Wednesday, February 3, 2010

THINK BIG: Dr. Catana Starks

Black History Month at Tennessee State University

*Tennessee State University celebrates Black History Month by recognizing individuals or organizations that have made noteworthy contributions to the University’s history, and are taking the “Think Big, TSU BIG!” approach to their areas of study and expertise while impacting the campus community and beyond.

When Tennessee State University joined the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference in 1986, then-Athletic Director Bill Thomas traded the University’s swimming program for a men’s golf team and called on the leadership of Dr. Catana Starks to guide the program. Starks then made history, becoming the only African-American female to have coached a men’s golf team in the country.

Early on, the men’s golf team nabbed a NCAA Regional Championship invitation and a Division I record win (lowest scores) for the National Minority Championship. The team also produced the first All-American, the first African-American men’s head coach for Michigan State University, a top teacher of professional golfers in Canada and a player who is a member of the European Tour.

Now, as head of TSU’s Human Performance and Sport Sciences department, Starks has updated the curriculum, grown the number of students matriculating through the department and increased graduation rates in both the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.  

“We accomplished this feat by making sure students have quality educational experiences in the department. I am proud to lead a department here at TSU that prepares students for leadership, teaching and service,” Starks said.

But seizing opportunities has not been difficult for the TSU alumna, who earned her bachelor’s degree from the University after studying abroad with an American Red Cross program. Starks returned to her alma mater in 1980 and taught in what was then the physical education department. 

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