Local campus queen needs three votes from everyone in northern Louisiana before midnight to be included in a national magazine

GSU Media Bureau

Miss Grambling State University Astra WattsWith less than a day left, Miss Grambling State University Astra Watts is racing for a top spot on Ebony magazine’s HBCU campus queen spread this spring.

In a national competition featuring more than 60 campus queens from historically black colleges and universities, Watts was in the top 10 at one point, fell to #14 and then, with a big push last week, rose to seventh in just a few days. If Watts wins one of the top 10 slots, she would be the third Miss Grambling State to be featured in the magazine since the national publication started a public voting process to determine which campus queens get featured.

Watts had becoming Miss Grambling as a dream when she arrived on campus, and becoming an Ebony campus queen is another of her dreams. The GSU community has rallied behind her to vote daily to get, and keep, her in the top 10. Some members of her royal court and her Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. are among those helping her reach for success.

“I feel as though Astra Jahira Watts is a great Miss Grambling because she is selfless in her ways,” said De’Jeauna Mullen, GSU’s Miss Junior from California who grew up in Shreveport.  “She loves to perform duties with or without her crown.”

When Watts thought the contest would end by the original Sunday (Jan. 15) deadline, she went into overdrive to get vote. She worked tirelessly with close friends, her sorority sisters, alumni and the university’s communications team to best ensure she’s one of the top vote-getters. She did interviews with Grambling State’s KGRM, a series of television interviews and she had lots of promotion on social media. In a short few days, she went from #14 to #7.

Then, Watts and the other campus queens competing found out this past weekend that contest voting would be extended until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday (Jan. 18). Just when Watts thought she had won one of the top positions, she had to work harder. Not one to be deterred, Watts ramped up again and she’s working feverishly to finish strong today (Wednesday, Jan. 18).

“Not only will this be an amazing milestone as a queen, but also a great opportunity to showcase my beloved institution,” said Watts, a New Orleans native and a senior major in biology.

Watts has been active on campus for the last few years. She was Miss Sophomore 2014-2015, junior class president 2015-2016 and she is an active member of the Society of Distinguished Black Women and the campus chapter of AKA.

Support Watts’ dream and help Grambling State University by voting three times before 11:59 p.m. today (Wednesday, Jan. 18) at www.ebony.com/contestants/astra-watts


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GSU Media Bureau

2017 MLK Celebration PhotoA candlelight celebration at Grambling State University started with “We Shall Overcome” sung by the university’s choir as the audience solemnly added their voices. More than 250 students, faculty and observers lit white candles one by one as they stood, some hanging their heads prayerfully and others with heads raised high to exclaim their joy.

The annual Martin Luther King celebration in the Black and Gold Room of the Favrot Student Union Building was hosted by the Favrot Student Union Board Monday (Jan. 16). On a dreary night, scores joined together to observe what would have been King’s 88th birthday and to honor his legacy. After blowing out their candles, the audience bowed their heads and held hands as the Rev. Lance Wright, director of the Baptist Collegiate Ministries, led an invocation.

There was an unusual twist when it was time to introduce the keynote speaker. Jimmitriv Roberson, 20, of Arcadia, Louisiana, introduced Louisiana State Rep. Patrick O. Jefferson, her cousin. Jefferson, whose state house District 11 includes Bienville, Union and Lincoln parishes, decided to bring a message of hope, talking about the exit of President Barack Obama, King and what people can do to live out his desires and how faith can carry us through. During an interview, he said though some African Americans are saddened that Donald J. Trump as the U.S. president-elect, we have a choice. “Most of us are so filled with angst and brooding over the election, and this week as you may have seen on Facebook some are saying ‘Don’t cry because he’s leaving, smile because he had the opportunity.”

At one point during his speech, Jefferson implored the audience to be hopeful no matter what they might think about the nation’s leadership, to be hopeful and to live their lives.  Quoting from “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Jefferson said “Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us. Sing a song full of hope that the present has brought us. Grambling State University, our inspiring president, Richard J. Gallot, ladies and gentlemen, sing your song.”

He went on to say that despite so many bad things happening in the world, “The only hope we have is in Christ Jesus.”

Jefferson received a standing ovation. Jamie Wilson, xx, an early childhood education major, said “I feel that today’s event was very inspiring.”

Astra Watts, Miss Grambling State University, said she appreciated hearing Jefferson talk about how King led a life full of service. She said GSU students should do what Jefferson suggested, “to follow your purpose and to always be a leader in your community.”

GSU President Rick Gallot thanked Jefferson, his friend, for such an inspirational message. He said King made so many things possible, things that we enjoy today. “Service to humanity was a cornerstone to many things that Dr. King did. It’s not enough just to have personal achievements, but what are you doing with those gifts and talents that you have to help someone else. I think that’s something students should’ve been able to take away from the program tonight.”

Marting Luther King, Jr. Ceremony


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Appointments to the Louisiana Board of Regents, the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors and the Southern University System Board include representatives from Monroe and Shreveport

GSU President Rick GallotGrambling State University (GSU) President Rick Gallot congratulated several colleagues recently appointed to serve on the University of Louisiana (UL) System Board of Supervisors, including Monroe’s Elizabeth G. “Liz” Pierre, an attorney and senior vice president of research and legal at the North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP).

“Helping to supervise Grambling State University and the eight other institutions that are a part of the University of Louisiana System and the Southern University System are some of the most important volunteer commitments a Louisiana citizen can make,” said Gallot, a former state legislator. “With the fairness and funding challenges these universities have ahead, it’s important that we have board members who know our institutions, understand our goals and missions and who know and appreciate us.”

NLEP works closely with GSU and other northern Louisiana universities and businesses to best position the region for economic growth and development. Gallot extended congratulations to Lola W. Dunahoe, of Natchitoches; Thomas M. Kitchen, of Metairie, and Alejandro R. “Al” Perkins of Prairieville, each newly appointed to the UL System board. Dunahoe is the office manager for the Dunahoe Law Firm, LLC. Kitchen is former president and CEO of Stewart Enterprises Inc. Perkins is an attorney and partner with Hammonds, Sills, Adkins & Guice, LLP.

Gallot, a graduate of both GSU and the Southern University Law Center, also applauded Shreveport’s Richard T. Hilliard, a senior engineer and business consultant at Maintowoc Company, Inc.; Leroy Davis of Baker; Domoine D. Rutledge of Baton Rouge; Ann A. Smith of Kentwood, and Samuel C. Tolbert Jr. of Lake Charles on their appointments to the Southern University System board. Davis, a retired professor and dean at Southern University, is a former Baker mayor and councilman. Rutledge, an attorney and general counsel with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, is a former national president of the Southern University Alumni Federation and the current president and chairman of the Southern University System Foundation Board of Directors. Smith, a retired school educator and administrator in Tangipahoa Parish, is a member of the Louisiana School Board Association and a former member of the Tangipahoa Parish School Board. Tolbert is pastor of the Greater Saint Mary Missionary Baptist Church.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the appointments on Friday (Dec. 30).

The governor announced several appointments to the Louisiana Board of Regents on Thursday (Dec. 29). Gallot commended Blake R. David, an attorney and founding partner of the Lafayette firm of Broussard & David, L.L.C.; Darren G. Mire, of New Orleans, director of valuation for the Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office; W. Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry, of Shreveport, the managing partner of Crestview Woods, LP, Rasberry Commercial Properties, LP, and Rasberry Mineral Lands, LLC.; Jacqueline Vines Wyatt, of Prairieville, former senior vice president and regional manager for Cox Communications’ Southeast Region; T. Jay Seale III, of Hammond, an attorney and founding partner of Seale & Ross, APLC, and Charles R. McDonald, Ed.D., of Sterlington, president and owner of CMAC & Associates and the co-owner of Freedom Mobility, LLC, and a former member of the Louisiana State House of Representatives.

The UL System includes Grambling State University and eight other institutions of higher education, including Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the University of New Orleans. The Southern University System Board of Supervisors oversees Southern University’s Baton Rouge campus, the Baton Rouge-based Law Center, the Southern University Shreveport campus and the Southern University New Orleans campus.

The Board of Regents is responsible for planning, coordinating, and budgeting for all public higher education in the state. The Board administers the Louisiana Education Quality Support Fund and formulates a master plan for higher education, including a formula for the equitable distribution of funds.


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Dominica student is starting a computer science job in New Jersey after great success at Grambling State University

GSU Media Bureau

Burnette, Jullone, computer science major

Burnette, Jullone, computer science major

After three years at Grambling State University, Jullone Burnette is at  the top of his class with an impressive 3.82 grade point average, a pinnacle achieved after thousands of hours of hard work and dedication.

To his teachers, mentors, friends and daughter, Burnette is a humble, hard worker who worked hard to become the first in his family to become a college graduate when GSU holds its commencement at 10 a.m. today (Dec. 16) at Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center on the campus.

Awards and honors are nice, and Burnette is no stranger to recognition. He has had academic excellence in each of his four years.  He was on the president’s list in spring 2013, 2014 and 2016, on the president’s list in fall 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 and on the dean’s list in spring 2015. He was chosen to be featured in the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges 2015-2016.

“The urge to make my family proud is the reason I was able to uphold such academic excellence my years here at Grambling,” Burnette answered humbly, when asked how he was able to achieve such consistent success.

Burnette, 27, was born to parents Jullius and Geraldiene Burnette in Wesley, Dominica.  He worked in high school because he wanted to go to college to continue his education. A Grambling State, alumnus Keskim Shillingford, encouraged him to apply to Grambling State, and he did. Shillingford was Burnette’s neighbor, teacher, and friend back home in Dominica.

“The tuition was affordable, and the opportunity seemed rewarding so I decided to apply,” he said.

Burnette’s work, and some sleepless nights, will be recognized as he walks across the stage as this semester’s valedictorian, receiving a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He plans to pursue a career in software development, and he wants to include a master’s degree in computer science. He plans to move to New Jersey after graduation to start his career.

“This young man is an excellent example of what it means to have an academic focus at Grambling State University,” said Ellen Smiley, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs at GSU. “He took full advantage of what we offer, and chose to stay focused on the right things to achieve this tremendous honor. We’re proud of him.”


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GSU Commencement Activities

More than 300 students are expected to graduate during Grambling State University’s fall commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Dec. 16 in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.

GSU President Richard Gallot Jr. will deliver his first commencement address since assuming
the presidency.

Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson will be the keynote speaker. commencement speaker.

The university plans to award 257 bachelor’s degrees, 84 master’s degrees and 5 doctorates.

An honorary degree will be awarded to the family of Scott Cameron Miller, a principal of Miller Funeral Home and Reliable Insurance Company and a former GSU student.

Miller, through unparalleled service and active community involvement, touched the lives of many students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Grambling State University as well as the general public. Every community along the Interstate 20 corridor, an integral region of the GSU network, has been positively impacted by the Miller Funeral Home enterprise.

Johnson was named Louisiana’s Supreme Court Chief Justice in February 2013. Since then, she has led as an advocate for social justice and civil rights. She worked as a community organizer with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense & Educational Fund, and at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Prior to joining the state’s highest court, Chief Justice Johnson has also served as a member of the court’s Legal Services Task Force and the National Campaign on Best Practices in the area of Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts.

She holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from Spelman College, and is a member of the National Bar Association Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame.

The Commencement Exercises will be livestreamed on the University’s official YouTube channel:

Other graduation activities include:

  • Department of Biology will host a Graduation Luncheon for graduates at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Carver Hall in Room 22.
  • The College of Social Work will host a Graduation Reception for all graduating students and their families at 12 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at Jacob T. Stewart in Room 262. Five speakers will address the graduates: Dr. Elise Reed, Professor Cassandra Peoples, BSW Program Director Clarence Williams, Professor Xavier Henson, and Dr. Carolyn Hester, Associate Dean.
  • Department of Mass Communication will host a Graduating Exit Workshop Luncheon for its fall graduates at 12 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14, at the Washington Complex in Room 203.
  • The Army ROTC program will commission a group of three second lieutenants at 10 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, at the Favrot Student Union, Black and Gold Room. Lt Col. Denise Moultrie will address the cadets: Kimberly Spikes, Jackie Moore-Johnson Jr, and Spencer Robinson.

Click here for PDF.


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Parking Guidelines for Commencement Exercises

Officers will be positioned at intersections leading into and out of the parking areas to offer
assistance and ensure compliance with the guidelines below.

Parking Areas for Our Guests

  1. Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center parking lots
  2. Nursing Building parking lot (in designated area in front and back of building)
  3. Tiger Village parking lot in designated areas
  4. Martha Adams Hall parking lot
  5. Harriet Tubman Hall parking lot
  6. Truth Hall parking lot
  7. Charles P. Adams Hall (classroom building) parking lot
  8. Performance Arts Center (front parking lot for HANDICAPPED ONLY)

Parking Area for Faculty

Reserved parking for faculty will be in the lot directly across the street from the Assembly Center and in the lot on the NW corner behind the Assembly Center.

Parking Area for Graduates

Commencement participants are asked to park in the parking spaces near the Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium sign closest to the Conrad Hutchinson Performing Arts Center.

Parking Overflow

In case of an overflow, we will open Facilities Drive to accommodate parking.

Parking for Persons Needing Assistance & Accessibility

Handicapped parking will be in the designated area south of the Assembly Center. The Complimentary shuttle bus will pick up persons needing assistance in front of the Performing Arts Center.

Traffic Pattern for Commencement Ceremonies

There will be two (2) entry points into the Fredrick Hobdy Assembly Center for Friday’s graduation.

1st ENTRY POINT: Cole Street with leads into Dickerson Street which leads to the stadium parking area.

2nd ENTRY POINT: Ballock Street which leads directly to stadium parking area and Martha Adams Hall, Tubman Hall, & Truth Hall.

At the conclusion of the ceremonies, there will be five (5) streets open for people to exit onto RWE Jones Drive. These exit streets will be Johnson Street, Facilities Drive, Cole Avenue, Ballock and Dickerson Streets.


GSU Map Fall 2016 Commencement Exercises

Click here for PDF.


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Grambling State University Guidelines and Information for 2016 Fall Commencement Information

GRAMBLING, La. — Approximately (number) students will graduate during the 2016 Fall Commencement ceremony at 10 a. m. Friday, December 16th in the Assembly Center. Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Burnette Johnson will serve as the commencement speaker. A reception for the graduates and their guests will be held in McCall Dining Hall immediately following commencement.GSU is providing several ways that proud caregivers, parents, relatives and friends can watch the Fall commencement. In addition, the university has provided some guidelines and helpful information for those who will be attending commencement.


Commencement rehearsal for students participating in the 2016 Fall Commencement ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday, December 14th at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center. On December 16th, graduates should arrive at the Assembly Center at 8:00 a.m., while faculty, staff and students participating in the ceremony will assemble at 8:30 a.m.


A commencement reception will be held in McCall Dining Hall immediately following the event. Graduates and their guests are invited to participate. Participants attending the reception, which will feature light refreshments, are asked to park in designated parking locations. Violators may be towed.


Visitors attending the commencement at the Assembly Center are asked to park in the designated locations. There will be a drop-off and pick-up area in front of the Assembly Center for those who are disabled and those with special circumstances and special needs, but this is not a parking area. Commencement participants are asked to park in the parking spaces near the Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium sign closest to the Conrad Hutchinson Performing Arts Center to allow family and friends to park closest to the Assembly Center. Handicap parking spaces will be monitored and proper credentials must be displayed or vehicle will be towed. No curb parking — violators will be towed.


The doors to the Assembly Center will open at 7 a.m. No visitors will be allowed to enter the Assembly Center before 7 a.m. All audience members should arrange for their parties to be seated at the same time. SAVING SEATS FOR OTHERS WILL NOT BE ALLOWED. Ushers will be monitoring the rows to ensure that all seats are filled. While waiting for commencement to begin, please be respectful and courteous to others attending the ceremony, mindful of any instructions made by Grambling employees working at commencement, and listen carefully to any pre-commencement announcements.


Everyone attending the commencement is asked to be respectful of others who want to hear the names of their graduates called, and to see their graduates walk in the procession and walk across the stage. To ensure that this formal event is as enjoyable for everyone as possible, NO CONGRATULATORY BANNERS, FLAGS OR AIRHORNS WILL BE ALLOWED INSIDE THE ASSEMBLY CENTER.


Only university-authorized campus and external media will be allowed on the floor of the Assembly Center to shoot and film the event. Only media with university-recognized media credentials will be allowed on the center’s floor, and only authorized campus and external media representatives with university-issued media passes will be permitted on the floor. All others will be asked to clear the area.


To watch a live broadcast of commencement, visit www.gram.edu and click on the “Watch 2016 Fall Commencement Live” link on the right side of the webpage (http://www.youtube.com/user/GramblingStateUniv/live, available 10 a.m. CST 12/16/16). In addition, KGRM-FM will broadcast the entire commencement live. Tune in at 91.5 FM starting at 10 a.m. The station will broadcast until diplomas are awarded. Visit www.gram.edu and click on the link at the right of the homepage to listen to KGRM live.

View Archive Broadcast Here: https://youtu.be/5DdrVneSruM 


External media are asked to contact the Office of University Communications and Media Relations at mediarelations@gram.edu or 318-243-8022 for further information regarding admittance to commencement and to make interview requests. All external media must park in a designated parking area (the loading dock area at the back of the Assembly Center), and are required to show media credentials to enter the parking area and the back of the building.

Click here for PDF.


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Johnson, state’s first African American female chief justice, scheduled to speak at Dec. 16 graduation

Cheif Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson  to address grads at Fall 2016 Commencement.GRAMBLING, La. – Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson will deliver Grambling State University’s 2016 fall commencement speech. The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. December 16 in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center on the university campus.

“As one of the first African American women to attend the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University (LSU), she is a trailblazer for women and men in the judiciary,” said GSU President Rick Gallot. “Chief Justice Johnson has always advocated for civil rights, social justice and empowering communities. She has practiced at all levels of the judiciary, and has provided services to clients in socio-economically deprived neighborhoods. We are so honored to have her as our commencement speaker.”

Johnson is a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, where she earned her a bachelor’s in political science in 1964. In 1969, she earned her juris doctorate from LS ‘s Paul M. Hebert Law Center.

Her career path emphasizes principles of justice, fairness, equality and a life of service. Johnson chairs both the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Judicial Council and the Human Resources Committee. She has served as a member of the Court’s Legal Services Task Force and the National Campaign on Best Practices in the area of racial and ethnic fairness in the court system. She is an active member of the Women in Prison Project, the National Bar Association, the American Bar Association and the Louisiana State Bar Association.

Johnson was awarded the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Spirit of Excellence Award from the ABA’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession in 2010. That same year, she was inducted into the National Bar Association’s (NBA) Hall of Fame.

Johnson is an active member of the New Orleans Chapter of Links Inc. and the Omicron Nu Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. Johnson is the proud parent of two adult children. Her son, David, is an accountant living in Atlanta, Georgia, with his family. Her daughter, Rachael, is an attorney licensed to practice law in Florida and Louisiana.

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Grambling State World Famed drummers are a rare sight on band drum line

GSU Media Bureau


Ya’Lisha Gatewood, seated pose, and Brianna Cannady, with the backbend, perform the Mannequin Challenge during the recent Bayou Classic football game halftime show. PHOTO: JACQUES PRUDHOMME/GSU

History was made in the World-Famed Tiger Marching Band this semester when the “Snare Sistahs”  — Janequia Alberty, Brianna Cannady, and Ya’Lisha Gatewood  — came together to play the snare drums.

“Women have been a part of the snare drum since the early ‘80s,” said Edwin Thomas, a Grambling State University assistant director of bands from New Iberia, Louisiana, who supervises the band’s drum line. “You might have one every four years because this is a predominately male-oriented section.” The trio played at the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game at NRG Stadium. They played as the G-Men won against Alcorn State University, 27-20. Next, they will be headed to Atlanta to play the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) champion North Carolina Central University Eagles at the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 17.

Alberty is new to the GSU World Famed Tiger Marching Band, but music has been part of her life since she was four years old, and she’s been in a band since sixth grade.

“Music always had a positive role on my life so I choose to be in music instead of sports,” said the freshman, an engineering technology major from Lancaster, Texas.

She was introduced to Grambling by her high school band director, Adrian Bonner, a World Famed drum major who was attended GSU in the late 1990s. Alberty attended GSU’s summer band camp after her junior year in high school, as she was going into her senior year, — and she was hooked.

“That was the main reason why I wanted to come because I got to see how Grambling style was and just the way it felt,” Alberty said. “It felt like home.”

After auditioning for the World Famed, she was awarded a P1 rank, the highest rank in the band based on accuracy, musicianship and more. She is proud to be a part of the band, and this specific part of history.

“Women are like secret weapons on snares. If you go to any other HBCU drumline, they don’t really like women or have women that can play snares, so for us to play at Grambling, for them being World Famed and being women it feels phenomenal,” she added.

Cannady, a freshman in the band, has been playing snare drums since the age of seven. Her father was her inspiration. He started her on a drum set at church, and she would play when her father sang in the choir.

“My daddy molded me to being a drummer because he was a drummer in high school, too,” said Cannady, an engineering technology major from Tulsa, Oklahoma. “He didn’t play snare. He played quints and base, and he taught me everything I know.”

Canndady started playing in a marching band in sixth grade, and she’s attended Grambling’s band camp every year since the eighth grade.

“In the eighth grade when the band camp had opened back up, my middle school director took us here and I would always come to band camp every year…,” she said.

Thomas said she was persistent.

“She called me for a month straight,” he recalled. “She wanted to come to Grambling. She kept calling to make sure her paperwork was straight, that her audition was straight. Anytime somebody wants to come that bad, that’s the kind of people we want.”

Cannady is short in stature but she can play the drum as if she were six feet tall.

“It’s a little overwhelming at times, but it’s a great thing because boys underestimate women and they get mad when they see women can actually do what they do and even better. It’s actually an honor to be a girl drummer in the band, especially being my size and carrying the same drum as everyone else,” said Cannady.

Gatewood is the veteran female snare drummer in the World Famed. She’s been playing snare in the Tiger marching band since 2013.

Gatewood is no stranger to making history as she was the first African American female snare drummer at Airline High School in Bossier City.

She has been playing drums for 12 years and started playing in the band in the sixth grade.

“When I was in fifth grade, I watched drumline for the first time and I remember when GSU was going onto the field right after the girl was singing the anthem, and I was like whatever school that is, I want to go to that school,” said senior Gatewood, a mass communication major from Shreveport.

She didn’t play snare drums until her senior year of high school, and she can play other instruments as well. Gatewood started out on bass drums in middle school, and she played xylophone and cymbals in 9th-11th grades.

“It’s a hobby that I like to do,” she said. “I like to perform, I love to put on a good show and I like when we all play together and sound alike. It’s real fun.”

With all of the hours of practice required to execute not only the precision playing, but also the precision marching required of members of the World Famed Tiger Band, this trio has become more than part of the drum line. They’ve become sisters, snare sisters.


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GSU tops five other teams in Bayou Classic natural disaster competition

GSU Media Bureau

Barry Bontiff, Kenneth Tanner and Joshua Anderson won the Bayou Classic Biz Tech Challenge.

Barry Bontiff, Kenneth Tanner and Joshua Anderson won the Bayou Classic Biz Tech Challenge.

A group of Grambling State University students put their minds to work in the last several weeks to take a shot at winning a business technology competition, a contest with the equivalent of NFL football playoffs leading to a Super Bowl business game day challenge.

Not only did they make it to the finals, but won the entire competition. They won $10,000 towards their project entitled Relief Front.

Barry Bontiff, Kenneth Tanner and Joshua Anderson think when there are natural disasters, one solution is to provide and online market place to match those in need with disaster area businesses. The idea captured the imaginations of a panel of judges, and the team won $10,000 to implement their idea during a Bayou Classic Biz Tech Challenge (Nov. 26). Designed to get college students thinking about how to best fix natural disasters, the New Orleans competition featured students from Grambling State and five other universities. A panel of four judges considered each proposal, and the GSU students came out on top.

Byron Clayton, CEO of NexusLA, hosted the event for his company, and Kelisha Garrett of the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce, assisted as a special guest speaker.

The big win provided a different type of big game emotional win, one emphasizing academics.

“Bayou Classic is more than a football game there are other opportunities that highlight our students who are doing great things,” said GSU President Rick Gallot. “We have a lot of great students who have never put on a band or football uniform by they are the core of our university.”

Ellen Smiley was equally excited.

“The team and their faculty mentors have demonstrated scholarship, leadership and comradeship throughout the Biztech Challenge competition,” added Smiley, dean of the university’s Lester B. Cole Honors College and interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “They are exemplary examples of what Grambling State University represents — leaders on all playing fields.  As always, we are proud of our dedicated faculty and outstanding students.”

The competition was stiff. Nineteen teams participated, and only a few made it to the final competition. The GSU students competed with six teams from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Southern University-Shreveport and three New Orleans-based institutions, Southern University-New Orleans (SUNO), Dillard University and Xavier University during the finals the day before the Bayou Classic football clash between Grambling State and Southern.

The judges included Louis M. Freeman Jr., an innovation catalyst; Yvette Moody, from an IBM Baton Rouge client innovation center; Lyndon B. Johnson, a Caddo Parish commissioner for District 2, and Christopher Reade of the Carrollton Group/LookFar.

Tanner said he and his team worked hard to prepare a strong proposal connecting with the natural disaster concept.

“We believe that the internet gave the ability to connect people and it is a powerful tool,” explained Tanner, a senior marketing major from Rancho Cucamonga, California. “We just wanted to create a product that utilizes the full potential of the internet, something that gives both parties benefits.”

Xavier University won second place with a prize of $6,000. Southern University at New Orleans won third place with a $4,000 prize..

Gallot said he loves that others can see that Grambling State students are capable of so much. “We’re so proud of our students for their participation and winning the BizTech Challenge and the work that they are doing,” he said. “I was honored to be in the audience when they made their presentation, and I’m not surprised at all that they won and I want to congratulate them on a job well done.”

Tanner said the win was special for he, Bontiff and Anderson for another reason. “This our last semester at Grambling, so to leave with a bang and get a win with GSU was a great feeling.”


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