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TikTok donates $1M to DSU for minority scholarships

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The TikTok award will fund scholarships for the University’s students majoring in nursing and other health-related disciplines. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DSU

DOVER – Social media giant TikTok today announced Dec. 16 that Delaware State University will be one of 10 academic institutions nationwide to receive a $1 million award to fund “scholarships for students pursuing medical careers or other health-related fields, ensuring the success of future Black, Latinx, and Indigenous health heroes.”

The awards are part of TikTok’s “Health Heroes Relief Fund,” which is intended to recognize academic institutions that are helping to grow the next generation of “health heroes.” These institutions serve underrepresented students with programs focused on public health and professions in the medical and health care fields.

In a statement, DSU President Tony Allen said, “We are grateful to TikTok for recognizing the power of everyday health heroes like the ones we are developing on our campus in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. The university’s Public and Allied Health Department, chaired by Dr. Robert C. Mason, and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michelle Fisher managed a small army of employee and student volunteers who came out every test day – rain or shine – to administer the 35,000 tests necessary to keep us all safe. There were dozens of them on duty every day, and these are our heroes.”

Between late July and mid-November, Delaware State University conducted over 35,000 COVID-19 tests, with students and employees lining up for them twice weekly. In conjunction with universal mask use, social distancing, hybrid instruction, and contact tracing, the university’s “Together” COVID response plan recorded only 121 student positive results. This positive result rate of less than 0.5% was among national leaders, allowing students to stay safely in residence throughout the fall semester.

Mason mobilized faculty and students alike to operate the testing stations.

“Thanks in no small measure to Dr. Mason’s leadership, the Department of Public and Allied Health has not only been at the forefront of organizing and supporting our testing regime, but did so without creating a pause in the faculty’s research agendas or impairing their high-level engagement with their students,” remarked Provost Saundra DeLauder in a statement. “The faculty showed their students how to put their professional values and skills into full operation when it mattered for their community. We are all extremely proud of them.”

Fisher, as chief medical officer, spearheaded the technical details of the testing program in conjunction with the university’s major partner, nonprofit Testing for America. Fisher, who was recognized this year by Delaware Today magazine as one of “Delaware’s Top Nurses 2020” in multiple categories, was lauded by Dr. Stacy Downing, vice president for student affairs: “Dr. Fisher has been a remarkable partner as we navigate through COVID. Her knowledge in the health field is shown through her dedication, passion and compassion undoubtedly makes her mine and DSU’s ‘health hero.’”

“Having your school receive an award from TikTok is particularly cool,” said Emily Campanelli, a junior majoring in political science and the secretary of the Student Government Association.  “Students live on social media, especially during the pandemic, and it says a lot about your institution to be recognized by one of the giants in the industry.”

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