Monthly Archives: October 2015

COLLEGE SUCCESS? It Will Not Happen Without Purpose, Intentionality and Sacrifice.


Today, I feel like “fussing” while standing on my soapbox. I feel compelled to remind everyone that Grambling State University is a serious place, where learning and scholarship is and always should be everyone’s top priority. Yet, we have a number of students who directly and indirectly impact other students by not taking the enterprise of scholarship seriously. In this treatise, I want to appeal to our students to think with honor and integrity.

In a previous speech, I reluctantly identified three types of people in the world. My reference to the various personalities and people in the world was done to encourage our students to consider what’s happening in the world around us.

First, there are losers who will never do what is required to be successful in life. Their modus operandi, or “method of operation,” is to lie, cheat, steal and participate in any number of unscrupulous activities to get what they want. They simply will not do what is right. I trust we do not have any of those people at Grambling. If we do, please know that you are in the wrong place. Your way of life is not the Grambling way.

Second, there are the average people who have talent and ability, but do not fully utilize these skills. They are followers and are constantly waiting to be told what to do. Further, they do just enough to keep the status quo. They want acceptance, at almost any cost. The truly sad thing is that these people have all of the tools necessary to be extremely successful, but they continue to operate on the edge of mediocrity, complacency and acceptance of marginality.

Third, there are the winners who will not only do what is right, but go above and beyond. They get up earlier than others and stay up later than others to get the job done. In other words, you can always count on winners to help you advance and become the best you can be. They are creative and innovative and constantly looking for ways to improve themselves and others. I am confident that Grambling is ripe with these types of students and employees.

My goal is to always be as positive as I can. However, I recently learned that many of our students are not attending classes and completing their class assignments. In addition, few students are taking advantage of the university’s many career and professional-development activities. We have many talented alumni and industry leaders who take the time to share their valuable experiences with Grambling students, yet few students are seizing these opportunities. Going to college is a wonderful thing; it is a privilege that is not available to everyone. There is a world of unique opportunities for personal and professional growth at Grambling, the place where everybody is somebody, and everybody can become great. The opportunity for greatness is yours. Remember our history, our legacy and those who fought and died to give everyone in this great nation, state and institution a right to the best education. Your acceptance into Grambling proves that you have skills and ability.

It saddens me to no end to learn that some students are not fully utilizing their intellectual gifts. The real questions become: Why not use these gifts? Why have you come so far just to give up and do nothing? Where is the personal pride and respect for yourselves, your families and your position as a student of Grambling?

Never, ever lose hope. As Winston Churchill once said, “Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.” Too many brave and courageous people have worked too long and hard, fought and died, and made other tremendous sacrifices, including your families, for you to attend college at Grambling State University. So take advantage of all the opportunities that are available to you and pay back the people who sacrificed for you by becoming successful.

Finally, you and your families have invested a lot of time, money and energy on getting into college. Do not take that lightly. If you have borrowed money, you must pay it back. If you do not, it will damage your credit and make it more difficult to buy a house, car or other important purchases that you will need later on in life. And, if you’ve made bad grades and fail school, your poor academic records will make it difficult for you to be accepted into another university.

This is what you should do to be successful in your everyday life. Get up out of bed every single day, get dressed, go to class, pay attention, take notes, study, meet with your teachers, ask questions, get in study groups, go to the library and allow learning to consume you. Let it become part of you. If you do, I can almost guarantee that each and every student will pass their classes with little or no problems.

Keep in mind that life is hard. Do not help it become harder by not doing what you are supposed to do and what is expected of you. Let’s flip the script and make going to college a successful and positive experience. I dare you to change your life and become a SERIOUS student and make learning and obtaining a quality education a top priority.

With Great Enthusiasm,

Willie D. Larkin, President

“What If…”


By Willie D. Larkin, Ph.D.

Dear friends, colleagues, faculty, students, community and alumni,

As I reflect, deeply, on the many opportunities and challenges our venerable institution has endured over the past 114 years, I am left to ponder a number of immutable questions that give me pause to think, critically, on our legacy, present-day operations and future.

Join me on a journey of discovery and reflection as we ask age-old questions, “What if…?”

  1. What if, by all or most measures, Grambling State University was identified as America’s best university?
  2. What if administrators responded to all inquiries, questions, comments or complaints with the same zeal, tenacity and innovation as the best customer-service administrators nationally?
  3. What if faculty changed class-seating arrangements to make the learning environment more engaging, exciting and thrilling?
  4. What if Grambling had private-sector, sponsored and endowed Chairs, Directors and/or Scholars?
  5. What if faculty would write more research proposals to help increase indirect cost for Grambling?
  6. What if students participated in classroom discussions more openly, freely and with confidence?
  7. What if students felt comfortable to approach faculty and ask for mentorship?
  8. What if prospective students viewed Grambling as the University of Choice?
  9. What if all faculty and staff contributed to the Grambling State University foundation annually?
  10. What if all alumni starting giving $20 per month or $240 per year?
  11. What if more alumni volunteered on campus annually?
  12. What if greater numbers of alumni created fundraising campaigns through innovative projects?
  13. What if Grambling’s retention, progression and graduation rates increased 100 fold?
  14. What if faculty provided more hands-on mentorship to all students?
  15. What if businesses in the local and surrounding community partnered more with Grambling by donating materials, paints, landscaping and other resources to beautify the campus?
  16. What if the news media focused on Grambling State University’s positives more often?
  17. What if the State of Louisiana viewed Grambling State University as a vital asset?
  18. What if the State of Louisiana gave Grambling a competitive budget to eliminate some of the intractable infrastructure and financial challenges for the university?
  19. What if the city of Grambling were to transform their community to become even more appealing?
  20. What if Grambling State University could build new structures on campus, such as a brand new Student Support Services Building, a new library and new academic buildings?
  21. What if the community no longer had Grambling State University?
  22. What if Grambling State University no longer existed….?
  23. What if…? What if…?

Together, we all have the answers to the question of “What If?” Join me and let’s make a bold statement to the world. Grambling is here to stay.

Grambling Artists Take Home Prizes in Student Exhibition


GSU Student Art Exhibition PR Photo Fall 15

Destiny Tuesno won first place for her piece, “Sight”, in the 2015 GSU Student Exhibition.

The top artist in the Grambling State University 2015 Student Exhibition is Jared Monroe for his painting, “To Whom It May Concern.” The exhibition, which is sponsored by the Department of Visual and Performing Arts, is comprised of works by Grambling State University students to prepare them for the experience of exhibiting work.

Students submit works to be juried by the faculty each spring, and the exhibition hangs through the summer months. “This show gives students an introduction to the jury process that is common procedure for many group exhibitions and helps prepare them for the experience of exhibiting in off-campus venues,” said Donna McGee, director of Dunbar Gallery.

Monroe’s winning piece is currently on display in the Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) Art Showcase at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. Meanwhile, the artwork of Destiny Tuesno, a junior art major who won first place for her piece “Sight”, has been selected for the Juried Parish Press Exhibition.

“I feel like all my hard work has paid off,” Tuesno said. “I started not trying to perfect the things that I drew, but put in some random designs. I did not just use pencil and charcoal, but I utilized color and pieces of nature.”

Additional award winners include Joe Osborne, Second Place, “National Divinity”; Harmony Pearce, Third Place, “Harmony”; and Demetrius Love, Honorable Mention.

Service-Learning Project Seeks to Preserve African-American Cemeteries

Service-Learning Project Seeks to Preserve African-American Cemeteries PR Photo Fall 15

Professor Frances Staten (left) leads a service-learning project to replace flower vases at Grambling Memorial Gardens in honor of Grambling’s founders, Charles and Martha Adams.

Frances Staten, a professor of sociology and psychology, is leading a series of service-learning classes to preserve local African-American cemeteries. Sadly, the cemeteries that house the memories of the past are often forgotten. Without proper maintenance, grave markers are easily lost. Staten and her students are seeking to preserve Grambling’s cemetery, Grambling Memorial Gardens, through a continuing service-learning project entitled “Save Our African-American Cemeteries.”

In the current project, Staten and her class have fashioned flower vases out of Powerade bottles. The class is using the makeshift vases to replace vases and flowers that have been stolen from graves at Grambling Memorial Gardens.

Staten and her students delivered the vases and flowers to Grambling Memorial Gardens during Grambling’s Founder’s Week on Oct. 1. The visitors also took the time to clean and pay homage at the graves of Grambling’s founders, Charles and Martha Adams, since the service-learning project is dedicated to their memory.

Assisting the class is Jason Church, a materials conservator in the Materials Conservation Program at the National Park Services’ National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. A specialist in grave and cemetery preservation, Church believes it is especially important to preserve the history provided by older grave markers, some of which were handmade prior to the mass production of grave markers, before they are lost to time.

“We’ve lost the importance of homemade grave markers. Someone who knew that person and loved that person made them,” Church said. “It’s important to photograph these grave markers, so that future generations know where they are. As cemetery restorers, the next time we go, we realize that these markers might not be there.”

Kennedi Hildreth, a junior sociology major, was worried about working in a cemetery at first, but quickly saw the benefits of participating in Staten’s service-learning classes.

“I thought I would be standoffish about being in a cemetery, but it’s very interesting. You get to see all the old gravestones, and it’s a unique way to learn about the history of Grambling,” Hildreth said. “Last year, we went out and looked over the veterans in the cemetery, and we replaced the flags and flowers on Veteran’s Day. We have also taken a survey of dates to see who lived to be a centenarian, and we studied married couples. Usually, those who were married lived longer, but died not too long after their spouses. Now, we are trying to piece together the family history of Grambling’s founder, Charles P. Adams.”

Madden Named Reuters-National Association of Black Journalists Fellow


Justin Madden, GSU Alum, PR Photo Fall 15

Justin Madden

A 2013 graduate of Grambling State University has been chosen as one of six Reuters-National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Fellows. Justin Madden is currently the digital breaking news reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper in Kentucky. While attending Grambling, Madden served as editor-in-chief for The Gramblinite newspaper and president of Grambling’s NABJ chapter. Madden will join the Chicago bureau for Reuters, where he will focus on the agriculture commodities markets.

The program honors rising reporters, recent graduates or business professionals who demonstrate a clear commitment to a career in journalism and an ability to generate story ideas relevant for a Reuters audience, with a focus on multimedia, using text, video and/or graphics.

The paid fellowship program offers up to nine months of hands-on, real-world experience in a Reuters bureau. The fellowship, open to members of the NABJ, is part of the Reuters News Trainee Program, during which participants gain a deep grounding in financial and/or general news reporting, work on fast-paced news stories and develop skills in enterprise journalism.

“The Reuters-NABJ Fellowship is an awesome opportunity for both emerging and veteran journalists to work inside one of the world’s most influential media companies,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover. “From Dakar to Chicago, these fellows will be contributing to a cutting edge news operation, shooting video and reporting the big stories happening across the globe. This NABJ and Reuters partnership will produce great journalism online, in print and on-air. I’m ecstatic about the possibilities for NABJ members at Reuters.”

Madden has won a Kentucky Press Association Award for a hotel explosion in 2014 and anchored a team of reporters that won a McClatchy President’s Award for their aggressive coverage of the NCAA Championship celebrations that showed fans burning couches, fighting and police shooting rubber bullets. He has worked with WKYT-TV, the newspaper’s reporting partner, on stories focused on suicide, heroin and babies born addicted. Madden has interned at Black Entertainment Television (BET) and Columbia Broadcasting Systems (CBS) on the hit show ‘Criminal Minds.’

Over 2,200 Students Attend High School Day

 High School Day Fall 2015 PR Photo

Grambling State University hosted more than 2,200 future Tigers from 32 schools for High School Day on Oct. 10, a significant increase over the 900 students who participated in 2014. The day’s theme was “A Carnival in Tiger Land.”

“The theme was chosen because we wanted to do something innovative and fun for the students. We wanted to capture their attention,” said LaTari Fleming, director of Admissions. “I want to give props to the Admissions staff who worked very hard to bring the carnival theme to life. This year’s High School Day was a day to remember, full of memories, fun and excitement!”

High School Day attendees went on a campus tour and browsed through information on Grambling’s academic programs, student organizations and extracurricular activities. Next, they attended a program with speeches from President Willie Larkin, student leaders and performances by the Orchesis Dance Company, Black Dynasty Modeling Troupe, cheerleaders and the World Famed Tiger Marching Band. Finally, the students attended a carnival with lunch provided by Aramark and the exciting football game against Alabama State, where the Tigers earned their fourth-straight win.

“I just wanted to take a minute to say how thrilled my players and I were at High School Day,” said Johnny Simmons, basketball coach at Union Parish High School. “Your admissions staff did an incredible job of making us feel wanted and conveying the Grambling message. I don’t think the guys had one dull moment from beginning to the end. One thing for sure, you’re putting the giddy-up back in the ‘G.’ Thanks for a wonderful day!”

Click here for Fall 2015 High School Day Photo Gallery:

Grambling State Alum Tells Amazing Story Through First Book


Diseree Smith, GSU Alum/Author PR Photo Fall 15

Diseree Smith

Diseree Smith, a 2007 graduate of Grambling State University, has finally accomplished her childhood goal of becoming an author, as she published her first book entitled “Beautiful Like a Flower.”

“Becoming an author was always a secret aspiration of mine,” Smith said. “My teacher, Ms. Miles (now deceased), was a big inspiration to me. She brought in a poet to our class who had published her book. Her name was Vera Chitty, and she was an African American. I was so impressed! She looked like me!”

The journey began for the Chicago native when she was entering middle school. She said that reading has always made her happy, and writing has always made her feel free. Smith’s seventh-grade teacher, Mrs. Jackson, knew she had a special gift and continued to challenge her.

“Mrs. Jackson would pick my books for me because she said that the ones I selected didn’t challenge me,” Smith said. “One of the first books that she selected for me was ‘Mama Day’ by Gloria Naylor. It was then that I was introduced to thick plots and multiple points of view in one book.”

“Beautiful Like a Flower” is Smith’s life story told through a character she created named Serenity. The story is a true story about a young woman living on the South Side of Chicago who was surrounded by promiscuity, drugs, peer pressure and low self-esteem.

“I decided to write the story about Serenity, because I know there are both males and females that have been born into less than ideal situations and family dynamics,” Smith said. “No one chooses their families, but your future can be decided.”

In the book, Serenity believed she had eluded the ghosts of her childhood, but quickly realized the unresolved issues followed her to Grambling State University, where she hoped to begin a new life.

“My ideas for the book originated from my life story, the story of my neighbors, and the stories of my community,” she said. “These are not mere ideas. They are the stories of our sisters, our cousins and our friends.”

Smith’s passion is to inspire girls to become strong women who can make their own choices and do not give into peer pressure.

“I want people to know that no matter your circumstance, you can make it,” she said. “You can become your greatest self, because everything you need has already been placed on the inside of you.”

For more information, visit

Grambling Students Raise Awareness for Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence

Balloon Release Breast Cancer Awareness PR Photo

Kyla Nelson will always remember Sister Felicia Williams, her youth pastor from Mesquite, Texas, who passed away from breast cancer last year, as a source of inspiration.

“I really miss her, and I am still thinking about her,” said Nelson, a freshmen Student Government Association (SGA) senator. “I think events like this really unify the community. I support everyone who is dealing with domestic violence and my friends and family who have been affected by breast cancer.”

Nelson, along with dozens of people from Grambling State University and Grambling Laboratory High School, released pink and purple balloons on Oct. 1 in honor of loved ones affected by breast cancer and domestic violence.

“The pink and purple sendoff was to bring awareness to domestic violence and breast cancer,” said Sophomore Class President Adarian Williams, who started the event in 2014. “We had people write on balloons to people who had experienced breast cancer or domestic violence. We had faculty, staff and students come out and share their stories. Throughout these stories, we can see how people survived domestic violence and breast cancer. Anything that you go through in life, you can survive.”

Students from 4-H, Future Business Leaders of America and the Student Council at Grambling Laboratory High School also participated in the event. Barbara Gauldan, a science teacher who released a balloon for her mother, Helen Gauldan, said the high school students have been participating in a number of events to raise awareness for breast cancer, including a competition to see which class can raise the most money during the month of October for the American Cancer Society.

The WOW Factor at Grambling State University


Grambling State University Letterhead
Office of the President

On Saturday, October 10, 2015, I received an early birthday present by welcoming 2,200 incredible students to High School Day at Grambling State University. The event was a mind-blowing experience to see so many high-quality, high-character students join our family as they shared their plan to join Grambling as future students. Our goal from day one has been to open up the floodgates and attract more students with high aspirations and achievements, and to expand the pipeline for an emerging cohort of new student entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, counselors, practitioners, educators, doctors, lawyers and leaders.

As I started my day early at Grambling, I knew the sun would be shining! As I walked to the end of the driveway to pick up the morning newspaper, I stood smiling as I saw a motorcade of buses roaring onto our beautiful campus. I thought, “WOW.” We have on our campus the embodiment of excellence! Grambling’s very lifeblood is our innovative and impassioned ability to retain and attract our current students and cohorts of new students wanting to become a “G.”

In thinking about this important event, it would not be possible without the dedication and commitment of our staff at Grambling State University. Many people deserve credit, but let me start by thanking Mr. LaTari Fleming and Mrs. Patricia Jenkins-Hutcherson and their staff. I am also grateful to our Student Government Association leadership and the many students who stepped up to the plate and poured their energy and talent into this day of wonderment.

The pageantry was fabulous with unique colors, sounds and awesome displays of unique talent by many. While the names and faces are etched in my memories, I am humbled by their professionalism and esprit de corps. As the band played, they were accompanied by our cheerleaders, the Orchesis dancers, Miss Grambling and the Royal Court, representation from academic departments, and a host of other important offices, divisions and units that embody this great and venerable institution.

After a number of speakers, songs, performances and insightful information about the many academic offerings at the university, it was onto Eddie G. Robinson Stadium for some exciting football action. The Grambling G-Men won their fourth-straight SWAC Conference football game en route to what we hope to be another SWAC Conference Championship.

At the conclusion of the day, ALL had a marvelous time, and the entire university family impressed some wonderful high school students. Etched in their memories is the feel, impression and embrace that only Grambling State University, “Where Everybody is Somebody,” can provide – a clear focus on their goals, dreams and ambitions as they return home with Grambling on their minds.

Again, thanks to our alumni for working so hard, and thanks to our future Gramblinites who will help us rejuvenate and reinvigorate our beloved university. The “GramFam” looks forward to seeing all of these students in the fall. May God bless Grambling State University and all who enter its hallowed grounds.


Willie D. Larkin, Ph.D.


“ONE GRAMBLING: Honoring History, Keeping Promises and Fulfilling Dreams.”




Willie D. Larkin, Ph.D.

Our venerable institution is alive, strong and doing well, and we will continue to grow stronger in the days to come. Ignore those who speak ill of Grambling State University. Ignore those who say ours is “just another HBCU” on its way to extinction. HBCUs and GSU are neither dead nor dying. We will not move over. We will not step aside. We will not give up. We will make progress. We will survive. We will thrive. Grambling State’s best years are ahead.

Higher education is central to individual and community success, and we must continue to see it as a central element for our young people and those seeking to get ahead. Education must be at the core for those pursuing achievement. But consider higher education a sinking ship for a moment. History has taught us that as a ship begins to take on water, the least valuable resources get thrown overboard. Let me not mince words, without more, stronger support, higher education is taking on water and the ship is starting to sink. Those unfamiliar with HBCUs and some who do not know our phenomenal institution might wish to see us as a resource not worth saving. Some of them suggest merger, or even closing, as a means to save the higher education ship. The problem is not with HBCUs and GSU. The problem is that we lack significant support. We are culturally and intellectually rich resources.

Year after year, it is reported that many Americans are becoming less committed to and less confident about the relevance and importance of colleges and universities. There is a decreasing knowledge and understanding of the worth of HBCUs. Some of this is our fault as academics, educators. Too many of us sit in ivory towers removed from the root causes of decreasing support for higher education, especially federal and states support and also including faculty, staff and alumni support. As state funding of public HBCU continues to be shaky or decreases, we are allowing elected officials to escape with little pain as our students and their families absorb rising tuition, fees and other costs. Students and their families feel the pain as those who should be responsible for supporting this public good shrink from their responsibilities.

Nationally, there has been a shift in higher education. States are spending 28 percent less per student on higher education. Even in our own beautiful state of Louisiana, proposals have been made for the 2016 budget to be cut by $141 million, an amount that will likely devastate the state economy and certainly hurt higher education. None of our state universities can afford additional funding cuts.

There is a clear difference between the “public good versus private good.” Higher education helps individuals improve their stations in life and helps families build on previous generations’ socio-economic status. This is true across the board for people of all ethnicities, races and cultural backgrounds, but it is especially true for African American families and communities.

HBCUs like Grambling State rely on wit, ingenuity, creativity and generosity to thrive, prosper and stay afloat. As government funding shrinks, it is important that we make the most of the resources we have as we do our best on campus and show others off campus that we can make a convincing and compelling case about our value, importance, and raison d’être, our reason for existence.

HBCUs like GSU know how to help the under-resourced in our communities, students with K-12 educations that may not have best prepared them for higher education and those with challenging family situations. No institution knows better how to sow a seed in dry soil to cultivate the planting and bring forth a rich life. Historically, HBCUs have been a vital, essential part of the American agricultural landscape.

For resourceful HBCUs like GSU, working hard to weather financial storms is part of what we do, so we make difficult decisions, and we call on our alumni, faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders to continue to work on our behalf by triggering a resurgence of federal and state support based, in large part, on a value-added proposition that we offer to Louisiana and the United States.

Grambling State University has a strong legacy, a rich heritage and wonderful traditions. However, it is the intellectual strength that will ensure our future. Grambling State University is well poised in Louisiana to be uniquely positioned to establish a stronghold as a leading land-grant institution with a value-added specialization focusing on agricultural training from the perspective of the African diaspora. This unique niche would allow us to be a regional and state partner in the world food industry. No land-grant institution in the U.S. has a core mission to help teach the world about agriculture from an African diaspora perspective, but Grambling does.

Meanwhile, as president of this iconic jewel, I promise you that we will not go gently into the night, we will not become a statistic, and we will not let our future generations down. We will do the job that needs to be done. We will prove that, like many HBCUs, we deserve to survive and thrive.