All posts by Alexis Clark

TSU students selected as ambassadors for Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios Storytellers Lab

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two Tennessee State University students have been selected as ambassadors for the inaugural launch of the Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios Storytellers Lab. The Storytellers Lab is an initiative designed to create partnerships with HBCUs to cultivate diverse creator pipelines within the entertainment industry.

Showtime selected TSU students Billy Ashton Briggs and DeShonda Kennerson, both juniors studying mass communication.

The initiative will consist of a nine-month experience that equips HBCU students with the skills and insights to become the next generation of content creators.

Briggs said he is grateful for the opportunity as he looks forward to honing his skills in the creative process and digital media production. “I was beyond elated when I found out that I was selected for this program,” Briggs said. “I am excited to showcase my talent in writing and to elevate my craft. This opportunity not only grants access to a challenging industry but also imparts essential fundamentals crucial for my long-term growth.”

Kennerson of Louisiana said being an ambassador for this program is one of the greatest opportunities she’s ever received.

“Writing has been my passion for as long as I can remember, and this feels like a dream come true,” Kennerson said. “I am honored to be a part of this program and I hope that it will open many doors for me as a writer and producer in the entertainment industry.”

Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, Dean of TSU’s College of Liberal Arts, said she appreciates that Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios recognized the creativity and abilities of TSU’s communication students.

“This is the very definition of a high-impact practice, where students can actively participate in these workshops with industry professionals who have proven success while they’re getting their degrees. They can step directly from the classroom into working for these organizations,” Dr. Morgan-Curtis said. “These are students who are known and capable and demonstrate each day that they are ready for this.”

The inaugural class of the Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios Storytellers Lab includes 11 fellow HBCUs as well.

Students will receive access to mentorship and masterclasses with leaders across Paramount Global, as well as insider perspectives on the creative processes of content development, the release states.

Ti-Shea Meadows, Vice President of Operations and Channel Planning at SHOWTIME/MTV Entertainment Studios & Paramount Media Networks, said this initiative underscores the commitment to fostering diverse talent and amplifying underrepresented voices for the next generation of storytellers.

“Together, we are forging a path that transcends traditional boundaries, celebrating diversity, creativity, and the power of storytelling,” Meadows said. “The innovative narratives, inspiring voices, and groundbreaking ideas that will undoubtedly emerge from this collaboration are highly anticipated.” Meadows is also the Head of the Storytellers Lab. “As we dive into this immersive program, we anticipate an enriching and transformative experience for both students and mentors alike.”

National events on participating HBCU campuses will be rolling out this spring.

FedEx, TSU continue HBCU Student Ambassador Program partnership

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – FedEx has announced its continued partnership with Tennessee State University after launching its third cohort of the FedEx-HBCU Student Ambassador Program. Announced in 2021, the program launched in 2022 as part of an expanded five-year, $5 million commitment to selected HBCUs.

The student ambassadors representing TSU for the third cohort are Tamauri Murray, a junior studying computer science, and Chandler Lyons, a sophomore studying Business Administration and Supply Chain Management. “I am ecstatic that I’ve been chosen for the FedEx-HBCU Student Ambassador Program,” Murray said. “I can’t wait to dive into this journey and make the most of the unique learning experiences ahead. I am grateful for this opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.”

The impactful HBCU program through the world’s largest express transportation company chose TSU as one of eight HBCUs. The program helps prepare HBCU students for the workforce after college, providing exposure to FedEx leadership, team members, career-ready skills, and unique learning experiences.

In 2022 FedEx and TSU participated in bell ringing at New York Stock Exchange, highlighting the HBCU program.

Lyons, from Atlanta, Georgia, said that every challenge presents a chance for personal growth. “And I am thankful for the chance to evolve,” he said. “I look forward to gaining professional skills and knowledge that will be pivotal for my career progression. This experience is important for HBCU students as it provides minority students access to a wider range of opportunities and connects them with a network of current leaders.”

TSU Board of Trustee student Shaun Wimberly, a former FedEx ambassador from the company’s inaugural cohort, said the continued partnership with TSU is worthy as he received great exposure from the year-long ambassador experience. 

“This gives us that competitive advantage that our HBCU students need,” Wimberly said. “So, we can get that foot in the door. These sorts of opportunities make up for some of the disparities that we have as an institution when compared to other schools who may already have better networking and resources due to historic events.” Wimberly said during his time as an ambassador, selected students were flown to New York to network with FedEx executives on Wall Street about climbing the corporate ladder and opportunities in the near future. Wimberly was one of two students who represented TSU in the FedEx program in 2022. The second student was Breana Jefferson of Madison, Alabama.

TSU President Glenda Glover and former FedEx HBCU student ambassador Shaun Wimberly, Jr., in 2022.

 Jenny Robertson, Senior Vice President, Global Brand and Communications for FedEx, said in a press release that providing HBCU students with exposure and opportunities to imagine what’s next beyond college is invaluable. “The continued support FedEx provides to HBCUs is one way we can help produce a strong talent pool of future leaders, creating additional opportunities to excel in their future career journeys,” Robertson said.

This cohort will convene later this spring and participate in quarterly sessions focused on interview training, mock interviews, and resume development. 

The HBCU ambassadors will also have access to applying for internships and experiencing mentorship opportunities with various FedEx leaders.

Each year, FedEx offers student ambassadors and additional HBCU practical experiences, including the “Career Expose” where FedEx Ground leaders engage with students about transitioning from college to professional life, resume writing, career tips, according to the release. It also consists of a “day in the life” in safety, engineering, finance, human resources, logistics/supply chain, and operations.

Career and finance event prepares TSU students for post-college

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Career development, financial literacy, and personal growth were the focus of the “Secure the Bag” tour recently held at Tennessee State University. Hosted by the TSU Career Development Center in collaboration with HBCU Heroes, the event featured panelists who engaged with students on financial awareness and their next steps after college.

Jeff Brown, the director of the Career Development Center

The event unfolded in three segments. The first segment featured discussions on entrepreneurship, business strategy, and launching, while the second focused on career preparation and generational wealth. The third segment comprised a financial health workshop, specifically addressing credit and debt management for college students. A portion of the event also centered around NIL and sports industry careers, featuring insights from TSU’s head football Coach Eddie George and former NBA player George Lynch.

Jalen Mask, a biology student from Memphis, highlighted the theme of “knowing your why” and the importance of financial awareness. “TSU is an HBCU that is underfunded,” Mask said. “Being that we live in a marginalized community, it is important to have events like this to understand finances because it does affect everything.”

Quentesha White, a junior studying criminal justice from Alabama, appreciated the guidance provided, especially as upperclassmen prepare to step into the real world. She found inspiration in the panelists’ journeys toward success.

Lawson Wright

“Hearing their (panelists’) backstories and the backgrounds of entrepreneurs ourselves is very inspiring and motivating for me,” White said. “I know when I was listening to what they did and the history of how they became who they are today, it pushed me a little more and gave me more motivation.”

Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean Frank Stevenson, kicked off the event, emphasizing the importance of grasping knowledge and hands-on opportunities.

“We are so excited that you all are here sharing information and pouring it into our students,” Stevenson said to the panelists. “I am excited about the collaboration, highlighting the significance of financial literacy, especially within the HBCU community.”

Jeff Brown, the director of the Career Development Center, said the center’s mission is to provide connections and opportunities to help students realize their purpose and future dreams. “The goal of the Career Development Center is to provide connections and opportunities to help each student realize their purpose and the future of their dreams,” Brown said. “We want them to be strong as students and grow as students, but also think about professional development as they approach graduation. But then also be clear about what financial empowerment looks like.”

Hosted by the TSU Career Development Center in collaboration with HBCU Heroes, the event featured panelists who engaged with students on financial awareness and their next steps after college. Panelist for the first segment of the event from left to right: Alex Sanders, Delfine Fox, Harold Simpson, Derrick J. Hill (on screen) moderated by “CDK On the Mic.”

Lawson Wright, a sophomore studying computer sciences, attended the event to enhance his networking and interpersonal skills. “Progress is progress,” Wright said. “My objective is to get better every day, and that event did just that.”

The collaboration with HBCU Heroes, co-founded by Tracey Penywell, brought in panelists and sponsoring companies. This also included business strategists, entrepreneurs, Chief Technology Officers, and representatives from JP Morgan Chase and Amazon, among others.

Angela Davis, the Career Development Center associate director, said the event was essential as TSU students are graduating and earning entry-level salaries larger than ever before and will need guidance on responsible financial management.

“They’re able to give students an inside look, and also coming from an HBCU perspective, they understand some of the things that our students go through in making the transition from college into the workplace,” Davis said about the panelists connecting with the students. “I think it’s of great benefit that they’re able to share their experiences and some do’s and don’ts and different expectations that our students may not be aware of.”

Kimya Savage applauds during the “Secure The Bag” event as panelists share invaluable insights and resources, empowering attendees with knowledge for achieving financial stability.

Davis added that she believed the event offered valuable insights, connections, and inspiration for TSU students. The goal of the HBCU Heroes Tour was to share real-life experiences with students in preparation for the next steps following graduation and their professional journeys. To learn more about the Career Development Center resources, visit  https://www.tnstate.edu/careers/

College of Ag hosts USDA Forest Service HBCU research summit

By Alexis Clark, Charlie Morrison

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s College of Agriculture hosted the USDA Forest Service-Southern Research Station HBCU Research Summit earlier this week, commemorating 30 years of research, partnership, and collaboration among the USDA, Southern Research Station (SRS), and HBCUs engaged in agricultural research.

The 2024 SRS-HBCU Programs Summit welcomed USDA Undersecretary Homer Wilkes as a special guest. Wilkes’ participation provided additional opportunities for sharing partnering successes, exploring challenges and intersections, and fostering ongoing collaboration.

Held on campus in various College of Agriculture buildings, the event featured SRS Director Dr. Toral Patel-Weynand, presentations on the university’s history and its SRS partnership, and a panel discussion on future collaborations. Sessions throughout the day mapped out future interactions between research universities and their government counterparts at the USDA.

SRS Director Dr. Toral Patel-Weynand, left, and USDA Undersecretary Homer Wilkes at TSUs USDA Forest Service-Southern Research Station HBCU Research Summit

This marks the second consecutive year the College of Agriculture has hosted the summit in collaboration with SRS and the USDA, showcasing the institution’s commitment to fostering relationships with government agencies. Dr. De’Etra Young, Associate Dean of Academics and Land-grant Programs, highlighted the importance of collaborative partnerships during the event.

“We wanted to host the summit again this year because fostering collaborative partnerships with the Southern Research Station and other 1890 institutions is critical to our mission of bringing the best research opportunities to our talented student body,” Dr. Young said during the event.

“The end result of our work to collaborate with our industry partners is to improve the quantity and quality of the research avenues available to our student body and that’s always going to necessitate a close relationship with the USDA.”

USDA Undersecretary Homer Wilkes, an HBCU alumnus, expressed gratitude for TSU hosting the event.

“I’m very thankful for TSU for hosting this event,” Wilkes said. “It gives us an opportunity to have an exchange of information. If we say we want to be helpful, we need to know how can we be helpful. And that’s the type of dialogue we have with these deans and the university setting.”

Fellow representatives from other HBCUs participated in the panel discussion about industry partnerships, grant funding efforts, student recruitment and more during the summit event.

Wilkes was appointed to his position under the Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack by President Joe Biden in 2021.

Dr. Toral Patel-Weynand said SRS has more than 200 research, education, and outreach activities with HBCUs or 1890 land-grant schools since 2017. “My vision is to keep building on the solid foundation we’ve established over the past three decades, and to set the stage for even greater engagement and expansion to include more 1890 schools,” Patel-Weynand said.

“TSU and the other HBCUs can look forward to a continued commitment from SRS to work with faculty at each of the six universities to design a program to grow and enhance the relationship for mutual benefit while building capacity and developing scientists at the undergraduate and graduate level.”

Dr. Quincy Quick, TSU’s Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs, participated in the HBCU panel discussion alongside representatives from other HBCUs. They discussed industry partnerships, grant funding efforts, student recruitment and retention, and diversity at governmental organizations. Dr. Quick addressed the importance of diversity in thinking and research.

“We have diversity in that our mission is to train and develop African-American students, but what should not get lost in any discussion about diversity, and it gets lost, is that really what you’re talking about is diversity of thinking,” Quick said. “That’s what helps create, develop, and sustain partnerships, accepting that diversity.”

During the day-long summit, TSU hosted not only USDA and SRS but also representatives from Tuskegee University, Florida A&M University, Southern University, Alabama A&M University, and North Carolina A&T University. It serves as another demonstration of the university’s commitment to research and its pursuit of an ‘R1’ designation under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning.

The summit event highlighted TSU’s dedication to advancing research collaboration not only with the USDA and SRS but also with fellow HBCUs.

About USDA Forest Service

The Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manages the nation’s 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands, encompassing 193 million acres of land.

AOB Celebrates Grammy Anniversary with Nashville Country Music Pop-Up Tribute

Call on the Grammy Award-winning Aristocrat of Bands (AOB), and you shall receive a historic performance. Tennessee State University’s AOB celebrated the anniversary of their Grammy win by delivering a performance inspired by the ‘Best Country Album’ Grammy nominees of this year’s award show. CBS contacted AOB for the performance to gear up for the prestigious awards ceremony that occurred this past Sunday. Music City tuned in and witnessed a spontaneous showcase as the AOB pop-up performance unfolded in front of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center downtown.

AOB warming up for the pop-up country music tribute as the performance unfolded in front of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. (Photo submitted)

Just days after receiving the call from CBS, AOB’s Director, Dr. Reginald McDonald, revealed that the band had just three days to prepare for the hour-long live performance. “Without hesitation, I was proud to relay the message to our band members that CBS entrusted us to deliver yet another historic performance, honoring this year’s Grammy nominees,” McDonald said.

As an HBCU band and the first collegiate band ever to win a Grammy, this presented another opportunity for AOB to showcase its musical range to the city of Nashville and beyond.

The band secured a Grammy for Best Roots Gospel Album, “The Urban Hymnal,” at the 65th annual ceremony held last year. The gospel album also features TSU’s New Direction Gospel Choir along with acclaimed gospel artist Jekalyn Carr, Fred Hammond, Kierra Sheard, J. Ivy, John P. Kee, Louis York, and more.

McDonald said the performance honoring this year’s Nashville nominees was an amazing way to celebrate their one-year Grammy anniversary.

For their pop-up show, the band kicked off the performance with ‘TSU Funk,’ an original by AOB. Following this, the band delivered renditions of songs from the ‘Best Country Album’ category, including “Smells Like Smoke” by Lainey Wilson, “Hey Driver” by Zach Bryan featuring The War and Treaty, “Nobody’s Nobody” by Brothers Osborne, “Penthouse” by Kelsea Ballerini, and “Rustin’ in the Rain” by Tyler Childers.

“This is another opportunity for our students to learn beyond the classroom and for people who may not be as familiar with HBCU bands to witness the excellence of TSU and what the university produces,” McDonald said.

As AOB continues to showcase their musical heights and leave a lasting impression on every stage they grace, this pop-up performance stands as a testament to TSU’s legacy and a great celebration of their one-year Grammy anniversary.

Listen to “The Urban Hymnal” album on all music streaming platforms such as Apple Music, YouTube, and Spotify.

TSU grad first Black female to help discover element for periodic table

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University graduate Clarice Phelps’s interest in chemistry began with mixing concoctions in the kitchen of her Nashville home at an early age. However, it wasn’t until her 10th-grade year at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School that she became captivated by science and developed a passion for chemistry. This passion laid the groundwork for her extraordinary journey of becoming the first Black woman to contribute to the discovery of an element on the periodic table. Beginning as a technician, she worked on purifying berkelium (BK), which was used to confirm element 117, now known as Tennessine. Tennessine is a chemical element with the symbol “Ts” on the periodic table and is classified as a halogen.

Phelps in the control room of the research facility at ORNL

“Taking a seat at the periodic table didn’t happen overnight, it was actually a 20-year journey” reflected the TSU grad.

After earning her chemistry degree from TSU, Phelps later obtained a Master’s in Nuclear and Radiation Engineering from UT Austin. Her path led her to the Navy for four years, where she applied her chemistry skills to radioactive materials, a pivotal role for her in the scientific community.

In 2009, Phelps joined the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, following her stint in the Navy. Two years later she conducted the purification work, a critical step in the discovery process, she said. Phelps and other lab members isolated the purified chemicals, shipped them to Germany and Russia, where they were used as target material to produce atomic number 117.

In 2016, she received the official confirmation that Tennessine was part of the periodic table. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that she learned she was the first Black woman involved in discovering an element, recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).

“Disbelief, shock, and disbelief again,” is how Phelps responded to recognition. “I had to Google it, and I still was in disbelief. However, I thought about me – as a little girl, desperately looking for someone like me in science who was an inspiration, and it changed my perspective.”

Twenty-five percent of African American graduates with STEM degrees come from HBCUs, according to the United Negro College Fund.

Phelps said her higher education journey beginning at TSU was very impactful for her academic, professional, and personal career. “TSU was instrumental in establishing and building upon the confidence that I call upon to take up space where no space was made for me,” Phelps said. “I have found that by applying my knowledge, showing that I can do the work and serving my community by sharing in that knowledge is how I actively live out ‘Think. Work. Serve.'”

TSU chemistry professor Dr. Cosmas Okoro was Phelps’ assistant professor and advisor in 2000 and spoke highly of her both as a student then and as a chemist now. “She is very persistent, and she wasn’t afraid to ask questions,” Okoro said. “I am very proud of her accomplishments and this honor.” Dr. Okoro said Phelps is active in the chemistry community at her alma mater, as she was a keynote speaker for several virtual chemistry classes throughout the years.

Phelps anticipates that her groundbreaking discovery will impact the scientific community, especially in her field. “It will change the small-yet-growing community of African American scientists and other scientists from marginalized communities,” she said. “Being able to see something of themselves, to feel the common struggles that I share in this journey, to know the common invisibility of our impact on the scientific community, will be significant.”

Reflecting on her career challenges as a Black woman, Phelps noted that there were many challenges. “The most significant challenge is being seen, heard, supported, and respected. It has been my experience that you are relatively invisible in the scientific community if you are a Black woman.”

She added that many times throughout her journey she felt small or even dismissed. “But to be in this position now just confirms what I have always known about myself – that greatness is my destiny.”

Phelps said this opportunity is a once in a lifetime as she is leaving a legacy behind.

“One that will surpass my current existence,” she said. “It is healing in a way as well because I feel that I have become what I was looking for all those years ago.”

Phelps emphasized the importance of exposing Black children to STEM careers, stating, “Exposing children to STEM at an early age allows them to naturally develop an inclination towards it.”

Phelps is currently working on her doctorate in Nuclear Engineering and hopes her work will serve as the catalyst for more conversations focused on minority STEM involvement, diversity in science, and addressing biases in the scientific community. She aims to make science a relatable and appealing career opportunity for historically disenfranchised communities, she said.

Phelps believes her story serves as a testament to breaking barriers, leaving a lasting legacy, and inspiring the next generation of Black scientists.

TSU nursing director elected to Tennessee Nurses Association board

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s School of Nursing Executive Director and Professor, Dr. Courtney Nyange, has been elected to the Tennessee Nurses Association (TNA) Board of Directors.

Nyange will serve as the Director of Practice for the Tennessee Nurses Association. As the Director of Practice, she will have general oversight for the review and analysis of practice trends, scope of practice, and environmental issues for Tennessee nurses. The purpose is to establish task forces to develop actions to address identified issues and make recommendations to the Government Affairs committee.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity and I’m honored to serve my community, the nursing profession, and the State of Tennessee in this role,” Nyange said. “My intent is to better the practice environment for current and future nurses in Tennessee by promoting evidence-informed practice actions.”

Nyange said serving in her role at TSU has afforded her the opportunity to be at the forefront of not only nursing education but also nursing practice in Tennessee. Nyange was also selected as a participant in the Leadership Tennessee Next Class VIII. Her accolades don’t stop there.

Last year, Nyange was also selected as the first at TSU to receive this honorable recognition as a Rising Star by the TNA, the Tennessee Hospital Association, and the Tennessee Action Coalition for her outstanding leadership in the nursing profession. She noted that these achievements are complementary to one another. “Participating in the Leadership Tennessee NEXT program affords me an opportunity to create cross-state, cross-sector networks, learn about Tennessee’s strengths and challenges, and prepare to serve my local and professional communities,” she said.

Given that minority nurses are underrepresented in Tennessee and in the nursing profession, Nyange talked about the magnitude of this role, serving the community all while being a representation for HBCUs.

“I am able to bring the minority nurse perspective into this role and be a voice and advocate for minority nurses in Tennessee, and I am thrilled to be able to do so,” she said.

Nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession, with nearly 5.2 million registered nurses nationwide, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

According to the association, the racial breakdown in 2022 shows that 80% of registered nurses are Caucasian, while 6.3% are African American across the country.

College of Health Sciences Dean Ronald Barredo, expressed appreciation for Dr. Nyange’s unwavering support for both the university and the industry. “The College of Health Sciences is proud of Dr. Nyange’s appointment to the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Nurses Association as its Director of Practice,” Barredo said. “TNA is pivotal not only in the regulation of nursing practice, but also the protection of the citizens of the state. Her appointment to this esteemed position exemplifies the University’s motto: “Think, Work, Serve.”

By serving as the Director of Practice, Nyange looks forward to influencing policy and promoting positive changes that will better the practice environment for current and future nurses in Tennessee.

Influencing policy will help alleviate the nursing shortage and help retain them, she said. “My motivation for seeking this leadership position is the desire to recruit and retain high-quality nurses who will help advance and improve the health of Tennesseans.”

Nyange is one of 11 to serve on the TNA board of directors. 

TSU mourns the loss of alumna and former trustee Dr. Edith P. Mitchell

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University extends condolences to the family of alumna Dr. Edith Peterson Mitchell, who served on the TSU Board of Trustees from 2017 to 2019. In addition to her distinguished service at TSU, Dr. Mitchell’s legacy resonates through her remarkable achievements in the U.S. Air Force and the healthcare profession.

“Dr. Edith Peterson Mitchell was a close friend and a staunch supporter of TSU,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “Dr. Mitchell always made herself available whenever I called upon her to serve in any capacity for the university. She exemplified our institution’s motto of think, work, serve as a trailblazer, civil rights leader, and healthcare advocate. Her family is in our thoughts and prayers.”

Dr. Mitchell’s commitment to making individuals in underserved communities a priority is a testament to the legacy she leaves behind. She was the first woman physician to attain the rank of U.S. Air Force Brigadier General and completed 36 years in the armed forces, earning more than 15 military service medals and ribbons, including the Legion of Merit.

Dr. Mitchell served as the Enterprise Vice President for Cancer Disparities at Jefferson Health’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia and as the 116th president of the National Medical Association. She also chaired the advisory board for the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute at TSU. She attended and spoke at each white coat ceremony to encourage and support the program and its scholars. Due to her position at Sidney Kimmel Medical School at Jefferson University, she even made it possible for two TSU scholars to receive admission and support from the institution annually.

Barbara Murrell, chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute, has cherished a lifelong friendship with Mitchell since 1965 when she met her as a student at TSU.

“We are devastated to hear of the passing of Dr. Edith Mitchell,” Murrell said. “She was an individual extraordinaire who broke the glass ceiling and opened the pathway in so many ways, always overcoming the barriers set to prevent access for advancement. She was a brilliant woman who was loved and respected.”

Dr. Mitchell received a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Tennessee State University and her medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

Murrell talked about the love and passion Dr. Mitchell had for her alma mater and the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute. “She worked diligently to impact the lives of young deserving students, sharing her expertise, counsel, and influence to advance the Institute Team and Scholars. She will be missed.”

Since she began her journey at Jefferson University in 1995, along with serving as the Enterprise Vice President for Cancer Disparities, Dr. Mitchell was a clinical professor in medicine and medical oncology. During this time, she took on various leadership positions, including the role of director at the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities and the Associate Director for Diversity Affairs at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. Her dedication to addressing healthcare disparities was evident not only through her administrative roles but also in her hands-on work as a clinical professor, further emphasizing her commitment to advancing healthcare equality.

Throughout her academic medical career, Dr. Mitchell, MD, MACP, FCCP, FRCP (London), prioritized individuals in medically underserved communities, making a lasting impact on the landscape of healthcare equality and access.

TSU professor designs Black History Month jersey for NHL Nashville Predators

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When the Nashville Predators entered Bridgestone Arena this week to observe Black History Month, the NHL team wore a jersey designed by a Tennessee State University professor. Kaleena Sales, department chair and associate professor of art and design, revealed her design at the Predators Black History Celebration game on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Sales says the design offers a duality that bridges historical and contemporary Black culture.

I’m excited and honored to have the opportunity to represent TSU and Nashville as a Black designer,” Sales said.

A look at the front design for the Predators jerseys and T-shirts for the Black History Celebration game at Bridgestone Arena. (Photo submitted)

“To be celebrated professionally in such a public way means something to me. It speaks to the growth that we’ve had, and it honors what Black History Month celebration should really be about.”

This is the second consecutive year the Predators have chosen a TSU professor to design cultural jerseys and T-shirts for hockey players and fans, honoring Black History Month (BHM). The jerseys and T-shirts, designed by Sales and co-created with Predators graphic designer Tayshaun Hassell, were worn by players upon their arrival at the arena prior to game time. These items will be signed and auctioned off through the Nashville Predators’ Foundation at a later date.

Amy Bratten, the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Nashville Predators, said the organization anticipated showcasing the artistry in honor of the historical celebration.

“It is such a gift to have Kaleena Sales contribute to our Black History Celebration,” Bratten said.

“What Kaleena Sales and Preds Graphic Designer, Tayshaun Hassell, created is educational and dynamic. Our players and staff were excited to showcase the artwork on January 31. We’re excited to have the logo displayed all over Smashville!”

The black and gold jerseys and T-shirts, according to Sales, feature custom lively West African patterns symbolizing purity, wisdom, love, harmony, and more. The unique design was also showcased on lanyards distributed to the first 5,000 fans in attendance.

“The symbols were designed by the Akan people from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana during the early 1800s and have a rich and beautiful history,” explained Sales.

“The geometric pattern used alongside the Adinkra symbols is meant to represent the vibrancy of contemporary Black culture.” 

Sales noted that the designs aim to honor the past by connecting it to the present. With over 20 years of experience as a graphic designer, Sales expressed the significance of this opportunity, emphasizing its importance not only for herself but also for the community she represents.

“This exposure is expected to bring increased visibility to TSU and the surrounding HBCUs.”

The Predator’s annual Black History celebration night recognized all four of Nashville’s HBCUs, featuring a battle of the bands with three local high schools, and included the National Anthem and in-game performances by Africa-American musical artists.

In 2023, the Nashville Predators selected Eric Jackson, TSU assistant professor of graphic design, to create the players jersey designs worn during the Black History Celebration game day warm-ups. Jackson expressed his appreciation for the continuous partnership between the organization and TSU, highlighting the ongoing acknowledgment of Black creatives.

“We are service providers, and we are mostly behind the scenes, so it’s great to be acknowledged,” Jackson said.

As a hockey fan, Jackson is especially excited about this year’s annual celebration, coinciding with TSU being the first HBCU to offer men’s ice hockey at the collegiate level. TSU hockey is set to commence its inaugural season this fall.

Dr. Samantha Morgan Curtis, dean of TSU’s College of Liberal Arts, said the selection of two of her professors speaks to the quality of the University’s art programs.

“We are grateful that the Predators recognize the brilliance of our faculty,” added Morgan-Curtis.

“The College of Liberal Arts is excited about the Predators partnership and all the possibilities it affords our students and faculty. This project specifically highlights the quality of our graphic design program. We are thankful to the hockey team for this opportunity.”

Morgan Curtis also shared that TSU will be the first HBCU to host the upcoming State of Black Design Conference in March, another testament to the program and faculty.

To learn more about the Predators Black History celebration and to purchase Professor’s Sales custom design T-shirt, click here.

TSU President Glover says institution will get to the “promised land” of equal funding

By Alexis Clark, Kelli Sharpe

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Days before the nation celebrated the MLK Day of Service, Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover shared her own mountain top experience at the annual presidential prayer service held January 10. Stating that TSU will get to the “promised land” of equal funding, President Glover delivered a powerful, spirit-filled keynote address to mark her final presidential prayer service. The near capacity crowd filled the sanctuary, at the historic Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, to hear from TSU’s first female president and alumna to lead the institution.

Many stood to their feet as President Glover declared how thankful she is to have been chosen to lead her alma mater and that her calling is to bring HBCUs and TSU to their rightful place of equal funding, rights, and fairness. In a ‘preacher-like’ tone reminiscent of the clergy members joining her in pulpit, the crowd hung on her every word and one point encouraged her to stay on as president.

The near capacity crowd filled the sanctuary at the historic Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church to hear from President Glenda Glover at her final presidential prayer service.

“I’m thankful that God entrusted me with the leadership of such a significant university,” Glover said as the crowd erupted with applause.

“We will get to our ‘promise land’ for TSU. I may have finished my course, but I have not finished my calling. A course ends, but a calling lasts forever. My calling is to change the lives of students.”

With the crowd on their feet, Dr. Glover told them she was speaking from the scripture that applies to her assignment at TSU.

 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”  She asked the crowd to please receive her retirement as she nears the end of her TSU journey.

President Glover expressed pride in the university’s increased national platform, as she reflected on her journey from a girl in poverty stricken South Memphis to leading TSU for 11 years. She spoke of her challenges and successes.

President Glenda Glover

An impressive list of accomplishments was shared in the event’s program book. This included record enrollment, successfully navigating the institution through the pandemic, record $100 million plus in research awards and another $100 million in the TSU endowment, several new buildings, including two new residence halls, and securing $250 million from the State of Tennessee, the largest one-time appropriation from a state to a historically black college or university (HBCU).

She also spoke passionately about the ongoing “good fight” for TSU and for HBCUs nationwide, advocating for equal opportunities for students with equitable funding.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education announced that 16 of the nation’s governors collectively owed their respective land-grant HBCUs $13 billion. Tennessee State University was identified as the HBCU with the largest underfunding owed amount by a state, totaling $2.1 billion.

President Glover shared that she is committed to supporting her successor, and will forever ‘bleed blue’ for TSU to the crowd at Jefferson Street Baptist church.

 “My legacy is that I fought for TSU. It is a fight worth fighting,” Glover said.

Prominent clergy members, community leaders, and individuals from all denominations gathered at the annual event, representing the diversity of the Nashville community. Alongside members of the clergy and supporters from nearby HBCUs, elected officials also attended in support of TSU and Glover. Mayor Freddie O’Connell, State Reps. Dr. Harold Love Jr., and Sam McKenzie, former Metro Council member Sharon Hurt, and former senator Brenda Gilmore, were among the crowd.

The newly elected mayor took the podium and spoke about his favorite prayers, gratitude, and Glover’s longevity as a pillar in the community.

“Her tenure as TSU’s leader does begin right here with themes of unity and inclusion,” O’Connell said.

“She knew how important it was for TSU to connect with the community and vice versa. It was Dr. Glover’s ideal way of connecting TSU with the churches and neighborhoods faith-based institutions.”

This years’ service included newcomers on the front pew, like TSU student leaders SGA President Derrell Taylor, Vice President Chrishonda O’Quinn, Mister and Miss TSU Davin Latiker and Victoria McCrae, along with TSU Board of Trustee student representative Shaun Wimberly, Jr. O’Quinn, a Chicago native, described the setting and President Glover’s message as a powerful experience.

“Knowing that she led with her faith being first really made me feel empowered,” O’Quinn said.

TSU student leaders present during Dr. Glover’s final presidential prayer service.

“It made me want to apply it to my personal journey. It really shows that TSU has strong ties within the community. It’s not just within TSU alumni, but the community in Nashville and beyond.”

Rev. Aaron X. Marble, pastor of Jefferson Street, presided over the program as his church has hosted the event since its conception in 2013. Pastor Marble asked everyone to stand on their feet to thank the president for her tenure and commitment to TSU. She received a rousing applause and standing ovation.

“God has used her to navigate and steer our beloved institution to tremendous heights in incredible ways,” Marble said.

“We take the time to say thank you for your leadership, thank you for your service, and thank you for your commitment to prayer.”

President Glover shared that she is committed to supporting her successor, and will forever ‘bleed blue’ for TSU. The crowd stood and cheered during her closing remarks as she talked about her efforts and what she hoped her legacy will reveal about presidency.

“I tried to help students, keep students in school, and raise money to get them off the purge list.

I tried to meet with parents, work in the community, and I tried to love when it was difficult.

I tried to serve God with all I had. Every time I did a speech, in every delivery, every seminar, and in every testimony, I tried to lift up the name of Jesus.”

President Glover will have served for 11 and a half years when she retires at the end of the semester. A Salute to Excellence Gala is planned for April 13, 2024, in her honor.