By Emmanuel Freeman

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — U.S. Congresswoman  Nikema Williams (D-GA) will be the commencement speaker when Tennessee State University holds its fall graduation ceremony on Nov. 20. More than 700 undergraduate and graduate students will receive degrees in various disciplines.

The commencement will be held in hybrid format with the live ceremony in the Gentry Complex, where U.S. Rep. Williams will address the graduates. University officials say COVID-19 guidelines will be followed, including the wearing of masks, social distancing, as well as encouraging all adults to be fully vaccinated. Additionally, each student will receive only five invitations for family members and friends, to avoid overcrowding.

“Giving the current challenging condition brought on by the pandemic, we are taking every precaution to ensure that the ceremony is conducted safely,” says Dr. Curtis Johnson, associate vice president and chair of the graduation committee.  “We are limiting the facility capacity to between 60-70 percent, and encouraging family members and invited guests to sit together.”

TSU reportedly has one of the lowest virus infection rates and one of the highest vaccination rates when compared to other Tennessee universities.

Williams, who represents Georgia’s 5th congressional district in the House of Representation, is in her first term and serves as president of the freshman class of the 117th Congress. A former state senator, union member, and special needs educator, Williams has been a fierce advocate for social justice, women and families throughout her political and professional career.

The lawmaker “always centers” the voices of the marginalized and how “women and people of color continue to fight for racial and social justice in our country.” In Congress, she serves on the House Financial Services, and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, as well as the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. She has membership in several caucuses, including the Congressional Black Caucus, Democratic Women’s Caucus, Congressional Progressive Caucus, Voting Rights Caucus, LBGTQ+ Equality Caucus, and the HBCU Caucus.

Congresswoman Williams has been recognized as one of Georgia Trend magazine’s 100 Most Influential Georgians, Forty under Forty, Power 30 Under 30, Outstanding Atlanta, and Who’s Who in Black Atlanta. Born in Columbus, Georgia, Williams attended Talladega College where she was initiated into Chi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

The commencement, to begin at 9 a.m., will be live streamed for those who cannot attend in person. The stream link will be announced later. For more information on Fall Commencement, visit