TSU tops in innovation, wins first place at inaugural T-Mobile ‘Unconventional’ Awards

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Tennessee State University has received a major recognition for innovation. A program developed by the university using 5G technology to recruit and retain underserved students in the STEM field, won first place in the inaugural T-Mobile “Unconventional” Awards for innovation in customer experience, at the Mobile World Congress in Nevada, Las Vegas. The TSU academic eSports program, geared toward creating pathways for students from gaming to STEM, took the top honor in the first-ever awards created to recognize and celebrate T-Mobile’s business customers who dare to innovate. 

TSU beat out several top institutions and companies to win first place for innovation. (Submitted photo)

As a first-place winner, TSU was awarded a $25,000 in in-kind donation to the university’s favorite charity. 

“Being chosen by T-Mobile for Business as an Unconventional Award winner offers TSU more validation for its innovative and decidedly creative approach to addressing the issue of diversity in STEM fields,” says Dr. Robbie Melton, associate vice president for SMART Global Technology Innovation Strategies. 

“This award highlights the educational value of using 5G technology to support eSports as a pathway to STEM programs and careers. Students are rewarded, not punished, for their passion for playing video games.”  

TSU’s T-Mobile recognition in innovation comes in just the second semester of the opening of its Academic eSports Center, which aims to use video games as a crucial steppingstone toward STEM careers. 

T-Mobile celebrates the winning teams at its inaugural ‘Unconventional” Awards ceremony. TSU’s team members appear far left. (Submitted photo)

Egypt Garrett, a competitive eSports gamer and freshman computer science major, says it is no surprise that TSU won the award.  

“I am very excited about TSU winning this award,” says Garrett, of Alexandria, Virginia, who is a member of one of the six teams at the university. “Personally, being at an HBCU, and someone one who enjoys technology and playing, having good gaming is having the best specs (PCs), the best wi-fi, and the center has those. I am so grateful for all the investment that went into it.” 

T-Mobile’s President for Business Group Callie Field says the Unconventional Awards was created to “honor organizations driving business and education forward with original thinking.”

Egypt Garrett, a competitive eSports gamer and freshman computer science major, says she is not surprised TSU won the award. (Submitted photo)

“We know a thing or two about innovating and transforming how work gets done, and we wanted to recognize that same spirit in the customers we support,” says Field. “This is more than just celebrating the winners’ accomplishments — it’s also a tribute to being bold and taking risks to advance business and education.” 

Melton, who is also interim provost and vice president for academic afffairs, says the TSU Academic eSport Center offers a career pathway program to get students interested in “behind-the-scene” work in areas such as coding, programming, game design, business management and entrepreneurship.  

“A state-of-the-art eSports center built on cutting-edge 5-G technology gives students the tools to dive deeply in gaming,” she says. “It also helps level the playing field for those who may not have had access to the technology required to participate in eSports.” 

Following TSU in the category of “Customer Experience” at the Sept. 29 awards were: Amazon Explorer, second place; and Motlow Sate Community College, third place. Other categories were “Employee Enablement,” and “Industry.” 

Award criteria were based on embracing unconventional DNA, demonstrating originality, and measuring impact. 

For more information on TSU’s SMART Technology Center, visit https://tsu-smartinnovationtech.netlify.app/ 

Featured Photo (Submitted)
A T-Mobile representative presents the First Place Award for Innovation in Customer Experience to the TSU team. Team members are, from left, Dr. Robbie Melton, Associate Vice President for SMART Global Technology Innovation Strategies; Dr. Effua Ampadu-Moss, Director of Esports Programs; Dr. Deborah Chisom, Executive Director of eSports Programs; and Robert Hassel, Director of Faculty Training for SMART Technology.