March 12, 2014

NEH Grant to Support a National Summer Institute at GSU

Professors Hugh Wilson and Jim Young Kim (above) receive grant funds for summer program.
Professors Hugh Wilson and Jim Young Kim (above)
receive grant funds for summer program.

GRAMBLING, La. – The National Endowment of the Humanities has awarded a $99,000 grant to Grambling State University to implement a national summer institute on Greek mythologies.

Professors Hugh Wilson, Jim Young Kim and Mica Dawn Gould of the Department of English and Foreign Languages are the principal investigators of the grant. The purpose of the summer institute is to enhance, on a national scale, the teaching and appreciation of the Greek dramas of Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles taught at universities and colleges across the country and their influences on African American literature and drama, according to Wilson.

“Our grant project will improve the comprehension and appreciation of Greek drama in order to enhance research and teaching,” said Wilson. “The institute will explore the continuing relevance of Greek drama to society at large…. The sessions of our institute on Greek drama will also foster a greater awareness of the black literature and drama influenced by the Greeks.”

The three-week summer institute will be attended by faculty members from colleges and universities across the country, including historically black colleges and universities. Program sessions will be led by nationally recognized classicists such as professors Peter Meineck of New York State University, Patricia Johnson of Boston University, Melinda Powers of City University of New York (CUNY) and Patrice Rankine of Hope College. Meineck has used Greek plays that dramatize the traumatic aftermath of the Trojan War to help Iraq and Afghanistan military veterans cope with post-traumatic stress. Rankine is a black classicist professor and dean at Hope who has written about the influence of Greek drama on black literature, helping bridge the black and Greek literary cultures.

Connie Walton, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the faculty prepared “a highly competitive proposal,” resulting in success. “I am excited that Grambling State University will be hosting this institute that will focus on Greek drama,” she added.


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Media Contact:
Will Sutton




March 11, 2014

Visiting Professor: Students Need More Math, Not Less

Manhattan Community College professor lectures how to better engage students by showing examples during GSU lecture series

Visiting professor Brett Sims addresses lecture attendees emphasizing the importance of math.
Visiting professor Brett Sims addresses lecture
attendees emphasizing the importance of math.

Grambling State University Media Bureau

Grambling, LA - Brett Sims, who actually loves math, has a deep concern: “Students know less mathematics today with more technology than when my father was in school and they had no technology.”

Knowing math means knowing yourself and knowing your surroundings, and we all need to know those things, he said.

Sims, an associate mathematics professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York, returned to Grambling State University to deliver the Region Endowed Chair Lecture Series at Carver Hall Feb. 27. Sims, also known as Abdur-Rahman Munajj, was the head of the GSU math and computer science department from 2005-2009.  This was his first time back on campus in four years.

Considered a star among some in the math world, Sims filled the Carver Hall auditorium with students, faculty and staff to hear and see his inspirational lecture about subjects that many find challenging and difficult. A tall, thin man worked out some mathematical problems on the whiteboard and a smart board, letting students see what he was doing, and why, so they could understand. He wanted them to visualize and understand the concepts.

During the program Sims talked about his experiences working with students during the summer. He explained that it was rare to see young students enthusiastic about learning about mathematics and sciences. One student who did work with Sims was Kimmerly Walker. Attending Grambling State as a biology major, she used concepts he taught and recently earned a doctorate degree.

“The Region Endowed Chair Lecture Series was a very good and informative program, it was a clear presentation,” said Leummim Yao, a mathematics assistant professor that came to GSU at the same time as Sims in 2004-2005. Yao said Sims’ return to GSU inspired students because he helps students understand why they enjoy math.

Another faculty member agreed. “Dr. Sims was one of the leaders that encouraged me to leave Lincoln University in Pennsylvania that is my alma mater to come to Grambling almost over seven years ago, I was the first distinguished professor at Lincoln University in 1997,” said Abdulalim A. Shabazz, the Regions Endowed Chair in Mathematics. “The lecture was very fantastic, insightful, and brilliant; whenever I hear something new I learn something new. I am forever a student.”

Sims said math mentors and professors need three things to be successful with students:  “a big bag of skills, experiences, and a big bag of friendship.” Working with all three students will be more creative, and be successful.

“It is imperative to continue to teach students in understandable and marvelous ways,” explained Sims. If more teachers engage students by helping them understand by showing rather than telling, Sims said there wouldn’t be as much need for developmental math courses.

Sims’ overall goal is to maintain a tradition of commitment to nurture students intellectually, ethically and socially, helping them reach their full potential.

“If I could give any advice to college students who wish to make good grades in college mathematics or even teach,” said Sims, “it is study mathematics every day.”

Students and faculty attend lyceum committee lecture.
Students and faculty attend lyceum committee lecture.

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Media Contact:
Will Sutton




February 28, 2014

GSU Pursues Votes, Money to Upgrade Robinson Football Field

Grambling State seeking alumni, faculty, staff, students and northern Louisiana community support community to win $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 awards for campus projects

Grambling State University Media Bureau

GRAMBLING, La. — Grambling State University students, faculty, alumni and supporters are being asked to vote daily to help the university win a national online college competition. If successful, GSU will win $50,000 to upgrade the football field at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium.

The Home Depot Retool Your School contest provides grants to historically black colleges and universities for specific campus and facility improvements. According to the company, the RYS Campus Improvement Grant Program will award more than $250,000 to 17 HBCUs.

For the top prize money, the Tier I grant, GSU opted to pursue for the resodding and professional upgrading of the football field. The field, used primarily by the G-Men football team, is regularly used by the Orchesis Dance Company, the GSU cheer squad and the World Famed Tiger Marching Band – and it is one of several major focal points for campus visitors and photographs. According to Tremell Turner, the university’s interim director of facilities, a lot of work goes into preparing the football field for weekend games because the field needs a different type of grass and much better grading and sodding.

Turner said the field needs a major overhaul to bring it up to conference expectations and standards, it is an unfunded project that will not get done without a win in this contest. “We just don’t have the money,” he said. “There’s far too much dirt, not enough grass, the wrong kind of grass and the drainage isn’t good. We can fix all of that, but it cost money, money we don’t have.”

GSU is one of 64 HBCUs competing, and there are multiple levels to win. Grambling State planned to use $10,000 for a Tier II grant to repair of campus potholes and a $25,000 “Campus Pride” award for the beautification of Charles P. Adams Park, near the faculties complex not far from the stadium and the Richmond Hall.

“There is a lot of interest in the park but it’s unusable,” said Turner. “We want to make it another gathering space for students. In the ‘60s and ‘70s it was a major hang out spot for students.”

The beautification would include landscaping with tress and scrubs, an upgraded drainage system, picnic tables and BBQ pits.

Each HBCU had to make a proposal for the RYS Improvement Grant, and had to be approved before the competition. Three HBCUs will win Campus Pride grants and 13 will win Tier Tier II grants.

None of this is possible without strong, daily participation and support for GSU. “Our Grambling State family has shown that we can do what it takes to win contests like this one, and it’s time for us to rally and take care of business again,” said Frank G. Pogue, university president. “We did it with vitaminwater. We did it with Allstate-Tom Joyner Foundation. We can do this. We WILL do this.”

In order to win one of these opportunities, GSU needs to vote daily, one time per device by going to Supporters can use smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers or other mobile. Supporters are asked to use #GramblingTHDRYS in post and tweets on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to give GSU more credit, or points.

One of last year’s winners was Oakwood University, a four-year institution with fewer than 2,000 students. Clearly size does not make a difference; it is a matter of ongoing, daily support. As of Thursday afternoon, GSU was sitting at #25. Contest voting ends April 14.

“Please vote for good ole GSU each day,” said Pogue. “All of us don’t use all of these sites but this is a good chance to improve our technology skills as we support a good cause. GSU needs your help. Today. Every day.”

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Will Sutton




February 27, 2014

Grambling State Lyceum Committee Hosts “Commitment of Faith” Program

An evening of black cultural experiences in music, song and words awaits audience – for free

GRAMBLING, La. — In honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 civil rights bill, Grambling State University’s Lyceum Committee hosts a “Commitment of Faith” program Thursday (Feb. 27) in the T.H. Harris Auditorium at 7 p.m. The Black History Month event is free.

“This came about as a community project to embrace and to challenge the community to continue to grow with the dream of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.,” said King David Godwin, interim dean of the College of Science and Technology and a Lyceum committee member. He said the committee, chaired by Stacey Duhon, vice president of student affairs and enrollment, wanted to introduce a program that would be inclusive of the city of Grambling, the broader community and the university.  During a recent meeting, the group discussed having a community choir and selected students relive some of the speeches from the civil rights movement.

Seven students will read monologues from influential African-Americans, including Melanie Williams, who will be reading pieces from Sojourner Truth and Coretta Scott King. Orlando Lewellen will read a piece from Fredrick Douglas, Dawn Clemment will read the words of Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer.   Justin Owens will read about Malcolm X, Ragje’ Iglehart will read a piece from the book “Angry Black Man,” Brandon McKnight will read a monologue from the powerful Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrea Beasley will read a story about spirituals and speak as Betty Shabazz.

In between each monologue a playlist of Negro Spirituals will be played based on research by Grambling State alumnus Derrick Slaton, who has provided a ministry of music for more than 40 years as a musician, director, music administrator, consultant/instructor in congregations, conventional bodies and training events in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Wisconsin. He is a member of the Zion Traveler Baptist Church of Ruston, where he serves as minister of music, and director of the mass and children’s choirs as well as the praise team.

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Will Sutton




GSU Student Gets Multiple Journalism Opportunities

Grambling State University president of national black journalism organization succeeds with determination, grit and never taking no for an answer

Tierra Smith takes notes while interviewing GSU President Pogue.
Tierra Smith takes notes while
interviewing GSU President Pogue.

Grambling State University Media Bureau

GRAMBLING, La. — Tierra Smith doesn’t live an ordinary college student life. The energetic junior from Houston has determination, dedication and discipline and it doesn’t stop. Her average days include classes, time in the campus newsroom, time with the university’s public relations office and time with the Student Government Association.

This self-described busybody has recently learned that she’ll be quite busy this spring and summer, landing multiple journalism opportunities in a few months that some students don’t get in an entire college career.

Smith is heading to Greensboro, N.C., for a National Association of Black Journalists multimedia short course in March, The New York Times Student Journalism Institute at Dillard University in New Orleans in May then the Sports Journalism Institute in Columbia, Mo., in late May. After that, she heads west to Salt Lake City where she’ll work for the Salt Lake Tribune as a sports reporter intern for most of the summer. Just before school in August she will attend the NABJ convention in Boston, as a reporter covering the event.

“I feel so blessed, it couldn’t be anything but the grace and favor over my life to be able to receive so many great opportunities this spring and summer,” said Smith, 21, a native of Milwaukee. “The craziest thing is that the opportunities really don’t conflict with each other, which was my main concern when I was applying for the internships. It is all coming together and the timing is perfect.”

NABJ is the largest association of journalists of color in the nation, and the group has helped develop young journalists with a variety of programs. Smith has been a student member for two years, but just being a member isn’t enough. She recently became president of the new Grambling State University chapter of NABJ and has worked hard to develop her knowledge and skills.

“Smith … received the opportunity because I reviewed packages of stories that demonstrated what I was looking for in a passionate sports journalist, and some of the stories that were read were very compelling,” said Gregory Lee Jr., executive sports editor at the South Florida Sun Sentinel and a self-described “NABJ Baby” who grew up with similar opportunities.

Smith has been on a roll this semester. Earlier this month (Feb.), she was one of two reporters recognized with the best spot news story first place award for reporting about GSU head football coach Doug Williams leaving the university in the recent Black College Communication Association national HBCU college newspaper contest. She also won a mass communication department scholarship based on her academic performance and an essay, “The Challenges of Social Networking Facing Today’s Journalists.”
It’s opportunities like these that keep Smith focused. This wasn’t the first year she applied for the SJI program.

“Since the moment I was not accepted last year into the internship program at the Sports Journalism Institute I was determined to be selected the following year,” said Smith, a senior editor at The Gramblinite. “I was constantly thinking, ‘What can I do to be more competitive? What am I missing?’ “Smith did not give up; she didn’t take no for an answer, and it paid off,” said Lee, a New Orleans native who served as NABJ president from 2011-2013.

The New York Times was impressed with the work Smith had done, according to Don Hecker, director of The New York Times institute and manager for newsroom training and education at The Times. “Smith showed commitment and she had experience,” he said. “I can’t emphasize the importance of getting internships with news organizations. Smith has worked at the (Gannett) Monroe Content Production Center and a Houston Fox 26 TV station. Every student interested in a career in newsgathering should start getting summer internships as soon as they can, even if it is at a smaller organization.”

During the program at Dillard, Smith will work with Hecker and journalists from The Times, one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world. She will meet and be edited by award-winning journalists and some of the newspaper’s top editors.

According to Smith, who is scheduled to graduate in May 2015, all of this recent success can be attributed to two people — her mother, Tanya McNeal, and Will Sutton.“I’ve always had drive and passion for journalism, but Sutton helped me polish my skills to be competitive against some of the best journalists in the world,” Smith said about the university’s director of public relations and communications and a former NABJ president and a longtime senior newspaper editor. “He showed me the influence and importance of being a member of NABJ, and he helped me publish my work in multiple platforms, print and online.”

Smith said GSU has done a lot to prepare her, but she attributes her success to God above and her mother at home. “My mother is very important in my life,” said Smith, who plans to pursue a graduate degree at Columbia University in New York City or Northwestern University in Chicago. When Smith doesn’t talk with her mother “I usually make the wrong decision.” “She is very supportive,” Smith said of her mom. “When I was describing my next couple of months of journalism … work, I knew she would say I was doing too much, but she didn’t, and that meant so much to me.”

Smith is determined to represent her mother, GSU and herself well: “I am going to brand myself as one of the best rising journalists in the nation.”

Tierra Smith reads the Gramblinite Student Newspaper.
Tierra Smith reads the Gramblinite Student Newspaper.

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Media Contact:
Will Sutton




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