Mr. TSU Naton Smith, Jr.


Miss TSU Plans to Keep Students Engaged Despite Coronavirus Pandemic 

By Emmanuel Freeman

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — The coronavirus has disrupted much of the educational environment and greatly cut down on extracurricular activities for college students, but at Tennessee State University, the new Miss TSU Mariah Rhodes says not to worry.

“Although the university is cutting down on activities because of the pandemic, we plan to implement a number of events

Miss TSU Mariah Rhodes

virtually to keep the students engaged,” says Rhodes, a senior political science major.

True to her words, Rhodes has already spearheaded a number of major activities on campus. She and the new Mister TSU Naton Smith and their Royal Court, have been heavily involved in galvanizing students to register to vote. Recently, they cut the ribbon to the new Dream Space in the Floyd Payne Campus Center, and played a key role in the unveiling of the new tiger statue on the main campus. For Homecoming, although virtually, Rhodes says, as expected, the Mr. and Miss TSU team will be featured prominently.

“This year is going to look different, but we are going to make sure students are part of everything. We will be more transparent with students, making sure they are included in all decisions we make.”

Rhodes’ says her penchant for leadership, transparency, inclusion and justice come from her drive to be a “change agent” to fight the injustices she saw growing up in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. She says coming to TSU is giving her the opportunity to make a difference.

“I witnessed many wrongful convictions and disparities in education while growing up as a child in Memphis,” says Rhodes. “I knew right then that I wanted to be a change agent because the injustices and disparities affected my family, friends and many others.”

Rhodes wants to become a lawyer and eventually enter politics as an elected official focusing on education and criminal justice reform. The former academic standout at Power Center Academy High School graduated fourth in her class with a 3.93 grade point average and received more than $3.8 million in scholarship offers.

At TSU, Rhodes is also the Student Court Chief Justice, and an HBCU White House Competitiveness Scholar. She is an honors intern with the U.S. Department of Justice. Although numerous, her extracurricular activities clearly exhibit her quest for knowledge and to be the best. With a 4.0 GPA, Rhodes is a member of the TSU Honors College, Golden Key International Honor Society, a graduate of the TSU Collegiate Police Academy, and president of Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity International, among others.


Mr. TSU Believes in Uplifting Students and Those Around Him to Succeed 

By Emmanuel Freeman

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) —  Call it a slogan, but for Naton Smith, Jr., the new Mister TSU’s “UNITED we ROCK” moniker is anything but.

“It’s a movement,” says Smith, a senior health sciences major from St. Louis, who won the coveted title in a fierce competition in September.

“It represents Unity, highlights Black Excellence, and serves as a beacon of hope for anyone in need; we’re a family.”

As a student leader, Smith says his goal as Mister TSU is to continue building community, giving a voice to the voiceless

Mr. TSU Naton Smith, Jr.

and building empathy one voice at a time.

“I want TSU to continue being excellent and continue to break barriers. During these tough times in our country and communities, it’s important for us to continue to stand together and be on one accord,” says Smith.

A member of the Honors College at TSU with a near 4.0 grade point average, Smith says his drive to help others achieve excellence comes from his personal determination to succeed. He grew up in a rough neighborhood in St. Louis, where he was not expected to succeed.

“I was determined not to let anything negative hold me back,” says Smith.  “I wanted to go to college, although I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I kept pushing by making good grades and staying out of trouble. I needed to get out and find that place that would make me realize my dream.”

He says TSU became “that place.”

“I wanted to attend TSU to be surrounded by ‘black excellence,’” says Smith, who graduated near the top of his senior class at North Technical High School. “I wanted to be around people who had something going for them, who could motivate me to achieve, and TSU has provided me that place.”

He is a member of the Men’s Initiative, which focuses on character development, social engagement and mentorship for male students.  He also participates in intramural basketball when he is not promoting a new business venture – Supply “N” Sneakers, that retails sneaker brands for all needs on Instagram @snd.snkrs!

As Mister TSU, Smith encourages his fellow students during “these tough times” to continue to stand together and be on one accord to be successful. Through “UNITED we ROCK,” he says he plans to be an easy access to resources for his fellow students, faculty, staff and administration.

“There’s strength in unity and we can get through anything if we’re truly united and that goes on the state, local and national level as well,” adds Smith.

His life’s mission, he says, is to continue to build relationships and make the lives of those around him easier and better.