Tennessee State University

Institutional Context

Originally opened to develop teachers, Tennessee State University (TSU) is a historically black university that was founded in 1912 as an Agricultural and Industrial Normal School. Over the course of its history, Tennessee State University has evolved as a "comprehensive, urban, coeducational, land-grant" university that offers bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in nearly 100 different degree programs. In addition, Tennessee State university is ranked as an R2 "high research" institute according to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions, receiving millions of dollars in grant funds for research annually. With approximately 9,000 students, TSU serves more minority students than any other college in Tennessee, and the current student ethnic diversity is 75% African American, 21% Caucasian, and 4% who belong to different ethnic groups. TSU engages in cutting–edge research to support faculty, students, and society in critical areas such as agriculture, geoscience, engineering, artificial intelligence, and the social sciences.

Existing Student Supports

Strategies to create pathways

Education Programming

The College of Education's teacher licensure program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and certified by the Tennessee Department of Education. Tennessee State University is recognized as the top HBCU producer of teachers and the educator preparation program is also ranked one of Tennessee's largest preparers of educators with in – person, hybrid, and online programs available. The educator preparation program offers initial teaching licensure through undergraduate programs for early childhood and elementary education. Graduate opportunities for initial licensure are available in elementary education, special education, and secondary school instruction.  Teaching certification is also available in partnership with other departments across the university (e.g. Mathematics, History, Human Performance and Sport Sciences, etc.).

Geoscience Courses

The Departments of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, in the College of Agriculture, include over 20 faculty engaged in geoscience related content and programs, including an undergraduate concentration and a Master's degree in Environmental Sciences. There are currently a number of geoscience-related courses offered at TSU: a Weather and Climate course, Geography, Environmental Science I, Environmental Science II, and agriculture science courses. These courses incorporate protocols from the GLOBE program (described below) to provide students with hands-on opportunities to explore geoscience through geographic information systems (GIS), data visualizations of the climate, and weather data using GIS. Additionally, there is coursework in chemistry, biology, soils, sustainability, GIS, remote sensing, civil engineering, and agricultural sciences.

Agriculture Education Track

Housed within the College of Agriculture, there is Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication (ALEC) which offers an Agriculture Education Specialization. This specialization gives students access to both agriculture (and thereby geoscience-related) content courses and education courses which support them in developing as agricultural educators so that they are prepared to combine classroom, laboratory instruction, leadership development and experiential learning to offer their students a well-rounded education that will prepare them for college and the workforce. These geoscience opportunities for education students support them in building necessary expertise to teach geoscience content to their future students, allowing for earlier and earlier introduction to geosciences

Specialized Support and Instructional Strategies

Content Knowledge and Expertise amongst Faculty

Faculty within the College of Education have expertise in other areas, such as math and science in addition to teacher education, and incorporate this content knowledge into their education courses. Additionally, within the teacher education master's program, there has been collaboration between the College of Education and the College of Agriculture to provide education students with deeper agriculture-related coursework. The faculty's expertise across a breadth of disciplines increases the opportunities for students to explore more content areas such as the geosciences. Some of the Ag Education students have implemented GLOBE protocols during their student teaching course.

Interdisciplinary Courses

Faculty incorporate geoscience into their coursework. Specifically, the following courses provide students with opportunities to explore geoscience concepts: Geography, Environmental Science I, and Environmental Science II. These courses also build atmospheric knowledge among pre-service teachers while providing them with hands-on experience with GIS, climate data visualizations, and weather data. In addition to these courses, education students also have an increasing number of methods courses in science from which to choose.

GLOBE program

To continue professional development, once pre-service teachers from TSU become in-service teachers, they are eligible to participate in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program. The GLOBE program, which improves K-12 science teaching, has bolstered 10 y ears of training in-service teachers in atmospheric protocols and has collaborated with a number of U.S. governmental agencies including including the: U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of State (DoS), National Science Foundation (NSF). TSU has been a member school since 2001. 

Global Student Support Services Lab

The Global Student Support Services Lab (GSSSL) was established in 2019 by Dr. Jerri Haynes, Dean of the College of Education. The purpose of the GSSSL is to increase student learning across the curriculum and create a student-centered friendly, 21st-century technology lab. Tailored to meet students' individual and personalized learning needs, the lab offers streamlined services. It integrates career planning and career preparation, tutoring, and academic support to increase retention. Students can hold one-on-one meetings with Academic/Success Coaches and Career Coaches, and privacy stations where students can think, relax, and read. This programming supports students on the path to graduation and professional success.

"Grow Your Own" Grants

The College of Education recently received several state-sponsored "Grow Your Own" grants to support school districts and local education agencies across the state in preparing teachers. By creating innovative ways to remove barriers to the teaching profession for at least 20 different school districts and local education agencies in the state of Tennessee, TSU's educator preparation program continues to prepare many teachers to teach all across the state of Tennessee and beyond.


Geoscience Awareness and Opportunities: Curriculum

The incorporation of geoscience-related curriculum in a variety of courses well-positions TSU to expand their geoscience curriculum-related efforts to incorporate additional geoscience courses, geoscience credentials, and geoscience minors. This would provide students with more opportunity to explore their interests within the geosciences. Additionally, to expand the student audience introduced to the geosciences, Tennessee State University could develop geoscience general education requirements and/or a second level geoscience course. Within the teacher education program, this could begin with certificate development at the undergraduate level and a stackable credential for graduate students.

Connections between K-12 and Universities: K-12 and Local HBCUs

In addition to providing education students with high quality instruction that supports them in becoming educators, strong connection s between K-12 schools and HBCUs support strengthened STEAM within K-12 schools by deepening and extending the geosciences content knowledge and awareness of potential pathways amongst both educators and students. 

Professional Development for K-12 Educators

There is a strong familiarity among K-12 educators and administrators of possible professional development (PD) opportunities within biology and biological sciences. While there is some familiarity with existing geoscience PD opportunities, there is still limited awareness of the geosciences and geoscience career pathways. Providing additional geoscience PD opportunities, or more focused geoscience PD, may support both educators and students in exploring geoscience more broadly and also in more detail. TSU's implementation GLOBE program positions it well to provide this support.