Category Archives: RESEARCH

TSU enhances enrollment experience with ZeeMee 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University is embarking on a new era of personalized college recruitment with its latest collaboration with ZeeMee, a cutting-edge app that is revolutionizing the interaction between universities and prospective students. This partnership aims to elevate TSU’s recruitment process by building authentic connections and meeting students on their own terms.

Deputy Chief Operating Officer Elmore J. Jones, Jr., says the partnership with ZeeMee will greatly enhance student engagement with potential new Tigers.

“Our admissions team is dedicated to maintaining a strong connection with our incoming applicants, and this partnership will provide us with an additional tool to achieve that goal.”

The ZeeMee app offers a unique platform for TSU to connect with prospective students in a more personalized and meaningful way. By joining the online community, accepted students will gain access to valuable information about campus life, housing options, course offerings, and more.

Director of Admissions LaMar-Octavious Scott says the collaboration with ZeeMee is focused on increasing student engagement, improving communication, and reducing the number of undecided applicants considering TSU.

“We are excited to work alongside ZeeMee as we wrap up the Fall 2024 cycle and gear up for the Fall 2025 admissions season,” says Scott. “ZeeMee’s innovative approach and dynamic features allow prospective students to build meaningful connections with others who share an interest in TSU. This partnership will advance our recruitment-to-enrollment process and amplify our institutional marketability, putting the power in the hands of prospective students.”

TSU launched ZeeMee on June 19, coinciding with Juneteenth and the celebration of the university’s 112th anniversary. Scott shares, “As we observed this special day, we invited all prospective students to join us on ZeeMee and become part of the TSU community.”

Following the launch, students received emails and text messages inviting them to join the TSU community based on their admissions status. Admitted students will have access to additional opportunities for engagement, with ZeeMee conveniently accessible on mobile devices.

By leveraging ZeeMee’s data collection and analysis capabilities, TSU aims to measure the impact of the platform on enrollment and engagement. Throughout the year, ZeeMee will provide valuable insights into community performance, enrollment trends, and more.

In addition to facilitating interactions between prospective students, ZeeMee’s unique features create a social network tailored for the college experience. This virtual community allows students to connect, share experiences, and establish relationships before arriving on campus. According to Scott, this pre-arrival engagement not only fosters a sense of belonging but also empowers students to take ownership of their college journey.

For further information on admissions at Tennessee State University, please visit www.tnstate.edu/admissions.

                                                                                                            

Melton named to  AI board, continues TSU’s role as tech leader

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  Tennessee State University is pleased to announce that Dr. Robbie Melton is a member of the Southern Regional Education Board Commission (SREB) on Artificial Intelligence in Education. Dr. Melton, who serves Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, is also the Vice President for Technology Innovations and heads the TSU SMART Global Technology Innovation Center. Melton’s appointment further solidifies her status as a top expert and TSU as a leading institution on artificial intelligence.

“In this transformative era of artificial intelligence, it’s personal for me,” shared Dr. Melton. “As a member of the Southern Regional Education Board Artificial Intelligence Commission, I’m committed to ensuring that no one is left behind, and to eliminating the digital divide.”  

The two-year SREB commission brings together leaders in education and business “to chart a course for how AI is used in classrooms and how to prepare a workforce that is being transformed by technology,” outlined in an April 19 press release from the commission. The commission’s first order of business is to review research and industry data regarding AI and to hear from education experts like Melton. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who chairs the commission, presided over the group’s first meeting on May 1.

“When used correctly, AI is a powerful tool capable of reshaping our education system,” according to McMaster in the April press release. “By working together, we can overcome the challenges that AI presents and harness its power to ensure our students are prepared for the workforce of the future.”  

Members, from each of SREB’s 16 states, include leadership from governors’ offices, state education and workforce agencies, K-12 educators and leaders, postsecondary faculty and leaders, and business executives, managers and engineers. TSU’s Melton represents Tennessee along with Lizzette Reynolds, Commissioner of Education with the Tennessee Department of Education and Steven Gentile, Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. Brad D. Smith, president of Marshall University in West Virginia and former Silicon Valley CEO, co-chairs the commission. 

“Learning to lean into the discoveries AI technology will develop in the future excites me,” said Smith, in the same press release. “We’re given the challenging, yet promising opportunity of preparing students for a digital world with evolving opportunities in life, employment and contribution.” 

SREB will develop recommendations for Southern states to lead in three areas, using AI in teaching and learning, K-12 and postsecondary, developing related policies in K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and preparing students for careers in AI.  The states include Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

“We need to be proactive now, because AI is fundamentally shifting the classroom and the workplace,” said SREB President Stephen L. Pruitt. “The Commission will bring us together for a roadmap on preparing students for this world in which AI is a reality.”  

Melton’s appointment comes ahead of her leading a major TSU AI event. On June 5-7, TSU will host the A.I. FOR ALL: Open Education Summit. The event will address Ethics and Policies for AI, AI Tools for Every Stage of Education, AI for Educational Equity, and Innovating Pedagogy with AI, along with other topics. The summit will include industry heavyweights Google, Apple, Oracle, T-Mobile, Comcast, Amazon, and Microsoft. National speakers, panels, interactive workshops, AI exhibits, plus art galleries and tools will also be on display. Some of the prominent sponsors and partners include the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, T-Mobile Education, Merlot- Affordable Learning Solutions, and MIT-Open CourseWare. The summit is free and open to the public.

“My passion lies in making AI accessible to everyone, amplifying voices that are often unheard, and breaking down the barriers that divide us,” added TSU’s Melton.  “Together, we can shape a future where AI isn’t just a tool for the few, but a force for good that enriches all of our lives.”

To attend the TSU AI Summit please email [email protected] or call 615.963.7113.

Media interested in covering this event should contact TSU Media Relations at [email protected] or call 615.963.5331. 

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 Hosts Record-Breaking 1890 ARD Research Symposium

By Charlie Morrison

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University College of Agriculture served as the host for the 21st Association of 1890 Research Directors Biennial Research Symposium (ARD), held in April at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center in Nashville. As the immediate past Chair and steering committee member of the symposium, the College of Agriculture Dean, Dr. Chandra Reddy, was instrumental in getting the event to be held here in Nashville, and participants did not disappoint. The event was by all accounts the biggest, best-attended symposium in the organization’s nearly 50-year history.

TSU College of Agriculture faculty and staff during the 21st Association of 1890 Research Directors Biennial Research Symposium at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center.

More than 1,500 faculty researchers, college administrators, students, and staff from each of the 19 1890 land-grant HBCUs attended this year’s symposium. The premier event brought together agriculture-focused researchers from across the 1890 land-grant university system. In addition to showcasing the talents and achievements of the 1890 community, the symposium offered attendees interactive opportunities to share knowledge and build networks for expanded research collaborations.

Dean Chandra Reddy was buoyant about the College’s performance at the ARD. For Dr. Reddy, a successful showing at the symposium took everyone from the College’s participation, involvement, and engagement. “I am extremely happy that the event went so well. Our students and faculty succeeded in all the sessions and competitions, with outstanding preparation and engagement,” said Dr. Reddy. “So many of the attendees visited the College and were thoroughly impressed with our research labs and the cutting-edge research being conducted by our faculty, graduate students, and even undergraduate students.” TSU Agriculture students, faculty, and post-doctoral students contributed nearly 130 research posters and 300 oral research presentations that were put forth at the symposium, many of which received awards and cash prizes due to their research.

Kerrington Howard was one of three TSU College of Agriculture students who had the opportunity to address hundreds during the four-day symposium.

A large contingent of the TSU family, including President Glenda Glover, took part in the conference, presenting research, judging competitions, and fostering networking connections. “TSU recognizes the importance of agriculture, I recognize the importance of agriculture having grown up on a farm in Memphis, so I know and love the industry,” said Dr. Glover as she addressed the conference during its opening session. “Here we’re doing more to move agriculture forward on our campus in Nashville. Thank you for being here today and for such a meaningful engagement. Continue to perpetuate the legacy of research excellence.”

The theme of this year’s symposium was “Climate, Health, and Cultivating the Next Generation of Agricultural Leaders: Creating Solutions in Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources.” TSU students had the opportunity to present their research both orally and through poster competitions. The students networked with like-minded scientists from across the 1890 community and engaged in important topics such as climate science research, navigating grantsmanship, and outside funding activities, and presenting their research effectively.

During the four-day symposium, three TSU College of Agriculture students had the opportunity to address a venue in Opry that seated more than 1,500 participants. The students were TSU junior Kennedy Bentley, along with seniors Dominque Smith and Kerrington Howard. “It felt great to address the symposium because …. I wanted to show everyone that we’re doing something here (at TSUAg), I wanted to show the symposium what they were investing in,” said Howard, a dean’s list scholar. “And they need to see that we’re here doing the work so they keep supporting us.”

Dr. De’Etra Young won an inaugural McKinley Mayes Mentoring Award for demonstrating an outstanding commitment to mentoring both students and early faculty members.

During the event, Agriculture Professor and Associate Dean of Academics and Land-grant Programs Dr. De’Etra Young won an inaugural McKinley Mayes Mentoring Award. The award was created to recognize an administrator who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to mentoring both students and early faculty members.

At the symposium, graduate students showcased their research prowess, particularly excelling in oral presentations. The College of Agriculture dominated the food safety, nutrition, and health category, with Amritpal Singh securing first place, followed by Aakash Sharma in second, and Pallavi Rathore in third. In other categories, such as plant health and production, Divya Jain claimed the top spot, while Sudip Poudel secured second. Additionally, Jazmine Norwood stood out in the family, youth, community, and economic development category, winning the competitive poster presentation.

Aaliyah Cotton with an award for her oral presentation on renewable energy and natural resources.

Aaliyah Cotton represented the undergraduate student body with distinction, earning second place for her oral presentation on renewable energy, natural resources, and the environment. Overall, the College of Agriculture students showcased exceptional talent and dedication across various fields of study at the symposium.

“It was a prideful moment for my team and I to have our peer institutions treating us as a model for their own institutions and leaders,” Dr. Reddy said. “And we heard that a lot at this year’s symposium.”

To learn more about the College of Agriculture, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.

Tennessee State University receives $4.95 million IGNITE federal investment

By Greg Nasif

“Godmother of HBCUs” Welcomes Infrastructure Investments She Fought for in Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (D, NC-12), Founder and Co-Chair of the bipartisan HBCU Caucus, celebrated a federal investment of nearly five million dollars into Tennessee State University as part of the federal Institutional grants for the New Infrastructure, Technology, and Education for HBCU Excellence (IGNITE) Act she led and passed in the 2023 Omnibus Budget bill. 

The investment of $4,946,573 will go into repairing infrastructure backlogs on campus. At TSU, some of the funds are slated to support a new biomedical research center. 

“Tennessee State University is pleased to receive this funding and appreciates the efforts of Congresswoman Alma Adams and her commitment to our university, our students, and all HBCUs,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.

“Congresswoman Adams has been a longstanding champion for HBCUs from starting the HBCU Caucus to her continuous advocacy for our institutions by securing millions of dollars in much needed funding.”

“Hard work to pass infrastructure funding for our HBCUs is finally turning legislation on paper into brick and mortar results,” said Rep. Adams. “This nearly $5M IGNITE grant for Tennessee State University, long overdue, will pay off immediately for their students, and in the long run with a new biomedical research center that saves lives. With a fully supportive White House, I will keep working to secure more funding to close the backlog of needed repairs on HBCU campuses where so many young people of color are building their futures.” 

Dr. Quincy Quick, Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs and Chief Research Officer expressed much appreciation for Congresswoman Adams efforts.

“As an R2 Carnegie designated research institution, this funding will considerably assist Tennessee State University in our pursuit to achieve an R1 research designation, the highest research education classification bestowed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the American Council on Education,” Dr. Quick said. “This funding will support the establishment of the Center of Biomedical Sciences, and significantly enhance our biomedical sciences and behavioral research capacity.”

Rep. Adams has advocated for a fuller version of the IGNITE Act to address the vast backlog of infrastructure repairs and investments HBCUs seek to rebuild their campuses and stay competitive with the many land-grant universities which Black students were forbidden from attending for up to a century or more. 

TSU Aviation Program receives $500,000 grant from FAA

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University aviation program is expected to reach new heights with a recent $500,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The grant will be used to enhance the TSU aviation program by attracting and training students for careers not only as pilots but aviation maintenance technicians with hands-on experience and more.

Dr. Ivan Mosley, Chair of the Department of Applied and Industrial Technology expressed his excitement for the impact this grant will have on students. Mosely is the principal investigator (PI) for the grant.

TSU administrators and engineering faculty joins FAA representatives who presented a $500,000 maintenance grant to TSUs aviation program. (Courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“This will impact our students for the overall profession of aviation networking which includes but not limited to maintenance, airport management, air traffic controller, and more,” Mosley said. “So, this particular grant is exposing them to the maintenance portion of the networking.”

The FAA maintenance grant represents a significant milestone for TSU. Dr. Mosley said that even if students don’t pursue a four-year degree, they can receive a certification through the program, providing an affordable and accessible route to network not only in Nashville and surrounding states, but throughout the United States and abroad.

“This grant will attract people to aviation and give them hands-on experience for those who want to pursue it.”

TSU administrators and engineering faculty joined FAA representatives for the check presentation during their visit to TSU. This included Dr. Mosley, alongside Dr. Lin Li, Interim Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Quincy Quick, Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs, Dr. Carlos D. Beane, Co-PI and Aviation Assistant Professor, Dr. Catherine Armwood-Gordon, Engineering Associate Professor, and Dr. Curtis Johnson, Chief of Staff to the President.

Dr. Lin Li stated that the College of Engineering is very excited about this FAA workforce grant. “Through this grant, we will develop comprehensive education initiatives to bridge the gap between classroom learning and practical application, with a focus on increasing underrepresented and minority students within the aviation maintenance workforce,” Li said.

The initiative includes recruitment, instruction by experienced aviation instructors, development of aviation maintenance courses, academic career counseling and more.

“The grant will support up to 20 students to receive FAA scholarships to pursue their degree study toward aviation maintenance,” Dr. Li said.

“It will attract future students for the aviation management program in the AIT department. State-of-the-art equipment will be provided through the grant, increasing the training capacity of TSU in aviation maintenance technical training.”

In addition to the academic benefits, the program will host the High Flight Academy starting June 1, offering underrepresented students ages 16 -18 a chance to get certified as pilots.

With this grant effort, TSU is set to play a critical l role in shaping a skilled and underrepresented workforce in aviation maintenance, contributing to the industry’s growth while ensuring aircraft safety and reliability.

To learn more about TSUs aviation program, visit www.tnstate.edu/ait/aviationflight.aspx

College of Ag hosts USDA Forest Service HBCU research summit

By Alexis Clark, Charlie Morrison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About USDA Forest Service

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

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

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

Phelps in the control room of the research facility at ORNL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TSU kicks off semester focused on continued excellence and underfunding

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Highlighting major accomplishments, headline grabbing news, and historic underfunding, Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover delivered her final address to faculty and staff.

President Glover took the stage in front of over 200 employees and reflected on the remarkable achievements and pride she felt for the university and its dedicated staff. After leading the institution for eleven years, President Glover will retire following the 2023-2024 academic year.

Over 200 faculty and staff members applauds Dr. Glover after highlighting the university’s 2023 accomplishments and achievements.

“TSU will continue to be a great university,” Glover said. “We will continue to win. This is more than a full-circle moment for me,” she said due to graduating from TSU in 1974. “This is a 50-year blessing. Serving as TSU president has been an honor of a lifetime. I am forever grateful for the love and support.”

President Glover covered an array of topics during her State of the University address, including expectations for the semester and TSU’s strategic plan to receive $2.1 billion in underfunding.  

She began by highlighting some of the university’s most significant accomplishments this past year. Kean Hall was filled with pride as she reiterated that TSU had surpassed the monumental milestone of $100 million in endowments and $100 million in research funding, setting a new TSU record. The president also highlighted that this academic year was set as the second-highest year of enrollment with over 8,100 students.

President Glover said the plan for the university is to continue charting a strategic path toward reaching R1 research status and establishing new degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The new proposed academic programs consist of a Ph.D. in public health, Ph.D. in executive leadership in urban education, Master of Science in business data analytics, Master of Science in nutrition and wellness, and a Bachelor of Science in Africana studies.

Faculty and staff join hands to sing the university alma mater to conclude this semester’s FSI.

“We have also revamped the entire health and wellness plan to meet the needs of our students,” Glover said, noting the focus on increasing the emphasis on mental health and counseling.

The president’s address continued, highlighting the significant improvements in campus infrastructure and buildings, including ceiling and flooring upgrades, interior design, electrical and HVAC systems updates in several campus academic buildings, and the main student cafeteria.

Glover then took a dive deep into the different levels of underfunding calculated by the state and federal government.  TSU is only one of two land-grant institutions in the State of Tennessee, and this has been the source of the underfunding.

In 2019 a state legislative committee revealed it shorted TSU over $544 million dollars in land-grand funding over several decades. In 2022, Gov. Bill Lee and lawmakers allocated $250 million to TSU, as the largest one-time investment to a historically Black university by a state. President Glover shared how the funds were being used for much needed capital improvement infrastructure projects, as outlined by the State. The biggest lump sum is an early childhood education building price at $35.7 million, an electrical master plan, at $33.3 million, and the entrepreneurship and industry partnerships at $30 million. This money will also be utilized for roofing the Gentry Center Complex, library infrastructure and more. TSU also received additional, separate funding of $68 million for an engineering building.

AOB Director Dr. Reginald McDonald delivers a surprise performance, serenading President Glover with a saxophone tribute to conclude her final FSI meeting as president.

Last Fall, it was then announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education stating that 16 of the nation’s governors collectively owed their respective land-grant HBCUs $13 billion. Tennessee State University was listed as having the largest underfunding owed amount by a state at $2,147,784,704. President Glover noted that she met with the US Department of Agriculture and Department of Education officials to determine how the $2.1 billion was calculated over a period of 33 years, from 1987 to 2020. 

President Glover continued by sharing TSU’s comprehensive 5-year underfunding restoration plan on how the $2.1 billion could be phased to fund projects. The first year is slated for $285 million, followed by $450 million for three consecutive years, followed by $512 million to close out year five.

President Glover finished her address with hopeful words to the listening ears of the faculty and staff.

“TSU is such an extraordinary place. Everyone at TSU matters,” she said. “We will continue to succeed and advance our university. We had less to work with, but we still got there. We saw unfair treatment, but we are still here.”

Laurence Pendleton provide updates on the president’s search at FSI.

Prior to President Glover’s state of the university address, there were remarks from Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Robbie Melton, the Chair of the Faculty Senate Dr. Artenzia Young-Seigler, Staff Senate Chair Reginald Cannon, and General Counsel and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Laurence Pendleton. Glover asked Pendleton to provide an update on the president’s search.

“The number one thing we can do to honor her legacy is to make sure we have a great search for the next president of TSU,” Pendleton said during FSI.

Pendleton noted that the search process involves not only the board of trustees but the entire community, as there is a search committee in place as of September 2023. TSU’s search committee is set to commence its evaluation process of candidates. Ultimately, on-campus interviews of finalist candidates followed by the board appointing a new president by April.

FSI concluded with a surprise performance from Dr. Reginald McDonald, director of the Aristocrat of Bands. He serenaded President Glover with a saxophone tribute to end her last FSI meeting as president.

President Glover then thanked everyone and said, “Stay strong. We are unshakable. This is our university. As we move forward, we will take TSU higher and higher. We are TSU, TSU forever.”

 Glover will have served as TSU’s first female and alumna president for 11 and a half years when she retires at the end of the semester. A Salute to Excellence Gala is planned for April 13, 2024, in her honor.

TSU honors students win national HBCU research competition

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University Honors students are champions once again, securing the first and second places in scholarly research at the National Association of African American Honors Programs (NAAAHP) Conference for the second consecutive year.

The 32nd annual NAAAHP conference took place in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, during the fall semester, where TSU honors college students competed against students from 10 other HBCUs nationwide in various categories. Hosted by Southern University, the competition featured TSU honors students excelling in the research poster category, the quiz bowl category, and Honors Got Talent.

Meaghan Lewis, a senior honors biology major, claimed the first-place victory for her cancer research presentation.

Meaghan Lewis claimed first-place victory for her cancer research presentation at the NAAAHP conference. (Photo submitted)

“I was shocked,” Lewis said reflecting on her achievement. “I worked very hard, and I was very happy. I felt achieved that all my hard work paid off.” The previous year, Lewis secured second place in the same research category and expressed pride in reentering the competition and clinching the first-place victory.

Her research, titled “The Role of Toll-Like Receptors 3, 4, and 8 in Tributyltin Stimulation of Tumor Necrosis Factor a Production by Human Immune Cells,” won accolades for content, in depth research, presentation, and quality.

Currently working in the laboratory of Dr. Margaret Whalen in the department of chemistry, Lewis initiated her cancer research during her freshman year at TSU.

“It shows TSU students that if you put in the work and get into these research opportunities presented around campus, you will gain the knowledge and show that you can be one of the best.”

Eseoghene Ogaga, a senior studying honors biology, won second place in her poster presentation titled “The Role of IL-17R Signaling in the Stomach Epithelium During H. pylori infection.” Ogaga is TSU representative collaborating with Vanderbilt University and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Quiz Bowl team of five won the trophy for second place. The team consists of Tyler Vazquez, Morgan Gill, Kaitlin Skates, Kara Simmons, and Jada Womack. Skates earned third place in the Honors Got Talent category. All participating students received monetary awards.

Dr. Coreen Jackson, the dean of the Honors College, said she is proud of the achievements of TSU honors students, highlighting their academic and scholarly excellence. Dr. Jackson, a past president of the NAAAHP, said, “TSU is known to produce outstanding researchers among our peer institutions. We returned to defend our research title and won the coveted first and second place winners. These students are products of our world-class faculty.”

Dr. John Miglietta, a professor of political science and the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC) coach, prepared the TSU Honors students for the quiz bowl competition. Last spring, the team earned a spot in the top eight teams at the National Tournament held in Torrance, California.

Dr. Tyrone Miller, Associate Director of the Honors College, served as the Honorary coach at the conference.

The three categories were part of NAAAHP’s annual national conference, where HBCU students engage in a Model African Union, debate, research presentations, and quiz bowl competitions. This marked TSU’s second-ever championship in the NAAAHP quiz bowl tournament.

The National Association of African American Honors Programs, founded in 1990, is a national consortium of HBCU honors programs promoting scholarship, professional development, community service, and an appreciation of African-American culture. For more information, visit www.naaahp.org.