Tag Archives: TSU Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences

TSU reports over $70 million in research funding, impacts childcare, global food security and more

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Early childcare for Tennessee families and global food security are among the top areas Tennessee State University is focusing on as the University reports continued record growth in research funding. TSU’s external research funding is just over $70.2 million with four months remaining in the 2022-2023 submission cycle. To date, the University’s Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences and the College of Agriculture have received the largest single awards totaling $28.9 million.

“TSU’s continued high research output and funded awards are a true testament to the hard work and commitment of our faculty and staff, especially as we also focus our attention on moving from an R2 to R1, the highest research designation, under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Learning,” says TSU President Glenda Glover.

The TSU Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences is using grants to fund childcare and family support programs in Tennessee.

“A crucial cornerstone of an institution’s success is measured through its research and just as important is how that research will benefit our communities.” 

For its work with children and families, the TSU Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences received a total $18,958, 417 in federal and state funding. The Center is using the grants to fund childcare and family support programs in Tennessee.  Of that amount, nearly $5.3 million came from the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start (ACF/OHS) to support Head Start and two Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership programs; and just under $13.7 million came from the Tennessee Department of Human Services (HHS/TDHS) to support the Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance and Tennessee Family Child Care Network. 

President Glenda Glover

The funding will provide services to 256 children and families and employ approximately 115 staff needed across the state. 

“The Center is proud of the work we do to support children, families, and professionals within the early childhood community,” says COELS’ director Dr. Kimberly Smith.  “We remain focused on educating and uplifting the early childhood workforce in Tennessee and we remain committed to improving the lives of the families we serve.”  

In the College of Agriculture, researchers are using a $10 million capacity building grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to support 57 different projects in agricultural education, agricultural business, biotechnology, food science, animal science, environmental science, renewable energy, and human health and nutrition. Two of the major projects will conduct research to enhance nutritional security and environmental quality. 

Dr. Chandra Reddy

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of the college and principal investigator of the capacity building grant, says the objective is to find solutions to challenges in global food security, enhancing the environmental quality, and nutritional security. 

“The other important goal of these projects is the diverse workforce development,” Reddy says.  “We are creating new knowledge and graduating diverse background students both at undergraduate and graduate levels.  We also share the research findings with public through our statewide extension programs to improve their productivity and quality of life.” 

CheKenna Fletcher is a first-year Ph.D. student in agricultural sciences with a concentration in food and animal sciences. Her research focus is on the extraction, isolation, characterization, and application of novel materials in health-promoting food products. She is ecstatic about the amount of funds the university is attracting for research. 

“TSU provides students and even professors with various opportunities to conduct research in a variety of fields with global interest,” says Fletcher, of Lebanon, Tennessee. “There are so many conferences, symposiums, and more one can attend to present his/her research, worldwide.” 

CheKenna Fletcher

In the first half of this fiscal year, TSU research proposals garnered more than $68.8 million in external sponsored research funding and now stands at $70.2 million, which is on pace to surpass the record $70.7 million received in 2021. That record-setting year for the University was one of the highest among all HBCUs. The new funding report is a major boost for the University in its continued planning to receive the “R1” research designation.  An R1 designation would mean more doctoral programs, research initiatives and funding for students and the university.  

Associate Vice President of Research and Sponsored Programs Dr. Quincy Quick, who is leading the R1 designation effort, says the goal is double the total amount of grants received. He believes TSU faculty and staff can ultimately reach the $140 million award mark.

Dr. Quincy Quick 

“Our recent historic research productivity and achievement over the last two fiscal years is a consequence of our outstanding and dedicated faculty and staff and their commitment to conducting and performing innovative and transformative high-level research,” says Quick. “Our faculty and staff are enthusiastically engaged in our mission for the highest status as we work collegially and diligently to become the fourth R1 designated institution in the state of Tennessee.” 

Here are some of the other top awards received in 2022-23: 

  • Dr. Andrea Tyler – Title III, $10,254,498 (Department of Education) 
  • Dr. Quincy Quick – RSP, $5,000,000 (Department of Energy) 
  • Dr. Karla Addesso – College of Agriculture, $2,479,982 (USDA) 
  • Dr. Melanie Cantu – College of Agriculture, $2,016,694 (USDA) 
  • Dr. Rebecca Selove – RSP, $1,772,784 (National Institutes of Health) 
  • Dr. Deo Chimba – College of Engineering, $1,611,168 (Dept. of Transportation) 
  • Dr. Margaret Whalen – RSP, $1,255,618 (National Institutes of Health) 
  • Dr. Roy Sonali – College of Agriculture, $1,158,373 (USDA) 
  • Dr. Jianwei Li, College of Agriculture, $1,118,709 (USDA) 
  • Dr. D’Etra Young – College of Agriculture, $1,000,000 (USDA) 
  • Dr. Robbie Melton – Academic Affairs, $1,000,000 (Apple/Hewlett Packard) 
  • Dr. Catherine Armwood – College of Engineering, $1,000,000 (NSF) 
  • Dr. Dafeng Hui – College of Life & Physical Sciences, $1,000,000 (NSF) 
  • Dr. Lin Li – College of Engineering, $1,000,000 – (NSF) 
  • Dr. Hongwei Si – College of Agriculture, $1,000,000 (USDA/NSF) 
  • Dr. Richard Mu – RSP, $1,000,000 (NSF) 

TSU Secures $11.4 Million To Help Provide Families With Better Childcare In Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Child care providers in Tennessee will have the opportunity to receive additional training thanks to a new $11.4 million federal grant secured by Tennessee State University’s Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences. The university believes better trained daycare providers will mean better daycare services for Tennessee families.

(Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media Relations)

Dr. Kimberly Smith, the center’s director, says the grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allow TSU to continue to serve as the professional development hub for the state as it relates to child development and early childhood training.

“We are expanding our online courses through the Tennessee Child care Online Training System, and we will now be responsible for the state’s workforce registry for all child development professionals who work in the area of childcare across the state,” says Smith.

Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance (TECTA), a statewide professional development system that provides assistance for employees at licensed childcare facilities, is funded by Tennessee State University through a contract with the Tennessee Department of Human Services and is housed under the Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences.

Some of the additional courses that will soon be available include: Early Literacy Matters; Eat, Play and Rest; Inclusion; and Brain Development.

“One thing that makes TECTA so unique is that we work with early childhood professionals to strengthen the workforce within the state for childcare. We get to work with the family home providers and the centers, and then we provide funding for students,” adds Smith.

Dr. Kimberly Smith (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media Relations)

Carmen Davis says without help from TSU’s TECTA program, she
would not have been able to open her three-star childcare company, Ms. Carmen’s Precious Moments.

“I was working full-time and going to school, and I couldn’t afford to do both,” says Davis, who started her business in 2007. “TECTA came in to offset the price, which allowed me the opportunity to go and achieve my CDA (Child Development Associate) through their grant and their funding.”

Davis, whose company is licensed to care for seven clients, says she has taken advantage of many of the courses currently offered by TECTA.

“I went through all of the TECTA orientations which were very beneficial because I work with a multi-age group. I went through the infant–toddler training, the preschool training and the administration training, which benefits me as far as my business part,” she says. “I also went through the TECTA Business Administration credential which helped with putting together a portfolio, the taxes part of it, the business sheets part of it and being professional. It took me to another level of professionalism.”

Tonita Robinson’s children have attended Ms. Carmen’s Precious Moments since they were six-weeks old. She says her two-year-old and four-year-old have benefited from Davis’ experiences with TECTA.

Carmen Davis, owner of Ms. Carmen’s Precious Moments. (Photo by Michael McLendon, TSU Media Relations)

“She does a good job identifying my kids’ triggers,” says Robinson. “She makes sure if my son is acting out, she doesn’t say he’s just acting out. She’s able to say why he was acting out, what she thinks might have caused him to act out, and what we can do to work together to fix it.”

Robinson, who works as a financial advisor at Napier Elementary School, believes the new funding is necessary for child care professionals to provide the best services.

“Everything changes everyday. Nothing stays the same,” she says. “The curriculum changes, and if the childcare provider’s job is to help prepare kids for when they get into school, then they need to have the training that regular teachers in the school system have so they will be on one accord.”

Dr. Frances Williams, associate vice president for Research and
Sponsored Programs at TSU, credits Smith, TECTA Statewide Program Director Lin Venable and the center’s team approach for TECTA’s success.

“Under Dr. Smith’s leadership, she and her team have grown the center, as well as the funding. In this case, with TECTA receiving a little over $11 million for the year, this is the largest award for TECTA to date,” says Williams.

Shelia Westbrooks, the Middle Tennessee regional advisor for TOPSTAR, says the advisors have found the “most-needed” areas for the new programs and TECTA services in general are rural areas.

“They are not familiar with the program, and if they are, they don’t have internet access,” says Westbrooks, who worked as a licensed childcare provider for more than 20 years. “We try to make sure that we get materials to them to keep them aware of how family child care is changing in the state of Tennessee.”
Westbrooks contends that many rural family care providers don’t know that there is funding available to assist them.

“TECTA helped fund my education. With the fund I got I was able to get my degree and now as an advisor, I work with over 239 providers in the Middle Tennessee Region,” she says. ‘It’s all about higher education and we want them to get their CDA credential and their accreditation credential, and TECTA helps to pay for all of that. A provider who works for themselves may not always have that extra funding, and so TECTA is that bridge to get them where they want to be.”

The Tennessee State University Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences was established in 1984, and began administering the TECTA Program in 1993.

For more information about TECTA, visit tecta.info or call 615-277-1697.

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 38 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.