Tag Archives: Architectural Engineering

TSU engineering program gets major boost from Turner Construction Company

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Turner Construction Company awarded three $15,000 scholarships for engineering students and will fund $65,000 to the department in Tuition Assistance Program grants to qualified students. TSU and Turner have partnered in efforts to support STEM students, and specifically those majoring in engineering.  A check presentation and roundtable discussion were held to highlight the partnership.  

More than 50 students attended along with TSU President Glenda Glover, executives from the company, and alumni in engineering. In addition to the scholarships, roundtable discussion focused on internships, career opportunities in the field of engineering and HBCU impact.   

The three scholarship winners of Turner award are:  Gregory Hobbs, Havilah Akachukwu and Ethiopine Choping.

Gregory Hobbs, left, Havilah Akachukwu, center, and Ethiopine Choping, right, were awarded $15,000 scholarships from Turner Construction Company. (Photo by Alexis Clark)

Akachukwu, a junior from Nigeria majoring in Mechanical Engineering, said she is thankful for the awarded funds and thought the overall event was amazing. 

“To be able to see people in the industry take out time from their busy schedules to be there, just to talk about ways in which we, the students in engineering could help ourselves was wonderful,” Akachukwu said.  She looks forward to one day becoming a design engineer and thanked Turner for believing in the university as majority of the panelists were either HBCU or TSU graduates. 

“For the efforts they have put into our school and the students, I am grateful. They were all lovely and tried their best to communicate and interact with every student present.” Choping, a civil engineering major from Alaska, was shocked when she was notified about the scholarship and mentioned how informative the event was.  

“I learned that there are different paths to take to be successful and each path is unique,” Choping said. “As long as you’re putting in effort, you will get the results you want.” 

Hobbs, an Architectural Engineering major from Alabama, said that he prayed about receiving the scholarship to help cut cost of his tuition. 

“The Turner Company event was wonderful,” Hobbs said. “The speakers provided a lot of insight on making it through school and choosing the correct career path. They spoke on managing school, personal life, and mental health.” Hobbs said the panelist assured him how much TSU alumni take care of one another and appreciated the insight. 

Students, TSU President Glenda Glover, and engineering department staff listens during roundtable discussion from Turner panelists about career goals in the field and HBCU impact. (Photo by Alexis Clark)

“I learned that TSU is a family,” Hobbs said. Everyone wants you to succeed and are willing to help you.” 

Charles Stewart, Vice President, Diverse Recruiting and Outreach, said the program is about, “the development of the student, helping the university enhance their pipeline and develop their students to be prepared to step out in the communities where we work every day, and be able to work with companies like ours.” 

TSU graduate Jimmie Jones, told the students that the foundation of being able to be his true self at the university is one of the reasons he is a superintendent at Turner now. “The biggest things I received from here (TSU) is the support from my peers.” 

Charles Stewart speaks about his company experience and program efforts. (Photo by Bethany Legg)

Dr. Catherine Armwood-Gordon, Interim Chair and Associate Professor for the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, said having TSU and HBCU alumni as part of the panel was a great way to show representation. 

“It allows students to relate and form relationships with people in the industry and company who at one point were exactly where they are now,” Armwood-Gordon said. “Allowing them to see the possibilities of their future with their degrees and understand that the time, commitment, and rigorousness of the degree will pay off in the end. The College of Engineering is grateful for Turner Construction Company investing in our students by providing scholarships and support to student activities and engagement.” 

Along with Jones, panelist Don Hardin Jr., and the event moderator Susan Vanderbilt, are all TSU alumni. Vanderbilt is the executive director and owner of Entrée Savvy, LLC, while Hardin is the owner of Don Hardin Group, the firm that designed and constructed the National Museum of African American Music located downtown.

The panel also included Stewart, Valarie Franklin, a Senior Associate/Client Relationship Manager for Moody Nolan, and the companies Lead Estimator, Cerise Inganji.

TSU alum who designed, constructed National Museum of African American Music continues as industry trailblazer, promotes student success by giving back


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – When Don Hardin drives by the National Museum of African American Music, the Tennessee State University alum can’t help but smile, proudly. That’s because the firm he owns managed the design and construction of the facility, and he credits TSU with giving him the tools as a young college student to make it happen. 

“I love the Blue and White,” said Hardin, who graduated in 1990 with a degree in architectural engineering. “TSU is a part of me. I strive to be excellent.”  

Don Hardin. (Submitted photo)

However, a seed of determination and success was planted in Hardin by his mother before he came to TSU. She raised Hardin and his three other brothers by herself. He said her tough love is what they needed growing up in a low-income part of Nashville.  

“My mother worked hard; she set standards for us,” said Hardin. “She kept us out of trouble. She had strict rules that didn’t seem fair at the time, but it turned out to be a good thing because some of the guys who were free to run the streets didn’t turn out so well. All of my brothers are doing well, and it’s because of her upbringing.” 

Hardin said his math teacher at Maplewood High School was also a major influence in his life. He said the teacher recognized his talent and arranged for him to visit TSU and its College of Engineering his senior year. The Big Blue won him over, and he enrolled at TSU in fall 1983.  

Because he also enjoyed art, Hardin decided to major in architectural engineering, where he met Dr. Walter Vincent, Jr., who at the time was head of the Architectural Engineering Department. Vincent also noticed Hardin’s drive and talent, and took him under his wing.  

“He was a very engaging guy,” recalled Hardin of Vincent. “He was always encouraging us to get out of Nashville and take trips to places like Chicago to study buildings.”  

Vincent passed away on Nov. 30, 2020, at the age of 89. But Hardin said he will never forget the advice and encouragement Vincent gave him that would eventually cement his career in his chosen field.  

Hardin said it was tough to get internships in architectural engineering. However, his peers in electrical and mechanical engineering were getting job opportunities. Hardin said he went to Vincent to change his major, but the professor talked him out of it.  

“He said, ‘If you stick with it, it’s going to pay off.’” Hardin recalled him saying. “So instead of giving him a change of major form, I tore it up and decided to stay with architectural engineering.”  

And he’s glad he did. Vincent was right. When Hardin graduated, he had three job offers. The one he selected took him out of town for about 10 years. But he returned to Nashville and eventually started his own company, the Don Hardin Group, which hit its 20-year mark this year.  

TSU alumna Lisa Johnson majored in architectural engineering at the same time Hardin did. She said the small group that made up their major was close knit, and that they encouraged one another. Johnson said she was one of four women in the program at the time, and that Hardin was like a brother to her.

Don Hardin, son Donald III (center), and wife Tracy, CFO of the Don Hardin Group. (Submitted photo)

“Don is a good guy, gracious, and hard-working,” said Johnson, who is a construction manager. “Him having this business that he has today, I’m not surprised.”

Hardin and his team have been players in some of Nashville’s largest projects, including the Music City Center, Hospital Corporation of America, Nissan North America, the First Horizon (Baseball) Park, and of course, the National Museum of African American Music that officially opened downtown last month.  

Hardin said what he enjoyed most about the National Museum of African American Music project was the number of other African American businesses involved in the construction.  

“We’re proud of what we did,” said Hardin. “What we’re even more proud of is the fact that a lot of other African Americans got involved in something that represents us.” 

Both Hardin and Johnson said they’re glad they stuck with architectural engineering, and they encourage aspiring engineers to consider the field because opportunities in it have grown over the years.

“There are more programs offered,” said Johnson. “It’s still not as common as civil, mechanical and electrical, but it has become more known.”

Regardless of the major, Hardin said students should contact alumni in their field, or an area of study they’re considering, for support.

 “TSU students need to continue to reach out; press us for opportunities,” said Hardin, whose firm offers an internship to college students.

And he added this advice to them, words that were also told to him years ago.  

“Know that you can achieve whatever you set out to do,” he said. “You can do it. You can be excellent.”  

Hardin is a member of the TSU Engineering Alumni Association, and the Omega Psi Phi Rho Psi Alumni Chapter of TSU.

To learn more about the Don Hardin Group, visit http://donhardingroup.com.

For more information about TSU’s College of Engineering and architectural engineering, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/engineering/index1.aspx

NOTE: Feature photo of Don Hardin at First Horizon Park courtesy of the Nashville Business Journal

Department of Media Relations

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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 a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, 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.