Category Archives: RESEARCH

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

TSU’s College of Engineering receives $2.25 million grant for incoming first year students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s College of Engineering is committed to fostering a community of budding first year engineer students and has received a monetary boost to continue this endeavor. This year the college has been awarded a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation that will go into effect fall 2023.

Elijah Rachell, left, mechanical and manufacturing engineering undergraduate student, Christopher Buford, center, Master Graduate student in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and Akiya Harris, a Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering senior during a summer camp.

The grant will create a five-year pilot engineering curriculum that includes a pre-engineering program and an immersive engineering studio based on course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs), aiming to focus on student retention and graduation at Tennessee State University.

TSU alumnus Malik City, who earned his engineering degree from the university in 2020, says that the rigorous TSU program played a pivotal role in his current success within his company.

City, is a software development engineer for Amazon.

“When I look back, I don’t have any regrets. I have been fortunate to be in this field that has changed the lives of myself and my family,” City said.

“The same courses that may discourage first year students are the same courses that many successful engineers had challenges with. The first year student grant is huge because the extra support is needed.”

A STEM Enhancement Institute will also be established this fall 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 towards the STEM institute.

TSU alumnus Malik City

College of Engineering Interim Dean, Professor Lin Li, who is the principal investigator of the grant, said the grant will support more than 80 students a year. “For year one students, we want to prepare them with stronger math and physics,” Li said. “So we proposed a pre-engineering program. This way, we help the students so they can move on to their second year for their engineering career.”

The overall goal is to enhance the retention and success of students in engineering programs at TSU through innovative practices and interdisciplinary research.

College of Engineering Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies Catherine Armwood-Gordon, Associate Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering Charles McCurry, and Dean of the College of Life and Physical Sciences Nolan McMurray are co-principal investigators for the grant.

A group of graduate and undergraduate engineering students working together during a 2023 summer camp.

Armwood-Gordon echoed the efforts of the grant in helping the university better understand the needs of freshmen engineering students. “It allows us to better understand what our retention rates are for the incoming freshmen that are not taking calculus one, to getting them through calculus one and retaining them to graduation.”

Dean McMurray emphasized that the program’s significant grant will propel the university to the forefront of HBCU engineering programs.

“This award will go a long way in preparing our students at TSU to become stronger engineering students,” he said.

This is the third time the National Science foundation has provided the Implementation Project grant: Enhancement of CUREs-based Curriculum and Immersive Engineering Studio to Enhance Engineering Education and Retention of Underrepresented Engineers, to the university.

According to Li, the first two previous awarded grants were approximately $1 million each. He also noted that the college of engineering is grateful for the additional funds this year as the project aims to create a pipeline of trained undergraduate students with various engineering analysis and design skills.

To learn more about TSU’s engineering programs, visit .

TSU College of Agriculture adds high-demand Master of Science Program

By Dr. Alyssa Rockers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University College of Agriculture will welcome the first students in a new Master of Science in Agribusiness and Leadership degree program in Fall 2023. The new program will allow students pursuing a master’s degree in agricultural business or agricultural leadership, education, and communications (ALEC) to take a program of study more specific to their needs and interests. TSU will offer this new degree both in person and online, with and without the thesis option.

PhD student Sunil Gurung at TSUs small farm expo.

“The new MS degree will broaden the scope of graduate degree offerings in the College and meet the tremendous market demand and student interest,” said Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture.

According to Dean Reddy, Agribusiness is a popular undergraduate major at TSU and many other institutions, and the new program will align graduates with their career choices, which will benefit students in finding better employment opportunities.

“Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication is very popular with those wanting to be leaders and communicators in the agricultural sector,” he said. “Many of our extension agents have been asking for such a graduate degree for a long time. The new degree is a more robust program and will be helpful to students seeking employment.”

Dr. Prabodh Illukpitiya, agricultural business professor in the College of Agriculture said the college has been anticipating this great opportunity as it will have a tremendous impact and benefit for the university.

“It’s a great collaboration between agribusiness and agricultural leadership, education, and communications,” Illukpitiya said.

 TSU alum Madison Lewis showcasing an Ag. Literacy presentation during her masters program.

“The program will benefit TSU by providing more opportunities to minority students and will enhance student retention and TSU’s reputation in agribusiness and ALEC programs.”

Agricultural education professor Dr. John C. Ricketts noted that in addition to creating workforce development opportunities, the program will specifically allow the university to offer agriculture teachers and extension agents an online program that’s respective of their needs. In addition to an experience for those who aren’t looking to become a bench scientist.

“It’s also going to provide content that meets their needs as educators,” Ricketts said.

“They will be able to take research and statistics courses that are meant for them as social scientists. Our students will be prepared to lead others and perform at top levels in business, education, government, nonprofit, and communication sectors,” he said.

To learn more about this new program and specifically the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication focus, contact Dr. John Ricketts ( If students are interested in Agribusiness Management, contact Dr. Probodh Illukpitiya ( To apply for the program contact Dr. Bharat Pokharel (, the department of Agriculture Director of Graduate Programs.

TSU College of Agriculture Awarded $18 million Grant Award from USDA

By Dr. Alyssa Rockers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s College of Agriculture has been awarded an $18 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA). TSU’s award is a part of USDA NIFA’s NextGen grant program, a $262.5 million investment in higher education to create and sustain a more diverse workforce for the next generation of food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences professionals. Of the 33 awarded projects across 24 states, TSU is only one of five institutions awarded Tier 3 funding. This includes projects up to $20 million and at least three partnering institutions across two states.  

“This is game changer for Tennessee State and further enhances our stellar reputation as a premier land-grant institution, with one of the top Agriculture programs in the country,” said TSU President Glenda Glover.

“Our goal as an institution is to provide our students with a quality education that will position them to compete and have successful careers in the global marketplace. This amazing opportunity with USDA will allow us to continue to fulfill that goal due largely to the commitment and vision of Dean Chandra Reddy and Dr. John Ricketts, principal investigator for the grant, and their staff.”

 The program is funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. Dr. Chandra Reddy, TSU’s Dean of Agriculture, and Dr. John Ricketts were on hand for the official announcement in Washington.

“We are quite excited with this announcement today by USDA Secretary Vilsack that the TSU College of Agriculture will be receiving $18 million to cultivate the next generation of agricultural graduates,” said Dean Reddy. “We are one of the select few institutions that received this level of funding recognizing our longtime efforts in this area through many successful initiatives particularly the Dean’s Scholars Program.” 

“I congratulate Dr. Ricketts and the team for putting together a comprehensive proposal and we will deliver on our commitments.”

 TSU’s project entitled, “NEXTGENeration Inclusion Consortium for Building the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences Pipeline (FANHP)” is led by Ricketts, who is a professor in the Department of Agricultural Sciences at TSU.

“This project will establish an inclusive consortium of institutions to build and sustain the future of the workforce in food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences,” said Ricketts.

“Through this project, TSU and our partners will be able to advance equity in this workforce for future generations.”

Scholarships and learning opportunities are crucial components of the grant. The project will allow TSU students to apply for full scholarships covering tuition, board and other related expenses,  internships, and other learning opportunities to expose them to careers in Agriculture. Dr. De’Etra Young, who oversees all the College of Agriculture’s scholarships, will serve as a co-project director along with Dean Reddy.  

“I am excited to be a part of this historical funding opportunity from USDA,” added Dr. Young, associate dean for the college’s academics and land-grant programs.

 “The Next-Gen grant will allow us to transform our student success portfolio, provide greater access to higher education through scholarships, and strengthen our current experiential learning and study abroad opportunities.” 

Additionally, programs related to FAHNP will be provided to community members to help them gain more information about the career options available to their young people. In addition to TSU, this project is a partnership with faculty from Fort Valley State University, Alcorn State University, the University of Houston, Chief Dull Knife College, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee – Martin, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt University, and the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences organization.

TSU faculty involved in this project along with Dr. John C. Ricketts (Principal Investigator), are College of Agriculture Dean, Dr. Chandra Reddy (Co-Project Director), Dr. De’Etra Young, ( Co-Project Director , Dr. Alyssa Rockers, Dr. Brione Lockett, Dr. LaPorchia Davis, Dr. Thomas Broyles, Dr. Yujuan Chen, Dr. M.S. Mahmud, Dr. Pramir Maharjan, Dr. Dilip Nandwani, Dr. Kilonzo-Nthenge, and Dr. Samuel Nahashon.

 For more information about programs sponsored by this grant award, please contact TSU Media Relations at 615.963.5331 or

TSU graduate students selected for prestigious Tennessee Hospital Association’s Agenda 21 Internship Program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two Tennessee State University graduate students have been selected for the Tennessee Hospital Association’s (THA) Agenda 21 Internship Program. J’la Jenkins, and Bege Mallam, both public health majors, were among 12 students from schools across the country who participated in a 12-week, paid supervised learning experience for qualified graduate students in healthcare administration or a related field.

A native of Alabama, Jenkins, who is pursuing her master’s degree in public health, will intern at Vanderbilt Medical Center, while Mallam, who is from Nigeria, and also pursuing his master’s degree in public health, will intern at West Tennessee Healthcare in Jackson, Tennessee.

Jenkins was not immediately available to comment on her selection, but Mallam said he is grateful to TSU for the support he has received and honored to be one of only 12 selected to be a part of the prestigious THA internship program.

“I’m humbled to be able to explore the opportunities in healthcare and to experience the practice of what we learn in class,” Mallam said. “Thank you for the recognition, and here’s to illuminating a path toward a brighter future in healthcare!”

Mallam said his long-term goal is to engage in medical outreach and health interventions among marginalized communities.  TSU College of Health Sciences Dean Ronald Barredo said the public health program continues to produce quality students who will go on to excel in the field because of opportunities like this provided by THA. 

“We are extremely proud of the selection of J’la Jenkins and Bege Mallam for the Tennessee Hospital Association’s Agenda 21 Internship Program,” said Dr. Barredo. “Their selection embodies not only the mission of the College of Health Sciences in preparing tomorrow’s healthcare leaders, but also — and more importantly — the institution’s motto of Think, Work, Serve.”

Dr. Wendelyn Inman is interim director of the TSU public health program. She said she is extremely proud of Jenkins and Mallam.

“Tennessee State University is noted for producing outstanding leaders,” Inman said. “With the training Jenkins and Mallam are getting from TSU, combined with their experience from the Tennessee Hospital Association’s Agenda 21 Internship Program, they get to step into leadership roles.”

Designed to increase diversity in hospital executive leadership, the Agenda 21 Internship Program provides selected candidates with additional exposure, knowledge and skills, that prepare them for a successful career in the healthcare industry. Through close work with administrators and staff, Jenkins and Mallam will gain hands-on experience as part of their hospitals’ leadership teams.

“The Agenda 21 Internship Program has operated for 28 years with the mission of providing learning opportunities in Tennessee hospitals for students who are from minority and under-represented groups in hospital executive leadership.” said Karizma Whitfield, Agenda 21 program manager at THA. 

Applications for the Agenda 21 Internship Program are accepted in the fall semester each year and students are placed the following spring with THA member hospitals for their summer internships. Learn more about the Agenda 21 Internship Program at  

TSU explores AI in education, will hold demonstrations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University serves as the nation’s only HBCU Smart Technology Innovation Center, and has partnerships with tech giants Microsoft and Apple, along with T-Mobile, Amazon and several others.

Through these collaborations, TSU has worked to bridge the technology divide among HBCUs and communities of color. Now the University is looking to forge deeper into the field by exploring the opportunities and possibilities of integrating education with artificial intelligence (AI).

Dr. Robbie Melton

Dr. Robbie Melton, Vice President of Technology Innovation Strategies and interim provost and acting vice president of academic affairs, heads the TSU SMART Global Technology Innovation Center that researches the effective use of emerging technologies in education, that now includes AI.

Starting June 5, Dr. Melton will be available to conduct AI demonstrations that will include creating curriculum and lesson plans in under 4 minutes, along with art and music in less than 2 minutes.

“TSU has always been on the cutting edge of technology and it’s important that faculty learn more about AI because these tools are already transforming and disrupting the traditional methods of reading, writing, research, teaching and training,” says Melton.  

AI Generated Images as such are created by using text to image prompts, no photography required.

While the concept of artificial intelligence in education presents an array of unprecedented academic, ethical and legal challenges, Melton believes these technological advances have educational value and benefits that can’t be overlooked. 

“It’s important for TSU faculty to learn how AI works in enhancing teaching and learning before taking a stand to ban it or try to stop it in the classroom. AI pushes us to incorporate critical and higher order thinking skills, that go beyond basic observation of facts and memorization.” 

Melton recently conducted a national webinar for several historical black colleges and universities (HBCUs) regarding the educational impact of AI for underrepresented groups and cultures.

To register for this event:
Webinar: June 22ndor 29th1:00 – 3:00
Avon Williams SMART Center

TSU leads conference to enhance research among nation’s HBCUs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University recently co-hosted an HBCU conference to highlight the groundbreaking research these institutions are conducting and to expand corporate partnerships. The main goals of the HBCU Engage conference co-hosted by University-Industry Demonstration Partnerships (UIDP), were to increase collaboration between HBCUs and corporate engagement. TSU, Fisk University and Meharry Medical College were co-hosts for the two-day event. 

 Dr. Quincy Quick, the Associate Vice President  of Research and Sponsored Programs, spearheaded the event on behalf of TSU.

 “This is a platform to make sure HBCUs are able to engage with corporate industries and partner with government agencies,” Quick said. “Ways that academic institutions can partner with corporate industries and help them develop products.”

The collaboration included representatives from federal agencies and corporations such as the Department of Energy, Amazon, and IBM. The event aimed to engage, educate, and exchange ideas among representatives from industry and higher education, as well as to facilitate learning from peers in government program leadership and research administration. 

Quick said his goal is to broaden the scope of the research enterprise at TSU to pursue the nation’s top research echelon with an “R1” designation under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning.

“This platform is new and innovative,” he said. “In a sense, HBCUs have not had a platform available to them like this before.”

The first day of the conference consisted of federal grant writing, meetings with sponsored research contracting, and partnering with nonprofit funders. Day two consisted of panel discussions, collaboration, and best practices for building research capacity through industry or government partnerships.

Overall, the event moves TSU a step closer to ‘R1” status as the university mobilizes its research enterprise – including teaching faculty, researchers, graduate school, staff, and students – to support its vision for the coveted designation.

About UIDP and its HBCU initiative:

UIDP is a recognized leader in addressing issues impacting academic-corporate collaboration, providing a unique forum for our member representatives to find better ways to partner. An increasing number of companies and R1 universities wish to pursue or strengthen collaborative research partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Many HBCUs are interested in utilizing partnerships to bolster research opportunities. The purpose of the UIDP HBCU Initiative is to develop guidance that provides company representatives and R1 universities with the necessary contextual information and best practices for developing a mutually beneficial HBCU engagement strategy.

TSU students, faculty showcase ground-breaking research at symposium 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Over 100 TSU graduate and undergraduate students presented their groundbreaking research during the Tennessee State University 45th Annual University-Wide Research Symposium. With cash prizes ranging from $50-250, students delivered thought-provoking insights on a wide range of research topics, including the use of essential oils on strawberries, and analyzing estrogen receptor response to breast cancer cells.  

J’la Jenkins, a second year public health masters student, speaks with another student about her research on promoting cancer health equity. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

The symposium, which is largely composed of presentations from the science, engineering, business, and humanities disciplines, was a week-long event sponsored by TSU’s Division of Research and Sponsored Programs. The symposium featured research and studies conducted by faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students.  There were over 20 oral and poster presentation winners placing in first, second and third during the symposium award ceremony. 

“The research symposium continues to be a cornerstone for showcasing Tennessee State University’s student and faculty research talent,” said Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs Dr. Quincy Quick. 

“The Division of Research and Sponsored Programs is always excited and overjoyed to support and sponsor this annual event across the university and look forward to the novel and innovative contributions presented.” 

Pallavi Rathore, a second-year masters student, speaks with another student about her poster presentation during the university-wide research symposium. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Students were judged on originality, organization, presentation, knowledge and overall.

Pallavi Rathore, a second-year masters student studying plant sciences, won 1st place for poster presentation in the “graduate agriculture,” interdisciplinary category. 

“It was really nice winning an award,” Rathore of India, said. “It was a boost of confidence, and the first award I’ve ever won at the University.” Rathore research was a study on root system architecture traits, with the goal bringing new plants into the world to fight climate change. Rathore said she looks forward to receiving her PhD after graduation, studying plant molecular biology. 

Anarra Williams

This year’s symposium theme is “Ascending to New Heights,” something that Anarra Williams did as she achieved a new level of success by winning first place for the undergraduate oral presentation interdisciplinary category.  Williams is a senior from Ohio, studying food and nutritional science with a minor in English. Her research was related to ‘reversing the entrepreneurial curse: Assessing issues faced as a self-employed juicing business owner.’ 

Williams owns her own juicing business, “A Dose of Wholesomeness.”

During the award ceremony, Williams was shocked about winning first place within her category. “As a senior, it is good to know they were interested enough to present me with first place … I am lost for words,” she said. “You never know where these competitions will take you.” Williams will be attending Virginia Tech for her master’s to pursue a career as a food chemist. 

Keynote speaker TSU alumna Dr. Maria Thompson being awarded a gift on behave of the Research and Sponsored Program, presented by the program’s chair, Reginald Cannon. (Photo by Celeste M. Brown)

Keynote speaker for the closing event was TSU alumna Dr. Maria Thompson, who is the former president of Coppin State University and previously served as the vice president of Research and Sponsored Program at TSU. Thompson gave a heartfelt speech about how she started her research as a freshman at TSU, not knowing its longevity within her professional career. 

“Research can be a foundation for your career, but also an approach to your whole life,” Thompson said. 

Thompson expressed how proud she is of the students and their research. 

“The whole world is before them,” Thompson told the University. “Once they have their foundational education and their research experience here at Tennessee State University, there is no door they can’t open, there is no experience they can’t create.” 

Thompson was then awarded a gift on behave of the Research and Sponsored Program, presented by the program’s chair, Reginald Cannon. Cannon noted that the 45th Research Symposium is a chance to bring the internal research community together. “It is excellence to showcase how well our students are doing.” 

See the full list of participants for the symposium at For more information on research at TSU visit the research and sponsored program site at

TSU College of Agriculture’s Center of Excellence trains students to take on climate change and other global issues 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s wetland is crucial to the health of both water resources and wildlife in North Nashville. TSU graduate student Devin Moore said that’s why he is grateful to be able to participate in research of the TSU wetland project, ultimately benefiting local Nashville communities.

Moore’s study of TSU’s wetland is made possible through a $6 million grant from the 1890 Center of Excellence Land. The award is for three years and will provide critical research on creating a quality environment that mitigates the impact of climate change in Tennessee, across the nation and globally.  

“Through the funding from the Center of Excellence (COE) we have been able to measure and analyze some of the toxins in the water through new progressive technology,” Moore said. 

Devin Moore placing teabags in the TSU Wetland to absorb and test toxins found. (Photo submitted)

Moore is receiving a master’s degree in agriculture with a focus on environmental sciences and is currently researching harmful algal blooms in the TSU Wetland and at the Ted Rhodes Golf Course in North Nashville. 

Wetlands have their own distinct ecosystem that can help advance the knowledge and resolutions to complex problems, including those related to climate change. According to scientists, extensive training and research is needed to solve these environmental issues.  

“I am excited for the research that I am doing,” added Moore, who obtained his bachelor’s degree from Yale University. “As someone who came from a social sciences background, it is nice to be around people who are experts in their field and are willing to sit down with me and bridge the gap,” he said.  

“It feels like what we’re doing could have some big global implications. I am grateful and thankful for the COE and everything they have enabled us to do.” 

Dr. Chandra Reddy

College of Agriculture Dean Chandra Reddy, who also serves as director of research, said the university was granted this opportunity in 2022 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to its faculty expertise and capacity to manage the funds.  

“Using our expertise within TSU and with our partners, we want to come up with some ideas and concepts, ways that we can mitigate the impact of climate on our famers and citizens. That’s the bigger goal, but to achieve that you need long term research, continuous support and build at capacity,” Dr. Reddy said. 

The COE consists of more than 20 faculty members, scientists, PhD, master’s, and undergraduate students. It is an investment that helps increase rural prosperity and economic sustainability of food systems in underserved farming communities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Acting Director Dr. Dionne Toombs. 

“Our goal is to really get the data generated, analyzed, and shared with the public and the funding agencies, and impress them in such a way that we get additional funding to create a physical space for students and experts to conduct extensive research in some of the most pressing environmental issues facing society,” Reddy said.

Agriculture master’s students Champagne Cunningham, right, and Faith Perry collecting water quality measurements from the TSU wetland. (Photo by Joan Kite)

Experts at the Center of Excellence are working on a variety of research projects ranging from renewable energy to animal sciences. TSU scientists are currently researching national issues such as how climate change impact seagrass production and greenhouse gas emissions. University scientists are also researching winter canola oil varieties that will work well for Tennessee farmers, and new export crops for the region such as grain amaranth used as chicken food. 

Champagne Cunningham, a master’s student who plans to become a freshwater ecologist after graduating this May, is also doing research in Nashville on harmful algal blooms. 

“Being able to say I am a part of a research group or a center that is doing such outstanding real-world groundbreaking research is interesting,” Cunningham said. “We get lots of hands-on experience. Because of TSU, I am learning techniques that will help me long term and secure a job as an ecologist.” 

TSU’s College of Agriculture is collaborating with four other HBCUs that make up the 1890 Center of Excellence. They are Alabama A&M University, Southern University, Florida A&M University and Langston University, to host the 1890 Center of Excellence.

About the Center of Excellence

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced this investment in 2022.

This will provide collaborative opportunities among 1890 Institutions to develop management practices that will promote natural resources, explore renewable energy sources, and develop climate smart agricultural production practices to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and improve environmental quality and sustainability, according to NIFA.