Bring It Home” initiative raises $321K, including Coca-Cola United of Monroe’s $260K investment


Grambling State University and Coca-Cola go way back. Over 90 years to be exact, and the partnership is becoming stronger. DSC_6708 copy

The Monroe Coca-Cola Bottling Company, a Division of UNITED Coca-Cola Bottling Company, has invested in GSU with a whopping $260,000 contribution as a part of a major GSU $1 million “Bring It Home” fundraising campaign announced Friday morning.

During an announcement event in the GSU Atrium on the second floor of the Favrot Student Union Building, GSU President Rick Gallot, Institutional Advancement Vice President Marc Newman and Grambling University Foundation Chair David Aubrey announced the ambitious effort that, in part, is designed to help make up for the president’s decision to avoid an additional fee on students to help cover college costs. “Our students cannot afford to continue to pay fees when it’s hard enough for them to find the money to get into, and stay in, school,” said Gallot. “Our alumni said loud and clear that they supported that decision, and they said they would help. Today we’re saying how they can help.”

Newman said the 15-week fundraising campaign is a short time to raise such an ambitious amount, but he believes it can be done. “We have commitments from a host of Grambling State family and friend associations and organizations, and we know they love this school so much that they will come through,” he said. “Today we put a really big dent in the goal with all of the individual and corporate support, but there’s a lot more to be raised. We’ll get it done.”

The university announced a one-day total of $321,000, including a major contribution from the Monroe-based Coke company; a $20,000 donation from the Hampton Inn Ruston; $15,000 from AT&T; $10,000 from Primary Health Services in Grambling; $10,000 from Gallot and First Lady Christy Gallot; more than $5,000 raised by GSU Student Government Association President Adarian Williams with a match by Integrated Management Services (IMS) of Jackson, Mississippi; $1,000 from University of Louisiana System Board Chair Alejandro “Al” Perkins, and $1,000 from Wilbert Ellis, the legendary former GSU baseball coach. Newman said the campaign will include a score of fundraising captains and a GSU International Day of Giving, an online, social media-focused day when alumni and supporters will come together across the nation to support the school on Sept. 28.

According to Monroe Coke Sales Center Manager Keith Biedenharn, who has been with Coke for 30 years, the the Monroe Coke money is a “local and corporate contribution to the growth of Grambling State University.”

“This check represents our commitment to partnership with Grambling for the future,” he said. “We have a long history.”

The history between the northern Louisiana HBCU and the beverage behemoth is something that Biedenharn family knows well. The Monroe Bottling Company was started by the Biedenharns in 1912, and they owned and operated it until it was bought by UNITED Coca-Cola. It was sometime between its founding and 1920 that the Monroe company partnered with what became Grambling State. The company employs 180 people, has close to 4,000 customers and serves 395,00 people across 14 parishes west to Lincoln Parish, east to Madison Parish and south to LaSalle Parish.

A thriving partnership with a Coke is something that GSU Vice President for Institutional Advancement Marc Newman calls integral to the growth of the university.

“The negotiations for this investment have been going on through a couple administrations and it was President Rick Gallot who was able to bring some closure,” said Newman. “The timing was awesome because we had some needs and some plans around renovations in the stadium. This is an investment in the new scoreboard, in the stadium turf, and investment in scholarships.”

Coke knows that it’s invest came at an exciting time for the University.

Biedenharn said Coke is excited to be a part of all of the GSU progress, and the company wanted to support the football stadium upgrade while providing support for student scholarships and other school needs. “From a business standpoint we want to be able to sell the soft drinks on campus, and we knew that this year the Grambling foundation was looking for some help with the football program.”

Newman said the relationship is strong and a number of alumni work for Coca-Cola and GSU students have worked at the company as interns. “This is exposure for them and for us,” he said. “This is an example of what a relationship looks like.u

Newman called Grambling State “a worthwhile commodity,” and said “we want to make sure that people understand that in the HBCU world there is no brand better.”

“So if someone is looking to make that investment, this is the place you want to be.”

Will Sutton contributed to this story.


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Duhon, a Grambling State grad and longtime educator and administrator,
leads arts and sciences

Stacey A. Duhon, the William McIntosh Endowed Professor in Liberal Arts, has been named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Grambling State University, effective July 1. Dr. Stacey A. Duhon, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

“Dr. Stacey Duhon has the academic background that supports competency in both the arts and the sciences,” said Ellen D. Smiley, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “She has a joint faculty appointment in the department of sociology and psychology as well as in the biological sciences department.”

“With the elimination of the associate dean’s position, this makes her an excellent choice and rare find. Her expertise as it relates to policies and procedures will make our largest college more efficient and effective.”

Duhon, native of Rayne, Louisiana, is a Grambling State graduate. During her junior year, while a biology major, Duhon experienced a pivotal point in her education and career when she was selected to participate in the Alcohol Drug Abuse Mental Health Administration–Minorities Access to Research Careers’ Program. The program turned into a summer internship opportunity at the University of Colorado at Boulder, followed by an acceptance to a doctoral program in psychology in which she earned the Ph.D.

She started as an assistant professor of psychology at Grambling State and has held a host of positions on campus, including acting associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, vice president for student affairs and acting vice president for advancement. In addition, Duhon has held the position of director for the National Institute of Mental Health’s Career Opportunity in Research Education and Training (COR) Honors Undergraduate Program at GSU, a program designed to introduce minority students to research careers and encourage them to enter graduate school.

An accomplished academic, Duhon has published a number of papers and she has written several successful grant proposals. Duhon is a tenured assistant professor of biology and psychology. She serves as coordinator for the department of sociology and psychology and she has served as vice president of the Grambling State University Faculty Senate.

“I am happy to serve the college as dean, and I look forward to working with faculty and staff to continue to improve our curriculum and programs to best serve our students,” said Duhon.


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.”