Category Archives: Student Profile

TSU expands global impact with Ghana Experience Program

By Alexis Clark, Chrishonda O’Quinn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University continues to make strides as a global institution. In collaboration with the HBCU African Education Coalition (HAEC), TSU has launched the Ghana Experience program to promote cultural exchange, global awareness, and academic enrichment. The initiative brought together 60 TSU students and staff who embarked on a transformative journey from June 1-16 to various regions of Ghana, including Accra, Akosombo, Kumasi, and Cape Coast.

Newly elected SGA president Chrishonda O’Quinn with students from the Wesley Girls’ High School in Accra, Ghana.

Mark Brinkley, who serves as director of International Education in TSU’s Office of International Affairs, explained how the HAEC partnership and the Ghana Experience program align with the university’s mission to provide students with transformative global experiences.

“This unique program will offer an invaluable opportunity for TSU students, faculty, and staff to engage with Ghana’s rich heritage, diverse cultures, and educational landscapes,” Brinkley said.

During the two-week immersive program of cultural exchange, participants engaged in educational seminars, community service projects, interactive workshops, and visits that provided an understanding of Ghana’s history and educational system.

TSUs Chrishonda O’Quinn and Jalen Mask were both Student Logistical Coordinators for this initiative and were selected for the Ghana Experience. O’Quinn, a senior and the newly-elected SGA president, said the study abroad program was a personal cultural awakening for her but also an opportunity to share the importance of education with young girls from the Wesley Girls’ High School in Cape Coast, Ghana.

TSU student Jalen Mask with Ghanaian student during Summer 2024 study abroad trip.

“This understanding is crucial in shaping your relationships, how you lead, and how you view yourself,” O’Quinn said. “Additionally, it sharpens your cross-cultural communication skills and helps you appreciate the privilege of having access to the resources we have. Giving back to the educational system in Ghana brought me pure joy.”

Mask, a rising junior, is a biology major and future medical doctor. He said the experience made him passionate about being a contributor to a global society.

“My TSU study abroad experience in Ghana has culminated in a higher sense of self-identity, resilience, and passion for who I am,” Mask said. “Being immersed in the culture makes me ambitious to continue making a positive difference in this world as a global contributor. Through this opportunity, my horizons have been broadened, and I am eager to continue showing up as my authentic self and defying the odds.”

TSU is set to open a SMART center at St. Martin de Porres.

The Ghana Experience also included other HBCU students and administrators from Clark Atlanta University, North Carolina A&T, Morgan State University, Hampton University, and Howard University.

Building on the success of the Ghana Experience, TSU is set to open a SMART center at St. Martin de Porres, one of the partnering institutions in Accra, Ghana. This initiative marks a significant step in TSU’s commitment to global education and fostering international partnerships.

To learn more about study abroad opportunities at TSU, visit www.tnstate.edu/business/international/.

TSU’s Commercial Music Program thrives with BMAC partnership

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Commercial Music Program just wrapped up its third annual course in partnership with the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) Music Accelerator Program, and it’s only getting better.

TSU music students spent the last three weeks with representatives from Apple Music (an inaugural partnership), Live Nation, Def Jam, Atlantic Records, BMI, Spotify, and more. The accelerator program’s third cohort left students like Adren Gilmore and Morgan Alford inspired after receiving much exposure from prominent executives, talent agencies, and music artists.

Gilmore, of Texas, is a rising sophomore majoring in commercial music. He said the class was very influential for him as an aspiring artist.

“The most impactful part of this class was being able to be in the rooms, talking one-on-one with these power players of the industry,” Gilmore said. “Because for people like myself who are chasing this dream of being in the industry, being in these rooms with these power players lets us see how attainable it really is.”

TSU students had the opportunity to discuss marketing, record label deals, artists and repertoire, and financial literacy with industry insiders in a class designed to lead to internships and employment. Through its partnership with BMAC, the university addresses underserved markets and provides firsthand resources and representation for students interested in the music industry.

Gilmore noted that his biggest takeaway from the class was the day the students met with Apple Music representatives for the company’s Pathway Spatial education lab, which highlighted the future of immersive audio. This innovation creates a three-dimensional audio experience, simulating an expanded soundscape.

When Def Jam executives came and brought one of their artists, Connie Diiamond, the students had a “takeover” day where they showcased their talent to the representatives, received feedback, and made connections.

“Our art is at the core of who we are. So being able to not only meet these power players, but show them what our output is, that’s something we only dream of,” Gilmore said.

While Gilmore enjoyed playing his music in front of powerhouse executives, Alford, of Mt. Juliet, who is studying mass communications, shared highlights from the program as well.

“TSU and BMAC gave us an amazing, rare opportunity,” Alford, a rising sophomore, said. “We met so many higher-ups within the music industry to make those connections … and I just think it was really valuable to learn how to capitalize on that, as well as using the knowledge they gave us.”

Alford also appreciated meeting Def Jam’s Grammy Award-winning artist, Kaliii, and emphasized the importance of seeing representation in the industry, as her entire team were Black women.

Jaiden Burroughs, of Nashville, cherished meeting Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Flavor Flav, who shared valuable industry insights as a guest speaker. “The program was not only informational, but it was also very fun,” Burroughs noted. “My biggest takeaway was keeping your relationships close. And what’s great about BMAC is that they highlight Black creativity with a mission to protect that.”

And that’s their exact goal.

Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, the co-founder and chair of BMAC, said the TSU program has led students to employment and paid internships, and will continue to do so every year. “We are really creating a pipeline for success in a tangible way,” Stiggers previously stated.

He proudly mentioned that alumni Asiya Buchanan and Link Fisher III, who helped produce this year’s program, are now thriving in their careers, with Fisher III securing a full-time position at Live Nation.

Ranked by Billboard Magazine as one of the top 25 music business programs globally, TSU’s Commercial Music Program offers students exclusive access to leadership, mentorship, and career resources. Students even participated in a music festival planning competition where the winners received an all-expense-paid trip to Rolling Loud Miami.

This year, the class was led by TSUs Grammy Award-winning music professor Larry Jenkins Jr., who covered an array of critical topics in the music industry. The prominent guest list included musician and songwriter Daisha McBride, Motown Records’ Courtney Lowery, Bertelsmann Music Group’s Tim Reid, SiriusXM’s Swaggy Sie, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group’s Lou Taylor, and more.

“Serving as the professor and as a member of an incredible team alongside BMAC, Prophet, and the Recording Industry Association of America for the 2024 Music Accelerator Program was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my 10 years serving at TSU,” Jenkins said. “To watch these students expand their music industry knowledge, learn about new career paths, and even create their own album together was the overwhelming highlight for me.”

By offering classes like this within TSU’s Commercial Music Program, the impact can be multifaceted and everlasting for young, underrepresented music artists and creatives.

About the Black Music Action Coalition

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

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 celebrates first graduates of Dr. Levi Watkins Institute

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The journey to become a doctor or dentist is one step closer to becoming a reality for several recent Tennessee State University graduates. After making history as the first graduating class of the TSU Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Accelerated Medical and Dental program, 14 students will now start their new journey to medical and dental school. All completed a rigorous 3-year academic program, debt-free. Parents and close friends gathered for a dinner and reception to mark this major milestone for the students and TSU.

 
Barbara C. Murrell, center, chair of the accelerated program, joins the inaugural cohort of TSU’s Dr. Levi Watkins Institute at the 2024 spring commencement ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” Barbara C. Murrell, the chair of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute told those in attendance.

“Yet a dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination, and hard work. And lastly, yesterday is but today’s memory,” she continued. “And tomorrow is today’s dream. So, dream big, I know you’ll make us proud.”

All of the students graduated with a B.S. degree in Biology with a 3.5 GPA or higher in three years, a requirement of the program. However, Jaden Knight and Samantha Altidort maintained a 4.0 GPA. Knight, a Dayton, Ohio native will be attending Meharry Medical College to become an orthodontist. He is a first generation college student.

“We are ecstatic, blessed, and very proud of Jaden,” stated his parents Carl and Shamica Kennebrew, during the event.

Samantha Altidort, one of two Dr. Levi Watkin Jr. Scholars who graduated with a 4.0 GPA, with her family during the program’s graduation celebration.

“We were able to watch what God is doing with him just to see Jaden get the fruits of his work, his hard work, and his dedication,” Carl said. “This program is creating generational wealth and starting a new path for Black men and women.”

Knight stated that he looks forward to addressing the underrepresentation of African American men in the field and improving underrepresented patient satisfaction. Altidort, a Nashville native, will also be attending Meharry Medical College to become a family medicine physician. She followed in her parents Michel and Guerda Aldidort’s footsteps, who are both TSU alumni and work in the medical field.

“We are here to celebrate Sam,” her parents said. “We are so happy and grateful for Sam. To God be the glory.” Michel added that they advised their daughter to attend TSU. “And that was a great decision,” he said. “Now she’s ready to go to Meharry Medical College.”

Jaden Knight, one of two Dr. Levi Watkin Jr. Scholars who graduated with a 4.0 GPA, with his family during the program’s graduation celebration.

Among active physicians, only 5.7% identified as Black or African American in the United States as of 2023. While 3.8% of dentists in the country identify as Black, according to the American Dental Association.

In 2020, Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College joined forces with a shared vision to eliminate health disparities among marginalized populations. The result was the establishment of the Meharry Medical College/Tennessee State University Medical/Dental Accelerated Pathway Program. The transformative initiative was in honor of TSU alumnus and renowned heart surgeon Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. The program serves as a pipeline for underrepresented students to become medical doctors and dentists.

Lalita Hodge, program coordinator of the Dr. Levi Watkins Institute, explained the significance of the program and its significance to the healthcare field.

“To our future brown and Black doctors, we just wanted to let them know how special they are to us and give them a great send-off,” Hodge said of the celebration.

“TSU is going to impact the medical field. I think someone in this program will have the cure for cancer. Someone is going to have the cure for dementia.”

Congratulations to the first cohort of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute Accelerated Pathway Program!

•           Samantha Altidort

•           Alan Bethea, Jr.

•           Taylor Brown

•           Chaun Cheaney

•           Kayla Davis

•           Xavier Erves

•           Camille Haskins

•           John Kim

•           Jaden Knight

•           Brooke Majors

•           McKhia McCrary

•           George Picken IV

•           Ashton Terrell

•           Ryla Traylor

To learn more about the Meharry Medical College/Tennessee State University Medical/Dental Accelerated Pathway Program, please visit https://www.tnstate.edu/watkins/.

Graduates of accelerated program headed to medical school 

Samantha Altodort and Jaden Knight are the first graduates of the university’s accelerated medical program and will enter Meharry Medical College in the summer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University reached a major milestone when the undergraduate class of 2024 walked the stage on May 4. Among the nearly 600 students were Samantha Altidort and Jaden Knight, the first cohort from the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Accelerated Pathway program to graduate. The two joined a prestigious list when they introduced retiring TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover, as the keynote speaker for TSU’s undergraduate commencement. The honor is given to the student with the highest GPA. For Samantha and Jaden, both 4.0 graduates and biology majors, they shared this coveted rite of passage. 

Samantha Altidort and Jaden Knight, center, with Dr. Levi Watkins Institute, Meharry Medical College representatives during the first cohort’s graduation celebration.

“I was thrilled and deeply honored to introduce President Glenda Glover as the keynote speaker,” said Knight, a first generation college student who is on his way to Meharry Dental School.   “It felt like a full-circle moment for me, starting from my first day on campus at Hale Hall, where I met President Glover. Her warm welcome and the unexpected joy of meeting the president in such a casual setting left a lasting impression.”

Jaden and Samantha set on stage and listened as President Glover presided over her final commencement and delivered the keynote address.

 “There will be those who will tell you that it can’t be done, that it won’t be done,” Glover said.  The crowd erupted with applause when she went on to say, “Don’t be discouraged by these dream assassins. If you want to kill your big dream, tell it to a small-minded person.”

The Memphis native and retiring president encouraged graduates to stay grounded in faith and that they could match and surpass the talent of anyone in any field.

TSU students make history as the first graduating class of the TSU Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Accelerated Medical and Dental program.

“During the times that I have heard President Glover speak, she has always shared a word that reminds students to keep the faith, persevere, and trust God, commented Samantha. “As a woman of faith myself, I am encouraged by her words and comforted knowing that TSU has been led by someone who has put her faith first.”

 Samantha, a Nashville native who will enter Meharry School of Medicine this summer, and Jaden, a Dayton, OH native, are a part of the first graduating class from the Dr. Levi Watkins Jr. Medical and Dental Accelerated Pathway Program. They said introducing President Glover at her final commencement was the ideal way to cap off their historic moment. President Glover established the accelerated medical and dental program with Meharry Medical College four years ago and accepted the first applicants a year later.

“When I first came to TSU, as part of the inaugural cohort of the Dr. Levi Watkins, Jr. Institute Accelerated Pathway program, President Glover was there in Hale Residence Hall welcoming us,” recalled Adltdort, who parents attended TSU.  “Three years later, I am a graduate and she was my keynote speaker at commencement. I am grateful for the role that President Glover has played in helping establish the program that supported me during my undergraduate career.”

Jaden added that he was grateful for the president’s vision to begin the program.

Samantha Altidort, along with the entire first cohort received graduation stoles during the program’s celebration.

“Under her leadership, the accelerated program that has profoundly shaped my career was established. Without her vision and dedication, I would not be where I am today. I can never fully express my gratitude to her but introducing her at graduation felt like a meaningful gesture of my appreciation. President Glover is an extraordinary leader, whose accolades are as vast as her intelligence. As she prepares to retire, I am confident that her impact will continue to resonate not just at TSU but also around the world.”

TSU established the Dr. Levi Watkins Medical and Dental Accelerated Pathway Program in 2021 through a partnership with Meharry School of Medicine and Meharry Dental School. Since its inception, TSU has admitted four cohorts into the program. Samantha, along with 12 of the program’s first graduates, will go to medical school in various fields. Jaden is the sole dental student. The future internal medicine doctor and dentist agreed that they look forward to a new journey that will lead to their ultimate goal and will be forever grateful to TSU and President Glover.

To learn more about the program, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/watkins/.

TSU Ag student lands fortune 500 job, aims to combat world hunger

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Kerrington Howard, a graduating senior at Tennessee State University, secured a job with a Fortune 500 company as a commodity trader, marking a significant step toward his goal of combating world hunger and assisting communities that suffer from food insecurities. “The end goal is to acquire the knowledge and then commit to action,” Howard said.

While the United States grapples with the challenge of food insecurity, Tennessee State University is producing students like Howard, who are determined to make a difference. More than 27 million Americans suffered from food insecurity as of July 2023, according to U.S. News.

Howard, of Maryland, D.C., is an agricultural science major who will be graduating May 4 and heading to Illinois this summer to pursue his career at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM).

Howard’s agricultural journey began at the age of eight when he was introduced to his father’s land in Florida, where fruits were grown, and goats were raised. “That’s when I got accustomed to country life,” Howard said. While his mother and stepfather own a business in Maryland, it was his experiences on his father’s land that sparked his interest in agricultural business, leading him to concentrate on it at TSU.

When Howard was in high school, he was accepted into TSU’s 1890 summer apprenticeship where he gained hands-on experience with agriculture professors at the university. He then received a full-ride scholarship as a Farm Bill Scholar to attend TSU and took full advantage of his opportunities and resources.

Throughout his collegiate years, Howard secured internships at Mammoth Cave as an environmental education intern and at Waste Management as an environmental protection intern that extended through his junior year.

During his job search, he discovered the role of a commodity trader through Thurgood Marshall and secured the job after three rounds of interviews. “It was luck, and it was God,” he said regarding securing the job. “I want to make an impact on how the food supply works.”

ADM is a global leader in both human and animal nutrition. As a commodity trader for the company, Howard will trade resources like seeds, corn, and other grain products within the agriculture industry.

What inspired Howard to enter this field is to combat food deserts and underrepresented communities battling with food insecurities. “We’re the leaders in food production, yet we have communities that don’t have access to food,” he said.

According to Feeding America, 92 billion pounds of food annually, equal to 145 billion meals, are wasted in the U.S., which is 38% of all the food in America.

“Since we are in the city (of Nashville), we should be able to walk to food,” he said. “Knowing that we have many food deserts right in Tennessee, that’s part of my motivation.” In Tennessee, 21% of the state’s population lives in areas considered food deserts, 15% in urban food deserts and 6% in rural food deserts.

Howard said he considers TSU “comforting” and looks forward to applying what he has learned at the university in the workforce.

“TSU is the whole reason why I’m here today. They provided the education, the internship skills, and the resources so I can get where I am today,” he said. “So, I’m always grateful for TSU.”

Dr. De’Etra Young, agriculture professor and associate dean for academics and land-grant programs, said that Howard’s achievements speak volumes of the caliber of students the college produces. “As a Farm Bill Scholar, engaged in rigorous undergraduate research and internships, Kerrington embodies the dedication and preparedness fostered within our institution,” Young said. “His success in securing a position with Archer Daniels Midland not only reflects his individual excellence but also underscores the value of the education and opportunities provided by TSUAg.”

Howard will be walking the stage with a 3.5 GPA at the undergraduate commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 4, with more than 550 fellow classmates.

TSU’s spring commencement will also be livestreamed from the university’s YouTube channel at www.tnstate.edu/livestream.

Family’s engineering legacy a part of TSU upcoming commencement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  When it comes to earning an engineering degree from Tennessee State University, the Buford family isn’t settling for just one—they are aiming for three. Shawn Buford will proudly graduate with her master’s, while her son, Joshua Buford, will receive his undergraduate degree, accounting for two of the degrees. The mother and son duo will participate in TSU’s upcoming Spring Commencement ceremonies, with The School of Graduate Studies on Friday, May 3, followed by the undergraduate ceremony on Saturday, May 4. The two, along with family and friends, will celebrate their academic milestone just one day apart from each other. 

Left to right, Joshua, Shawn and Christopher II Buford all are set to have degrees in engineering from TSU.

“It feels incredible,” Shawn said, as she prepares to receive her master’s degree in data science with a 4.0 GPA.

“It shows that you never get too old to go back to school. This is a family affair. Don’t ever let fear or insecurity keep you from what you’re doing because you’ll be missing out on your blessing.”

Shawn started her collegiate journey with a degree in chemistry nearly 30 years ago from Hampton University. The Brooklyn, New York, native and mom decided to go back to school after discovering that TSU had launched a new data science program in 2022.

Joshua, who is set to receive his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering on May 4 with a 3.7 GPA, picked up his cap and gown alongside his mother this week, both graduating with honors.

He stated that the duo graduating together wasn’t planned.

“I’m really proud of her,” Joshua said. “I know school has been something that she has enjoyed, and just getting to see her dream fulfilled is exciting. I’m happy to witness her live out her dream and walk across the stage, and then I get to walk the next day. It’s an opportunity that a lot of people don’t get to have.”

Meanwhile, the Bufords’ eldest son, Christopher Buford II, prepares to join the ranks next semester when he obtains his master’s in engineering. He and his mother Shawn began their journey together in 2022 when the pair both started the master’s program.

Shawn and Joshua Buford collect their graduation attire at the TSU bookstore. The mother-son duo, both engineering graduates, achieved honors this semester. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“We’ve been very supportive of each other, and we just go home and get to talk about our experiences after classes,” Christopher said. “And then we just do work together because we need that support. So, it’s been an amazing experience.”

Christopher, who previously earned his undergraduate degree from TSU, is set to receive his master’s in mechanical engineering next semester. He shared that witnessing his mother’s return to school, alongside his younger brother, has inspired him to consider pursuing his Ph.D. at TSU in the near future.

“It’s been very motivating because I look at what my mom and Josh are doing, and it’s the fact that we’re getting our education from an HBCU,” Christopher said. “TSU has so many great opportunities here.”

The trio were all also inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society at TSU.

Both of Shawn’s sons gravitated to STEM due to her chemistry background, but with their father, Christopher Sr., being a 1992 TSU alumnus, it was an obvious decision to attend the school that was right in their backyard.

College of Engineering Associate Dean Catherine Armwood-Gordon revealed that TSU has graduated over 600 students from the College of Engineering from 2018 -2022. According to Zippa there are currently over 228,900 engineers employed in the United States and only 3 percent of engineers identify as African American.

Shawn said she looks forward to walking the stage and turning around to watch her sons follow suit to all be a part of increasing that 3.3 percent. “We helped each other, encouraged each other, and supported one another during this journey,” she said. “And as a non-traditional student, I didn’t know how the students in this generation were going to receive me. But the TSU students are incredibly smart, polite, and embrace me. So, it’s been such an incredible experience.”

Dr. Lin Li, the dean of engineering, praised the family’s dedication to education, stating, “The Buford family’s commitment to academic excellence is truly inspiring and reflects the values of TSU’s engineering program. Congratulations to the Buford family as we look forward to their return for yet another engineering degree.”

Shawn said she looks forward to returning to TSU to pursue another master’s degree with an end goal of teaching STEM education. While Joshua looks forward to kicking off his engineering career this year.

United States Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock and President Glenda Glover will be taking the stage as the keynote speakers for the 2024 Spring Commencement ceremonies. Senator Warnock will address graduate students on Friday, May 3, at the Gentry Center Complex. The ceremony begins at 5 p.m. President Dr. Glover will address undergraduate students the following morning, May 4, at 8 a.m. in Hale Stadium. TSU will live stream both ceremonies at www.tnstate.edu/livestream.

TSU announces newly elected SGA leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University Student Government Association has welcomed a new group of officers for the 2024-2025 academic year, many of whom are familiar faces within the student delegation. The new student leadership, including Mister TSU and Miss TSU, was announced after a competitive student election commission week.

One of those familiar faces is Chrishonda O’Quinn, who now serves as the 84th SGA president after previously holding the position of SGA vice president. O’Quinn, a junior from Chicago, Illinois, is studying business administration with a minor in mathematics. Anyah Sanders, a junior from Miami, Florida, studying biology and previously the Junior Class president, was elected as the new SGA Vice President.

Chandler Holt, a rising senior from Birmingham studying health sciences, was crowned as the 95th Miss TSU. Chandler Cotton, a junior studying biology, was elected as the new Mister TSU and will accompany Holt.

Cristal Powell-Roach, assistant dean of student activities and leadership, expressed excitement about working with the dynamic newly elected leaders while the students embrace new opportunities for growth and development. “We have a great team,” Powell-Roach said. “I am very excited about our winners.”

O’Quinn expressed gratitude for the support from the students and faculty who entrusted her to return and assume the presidency. “It honestly warms my heart, and it makes me eager to really hit the ground running this year,” she said. “I’m happy I was able to have a year in a position like Vice President because I fully understand student leadership, especially within the top four, and how to be effective and help the student body. Being vice president taught me a lot about student leadership and how to implement change within a role like that.”

Sanders said she watched O’Quinn do an amazing job as vice president for the 2023-24 academic school year and wanted to follow suit. “She (O’Quinn) set the standard, and I wanted to not only build on the work that she did but also make an impact on my own,” Sanders said. She looks forward to maintaining and amplifying organizations on campus and bridging any gaps between administration and students.

Holt, who once served on the Pre-Alumni Council, said her sophomore year she witnessed coronation, and that is when she envisioned becoming Miss TSU one day. She noted that she felt like God aligned her life to have this experience. “It was such a pivotal moment,” Holt said after the SEC announcements. “It just feels unreal. I look forward to focusing on overcoming and addressing the challenges that we face as students. I want to prioritize the students’ well-being in a mental and physical state. I want to ensure that we all are one and that we all support each other.”

The 34th Mister TSU elect, Cotton, who was recently selected as one of only five students nationwide to receive the prestigious 2024 Jordan Smith Undergraduate Student Fellowship Award, said he is also grateful for the opportunity. O’Quinn expressed confidence that the student leaders will take proactive steps towards achieving their desired goals on campus with a positive narrative.

TSU to honor President Glover at upcoming Salute to Excellence Gala

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Promising to be an evening to remember, Tennessee State University will host the Salute to Excellence Gala to honor President Glenda Glover on Saturday, April 13. The TSU family, Nashville community, and a who’s who list of friends, including national leaders and celebrities, will come together to celebrate President Glover’s leadership and legacy. The event will take place at the Grand Hyatt Nashville to commemorate her 12 years of dedicated service to her alma mater.

Grant Winrow

“This is a way for us to say farewell, but not goodbye,” said Grant Winrow, who is the co-chair of the ticketed gala event. “This is a celebration of praise to thank our fearless leader who embodies the true meaning of our motto, ‘think, work, serve,’ as the university’s president.”

Winrow said the celebration of Dr. Glover’s legacy exemplifies her leadership, ‘taking TSU to unimaginable heights.’

“Dr. Glover is a national figure who will continue to embody the TSU Tiger spirit. As her special assistant, I’d like to express my gratitude, as it has been quite an honor and a tremendous journey that I will cherish for a lifetime.”

The event will consist of a reception followed by dinner and a program hosted by TV and media personality Star Jones alongside comedian and radio personality Rickey Smiley. The evening will be a celebration of excellence, with a performance by the TSU’s Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands, fondly called AOB.

Madison Scott

TSU senior and head drum major Joshua Knox said he looks forward to being a part of the gala tribute to Dr. Glover.

He noted how special it is due to Glover’s involvement in their Grammy-winning journey, include being on the first song on the album. “As a band, we deeply appreciate all the support, words of encouragement, and her influence to open doors for us,” Knox said. “Her presence during our crucial moments, like our Rose Bowl performance in California, or our Juneteenth performance at the White House in Washington D.C. last summer, meant a lot to us.”

Joshua Knox

Madison Scott, a sophomore who is the co-captain of the Sophisticated Ladies, said with over a decade of leadership at TSU, Dr. Glover’s farewell will be one to remember.

“It’s significant to celebrate her to this magnitude because she definitely had a big impact on what TSU is today,” Scott said. “I know that she truly cares about the students and TSU as a whole. Dr. Glover is a president who listens and empathizes with the students, and I’ll forever appreciate that.”

Sammy Freeman, a criminal justice major, added that President Glover had been an inspiration to him, being from the same hometown of Memphis.  “President Glover showed me I could achieve whatever I set my mind to do,” Freeman said.

Sammy Freeman

“I recall her talking to a group of us, as freshmen, telling us that is does not matter where you start. It is the preparation and where you finish that matters most. She has done everything a president was supposed to do.”

SGA president Derrell Taylor remarked how the president’s leadership inspired him and other students as well.

“Dr. Glover’s unwavering dedication to our student body has left an indelible mark on our university’s history,” Taylor said. “As the first female president of our university, Dr. Glover has led by example and accomplished many milestones throughout her journey, paving the way to inspire future generations of leaders.

Derrell Taylor

On behalf of the student body, we are truly grateful for Dr. Glover’s commitment to advancing and advocating for TSU.”

President Glover decade-long accomplishments include consecutive years of record enrollment, successfully navigating the institution through the pandemic, record $100 million-plus in research awards, doubling the TSU endowment to $100 million, several new buildings, including a new residence hall, and securing $250 million from the State of Tennessee, the largest one-time appropriation from a state to an HBCU.

Dean Barbara Murrell

 “This is our way of saying thank you, Dr. Glover, for a job well done for an ever-lasting legacy,” stated Barbara Murrell, who is the co-chair of the event. “We wish her the very best in her future endeavors, hoping that the journey ahead will be filled with success and fulfillment as she embarks on the next chapter of her life.”

For more information regarding the Salute to Excellence Gala and to purchase tickets, visit www.tnstate.edu/salute/.

Celebrating 60 years of excellence at the 2024 Spring Honors Convocation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University proudly hosted its 12th Annual University-wide Honors Convocation, recognizing nearly 3,000 students for their outstanding academic achievements and overall success. The event, themed “Timeless Achievements,” commemorated 60 years of honors excellence and showcased the remarkable accomplishments of thousands of TSU students.

President Glenda Glover

“For six decades, the TSU Honors College has invested in the good ground of top students who have distinguished themselves through scholarship, research, service, and academic excellence,” said Dr. Coreen Jackson, the Dean of the Honors College. “Indeed, the world itself has been the grateful beneficiary of the seeds of honors planted right here at Tennessee State University.”

The Honors Convocation celebrated distinguished undergraduates from all University disciplines, including 834 current Honors College members. This year, 149 Honors seniors were recognized, with eight of them achieving the President’s List status, students who maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout their time at TSU.

The Honors Convocation celebrated distinguished undergraduates from all University disciplines, including 834 current Honors College members.

President Glenda Glover was presented  with the inaugural speaker award during the event, in memory of her legacy. President Glover was a member of the Honors Program, as a student, and lead the transition of the program to become the Honors College. This was her final convocation as president.

“This Honors Convocation is more than a personal recognition, but it is a challenge to soar because you are called to a great responsibility,” Glover said. “You are called to high expectations.”

This year’s convocation was also the last for the first cohort of Dr. Levi Watkins Jr.,scholars as the students will be graduating this spring.

TSU seniors and biology majors John Kim, left, and Jaden Knight.

TSU seniors and biology majors Jaden Knight and John Kim, who are a part of the inaugural class, were proud to participate in their final honors convocation of their collegiate journey and closing it out with fellow cohorts. “I am a first-generation college student and will be the first to become a doctor,” Knight said. He left the convocation with a 4.0 GPA and some advice to the next Dr. Levi Watkins cohort scholars. “Lean on your fellow cohort members,” he said. “They’ll become your family, so definitely take advantage of that.”

“And leverage the networking opportunities that this program gives you,” Kim added, who will also become the first doctor in his family as well.

The 60th convocation was also a celebration of academic excellence for the students’ families, many of whom drove hours to witness.

Kennedy Cason, left, and her mother Missy Cason .

Missy Cason drove more than four hours to see her freshman daughter, Kennedy Cason, complete one of her first collegiate milestones. Cason, a freshman with a 3.75 GPA studying biology, said it felt great to be recognized. “It’s very good that Tennessee State takes the time out to acknowledge students like us who work hard and put their education first.”

Cason’s mother, Missy, said she wouldn’t have missed this moment for anything. “She’s doing well, and I’m proud of her,” Cason said about Kennedy. “We don’t know a student’s background, we don’t know where they come from, and to honor and recognize these students and let them know that they’re doing such a good job is a push they probably needed.”

TSU honored Attorney James Clayborne Jr., as the distinguished guest speaker for the Honors Convocation. He is a TSU alumnus with a degree in political science and serves on the TSU Foundation Board of Directors. As the Founding Partner of the only African American certified minority-owned law firm between Chicago and Kansas City, he brought over two decades of experience in municipal law, product liability, commercial litigation, personal injury, and class actions.

Attorney James Clayborne Jr.

Clayborne Jr.’s speech was about experiencing positive energy, putting forth faith over fear, and conquering life with a great attitude. “Don’t be too afraid to take the first step,” he told the students.

“When you wake up in the morning, it’s your opportunity with the right attitude and faith to begin to write the script on how your movie and your life will end.”

He talked about being hopeful in fulfilling those dreams and associating with the right individuals to succeed. “TSU, may success follow you throughout your life and may you have the right attitude and courage to do what’s right.”

For more information on the TSU Honors College, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/honors/ .