Category Archives: Alumni

TSU Alumna named first Black woman judge

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When TSU alumna Tionn Fambro Carter interned at the Tennessee State Capitol in 2004, she noticed a glaring lack of diversity in the House of Representatives. There was no reflection of her identity or her community’s demographics. The experience ignited her passion for public service, particularly drafting public policies that would positively impact her community. It also impacted Carter’s plans following her graduation from TSU.  

“I loved seeing all of the decisions being made and the new laws being created,” Carter recalled. “But I didn’t see a lot of representation of women of color. That’s when I thought, our voices need to be heard and represented. So, I decided to go to law school.”

In 2008, Carter earned her law degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and recently began her trailblazing role as a public servant. Carter was sworn in as the first Black woman associate judge of the 14th Judicial Circuit at the Rock Island County Justice Center in Illinois. “I remember being speechless and feeling overwhelmingly grateful,” she said.

Her journey to the bench was not easy. Carter persistently pursued the judgeship, applying seven times throughout her career before achieving success. Her faith and dedication paid off in 2024 with substantial support from her peers and community ultimately securing her appointment. As an associate judge, she now presides over both civil and criminal cases within her district.

Throughout her career, Carter aimed to inspire the youth to pursue their dreams. She noted that her journey of witnessing positive Black representation began at her alma mater. “Your goals are real TSU showed me that,” Carter said.

“TSU played a crucial role in my journey because as an HBCU, it really demonstrated the power of being proud of your heritage. I got to see African Americans in leadership positions, well-spoken, educated, and capable of achieving their goals, educating others, and leading their communities.”

Dr. Samantha Morgan Curtis, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, expressed pride in Carter’s remarkable journey and significant milestone. “The College of Liberal Arts is incredibly proud of Tionne Fambro Carter, who epitomizes the capable, focused student we strive to cultivate and educate,” Morgan Curtis said. “She majored in English to hone her critical thinking, analytic skills, and writing abilities. She now stands as a model for all young women who follow her, continually making a positive impact on the world. I cannot say enough good things about her other than she embodies ‘Think, Work, Serve.’’”

Carter’s portrait now hangs in the Illinois courthouse alongside the judges who have presided over the district throughout the county’s history. Her presence among them reminds her of her TSU internship and her determination to make a difference.

“We come from a heritage and ancestry that has done great things,” Carter said. “And we can continue to be a part of that legacy too. Work hard for your seat at the table because you belong there just like everyone else,” she continued. “If you believe it’s your purpose, never give up on your dreams.

Carter resides in Rock Island County with her husband and children.

Top-performing high school seniors commit to Tennessee State University

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Over 275 of the nation’s top high school seniors have chosen to enroll at Tennessee State University for the 2024 fall semester. These exceptional students, along with their families, made their commitments during Admitted Students Day on May 18 at TSU. Deja Milan Nickerson of Marietta, Georgia, and Alanah Ellis from Chicago were two of the students who committed to attend TSU for the upcoming fall semester as first-time freshmen. 

Deja Milan Nickerson (sporting her TSU Tiger T-shirt), a former drum major of her high school,  plans to play the clarinet with the AOB. She came to Admitted Student Day with her father, Emmanuel Nickerson, mom Latoya Freeman Nickerson, and younger brother Emmanuel Nickerson, Jr. (TSU Photo)

Nickerson, who will major in journalism and business communications, has a 4.0 GPA. The former high school band drum major received a band scholarship and is eager to join TSU’s acclaimed Grammy-winning Aristocrat of Bands, where she plans to play the clarinet.

“I am committed, very excited, and it’s an honor to be here,” said Nickerson, who, along with her mother, father, and younger brother, was among the first to check in on Saturday.

“I am excited to see what TSU has in store for me. We visited several schools, but when we came here, TSU just seemed to be the best place for me. In fact, the director of the AOB visited my school, and many of us tried out with the band and ended up getting scholarships.”

For Ellis, also with a 4.0 GPA, she will major in accounting. She cited the university’s reputable academic programs, the enriching HBCU experience, and the ideal distance from home as key factors in her decision. Additionally, Ellis has several relatives who are TSU graduates.

Alana Ellis, left, who will major in accounting, receives a welcome package from Veonka Sarr, Senior Admissions Associate, as her mother, Andrea Thomas, looks on. (TSU Photo)

“I am coming to TSU,” she declared. “I am anxious to get started. I heard a lot of great things about TSU, and I wanted to experience it for myself.” 

As the program kicked off, Deputy Chief Operating Officer Elmore Jones extended a warm welcome emphasizing the importance of starting the TSU experience on a positive note to foster success.

“We want to welcome you here today to make sure you start your TSU experience on the right foot,” Jones said. “We want you to enjoy college. For me, it was the best decision I ever made. So, I want you all to ask all the questions you might have. Get all the information you need. We want you to be successful. We have a lot of exciting things planned for you.”

Dr. Tasha Carson, Assistant Vice President of First-Year Students, admonishes the new Tigers, as Deputy Chief Operating, Elmore Jones, left, and Dr. Portia Johnson, Director of Recruitment, look on. (TSU Photo)

Dr. Tasha Carson, assistant vice president of First-Year Students, commended the students for their perseverance and welcomed them to a supportive community dedicated to their academic growth.

“I applaud you for persevering through middle school, high school, and now the decision to come to college,” Carson said. “I applaud your parents, and you too should applaud them for their support. At TSU, there are many programs and committed individuals who are here to help you succeed.”

 Dr. Coreen Jackson, left, Dean of the Honors College, and Holly Blakemore, Senior Scholarship Coordinator, speak to students and parents during a mixer for merit scholars, as part Admitted Students Day. (TSU Photo)

The day’s events included campus tours, program previews, information sessions on various student services, and a lively mixer for merit scholars hosted by the Office of Institutional Merit Scholarships. The events left a positive impression on students like Julian Kendrick from Champaign, Illinois, who expressed his conviction in choosing TSU, praising the culture and the welcoming HBCU environment that resonated with him.

“I like all I have seen today,” he said. “They heard our concerns and answered our questions. I love the culture. It is like family. I feel like I will fit right in.”

 Following the assembly in Kean Hall, the new Tigers and their families took in the beautiful weather and toured campus as part of the daylong activities. (TSU Photo)

Admitted Students Day, coordinated by the Offices of Recruitment, Admissions, and Enrollment, provided essential insights and interactions to ensure a smooth transition for the incoming Tigers.

Dr. Portia Johnson, director of Recruitment, emphasized the importance of addressing all inquiries before departing to equip students with the requisite information for a successful academic journey.

For further details on admission processes at TSU, prospective students can visit Tennessee State University Admissions at https://www.tnstate.edu/admissions/

TSU ranks top 10 in best value for international students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is home away from home for hundreds of students from around the world. As a global institution, TSU offers international students a place to learn and thrive, helping them to navigate in their new surroundings, while providing a safe space for cultural acceptance. The university’s commitment to its international student population is paying off.

TSU recently placed sixth as Best Value HBCU Rankings for international students, according to Study Abroad Aide.

“TSU is pleased to receive this top ten ranking as it speaks to our commitment to expanding our global footprint and educating without borders,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.  “The ranking also speaks to the dedication of our administrators and faculty to create a diverse culture for our campus community.”

Dr. Nicholas-Phillips with TSU students visiting a Messai Village in Arusha, Tanzania, June 2024.

In a communication to the university, Study Abroad said the recognition stems from providing outstanding educational value to international students, combining affordability with high academic quality. TSU currently has over 220 international students representing nearly 40 different countries around the world.

Dr. Arlene Nicholas- Phillips, Assistant Vice President of Global Initiatives and Partnership, recently returned from a study abroad experience in Tanzania, Africa, where she met with Government officials and corporate partners, while also seeking potential recruits. Phillips enjoys expanding the TSU brand globally.

She noted that this recognition from Study Abroad Aide will be very beneficial in increasing the enrollment of international students because TSU offers a nurturing environment.

“Not only will it help us in our quest to recruit more students globally, but it will also solidify the fact that we’re doing the right thing for international students,” Phillips said. “The doors at TSU are wide open, and we welcome the world to the Tiger Town!” Over time, Phillips has received positive feedback from university professors regarding international students performing well in class, staying motivated to learn, and maintaining their scholarships.

“The international students are very mission-oriented. They know why they are here and work very hard to achieve their academic goals.”

Dr. Jewell Winn, the Executive Director for the Office of International Affairs (OIA), stated that the recognition speaks to the value of the components within their office that benefit international students in all aspects.

Dr. Jewell Winn
Dr. Jewell Winn

“We’re very intentional about programming to make sure that all students have a sense of belonging and that domestic students understand the culture because the international students are here to learn the culture of American students,” Winn said.

TSU offers an Intensive English Program (IEP) that helps international students learn and master the English language. It is the only Commission on English Language Program Accreditation-accredited intensive English program in Tennessee and the first at an HBCU. IEP serves international students seeking admission to graduate and undergraduate programs.

Brazil native Isabela Lelis came to the United States and completed the program in 2022. Lelis enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program the following year, where she is pursuing a career in supply chain management.

“I feel very welcome here,” said Lelis, who is a graduate assistant within the Office of International Affairs. “They are involved in many activities. I have opportunities here.” She is also involved in international student events, like the Miss Collegiate International pageant held last year.

Miss Collegiate International, Aniyah Patterson-Thomas (Trinidad and Tobago) with Layale Ajamy(Lebanon), far left, Taylor Hart(Bahamas), right, and Isabela Lelis (Brazil)

TSU is continuing to create an environment that bridges language barriers and fosters community integration. Each year, the university hosts an annual International Education Week, observed during the second week in November. In 2022, a group of first-year freshmen from the Caribbean attended some of the week’s events and left feeling more at home at TSU. Among them was Tonique Poitier of the Bahamas, who, along with many other Caribbean students, was recruited by Dr. Phillips and members of the Office of International Affairs.

“We are all from different places, but it’s still a family because we are relating to being abroad in school,” Tonique Poitier of the Bahamas, said.

Poitier, who is studying chemistry, said the week gave her and fellow Caribbean students a chance to interact and gain awareness about other cultures as well.

Mauricio Fabian recently became the first in his family to graduate with a master’s degree from TSU. Fabian, from Veracruz, Mexico, also came to TSU to learn English through the Intensive Center. “There is great opportunity at TSU for international students,” he said. “And there are many different cultures here to learn about.”

Mauricio Fabian received a certificate of achievement after completing the Intensive English Program.

People from all over the world invest in TSU’s office and programs to learn the language and then return to their home countries to teach it or to seek better employment opportunities in the United States.

Mark Gunter, Director for international students and scholar services, said OIA is a home for all their students.

“We look at our office as being the first resource, or the home away from home, for all international students,” Gunter said. “And the one thing that we constantly hear from our international students is that we’re the office where they can always come to.”

Gunter said the office strives for the number one spot but is appreciative for the recognition and top ten ranking. “We strive to be the best HBCU for international education as a whole.”

To learn more about the OIA, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/international/.

TSU’s Tasha Carson designs HBCU course for the Univ. of South Carolina

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Dr. Tasha A. Carson is bringing the ‘HBCU experience’ to the University of South Carolina in a groundbreaking college course. The National Resource Center at the University of South Carolina recently named Dr. Carson as their newest instructor for The HBCU Experience from a Student Affairs Perspective course that runs from June 3 – 28.  Carson, who also designed the curriculum, currently serves as the assistant vice president of First-Year Students in the division of Student Affairs.

“I feel extremely blessed to have been chosen to create and teach this course on historically Black colleges and universities at the University of South Carolina,” said Carson.

“As a three-time HBCU grad, who was just a first-generation college student from the Southside of Chicago, I work every day with a conscience that I wouldn’t be who I am today had it not been for the lessons, values, and education I received at an HBCU.”  

Designed for higher education practitioners and student-support service providers, the course will explore the unique role of student affairs professionals at HBCUs. It will provide an in depth look into understanding the staff and student experience. The courses examine the history, culture, and impact of HBCUs on education and its critical role in American history and society.

“The HBCU culture and history means so much to me and I am passionate about helping others see the treasure that is entrenched in the very fabric of our institutions,” Carson added.

Dr. Jamil Johnson, associate Director of Research and Grants, said USC is pleased to welcome Dr. Carson and her expertise in the field, especially as the country begins to learn more about HBCUs. Johnson added that he looks forward to seeing how this unique course will benefit students and the university.

“We had an exceptional number of outstanding candidates, and I am confident that her experiences and background will serve as an enormous benefit to the students (participants) who enroll in the course.”

Dr. Carson will explore theoretical perspectives and practical approaches to serving the HBCU student population through frameworks related to academic success, advising, mentoring, student support, and student engagement. Professionals from all over the country will be able to take the course and receive continuing education units (CEU), to provide a critical professional development opportunity. The course starts this summer and allows individuals to learn on their own schedule within specified deadlines.

“I am not only a representation of the HBCUs that I attended but I am also a representative of the HBCUs that I have had the honor to serve,” explained Carson.  

“I look forward to sharing some of the amazing work that we are doing, here at Tennessee State University, with colleagues across the nation as we continue to rise as a model of student-centeredness for others to see.”

To find out more about the course please visit here.

TSU celebrates first graduates of Dr. Levi Watkins Institute

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The journey to become a doctor or dentist is one step closer to becoming a reality for several recent Tennessee State University graduates. After making history as the first graduating class of the TSU Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Accelerated Medical and Dental program, 14 students will now start their new journey to medical and dental school. All completed a rigorous 3-year academic program, debt-free. Parents and close friends gathered for a dinner and reception to mark this major milestone for the students and TSU.

 
Barbara C. Murrell, center, chair of the accelerated program, joins the inaugural cohort of TSU’s Dr. Levi Watkins Institute at the 2024 spring commencement ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” Barbara C. Murrell, the chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute told those in attendance.

“Yet a dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination, and hard work. And lastly, yesterday is but today’s memory,” she continued. “And tomorrow is today’s dream. So, dream big, I know you’ll make us proud.”

All of the students graduated with a B.S. degree in Biology with a 3.5 GPA or higher in three years, a requirement of the program. However, Jaden Knight and Samantha Altidort maintained a 4.0 GPA. Knight, a Dayton, Ohio native will be attending Meharry Medical College to become an orthodontist. He is a first generation college student.

“We are ecstatic, blessed, and very proud of Jaden,” stated his parents Carl and Shamica Kennebrew, during the event.

Samantha Altidort, one of two Dr. Levi Watkin Jr. Scholars who graduated with a 4.0 GPA, with her family during the program’s graduation celebration.

“We were able to watch what God is doing with him just to see Jaden get the fruits of his work, his hard work, and his dedication,” Carl said. “This program is creating generational wealth and starting a new path for Black men and women.”

Knight stated that he looks forward to addressing the underrepresentation of African American men in the field and improving underrepresented patient satisfaction. Altidort, a Nashville native, will also be attending Meharry Medical College to become a family medicine physician. She followed in her parents Michel and Guerda Aldidort’s footsteps, who are both TSU alumni and work in the medical field.

“We are here to celebrate Sam,” her parents said. “We are so happy and grateful for Sam. To God be the glory.” Michel added that they advised their daughter to attend TSU. “And that was a great decision,” he said. “Now she’s ready to go to Meharry Medical College.”

Jaden Knight, one of two Dr. Levi Watkin Jr. Scholars who graduated with a 4.0 GPA, with his family during the program’s graduation celebration.

Among active physicians, only 5.7% identified as Black or African American in the United States as of 2023. While 3.8% of dentists in the country identify as Black, according to the American Dental Association.

In 2020, Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College joined forces with a shared vision to eliminate health disparities among marginalized populations. The result was the establishment of the Meharry Medical College/Tennessee State University Medical/Dental Accelerated Pathway Program. The transformative initiative was in honor of TSU alumnus and renowned heart surgeon Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. The program serves as a pipeline for underrepresented students to become medical doctors and dentists.

Lalita Hodge, program coordinator of the Dr. Levi Watkins Institute, explained the significance of the program and its significance to the healthcare field.

“To our future brown and Black doctors, we just wanted to let them know how special they are to us and give them a great send-off,” Hodge said of the celebration.

“TSU is going to impact the medical field. I think someone in this program will have the cure for cancer. Someone is going to have the cure for dementia.”

Congratulations to the first cohort of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute Accelerated Pathway Program!

•           Samantha Altidort

•           Alan Bethea, Jr.

•           Taylor Brown

•           Chaun Cheaney

•           Kayla Davis

•           Xavier Erves

•           Camille Haskins

•           John Kim

•           Jaden Knight

•           Brooke Majors

•           McKhia McCrary

•           George Picken IV

•           Ashton Terrell

•           Ryla Traylor

To learn more about the Meharry Medical College/Tennessee State University Medical/Dental Accelerated Pathway Program, please visit https://www.tnstate.edu/watkins/.

TSU Class of 2024 Grateful for Pres. Glover’s Impact

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It was a full circle moment for Tennessee State University’s class of 2024 as they walked the stage to receive their degree on May 4. For many, the in-person ceremony was the first they had experienced since leaving middle school because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant milestone missed but recognized by TSU President Glenda Glover. President Glover served as the keynote speaker and told the nearly 600 students and family members that she understood the challenges they faced, including the absence of a traditional high school graduation.

TSU President Glenda Glover arrives at Hale Stadium for the spring 2024 commencement, ready to deliver her final address as an active president and keynote speaker. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

 “I am leaving TSU at the same time as you,” President Glover said. “This class of 2024, I saw your resilience and your impact. We are leaving TSU together, and we have made our marks. It was my goal to advance TSU, to elevate TSU, and lead TSU to a better place than where I found it. And together, we have done that.”

 Glover, an alumna and first female to lead the institution, delivered her final speech after serving TSU for nearly 12 years. To students, her commencement address was more than a speech. The words were a personal testament to the power of perseverance and the promise of hope.

 Glover told graduates to stay grounded in faith and that they could match and surpass the talent of anyone in any field.

Ahmad Benney,

 Ahmad Benney, who earned an Accounting degree, said he appreciated the commencement, as it was his first since middle school. “This is the feeling I was looking for,” The Memphis native said, after sharing that he had a drive-through graduation his senior year. “Black excellence is the reason I came to TSU, and especially to be here with Dr. Glover being that this is her last year,” Benney added. “We all are moving on, but we all are on to better things in life.” Benney is staying in Nashville to start a new job with a local accounting firm.

 Dinnea Riley, a first-generation college student, echoed a sentiment of gratitude after having a high school graduation “slideshow.” “COVID blessed me in a multitude of ways,” Riley said. “I graduated debt-free because of scholarships, and I just feel blessed to be here and have an actual graduation.”

 Dinnea Riley

 Like Benney, the Minnesota native will remain in Nashville to as a labor and delivery nurse at Saint Thomas Midtown hospital.  

 As students reflected on their first graduation, since the pandemic, it was just as special for President Glover. She received her Vintagers certificate, as a member of the class of 1974. Glover, who announced her retirement last August, will leave in June. The commencement was her final major event. She leaves with a decade or more of accomplishments.

 Under Glover, TSU has experienced consecutive years of record enrollment, she successfully led the institution through the pandemic, secured a record $100 million-plus in research awards, doubled endowments to over $100 million, improved the institutions financial standing, spearheaded new construction, including new residence halls, and moved the institution to R2 Carnegie classification. 

TSU graduate Justin Randolph, along with the entire spring class of 2024, discovered $50 under their seats from Dr. Glover to close out her final speech as an active president.

In her closing remarks as keynote speaker, she gifted each student $50 of her own money, discovered under their seats, with the following words in her final commencement as president.

 “I love you. I am proud of you,” Dr. Glover told the students as they cheered from the surprise under their seats. “And I am expecting big things from you, class of 2024. So, take this $50 and have lunch on me. TSU yesterdays, TSU today, TSU forever. May God bless you!”

Graduates of accelerated program headed to medical school 

Samantha Altodort and Jaden Knight are the first graduates of the university’s accelerated medical program and will enter Meharry Medical College in the summer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University reached a major milestone when the undergraduate class of 2024 walked the stage on May 4. Among the nearly 600 students were Samantha Altidort and Jaden Knight, the first cohort from the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Accelerated Pathway program to graduate. The two joined a prestigious list when they introduced retiring TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover, as the keynote speaker for TSU’s undergraduate commencement. The honor is given to the student with the highest GPA. For Samantha and Jaden, both 4.0 graduates and biology majors, they shared this coveted rite of passage. 

Samantha Altidort and Jaden Knight, center, with Dr. Levi Watkins Institute, Meharry Medical College representatives during the first cohort’s graduation celebration.

“I was thrilled and deeply honored to introduce President Glenda Glover as the keynote speaker,” said Knight, a first generation college student who is on his way to Meharry Dental School.   “It felt like a full-circle moment for me, starting from my first day on campus at Hale Hall, where I met President Glover. Her warm welcome and the unexpected joy of meeting the president in such a casual setting left a lasting impression.”

Jaden and Samantha set on stage and listened as President Glover presided over her final commencement and delivered the keynote address.

 “There will be those who will tell you that it can’t be done, that it won’t be done,” Glover said.  The crowd erupted with applause when she went on to say, “Don’t be discouraged by these dream assassins. If you want to kill your big dream, tell it to a small-minded person.”

The Memphis native and retiring president encouraged graduates to stay grounded in faith and that they could match and surpass the talent of anyone in any field.

TSU students make history as the first graduating class of the TSU Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Accelerated Medical and Dental program.

“During the times that I have heard President Glover speak, she has always shared a word that reminds students to keep the faith, persevere, and trust God, commented Samantha. “As a woman of faith myself, I am encouraged by her words and comforted knowing that TSU has been led by someone who has put her faith first.”

 Samantha, a Nashville native who will enter Meharry School of Medicine this summer, and Jaden, a Dayton, OH native, are a part of the first graduating class from the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Medical and Dental Accelerated Pathway Program. They said introducing President Glover at her final commencement was the ideal way to cap off their historic moment. President Glover established the accelerated medical and dental program with Meharry Medical College four years ago and accepted the first applicants a year later.

“When I first came to TSU, as part of the inaugural cohort of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute Accelerated Pathway program, President Glover was there in Hale Residence Hall welcoming us,” recalled Adltdort, who parents attended TSU.  “Three years later, I am a graduate and she was my keynote speaker at commencement. I am grateful for the role that President Glover has played in helping establish the program that supported me during my undergraduate career.”

Jaden added that he was grateful for the president’s vision to begin the program.

Samantha Altidort, along with the entire first cohort received graduation stoles during the program’s celebration.

“Under her leadership, the accelerated program that has profoundly shaped my career was established. Without her vision and dedication, I would not be where I am today. I can never fully express my gratitude to her but introducing her at graduation felt like a meaningful gesture of my appreciation. President Glover is an extraordinary leader, whose accolades are as vast as her intelligence. As she prepares to retire, I am confident that her impact will continue to resonate not just at TSU but also around the world.”

TSU established the Dr. Levi Watkins Medical and Dental Accelerated Pathway Program in 2021 through a partnership with Meharry School of Medicine and Meharry Dental School. Since its inception, TSU has admitted four cohorts into the program. Samantha, along with 12 of the program’s first graduates, will go to medical school in various fields. Jaden is the sole dental student. The future internal medicine doctor and dentist agreed that they look forward to a new journey that will lead to their ultimate goal and will be forever grateful to TSU and President Glover.

To learn more about the program, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/watkins/.

TSU Ag student lands fortune 500 job, aims to combat world hunger

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Kerrington Howard, a graduating senior at Tennessee State University, secured a job with a Fortune 500 company as a commodity trader, marking a significant step toward his goal of combating world hunger and assisting communities that suffer from food insecurities. “The end goal is to acquire the knowledge and then commit to action,” Howard said.

While the United States grapples with the challenge of food insecurity, Tennessee State University is producing students like Howard, who are determined to make a difference. More than 27 million Americans suffered from food insecurity as of July 2023, according to U.S. News.

Howard, of Maryland, D.C., is an agricultural science major who will be graduating May 4 and heading to Illinois this summer to pursue his career at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).

Howard’s agricultural journey began at the age of eight when he was introduced to his father’s land in Florida, where fruits were grown, and goats were raised. “That’s when I got accustomed to country life,” Howard said. While his mother and stepfather own a business in Maryland, it was his experiences on his father’s land that sparked his interest in agricultural business, leading him to concentrate on it at TSU.

When Howard was in high school, he was accepted into TSU’s 1890 summer apprenticeship where he gained hands-on experience with agriculture professors at the university. He then received a full-ride scholarship as a Farm Bill Scholar to attend TSU and took full advantage of his opportunities and resources.

Throughout his collegiate years, Howard secured internships at Mammoth Cave as an environmental education intern and at Waste Management as an environmental protection intern that extended through his junior year.

During his job search, he discovered the role of a commodity trader through Thurgood Marshall and secured the job after three rounds of interviews. “It was luck, and it was God,” he said regarding securing the job. “I want to make an impact on how the food supply works.”

ADM is a global leader in both human and animal nutrition. As a commodity trader for the company, Howard will trade resources like seeds, corn, and other grain products within the agriculture industry.

What inspired Howard to enter this field is to combat food deserts and underrepresented communities battling with food insecurities. “We’re the leaders in food production, yet we have communities that don’t have access to food,” he said.

According to Feeding America, 92 billion pounds of food annually, equal to 145 billion meals, are wasted in the U.S., which is 38% of all the food in America.

“Since we are in the city (of Nashville), we should be able to walk to food,” he said. “Knowing that we have many food deserts right in Tennessee, that’s part of my motivation.” In Tennessee, 21% of the state’s population lives in areas considered food deserts, 15% in urban food deserts and 6% in rural food deserts.

Howard said he considers TSU “comforting” and looks forward to applying what he has learned at the university in the workforce.

“TSU is the whole reason why I’m here today. They provided the education, the internship skills, and the resources so I can get where I am today,” he said. “So, I’m always grateful for TSU.”

Dr. De’Etra Young, agriculture professor and associate dean for academics and land-grant programs, said that Howard’s achievements speak volumes of the caliber of students the college produces. “As a Farm Bill Scholar, engaged in rigorous undergraduate research and internships, Kerrington embodies the dedication and preparedness fostered within our institution,” Young said. “His success in securing a position with Archer Daniels Midland not only reflects his individual excellence but also underscores the value of the education and opportunities provided by TSUAg.”

Howard will be walking the stage with a 3.5 GPA at the undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 4, with more than 550 fellow classmates.

TSU’s spring commencement will also be livestreamed from the university’s YouTube channel at www.tnstate.edu/livestream.

Family’s engineering legacy a part of TSU upcoming commencement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  When it comes to earning an engineering degree from Tennessee State University, the Buford family isn’t settling for just one—they are aiming for three. Shawn Buford will proudly graduate with her master’s, while her son, Joshua Buford, will receive his undergraduate degree, accounting for two of the degrees. The mother and son duo will participate in TSU’s upcoming Spring Commencement ceremonies, with The School of Graduate Studies on Friday, May 3, followed by the undergraduate ceremony on Saturday, May 4. The two, along with family and friends, will celebrate their academic milestone just one day apart from each other. 

Left to right, Joshua, Shawn and Christopher II Buford all are set to have degrees in engineering from TSU.

“It feels incredible,” Shawn said, as she prepares to receive her master’s degree in data science with a 4.0 GPA.

“It shows that you never get too old to go back to school. This is a family affair. Don’t ever let fear or insecurity keep you from what you’re doing because you’ll be missing out on your blessing.”

Shawn started her collegiate journey with a degree in chemistry nearly 30 years ago from Hampton University. The Brooklyn, New York, native and mom decided to go back to school after discovering that TSU had launched a new data science program in 2022.

Joshua, who is set to receive his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering on May 4 with a 3.7 GPA, picked up his cap and gown alongside his mother this week, both graduating with honors.

He stated that the duo graduating together wasn’t planned.

“I’m really proud of her,” Joshua said. “I know school has been something that she has enjoyed, and just getting to see her dream fulfilled is exciting. I’m happy to witness her live out her dream and walk across the stage, and then I get to walk the next day. It’s an opportunity that a lot of people don’t get to have.”

Meanwhile, the Bufords’ eldest son, Christopher Buford II, prepares to join the ranks next semester when he obtains his master’s in engineering. He and his mother Shawn began their journey together in 2022 when the pair both started the master’s program.

Shawn and Joshua Buford collect their graduation attire at the TSU bookstore. The mother-son duo, both engineering graduates, achieved honors this semester. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“We’ve been very supportive of each other, and we just go home and get to talk about our experiences after classes,” Christopher said. “And then we just do work together because we need that support. So, it’s been an amazing experience.”

Christopher, who previously earned his undergraduate degree from TSU, is set to receive his master’s in mechanical engineering next semester. He shared that witnessing his mother’s return to school, alongside his younger brother, has inspired him to consider pursuing his Ph.D. at TSU in the near future.

“It’s been very motivating because I look at what my mom and Josh are doing, and it’s the fact that we’re getting our education from an HBCU,” Christopher said. “TSU has so many great opportunities here.”

The trio were all also inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society at TSU.

Both of Shawn’s sons gravitated to STEM due to her chemistry background, but with their father, Christopher Sr., being a 1992 TSU alumnus, it was an obvious decision to attend the school that was right in their backyard.

College of Engineering Associate Dean Catherine Armwood-Gordon revealed that TSU has graduated over 600 students from the College of Engineering from 2018 -2022. According to Zippa there are currently over 228,900 engineers employed in the United States and only 3 percent of engineers identify as African American.

Shawn said she looks forward to walking the stage and turning around to watch her sons follow suit to all be a part of increasing that 3.3 percent. “We helped each other, encouraged each other, and supported one another during this journey,” she said. “And as a non-traditional student, I didn’t know how the students in this generation were going to receive me. But the TSU students are incredibly smart, polite, and embrace me. So, it’s been such an incredible experience.”

Dr. Lin Li, the dean of engineering, praised the family’s dedication to education, stating, “The Buford family’s commitment to academic excellence is truly inspiring and reflects the values of TSU’s engineering program. Congratulations to the Buford family as we look forward to their return for yet another engineering degree.”

Shawn said she looks forward to returning to TSU to pursue another master’s degree with an end goal of teaching STEM education. While Joshua looks forward to kicking off his engineering career this year.

United States Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock and President Glenda Glover will be taking the stage as the keynote speakers for the 2024 Spring Commencement ceremonies. Senator Warnock will address graduate students on Friday, May 3, at the Gentry Center Complex. The ceremony begins at 5 p.m. President Dr. Glover will address undergraduate students the following morning, May 4, at 8 a.m. in Hale Stadium. TSU will live stream both ceremonies at www.tnstate.edu/livestream.

TSU gala celebrates President Glover’s legacy 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – As her grandchildren escorted her into the gala, TSU President Glenda Glover’s Salute to Excellence Gala became an unforgettable evening, graced by the presence of 1,000 of her closest family members and prominent friends, all gathered to honor her remarkable leadership and impactful legacy.

The event, held at the Grand Hyatt Nashville, commemorated nearly 12 years of dedicated service to her alma mater. It featured a reception followed by dinner program hosted by lawyer and media personality Star Jones and comedian and radio personality Rickey Smiley. The room filled with applause, joyful laughter, compelling stories, and rich memories shared with Dr. Glover over the years, including national and local leaders, philanthropists, and many more.

Dr. Glover being escorted into the Salute to Excellence Gala by her three grandchildren.

Dr. Glover received heartfelt letters and video messages from figures like United States President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, media mogul and TSU alumna Oprah Winfrey, Nashville mayor Freddie O’Connell, Tennessee governor Bill Lee, American civil rights and social justice activist Al Sharpton, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson Sr., gospel singer Dr. Bobby Jones, and National co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, Bishop William J. Barber II.

During the gala Dr. Glover reflected on her journey as the 8th and first female president of TSU, paying homage to her late parents. 

 “Over 11 years ago, I said that TSU would soar, and that’s what we celebrate this evening,” Dr. Glover said. “The greatest gift a university can embark on students are roots to lay a foundation and wings to soar. How TSU has soared, the fulfillment of a promise to soar to the highest heights of academic excellence.”

Throughout the evening, many speakers reflected on Dr. Glover’s compassionate yet calculated leadership, hence her background in mathematics from the university.

“Under your steadfast leadership, TSU has emerged as a shining example of what we can achieve in this country when we strive to bring the American Dream within reach for all people,” President Biden stated in a letter to Dr. Glover. “As you rose to become the first female president of the very school you attended, your character, devotion, and passion have left an indelible mark on countless students, faculty, and staff members who have called TSU home over the years. I hope you feel well-deserved pride in all you have achieved in your years as president of this incredible institution. Though your presence on campus will be dearly missed, your legacy will endure in the hearts and minds of TSU students for generations to come.”

Comedian and radio personality Rickey Smiley, left, and lawyer and media personality Star Jones, filled the room with applauds and laughter as the pair hosted the evening’s gala.

Dr. Glover received numerous gifts, including an April 13th proclamation from the mayor’s office, a self-portrait painted by artist Donna Woodley and presented by TSU’s national alumni association members, monetary donations, and gifts from members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, as Dr. Glover holds the title of immediate past International President of the sorority and more.

As guests mingled and enjoyed their 3-course meals, they listened to several salutes to excellence from Dr. Glover’s adult children, TSU head football coach Eddie George, Congressional Black Caucus members, immediate past TSU board of trustee members, and Doug Kreulen, president, and CEO of metro Nashville airport authority. Campus faculty and staff also heard remarks from Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Robbie Melton, TSU’s national alumni association president Charles Galbreath, and remarks from the gala’s chair and co-chair Grant Winrow and Barbara Murrell.

In a special video presentation, Vice President Kamala Harris said that Dr. Glover’s leadership has been transformative. “Dr. Glenda Glover, a champion for our nation’s HBCUs, a servant leader committed to the betterment of our local and global community, and a role model who exemplifies excellence in all that she does,” Harris said. “As president of Tennessee State University, she elevated the profile of this historic institution.”

Throughout the evening, amidst the celebration and heartfelt tributes, speakers and guests lauded Dr. Glover for her remarkable decade-long accomplishments at TSU.

President Glenda Glover, center, was gifted a self-portrait painted by artist Donna Woodley that was presented at the gala by TSU staff and national alumni association members.

Dr. Glover’s leadership has been marked by consecutive years of record enrollment, successfully steering the institution through the pandemic, and securing a record $100 million-plus in research awards. Under her leadership the TSU endowment has doubled to $100 million, new buildings, including a new residence hall, and securing $250 million from the State of Tennessee, the largest one-time appropriation from a state to an HBCU.

While Rev. Al Sharpton stated in a video presentation that Dr. Glover’s unwavering advocacy for HBCUs has been a beacon of hope for students and educatorsOprah Winfrey had similar sentiments. 

Winfrey stated that Dr. Glover fought for their alma mater to ensure that HBCUs receive the support they deserve. “Your commitment to TSU and its students has been steadfast, you’ve been a beacon of inspiration for us all, you have led with such passion, you have maintained your integrity, and also a deep love for TSU,” Winfrey stated in a video presentation.

Dr. Glover takes selfie with attendees and friends during the gala at the Grand Hyatt.

“Dr. Glover, you are the reason our alma mater is reclaiming its rightful place at the forefront of higher education. You’ve made me so proud to be a graduate of Tennessee’s only public HBCU. Congratulations on your retirement, and may your future be filled with everything you deserve, meaning joy, serenity, contentment, and continued success.”

Being a Memphis native and daughter of a civil rights activist, Dr. Glover talked about keeping up a good fight for the betterment of TSU. “It was my goal to elevate TSU and to leave TSU in a better position, a better place than when I arrived in 2013,” she said. “I’ve told you before, I finished my course, but I have not finished my calling.

Thank you, Tennessee State University for my roots and wings. TSU today, TSU forever. May God bless TSU.”

After an evening filled with echoed heartfelt speeches and warm memories, the sentiment that resonated most was related to Dr. Glover’s faith, inspiration, and transformation. With each accolade and tribute, the Salute to Excellence Gala illuminated the profound impact of her tenure, serving as both a celebration of her accomplishments and a farewell to her role as president of TSU.