Top TSU Student Pursues Dream in Medical Field, Credits ‘Family’ Atmosphere for Choosing University

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Alanis Onwu says all it took for her to decide to come to Tennessee State University was a visit to President Glenda Glover’s home.

Alanis Onwu

“I immediately fell in love with the family atmosphere I experienced and decided right then that this is where I want to be,” says Onwu, an agricultural sciences biotechnology major, who is in her junior year.

An academic standout and graduate of Nashville’s Lead Academy, Onwu came to TSU on a High Achiever Academic Scholarship with a full ride, but still had other options. On arriving on campus, and as a high achiever scholarship recipient, Onwu was invited to the Presidential Scholars’ Reception for highly recruited students, at the president’s residence.

“That reception changed everything,” says Onwu. “President Glover, the faculty, staff and other students there made us feel so much at home; it felt like a close-knit family, and where I wanted to be.”

In more than two years at TSU, Onwu, a Nashville native, who wants to be a medical doctor, says she made the right decision.

“I have been exposed to so many opportunities. There are so many programs, so many clubs to get involved in. There is something for everyone,” she says.

Maintaining a near 4.0 GPA, Onwu has made the Dean’s List every semester since coming to TSU. She is a member of the Honors College, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program, and an active participant in the Students Opportunities for Advancement in Research Skills, or SOARS, where she is engaged in research on ways to reduce risk factors and mortality rate of breast cancer in African American women. Onwu is also the president of the African Student Association on campus.

As part of her interest in medicine, and to help accelerate her career journey, Onwu over the summer shadowed doctors in the Meharry Pediatrics Clinic. That experience, she says, has increased interest in becoming a doctor for children.

“First, I wanted to do internal medicine, but now that I have been shadowing doctors and pediatricians, I am really interested in pediatrics. I didn’t think I’d like it at first, but being around them (pediatric doctors) I have really grown to love the practice.”

Onwu’s enthusiasm for learning and her eagerness to be the best have been noticed by her professors – one in particular, who classified Onwu as one of the best students he has had in more than 20 years of teaching.

“She is right at the top of the class,” says Dr. Michael Ivy, professor of biological sciences, who taught Onwu anatomy and physiology. “Compared to other students, she was always prepared, never late. She was dependable. Her assignments were excellent. In addition to her class time, I never had to worry if she was going to miss something. Compared to all of the students I have taught in more than two decades, she ranks in the top 5 percent.”

Outside classwork and other extracurricular activities, Onwu also engages in community affairs and humanitarian work. In December, she launched “The Enugu Education Empowerment Movement,” that collected supplies for more than 50 school children in the Udi Village of Enugu State, Nigeria.

“I wanted to start this movement because in this specific location in Nigeria, many families cannot afford to buy their children school supplies,” says Onwu. “I wanted to make sure more children had the essential tools to be successful while getting an education.”

She is thankful for all TSU has made possible for her to pursue her dream, and encourages others thinking about TSU that “the decision should be easy.”

“I feel anyone thinking about TSU should come, see what it is, try to get involved, take what they like, and they definitely will find something interesting here,” says Onwu.

Department of Media Relations

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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