Category Archives: Uncategorized

Two agriculture professors earn national recognition

By Charlie Morrison, Alexis Clark

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two Tennessee State University College of Agriculture professors have been recognized for their outstanding contributions in research and excellence in education. Dr. Dilip Nandwani, a botanist and professor of organic agriculture, was named the 2024 American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) Fellow. While Agriculture professor and soil scientist Dr. Jason de Koff was recently named the winner of the 2024 Agronomic Education and Extension Award.

Dr. Nandwani is the first scientist from a Historically Black College and University or 1890 land-grant university to receive the prestigious honor. He has spent more than three decades teaching, researching, and mentoring in agriculture science and education.

“I am honored to be recognized by the American Society for Horticultural Science as a Fellow,” said Dr. Nandwani. “This award acknowledges 30 years of teamwork in horticultural research, Extension, and teaching, emphasizing our commitment to advancing society through horticultural education and principles.”

Dr. Nandwani is one of eight scientists named ASHS Fellows in the 2024 class. ASHS Nandwani manages TSUs certified organic farm, which includes fruits, vegetables, and herbs used for research and education efforts. Newly elected Fellows will be honored at an awards ceremony during an ASHS Annual Conference in September.

Dr. de Koff will also attend a ceremony to receive his American Society of Agronomy accolade, the Agronomic Education and Extension Award, recognizing excellence in education. The award includes a certificate, a complimentary ticket to the ceremony, and $2,000.

“This award is truly an honor,” said Dr. de Koff. “Working in Extension has allowed me to serve others, which is why I love what I do. I look forward to continuing to engage with and learn from all the stakeholders we serve.”

Dr. de Koff is active in the agronomy community, serving as President of the Tennessee Association of Agricultural Agents and Specialists, Chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources subcommittee in the Southern Region Program Leaders Network, and holds many other leadership roles. As a research scientist, he has received over 60 local, state, or national awards and $44 million in grants as Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator, including TSU grants.

“College of Agriculture Dean, Dr. Chandra Reddy, said that these achievements highlight the dedication and impact of TSUs College of Agriculture professors. “Dr. Nandwani and Dr. de Koff’s work continues to advance the fields of horticulture and agronomy, benefiting both the academic community and society at large,” said Reddy. He noted that these are important national recognitions by their peers in their fields of expertise. “Both faculty members have been with TSU for over a decade, and we are proud of their diligence and commitment to service.”

For more information about the College of Agriculture, visit TSU College of Agriculture.

TSU students awarded Ascend Credit Union scholarships

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – First-generation college students at Tennessee State University are gaining well deserved recognition for their hard work and dedication. Recently, two TSU students received $5,000 scholarships from Ascend Federal Credit Union, aimed at supporting the educational pursuits of diverse, first-generation students across Middle Tennessee.

TSU students Dasia Rodgers of Flint, Michigan, and Dimitrius Ausby of Chicago, Illinois, were each awarded $5,000 for their academic achievements by the largest credit union in Middle Tennessee. The students’ respective colleges selected them as recipients of the Ascend scholarship.

Rodgers, a rising senior studying business administration, has a 3.84 GPA.

“You apply for so many scholarships and sometimes the chances of being selected are slim to none,” Rodgers said. “I was shocked when I received the email in June. I was really proud of myself.” She noted that being a first-generation college student is a goal that’s bigger than herself but also for her family. She looks forward to a career in the sports marketing industry after college. “It’s the reason why I put so much effort into my academics,” she said.

Ausby, a rising sophomore studying computer science, shared similar sentiments about being the first in his family to attend college. “I want to be better than the last generation, so I’m trying to pave the way for the next generations to come,” Ausby said. “And I feel blessed about this opportunity.”

Along with focusing on his career, Ausby is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the Google Student Development Club, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Ausby said the scholarship will reduce financial burdens and will help him strive to become a data scientist after college.

The credit union also awarded scholarships to two students at Fisk University.

Ascend President and CEO Matt Jernigan said the power of education can transform lives and communities. “By awarding these scholarships to first-generation students at Fisk and TSU, we are not just investing in their futures, but also in the future of our Middle Tennessee communities,” Jernigan said. “We are proud to support these exceptional students as they embark on their educational journeys and strive to make a lasting impact on the world.”

Dr. Ashanti Chunn, the Assistant Director for TSUs You First Project, said championing first-generation students is critical and sponsoring their success reaches beyond academics. “It is laying the foundation to building a lasting footprint,” Chunn said.

“To be a first-generation student is to accept the opportunity to create a new heritage and to blaze a distinctive path for those over whom you have the greatest influence. Tennessee State University understands that this special group deserves every support that we can provide them and therefore their needs are at the center of the work that we are doing.”

Chunn noted that first-generation students are optimistic, courageous, resourceful and determined. “Undoubtedly, Dasia and Dimitrius possess these qualities and were aptly recognized for them.”

These scholarships not only ease financial burdens but also inspire the next generation of students. For more TSU first-generation resources, visit www.tnstate.edu/youfirst/ or www.tnstate.edu/fye/.

TSU hosts nursing summer camp for middle school students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University School of Nursing and Nurses Middle College (MC) Nashville hope to inspire 32 middle school students to become the next generation of healthcare professionals. The group of rising 7th and 8th graders recently visited TSU as a part of a nursing summer camp, where they learned CPR and patient care simulations. They received instruction from the School of Nursing faculty and learned about the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, cardiac arrest, identifying life-threatening situations, and more.

Middle school students attend the nursing camp gather in TSUs Health Science Building’s patient care simulation area. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)
 

Khloe Garrison, a Rose Park Middle Magnet 8th grader said the camp experience was one to remember as she learned techniques and terminology she hadn’t been exposed to before.

“Camp has been really cool,” Garrison said. “We did CPR on the (mannequin) babies. Seeing people here at TSU who look like me inspires me because I know they’ve achieved it, and it makes me believe I can too.”

TSUs Executive Director of Nursing Dr. Courtney Nyange said the University was proud to partner with NursesMC Nashville for the nursing camp. Dr. Nyange added that hosting the summer program helps the nursing school fulfill its mission to foster students of all backgrounds to become the leading healthcare professionals of tomorrow.

Middle school students, camp counselor demonstrations CPR skills during NursesMC camp. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)
 

“The opportunity to contribute to the continued diversification of the nursing profession in Tennessee and the nation is a privilege that our School of Nursing is honored to have and has embarked upon as an institution for decades,” Nyange said. “Our partnership will help create a pipeline of students who will be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and compassion needed to become successful nurses, capable of delivering high-quality client care.”

Dr. Cathy Lovelace, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, provided the one-day CPR training workshop for the participants.

Dr. Courtney Nyange being interviewed by a local news reporter to discuss the nursing profession and creating a pipeline for underrepresented healthcare professionals. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

Amir Rahman, who is a Nolensville High School student, participated in the event as a camp counselor. “It’s important that everyone came together and empowered each other,” Rahman said during the camp. “HBCUs are important, and I know the camp students appreciate this.”

Rahman, who aims to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse, has TSU on his list of potential colleges after high school.

 NursesMC Nashville Executive Director Dr. Andrea Poynter, who formerly served as a nursing professor at TSU for four years, said seeing the students’ excitement was one of the many highlights of the camp.

Amir Rahman

“The biggest takeaway is just them being able to learn how impactful they can be to people in their families and their communities,” Poynter said. “This exposure will be memorable to our aspiring next-gen nurses. Due to the hands-on clinical opportunities, the diverse school and local community, the level of preparedness from nursing graduates from TSU is so impactful.”

In addition to TSU, NursesMC Nashville partnered with HCA Healthcare TriStar Division and Belmont University to offer students diverse hands-on experiences. The TSU and NursesMC Nashville summer camp exemplifies the university’s commitment to nurturing future healthcare professionals through early exposure and practical campus experiences.

Students receive gifts from the School of Nursing during the NursesMC camp, hosted at TSU. (Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University)

NursesMC Nashville, launching next year, will be a tuition-free public high school in Davidson County, integrating nursing education, workforce experiences, and industry credentials to prepare graduates for college and careers in healthcare.

To learn more about the summer camp and the new NursesMC public nursing high school coming to Nashville, visit www.nursesmcnashville.org/contact/. To learn more about TSUs School of Nursing, visit www.tnstate.edu/nursing/.

TSU Interim president marks first day with Gov. Lee, Rotary Club meeting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University Interim President Ronald Johnson marked the beginning of his tenure with a significant community event on his first day in Nashville. President Johnson attended the July 8th Rotary Club of Nashville meeting, which featured Gov. Bill Lee. Rotary President and TSU alumnus Dr. Alfred Degrafinreid II recognized Johnson, who attended as guest of TSU Board Dr. Marquita Qualls.

Dr. Marquita Qualls, left, Interim President Ronald Johnson, center, and Rotary President Dr. Alfred Degrafinreid II attends the Rotary Club of Nashville meeting July 8. Photo courtesy of Tennessee State University.

President Johnson described the Rotary meeting as eventful, as he had the opportunity to meet with the governor and dozens of business leaders and stakeholders to continue fostering access and information for the university’s portfolio.

“What we’re working on is sustaining a future-ready Tennessee State University,” Johnson said. “We want to elevate our impact and elevate our competitive edge.”

Johnson emphasized the importance of building relationships with community leaders and counterparts with an effort to maintain “leverage.”

“That’s what we need as an HBCU, as a land-grant institution, even as an institution that’s looking to go from R2 to R1,” Johnson added. “If you make that connection, then we will be writing a new history for Tennessee State, a history that is a renaissance, not a recovery.”

Gov. Bill Lee, a longtime Rotary member, was the featured guest speaker for the July 8 meeting.

Gov. Lee, a longtime Rotary member, noted that the state of Tennessee must continue to create pathways for student success across the state.

“At the end of the day, we need to elevate our entire educational system, so we can continue to create workers that are going to be needed by the companies that are coming,” Gov. Lee said.

This week’s meeting was a TSU affair as it marked both President Johnson’s first day in Nashville and Dr. Degrafinreid’s first day as Rotary president.

TSU President Dr. Ronald Johnson, left, poses with TSU alumna Dr. Phyllis Qualls at a Rotary Club meeting attended by several TSU alumni.

“Dr. Johnson was exposed to 215 leaders from across the region and he got a chance to really make sure that Tennessee State University was recognized in a positive light in terms of him coming here on his first day to learn about our region,” Degrafinreid said.

Another major milestone was the record attendance. Hundreds of participants, many of which were TSU alumni, came together to discuss service-related issues and how the organization can create better opportunities for citizens in the region and for HBCUs. “Dr. Johnson’s visit allowed him to meet many Tennessee State University alumni who are members of this club, and they could reaffirm that we’re here to support him and we’re here to support Tennessee State University.”

Over 200 leaders from across the region were in attendance for the Rotary Club of Nashville meeting.

Rotary is a global enterprise that partners with institutions to gain access beyond local boundaries. In the near future, the organization looks forward to establishing a Rotaract Club at Tennessee State University to help train students for leadership roles, service, and community engagement, Degrafinreid said.

President Johnson said, with the support of TSU alumni and community leaders, he looks forward to leading TSU toward a future of growth and innovation.

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/.

Tennessee State University Board of Trustees Names Dr. Ronald Johnson Interim President

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – The Tennessee State University Board of Trustees has appointed Dr. Ronald Johnson to serve as the Interim President of the University, effective July 1, 2024. Dr. Johnson’s distinguished career in higher education spans nearly two decades, with significant leadership roles at some of our nation’s most distinguished historically Black universities (HBCUs).

He is known for his commitment to amplifying student success and strengthening the financial health and long-term sustainability of colleges and universities through a culture of accountability, shared governance, mentorship, and continuous improvement.

Johnson is the former President of Clark Atlanta University (CAU) from 2015-2018, where he successfully led the transformation and comprehensive turnaround plans for the University.  He recently served as Interim President at Kentucky State University (KSU), where he managed the day-to-day operations of the university and leveraged his leadership and financial expertise to build a foundation for long-term sustainability and to address the financial challenges facing the university.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Ronald Johnson and have him join the TSU family,” said Board Chair Dakasha Winton. “Dr. Johnson’s distinguished higher education career, along with his accomplishments as an exceptional administrator, makes him the right fit for TSU at this time.” 

Johnson, a well-respected and recognized leader in higher education, is also a former member of the President’s Advisory Board of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and served as the Chairman of the Consumer Advisory Board of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of the United States. He is also a co-founder and Advisory Board Member of the HBCU Executive Leadership Institute (ELI) at CAU and a recipient of its inaugural Frederick S. Humphries Leadership Award.

“Fellow trustees and I look forward to collaborating with Dr. Johnson,” Winton added. “His proven leadership in strategically addressing complex issues, while developing innovative paths forward will further lead the University during this transition. I know working with our students, staff, alumni and fellow board members, this next chapter will cement TSU’s legacy of excellence.”

Retiring President Glenda Glover said Johnson’s experience and professional leadership will continue TSU’s legacy of excellence.

“Dr. Johnson is an excellent leader and did an incredible job at Clark Atlanta. I am especially proud because I had the pleasure of attending Clark Atlanta for business school.  I will provide Dr. Johnson with any necessary support as he takes the helm of our great institution to continue the legacy of excellence that is the hallmark of Tennessee State University.”

Johnson has served as a faculty member at Texas Southern University, Florida A&M University, Howard University, and Northeastern University. 

Johnson earned a PhD and MA in economics from Stanford University, after completing an MBA in finance and a BA in economics from Adelphi University.

Johnson will serve as Interim President for one year, while the Board of Trustees conducts a national search to hire a permanent President.  Read more about Dr. Johnson here.

About Tennessee State University

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

Tyler Perry Studios selects TSU student for internship

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tyler Perry Studios (TPS) just announced their second cohort of talented interns selected nationwide, and one of their hand-picked interns is a familiar face in the Big Blue community.

Briana Thomas, a mass communication student at Tennessee State University, was selected as one of 14 TPS Dreamers Intern Class of 2024 out of over 1,000 applicants. Thomas, of San Diego, California, is a rising senior with dreams of becoming an independent filmmaker. She just started the 6-week paid internship based in Atlanta, Georgia, working in deliverables, where she is responsible for delivering the movie or show episode for distribution.

“I was super excited when I was selected as I knew this was a great opportunity to learn and gain experience,” Thomas said. “It feels great to represent TSU and showcase the character, integrity, and work ethic instilled in me.”

Thomas noted that she found out about the opportunity in April and applied right away as she hopes to learn the ins and outs of production and how a studio is run day-to-day.

During her internship, Thomas is gaining work experience and networking opportunities to meet professionals who are available as mentors and industry contacts. Thomas said she is excited to contribute to one of the largest film production studios in the United States and is grateful that her university prepared her for this very moment.

“The whole mass communications department at Tennessee State University has prepared me for this opportunity,” she said, showing gratitude to her TSU professor and mentor who wrote her letter of recommendation.

Erik Werner, TSU’s Director of the Center for Media Arts and Production, said the department does its best to provide students with the skill set that will land them internship opportunities of this magnitude. Werner stated that he is proud of Thomas’ success so far and “feels great knowing that I helped.”

“Networks and studios will be fighting to hire her,” Werner said about Thomas’ drive and work ethic. “That’s how good she is and how good she is going to be.”

He noted that Thomas knew exactly what she wanted throughout her collegiate years for her career and has put in the effort to obtain any of her goals.

“It’s one thing to learn the basic skills but it’s another to turn around and learn the advanced skills and be adaptable,” Werner said. “To be able to adapt and roll with it is a huge ability that not everyone has.”

TPS Dreamers program allows interns like Thomas to receive first-hand knowledge of working for a multi-faceted entertainment company.

As Thomas continues her journey at Tyler Perry Studios, she looks forward to applying the knowledge and skills gained from this internship to her future career in filmmaking, aiming to tell compelling stories from diverse narratives, she said. Supported by her mentors and the foundation built at TSU, Thomas is excited about making a significant impact in the film and entertainment industry.

To learn more about the College of Liberal Arts, visit www.tnstate.edu/cla/.

College of Agriculture secures five USDA NIFA grants

By Charlie Morrison

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University College of Agriculture research scientists recently secured grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The five different research grants come as part of the national agency’s recent $30.8 million investment into all 19 of the country’s 1890 land-grant HBCUs. The grant awards for TSU range from $449,000 to $600,000 in total. The grants will fund projects on topics such as nitrogen management in cover crops, climate-resilient urban forests, drinking water sanitation management on poultry farms, artificial intelligence, the impact of dietary fiber on gut microbiota, and much more.

Associate Professor of Urban Forestry Dr. Yujuan Chen said these grants will enhance the college of Agriculture, and a specific grant tailored to forestry will fuel the nation’s future scientists.

The grant Chen is referring to will fund a project titled, ‘Growing Future Climate-resilient Urban Forests from an Equity Perspective.’

“This grant will significantly strengthen TSU’s urban forestry program by enabling cutting-edge research in climate-resilient urban forests, heat equity, and community needs, especially for historically excluded populations,” Chen said. She also noted that the grants will enhance partnerships with USDA agencies, other universities, and the private sectors.

“In particular, it will allow us to establish a long-term urban forestry research site … which will provide numerous opportunities for urban forestry-related research, education/teaching, and extension activities and have long-lasting impacts on diverse stakeholders in the region and beyond.”

TSU’s agriculture faculty members Dr. Ying Wu, Dr. Pramir Maharjan, Dr. Anjin Chang, Dr. Resham Thapa, and Dr. Yujuan Chen were all part of securing grants as part of the funding. Each of the five grant awards will fund research projects for approximately three years, beginning this spring through 2027.

The investment, made through NIFA’s 1890 Institution Teaching, Research, and Extension Capacity Building Grants Program, will support groundbreaking research for the College of Agriculture on all aspects as faculty and students can address some of the nation’s most pressing agriculture challenges.

For all HBCU land grant institutions, nearly 70 research projects were funded through the grant awards, designed to “build 1890s’ capacity for teaching, research, and Extension activities including curriculum design, faculty development, student recruitment, and retention,” according to a USDA press release.

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

TSU enhances enrollment experience with ZeeMee 

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

Elmore J. Jones, Jr.

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

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

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

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

LaMar-Octavious Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                                            

TSU Alumna named first Black woman judge

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When TSU alumna Tionn Fambro Carter interned at the Tennessee State Capitol in 2004, she noticed a glaring lack of diversity in the House of Representatives. There was no reflection of her identity or her community’s demographics. The experience ignited her passion for public service, particularly drafting public policies that would positively impact her community. It also impacted Carter’s plans following her graduation from TSU.

“I loved seeing all of the decisions being made and the new laws being created,” Carter recalled. “But I didn’t see a lot of representation of women of color. That’s when I thought, our voices need to be heard and represented. So, I decided to go to law school.”

In 2008, Carter earned her law degree from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, and recently began her trailblazing role as a public servant. Recently, Carter was sworn in as the first Black woman associate judge of the 14th Judicial Circuit at the Rock Island County Justice Center in Illinois. “I remember being speechless and feeling overwhelmingly grateful,” she said.

Her journey to the bench was not easy. Carter persistently pursued the judgeship, applying seven times throughout her career before achieving success. Her faith and dedication paid off in 2024 with substantial support from her peers and community ultimately securing her appointment. As an associate judge, she now presides over both civil and criminal cases within her district.

Throughout her career, Carter aimed to inspire the youth to pursue their dreams. She noted that her journey of witnessing positive Black representation began at her alma mater. “Your goals are real, TSU showed me that,” Carter said.

“TSU played a crucial role in my journey because as an HBCU, it really demonstrated the power of being proud of your heritage. I got to see African Americans in leadership positions, well-spoken, educated, and capable of achieving their goals, educating others, and leading their communities.”

Dr. Samantha Morgan Curtis, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, expressed pride in Carter’s remarkable journey and significant milestone. “The College of Liberal Arts is incredibly proud of Tionn Fambro Carter, who epitomizes the capable, focused student we strive to cultivate and educate,” Morgan Curtis said. “She majored in English to hone her critical thinking, analytic skills, and writing abilities. She now stands as a model for all young women who follow her, continually making a positive impact on the world. I cannot say enough good things about her other than she embodies ‘Think, Work, Serve.’’”

Carter’s portrait now hangs in the Illinois courthouse alongside the judges who have presided over the district throughout the county’s history. Her presence among them reminds her of her TSU internship and her determination to make a difference.

“We come from a heritage and ancestry that has done great things,” Carter said. “And we can continue to be a part of that legacy too. Work hard for your seat at the table because you belong there just like everyone else,” she continued. “If you believe it’s your purpose, never give up on your dreams.

Carter resides in Rock Island County with her husband and children.