Tag Archives: 2020 Virtual Commencement

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

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

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

Seliene Bignall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Department of Media Relations

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

About Tennessee State University

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

TSU honors spring graduates with 2020 Virtual Commencement on Aug. 1

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The pandemic is preventing Tennessee State University from having a traditional graduation, but graduates say they will still be thrilled when they are recognized virtually on Saturday, Aug. 1. 

TSU President Glenda Glover

The University’s 746 spring graduates are being honored with a 2020 Virtual Commencement at 9 a.m. CDT. The ceremony will be live streamed on the TSU homepage (www.tnstate.edu), YouTube (www.tnstate.edu/youtube) and Facebook (www.tnstate.edu/facebook).

“While we recognize the importance of a traditional commencement for our students and their families, we must balance it with the associated risks at this time of COVID-19,” says TSU President Glenda Glover. “This decision was not easy because our graduates have earned the honor of participating in a traditional commencement. But on Saturday, though virtual, we will celebrate them with the same Big Blue spirit as if they were in person.” 

Senior Tommy Evans of Belleville, Illinois, says he will miss not walking across the stage, but is appreciative to TSU for making sure that students receive recognition another way. 

“I’m excited, because either way, we’re being celebrated for our accomplishments,” says Evans, a criminal justice major and senior class vice president. 

Seliene Munroe Bignall, who is getting her doctorate in education administration, agrees. 

“I feel very, very blessed,” says Bignall of Nashville. “It has been a long journey, especially with what’s going on here and around the world.”

While they will miss the traditional graduation, students say they understand that because of the coronavirus, safety comes first. They also laud their soon-to-be alma mater for what it’s doing to make the campus safe for students coming after them. 

In March, as a result of the virus, like other higher education institutions around the country, TSU sent students home to finish the semester and employees began working remotely. The University immediately began a deep cleaning and sanitizing of the campus. 

Evans was among some of the students who remained on campus through the end of the semester, and says he was impressed with steps the University took to make the campus safe.  

“They did a very thorough cleaning,” says Evans. “I felt very safe.” 

The University is set to reopen on August 17 under a comprehensive plan that officials say will provide additional COVID-19 safety protocols to protect the health and safety of the campus community.

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

Department of Media Relations

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

About Tennessee State University

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