Freshmen work on tying the perfect knot. (TSU Media Relations)

By Emmanuel Freeman

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Jon-Robert Jones never gave much thought to wearing a tie. But after tying his first one, the Tennessee State University mass communications major has a new mindset. 

“It is just fascinating how something so simple can change your whole image,” said Jones, who was among nearly 400 first-time male freshmen who participated on Aug. 22 in “Tied to Success,” a rite of passage for all incoming male students at TSU. A highlight of the program is when the young men are given ties.

“I love seeing folks nicely dressed, but I didn’t think it was cool for me,” said Jones of Decatur,  Georgia. “I am liking it.”

As a welcome into the “Big Blue Brotherhood,” the young men were given TSU blue ties with the name of the university. For some, like Jones, it was the first one they’ve owned. University officials, upperclassmen, and community leaders were on hand to assist those who needed help tying the perfect knot. 

Before the tie tying and male bonding, officials and student mentors talked to the freshmen about proper campus behavior and how to present themselves in general.

“As these students embark on their college careers and prepare for the professional world, we want to help them develop good character and avoid anything that could hinder their future success,” said Frank Stevenson, TSU’s dean of students and interim vice president for Student Affairs. ‘’Tied to Success’ is a step in that direction; we’re preparing them now.”

Damyr Moore, a student mentor and the new Mr. TSU, was among those helping the incoming freshmen with their ties.

“I feel like this is very important for these young men,” said Moore, a senior mass communications major from Atlanta. “This event not only shows them another next step in manhood, that it is important to be able to tie a tie, but it is nice to know there are brothers here who are willing to help you learn these things so you can be a better person.”

Moore’s sentiments rang through to Coreyontez Martin, a freshman health sciences major from Louisville, Kentucky. He knows how to tie a tie, but wants to be an encouragement to fellow freshmen who don’t know.

“Knowing how to tie a tie gives them an opportunity that can help them later in life or in their careers,” Martin said. “For me and my fellow freshmen, this gives us an opportunity to learn something that the classroom really can’t teach you. I appreciate the orientation and hope other institutions will emulate TSU.”

At last Thursday’s ceremony, several senior administration officials, faculty, alumni, staff, and community leaders joined in to admonish the newcomers about academics, image and deportment. Among them were Dr. Curtis Johnson, chief of staff and associate vice president for administration; Terrence Izzard, associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success; Dr. John Robinson, interim associate vice president for Academic Affairs; and Grant Winrow, special assistant to the president.

“I think the night and this opportunity were good not just for the students but for the university community to show these young men that they are our concern and that we care about them,” Johnson said. “This is an opportunity to engage them and to encourage them to utilize the resources we have here on the campus.”

State Rep. Harold Love, Jr., a TSU alum, and a regular participant in “Tied to Success” for the last three years, said the initiative reinforces that TSU is intentional about the incoming students’ success, academically, as well as socially.

“We talk about the African American male and the struggle they often have when they first arrive on a college campus,” Love said. “It is initiatives like this that allow them to make the transition easier. It instills in them that the TSU community as a whole is concerned about them, and more specifically, we want to give them the skill they need to be successful when they graduate.”

According to organizers, about 400 male students participated in this year’s Tied to Success, which is coordinated by the Men’s Initiative Office in the Division of Student Affairs. Overall, there are nearly 1,400 new freshmen at TSU for the fall semester.