Tag Archives: International students

TSU works to remove language barrier as only HBCU, state institution with CEA-accredited program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Mauricio Fabian had initially planned to complete the Intensive English Program (IEP) at Tennessee State University to learn English and then return to his native home in Veracruz, Mexico.

However, after successfully completing the program in under a year and excelling in learning English, Fabian made the decision to stay in Nashville and pursue his Master of Business Administration at TSU. He will be the first in his family to obtain a master’s degree. Just as impressive, he is the first in his family to journey to the United States in pursuit of an education.

IEP students at a seminar in the university’s Career Center learning career opportunities.

TSU’s IEP is the only Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) accredited intensive English program in the state of Tennessee. It is also the first and only accredited program at an HBCU. The IEP is specifically designed to serve international students seeking admission to graduate and undergraduate programs.

“I learned how to write, read, and pronounce words,” Fabian said. “It’s good to have this program because I know many students who want to learn English. They want to learn, and this can support their future.”

After receiving his certificate of achievement in the program, Fabian promptly enrolled as a student. He expressed his gratitude to the university and acknowledged that the opportunities at TSU and in Nashville were too valuable to ignore. Currently, there are nearly 40 participants in the Intensive English Program. An environment that is bridging language barriers and fostering community integration.

The IEP became accredited in December 2020.

Mauricio Fabian receives a certificate of achievement after completing the Intensive English Program.

“Through this program they get better jobs, they get to communicate better and help them integrate into their new life,” stated Engin Ayvaz, the program’s director. “Not only are we serving TSU, but also the Nashville community.”

Jewell Winn, the Executive Director for the Office of International Affairs, highlighted how people from all over the world invest in TSU’s program to learn the language and then return to their home countries to teach it. Others, like Fabian, choose to remain and pursue their degrees at the university to seek better employment opportunities in the states.

“I have much pride when I am able to say that TSU is the only accredited program,” Winn said. “TSU has connected so many people through our IEP.”

The Office of International Affairs has been operating at TSU since 2012. When Ayvaz began his career at the university in 2017, he made it his mission to officially obtain accreditation for the IEP. Fabian, being one of the program’s first students during the post-COVID-19 period, has been an asset in assisting other students.

IEP students during an end-of-year party at TSU. (Photo submitted)

“He is an excellent student,” Ayvaz said. “He was so adamant and committed. He didn’t miss a class, and he didn’t miss an assignment. He progressed so well and helped others.”

To learn more about the only CEA accredited Intensive English Program in the state of Tennessee, visit the program’s website at here.

TSU international food festival highlights cultural exchange, world-wide cuisines

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  From Ethiopian injera, a pancake-like flatbread, to Indian samosa, a fried pastry with a vegetable filling, the savory smell of exotic spices filled Elliot Hall on the Tennessee State University campus.

TSU student Aziz Alqari serving Saudi Arabian cuisine during an International Food Festival and Cultural Exchange event.

More than 150 students and staff members visited booths during the International Food Festival and Cultural Exchange event hosted by TSU’s Office of International Affairs (OIA).  

The annual student activity included representation from seven regions and dozens of countries from around the world like Brazil, Turkey, and Nepal.

The OIA Executive Director, Dr. Jewell Winn said it was a great time for students to showcase their heritage through their international dishes.

“To see so many people come out, it warmed my heart,” Winn said.  “They were very proud to be able to share their culture.”

This festival was also an opportunity for local businesses and artisans to showcase their products.

TSU alumna Martha Lupai roasting Ethiopian coffee beans during the food festival. (Photo by Dylan Tate)

TSU alumna Martha Lupai of Ethiopia, has a business in Nashville’s local Farmers Market. During the event Lupai had made Ethiopia coffee from scratch to share.

“Food brings people together,” Lupai said. “It’s my duty as a student of TSU to share my culture. I love sharing my culture with food, clothes, and products. That is my passion in life to connect people to their roots.”

Aziz Alqari, a TSU master’s student from Saudi Arabia shared the same sentiment.

“We have a lot of international students from all over the world at TSU,” Alqari said. “So, I think it is a chance to see the variety in our school.”

More than 150 students and staff members visited booths during the 2023 International Food Festival and Cultural Exchange event.

Alqari, who is receiving his MBA in supply chain logistics, said he enjoyed everyone tasting the middle eastern cuisines.  

“Everyone had a good time. I made a lot of friends and tasted a lot of different food.”

TSU holds vigil in remembrance of earthquake victims in Turkey, Syria

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University students held a vigil on campus to remember the massive loss of their loved ones in Turkey and Syria following the devastating earthquakes on Feb. 6.

As of Feb 18, more than 44,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured after magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria.

More than 44,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured after magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria. TSU students held a vigil on campus to remember the massive loss.

TSU students prayed with their fellow Turkish students and staff who are 6,000 miles away from home.

There are 15 Turkish students and approximately eight faculty members at Tennessee State University.

One of those students came to America from Turkey just six months ago. TSU freshman Berk Arapgirlioglu came to TSU with a music scholarship, and said he is distraught bythe great loss of victims from his country.

“People should be grateful for every second of their life … you can easily lose your loved ones in any situation,” Arapgirlioglu said. “Hopefully, all my family and relatives are okay,” he said as of Feb. 15. “But I know some friends who lost their houses.”

Berk Arapgirlioglu, left, and Tuna Kurucu. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Another Turkish immigrant at TSU, Tuna Kurucu, said he is devastated and prayed hope that his family and friends are safe.

“I feel devastated and sad,” Kurucu said. “It is the biggest disaster of this century and Turkey has declared a fourth level of emergency accepting any international help.”

Although Kurucu, who is a freshman at the university, said he is in shock about the earthquake’s impact, he is grateful for the support he has at TSU.

“I am actually happy at this moment because I feel supported by all of the TSU students, my friends and professors here,” Kurucu said during the campus vigil.

Engin Ayvaz, a Turkish native who is the Director of the Intensive English Center at TSU said the outpour of solidarity and affection across the world has touched the Turkish community.

Director of the Intensive English Center Engin Ayvaz during a local news interview at TSUs vigil held in honor of Turkey and Syria earthquake victims. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

“For the past ten days its been a whirlwind of emotions for all of us,” Ayvaz said. “Thank you all for being here today, it means a lot. TSU is our home away home.”

The Executive Director for International Affairs, Dr. Jewell Winn said the local community is heartbroken.

“We will continue to keep our students, faculty and staff who have family in the region in our thoughts and prayers,” Winn said. “The international community has poured aid into the area, and we will support the endeavor through providing links to make donations.”

Weeks after the earthquake, crews are still pulling survivors from the rubble and the death toll continues to raise.

Visit the university’s official Linktree account to find links to donate for disaster relief for Turkey and Syria.

TSU more than just an educational journey for first group of Caribbean Scholars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University experienced historic growth this fall with the institution’s record-setting freshman class of 3,567 first-year students. Included in the group, and far away from home, were 29 Caribbean scholars. With this being the first time on American soil for many of them, the University has worked to make the transition as seamless as possible.

This is the first year that TSU has successfully recruited a large number of Caribbean students. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

TSU’s annual International Education Week, observed November 7 -11, has made the Caribbean students feel even more at ease in their “home-away-from home.” The week-long event helped to promote cultural awareness and featured several activities highlighting the native land of the University’s international students. This included Dance Hall Night and lunch-n-learn story circles events for the entire campus.  

“We are all from difference 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 a freshman studying chemistry, said the week gave her and fellow Caribbean students a chance to interact and gain awareness about other cultures as well.

She said most of them met at a welcome reception and dinner for Caribbean students hosted by TSU and the Nashville community. The September event, which featured foods from several of their home islands, was the first of several to help them adjust to college life.

“The welcome dinner made me feel at home,” said Jada Henry, who is an incoming freshman from Jamaica studying Supply Chain Management. “They had Jamaican food and gave good advice.”

Henry hopes to land a career as a Logistics Supervisor with the military. “I take great pride in my place here at Tennessee State University and in the direction my experience has provided for me thus far,” he said.

“The dinner was a very nice gesture,” said Renard Frederick, who is an incoming freshman from Trinidad & Tobago studying Human Performance and Sports Sciences. “It brought all of the Caribbean students together and now we are friends as a result.”

More than 300 Caribbean students applied for the International Tuition Assistance Grant from TSU with the final selection made up of 20 on campus and nine studying online. (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Frederick wants to become a Sports Physiotherapist working with sports teams, ideally his dream team, Barcelona SC.

According to Dr. Arlene Nicholas-Phillips, executive assistant to President Glover and liaison on Global Initiatives, this is the first time that TSU has successfully recruited a large number of Caribbean students. She attributed this success to the International Tuition Assistance Grant (ITAG) the students received.

“Coming from the Caribbean, I understand the importance of education,” Nicholas-Phillips said. “Parents from the Caribbean understand that no sacrifice is too much to further their students’ education, and they’ve expressed how much of a blessing TSU has been with the ITAG because it’s an opportunity they [otherwise] wouldn’t have.”

Over 300 Caribbean students applied for the ITAG from TSU with the final selection made up of 20 on campus (two from Jamaica, five from Trinidad & Tobago, and 13 from the Bahamas) and nine studying online. The grant requires incoming students to have a minimum 3.25 grade point average and maintain 15 credit hours per semester to complete their degree within four years.

“The average G.P.A. for the incoming scholars is 3.6,” added Nicholas-Phillips. “These are high-performing students, and we know they are dedicated to their education because they know the sacrifice their parents are making.”

D’Neka Cunningham is one of a few transfer students who received the ITAG this semester and said the opportunity means everything to her and her family.

“I’m the oldest of three and first-gen, so I have to set the standard and be the example,” said Cunningham, who plans to return home to the Bahamas with a degree in Architectural Engineering and help improve their residential structures. She recalled how their homes flooded and two of her friends died during Hurricane Dorian in 2019. “We have great structures, but we can improve our homes.”

TSU’s annual International Education Week, observed in November, made the Caribbean students feel even more at ease in their “home-away-from home.” (Photo by Aaron Grayson)

Dr. Coreen Jackson, dean of TSU’s Honors College, said the University’s recruitment efforts outside of the U.S. speaks to the administration’s commitment to being a global institution. 

“This is a dream come true for TSU to extend such an awesome opportunity to students in the Caribbean who probably would not have gotten an opportunity for a higher education since there are limited universities for the number of students coming out of high school,” said Jackson, who is also from Jamaica. “It says a lot about our leader who is unselfish, caring, and global-minded.”

Dr. Jackson and her husband, the Rev. Dr. Chris Jackson, hosted the reception and dinner event at their Pleasant Green Baptist church.  Rev. Jackson said opening the church doors to welcome the students was a good thing to do. “I have travelled internationally and know what it means to be at an unfamiliar place and be shown care and love,” he said.

Both Nicholas-Phillips and [Coreen] Jackson expressed gratitude for those who volunteered their time and resources to make the welcome dinner a success, sharing that members of the local Caribbean community came together to cook traditional Caribbean foods such as rice and peas, jerk chicken, and roti, and even donated money. Local eatery Jamaicaway Restaurant and Catering also contributed food. The night was capped off with a special presentation by President Glenda Glover and Michael Thomas, President of Atlanta’s Caribbean American Cultural Arts Foundation.

Other TSU faculty and staff attending the dinner included members of the International Recruiting Committee; Global Online AVP Dr. Seay; Chief Data Officer, Dr. Clarke from Trinidad; Health Sciences Professor Dr. Johnson from Jamaica; and members of the OIA team.

Dr. Coreen Jackson said she has plans to start a program where local Caribbean families can “adopt an international student” and provide them additional support from the community while they are away from home. This includes preparing them for the Nashville winter season.

“Many of our international students have not experienced a winter, so I would like to do a drive for winter coats, sweaters, socks, blanket, etc.,” she said. “It would also be nice to have local stores donate new items and/or allow the [international] students to shop at a discounted rate.”

“I am grateful for the opportunity to get a quality education amongst people who look like me,” said Cunningham. “That’s what I’ve been used to my whole life and getting to continue to do that in a place where I feel comfortable is amazing.”

While there’s no place like home, the Caribbean scholars at TSU have a new place to call home for the next four years.

TSU celebrates International Education Week

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University’s Office of International Affairs (OIA) is celebrating International Education Week (IEW) 2022, and kicked off events Nov. 7, as students are spreading awareness about their countries and interacting with fellow students who are also studying abroad. 

The week, which began Nov. 7 and concludes on Nov. 11, features many activities that highlight international students countries and culture, including a Cultural Sharing Day, Dance Hall Night, and Lunch-N-Learn Story Circles. The OIA even visited local HBCUs throughout the week.

Nirmal Thapa in the student center during International Education Week shows represents his country by waving a Nepal flag. (Photo by Aaron Grayson.)

Nirmal Thapa, a PHD student from Nepal, South Asia, said this is his first semester at the university and IEW has provided an inclusive environment.

“It was exciting for us,” Thapa said after participating in the weeks first event. “We had a chance to exchange ideas between different countries … a great event for the exchange of cultures.”

Thapa, who is studying agricultural sciences, said he was able to speak with another student from Nepal, along with students from all around the world.

There are over 200 international students at the university representing 40 countries across the world. (Photo by Aaron Grayson.)

Mark Anthony Brinkley, Director of the Office of International Affairs, said this is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. 

“This initiative is a joint venture between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education which was created to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences,” Brinkley said.

“We encourage all Tennessee State University students, faculty, and staff to participate in our week of events.” OIA provides leadership in advocating and promoting excellence in student services, cultural programming, collaborative partnership, and international education.

Students at game night during International Education Week 2022. (Photo by Aaron Grayson.)

There are over 200 international students at the university representing 40 countries.

OIA’s office suite provides the space needed to holistically provide international students with support. The office also has designated meditation areas where students can pray and continue to observe their culture, as well as a conference room where study abroad workshops can be held.

For the third consecutive year, TSU has been selected as a Fulbright Historically Black College and University Institutional Leader from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The recognition is for demonstrating exemplary work with its foreign exchange program for students, faculty and staff.

TSU expert says U.S. Travel Ban May Not Affect International Students with Legal Status, but still causes anxiety

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – International students with legal status in the United States should not be worried about the new travel ban, says a public policy expert at Tennessee State University.

Dr. Michael Harris, dean of the College of Public Service and a longtime expert on Middle Eastern politics, said there is “no language in the law that will affect these students.” However, the ban could impact those wanting to enter the U.S. other than to study.

Dr. Michael Harris

“No, students should not be concerned at all,” Harris said. “I don’t believe it (the ban) has any impact on students that are admitted to universities in the United States with an I-20.”

The Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status, also known as the I-20, allows student to stay in the country for the duration of their program. The I-20 is processed in the country of origin and makes it legal for individuals to come to the United States and learn, Harris added.

On December 4, the Supreme Court allowed the ban to go into effect, although legal challenges against it remain. This means that the government can fully enforce its new restrictions on travel from eight nations, six of them predominantly Muslim. For now, most citizens of Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea will be barred from entering the United States, along with some groups from Venezuela.

Tennessee State University has about 560 international students from 35 countries. (Courtesy photo)

While the ban does not impact current international students studying here, it still causes them great concern. This includes Nahal Jafari, a freshman psychology major at Tennessee State University.

The Iranian native said she cancelled all options to attend college in her country and chose to come to the U.S. for her studies, but thinks the ban may cause her problems in the immediate future.

“I am really worried because this impacts my student visa,” said Jafari, who was planning on going home during the summer break for vacation but thinks it may not be a good idea. “If I decide to change schools or go home to see my family, will I be able to?”

TSU has about 560 international students from 35 countries, with a good number from Iran, Iraq and Somalia, which are on the travel ban.

In most cases, citizens of these designated countries will be unable to immigrate to the United States permanently, and many will be barred from working, studying or vacationing here. For instance, Iran will still be able to send its citizens on student exchanges, though such visitors will be subject to enhanced screening.

Mark Brinkley is the director of international education in the Office of International Affairs (OIA) at TSU. Brinkley recommends all international students submit their current I-20 for review prior to departing the U.S.

He said if the I-20 is current, “students may re-enter the country without challenges from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

International students in middle Tennessee should go to their designated school official (DSO) to ensure they have all proper documentation and fully understand the new travel ban.

For more information on international studies at TSU go to http://www.tnstate.edu/diversity/.

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
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Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 8,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 bachelor’s degree programs, 25 master’s degree programs and seven doctoral degrees. 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.