Category Archives: College of Liberal Arts

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 finalizing fall commencement, graduates to include former NFL star Rodgers-Cromartie 

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.

TSU fall commencement will also be live streamed from the University’s YouTube channel at 

TSU Alumnus has film premiere on Disney+

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – For Tennessee State University alumnus Spencer Glover, it all started in an edit bay, in room 108 of the Performing Arts Center. It was the perfect campus space to be creative and bring his ideas to life. Now, Glover is reaping the benefits of his hard work, after pitching a 12-slide presentation to studio giant Disney that was adapted into a film.

From left to right: Van-Maurice Glover, Kariss Forte, Melissa Forte, Mercedes Glover, Stephanie Rakers on red carpet for Black Belts Premiere.

Titled “Black Belts,” the 20-minute movie premiered on Disney+ in September.  

“I was really excited and grateful for the opportunity,” Glover recalled the moment he received the call back after interviewing to direct the film.

“I was ready to dive in and get to work and was excited at the idea that on the other end of it, I would be a better and more confident director.”

The film explores the relationship between a Black father and son set against the backdrop of martial arts. Glover shared, beyond the Kung Fu and action, the film dives deeper into the conversation around masculinity.

“When people watch the film, I hope they see this moment between a Black father and son, being openly emotional with each other.”

Glover graduated from TSU with a degree in mass communications in 2012, and is also a former member of the Aristocrat of Bands.

Reflecting on his time at TSU, Glover emphasized, “TSU is so important to the foundation of my skills.”

He credited the university for providing an environment where he felt both safe and free to express himself creatively.

Spencer Glover in undergraduate school at TSU in the TV station during a musical showcase that he created called, ‘Next in Line’

“TSU was super vital to my life, career, and development as an artist.”

His former TSU instructors Joseph Richie, associate professor of Communications, and Melissa Forte, who was an assistant professor at the time, praised the filmmaker for his success.

Richie described Glover as one of the program’s pioneers, highlighting his drive and dedication.

“None of us are surprised that he’s doing very well now. He was extremely driven, active and took the program seriously. That’s why we’re here. To see students like Spencer’s success, this is the payoff for a professor.”

Forte noted Glover’s humility and diligence.

“Spencer is very humble and kind.  I think that served him very well at TSU,” Forte said.

The film Black Belts explores the relationship between a Black father and son set against the backdrop of martial arts. Beyond the Kung Fu and action, the film dives deeper into the conversation around masculinity.

“He was always in class going above and beyond to learn more and even taught himself how to do 3D animation and never stops learning.”

Glover’s advice for aspiring TSU students entering the film industry is to stay on course, and things will fall into place.

“You have to be dedicated to the craft and be resourceful,” he said. “You have to create on your own, make the connections on your own.” He emphasized that sticking to your own path and staying dedicated, would eventually connect the dots.

The Virginia native added that he always knew that showcasing his talent on a large-scale platform like Disney would elevate his art to unprecedented heights. He freelanced for Yamaha and Apple, following graduation, before moving to Los Angeles in 2020. Glover took on several independent projects before he and was accepted into Disney’s Launchpad Program for writers and directors from underrepresented backgrounds.

This gave Glover an opportunity to produce short films for Disney.

As a testament to his journey, Glover and his wife, Kariss, now own a production company called “Room 108,” named after the edit bay at TSU.

“I credit edit bay room 108 with being that space where we could get lost in our creativity and come out with something super dope. That space represents what we want to create for ourselves and other people coming into the industry.”

Glover also has paid it forward by coming back to the university as a guest speaker for the communications students.

Watch Glover’s film “Black Belts” on Disney+, presented by Launchpad.

Billboard recognizes TSU’s Commercial Music program as one of the best in the world

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is now home to one of the top music business programs in the world. The October 7 issue of Billboard Magazine highlighted over 25 internationally acclaimed music business programs, including TSU, as one of the 2023 Top Music Business Schools.

TSU’s students are pictured with Tennessee native singer and actress CoCo Jones along with Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, co-founder and chair of the Black Music Action Coalition, and Def Jam Recording executives during a session of the music accelerator program held in May. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

“This is a major milestone,” said Dr. Mark Crawford, who serves as coordinator of TSU’s commercial music program. “Not every HBCU has this program to begin with. This recognition puts us on the global stage.”

Dr. Crawford expressed his excitement for what he believes is a remarkable achievement and recognition that will open doors to new opportunities for students. This is in the form of internships and career opportunities.

Sophomore Honoria Hodges is already reaping the benefits of the program. Hodges is currently a TSU Meistersingers and said what she is learning from the program, in addition to her talent, will set her up to become an R&B/ pop artist.

“It is wonderful that we received this recognition,” Hodges said. “This will get all our names (students) out there to get what we want out of our careers. And my experience so far at TSU has been very enlightening.” 

Honoria Hodges

In May, TSU offered students the music business accelerator program, a 4-week course in partnership with the Black Music Action Coalition. Students got a chance to collaborate with industry giants such as Wasserman Music, Amazon Music, Nashville Music Equality, the RIAA, Live Nation, and more. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gave them access to internships and employment. Notable guest speakers included producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, BET and NAACP award-winning music artist CoCo Jones, rapper Waka Flocka, and others who provided valuable industry insights.

TSU alumnus Jonathan Boddie said it is unique opportunities like the accelerator program that sets the program a part. Boddie is a Nashville native and professional musician who graduated from the commercial music program in 2010.

Dr. Mark Crawford

“I think this is well deserved,” Boddie said in response to the recognition, especially noting that the university is in the heart of ‘Music City.’ “I want to raise awareness that we have one of the top programs, and we can also get people to invest into the school.”

As a professional musician, Boddie has had a residency overseas, and even lived in Korea for six months to pursue his musical career. Boddie shared that the TSU commercial program and Dr. Crawford have had the greatest impact on his career.

“Dr. Crawford has never stopped looking out for us. He is always going the extra mile to give you more opportunities and I cannot say that about any other institution I have been a part of,” Boddie said.

Jonathan Boddie performs with Blue Masala Band during a concert held at Red Caboose Park in Bellevue, TN.

“The professors really do care even beyond graduation and I appreciate that.”

TSU alumni of the commercial music program include Harry Fox Agency client solutions coordinator Dashawn Howard and two-time Grammy-nominated producer Dwane “Key Wane” Wier, II.

“I hope we will continue to build on this kind of momentum,” Crawford added. “Recognition by Billboard and other professional entities will lead to curiosity. This will create additional opportunities.”

TSU makes the list as one of the two HBCUs, alongside Howard University. The prestigious recognition from Billboard comes as the program prepares to celebrate 25 years of educating students.

Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the honor to the 25-year program is well earned, and well overdue. 

“I was ecstatic because I know how hard everyone works,” Morgan-Curtis said, referring to the department’s faculty, and especially chair Dr. Robert Elliot, and Dr. Crawford for ensuring the students have “access to real world applications.”

Commercial music alumni practicing for the upcoming ensemble event at TSU. From left to right, Jonathan Boddie on the guitar, drum player Jameel Aziz, and bass player Maurice Farmer.

“Our students are getting these paid internships that are allowing them to do not only what they are being trained in, but what they love,” she said.

To celebrate the anniversary, the University will host a Commercial Ensemble Showcase November 13-15 at the Cox Lewis Theater inside the Performing Arts Center. Showtime is 7 p.m. each night and is free and open to the public. Traditionally a two-night event, an extra night was added to mark this significant milestone, featuring an alumni commercial ensemble as well as a faculty ensemble.

As TSU’s commercial music program continues to shine on the global stage, Crawford, who has overseen the program since the inception, is confident that faculty will help to foster the next generation of performers, producers, songwriters, and industry leaders.

Check out Billboard’s latest issue recognizing TSU here.

TSU music business program a pipeline for young Black music creatives

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Imagine a classroom where aspiring music creatives gather to discuss business strategies and receive firsthand experiences from top music industry insiders. This is the reality for students enrolled in Tennessee State University’s Music Business Accelerator Program (MBAP). Going beyond just an academic experience, the MBAP is paving the way for the next generation of young Black music creatives, while combating economic disparities within the music industry.

Rapper Waka Flocka Flame speaking with TSU Music Business Accelerator program students at East Iris Studios in Nashville. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

The university partnered with the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) to address underserved markets and provide firsthand resources and representation for Black commercial music students like no other. The MBAP’s second cohort left TSU students with a glimpse of their future careers after being exposed to insight from powerhouse executives, talent agencies, and top music artists.

TSU student Joshua “LilCEOJosh” Akhidenor said he never imagined shaking hands with his favorite Grammy award-winning music producer of all time, Rodney Jerkins. “This class was perfect for my career as a music producer and artist because it deeply taught me the music industry and the importance of knowing the business,” Akhidenor, of Memphis, said.

TSU student, artist Emmanuel “Mille Manny” Strickland performing at Brooklyn Bowl in Nashville before Waka Flocka Flame. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

While TSU student, artist Emmanuel “Mille Manny” Strickland had the opportunity of an opening performance for rapper Waka Flocka Flame at Brooklyn Bowl after winning an Music Business Accelerator class competition. The rapper told the students during class at East Iris Studios, that these opportunities are preparing them to step into the music industry. “Having this conversation is a peek into your potential future,” Waka Flocka Flame said.

TSU music business students spent the last four weeks with representatives from Tri-Star Entertainment Agency, Live Nation Entertainment, Rolling Loud, Wasserman Media Group, Def Jam Recordings, Amazon Music, Warner Bros., and more. TSU students had the opportunity to discuss marketing, record label deals, artists and repertoire, and financial literacy with music industry insiders.

TSU student D’rell Player, who aspires to become a producer and audio engineer, at East Iris recording studio. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, the co-founder and chair of the Black Music Action Coalition, said the TSU program has led students to employment and paid internships, and will continue to do so going forward. “We are really creating a pipeline for success in a tangible way,” Stiggers said. “Our goal is to create access and an opportunity for talent to be nurtured here (Nashville), stay, and grow a career here.”

Stiggers expressed how deliberate Nashville and Music Row have been in “isolating the Black creative community and the Black audience from this experience,” he said. “So, we were looking for ways to break down those barriers.”

D’rell Player, a TSU senior who is a commercial music major, said being in the studio with Waka Flocka Flame, felt like home. “This class has managed to put me in a work environment that I want to be in,” Player said. “It’s given me more lessons, experience, and exposure in my chosen career field than I ever could have imagined.”

Link Fisher III speaks with Amazon Music representatives during week three of the music business accelerator program. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

TSU senior Link Fisher III couldn’t agree more. Fisher, of Memphis, noted that discussing financial literacy with representatives from Live Nation was the highlight of the course. “This opportunity has made everything I have learned applicable to real life,” Fisher said. “That was the first time we sat down with a spreadsheet to see where the dollars go.”

The last day of the class concluded at the National Museum of African American Music with an All-star panel that consisted of Stiggers, BMG music company executive Tim Reid, Producer and songwriter Rodney Jerkins, Rapper Yellopain, actresses and artists Serayah and Bre-Z, SiriusXM’s media personality Swaggysie, and artist Daisha McBride.

Left to right, TSU students Matthew Lester, Tai Lomax and Brandon Allen at the National Museum of African American Music for a closing reception panel for the music business program. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

Actress and singer Serayah, widely known for her role on the musical drama TV series Empire, told the students to dream big and to keep going. “It’s important to push this program because it means so much,” Serayah said. “It can build us in unity, with our talent, we can really put the purpose together.”

The next generation of music creatives then received plaques from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to close out their Maymester course.

TSU alumnus Brian Sexton, the Community Outreach Chair for Nashville Music Equality, said that in order to make significant contributions to the industry’s economic landscape, Black creatives must have these resources, access, and educational opportunities. “We are heavily investing in our young creatives, and they are getting the support they need at every level,” Sexton said.

Actress and singer Serayah, left, taking a photo with TSU student Logyn Rylander during the closing reception at the National Museum of African American Music. (Photo courtesy 353 Media Group)

“Our model in Nashville is the only model that puts students in a very high networking experience, high-level knowledge-based environment,” he said. “The access that takes literally a career to get to, these students had that access within one month.”

Music is deeply rooted in African American culture and has played a significant role in shaping music history. By offering classes like TSU’s Music Business Accelerator Program at HBCUs, the impact can be multifaceted and everlasting for young Black music artists and creatives.

For more information about the music business accelerator program, reach Dr. Crawford at [email protected].

About the Black Music Action Coalition

BMAC is an advocacy organization formed to address systemic racism within the music business. The Coalition advocates on behalf of Black artists, songwriters, producers, managers, agents, executives, lawyers, and other passionate industry professionals.

Former TSU official discusses new book on TSU history, career and urges students, alumni to protect university’s legacy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Discussing his experience during the merger of Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee, a former TSU administrator said April 5 that the historically black university’s continued existence will greatly depend on the strength of its students and alumni. Dr George A. Pruitt, former vice president of Student Affairs, has written a book, “From Protest to President: A Social Justice Journey through the Emergence of Adult Education and the Birth of Distance Learning,” that discusses the merger and his career, including his time at TSU.  He was the guest speaker at a forum on campus, themed, “Prevailing Against All Odds: Sustaining and Preserving TSU’s Rich History.”

Dr. George A. Pruitt is President Emeritus of Thomas Edison State University, where he served for more than 35 years as president. (Photo By Aaron Grayson)

Pruitt, who went on to have a distinguished career in higher education, is president emeritus of Thomas Edison State University. He served as the institution’s president for over 35 years.  

“I have a request of you,” Pruitt said to students in the Cox/Lewis Theater in the TSU Performing Arts Center. “I have been carrying this institution’s torch for a long time. Fred Humphries (former president) carried the torch. Others carried it and they are old and many have retired, and I want this university to still be here. And that’s only going to happen if you all build up that courage to continue the fight. I mean the students, and I absolutely need the alumni.”

Pruitt said, “The state of Tennessee has never, ever cared about Tennessee State University. It only did what it had to because of politics and the law, and you have a lot to say about what the politics and the law is now and will be.”

Chrishonda O’Quinn

Chrishonda O’Quinn, and junior marketing major, and sophomore Teleah Allen, a mass communications major, were among students who listened to Pruitt’s presentation. They accepted his challenge and called on fellow students to unite in moving their institution forward.

“I believe he (Pruitt) is completely correct. As students we need to step up. Being a current student here, I have noted that we are not on one accord like students and faculty were back then,” said O’Quinn, of Chicago. “We need to engage, but before reaching that point, we must fix the culture. When something goes wrong, the first place some of us go is to the media. We need to engage our leaders instead.”

Allen added that Pruitt was very inspiring. “Being here since I was a freshman, I have seen a lot of change, but we need to do more to help our institution grow. Many institutions don’t want to see us succeed. Like he said, it is left with us to make that change,” said Allen, of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Teleah Allen

Following Pruitt’s keynote address, organizers hosted a panel discussion, including former and current TSU professors and staff who were at the institution during the merger. They included Sterling Adams, retired special assistant to Dr. Humphries and professor of mathematics; Barbara Murrell, former vice president and current chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute; Dr. Al-Haji Amiri Yasin Al-Hadid, retired chair of the African Studies Department at TSU; and Dr. Pruitt.

Dr. Takema Winston, chair of the TSU Department of Communications, and organizing chair of the forum, said bringing Dr. Pruitt as a keynote speaker was part of her goal as chair to help preserve TSU’s rich history by sharing the various experiences of longtime faculty and administrators, to sustain the university’s legacy.

“After recent conversations with Dr. George A. Pruitt regarding his book that talks about his time in leadership at TSU, I believed that this was a great story to share with our students,” Winston said. 

Many former and current TSU administrators and faculty attended the forum with Dr. George A. Pruitt. From left are Barbara Murrell, former Vice President and currently Chairperson of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute; Dr. Jacqueline Mitchell, Professor and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies; Dr.  Learotha Williams, Professor of African American and Public History; Dr. Pruitt; Dr. Tameka Winston, Chair of the Department of Communications; Dr. Al-Haji Amiri Yasin Al-Hadid, retired Chair of the African Studies Department; and TSU alumna Sandra Hunt. (Photo by Eric Franzen)

Professor of African American and Public History, Dr. Learotha Williams, who moderated the panel discussion, said Pruitt’s presentation provided a “first-hand” account of one of the most important moments in TSU’s history, “where we were fighting for identity, and to retain our status” as a historically black college.

Also speaking were Sandra Hunt, representing the TSU National Alumni Association; Dr. Samantha Morgan-Curtis, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; and Dr. Jacqueline Mitchell, professor and director of interdisciplinary studies.

TSU students, faculty excited about historical knowledge the Rev. Al Sharpton will bring as Distinguished Guest Lecturer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It is rare to be able to interact with a living historical figure. But that’s what students and faculty at Tennessee State University experienced on Feb. 3 when the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the nation’s most renowned civil rights leaders and activists, began as a Distinguished Guest Lecturer for the semester.  

Sharpton will be a featured lecturer in the area of political science grounded in social justice. His lectures will be via Zoom each Wednesday through April.  

The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks to students in virtual lecture. (Submitted photo)

“Not only does the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights icon, know American history and the role African Americans have played to shape that history, he has been an intricate piece of it as well,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “This will be an amazing opportunity for our students to learn from an individual who comes from the pages of the history books they are reading, and to gain knowledge directly from the source.”  

Sophomore Alexus Dockery

Sharpton, a community leader, politician, and minister, serves as the host of PoliticsNation on MSNBC. With more than 40 years of experience as an advocate, he has held such notable positions as the youth director of New York’s Operation Breadbasket, director of ministers for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and founder of his own broad-based progressive civil rights organization, the National Action Network. 

His activism allowed him to walk among other civil rights icons, like Jesse Jackson and A. Phillip Randolph. He also brought attention to high profile cases in New York, such as the Howard Beach incident in December 1986 in which three African-American men were assaulted in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens by a mob of white men. Later that month, Sharpton led 1,200 demonstrators on a march through the streets of Howard Beach. His role in the case helped propel him to national prominence.

Junior Gelanni Jones

Sophomore Alexus Dockery is a political science major from Memphis, Tennessee. She said it’s only fitting that Sharpton should be at TSU because of the university’s rich history in the fight against racial injustice, such as students’ participation in the Freedom Rides and sit-ins during the civil rights movement. In 2008, the university honored 14 TSU alums who were beaten and arrested during the Freedom Rides with honorary degrees.

“TSU students embody the meaning of call to action, which is demonstrated through our motto, ‘Think. Work. Serve,’” said Dockery. “Rev. Sharpton understands the importance of this, and the importance of HBCUs contributing to society for the advancement of Black people.”  

TSU President Glenda Glover and the Rev. Sharpton at the university’s 2019 Graduate Commencement ceremony. (TSU Media Relations)

Gelanni Jones is a junior majoring in biology at TSU. However, he said Sharpton, because of his historical significance, should appeal to all students, regardless of their major.  

“The statement that he makes by just being himself, is exciting to have at TSU,” said Jones, a Cincinnati, Ohio, resident. “He’s a civil rights icon at an HBCU that I attend.”  

Sharpton is no stranger to TSU. He gave the keynote address last year at the university’s spring graduate commencement ceremony, where he was given an honorary degree in recognition of his body of work and societal impact.  

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

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

TSU’s World-Renowned Aristocrat of Bands Names New Leaders as Group Prepares for 2021 Tournament of Roses

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – As the Tennessee State University Aristocrat of Bands prepares for its historic appearance in the Tournament of Roses in January, the marching band has announced a new lineup of drum majors.

Julien Dooley, the only returning drum major, will lead the “Fantastic 4” in 2020-2021. (Submitted photo)

The new “Fantastic 4,” as they are called, were announced at the AOB’s recent virtual banquet, which also recognized outgoing drum majors who are part of the 2020 TSU graduating class. Julian Dooley, a senior communications major from Decatur, Georgia, who will lead the new Fantastic 4, is the only returning member. Joining him are Justen Ramsey, rising junior, health science, from Atlanta; Travion  Crutcher, rising junior , mechanical engineering, from Huntsville, Alabama; and Cameron Brown, senior, mass communications major from Birmingham, Alabama.

Dr. Reginald McDonald, TSU’s director of bands, congratulated the new Fantastic 4, and paid special tribute to the outgoing members for their accomplishments and service to the university.

“I thank you for your love, service, hard work, dedication and loyalty to the Fantastic 4, the Aristocrat of Bands and Tennessee State University,” McDonald said. “Congratulations on your accomplishment in earning your degrees. We wish you the very best in all of your future endeavors.”

Justin Ramsey, Drum Major No. 2

 The outgoing drum majors, who will receive their bachelor’s degrees in various disciplines at the August 1 commencement ceremonies are Hassan Moody, from Decatur, Georgia, business administration; Cole Gilbert, from Jonesboro, Georgia, health science; and Xavier Ellis, from Stone Mountain, Georgia, criminal Justice.

At the virtual banquet, the AOB also announced captains for the Sophisticated Ladies, Royal Elegance, and section leaders for the instrumentalist.

In March, the world-renowned AOB received official invitation to participate in the 2021 Rose Bowl Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, California. Dr. Robert B. Miller, president and chairman of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, came to TSU to personally present the band with the official tournament flag and invitation.

Travion Crutcher, Drum Major No.3

The AOB will be one of only four university bands nationwide to participate in the parade, with a domestic television audience of more than 38 million.

“Only the best of the best are invited  and the Aristocrat of Bands is one of them,” Miller said in the Gentry Complex, amid thunderous cheers from university officials, relatives, former band members, and Mr. and Miss TSU and their royal court.

Cailyn Sparks, a member of the AOB Sophisticated Ladies Dance Line, called the Rose Bowl Parade invitation “an opportunity of a life time.”

“I am glad my mom and dad and maybe some other family members will be there,” said Sparks, a junior elementary education major from Phenix City, Alabama, who will be going to California for the first time. “I am extremely excited about going to the Rose Bowl and excited to be there with my family.”

Cameron Brown, Drum Major No. 4

McDonald added, “If you know anything about parades in this country, the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Parade are numbers one and two,” he said. “To have either one of those parades on your performance as a portfolio, says a lot about your band program.”

In addition to the Tournament of Roses invitation, receiving the Best Band ranking, and a record ninth appearance at Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational, the AOB is enjoying a stellar year of achievements and accolades. In April 2019, during the NFL Draft in the Music City, the AOB were featured on the nationally syndicated ESPN sports talk show, First Take; the band received a shout out from pop star Lizzo for the band’s rendition of her “Truth Hurts” medley. In January 2019, percussionists from the band performed in the Rose Parade. They were also featured performers at the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons’ 2019 home opener.

For more information on the AOB, visit

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at

TSU Kicks off Dual Enrollment Program with Apple Smart Technology Partnership

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – High school students looking to get an early start on college now have a home at Tennessee State University.

Dr. Robbie Melton, TSU Associate Vice President for Smart Technology and Innovation, conducts a coding class at Kenwood High School in Clarksville, Tennessee. (Submitted Photo)

Through its National Center for Smart Technology, the university has launched a dual enrollment program with three major school districts in the state that offers high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn college credits while enrolled in high school.

Participating school districts are Clarksville Montgomery County School System, Metro Nashville Public Schools, and Shelby County Schools.

Jalen Driskell and Larry Perry, 12th graders from Shelby County’s Trezevant High School in Memphis, are excited about the opportunity to earn early college credits. The two were among 130 students also from Pearl Cohn High, and Clarksville’s Kenwood High School, who participated in the Apple Coding class last fall as part of the dual enrollment program.

Officials from the TSU Office of Smart Technology and Innovation join faculty and staff of Kenwood High School to kick off the TSU-Apple-Kenwood Coding initiative. (Submitted Photo)

“I learned a lot from the initiative, especially working as a team,” said Driskell, who hopes to major in engineering after high school. “Being enrolled allows me to move ahead in receiving my college credits and to do better with time management.”

For Perry, he said the coding class was a lot of fun and increased his interest in doing more college work.

“Coding allowed me to gain the experience with talking to others versus typing,” he said. “Receiving this college credit allows me to be prepared for my future.”

Dr. Robbie Melton, TSU’s associate vice president for Smart Technology and Innovation, said with the Apple partnership, TSU has created an amazing opportunity for high school students to start coding and creating.

“All over the state, as well as all over the country, students are interested in coding and creativity,” said Melton. “With this dual enrollment program, it is unique in the fact that students across the state of Tennessee can now embrace the skills of coding and creativity through dual enrollment. We are positioned to provide coding and creativity on site and online, for high school students to have a pathway to our computer science and “Everyone Can Code and Create” curriculums at TSU.”

Dr. Johnnie C. Smith is the executive director of the TSU Dual Enrollment Partnerships. She said students who participate in the program must meet the TSU admission’s requirement. They must be beginning juniors with a GPA of 2.75 or better, and must have recommendations from their principals or guidance counselors to participate. In addition to the Apple coding curriculum, she said the program offers general education courses, as well as engineering and English composition. The courses are offered onsite and online.

“Like all other schools in the state, we are going after courses we know will count in different schools, like general education courses,” Smith said. “We are targeting students within the state of Tennessee. They will gain college credits to get a jump start on college and also use those credits to meet their high school requirements for graduation. We are really excited about the possibility of what this program can do at the institution.”

Some of the teachers whose students participated in the fall 2019 program said it was very beneficial and definitely makes the whole dual enrollment initiative more interesting.

“This program benefited our students by giving them the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of coding and inspired them to create something unique for a problem in their community,” said Abraham Wolfe, a high school AP Physics and Robotics teacher in the Clarksville Montgomery County School System.

Quanita Adams, a high school math teacher with Metro Nashville Public Schools, said, “The students enrolled in DE Coding this semester have tapped into a world that they may have not experienced elsewhere and produced amazing products in a short time.”

Herbert Vannostrand, a high school computer science teacher with the Shelby County Schools, agreed.

“The Apple Coding curriculum provided my students with a clear, concise, up-to-date and fun program to learn the Swift programming language, as well as bringing relevant up-to-date information about how coding can affect change in their lives,” Vannostrand said. “I recommend this program to any computer science teacher and I am ready to teach the course again next year.”

Dual enrollment is just one of many initiatives undertaken in the last year under the TSU-Apple partnership. In July, TSU launched HBCU C2 “Everyone Can Code and Create,” a national initiative supported by Apple, which seeks to bring coding experiences to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and underserved communities. To date, TSU has impacted 32 HBCUs with the HBCU C2 Initiative. Also, in July, TSU launched the first community “Everyone Can Code and Create” initiative for youth on its Avon Williams Campus. The initiative is also part of the National Center for Smart Technology Innovations.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at

TSU President Glover Encourages Community to ‘Stand Strong’ at 8th Presidential Prayer Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover provided encouraging words of perseverance at the 8th annual Presidential Prayer Service on Jan. 8.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper thanked President Glover for her leadership. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media Relations)

Dr. Glover was the keynote speaker, as TSU and the Nashville faith-based community joined hands to begin the New Year with a morning of prayer at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church. 

Faith-based leaders of various denominations from across Metro Nashville, as well as Mayor John Cooper, Vice Mayor Jim Shullman, and TSU alum and gospel legend Dr. Bobby Jones, participated in the program. Also participating was Bishop Joseph Walker III, chairman of the TSU Board of Trustees and presiding bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International. 

During her speech, Glover encouraged the gathering — community, state and local leaders and citizens, TSU staff, administrators, alumni and students — to “stand” in the face of difficulties.

A cross-section of faith-based leaders participated in the 8th Annual Presidential Prayer Service at Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media Relations)

“There will be difficult days in accomplishing goals, when others will challenge you and or doubt you, but you must stand and be steadfast,” Glover said. “We had some ups and downs, we had some trials and tribulations, but we are here. We are thankful for people who have stood up for TSU.”

Before Glover’s presentation, Mayor Cooper thanked her for her leadership, and the community for coming together in prayers for the city, TSU and residents.

Darrien Phillips, a TSU senior commercial music major, performs a musical rendition at the prayer service. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media Relations)

“Dr. Glover, this is your day as you go into your eighth year as president of Tennessee State University,” Cooper declared. “The city of Nashville and I thank you for all you have done for not just this community but across the nation. TSU graduate students, teachers, engineers, to name a few, continue to nurture our students that come from TSU to go out near and far. The city of Nashville is so fortunate to have you here. We thank you for this annual prayer service.”

Following Glover’s address, ministers offered prayer in several areas, including peace, the global community, the Nashville community, children and youth, and the TSU community.

Rev. Aaron X. Marble, pastor of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church, presided over the program. He praised Dr. Glover for her leadership and said the annual prayer service “is a wonderful tradition that she’s established.”

The prayers concluded with the Rev. Derrick Moore, pastor of Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, praying fervently for Glover as various ministers gathered around her in a display of unity and support.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State UniversityFounded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at