Several Tennessee State University students traveled to Houston to connect with leadership, learn more and explore opportunities at WM. Get the full story from Brian Taylor at Waste Today below.

One visiting TSU student says the day-long visit “changed our perception of WM.” (Credit: Tennessee State University and Stones River Group)

Houston-based waste and recycling company hosts 30 students from Tennessee State University.

More than 30 Tennessee State University (TSU) students recently traveled to Houston to visit the WM (formerly Waste Management Inc.) corporate headquarters and meet with some of the company’s senior executives.

The students from the Nashville, Tennessee, historically Black university are participants in the Leadership TSU program and were accompanied by Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Frank Stevenson. 

During their visit, the students heard from WM executives about the personal and professional experiences that have shaped their careers, and about the company’s approach to sustainability.

“It was just very mind-blowing and very impactful seeing those [executives] and what WM is doing,” says Anarra Williams, a senior food and nutritional science major from Dayton, Ohio. “When I first got there, I just thought those were people who pick up our trash, but they really are honing on their sustainability piece—something I want to be a part of.”

Nykole Allen Clark, a senior business administration major from Las Vegas, adds, “That exposure to them and the company itself totally changed our perception of WM. As a business major, I saw a lot and heard a lot to help me in my preparation as a student and as a leader. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me.”

In their day-long visit, the students met with WM on several topics, including the company’s approach to sustainability and how that focus shapes its operations. As an example, WM says it focuses on materials recovery solutions at its area landfills, such as its 183-acre site in Nashville, home to what WM calls the only mixed construction and demolition (C&D) materials recovery facility in Davidson County, Tennessee.

Students also engaged in question-and-answer sessions with WM leaders. Tamla Oates-Forney, who oversees WM’s “people team,” fielded questions from students about her experience as a black female executive in corporate America, describing education as an opportunity equalizer and commenting on why diversity and inclusion are important in leadership and the workplace. 

“The Houston trip was amazing; to have WM roll out the red carpet of leadership experience for our students was simply breathtaking,” says Stevenson. “They were intentional about making sure our students had a glimpse into their company’s culture. It was amazing conversation and dialogue between students and the WM executive team. I think our students were surprised at all of the components of WM.”

The Leadership TSU visit is an extension of a three-year partnership between WM and TSU first announced in late 2021. Through that partnership, WM has committed $300,000 to TSU. WM says half of that funding will be directed toward sustainability research conducted in collaboration with TSU’s Colleges of Agriculture and Engineering and the other half will provide need-based scholarships each year to up to 10 students from the Nashville area who attend TSU

“The energy and curiosity of these student leaders was truly inspiring,” says Eddie McManus, Mid-South area vice president for WM. “This visit was a great way to kick off our relationship with TSU, and we look forward to all that is ahead, including building out the research program and getting to know more students through the internship and scholarship opportunities.”