authorities totaling over 250 pages to read and prepare briefs for their arguments. Unlike previous years when all teams had the opportunity to compete in oral arguments, only the teams whose briefs were judged and scored in the top eight by actual practicing lawyers were selected to compete. The TSU team’s brief was in the top eight. 

Alexis Bryant, a senior criminal justice major; and Collin Michael Ruth, senior political science major, were among the five-member TSU team that brought home the championship. They credit hard work, team preparation and knowledge of their professor and team coach (Dr. Corey M. Barwick) for their success.  

“It was hard. The judges were hard,” said Bryant, of Portland, Oregon, who wants to become a constitutional or criminal lawyer. “My first judge asked me four questions right off the bat. But thank God, we were prepared. It was challenging but fun. The teamwork was great. I would not have been able to do it without my team, our coach and professor.” 

Collin Michael Ruth

For Ruth, 30, a non-traditional student and a Marine Corps staff sergeant, who wants to become a military lawyer, the virtual presentation made the interaction more challenging. 

“The fact that it was on Zoom, was very challenging and nerve-racking, because it is kind of hard to read people if it’s on video and not in person,” said Ruth, the father of two, who is entering his 11th year in the military. 

“Overall, we stood out because we had extremely unique arguments, having seen some of the other teams and strategies they came up with,” he said. “A lot of their arguments were similar, whereas ours were not, and that is definitely what set us apart from the generic arguments they had. But the credit goes to our coach. When it comes to studying law and case precedence, and to be able to prepare us to the level that he did, says a lot about his understanding of the law and how to read cases.” 

Senia M. Hernandez-Mapson

The TSU team also included Senia M. Hernandez-Mapson, senior urban studies and political science major; Aubrey E. Sales, junior political science major; and Maryam F. Yousuf, senior health sciences major and political science minor.  

In the competition, teams participated in four preliminary rounds of arguments, with four teams advancing to the seminal finals, including TSU, which scored enough points to advance to the final round.  

Aubrey E. Sales

For the championship, TSU faced off against last year’s champion, University of Tennessee Knoxville. Not only did the TSU team win the state championship, they won the awards for best oral argument, and the best brief with perfect scores. 

Dr. Corey M. Barwick, team coach and assistant professor of political science, said in a semester full of obstacles, where it would have been easy to “give up, check out, or slack off,” the TSU students rose to the challenge and not only performed well, but brought home a championship. 

Dr. Corey M. Barwick

“I cannot emphasize enough how much work went into securing this victory,” said Barwick, who is credited with building the current AMC3 team since his arrival at TSU in 2016. The team competed for the first time in fall 2017 and has been steadily improving since then. 

“You cannot stand toe-to-toe against teams from Carson-Newman or UT Knoxville without countless hours of preparation,” he said. “Our students put in the work, and it was all worth it. I am so proud of our team, our students, and our university.”

To learn more about the TSU Department of Political Science, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/history/polisci.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’s Aristocrat of Bands continues University’s legacy of activism with new social justice video

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – “I can’t breathe” is the highlight of a new video just released by Tennessee State University’s world-renowned Aristocrat of Bands and students in their continued push for social justice and equality. The thought-provoking video focuses on the last words of George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man killed during an arrest by Minneapolis police in May.

Band members participate in the filming of the video at Hale Stadium. (Submitted photo)

“This video gives me and my peers the opportunity to let our voices be heard on behalf of those like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” said Tiara Thomas, a mellophone player in band, who came up with the idea for the video. The student trustee on the TSU Board of Trustees, Thomas is a junior political science major from Olive Branch, Mississippi, who is considered a crusader for campus voter education and registration. She is the creator and chair of the TSU Votes Student Coalition.

“While creating this video, I was filled with so much excitement and pride, especially for my community and my organization,” Thomas said, adding, “This certainly is one of the most important performances I believe that AOB will ever do.”

Tiara Thomas, Student Trustee on the TSU Board of Trustees, came up with the idea for the video. (Submitted Photo)

The video features the band’s performance of “The Bigger Picture,” by award-winning rap artist Lil Baby. A major highlight of the video occurs when the music fades into a chant of “I can’t breathe,” the three words that have become the mantra of oppression and the spark for real change. The goal of the video is to continue awareness about racial injustice, as well as support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Dr. Reginald McDonald, TSU’s director of bands, said the intent of the video is to let AOB fans and followers know “where we side in this fight” to bring attention to the issue of injustice.

“The majority of our performances are typically intended to entertain and bring joy to our listeners and viewers,” McDonald said. “This performance (video), however, is intended to open more eyes to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ fight for equality. Our goal is to educate our students and followers on the importance of getting involved, and how to protest without violence.”

TSU’s Associate Professor of African American and Public History, Dr. Learotha Williams, Jr., described the video and student activism as a continuation of a long legacy at TSU.

“As I look at our history, there is a struggle to find a period where TSU students were not involved in something,” said Williams. “We produce people that have been in the vanguard of protests. So, if you are looking at Black Lives Matter, or you are looking at current situations or protests that students are engaged in, it is consistent with the type of students that we have brought to TSU historically.”

Assistant Band Director Larry Jenkins, who arranged the music on the video, described “The Bigger Picture” theme song selection as the “’What’s Going On’ (by Marvin Gaye) of this generation.”

“It’s coming from the voice of the youth and speaking directly to the world around them through a lens they see through clearly,” Jenkins said. “After hearing the message and the musical aspects as well, it was a no-brainer that this would be the song to make this statement.”

Ashanti Mason-Chambers, who directed, produced and narrated the video and is also professor of mass communication, said she hopes the performance in the clip would do more than just entertain.

“While we love providing that (entertainment) for people, it’s deeper than that this time,” Mason-Chambers said. “We want to spark conversation, positive action and reiterate the need for change in a society that continues to dehumanize and execute black people.”

Kevin Allen, a member of the AOB Media Team, was a producer of the video.

To see the video, go to https://www.dropbox.com/s/xo0ukewizsxqvgu/TSUICantBreatheDONE.mp4?dl=0

Credit: Featured photo courtesy of Jovon Wilson @jovonwilson

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 recognizes fall 2020 graduates with second virtual commencement, more than 700 honored

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University recognized hundreds of fall graduates through its second virtual commencement ceremony on Saturday. More than 700 undergraduates and graduates were honored during the program, held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

President Glenda Glover

Yamiche Alcindor, a renowned journalist and White House correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, delivered the keynote address. Before her speech, TSU President Glenda Glover greeted the graduates and welcomed alumni, staff and guests watching the program livestreamed on all the major social media platforms. 

“It is my distinct honor and privilege to extend heartfelt congratulations to you,” Glover said. “I applaud you for having reached this extraordinary milestone in your academic career. It does not matter how long it took you, you are being honored today because you are graduating. You have endured. We honor your sacrifice. You have overcome obstacles, you have multiplied your talent, you increased your resources.” 

Yamiche Alcindor

Alcindor, noted for telling stories about the “intersection of race and politics,” and directly questioning President Donald Trump on race issues and the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on black people, encouraged the graduates to pursue their life’s passion and purpose, stay the course no matter the setback, and learn to do the right thing even when no one is watching. 

“Be assured that as you receive your degrees today, you are already fulfilling your ancestors’ wildest dream. Continue to strive and walk in that reality,” Alcindor said. “Make a career of doing that thing that drives you. Maybe you are graduating without a job or without the job you thought you would get. Maybe you are graduating with a lot of student loans and you are anxious about what comes next. Give yourself space to develop and focus on putting one foot in front of the other.” 


A contributor for NBC and MSNBC, who often appears on shows like “Morning Joe,” “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” and “Meet the Press,” Alcindor told the graduates to brace themselves for setbacks as they pursue their various careers, citing her own experience early on as a young journalist. 

“When I started my career in journalism, the setbacks came very quickly, and they will come for you too,” she said. “Each of you will experience moments when people will challenge the very premise of your very existence and your pursuits. Maybe some will criticize your career choices, condemn whom you choose to love, demean your cultural background. I say, press forward.” 

Jay Bobinger, who received his undergraduate degree in agricultural sciences, talked about his TSU preparation that he said will propel him into a very bright future. 

“In my experience at TSU, I found a campus faculty that set me up for success in the workforce with patient and intentional mentorship and connecting me to resources to achieve my goals,” said Bobinger, who is from Kingston, Tennessee. “I once read that life makes way for those who know where they are going, and I would say the same is true at TSU.” 

Julien Dooley, who graduates with a degree in commercial music, entertains fellow graduates with a rendition of “Escalondo” by noted classical guitarist and composer Jaime Zenamon.

Cydney Smith, of Nashville, who received a bachelor of science degree in public health, was equally optimistic about the future. 

“I owe Tennessee State University for the endless memories and learning experiences that have happened to me in these past years,” Smith said. “The staff and professors, that I grew close to, pushed me constantly to excel in school work even when I thought I would not see the finish line.” 

At Today’s graduation, Jason Archer was presented with the Academic Excellence Award for achieving the highest grade point average in his class. 

Like in the past, deans of the various colleges presented candidates to President Glover for the conferring of degrees, as the graduates’ names scrolled across the screen. 

Among those presented for conferring of degrees were four university administrators who received their doctorate degrees in education leadership. They included Dr. Arlene Nicholas-Phillips, executive assistant to the president and liaison to the TSU Board of Trustees; Dr. Phyllis Danner, director, Research and Sponsored Programs; Dr. Anita McGaha, director of disability services; and Dr. Corrine S. Vaughn, director, Research and Sponsored Programs. 

During the ceremonies, several past TSU graduates made appearances with words of congratulations and encouragement for the graduates. Among them was Olympic gold medalist Ralph H. Boston. 

Julien Dooley, a member of the Honors College, who received his bachelor of science degree in commercial music, entertained his fellow graduates with a rendition of “Escalondo” by noted classical guitarist and composer Jaime Zenamon.

To see video of the virtual commencement, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PH8iqdqMHM&feature=youtu.be

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 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.