Known affectionately as “Coach P,” students are thrilled with the selection


Grambling State University President Rick Gallot knew he wanted a student affairs vice president for student affairs focused on students, someone with experience, someone with a passion for young people. ponton, david rusty copy2

In the end, the search committee chose David “Rusty” Ponton, 53, who has been interim vice president since 2015 and who has been a GSU fixture since he arrived on campus in 1988. Ponton fills the job on a permanent basis effective July 1.

Ponton and his office are responsible for students’ non-academic activities, needs and opportunities to ensure that they receive a quality education and have a quality campus experience during their matriculation. Among other areas, student affairs includes responsibilities for the Student Government Association, Favrot Student Union, the Foster Johnson Health Center, the Orchesis Dance Company, the cheer squad, the intramural center and intramural activities, Office of Student Conduct, a variety of campus ministries, student clubs and organizations, a comprehensive counseling center, campus police and student housing.

“We have a good man in Rusty Ponton, but he had to go through the (University of Louisiana System) board search process just like every other candidate and compete for the job he’s held,” said Gallot. “We had a strong group of candidates and, in the end, the committee chose the guy who is already here. That’s a good thing when that can happen, but we needed to be certain, to be sure, we were doing the best thing for our students and our university.”

When the president provided the search committee with a summary of what he wanted in the next permanent student affairs leader, he asked for someone who is “visionary, transformative, inclusive,” someone with a “record of commitment to student achievement” and someone with “a demonstrated record of being a decisive leader with the ability to act as a catalyst for creativity, innovation, collaboration, and progress.”

Ponton, a native of Melville, Louisiana, said he is pleased he fits the description and he is happy to continue working with GSU students. “It was great on-the-job training to this point,” he said. “Having worked in this capacity for almost three years has been extremely beneficial. The staff and team members have been tremendous …”

Ponton said he wants to have a student-focused, friendly environment, empowering students to excel with student affairs services. “They can expect more of the same. I have been here over 28 years and I love my students, the university and this community,” he added. “We will be looking to enhance the area with support staff, administration and upgrade our technologies to further enhance the overall student experience. As I often say the future is so bright, I think I need shades!”

Ponton, who graduated from Southern University with a mechanical engineering technology degree, earned a doctorate at Grambling State. He worked as a process engineer for Owens Corning Fiberglas in Kansas City, Kansas and in retail marketing for Shell Oil in Houston and Dallas before starting at GSU as an assistant men’s basketball coach in 1988 and went on to become the head women’s basketball coach at GSU before working his way up in student affairs, from director of the Favrot Student Union, dean of student activities, dean of students, associate vice president of student affairs and interim vice president of student affairs.

“Dr. Ponton is committed to spending countless hours serving the students, ensuring that we receive a quality education as well as a pleasant experience here at Grambling State University,” said GSU Student Government Association President Adarian Williams. “There is no other position that directly shapes the world of tomorrow’s leaders such as the VP of student affairs.”



Aiden, of Rayne, visits communications, decides to attend Grambling State

 By AIDEN SWANSON/Special to the GSU Media Bureau

Rick Gallot is the president of Grambling State University. He is a great president, and he loves his job. “I love it,” he said. IMG_7318(1)

Gallot, originally of Grambling, looks for good leaders who are interested in building a team to get the job done. He is not afraid to speak up and let people know that he has been a good president since he started August 1, 2016.

As a part of The Provost Leadership Camp at GSU, I spent time with Will Sutton, director of communications, and I met the president, a dean and several university leaders during a day of shadowing. We are learning about leadership and how leaders can help and not hurt people, that some people are very helpful and some are    not. We are learning that leadership is when someone cares about what they are doing and caring about the people who work with them. We are working with Dr. Ellen Smiley, Mr. Jason Knight, Dr. Rory Bedford, Mr. Prentiss Smiley and Ms. Shadavalyn Hackney in the Office of Service Learning and Continuing Education.  The sponsor of the program is the Earl Lester Cole Honors College.

Each of us has a leadership mentor. GSU Business College interim dean Donald White is being shadowed by Tayton Webster, 8, of Grambling, Louisiana; business school professor Kevin Sly is being followed by Leah McDowell, 11, of Rayne, Louisiana; Title III Executive Director Beverly Hill-Hercules is mentoring Ryan Washington, 10, of Rayne, Louisiana; Chief Operating Officer Martin Lemelle has Demetria McCone, 12, of Arcadia, Louisiana, as a mentee; Distance Learning Director Eldrie Hamilton has Darian Savoy, 11, of Rayne, Louisiana, as a shadow.

Smiley said she started this year’s leadership camp because her son, Prentiss, a senior at the university, attended a similar GSU program when he was young and it inspired him to be an entrepreneur. She has not forgotten about others and she wants other kids to find leadership, passion and dreams.

The program has been very inspiring and I want to go to Grambling State when I grow up.

Swanson, 10, of Rayne, Louisiana, is a rising sixth grader at Armstrong Middle School. He plans to take enrichment classes and become a member of the 4-H Club. He would like to be an artist so he can draw and paint when he grows up.




Gallot says Grambling State students should not face additional charges

By GSU Media Bureau

Grambling State University President Rick Gallot has decided to opt out of the state legislature-approved fee increase authorizations, saying GSU students should not bear additional financial responsibility for their education.DSC_9658 copy

“As a longtime state legislator, I understand well the competing challenges the governor and state legislators dealt with as they worked to find a reasonable state budget for the new fiscal year starting July 1,” said Gallot. “But I know that our students should not be burdened with additional costs as many of them struggle to stay in school. We need more of them to stay in school, and we need more students to decide to attend Grambling State. Additional fees might hurt those decisions.”

Gallot said he has confidence that the university’s alumni, business and corporate friends and stakeholders will continue to contribute to the institution so the institution can keep student fees reasonable as a part of encouraging more students to stay in school while attracting more students to choose GSU.

“We have an important fundraising campaign launching soon, and we need everyone who says they love GSU and bleed black and gold to support this effort,” he said. “This is just one example why we need ongoing support. In the end, this is about supporting our students and making our beloved institution stronger and stronger.”

In a special meeting of the Executive Committee, the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System approved fee changes for its nine universities Friday afternoon. The average increase of less than three percent is the lowest fee increase in a decade for the more than 90,000 students served by the state’s largest system of higher education.

“With the budget stability afforded to us by the legislature and our governor, in addition to the full funding of TOPS, our universities were able to minimize cost increases on our students,” UL System President and CEO Jim Henderson said. “We will continue to work with our state’s leadership to obtain a stable and significant investment in higher education.”

Grambling State University and the University of New Orleans chose not to implement fee increases. The remaining seven universities’ increases range from $98 to $212.

“Higher education has evolved into a competitive enterprise,” Henderson said. “While any increase in cost is significant to students, the average increase of $108 will provide valuable services in the classroom. Now, we must aggressively pursue a state policy environment and institutional cultures that ensure our universities are able to maximize the value received by our students.”

The ULS changes only apply to fees; tuition costs remain stable across the system.

Adarian Williams, GSU’s student government association president, said he is happy to hear that his school won’t be increasing student fees.

“I support President Gallot’s decision to opt GSU out …” he said. “I agree with his decision because such an increase can have a huge impact on our students, resulting in a decline in college enrollment, a delay in graduation time, a fall in student and academic performance and ultimately increase the dropout rate.”



Grambling State athletics and advancement leaders host potential university investors seeking partnerships to advance athletics, education  


 The addition of the new full-color LED Video Display Board at Grambling State University’s Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium presents many new possibilities for advertisers, and a group of business representatives heard about some exciting possibilities during a Thursday presentation. Grambling State athletics and advancement leaders host potential university investors seeking partnerships to advance athletics, education

“Our aim is to provide local business with opportunities to invest in the GSU brand while participating in game day activities,” said Marc Newman, vice president of institutional advancement.

The athletics and advancement departments teamed up to host 35 local business owners to discuss GSU’s economic impact in the region, opportunities for game day digital advertisements to be shown on the video board, turf logo advertisements, game day program ads and business-specific announcements during football, baseball, softball and basketball games.  Among those attending were representatives from Bank of Ruston, Ruston Lincoln Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Primary Health Services Center in Grambling.

Those attending each received a corporate donor package, watched video examples showing some possibilities and heard Newman and Athletics Director Paul Bryant talk about why they should partner with GSU.

“Over 150,000 fans and visitors attended GSU Tiger sporting events and commencement ceremonies last year. The average football home game attendance at GSU is over 16,500 fans,” added Newman, noting that the university has had three home games in recent years. “We have four home games this season. The fact that we are also HBCU National Football Champions just sweetens the pot.”

Business owners were shown various levels of sponsorship levels and commercial placement spots for pre- and post-game times, as well as in-game play, quarter and halftime sponsorships.

Bryant was pleased with the potential investors’ responses.  “I think it was a great turn out. We had some of the owners of key businesses in town to come out and we sold a few sponsorships today,” he said. “I think it went well. Our next steps will be to follow up with the business owners that came out today. We are going to have a personal relationship with every one of them.”

Newman said he cannot wait to hear back from those who attended, and others who were not able to attend. “This is a serious investment for Grambling State University and it’s also a great opportunity for our partners,” he said.


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Business majors can ramp up tech skills for high-demand jobs with infusion of state support

By Stephanie Lindsey/ GSU Media Bureau

Grambling State University’s College of Business is the proud recipient of a much needed technology upgrade. The COB is currently installing an excess of 100 Dell computers to replace old ones in three labs in the Jacob T. Stewart building. rashaan proctor, kevin sly(2)

The upgrade was funded by Louisiana’s Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy Fund or WISE fund. The WISE Fund was created in 2014 by the Louisiana Legislature “to provide an incentive for postsecondary educational institutions to increase the production of certificates, diplomas, and degrees in fields of high demand by Louisiana employers, and to spur additional research and innovation as a meaningful way of supporting economic development,” according to the fund’s web site.

The computer labs are only available to students of the College of Business’s two STEM majors, accounting and computer information systems. However, all of the students in the college are required to take at least two courses in each.

Grambling’s College of Business applied for the funding as a way to help its STEM students remain on the cutting edge of technology.

“It is our goal to make sure that our students and faculty have state of the art technology available to assist with the facilitation of learning in all areas, said Grambling’s Provost Dr. Ellen Smiley This is especially necessary for our college of business, computer science department and engineering technology department.”

Donald White, interim dean of the College of Business, and Kevin Sly, a computer information systems professor, acknowledge that there is a skills-gap along the I-20 corridor and that the new computers will allow students coming from Grambling to be competitive in the Northern Louisiana job force.

White points out that “this is an initiative to help prepare and produce those people who could actually fill those positions from Monroe to Shreveport. There are unfilled positions right now because of unqualified workers in the STEM area.”

Sly, in agreement with White, notes that there are thousands of jobs along the I-20 corridor that students from the college of business could be qualified for. “We are trying to make sure that our students are where they need to be in terms of technology so they can get these jobs. So they don’t have to go to Dallas or D.C. or Atlanta.”

Both White and Sly believe it couldn’t be happening at a better time.

“We’ve had the old computers for a long long time, said White, they move very slowly and we get a lot of complaints from students and faculty and it was time for a change. This is a God send for us,” said White.

The new computers are faster and smaller which helps to cut down on the heat in the labs and reduces the space used. “Our labs will be all new by the fall. I’m excited for the new students coming in,” added Sly.

The computers were not the sole mission for the College of Business but rather a piece in a much larger project. “We just have to get more on the cutting edge. But obviously we need the technology, physical resources, as well as the human capitol to go where we need to go. As far as getting our students ready to participate on a much larger scale we first must train them. In order to train them we need the necessary wherewithal to get that done,” said White.

The students are also seeing the benefits of the new computers. The upgrades mean new and better programs for them to master. Marquis Gaydun is a junior majoring in business management and one of the student’s benefiting from the new computers. “Mr. Sly introduced us to Developer, a program that we can use to take normal slides and presentations and make them more dynamic.

Sly believes that his students are on their way to promising careers thanks to the upgrades. Through power-point graphic design programs like Developer and Visual Basic the students are becoming experts in their field. The department has already created, defined, and set a base salary expectation between $50,000 and $70,00 for students when they graduate. “We call them Advanced Graphics Presentation Designers. What we want to do at Grambling is develop a team of advanced graphic designers to go out and redo the way we do slide presentations. We turn PowerPoint presentations into seamless dynamic presentations. It is a revolutionary idea,” said Sly

“This is a new day for us, added White, “and we are happy to see it, simply because it is necessary for us to move forward to bigger and better things.”


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“Spotlight on STEAM” is theme

By Collin B. Jno-Finn/ GSU Media Bureau

Middle school students from around Louisiana are guests of Grambling State University for a week-long camp that seeks to impart practical academic knowledge and skills in preparation for their college journey. Adarian Williams LA GEAR-UP

The LA Gear-Up camp is being held under the theme “SOS – Spotlight on STEAM,” and will engage students in science, technology, English, ACT prep and mathematics.

The primary focus of Louisiana Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs is to “prepare students to be in post-secondary institutions and to succeed there,” said Tireka Cobb, director of Field Outreach Services for LA Gear-Up.


Natchez native Brown leads nursing at Grambling State, training students to be compassionate health care practitioners


Grambling State University’s Meg Brown has been named the 2017 Nurse of the Year by the Eliza Pillars Registered Nurses of Mississippi. Meg Brown Nursing Education

Eliza Farish Pillars was the first African American woman to work for the Mississippi department of health in 1926. The nursing organization is noted for health care efforts and helping nurses in Mississippi.

“Dr. Meg Brown is a born leader who promotes excellence at all levels.  We are elated that others have recognized what Grambling State University has known for some time now.  Dr. Meg Brown is an eminent scholar practitioner who continues to makes a unique and substantial impact on society,” says Ellen Smiley, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Grambling State University.

Brown is a native of Natchez, Mississippi. She obtained an undergraduate degree in nursing from Alcorn State University, a nursing master’s from Northwestern State University in Louisiana and a Doctorate of Philosophy nursing degree from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She has over 35 years of practice as a registered nurse, including 15 years in academia. She has served in several administrative positions in clinical practice and at universities. Brown maintains certification as a board-certified adult health clinical nurse specialist. She is associate dean and an associate professor of nursing at Grambling State.

Before becoming a nurse, Brown had plans to be a veterinarian but she couldn’t deal with reptiles. She decided to live her dream as an interior decorator, but an uncle convinced her to become a nurse, assuring her it was her calling. “The decision to become a nurse has been fulfilling and provided me with several career opportunities,” says Brown.

She said becoming a great nurse takes skill and dedication. “The consistent usage of caring behaviors — comforting, nonjudgmental, listening, supportive and being unhurried — along with strong clinical reasoning skills” make the difference, says Brown.

Brown, who has been leading GSU’s efforts to start a new undergraduate nursing program at the school, says what she would like future nursing students to be receptive to learning and instruction while having “a commitment to doing what is required, and have compassion.”



University leaders express joy, say more hard work remains

By WILL SUTTON / GSU Media Bureau

GSU Associate Dean of Nursing, Dr. Meg Brown and GSU President Rick Gallot

GSU Associate Dean of Nursing, Dr. Meg Brown and GSU President Rick Gallot

With a unanimous decision, the Louisiana State Board of Nursing approved Grambling State University’s plans for a new undergraduate nursing program, pending a Louisiana Board of Regents meeting. If all goes well, the program would start in fall 2018.

“This is what we have worked hard for these last several months,” said Meg Brown, associate dean of nursing in the university’s College of Professional Studies. “The work to get to this stage has been the process required by the state of Louisiana.” Now, she said, “the work of building the program starts.”

Though the nursing board voted to support the new program, the board requires full approval from the Regents, and the Regents approved the program pending support from the nursing board. GSU must return to the Regents to get final approval, then the nursing board will allow Grambling State to move forward with the process. That is expected to be a formality.

Nursing board members said the plans for the planned stringent, academically-rigorous program is what GSU needs. As developed and proposed in the approved letter of intent, the school’s new undergraduate nursing program would require specific preliminary general education and other courses and a strong academic history before a student could be admitted as a nursing major. The board, meeting at the Louisiana State University Lod Cook Alumni Center on the LSU campus, urged Brown and GSU President Rick Gallot to continue the good work to get the new program in place.

In essence, the board determined that GSU is well-positioned to move forward with plans for the program for the first full step of a multiple-step process. The board’s action authorizes the university to move to another important step — identifying and hiring faculty and preparing, putting curriculum changes in place and establishing regulations and rules before marketing the program. After successfully implementing the next set of actions, the institution hopes to be positioned by spring 2018 to promote a new undergraduate program and recruit students for its first cohort of 30 students for the program to start in fall 2018.

“We’re happy to see you moving forward,” board president Laura Bonanno told Brown and GSU President Rick Gallot as they sat at a table in front of the board. She said the board was excited that Gallot had taken the position as president in August 2016 and that he made the undergraduate nursing program a priority.

Board member Tavell Kindall made a point of saying that he is a two-time GSU nursing program graduate. Kindall, a board-certified family nurse practitioner who earned a doctorate in nursing practice, works at the Greater Ouachita Coalition Providing AIDS Resources and Education (GOCARE) in West Monroe, Louisiana.

“This was an important next step,” said Gallot. “Dr. Brown has done a fantastic job preparing for today, and because of her work we are well positioned to proceed to do what needs to be done to make this happen.”

Ellen Smiley, GSU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, is looking forward to the next set of actions as she works with Brown and others to determine the characteristics and qualities needed as undergraduate nursing faculty and staff are identified. “Putting together a team with the right set of values and a commitment to make this program successful is going to be critical,” she said. “We have high expectations for the program, and therefore we have high expectations for the people we choose to be a part of building this undergraduate foundation.”

Gallot, whose wife, Christy Gallot, is a nurse with three nursing degrees from GSU’s nursing program, said it means a lot to the university’s first lady and fellow nursing alumni to have a strong nursing program and he’s committed to making that happen.

“We didn’t come this far to stumble and fall,” he added. “We’re going to work with Dr. Brown to make sure that her nursing vision leads not only to the implementation of this program but to developing scores of successful nurses practicing across northern Louisiana, this state and this nation.”













Area beyond athletics complex is returning from an overgrown field and ponds to an educational and recreational space


A short walk from the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center, down a dirt road, beyond the Grambling State University facilities headquarters building, and Richmond Hall is one of about 20 ponds and a wooded area that’s been closed to the campus community and the public for years. DSC_1272 copy

Behind a locked gate, is a large area with several catfish ponds and a place that was once used for socializing, fishing, and education.

Many students and residents may not have seen the area, but it’s recently been cleared and renovated into a place students and community members can enjoy once again.

“My childhood home is probably 300 yards from the catfish ponds,” said GSU President Rick Gallot. “I can recall when all of that was developed and built because all of that used to be a farm. Grambling used to operate a farm out there. So, some of my first memories are seeing that area being developed along with the walking trails.”

The $250,000 project, primarily funded by the Louisiana Army National Guard, will provide 15 acres for additional tailgating space for fall football games as the athletics complex grows, a place for academics with a focus on environmental research, and a safe place for recreational activities. The project started in early May and is scheduled to wrap up soon.
Payne Montgomery supervised the area among his many duties when he worked at GSU until his retirement about 15 years ago. He remembers the area fondly as a place that he and others worked with students, and he’s happy to see it being used again.

He said the Grambling Young Adult Conservation Corp program was created to use the area as a park with nature trails and general campus beautification as a way of attracting people to the campus and getting students interested in GSU.

Marc Newman, GSU vice president of institutional advancement, said the project has been in the works for a few years, and the effort got underway recently when everything came together. “It is more than just a tailgating space,” said Newman, who said the university is paying about $20,000 for fuel and some limited expenses. “This is an academic, community-related, and historical project. It impacts the community because families will once again be able to use the area. Educationally, it is a perfect area for environmental programs to research. Tailgating is an afterthought; the community and students are first.”

National Guard Maj. Joshua Culp said the project is mutually beneficial because the soldiers get real experience operating heavy equipment on a regular basis for longer periods of time than during training exercises. “The soldiers become proficient by getting to operate the equipment and then by having qualified leaders train them,” he said. “Our soldiers are operating some extremely technical equipment and without projects like this one, their learning curve could take longer.”

Capt. Antonio Tims, the Guard company commander for the work unit, is working with 15 men, including a couple of sergeants first class, a sergeant and specialists. The university has made the project easier by housing the soldiers at West Campus and providing meals in McCall Dining Hall with Aramark to eliminate travel to and from home. The project is taking a little longer than expected because of inclement weather, but Tims said it shouldn’t be much longer.

“Due to the rain, we haven’t been able to go to the site and work,” he said. “We are getting started again as soon as we can, and as soon as the land permits it.”

The project is exciting to Gallot, who used the area in his younger days and plans to use it again when it’s ready.

“To see us bringing growth back to life, is extremely exciting… It gives community people some where they can gather and engage in good, wholesome, familial activities.”


 Forgotten Catfish Ponds, Trails, Coming Back To Life