By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University has exceeded its research awards’ goal with more than $54 million from various funding agencies and sponsors. TSU officials say the amount is even more impressive considering faculty are continuing to receive awards despite financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
With a month still to go in the fiscal year, the university has so far received $54.2 million, which exceeds its 2019-2020 goal of $50 million. TSU is on pace to go beyond the most the university has received, which was $54.5 million in 2016.
“This is a true testament to the hard work and tenacity of our faculty and staff, particularly as we navigate the financially rough waters caused by COVID-19,” says TSU President Glenda Glover. “A crucial cornerstone of an institution’s success is measured through its research.”
Dr. Frances Williams, associate vice president for Research and Sponsored Programs at TSU, agrees.
“TSU faculty and staff have continued to participate in scholarly activities and find success even during the pandemic as they have continued to submit proposals and receive new grant awards,” says Williams. “These grant awards provide substantial resources to the university to support the performance of cutting-edge research, student scholarships, student and faculty development and training, capacity and infrastructure development, as well as outreach to the community.”
Some of the top awards are:
• $11.4 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Dr. Kimberly Smith, director of TSU’s Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences, for the “Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance (TECTA).”
• $999,999 from the National Science Foundation to the multi-disciplinary investigator team from the Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture (Drs. Frances Williams (PI), Lin Li, Richard Mu, Ying Wu, and Suping Zhou) for the “Enhancement of Research Infrastructure for Advanced Functional Materials for Biotechnology Applications.”
• $855,604 from DHHS to Dr. Margaret Whalen, professor in the College of Life and Physical Sciences, for the “MMC, VICC & TSU Partnership in Eliminating Cancer Disparities.”
• $752,632 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Dr. De’Etra Young, College of Agriculture professor, for the “TSU 1890 Scholarship Program: Training and Mentoring the Next Generation of Leaders in Food and Agricultural Sciences.”
Faculty members say the awards not only further place TSU – a Carnegie R2 designee – in the national spotlight, but helps to create a pipeline of outstanding workers for a competitive workforce.
Dr. Kimberly Smith says the grant from DHHS will allow TSU to continue to serve as the professional development hub for the state as it relates to child development and early childhood training.
“One thing that makes TECTA (Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance) so unique is that we work with early childhood professionals to strengthen the workforce within the state for childcare,” says Smith.
Carmen Davis says without help from TECTA, she would not have been able to open her three-star childcare company, Ms. Carmen’s Precious Moments.
“I was working full-time and going to school, and I couldn’t afford to do both,” says Davis, who started her business in 2007. “TECTA came in to offset the price, which allowed me the opportunity to go and achieve my CDA (Child Development Associate) through their grant and their funding.”
Dr. De’Etra Young, who is also interim associate dean of academics and land-grant programs in TSU’s College of Agriculture, says the funding she received will be used to “encourage students to pursue and complete baccalaureate degrees in the food and agricultural sciences and related fields.”
John Barfield is director of engagement and visibility for Research and Sponsored Programs. He says the university has brought in more than $250 million in awards over the last five years.
“Our reaching $50 million with a month to go in our fiscal year is a testament to the hard work and efforts of our faculty,” says Barfield. “Dr. Glover has made research a priority for Tennessee State University and her steady leadership at the helm of TSU has contributed to creating a culture of research.”
To learn more about Research and Sponsored Programs at TSU, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/research/.