Category Archives: FACULTY

One year after tornado, TSU family remembers community support, help from ‘total strangers’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University may have been caught in the devastation of a tornado that hit northwest and east Nashville early last March, but the campus family also experienced an outpouring of community support and resilience in the aftermath that has fostered healing and a spirit to rebuild.

President Glenda Glover pets 1-year-old Gracie the goat, which was born the night of the tornado. Gracie’s mother survived the storm and gave birth to two kids that night. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“It was so much outpouring of love and support. People came from different places on different days,” says Dr. Glenda Glover, president of TSU. “Nashvillians stuck together, some students were on spring break and when they came back, they jumped in. We were overwhelmed with the level of love and support and care.” 

March 3 marked the one-year anniversary of the EF2 tornado that struck shortly after midnight. TSU’s Agriculture Farm took the biggest hit. Five of six structures, including research facilities, greenhouses, and a pavilion, were reduced to rubble. Two calves were killed, and several goats injured.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, Dean of the College of Agriculture, talks to a reporter from the spot where the nearly 300-seat pavilion once stood. The pavilion and several other structures were damaged. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

Other parts of the main campus received damage to signs and building rooftops, as well as downed power lines, uprooted trees, and other debris. About 85 students who did not go away for the spring break were on campus, but no injuries were reported.

Officials estimate total damage to the campus to be about $20 million.

However, amid the scars of what was lost or destroyed, one thing that has stood out is the volunteerism displayed by people from all walks of life. When asked what they remembered most about the tornado and the aftermath, faculty, staff, and students noted the general outpouring of support from total strangers.

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, Dean of the College of Engineering, right, led a team of faculty, staff, student and community volunteers to remove debris. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

Jeia Moore arrived in Nashville from her spring break a few days after the storm hit.  

“It was sad to see my campus like that because so much student work had been lost,” says Moore, a junior information systems major from Memphis, Tennessee. A year later, however, Moore is impressed with how the university has been able to pull through, even with the onset of the coronavirus at the same time. 

“TSU, we are not going to be down too long. We are going to come back,” says Moore. “I am just happy that we are still able to function like we never missed a beat.” 

Volunteers from all walks of life signed up to help with the cleanup effort after the tornado. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

Bryce Daniel, a junior health sciences major from Fort Worth, Texas, was in his dorm room in Hale Hall when the storm hit. Hale Hall was not affected, but the sight of the destruction on the other side of campus was too overwhelming for Daniel to ignore. 

“I immediately felt I needed to give back and help my campus recover,” says Daniel, who’s part of “Generation of Educated Men,” or GEM, a social and educational student group. The group mobilized and was among the first volunteers to join the cleanup effort on the Ag farm. 

Members of Generation of Educated Men, a campus group of TSU students, were among the first volunteers to join the cleanup effort. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“I was glad to be safe and blessed to still have all of my things. So, it was just natural to go and give back to help clean up my campus,” says Daniel. 

Some renovations on the main campus are either completed or ongoing. As for the Ag farm, TSU officials say discussions with state and federal agencies and insurance underwriters are ongoing, and construction should start soon and be completed by year’s end.  

“Effort to reconstruct is slower, complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. But we are moving along, it might take some time, but we will get there,” says Glover. 

Debris was thrown about in every corner of the Ag farm in the aftermath of the tornado. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

On the learning aspect, she says it’s been a grueling year, because things are at a slower pace. How students are taught changed drastically, with teaching and learning now about 85 percent virtual.  

“We have some aspects that are not virtual, and we do require in-person learning, so we want to make sure that is taken care of,” says Glover. “Once COVID has run its course, we believe that we will be moving at a faster pace.” 

Dr. Curtis Johnson, associate vice president and chief of staff, heads the reconstruction effort at TSU. He says recovery will take time, but the main concern is making sure teaching and research are not affected.

As the days went by, more volunteers showed up to lend a hand in the cleanup. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“We look forward to rebuilding a better campus,” says Johnson. “We expect our rebuilding to have better structure, better technology. ”

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, agrees, saying the goal is to “make sure all of our buildings and research facilities are much better and much stronger.” 

On the show of support, Frank Stevenson, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students, says in the aftermath of the storm he saw a campus community determined to bounce back, “not only to represent Tiger pride, but the city of Nashville strong.” 

“Our students, faculty, staff, everyone put the gloves on, rolled up their sleeves and were committed to making our campus continue in the space of beauty,” says Stevenson. 

GEM member Derrick Sanders, a junior secondary English education major from Cincinnati, Ohio, who drove into Nashville the next morning amid the destruction, says “it felt so good to see people come together for the enhancement of TSU.”

“I saw people from the community, people from different churches, even students giving out anything they had to help. It just felt good to know that we are a family, and we can help each other,” says Sanders. 

NBA star, TSU alum Robert Covington awards $25K scholarships to two student athletes at his alma mater

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two Tennessee State University student athletes will each receive a $25,000 scholarship thanks to NBA star and TSU alum Robert Covington.

He made the announcement during the recent NBA All-Star weekend in Atlanta. The scholarship recipients are Nashville, Tennessee, junior Micahlea Njie (VB) and Michael Thompson (track), a junior from Miami, Florida.

Covington graduated from Tennessee State University in 2013 with a degree in Exercise Science while finishing his college basketball career ranked seventh on Tennessee State’s all-time list in both scoring (1,749 points) and rebounding (876). 

The Portland Trail Blazers forward is currently the only NBA player to have graduated from an historically black college or university. Covington sported a TSU jersey when he competed in the All-Star skills competition.

In November, he gifted TSU with a donation for a construction project to enhance the university’s basketball program. The facility, to be called the “Covington Pavilion,” will have two practice courts, locker rooms and offices for the men’s and women’s basketball programs.

The gift is the largest of that magnitude to an HBCU by a former athlete who was a product of its program. During the announcement of the gift, Covington talked about the impact of attending TSU, an HBCU.

“This university (TSU) has molded me, gave me the foundation and helped me play with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I wouldn’t change it for nothing. I’m a walking product of a kid that went to an HBCU and created a narrative for myself. I feel like now is the time for change and progression all around. I’m in a great place to give back to the place that shaped who I am – not only as an athlete but as a man. “

This year, as part of NBA All-Star 2021, the league and the players’ association  committed more than $2.5 million in funds and resources toward HBCUs.

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 eight 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.

Future surgeon, entrepreneur sets sight on Tennessee governor’s mansion, wants to level playing field

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Denias Smith has big dreams. He wants to become a surgeon, own a business, and eventually become the first black governor of Tennessee. 

Denias Smith

“I want to level the playing field and create equal opportunities for everyone,” says Smith, a senior pre-med student majoring in biology. “It is not so much about making history, but a way of increasing representation for people from low-income housing like me.” 

A transfer student in his sophomore year, Smith says he came to TSU to fulfill a yearning to attend a historically black college or university. He says growing up in his hometown of Bolivar, Tennessee, he did not know much about HBCUs and how nurturing they are until he started reading about TSU on social media – the strong academics and student life. 

“I am a first-generation college student. I ended up attending a predominantly white institution,” says Smith. “I didn’t feel I was being nurtured as a black student. At TSU, I saw students doing their own thing. They were holding down their academic duties. They were being student leaders.” 

Smith says he was in awe of what he saw going on at TSU. “I said, wow, I can do that. I told my mom I was going to transfer. It was a quick decision, and I don’t regret it,” says Smith. “Here I am today growing as a student – academically, and as a student leader. I have grown to love myself because of the environment I am in.” 

With help from TSU schoolmates, Denias Smith, second from left, organized a protest in his hometown to bring awareness about police brutality and other injustices following the death of George Floyd.

At TSU, Smith has adjusted well and proven to be an overall outstanding student, with high leadership skills. He has remained on the Dean’s List since coming to TSU. He is a National Society of Leadership and Success inductee; member of Collegiate 100 Black Men of Tennessee State University; secretary of the National Professional Advancement for Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers; and the Tennessee Louise Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, where he recently presented a research paper. Smith is also the current president of the highly respected Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Society, a pre-medical and pre-dental society at TSU. 

Dr. Keon Vercruysse, associate professor of chemistry, teaches Smith and also serves as the faculty advisor for the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Society. Vercruysse describes his young protégé as a dedicated and accomplished student, who takes his academic duties very seriously. 

“Denias is a friendly and sociable person with a diverse mix of skills that will serve him well in his current and future academic endeavors,” says Vercruysse. “In his capacity as president (of the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Society), he has shown his potential as a leader and as someone that looks beyond his own interests.” 

A social justice advocate, Smith played a key role last summer in organizing a peaceful protest following the death of George Floyd. With help from fellow TSU schoolmates, he organized a protest in his hometown to bring awareness about police brutality and other injustices following Floyd’s death. He remembered the moment his plan gained city-wide support. Local law enforcement, the mayor of Bolivar, and other elected officials participated.

“I had finished talking to my mom about my plan, made a social media post, and went to bed. The next morning, I got a call from the mayor and a radio personality saying they would back me up 100 percent,” Smith was quoted as saying to a local CBS affiliate. 

On his future career, Smith says his goal is to become a plastic surgeon, and eventually get into politics. 

“That’s what I am working toward now,” says Smith. “My dream is to own a surgery center. As time goes on, I plan to be a politician. My long-term goal is to be governor of Tennessee. I am all about creating opportunities for people who look like me.”

Smith is a graduate of Bolivar Central High School, where he was an academic standout.

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 eight 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 honors best and brightest students at first virtual Honors Day Convocation; speaker donates $50K to Alma Mater

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University recently recognized its best and brightest students with the university’s first-ever virtual Honors Day Convocation. More than 2,100 students with grade point averages of 3.0 or higher were recognized on March 2 for academic excellence.

President Glenda Glover

Among the honorees were 400 President’s List scholars. These are students who have maintained 4.0 GPAs throughout their matriculation.

Damyon J. Thompson, a 2003 TSU graduate and chief of staff to the general manager of IBM’s Automation Division, was the keynote speaker. Thompson was a member of the Honors College at TSU.

Before Thompson’s keynote speech, TSU President Glenda Glover congratulated the honorees for their achievements. She challenged them to further develop their talents “to be the leaders you have been chosen to be.”

Daymon J. Thompson

“Honors Day is more than personal recognition; it is a challenge to soar even higher,” Glover said. “As honors students, we will depend on you to research challenges and issues and to develop solutions that will remake our university. Whether it is the COVID pandemic, or racial injustice, it is you our honorees who must contribute to finding a path that leads to solutions to the threats that we currently face.”

Thompson, who earned two bachelor’s degrees – computer science, business information systems – from TSU, started his remarks with a $50,000 donation to the university’s Enterprise Computing program, on behalf of him and his sister, Shari D. Thompson, a 2006 TSU graduate and member of the Honors College. A high industry demand area, the enterprise computing initiative was launched at TSU in 2014 to help prepare students to compete for high-paying enterprise internships and jobs.

Kerrington Powell received the Dr. McDonald Williams Award for Academic Excellence.

Speaking on “Promoting academic excellence, breaking paradigms, and transforming growth leaders in the new decade,” Thompson told the honorees that to succeed they must have growth mindset, be technologically inclined, and have an executable plan. He said the world is filled with people with fixed mindset, who are afraid of challenges or failure, and those with growth mindset who embrace change, challenges and see failure as a chance “to pivot” and learn from their mistakes.

“At age 29, I took and chance to advance my career and took a job in a foreign country where I knew no one, I did not understand the culture, but I am glad I did. It paid off,” said Thompson, who engages with business unit leaders to execute the direction of the 7,000-person, $5 billion IBM division.

Meleena Warters

“I embraced the challenge and the change because, I said, ‘you know what, if I can learn and grow from this, it will really set me up when I return home.’ And it did although with challenges. I had a growth mindset, I said let me jump in, let me embrace the change, let me go across the world and see what happens,” Thompson said. “In the midst of COVID-19, the social justice reckoning of 2020, economic uncertainty, and the massive amount of debt students are facing every day, we have to hit the ground running. We have to keep our focus ahead.”

Meleena Warters and Larry McNary, Honors College scholars, were among the students recognized at the virtual convocation. They are inspired and are very grateful for the recognition given for their academic achievements.

L:arry McNary

“I know it takes a lot of work to be on the honor roll or on the Dean’s List, but to have your peers, the who institution and speakers come out and congratulate you on a personal level is really very important and feels good,” said Warters, a junior mass communications major from Brentwood, Tennessee, with a 3.9 GPA.

McNary agreed.  “This is about recognizing the hard work that students put in, and that means a lot,” he said. “I feel grateful and supported to be a part of something like that.” McNary, who is from Memphis, Tennessee, will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology. He has a 3.7 GPA.

Among those also recognized were Honors College Scholars, those on the Dean’s List, members of the university-wide Honor Societies, Student Leadership Award recipient, the top graduating seniors, and the recipient of the Dr. McDonald Williams Scholarship for Academic Excellence.

Dr. Michael Harris, interim Vice President for Academic Affairs; Dr. Coreen Jackson, interim dean of the Honors College; and other senior officials participated in the convocation.

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 eight 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.

Nashville businessman honors mother’s memory with $50,000 scholarship for students at TSU

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Nashville businessman and community activist Jerry L. Maynard II recently presented Tennessee State University with a check for $50,000 to establish a scholarship in his late mother’s honor for students in financial need.

The Shirley Ann Coates Student Government Association Scholarship will support student scholarship and leadership development at the university to promote his mother’s legacy of caring, according to Maynard. He made the presentation during a ceremony in the Floyd Payne Campus Center.

Jerry L. Maynard II says the gift to TSU students is to promote his late mother’s legacy of caring. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“We are giving a $50,000 scholarship award to TSU, specifically for students in need to matriculate, but also to prepare them for leadership skills and training,” Maynard said. “I think that’s the best way to honor my mother who passed away a year and half ago.”

Neither Maynard nor his mother attended TSU, but the longtime businessman said “President (Glenda) Glover and Tennessee State University have been a beacon of hope for students,” which made the decision easy on how to use the funds to honor his mother.

In the ‘90s, Shirley Ann Coates, a pastor, opened and operated a daycare center in her local church, charging a “very nominal rate” to help working women who could not afford the average $125 a week to care for their kids.

Dominique Davis, President of the Student Government Association, says many students will reap the benefit of Maynard’s generosity. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“So, my mother opened a daycare and charged $35 a week so the working woman, especially single mothers, could go to work and still be able to provide daycare for their children,” Maynard said. “She took a loss, but she did so because she wanted women to feel proudful by going to work and providing for their kids. That’s the type of woman she was. So, with this gift, Michelle Ann, Michael and David (Maynard’s siblings), we stand together and we honor my mother, and also honor TSU.”

In receiving the check, Student Government Association President Dominique Davis thanked and congratulated Maynard and his family for the donation.

“This endowment will provide much needed help to our students over the next several semesters,” Davis told Maynard. “Many students here will reap the benefit of your generosity. TSU is indebted to you, and we do not take your act of kindness lightly.”

Frank Stevenson, TSU’s associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said Maynard has always been a supporter of TSU.

“To now have Mr. Maynard make this level of financial commitment to our students, and putting it in the hands of student affairs and the SGA to find fellow students who are in the most need, is an amazing opportunity,” said Stevenson. “So, we are excited, our students are excited. We are also excited that Jerry is challenging other alumni, businesses in the community to step up and support this wonderful institution.”

To find out how to establish a scholarship or to make a donation, please visit https://www.tnstate.edu/foundation/.

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 eight 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 joins nation’s first quantum education and research initiative through partnership with tech giant IBM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University says it looks forward to students being on the cutting edge of technology in the fields of finance, digital manufacturing and military affairs now that the institution is a member of the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center. TSU announced today that it has joined the nation’s first quantum education and research initiative for historically black colleges and universities. The aim of the center is to help students and faculty build skills in quantum computing and increase diversity and inclusion in the field.

TSU President Glenda Glover

“With the creation of Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and aerospace designing just to name a few, quantum computing has quickly become an emerging technology,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “The IBM-HBCU Quantum Center partnership helps TSU prepare our students and faculty to be innovators in this field. It is an absolute game-changer when we consider our current climate and how research could lead to new discoveries in medicine and drug development.”

TSU is one of 10 newly added institutions that comprise the 23 HBCUs that have joined the Center to date. As part of the initiative, TSU will have access to IBM quantum computers on the cloud, as well as opportunities for joint collaboration on research, education, and community outreach programs.

“IBM’s priority in launching the Center is to support and facilitate quantum research and education for HBCU faculty and students as part of the growing quantum workforce,” said Dr. Kayla Lee, Product Manager for Community Partnerships, IBM Quantum. “We’re proud to continue building on the momentum of the founding institutions and looking forward to collaborating with Tennessee State University to build a quantum future.”

Established in September 2020, the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center is a multi-year investment designed to prepare and develop talent at HBCUs from all STEM disciplines for the quantum future. It emphasizes the power of community and focuses on developing students through support and funding for research opportunities, curriculum development, workforce advocacy, and special projects. 

Junior Jeia Moore

Jeia Moore, a junior from Memphis, Tennessee majoring in business information systems at TSU, said she’s glad the university is now part of the Center.

“IBM has opened opportunities for me, my peers, and my university,” she said. “Having a firsthand experience of the nation’s first quantum initiative for HBCUs will allow me to grow and develop in the computing world. I am grateful to see companies invest in me, my peers, and Tennessee State University.”

IBM continues to deliver on the Center’s goal to build a sustainable quantum research and education program by increasing the number of black students educated in Quantum Information Science and Engineering (QISE), strengthening research efforts of faculty at HBCUs in QISE, providing opportunities for scholarships, fellowships and internships, and empowering HBCUs to lead in the quantum workforce and broader black communities. The 25 HBCUs participating in the Center were prioritized based on their research and education focus in physics, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and other STEM fields.

“Tennessee State University is proud to be invited to partner in the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center,” said Dr. Michael Harris, Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at TSU. “This partnership will provide our faculty and students with excellent opportunities to pursue research and specific tasks in quantum and its impact on computing, a leading technology guiding fields across business and industry.”

Iris Ramey, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations at TSU, agreed.

“Our students and faculty are anxious to begin the high level of research and learning that the Center will require,” said Ramey. “We are grateful to IBM for this opportunity.“

For more information about the IBM-HBCU Quantum Center, read HBCU Center Driving Diversity and Inclusion in Quantum Computing.

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 eight 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.

Home or away: Amid pandemic, many TSU students still see campus life as a better choice

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – As a new semester begins, returning students at Tennessee State University say they are glad to be back, despite challenges they faced last semester trying to live on campus amid the pandemic. 

Jeia Moore

Residence halls opened Jan. 21 for new and returning students. Classes are offered in hybrid, online and in face-to-face formats, including distance learning. Students have the choice of staying home and taking classes online at a discounted tuition rate, but many have instead selected to live on campus, stay in their door rooms, and complete their courses online without the discount. 

One of them is junior information systems major Jeia Moore of Memphis, Tennessee, who sees campus life as the essence of going to college and won’t trade it for anything. Besides, Moore says, TSU is providing an “atmosphere that makes us very safe.” 

“It’s a little bit different, because you know, we have to wear a mask, social distance and everything,” says Moore. “We are limited in some ways in how we move around, so it’s a little bit different, but I understand that they’re doing it to keep us safe, and I rather be here than at home.” 

Danielle Glenn

Moore is not alone. In interviews to gauge returning students’ experience about living on campus during the pandemic, and why many chose campus life over home, many say it’s “a missed opportunity” not to experience what a college campus offers. For the spring semester, about 1,600 students, including returning and new students are living on campus, that’s about 50 percent of full occupancy. 

“I just feel like you only get four years of college and you better make the best use of that experience, even during the pandemic,” says Danielle Glenn, a junior criminal justice major from Atlanta. “I feel like campus is safe. The university is taking all precautions that need to be taken to make sure everyone is safe. Temperature checks, quarantines, having a place for students to go if they test positive. All of my classes are online. So even when I go on campus to get food or go to the post office, everyone is wearing a mask and there are stickers to keep everyone distant.” 

A TSU expert on social behavior says that students’ preference to stay on campus even during a pandemic “could be due to many factors.” 

“Their identity as a student is tied to being on campus. Their reference groups – other students and faculty – are on campus and close contact with them is important for their success,” says Dr. Oscar Miller, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology. “Being a college student is being a member of a select group of people who have achieved an important rite of passage. To a large measure what that means to a student is engaging the campus experience as an independent adult. For some, assuming the role of a student may require getting away from their home environment.” 

Damien Antwine

TSU officials say students’ optimism about campus life that makes them want to come back even during the pandemic is rooted in the campus preparation they saw and experienced last semester. For instance, the university is continuing a comprehensive plan put in place last semester, which includes a 14-day “safer in place” policy for all 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. Last semester, of all Tennessee colleges, TSU reported one of the lowest COVID-19 cases, with mostly mild to no symptoms and no hospitalization. 

Dr. Curtis Johnson, associate vice president and chief of staff, leads the university’s COVID taskforce. He says students want to come back because the university has “gone to great lengths” to be as accommodating as possible. 

“Creating a campus environment that is welcoming to the students and that provides opportunities for them to interact in the safest way possible are what we strive for every day,” says Johnson. 

Frank Stevenson, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, says “the university is very intentional” about creating a home environment for the students that makes them want to come back. 

“For many students, TSU becomes their home. When they go home, they are visitors,” says Stevenson. “They know that we’re going to be there to support them. This is their village, so knowing that they have that TSU village of RAs, hall directors and others surrounding them, they know they are home.” 

Damien Antwine, one of the returning students interviewed, agrees. He says coming from a neighborhood with drugs and other distractions, he “definitely” didn’t want to stay home.

“It definitely helped a lot that campus was open, where I could be with people who are there to help me succeed,” says Antwine, a junior agricultural science major from Memphis, who also has a job in Nashville. “Teachers were accommodating. It was a great experience.” 

Terrance Izzard, TSU associate vice president for admissions and recruitment, says that the university’s goal is to let returning and new students know that their safety and wellbeing remain a major priority. 

“Our ultimate goal is that we get through this together and that students understand their social responsibility, as well as the university’s commitment to safety,” says Izzard.

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 eight 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, Meharry virtual health summit to feature top health experts Drs. Anthony Fauci and James Hildreth

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is co-sponsoring a Virtual Health Summit with Meharry Medical College on the COVID-19 vaccine and health equity. The summit will feature Meharry President and CEO Dr. James Hildreth, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Biden.

The summit is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 17, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time. It can be accessed at:  https://youtu.be/VThTmBxTRPM.

The summit is a continuation of TSU’s collaboration with Meharry. The two historically-black institutions recently announced a new partnership focused on establishing a pipeline of African-American doctors and dentists who will provide essential care to underserved communities. The initiative is named after one of TSU’s most distinguished graduates, Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., an internationally renowned cardiac surgeon who holds an honorary degree from Meharry. 

“We are excited to co-sponsor this summit with Meharry,” said Barbara Murrell, chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Institute at TSU. “It’s important for people in our community to be exposed to leading health experts who will be discussing topics that impact their lives.”

Dissemination of the vaccine in minority communities is one of the main topics Fauci and Hildreth are expected to discuss. There will also be a panel discussion on health equity.

“This virtual convening creates effective collaboration among thought leaders and medical and oral health experts to re-imagine and advance health equity toward the goal of developing a roadmap toward accessible and affordable healthcare,” according to organizers.

Dr. Wendolyn Inman is an infectious disease expert and professor and director of public health programs in the College of Health Sciences at TSU. She said events like the summit are important because they keep the public informed, especially when there’s apprehension in the black community about taking the vaccine, and its lack of dissemination into communities of color.

Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr.

“When we are not informed, unfounded fears govern our responses to productive solutions like vaccine immunizations and appropriate health care access,” said Inman.

“The “fireside chat” with Dr. Hildreth and Dr. Fauci is another way that communities of color can effectively collaborate to ensure all communities are served appropriately during this pandemic.”

Dr. Ronald Barredo, dean of the College of Health Sciences, said the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for events like the summit that focus on better healthcare in general.

“Access has always been limited when it comes to minorities,” said Barredo. “Hopefully the discussion will help lead to more equitable delivery of health care, more equitable access to health care.”

To learn more about TSU’s College of Health Sciences, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/health_sciences/clinics.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 eight 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 to receive $1M from FedEx as part of HBCU initiative to enhance student success and access to corporate America

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service)– Tennessee State University is receiving $1 million from FedEx Corporation to help students complete their degrees and prepare them for the workforce. The funds will also provide relief support to students, faculty, and staff impacted by the pandemic.

TSU President Glenda Glover

“This is an awesome gift from the FedEx Corporation that will assist TSU in addressing some of the unique challenges our institution is facing directly and indirectly because of COVID-19,” said Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover. “We are so appreciative to the FedEx leadership for this innovative program that will disburse one million dollars over a five-year period to also address some of the long-standing issues faced by HBCU students. It is no secret that many of the challenges faced by students at TSU relate to limited funds. This partnership is a great example of public and private entities collaborating to enhance the higher education experience for African-American students.”

“With many students and families struggling right now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our hope is that this timely investment will help keep more students in school and provide future access to leadership, educational and employment opportunities,” said Judy Edge, corporate vice president of Human Resources at FedEx. “This contribution further deepens our commitment to creating more equitable communities by breaking down barriers to work and making a sustainable, long-term impact on underrepresented groups.”

Senior Toree Sims, Jr.

TSU is among four historically black colleges and universities that FedEx has pledged to collectively give $5 million to assist local HBCUs. The other schools are LeMoyne-Owen College, Jackson State University, and Mississippi Valley State University.

TSU senior Toree Sims, Jr., a computer science major from Louisville, Kentucky, said he appreciates FedEx’s commitment to HBCUs.

“I feel like it’s a win for both FedEx and HBCUs,” said Sims. “It shows the company’s commitment to diversity, and in ensuring HBCU students are successful.”

TSU junior Ammria Carter agreed.

“FedEx prioritizing HBCUs during the current climate of our economy means so much to so many people,” said Carter, a political science major from Cleveland, Ohio. “I hope that this act of generosity will spark other companies to consider donating and partnering with HBCUs, especially our beloved Tennessee State University.”

Junior Ammria Carter

This new initiative builds on the longstanding relationship between these HBCUs and FedEx, which includes endowed scholarships at Jackson State University, Tennessee State University and LeMoyne-Owen College; a customized career readiness program established at Mississippi Valley State University; and leadership summits in support of the Southern Heritage Classic for students at both Tennessee State University and Jackson State University, according to FedEx officials.

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 eight 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.

COVID-19 podcast features TSU infectious disease control expert in hour-long national Q&A session

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With new COVID-19 variants spreading across the country, a Tennessee State University infectious disease control expert is urging all Americans to take advantage of available vaccines and get immunized, as the surest way to protect against the coronavirus.  

Dr. Wendolyn Inman

Data so far suggests current vaccines should protect against the emergence of three main variants from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa, and the pathogen circulating in the United States. 

Dr. Wendolyn Inman, professor and director of public health programs in the College of Health Sciences, was the featured speaker on a podcast organized Monday by the TSU Department of Graduate and Professional Development to address COVID-19 concerns. More than 100 people from across the country tuned in to the podcast themed, “Pacing for the Pandemic, A Question and Answer Session on Preparing for the Next Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Listeners raised questions from “Who should take the vaccine?” “Is the vaccine safe?” to “When will there be normalcy?” 

Inman, who was previously chief of epidemiology for the State of Tennessee, said she thinks everyone should be required to take the vaccines because they are “effective and potent.” 

“If it shows that it is not killing folks, and if it shows that it is helping people, I think everyone should be required to take it, unless they have a religious or a health exemption,” said Inman. She debunked the idea that the vaccine is a killer. 

Jeia More

“I can guarantee you that some of the most elite people on the planet have had that shot, and they won’t take it if it were a killer,” she said, adding that if Americans continue to observe COVID-19 safety protocols, and get immunized, “life could have some normalcy by August.” 

Currently in circulation are the Pfizer and Moderna two-step vaccines. On Friday, Johnson & Johnson announced that its single-dose coronavirus vaccine is 72 percent effective against the pathogen in the U.S. and will ask federal regulators for approval this month. 

“I suspect that with these new things – like the Johnson & Johnson announcement – we have the potential of having more normalcy by August than we’ve had in the past year,” Inman said. 

Jalaya Harris

Among those watching the podcast were Jeia Moore and Jalaya Harris, two returning TSU students who attend classes online from their dorm rooms because of COVID-19. They wanted to know the efficacy of the vaccines, and when things would return to normal. 

“This podcast helped me understand the vaccine and what it actually helps me with, as well as the pros and cons of wearing a mask,” said Moore, a junior information systems major from Memphis, Tennessee. “To see 100 people on this podcast was heartwarming; the TSU family wants the best for each other.”

Harris agreed. 

“I got a lot of questions answered about how to be safe during this pandemic,” said Harris, a junior computer science major also from Memphis. “This podcast provided an informative and open space to gain and spread awareness and knowledge about this COVID.” 

Dr. Robbie Melton, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, said the podcast, presented monthly by the Department of Graduate and Professional Development, is intended to highlight experts at TSU who are usually heard only on the outside. 

“We are taking advantage of our own faculty members and staff who are usually called by people around the country, but we don’t take advantage of them,” Melton said. “Dr. Inman is an expert in addressing COVID-19 issues. But we have yet to have her present to our own faculty. So, this was a podcast to really address some of the fears, concerns and questions in an open forum.” 

Dr. Timothy Jones, TSU associate professor of Human Performance and Sport Sciences, who also listened in on the podcast, said Dr. Inman’s presentation was informative and highly educational. 

“She (Dr. Inman) was precise in presenting and debunking rumors about COVID-19 and the vaccine,” Jones said.

Dr. Inman is scheduled to do a Part 2 presentation on COVID-19 at the end of February.

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 eight 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.