Tag Archives: Dr. Lin Li

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 Aviation Program receives $500,000 grant from FAA

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University aviation program is expected to reach new heights with a recent $500,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The grant will be used to enhance the TSU aviation program by attracting and training students for careers not only as pilots but aviation maintenance technicians with hands-on experience and more.

Dr. Ivan Mosley, Chair of the Department of Applied and Industrial Technology expressed his excitement for the impact this grant will have on students. Mosely is the principal investigator (PI) for the grant.

TSU administrators and engineering faculty joins FAA representatives who presented a $500,000 maintenance grant to TSUs aviation program. (Courtesy of Tennessee State University)

“This will impact our students for the overall profession of aviation networking which includes but not limited to maintenance, airport management, air traffic controller, and more,” Mosley said. “So, this particular grant is exposing them to the maintenance portion of the networking.”

The FAA maintenance grant represents a significant milestone for TSU. Dr. Mosley said that even if students don’t pursue a four-year degree, they can receive a certification through the program, providing an affordable and accessible route to network not only in Nashville and surrounding states, but throughout the United States and abroad.

“This grant will attract people to aviation and give them hands-on experience for those who want to pursue it.”

TSU administrators and engineering faculty joined FAA representatives for the check presentation during their visit to TSU. This included Dr. Mosley, alongside Dr. Lin Li, Interim Dean of the College of Engineering, Dr. Quincy Quick, Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs, Dr. Carlos D. Beane, Co-PI and Aviation Assistant Professor, Dr. Catherine Armwood-Gordon, Engineering Associate Professor, and Dr. Curtis Johnson, Chief of Staff to the President.

Dr. Lin Li stated that the College of Engineering is very excited about this FAA workforce grant. “Through this grant, we will develop comprehensive education initiatives to bridge the gap between classroom learning and practical application, with a focus on increasing underrepresented and minority students within the aviation maintenance workforce,” Li said.

The initiative includes recruitment, instruction by experienced aviation instructors, development of aviation maintenance courses, academic career counseling and more.

“The grant will support up to 20 students to receive FAA scholarships to pursue their degree study toward aviation maintenance,” Dr. Li said.

“It will attract future students for the aviation management program in the AIT department. State-of-the-art equipment will be provided through the grant, increasing the training capacity of TSU in aviation maintenance technical training.”

In addition to the academic benefits, the program will host the High Flight Academy starting June 1, offering underrepresented students ages 16 -18 a chance to get certified as pilots.

With this grant effort, TSU is set to play a critical l role in shaping a skilled and underrepresented workforce in aviation maintenance, contributing to the industry’s growth while ensuring aircraft safety and reliability.

To learn more about TSUs aviation program, visit www.tnstate.edu/ait/aviationflight.aspx

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

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

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

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

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

City, is a software development engineer for Amazon.

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

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

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

TSU alumnus Malik City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TSU’s aviation program breaking barriers to increase number of black commercial, Air Force Pilots

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Growing up in Dallas, Texas, Mateo Lannaman’s dream was to be a pilot and fly high across the sky. With lack of funding and without a clear path, he didn’t know where to turn, until he met a mentor in flight training at Rising Aviation who gave him an advice that would change the young man’s life forever. 

Mateo Lannaman, second from left, a first-time freshman from Dallas, Texas, will major in aviation management to fulfill a dream of becoming an airline pilot. Pictured are l-r: Dr. William Smith, Assistant Director of Admissions; Mateo, his sister Milan, mother Senia, and dad Derrick Lannaman. (Photo by Aaron Grayson, TSU Media Relations)

“He told me about Tennessee State University and the outstanding aviation program there,” Lannaman said. “He said there were scholarships for qualified students who were interested.” Lannaman took his mentor’s advice and applied. He was accepted with a full scholarship to study aviation management as a concentration in the Department of Applied and Industrial Technologies in the College of Engineering. The program is certified to train commercial pilots.  

“I am really impressed so far from what I have seen and the family atmosphere,” said the Rock Hill High School graduate, after meeting the dean and few staff of the College of Engineering during a campus tour Thursday with his family. 

Dr. Lin Li, Interim Dean of the College of Engineering, says the aviation management program is a pipeline to grow the number of minorities in the industry. (Photo by Aaron Grayson, TSU Media Relations)

With the low number of black commercial and Air Force pilots in the nation, Lannaman comes into an aviation program that is seeing tremendous growth thanks to a vigorous recruitment effort, outstanding faculty, and a long partnership with the Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) detachment at the university.  

“We have a long relationship with the AFROTC through many programs that are benefiting the College of Engineering and our aviation and aeronautics programs,” said Dr. Lin Li, interim dean of the college. He said the goal of the aviation program is to help increase the number of pilots in the country, especially African Americans. Currently, only about 2.6 percent commercial pilots are African Americans, while only about 6 percent African Americans are in aviation management positions. The number is even more dismal for the U.S. Air Force, where less than 2 percent of pilots are African Americans.  

Lt. Col. Michael Wilson, right, of AFROTC Detachment 790 at TSU, greets Cadet Jaiden Walker, a sophomore political science major, who wants to be an officer in the Air Force. (Photo by Aaron Grayson, TSU Media Relations)

“The purpose of our aviation management program is really to create a pipeline to grow the number of minorities in the industry,” Li said. Through their collaboration, Li said the college and AFROTC have stepped up their effort in recruitment by talking to area high school juniors and seniors. Some initiatives include dual enrollment programs that offer college credit.  There is also a 2+2 program with Motlow State Community College, where students majoring in applied and industrial technology taught by TSU professors, can transfer to the university at the end of their two years and complete their four-year degree at TSU. An aviation summer camp for 20 high school students is also planned for 2023, Li said. Participants will receive 45 hours, including flying hours, using simulators and lecture hours.   

“We hope this will get students interested in gaining firsthand experience in becoming a pilot,” Li added.  

Lt. Col. Michael Wilson is an assistant professor of aerospace studies with AFROTC Detachment 790 at TSU. He said the partnership with the College of Engineering is reaping mutual benefits by attracting the best engineering students to the Air Force as well as working with the college to enhance its aviation program.  

“We are working with the College of Engineering, and they are doing a phenomenal job at developing the aviation program,” Wilson said. “The Air Force is inherently in the air. And we develop aviators, and we develop pilots, and we develop training. They have the skill set necessary in the engineering world. So, we help each other in that regard.” Wilson said in addition to recruitment initiatives, the college is receptive to the creation of a living learning community on campus, where engineering students that are in the AFROTC will have a block of rooms to live and learn together. 

“This way they hold each other accountable for their studies, make sure they get up in the morning to come do PT, and be where they need to be for all of their classes or all of their studies,” he said.  

Currently, eight TSU students are part of a cohort of 65 recruits from institutions across Middle Tennessee who are part of the AFROTC detachment at TSU. Cadet Jaiden Walker, a sophomore political science major, is one of them. The Selma, Alabama, native said his goal is to become an officer in the Air Force. He credits a substitute teacher in the 8th grade with getting him interested in the Air Force.  

“He always talked about his experience (in the Air Force) and things he did,” Walker said. “So, when I went to high school, I joined the JROTC, which gave me the opportunity to receive a scholarship.” He said he had the choice of going to any HBCU, but he chose TSU, where he once visited during a college tour.  

“That was a very memorable tour for me. Everything just seemed to align well, the fit was right, I enjoyed the people,” he added.  

Li said he is working with AFROTC for more scholarships to help interested students defray the cost of the aviation program, as well as developing marketing tools such as billboards, to increase awareness of the program.  

“One of our biggest challenges in the College of Engineering is that we have limited pilot instructors. So, that’s an area where AFROTC can also help because they have the facilities and the resources,” Li said.  

For more information on the TSU Aviation Management program, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/ait/aviationflight.aspx  

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

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.

TSU College of Engineering receives $1 million NSF grant to benefit community college students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Community college students looking for a future in engineering will have a home at Tennessee State University, thanks to a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The TSU College of Engineering received the funding recently to recruit minority transfer students from regional community colleges in Middle Tennessee who are interested in pursuing degrees in engineering, mathematical sciences or computer science.

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove

The grant award, “Promoting Recruitment and Retention of Minority Transfer Students in Science and Engineering,” or PROMISE, will provide 45 scholarships over five years to successful candidates who want to pursue their bachelor’s degrees.

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering, said the grant will also support the transfer students through cohort building activities, undergraduate research experiences, summer internships, graduate school preparation, and participation in regional and national STEM conferences.

“This represents our ongoing efforts of increasing the workforce pool of STEM graduates from TSU, and the needed collaboration of faculty from different colleges to reach this objective,” said Hargrove, who is co-principal investigator of the project.

Dr. Lin Li

Hargrove said funds will be available by January 1, 2021, and that scholarship awards will begin in fall 2020. Applications will be reviewed by the College of Engineering, evaluated on a grade point average of at least 3.0, as well as on discipline and career goals.

Ronald Glenn is an incoming freshman who was part of the TSU pre-college engineering program at Stratford STEM Magnet High School during his freshman, junior and senior years. He said although he is not a transfer student, he hopes many students will take advantage of the scholarship program.

“I enjoyed working with TSU professors during those years,” said Glenn, of Nashville, who is majoring in architectural engineering. “They care very much about bringing out the best in you. They helped me get a head-start on my college work.”

Dr. Lin Li, the project’s principal investigator and chair of the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, said the overall goal of PROMISE is to increase STEM degree completion of low-income, high-achieving undergraduates with demonstrated financial need.

Dr. Nolan McMurray

“We are excited to expand our partnerships with local community colleges, and provide opportunities for these students to pursue and obtain a BS degree in engineering or computer science from TSU,” Li said.

Dr. Nolan McMurray, interim dean of the College of Life and Physical Sciences, collaborated on the project as co-PI with Hargrove and Li.

“The opportunity to collaborate with the College of Engineering to attract more students in mathematics from regional community colleges, also supports our desire to increase our enrollment and graduation in this field,” McMurray said. 

Project investigators said PROMISE’s intended aims are to improve student engagement, boost retention and academic performance, as well as enhance student self-efficacy. 

To learn more about TSU’s College of Engineering, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/engineering/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

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 seven 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.