By Ava Bell
NASHVILLE, TN — Trenay Bynum was in awe as she took her position among the tenured professors at Belmont University’s convocation in August. The first-generation college graduate couldn’t help but get a little emotional. At 58, she’s a wife, mother, and professional who’s currently in the process of getting her doctorate in Strategic Media. With a daughter who’s currently a sophomore in high school and after 31 years of mostly working in marketing communication, she’s finally only several months away from becoming Dr. Trenay Perry Bynum.
It’s kind of unreal to think about considering that Bynum grew up being rather indifferent to school. “In high school, I didn’t have many dreams,” says Bynum. “That’s a part of the reason I went to college three years later than most of my friends. But after some time, I started to see education as a bridge between where I was and where I wanted to go.”
Bynum’s Educational Journey Taught Her a Lot. Prepared Her Too.
Bynum enrolled in Tennessee State University (TSU) after the urging of an aunt and a family friend. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications in 1990. It was at TSU where she encountered the women who served as inspiration for her future calling. Drs. Sandra Holt, Rena C. Ellzy, and Harriet Insignares were her beacons of light. “Dr. Holt made learning seem really easy,” shares Bynum. “My most challenging professor was Dr. Ellzy. She had a reputation for being the toughest instructor in the business department but she’s who helped me to develop my love for research.
Looking back, Bynum realizes that all of her learning experiences — both good and bad — were profound stepping stones that led her to where she is now. She credits Rosetta Miller-Perry and Mary Vowels as the women who helped launch her career. She was hired as a writer in the Institutional Advancement Office at Meharry following graduation, served as part-time editor of Contempora Magazine, and received a journalism achievement award.
The years that followed led to several positions in marketing and public relations, along with her entrepreneurial endeavors including a greeting card company, Brownstone Greetings, a non-profit organization, Figures of Nashville, Inc., and two self-published books, Triumph! The Beautiful Face of Courage and A Pictorial Journey of the Scarritt-Bennett Center: Celebrating Eighty Years of Cultural Diversity.
She is also an enthusiastic supporter and advocate for using skills and spiritual gifts to uplift others. Past efforts of her ‘heart work,’ as she calls it, includes Fit, Fine & Fabulous which featured Joy Robison, who shared her 900-pound weight loss story on Oprah, book fairs for Alkebu-Lan images, an annual tea for Living Word Community Church, and most recently a TEDxYouth event.
Bynum has received the Spirit of Women Award from the Women’s Hospital at Centennial and the Journalism Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for her ‘heart work.’ She continues community service through active memberships in Jack and Jill of America, Inc. and Alpha Phi Alpha Sorority, Inc.
In hindsight, Bynum realizes that, on some level, she had always been educating others, whether it was through the numerous platforms she created, being a part of organizations like Medical Care Management Company, or the various internship programs she initiated for several companies over the years.
Bynum was indeed accomplished yet was still feeling somewhat professionally unfulfilled. So, she decided to go back to school to get a Master of Public Service Management Degree from Cumberland University in 2012.
“It was during that time when I really started to get the teaching bug,” Bynum recalls. “I had been an avid fan of learning for quite some time. My master’s helped to show me where I could contribute to others by being able to develop a love for learning too. Getting my master’s felt like a natural step in the process.”
Between 2012 and 2020, life was full and moving fast. It almost felt like getting a doctorate was something that needed to be put indefinitely on hold. Then one of Bynum’s friends reminded her that her daughter was only a few years from leaving the house to fulfill her own purpose and dreams — that if she started on her doctorate soon, Bynum and her daughter could be graduating with their own degrees during the same year.
After much praying and researching, Bynum found an online program that could fit her schedule and would help to finance her education. A year later, she found a job that would welcome her as a professor teaching what she loves: strategic communications. Finally, Bynum feels like she’s doing more than walking in her purpose — she’s thriving in it.
Bynum Now Knows What It’s Like to Walk
in Her Purpose
By definition, purpose is the reason why something or someone exists. “When I was young, I had a vision of being in a room speaking and presenting,” shares Bynum. “I used to think that it was a boardroom. Now I understand that it was a classroom. Purpose, to me, is about tapping into your strengths to reach a goal. Being able to help others learn while I’m still learning, helping them to connect some dots concerning their own aspirations and hopefully getting others excited about their purpose — that is what drives me in this season of my life.”
Being a Black female professor who’s accomplishing all of this hasn’t escaped Bynum for one moment. “Being a Black female professor is empowering because the perspective that comes from both demographics is both unique and necessary. No one sees culture and society, as a whole, quite like we do.” Bynum is thankful that Belmont University is a place that embraces diversity and encourages its faculty to share their stories.
So, where does Bynum see life 10-15 years from now? “I want my ‘classroom’ to continue to expand. That is why I got a TEDxYouth (https://tedxyouthjeffersonstreet.com/) license: to provide young people a platform to share ideas worth spreading. It took me a long time to not only find my voice but to feel confident in it. I enjoy teaching on a collegiate level, but I want to be able to mentor middle school and high school-aged children too. The sooner young people know the power of their authentic voice, the better.”
These days, all of the dots are starting to connect for Bynum and she’s beyond grateful. She’s also surer than ever that a person can manifest whatever they desire, so long as they make a plan, believe in themselves and stay focused. “There’s no expiration date on a dream. I am certainly a living testament of that.” And indeed, she is.
For more information, visit TrenayBynum.com.