Tag Archives: Honors

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.

Educators Must Do More to Help Students, TSU President Glenda Glover Says

3-Day Honors Conference Highlights Academic Achievement; Exposes Students to Career Opportunities

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TSU President Glenda Glover receives a gift from Dr. Coreen Jackson, President of NAAAHP, following the TSU president’s keynote address at the conference. Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover has challenged educators to do more to help students who are lagging behind. At a gathering of more than 400 students during the annual National Association of African American Honors Programs conference, Glover questioned why some students do well, yet many more are failing or dropping out.

“It is time to look at the service we provide,” she said. “Our institutions of learning are full of Ph.Ds., but still many of our students are lagging in achievement. We have issues that need answers and it is going to require our very best effort if we want our children to succeed.”

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More than 400 students from 70 HBCUs attended the three-day NAAAHP conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center. (Photo by Emmanuel Freeman, TSU Media Relations)

The three-day NAAAHP conference, hosted by TSU and Fisk University at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, brought together students and representatives from 70 Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Under the theme, “The Audacity of Vision: Dare to Dream,” the conference features a debate, quiz bowl, model U.N., and scholarly research presentations, as well as a career and recruitment fair with representatives from medical schools, the pharmaceutical and food industries, and manufacturing companies, among others. Representatives from institutions such as Harvard University and Stanford were also at the conference seeking potential recruits for their graduate programs.

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Kroger, a Premier Platinum Sponsor, invested more than $30,000 as one of the major corporate sponsors of the conference. (Submitted Photo)

Glover called on the honor students to help bring along their fellow students who are struggling. “As our best and brightest, you too have a responsibility to encourage your fellow students. You represent excellence. You have set for yourselves a path to success, and I encourage you to continue to run until you have reached your God-given destiny,” Glover said.

Addressing the question of why many students are failing while others succeed, one educator at the conference said the problem was the lack of drive.

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Dr. Lesia Crumpton Young, TSU Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Programs, a keynote speaker at the conference, receives a gift from NAAAHP Board members. From left are Dr. Ray Davis, of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, of TSU; Amani Perkins, of Hampton University; Dr. Coreen Jackson, NAAAHP President; and Angela Divine, of Miles College. (Submitted Photo)

“If lagging is in relation to academic performance, what I have seen is not a decrease in intelligence but a gradual decrease in drive,” said Dr. Sabin P. Duncan, director of the Freddye T. Davy Honors College at Hampton University, who accompanied 29 students to the conference. “Perhaps it could be generational or perhaps socio-economic, but the students I see as lagging often lack drive.”

TSU honor student Mikayla Jones said many students have what she called “this grandiose dream” of making it big in life, but they forget that to reach their goals it requires hard work.

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A recruiter from Harvard University talks to students about graduate school opportunities, at the conference. (Submitted Photo)

“Many students don’t understand that they are the biggest barrier to their own success,” said Jones, a junior Health Care Administration and Planning major with a 3.9 GPA. “What you put in is what you get out, and if you really want it, then you must be ready to work hard.”

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering at TSU, co-moderated a faculty panel on “Navigating Academia for Women and Minority Faculty in STEM.” He said students are motivated by opportunities and goals.

“There is a greater chance of success when students know of opportunities complemented by an environment that nurtures and promotes students success,” said Hargrove, who has co-authored a book on the topic.

Conference facilitators and presenters included NAAAHP Board members Ansel Brown, of North Carolina Central University, and Angeline Divine, of Miles College; and TSU’s Honors College Program Coordinator Susan West, and Associate Director, Dr. Douglas McGahey. (Submitted Photo)

The conference also included faculty presentations on such topics as “Innovative Math and Science Courses in Interdisciplinary Honors Core,” and “The Pedagogy of Diversity in the Entertainment Industry: Teaching the Business of Jazz.” Among other TSU presenters were Dr. Lesia Crumpton Young, Dr. Martens Stanberry and Dr. S. Guha.

The NAAAHP conference also attracted major corporate sponsors such as Kroger, as a Premier Platinum Sponsor, which invested more that $30,000, as well as The Ryman Hospitality Properties Foundation, ARCADIS Design and Consulting, and PSAV.

“The success of this conference has been beyond my wildest expectations,” said Dr. Coreen Jackson, president of NAAAHP and Interim Dean of the Honors College at TSU. “Having it at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center has been a wonderful experience. Our staff and administrators, including Dr. (Douglas) McGahey, the students and organizers from TSU, Fisk and all of our other institutions helped to make this all possible.”

Department of Media Relations
Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.