Category Archives: RESEARCH

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.

TSU receives $2.3 million grant to combat maternal mortality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  Tennessee State University is set to address the increasing death rate of new mothers across the state and the country with a grant $2.3 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The five-year grant will support the establishment of a research center dedicated to applied maternal health disparities research. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), maternal mortality rose from 861 maternal deaths in 2020 to 1,205 maternal deaths in 2021, a 40% overall increase.

 Dr. Wendelyn Inman, TSU’s Interim Public Health Program Director, addressed the urgent need for action as the United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths across the globe.

Interim Public Health Program Director Dr. Wendelyn Inman, right, discussing research on maternal mortality with second-year Master of Public Health student J’La Jenkins. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“That should be unheard of,” Inman said. “Part of it is because we don’t have culturally competent providers. Providers aren’t sensitive to their needs.”

TSU has been allocated $483,400 of the HRSA grant for the first year. Inman, who is the principal investigator for the grant, noted the significance for underrepresented women, emphasizing the importance of being part of research from the beginning, rather than entering at a later stage, when it might be too late.

“That will make a big different to some women’s life, and some child who gets to keep their mother.”

The CDC is categorizing maternal mortality as death while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy. This is irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental or incidental causes. Statistics from the World Health Organization, from 2021, revealed “the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black (subsequently, Black) women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times the rate for non-Hispanic White (subsequently, White) women (26.6.) Rates for Black women were significantly higher than rates for White and Hispanic women.”

TSU second-year Master of Public Health student J’La Jenkins believes cultural competency is important, even within her program.

 Dr. Wendelyn Inman

“Especially being a Black woman of childbearing age, knowing the importance of how high the rates of maternal mortality are among Black women that look like me,” Jenkins said. “It is important that we have TSU, which is in the heart of a Black community, to be the research center for this work.”

Jenkins added that receiving this grant enables TSU to increase the public health workforce representing underserved communities. She said the numbers are declining and that receiving this grant from HRSA shows the University’s commitment to turning those numbers around.

“Not only is this going to impact me, but generations after me. I was astonished at how the university is currently underfunded, but we are still able to be the house of this research center,” she said.

From 2017 to 2020, the State of Tennessee reported that 113 women died during pregnancy or within a year of pregnancy from causes related or aggravated by pregnancy. These pregnancy-related deaths accounted for 35% of all deaths during that period. A published report from the State also saw a 2.5% increase in birth related deaths for non-Hispanic Black women compared to their non-Hispanic White counterparts. Cardiovascular diseases, compounded by disparities, emerged as leading causes. TSU, along with 15 other HBCUs, received funding to establish research centers. Dr. Inman expressed the importance of involving the community in the research process to ensure a diverse and inclusive approach from the ground up. Inman said this research, alongside other HBCUs, will create research turned into interventions to help within the community.

Dr. Quincy Quick

“We are going to have research centers so we can train doctoral, master’s level, and undergraduate students to join the public health workforce and the health care workforce to make a difference from the inside out. HRSA knows that if we can get more African American providers out there, we will see better outcomes. This will also highlight the pivotal role it plays in addressing the root causes of maternal mortality.”

Dr. Quincy Quick, TSU’s Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs, stressed the grant’s significance.

“Receiving funding from HRSA at TSU will bolster our capacity and capabilities in public health research, specifically as it relates to maternal mortality rates,” he said.

“This is particularly significant given that the state of Tennessee has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.”

Both Inman and Quick believe the HRSA grant, and HBCU maternal mortality research initiative will place underrepresented women at the forefront. Just as important, it positions TSU to provide groundbreaking research to address this health disparities and to train a diverse and inclusive public health workforce that can bring the meaningful change needed to save lives for the state of Tennessee and beyond.

TSU’s College of Engineering looks for success with $2.25 Million NSF Grant for first-year students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Ethopine Choping always wanted to build a home for her East African single mother of two. Choping initially wanted to become an architect, but thought, why design the structure of her mother’s home when she can build dams and bridges for the entire city she’d live in?

“Coming from a disadvantaged community is what inspired me to become an engineer.”

An engineering professor assisting a student during an in class assignment.

Choping’s family moved to the United States from Ethiopia in the late 1990s. She later moved to Tennessee to start her college journey at Tennessee State University in 2021 to pursue a degree in civil engineering. She will be graduating in spring 2024.

“The faculty is the reason why I decided to come to TSU,” she said. “They are so dedicated. That’s what convinced me to go to TSU, and my first semester experience is what convinced me to stay.”

Choping recalls returning to TSU the following year, but many of her classmates did not due to the rigorous academic curriculum and financial obligation. 

Ethiopine Choping presenting a study of photoelastic effect in zinc.

These are two of the reasons Tennessee State University’s College of Engineering is continuing its commitment to fostering a community of budding first-year engineering students. Earlier this year the college received a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation to continue this endeavor. The grant will create a five-year pilot engineering curriculum that includes a pre-engineering program and an immersive engineering studio dedicated to undergraduate research experiences (CUREs), focused on student retention and graduation. College of Engineering Associate Professor Catherine Armwood-Gordon said the college is excited about providing scholarships to first-year students through the grant. 

“We’re looking at ways to support students’ progression through their mathematics and success in the first term,” Dr. Armwood said, noting that she is grateful to be able to provide students with scholarships and resources to excel. 

 Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Ph.D. Graduate student Brandon Jones, center, and Engineering student Marvellous Eromosele.

The focus on student retention also extends to the female population within the College of Engineering department.

According to Dr. Armwood, who also serves as Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies, TSU has graduated over 600 students from the College of Engineering from Spring 2018 -2022. Yet fewer than half of these graduates were women pursing engineering degrees. Currently, there are over 228,900 engineers employed in the United States. Only 13.7% of all engineers are women, according to Zippia. 

Alexia Brown, a TSU freshman studying mechanical engineering, said she looks forward to being a part of the 13% female engineering population post-graduation.

Camron Henderson

“It’s empowering to see women succeeding regardless of the industry,” Brown, of Jackson, MS, said. “It pushes me to finish my degree and to continue on this path.”

As a first-year college student, Brown started college just last month and said she already feels like she’s right at home.

“Everything has been really well,” she said. “I love my classes, and I love my professors.” She also noted that she is excited about the college receiving grants for first-year students as the overall goal is to enhance the retention and success of students in engineering programs at TSU.

Funds from the first-year student grant will be able to support the engineering population growth by awarding more than 80 students a year.

TSU freshman Camron Henderson, a computer science major from Atlanta, said he has hopes that the freshman student grant will be resourceful for out-of-state students like himself. “I’m very happy to know the university has received this grant,” Henderson said. “It will bring more retention to the college.” Henderson is the freshman class treasurer and said his time at TSU, ‘so far has been great,” stating that he loves his teachers as well.

Alexia Brown

TSU grad Tupac Moseley is currently pursuing a master’s in computer and information systems engineering at TSU and said the college is worthy of the $2.25 million investment. “I hope that students, after me, have an even better experience. This will help them transition smoothly into the college of engineering.

This department was extraordinarily helpful throughout my senior year,” he said. “The college cares about me and it only felt right to come back to TSU to pursue my next degree.” This is the third time the National Science Foundation has provided an Implementation Project grant to the university. The first two grants were approximately $1 million each.

Tupac Moseley is currently pursuing a master’s in computer and information systems engineering at TSU

A STEM Enhancement Institute is also being established as part of the grant to provide support to students who struggle with their STEM courses in their pre-engineering program. $150,000 per year will go toward the STEM institute.

To learn more about TSU’s engineering programs, visit www.tnstate.edu/engineering/.

TSU’s Zakiya Hamza Receives BlueCross BlueShield Scholarship

By Angel Higgins

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University senior ZaKiya Hamza is one step closer to achieving her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner.  The nursing major was recently awarded the BlueCross Power of We Scholarship. A video, two essays, and two recommendation letters later, Hamza joined five other students, from across the State, in receiving the $10,000 scholarship.

“I was ecstatic when I found out and I’m very grateful for the BlueCross BlueShield Power of We Scholarship,” said Hamza.

ZaKiya Hamza

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation, in partnership with the National Association of Health Services Executives Memphis Chapter, honored six students for their remarkable contributions to community service, leadership, and academics.

The scholarship was founded in 2013 by the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation to address the historic lack of opportunity and health inequities that minority groups suffer, particularly underrepresentation in the medical industry. Since then, the scholarship program has assisted more than a dozen deserving individuals in pursuing degrees in nursing, medical technology, pharmacy, and other professions.

Hamza, a Nashville native, chose nursing because she enjoys working with others and helping people. When asked her thoughts on being a part of the TSU School of Nursing, Zakiya explained, “I am grateful to be a part of the School of Nursing and hope to see this program continue to grow”. 

She also said she was grateful for the support she received from Professor and Interim Bachelor of Science in Nursing Director Dr. Shaquita Bonds. After that it took about four months to hear back and once accepted she had to go through a round of interviews.

“I found out about this scholarship thanks to my professor who announced it in class, and the nursing program sent mass emails for scholarships to apply as well.”

Dr. Courtney Nyange, executive director of nursing and professor, expressed what it means for the School of Nursing the excitement that comes along with a TSU student receiving such an honor.  

“The focus of the School of Nursing is on the preparation of the next generation of nurses through a learning environment that promotes excellence in education, scholarship, and collaborative practice in diverse communities locally and globally,” added Nyange.

“Nursing faculty and staff are invested in the success of our students who envision themselves in the helping and healing arts. We are grateful for the awarding of the Power of We Scholarship to our nursing student, Zakiya Hamza and are excited about what the future holds for her in the nursing profession.”

Zakiya added that receiving the scholarship will help her immensely with nursing school costs, while being able to focus solely on her education because nursing school is a full-time job. In addition to furthering her career as a nurse practitioner, she plans to own and operate her own clinic.

The next application cycle will open later this fall. For more information about the Power of We Scholarship vist BCBSTNews.com/Scholarship

Tennessee State University reaches over $100 million in research awards, second among nation’s HBCUs

Continues path to obtain R1 status with record-setting external funding

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has reached a historic milestone, with the institution receiving over $100 million in research awards. The $100,031,082 million in funding is the second highest total among the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. According to TSU President Glenda Glover, the record-setting awards are a part of the University’s plan to reach R1- research status.

“I applaud our Research and Sponsored Programs division for the implementation and continuation of a robust program that speaks to TSU’s commitment to changing the world through our research,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “We understand that a significant increase in research expenditures is the key metric to obtain the R1 designation, the highest research classification for institutions.”

Anthony Thai

Some of the funding will focus on innovations in renewable energy, sustainable technologies, and global food security. University officials believe these research efforts will continue to transform lives and shape the future of TSU students.

“The aim of research in general is so that research will have a societal impact across the board from a local, state, regional and national level,” said Dr. Quincy Quick, associate vice president of Research and Sponsored Programs.

“All of the research that was awarded from the Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences to all the awards in the College of Agriculture will have a huge impact.”

In 2021, TSU’s external research funding was just over $70.7 million and has increased by 34% since then. This includes an $18 million United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) NEXTGeneration grant awarded to the College of Agriculture that helped to propel TSU to the new record setting total.  

“The USDA/NIFA grant isn’t just a financial fortune, but it is a transformative opportunity that will propel TSU to new heights and academic excellence,” Dr. Quick added.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, right, with Dr. John Ricketts, left, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences with the College of Agriculture, is the principal investigator for the NEXTGENeration Inclusion Consortium for Building the “Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences Pipeline (FANHP)” grant funded by USDA/NIFA for $18 million.

Quick also received a $2,970,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, adding to the total. The award will be used for the renovation of Harned Hall in the College of Life and Physical Sciences, which houses (13) research labs and (2) teaching laboratories.

“We have hit the highest total in grant awards in the institution’s history. This puts TSU in the upper echelon of research funding among HBCUs.”

Quick, who is leading the R1 designation effort, says the goal is to ultimately reach $150 million in total grant awards within the next five years. TSU has had record awards in three of the last four years, $54 million (2019-2020); $70.7 million (2020-2021); and over $100 million (2022-2023).  

The R1 status is the highest research designation, under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning. The designation would mean more doctoral programs, research initiatives and funding for students and the university. Currently, TSU is one of only 11 HBCUs with an R2 designation under the category of “high research activity.”

TSU’s Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences and the College of Agriculture received a total of $65.9 million awards of this year’s total.

Here are the top awards received in 2022-23: 

  • Dr. John Ricketts – College of Agriculture, $18,000,000 (USDA NIFA)
  • Dr. Kimberly Smith- RSP, $10,444,445 (TN Department of Human Services)
  • Dr. Andrea Tyler – Title III, $10,254,498 (Department of Education) 
  • Dr. Quincy Quick – RSP, $5,000,000 (Department of Energy) 
  • Dr. Quincy Quick –RSP, $2,970,000 (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
  • Dr. Karla Addesso – College of Agriculture, $2,479,982 (USDA) 
  • Dr. Melanie Cantu – College of Agriculture, $2,016,694 (USDA) 
  • Dr. Rebecca Selove – RSP, $1,772,784 (National Institutes of Health) 
  • Dr. Deo Chimba – College of Engineering, $1,611,168 (Dept. of Transportation) 
  • Dr. Margaret Whalen – RSP, $1,255,618 (National Institutes of Health) 
  • Dr. Roy Sonali – College of Agriculture, $1,158,373 (USDA) 
  • Dr. Jianwei Li, College of Agriculture, $1,118,709 (USDA) 

TSU’s Fall Faculty and Staff Institute commemorates a record-breaking academic year

NASHVILLLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – This year’s Faculty and Staff Institute (FSI) was particularly special as it marked the beginning of a new academic year filled with remarkable achievements and the promise of even greater accomplishments to come, along with a significant announcement later from President Dr. Glenda Glover.

President Glover took the stage in front of over 200 faculty and staff members, including those watching via the live stream, and reflected on the pride she felt for the university and its dedicated staff.

“We begin this semester with excitement and celebrate our commitment to our students,” Glover said.

“It is a wonderful privilege and an awesome responsibility to serve as the president of Tennessee State University.”

Over 200 faculty and staff members attended TSU’s annual FSI that commemorated a record-breaking academic year. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

During the annual event, the university heard 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, Vice President Doug Allen, Student Activities Vice President Dean Frank Stevenson, and SGA President Derrell Taylor, on behalf of the student body.

President Glover went on to highlight some of the university’s most significant accomplishments this past year. Kean Hall was filled with pride as she shared that TSU had surpassed the monumental milestone of $100 million in endowments and announced that research funding had also reached an all-time high of over $100 million, setting a new TSU record. The 2022-2023 accomplishments didn’t end there. She also highlighted the plan for the university to continue charting a strategic path toward reaching R1 research status and establishing new degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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. President Glover thanked everyone for recruiting exceptional students who represent the university with Tiger pride.

TSU President Glenda Glover

“You are the source of our excellence,” she told faculty and staff. “We will continue to succeed and advance our university.”

During FSI, she also emphasized the importance of a safe and conducive learning environment, expressing her gratitude for the successful completion of various campus enhancement projects.

Glover, the 8th and first female president of the university, closed out the meeting by announcing her retirement this spring, after serving her alma mater for 11 years. After leading the university for over a decade, Glover said her greatest achievement is putting TSU in the national spotlight.

“It was my goal to elevate TSU,” she said. “I’m prepared to pass on the torch; thank you for continuing that true TSU spirit.”

TSU’s College of Agriculture camp gives incoming freshmen valuable STEM exposure  

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – College lab classes should come easy for a group of incoming freshmen who recently attended Tennessee State University’s College of Agriculture Summer Enrichment Program. The 23 students, with different majors, conducted real-world scientific and cutting-edge research during the four-week program. Activities included several laboratory and field experiments. The last day culminated with a closing ceremony where the students presented their finished works as scientific papers.   

Jai’Da Le’Nae Seafous was one of four program participants awarded full scholarships to attend TSU. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Jai’Da Le’Nae Seafous, a senior from Summer Creek High School in Houston, expressed her excitement about attending TSU, saying that the program further fueled her passion for the university. Her research project focused on extracting fecal and different blood samples from goats to check for parasites. 

“The program most definitely made my decision much easier to major in animal science,” Seafous said. “The hands-on experience was so helpful.” 

Seafous was one of four program participants awarded full scholarships to attend TSU starting this fall. 

Another high school senior, Christopher Dewanye McKay Jr., from Ridgeway High School in Memphis, conducted research on genetics and DNA, stating that he discovered many things he didn’t previously know about plants. 

Christopher Dewanye McKay Jr., received insights in plant science during his research on genetics and DNA. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“When I got here, I really didn’t know much about plant science. I was just looking for something to do,” said McKay, who wants to major in computer science. “But I am glad I did. Now I have a whole different appreciation for agriculture.” 

Dr. Chanra Reddy, dean of the College of Agriculture, emphasized that the program, which has been held each summer for more than 10 years, provides students with exposure to different opportunities within the agricultural sector. He also highlighted the program’s success, with approximately 85 percent of participants choosing to continue their education at TSU. 

“We are very happy about the success rate of the program. This teaches them about the STEM opportunities in the college,” Reddy said. 

Dr. De’Etra Young, Program Coordinator, assists a group,p of students with their presentation at the closing ceremony. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Dr. De’Etra Young, program coordinator, explained that students had the chance to work on various subjects, ranging from food and animal science to genetics, forestry, GIS, precision agriculture, nutrition, and child development. 

 “We tried to expose the students to the whole offerings in the College of Agriculture,” said Young, who is associate dean for academics and Land-Grant programs. “This provides exposure but also gives us the opportunity to serve as a bridge to help them prepare for college.” 

A cross section of family members, faculty and staff attend the student presentation in the AITC on the main campus. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

The Summer Enrichment Program was funded through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program accepts high school sophomores through seniors and incoming college freshmen from across the country. This summer’s participants were from Tennessee, Mississippi, New York, Texas and Georgia. 

For information on programs in the College of Agriculture, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/