An achievement incentive to the tune of $3 million in scholarships was delivered to Memphis-area high school seniors on Wednesday courtesy of Tennessee State University and its first female president, Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover.
A Memphis native, Dr. Glover unveiled the scholarships news during a special Presidential Scholarship reception at the Downtown Sheraton.
"We look forward to providing access to college for prospective students that are committed to achievement in the classroom as evidenced by their academic credentials," said Dr. Glover.
Students receiving the scholarships will have a direct pipeline to the University, with funding for four years of their education. TSU's Office of Admissions and Recruitment worked closely with high school counselors to identify high-achieving students to receive the scholarships based on grade point average and ACT/SAT test scores.
Dr. Glover has a full slate of activities in Memphis this week associated with the 24th Annual Southern Heritage Classic football game between TSU and Jackson State University on Saturday. She took over as the eighth president of TSU earlier this year, with inauguration activities scheduled for Oct 23-25.
On Tuesday evening, Dr. Glover spoke with The New Tri-State Defender Executive Editor Karanja A. Ajanaku.
Karanja A. Ajanaku: Dr. Glover, please paint a picture of your childhood in Memphis and share how that picture affected your journey to becoming the eighth president of Tennessee State University.
Dr. Glenda Baskin Glover: I started in South Memphis in the Weaver Rd. area ... near Mitchell High School between Walker Homes and Boxtown. I developed a sense of values from the Baskin (family) in the civil rights movement...minister family...about eight ministers in total. Developed these spiritual values as well as my personal values in life.
You became street-smart living in South Memphis and you became book smart because you had to go to school and learn all there was to learn. ... The thirst for knowledge prepared me to get into a learning mode to learn how to learn.
KAA: How might one expect the fact that you are the first woman to lead the 100-year-old institution to show itself during your tenure?
Dr. Glover: That's history, but the institution will be managed based on management skills that I have learned educationally, academically and with experience – from corporate boards and being a high-level educational administrator. ... The fact that I have prepared myself not so much as a woman but as a professional to lead the university.
KAA: Last year, there were about 300 students who could not return to TSU because they did not have the money to cover tuition. You kicked off a fundraising thrust by putting up $50,000 of your own. How has that effort gone?
Dr. Glover: It's been exceptional. ... This year we found ourselves in a similar situation. We had 353 students that were on the purge list, they have to be purged from the rolls if they have not paid their tuition and fees by Sept. 6. We sent out a S.O.S., Save Our Students, to the alumni and to the community. We raised $483,000 in six days. Of that, $280,000 came directly from the alumni. We are very excited about the alumni, their support and their excitement.
Because of the effort – the alumni and the community – we were able to keep every student in school. ... They met their financial obligation or we were able to work out a payment plan.
KAA: Please speak to the financial challenges that TSU students or potential TSU students tend to face.
Dr. Glover: The biggest financial challenge that we have now is the challenge with the PLUS loan. They've always had credit guidelines, but last year they changed the rules. ... In a short period of time they changed it completely and made the credit rules much more stringent ... punitive on families so they couldn't borrow money. It's so bad until the students are locked out of the education process...
We are facing the greatest challenge in higher education since Brown versus the Board of Education (Supreme Court ruling outlawing school segregation) with this PLUS loan process. Brown was about access to education and when you lock students out of the system financially, you have essentially denied them access to education.
KAA: Academically, what would you say about TSU that absolutely has to be changed or addressed?
Dr. Glover: We are working hard to change the customer service. We've come a long way in addressing some of the issues that seem to exist ... making sure we are more student-friendly, more customer-friendly. We have a deeper appreciation of the public, the students, the parents (and) the community as our customers.
KAA: What would you say is TSU's academic strong suit and how do you plan to leverage it?
Dr. Glover: The strong suit is the students who graduate and there are some strong programs – our nursing department, engineering and business departments. ... We nurture that by building stronger partnerships with the business community, the corporations that recruit our campus and the governmental agencies that we partner with.
KAA: Would you speak to the importance of a president's relationship with faculty generally, the state of the relationship you inherited and what you goal is for that relationship going forward?
Dr. Glover: The most important thing any new president can do is spend time with the faculty. This administration has shared governance as one of its...goals. ... It takes the faculty to buy into the vision of the president and the administration and come on board with how we can assure that students are progressing properly through the system. ... I seek their opinions because diverse opinions are worthwhile.
KAA: What role, if any, do you see TSU playing in the state's desire to improve k-12 education? I ask that particularly relevant to achievement in the bottom five-percent of schools, so many of which are mostly filled with African-American students.
Dr. Glover: One of the most serious challenges facing higher education and facing Historically Black Colleges and Universities and schools in Tennessee is that students are not being prepared when they finish high school. They are not able to compete effectively, through no fault of their own. It's the school system that got left behind. Therefore they take remedial courses and we know that is a bad word in higher education. ... Many of them drop out in their second or third year not paying their student loans. The default rate goes up. ... They graduated from high school not prepared for the work force. ...
As you know, there is often pressure at the local level to increase the graduation rate and sometimes students become the victim of social promotion. ... Tennessee ranks fourth from the bottom. I understand who we are, I understand the students that we get. That's why we make a special effort to reach out to the students and find them a mentor to help them to be successful.
We try different intervention methodologies. ... There are different ways to teach students so that they can learn properly and learn at the right level and not get left behind because the school system got left behind.