Tennessee State University continued a Homecoming tradition with the crowning of a new Mister and Miss TSU and the Royal Court. For the first time ever, the coronation was held virtually due to COVID-19 with all the usual glitz and glamour that the ceremony is noted for displaying.
Hundreds of people (including parents, relatives, friends, fellow students and alumni) tuned in Friday night to witness the coronation of Naton Smith, Jr. and Mariah Rhodes, and their court.
TSU President Glenda Glover congratulated the new king and queen after giving them the oath of office. Dr. William Hytche, assistant vice president of student affairs, followed the president. He charged the two students to take their roles seriously.
“Taking on the responsibility of Mr. TSU and Miss TSU is steep in tradition, as many are looking up to you,” Hytche said. “This coronation with all of its tradition is a time to celebrate our university and its heritage. Continue to shape our future here at TSU for those who come after you.”
Smith, a senior health sciences major from St. Louis, said as a student leader, his goal as Mister TSU is to continue building community and giving a voice to the voiceless.
“I want TSU to continue being excellent and continue to break barriers,” Smith said. “During these tough times in our country and communities, it’s important for us to continue to stand together and be on one accord.”
With a 3.2 grade point average, Smith is a member of the Honors College, and the Men’s Initiative, which focuses on character development, social engagement and mentorship for male students. He wants to become a doctor of physical therapy to work in the NBA. Eventually, Smith wants to open his own PT clinics in his community to cater to people who cannot afford health insurance.
Rhodes, who becomes the 90th Miss TSU, is from Memphis, Tennessee. She is a senior political science major with a 4.0 GPA. She said although the university is cutting down on activities because of the pandemic, she plans to implement a number of events virtually to keep the students engaged.
“This year is going to look different, but we are going to make sure students are part of everything,” said Rhodes. “We will be more transparent with students, making sure they are included in all decisions we make.”
Rhodes wants to become a lawyer and eventually enter politics as an elected official focusing on education and criminal justice reform. She is the Student Court Chief Justice, an HBCU White House Competitiveness Scholar, and an honors intern with the U.S. Department of Justice.