NASHVILLE, Tenn.(TSU News Service) – This morning hundreds of Tennessee State University students participated in rehearsal in preparation for Saturday’s commencement ceremony. One of those graduates was former NFL 2-time Pro Bowler and AFC Champion Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The TSU standout will receive a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the College of Liberal Arts. Rodgers-Cromartie started his collegiate career as a cornerback for the TSU Tigers and was a first round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.
Rodgers-Cromartie joins the class of 2023 for TSU fall commencement Saturday, December 9, 2023, at 9 a.m. in the Gentry Center Complex. Nearly 700 students will walk the stage to receive their degrees during the ceremony. This year’s speaker is award-winning journalist and former CNN anchor Don Lemon. Lemon anchored the long-running CNN primetime program, Don Lemon Tonight as well as CNN This Morning.
Commencement will include 328 undergraduate students and 324 graduate students. TSU is hoping graduates will make it “TSU for Two” and consider pursuing a second degree, from the institution, after graduation. The School of Graduate Studies held “Donuts and Degrees” during commencement rehearsal to talk with interested students. The recruitment initiative could help students who are still undecided about life after graduation.
University officials encourage graduates to arrive one hour before the ceremony due to parking. While masks are not required, this is flu season and everyone is asked to exercise caution.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s 2023 homecoming drew thousands of proud alumni, family, and friends from across the country to celebrate the annual week of activities. With the theme “Through Resilience and Perseverance, We Are One,” Tennessee State University proudly kicked off the weeklong celebration with the Robert N. Murrell Oratorical Contest and Gospel Explosion, followed by other traditional events like the coronation of Mister and Miss TSU, the homecoming parade down historic Jefferson Street, and, of course, the football game. This year also featured plenty of star power in the land of ‘Golden Sunshine.’
Homecoming chair Grant Winrow said this year’s events were ‘nothing short of perfection.
“We did a great job executing some fantastic enhancements to homecoming,” Winrow said.
“The highlight of my homecoming is that we had a wonderful time celebrating without any incidents reported. It was a very intentional effort that we partied with a purpose, with all the fundraising that took place.” Winrow also noted how livestreaming the legendary homecoming parade for the first time ever was a huge success, with thousands of viewers.
There was a warm welcome extended to the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Medical/Dental Accelerated Pathway Program cohorts during a white coat ceremony to honor students on their journey toward becoming medical doctors, dentists, and healthcare professionals.
TSU’s homecoming continued with a music concert featuring Kash Doll, Boosie, Moneybagg Yo, Glorilla, and more for students to have an unforgettable night with some of their favorite rap artists. In the midst of events, Mr. and Miss TSU, Davin Latiker and Victoria McCrae, had their special night, their coronation, during homecoming to officially wear the crowns as queen and king.
“To me, coronation is truly a magical experience,” said McCrae, who was crowned as the 94th Miss TSU. “It is a moment that you not only cherish with the currently reigning royal court but with all royals, admin, family, and students. Being coronated is an indescribable feeling. It is a true moment of happiness and an overwhelming sea of joy.”
Davin Latiker believed that coronation represents a significant moment of recognition. “It is a night dedicated to acknowledging the remarkable achievements of the individuals within the royal court,” he said. “It’s an event that celebrates excellence and serves as an opportunity to reflect on the journey that brought us here.”
Hollywood came to campus as TSU was the first stop on The Shop UNINTERRUPTED HBCU Tour. Guests for the live taping included TSU alumnus Dwane “Key Wane” Weir, Jr., a Grammy award-winning music producer and songwriter who has worked with Beyonce, Drake, Jazmine Sullivan, and Big Sean just to name a few.
He was joined by actress and producer Crystal Renee, from Tyler Perry’s Sistas and Zatima television shows. The Shop co-creator Paul Rivera and comedian Kevin Fredericks, professionally known as KevOnStage, served as hosts. The TSU show will air in November on the show’s YouTube Channel and will also feature President Glenda Glover, the Aristocrat of Bands along with Mister and Miss TSU Davin Latiker and Victoria McCrae.
For alumni, the party was in full swing with DJ D-Nice. The DJ to the stars entertained homecoming crowds for two days, on Friday at the Ultimate Day Party and Saturday at the TSU Official Tailgate Event.
Debbie Howard, director of the office of alumni relations, said that homecoming goers called this year’s events one of the greatest of all time. “With so many events being held on campus now, whether it’s the pep rally, the step show, the addition of the inaugural alumni day party or the parade, it just felt like home to many,” Howard said. “To many alumni, this homecoming was one to cherish for a lifetime.”
Homecoming culminated with the TSU football Tigers improving to 4-2 this season, with a win over Norfolk State. And of course, the Aristocrat of Bands stole the halftime show.
Tennessee State University’s Homecoming 2023 was more than an event but was a testament to the pride, unity, and excellence as one.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.(TSU News Service) – With the theme of “Through Resilience and Perseverance, We Are One,” Tennessee State University proudly announces homecoming 2023 is October 8-14. Homecoming kicks off the with the annual Robert N. Murrell Oratorical Contest and Gospel Explosion on Sunday, Oct. 8 to start the weeklong celebration. In addition to the big game between fellow HBCU Norfolk State University and the TSU Tigers, major events will include Mister and Miss TSU Coronation along with the Royal Court, the scholarship gala, the legendary Jefferson Street parade, and numerous alumni and student activities.
“This year’s theme embodies the spirit of solidarity and unity that defines the university and its local community, said TSU President Glenda Glover. ” There’s no homecoming like a TSU homecoming. We have planned for a celebration that will welcome thousands of alumni back home to our campus, their campus.”
President Glover added that she is pleased to have TSU alumni, former faculty and administrators to serve as the grand marshals and honorees the homecoming.
The Grand Marshals leading this year’s parade include former Senator Brenda Gilmore, state government administrator Dr. Turner Nashe, and Tennessee Tribune publisher and civil rights activist Rosetta Miller-Perry. The honorees are longtime educator and administrator Dr. John Cade, legal maestro-turned-community leader Sammy Comer, and retired TSU Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and English professor Dr. Gloria Johnson.
The Special Presidential Honorees, distinguished as lifetime achievement luminaries, include civil rights leader Dr. Xernona Clayton, ambassador and gospel music advocate Bobby Jones, the chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Institute, Dean Barbara Murrell, and former long-time director of Field Services and Extension, and director of Financial Aid Homer Wheaton.
TSU students will continue to benefit from homecoming with the Annual Scholarship Gala, TSU’s signature fundraising event. It will take place at 6 p.m. on Friday, October 13, at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville. TSU homecoming Chair and director of strategic planning Grant Winrow said the gala gives alumni and supporters a chance to party with purpose and give back.
“This is our biggest opportunity to let the world know how TSU has been a presence amongst colleges and universities across the country with our historical accomplishments and achievements,” Winrow said. “We have some of the most illustrious alumni who have stepped foot on this campus.”
Referring to this year’s honorees and grand marshals, Winrow said this is a selection to be very proud of.
“We have an unprecedented number of honorees this year. They are the epitome of dedicated service to the university.”
Student Government Association President Derrell Taylor said this year’s theme is impactful. “It’s a great opportunity to emphasize that we are one. We are part of the same product, goal, and mission,” Taylor said. “It’s meaningful because it is one of the most anticipated moments of the year. Students are excited to be able to put on their flyest outfits and attend some of the best events of the year.”
Taylor also noted how this is his last homecoming as an undergraduate student and Dr. Glover’s last homecoming as an active president. “This is our president’s final victory lap. It will be nice to see everyone come home and give her her flowers.”
President Glover announced her retirement in August.
Director of Athletics Dr. Mikki Allen said homecoming is all about the community honoring the past, celebrating the present, and investing in the future of Tennessee State University. “Homecoming is much more than a single event. It’s a celebration of history, culture, community, and the enduring legacy of Tennessee State University,” AD Allen said.
“We know a major part of the celebration will be the football game. We’re excited to play Norfolk State University and I know Coach George will have our team ready to perform at a high level.”
The 2023 homecoming will also feature the now Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands, who will be a major highlight of the TSU homecoming parade. Thousands are expected to line up and down Jefferson Street, hours before the big game, to see the trailblazing band. The parade route is from 14th and Jefferson Street to 33rd and John Merritt Boulevard.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.(TSU News Service) – It was a Tennessee State University takeover in every sense of the word as the City of Memphis turned TSU blue for the 34th Annual Southern Heritage Classic (SHC). Simmons Bank Liberty Bowl Stadium was also filled with excitement following head coach Eddie George and the Tigers’ thrilling victory over the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff 24-17. The win culminated a weekend of events highlighting the special connection between the University and the Bluff City.
This year’s classic also held a deeper significance for TSU ever since President Glenda Glover announced her retirement in August. “It’s an exciting win,” President Glover said. “There’s nothing like coming back to your hometown, being with your friends and family. Knowing that this is my last time to win in this stadium as president of TSU makes it all the more special.”
It was also special because it was the world-renowned Aristocrat of Bands’ first appearance at the classic since winning a Grammy earlier this year. The band was the highlight of the classic parade, bringing back childhood memories for TSU senior Oryanna Davis. Davis is a current cheer coach of the Little Tigers and has attended every SHC since birth.
“I’ve been to every Classic in my 21 years,” Davis, a Memphis native, said.
The TSU business administration major said her favorite part of the Classic every year is witnessing the Aristocrat of Bands (AOB) dominate the halftime show. She also mentioned that another highlight is being a part of the annual Orange Mound Classic parade with support from her family, friends, and former teammates. Davis was a part of the TSU cheer team for two years before becoming a Little Tigers coach.
“I am around the people I love and doing what I love,” she said. “So being able to support the university and also have people around me support me is special.”
Hundreds of people lined the route to see the floats and participants in the annual parade, including President Glover, AOB, TSU student leaders, and local bands from across the Mid-South filling the streets. You could hear Davis’s family cheering her on from the parade’s sideline. Davis’s mother, Janine Jolliffi, said it takes a village to raise and educate children, emphasizing that the heritage of the classic is more than just a football game or a parade.
“It’s an all-out community event,” the Memphis native said. “We want to cheer for them, support them, and see them succeed. Not only in the parade, but we also want to cheer them on in education as well.” Davis’s younger brother, 14-year-old Omari Jolliffi, said their family has always been a part of TSU, even before his sister enrolled.
“The parade is a great thrill and rush I look forward to every year,” Omari said. He also stated that he plans to follow in his sister’s footsteps and graduate from TSU with hopes of becoming a veterinarian.
The classic means more than the action on the field for TSU. It is also a significant effort in recruiting young students like Omari. West Tennessee, North Mississippi, and specifically Memphis are fertile grounds to recruit top high school students.
The TSU Office of Enrollment Management and Student Success spoke with many future Tigers during the Classic College and Career Fair at Liberty Park in Memphis. LaMar-Octavious Scott, the director of admissions, said the college fair was an outstanding experience as local high school students were eager to learn how to become a part of the Tiger family.
“Not only was this a great way to promote the institution, but to be able to put the students in the front seat to their future,” Scott said. “It’s a great level of exposure that often helps meet the student’s expectation of wanting to attend an HBCU.”
Scott revealed that the office of enrollment had forged powerful connections with community leaders, igniting a surge in exposure through collaborative partnerships and initiatives. As the fair unfolded, there were over 2,650 students in attendance, more than 100 student inquiries, and 20 who were granted on-the-spot admissions.
Attendance for the football game was 32,518 with UAPB as a first-time opponent. With additional events such as the Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium tailgate, the Penny Hardaway Memphis District Golf Classic, and the Classic concert starring Gladys Knight, the 34th annual Southern Heritage Classic will be one to remember.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.(TSU News Service) – With the promise of a win, the 34th Southern Heritage Classic was the perfect sendoff for Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover. This year’s classic marked Glover’s eleventh and final one as president of her alma mater. The Memphis native announced her retirement in August.
President Glover was honored with special presentations from Mayor James ‘Jim’ Strickland and classic founder Fred Jones during the 2023 Classic Coaches’ Luncheon held in Memphis. The luncheon was also highlighted with the vow of a win by TSU head football coach Eddie George.
“She is going to retire next year, and I want to send her off with a victory,” Coach George said. “That is the goal.”
George then thanked Dr. Glover for giving him the opportunity to lead the TSU Tigers and assured her that he would bring home the championship title. The coach and team fulfilled that promise with a 24-17 victory of the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.
“It’s my last classic as the president of Tennessee State University, but I will be here every year,” Glover said.
Mayor Strickland declared Friday, September 8 as “Glenda Glover Day” to the delight of the luncheon crowd. The announcement was met with cheers and even longer applause as he presented her with a key to the city. President Glover received a standing ovation as she made her way to the stage.
“She has been an incredible partner with the city on this game and in other ways for the last 11 years at TSU,” Mayor Stickland said.
Classic founder and longtime friend Fred Jones followed Mayor Strickland with the 2023 Classic Founder’s Award presentation for Glover to a standing ovation as well. “It is my pleasure to recognize President Glenda Glover, a native daughter of Memphis and good friend of mine, who has excelled at every level,” said Jones.
“Dr. Glover’s impact in higher education is felt everywhere, from the White House to the State Capitol, corporate board rooms to classrooms, and especially here at the classic.”
President Glover left no doubt that she would return for next year’s classic in her hometown, forever remaining a proud TSU Tiger.
“I am honored to receive this recognition from Mayor Strickland and Mr. Fred Jones,” Glover told the crowd. “Memphis will always be considered home, where I got my start. Serving as TSU president is an honor of a lifetime. We have been able to accomplish so much with your continued support. The City of Memphis, Southern Heritage Classic and my entire TSU family have been with me and my administration every step of the way.”
The classic luncheon also featured UAPB Head Coach Alonzo Hampton, along with guest speaker and Arkansas native Keith Jackson, a former college football and NFL standout.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State athletic department received multiple academic accolades from the Ohio Valley Conference this week, as the league announced the 2022-23 Team Academic Achievement Award, Medal of Honor, and Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
TSU men’s tennis earned the 2022-23 Team Academic Achievement Award. The award is presented annually to each conference-sponsored sport to the member institution’s team with the greatest percent of its eligible student-athletes who earned a 3.25 GPA or higher.
The OVC Academic Medal of Honor is given annually to the student-athletes who achieve the highest grade point average in a Conference-sponsored sport. Every Academic Medal of Honor recipient for the 2022-23 academic year carried a perfect 4.0 GPA.
TSU had 14 student-athletes earn the OVC Academic Medal of Honor:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – With the hottest month ever recorded around the world now over, Tennessee State University says it plans to continue taking precautions to keep the campus community safe. The University has been proactive all summer long in sharing important information on how to beat the sweltering heat. TSU health officials and emergency management staff say their efforts will remain the same for the month of August.
Dr. Wendelyn Inman, interim public health program director at TSU, stresses the importance of staying hydrated to combat extreme heat and associated illnesses like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and severe dehydration.
“For a physician, their patient is an individual. For public health, our patient is the community,” Inman says. “We want our community to have the best outcome when that heat wave is going on.”
Inman reiterates that drinking more water, staying in shaded areas, and wearing sunscreen are preventive mechanisms to do while outdoors to lower the impact of unmitigated sunshine. She adds that proper ventilation and climate-controlled spaces are just as important when indoors.
Considering what you eat, drink, and wear, even in 82-degree or above sunny weather, can serve as a preventative measure. Dr. Latasha Williams, assistant professor and director of didactic programs in dietetics, says listening to your body is also crucial.
“Opt for lighter meals, consume electrolyte-replenishing beverages and listen to your body.”
Dr. Williams contends that, “by following these strategies, you can help maintain adequate food and nutrient intake during extreme heat while also supporting your body’s hydration needs and overall well-being.”
“Heat exhaustion is a heat-related illness that occurs due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures and inadequate fluid intake,” Williams explains. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and fainting. While heat stroke sets in as high body temperatures, altered mental state, hot dry skin, and nausea.
TSU director of sports medicine, Trevor Searcy, spoke about how the athletic department also takes innovative measures to ensure the athletes’ safety and mitigate possible heat illness as the university offers several outdoor sports.
From a brand-new hydration station, to rescheduling training sessions to early mornings, Searcy said the university has resources, protocols and emergency action plans set for preventable measures. “We are required to test wet bulb (globe temperature), which is ambient air, temperature, and humidity every 30 minutes of outdoor activity,” Searcy said.
He notes that the department is cautious about heat after reaching 80 degrees by giving more water breaks, carrying ice towels, cold IV fluids and taking off lower and upper body equipment for football.
“If it’s hot outside and you notice an athlete is not sweating, that’s a flag to pull them aside,” he said. “After 90 degrees, it is advised to go in doors and our coaches are really receptive to that.”
The TSU Hydration Center consists of drinks, fans, and snacks, ensuring that the athletes stay hydrated on and off the field.
Together, TSU experts are navigating through the scorching temperatures and continue to demonstrate preparedness to beat the heat in Tennessee.
Generally, caution should be taken if the heat index is over 77 degrees (Fahrenheit). Above 82 degrees is considered ‘extreme caution’ — heat-related illness is possible with long exposure. Over 85 is dangerous — heat illness is likely and heat stroke is possible, according to Healthline.com.
From a public health standpoint, Dr. Inman said it’s important to be mindful of those who are more at risk of heat related illnesses.
In response to the summer heat, the university’s emergency management team has been taking proactive measures to ensure the well-being of those on campus, outdoor security workers and maintenance staff. Click here to see the emergency team distributing beverages to those patrolling the campus and cutting the lawn to demonstrate their commitment to the welfare of the university personnel to beat the heat in Tennessee.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is set to make history by becoming the first historically black college or university (HBCU) to offer men’s ice hockey at the collegiate level. TSU will make this groundbreaking announcement at Bridgestone Arena prior to the 2023 NHL Draft on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. The addition of ice hockey highlights the University’s dedication to fostering diversity, inclusion, and expanding athletic opportunities for students.
“Bringing ice hockey to Tennessee State University is a part of our continued commitment to provide our students with new opportunities and to broaden new interests in areas where they have traditionally had limited or no access,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.
“We appreciate our ongoing partnership with the Nashville Predators which has played a pivotal role in our decision to pursue this historic undertaking, of starting an ice hockey program at TSU, and the first for an HBCU. TSU has a tremendous legacy in athletics. Adding ice hockey to our programs will start a new chapter and build upon that legacy.”
TSU Hockey will commence its inaugural season in 2024, signaling a new era for the university. The team will begin as a club-level program but aspires to achieve NCAA Division I status for both men’s and women’s sides in the near future. While no specific timeline exists for achieving varsity NCAA status, TSU is committed to building a solid foundation for long-term success.
“Today is a historic day as Tennessee State University, a prestigious HBCU, collaborates with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Nashville Predators in an unprecedented partnership,” stated Dr. Mikki Allen, TSU Director of Athletics.
“TSU had been a great partner of the Predators for some time, and we are excited to help them work toward the goal of becoming the first HBCU to field a NCAA Division I college hockey team. President Glover and Dr. Allen are visionaries in their respective positions and should be lauded for continuing to build Nashville into the ultimate hockey town.”
The club hockey program will receive comprehensive oversight under the guidance of the Department of Athletics, ensuring a well-structured and successful implementation. TSU is currently in the process of hiring a Director of Club Hockey Operations, who will be responsible for fundraising, seeking corporate partnerships, recruiting student-athletes, and managing day-to-day operations. In the interim, Assistant AD Nick Guerriero will handle all inquiries related to TSU Hockey.
“I am thrilled to embark on this exciting journey with Dr. Allen to promote diversity and excellence in collegiate hockey,” said Guerriero. “We will strive to elevate the program to new heights, establishing a legacy that will inspire future generations. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the development of the program on and off the ice, and I eagerly anticipate the challenges and successes that await us.”
The foray into collegiate ice hockey represents a significant milestone for Tennessee State University and the broader HBCU community. By breaking barriers and creating fresh opportunities, TSU Hockey aims to establish a lasting legacy of inclusion, excellence, and athletic accomplishment.
“Together, we celebrate the power of collaboration as we dismantle barriers, diversify the game, and propel hockey into a new era of inclusivity,” Allen remarked. “This partnership serves as a catalyst, driving change and ensuring that the game we love embraces the beauty of diversity. With Tennessee State University, the NHL, and the Nashville Predators working hand in hand, we have the potential to reshape the future of hockey and inspire generations to come. Together, we will forge a path towards a more inclusive and united hockey community.”
To support this initiative, the NHL, NHL Players Association, Nashville Predators, and College Hockey Inc. will play integral roles in the lead-up to the announcement. College Hockey Inc. conducted a feasibility study in 2021, emphasizing the significance of introducing ice hockey at an HBCU to promote diversity and inclusion in sports.
“Introducing hockey at the collegiate level is always exciting but Club Hockey at Tennessee State University is truly special,” said Kevin Westgarth, VP Hockey Development & Strategic Collaboration. “Welcoming Club hockey at a storied HBCU is a meaningful step in the right direction for the sport and will undoubtedly contribute to the vibrant hockey community and inspire future generations of players.”
The Nashville Predators organization has maintained a strong relationship with TSU and began the partnership by joining the University in its February 2020 ‘One Million in One Month’ fundraising campaign as a major contributor. The Nashville-based NHL team has continued to donate to the TSU’s scholarship programs and provide internship and job opportunities through the TSU Career Development Center.
Furthermore, during Black History Month in February 2022, the NHL hosted the Black Hockey History Tour at Hale Stadium, a pivotal step in bringing the sport of hockey to the TSU campus.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – If you’re a parent looking for activities to keep your child busy now that school is out, Tennessee State University might be just the solution. TSU is offering an array of summer camps, for all ages, to keep children engaged for the next three months. The camps include fun and educational enrichment activities to help retain what was learned during the school year.
From Meharry’s summer Enhancing Virology Training (ENVIT) program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students ages 15-16 in virology-focused careers, to the Eddie George HBCU Football Camp designed for high school football players interested in skill development and college recruitment, there is a wide range of camps available this summer.
Anthony Fallacaro, assistant director of Events Management, Camps, and Programs, stated that this year’s activities for Middle Tennessee students are essential as this is many of the participants first experience on a college campus.
“These camps and programs provide a safe space for students to build their skills in desired interest areas, develop social skills with their peers, and gain first-hand experiences in higher education environments,” Fallacaro said. “TSU takes great pride in providing these experiences and opportunities to our community.”
Among the many exciting camps returning this year is the Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers Program, which aims to engage students in grades 6-8, to interact with technology through on-campus summer intensive courses and year-round mentoring. This program provides students with firsthand experiences and creates a more diverse pipeline for future careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
The Grammy-award winning Aristocrat of Bands, fondly referred to as AOB, is hosting the Annual Edward L. Graves High School Summer Band Camp from June 11-17.
“This will be our 10th Camp,” said AOB’s Director, Dr. Reginald McDonald. “We are excited that this will be our largest High School Band Camp ever with 267 kids register from across the country.”
The Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) volleyball champ’s head coach, Donika Sutton, has a wide range of several training camps as well. From cubs to elite tigers camp, Sutton is hosting nine volleyball camps for girls ages six to 18.
The university is also a part of the Meharry-Vanderbilt-TSU Cancer Partnership High School Cancer Research Program, which focuses on the shared goal of eliminating cancer disparities through a proportional approach encompassing basic, translational, clinical, and population science for students ages 15-18.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – For three years, Gina Rivera-Ortiz’s parents would drive two hours to get her to volleyball practice, in her native territory of Puerto Rico. Dedication that has paid off in the long run with Rivera-Ortiz’s becoming a decorated libero, a back-row defensive specialist, for Tennessee State University volleyball team. Add to her accomplishment an Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) championship and OVC tournament MVP in 2022 for the TSU Tigers.
Not only has Rivera-Ortiz, a TSU graduate student, put blood, sweat and tears on the court, she has put her all into her education as well.
“Since pre-kindergarten I’ve never passed a class with anything less than an A,” she said. “My parents raised me to want to be the best. I use my parents as motivation. I know they sacrificed for me to be who I am today.”
Rivera-Ortiz will be graduating this week with a master’s of arts and education in sports administration with a 4.0 GPA. She also had a 4.0 while attending TSU as an undergraduate.
For Rivera-Ortiz, volleyball is like a game of chess on a court, where every move counts. She told the university her main key factors on strategizing how to succeed in being a student athlete.
“Time management, discipline, and passion,” Rivera-Ortiz said. “Everything I do, I do it with passion. Be humble but use that drive of thinking you’re the best and working to be the best.”
TSU head volleyball coach Donika Sutton couldn’t agree more about Rivera-Ortiz’s work ethic as an athlete and person.
“Gina has realistically surpassed expectations,” Sutton said. “We are talking about someone who all five years has had a 4.0 GPA.”
Coach Sutton said she recruited Rivera-Ortiz from Lajas, Puerto Rico, and offered her a scholarship in 2018. Since that time, Sutton has watched her continuously grow every year.
“She helped me lead this team. The ability, the work ethic and her leadership were a huge part as to why this team was successful this year.”
The TSU volleyball team won the OVC Tournament last November for the first time in 15 years. Out of the 132 games, Rivera-Ortiz never missed one. The international student said she is most grateful for TSU’s welcoming environment, that helped her succeed while being 1,700 miles away from home.
“This was a place that made me feel the most wanted. That’s one of the things that kept me here.”
Rivera-Ortiz has already accepted a job offer at local non-profit organization Backfield in Motion, as a senior youth coordinator. The job aligns with her dream career related to community engagement for the NBA.
While Rivera-Ortiz was a part of the Puerto Rico women’s national under-23 volleyball team last year, she looks forward to one day competing for a spot on the Olympic volleyball team after obtaining a doctorates degree in psychology.
Check out the Puerto Rico native’s stats and recent accolades as the all-time OVC leader in career digs and in TSU history.