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National Award-Winning Newswoman Challenges TSU’s Best and Brightest to Seek Excellence In Spite of Hurdles

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Former CNN anchor and now Al Jazeera America special correspondent Soledad O’Brien, addresses the student body and faculty March 26 during the University Honors Convocation in Kean Hall. Earlier in the day, O’Brien was the featured speaker at the Honors Program 50th Anniversary Luncheon honoring Dr. McDonald Williams, the first Director of the Honors Program. (photo by Rick DelaHaya, TSU Media Relations)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Saying that the pursuit of excellence requires the desire to forge ahead in the face of obstacles, a prominent American journalist has told students at Tennessee State University that success comes with “finding out what you are best suited for” and going after it.

“Decide what success would look like for you and pursue it, but always with the thought to say, ‘what can this do for me,’” multiple award winning documentarian, news anchor and producer Soledad O’Brien, said Wednesday at a convocation in Kean Hall marking the 50th anniversary celebration of the TSU Honors Program.

Drawing from her own experience as a reporter earlier in her career, O’Brian, known for such documentaries as Black in America and Latino in America, said becoming a journalist after a Harvard education was not the route her parents expected her to go after paying so much to educate her.

“My first job was at a TV station, where not only was the pay small, but I was assigned to proofing copies and removing staples,” she said. “Eventually I got assignments doing sound, and in the process, I would include myself in the story, something that helped get me extra pay once the story was aired.”

This is where the woman who would become an anchor for NBC and CNN, two of the nation’s leading news organization, found her niche, she said.

“I love being part of the story that would help enhance someone’s life, and knowing that I have influenced something spectacular,” she said.

Telling the students that nothing good comes easy, O’Brien talked about the struggles of her own parents as mixed couple in America when interracial marriage was illegal in many parts of the nation including Baltimore where they lived.

“My father, a white Australian, and my mother, a black woman from Cuba, faced discrimination on all fronts, with my mother at times trying to hide her Hispanic identity because she wanted to blend in. To get marry they had to go to the District of Columbia but came back to Baltimore and kept their marriage a secret,” she said. “When my mother had her sixth child in 1967 that’s when the Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage. That means that we were all illegal children until 1967.”

Driving home her story of perseverance in the face of opposition, O’Brien told the students that had her parents given up, lots of dreams, including hers, would probably have been lost.

“They did not give up; they understood the importance of moving ahead because they believe in what they wanted, and that’s leadership,” she added.

O’Brien, now a special correspondent for Al Jazeera’s America Tonight, has won multiple Emmy and Tony awards for her reporting on issues in America. She was part of the CNN team that won an Emmy for the 2012 Election Coverage, and another Emmy for her special report Kids on Race.

She inspired the students to emulate examples from people who did not give up but showed true leadership to accomplish what they set out for.

“Martin Luther King Jr. was a regular person who stayed when others ran. He decided that he would use his voice to lead …that’s leadership. What are you going to do to leverage what your parents have invested in you,” she added.

O’Brien, who earlier joined TSU President Glenda Glover, alumni, special guests, faculty and students at an Honors Luncheon in the Gentry Center, congratulated the University for celebrating 50 years of recognizing the achievement of the best and brightest of the institution.

“We thank you for coming to join us for this very special celebration in the institution and for inspiring our students and all of us today,” Dr. Glover told O’Brien. “We wish you all the best as you continue your journey of excellence.”

Dr. Coreen Jackson, director of the University Honors Program, who also thanked O’Brien for accepting their invitation to speak at the 50th anniversary celebration, followed the President.

In addition to recognizing the year’s top honor students, the University paid tribute to the former Director of the University Honors Program, Dr. McDonald Williams and his wife, Dr. Jayme Coleman William, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The tribute included the presentation of the Dr. McDonald Williams Scholarship to Laurena Thomas, a junior Mass Communication major from Memphis with a 3.65 GPA.

TSU Students Capture Nine Tennessee Associated Press Awards

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – A trio of students from Tennessee State University’s Department of Communications were the recipients of the top Tennessee Associated Press awards recently, capturing nine awards in the student competition, up from six the previous years.

The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Tennessee APME Best of College awards were announced on Saturday, March 22, and recognized Tennessee student journalists for outstanding performance in college journalism.

Students receiving awards included:

·      1st place, Best Radio Reporter, Chantell Copeland, senior Mass Communication major from Atlanta
·      1st place, Best Radio Newscast, Chantell Copeland
·      1st place, Best News Story, Brandi Giles, senior Mass Communication major from Nashville, Tenn.
·      2nd place, Best Use of Sound, Brandi Giles
·      2nd place, Best Radio Reporter, Miya Jefferson, 2013 graduate, Mass Communication major, Lansing, Mich.
·      2nd place, Best Newscast, Brandi Giles
·      3rd place, Best Feature Story, Chantell Copeland
·      3rd place, Best Radio Reporter, Brandi Giles
·      3rd place, Best Use of Sound, Miya Jefferson

According to Dr. Terry Likes, Chair of the Department of Communications, students excelled in reports aired on the campus radio station, WTST.

“Our new Center for Media Arts and Production houses WTST and our other media outlets in a converged media environment.  The dedicated faculty teach committed students who are learning across media platforms to best prepare themselves for real-world opportunities.”

This is the third year the Associated Press has conducted a competition for college students in the state of Tennessee. The students from TSU competed in more than 12 different categories in the college contest against entrants from MTSU, Vanderbilt University, Lipscomb, UT-Chattanooga, UT-Martin, UT-Knoxville, Austin Peay State University, and Southern Adventist.