Grambling State Student Overcomes Paralysis to Walk Across Graduation Stage December 13, 2019

Graduation Candidate Arhonda Smith Shares Her Story of Overcoming a Stroke While Earning Her Degree 

GRAMBLING, La. – December 12, 2019 – Grambling State criminal justice major, Arhonda Smith knew something wasn’t right when she suddenly couldn’t walk without staggering the morning of December 3, 2018. After receiving emergency medical attention, Smith learned she had had a stroke, lost the use of her right arm, and was warned that she would never walk again.

I prayed and asked God to deliver me,” said Smith, who was at the time scheduled to graduate in May 2019. “I heard Him say, ‘Snap out of it. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  

After being airlifted to Shreveport for 17 days of intensive treatment, then transferred to Glenwood where she could only eat through a feeding tube for several weeks, Smith experienced a breakthrough. 

Smith was no longer using a wheelchair by February 2019. She was determined to complete her criminal justice coursework and graduate with her Bachelor’s degree. Smith recalls the support of her professors as she worked to regain full mobility of her right arm using only her left hand to type and complete assignments.  

“All of my professors including Dr. Singh, Dr. Conley, Dr. Thomason and Dr. Threadcraft were very understanding and supportive,” said Smith, “Dr. Threadcraft said that she wished all students in the class were like me because I always turned my work in early.” 

Criminal Justice is one of the University’s leading programs and Grambling State is a top state-wide producer of African American graduates in the field. With continued improvement in her health, Smith hopes to use her education to open a Safe House for Women after obtaining her degree. 

“I would encourage anyone who is going through hard times to stay positive, stay strong, have faith,” said Smith.  

Smith will join more than 360 Grambling State University graduates who will collect their diploma Friday, December 13 at 10 a.m. in the Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center. 

Media is invited to RSVP to Grambling State University’s Fall Commencement exercises by emailing

Grambling State University Names Two Valedictorians for the Class of Fall 2019

Tionna Baker and Mustapha Yoosuf-Akinlaja to Receive Highest Honors at December 13 Commencement 

GRAMBLING, La. – December 12, 2019 – Grambling State University is proud to announce the position of highest GPA for the Fall 2019 graduating class is held by two students, Tionna L. Baker and Mustapha Yoosuf-Akinlaja. The two will be honored as top graduates during fall commencement exercises at 10 a.m. Friday, December 13, 2019, in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly. 

About Tionna L. Baker

Tionna L. Baker, a social work major from Smackover, Arkansas. After graduation, Baker will join the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services and return to Grambling State in the master’s in social work program.

“From the moment I walked on to campus as a transfer student seeking to find a new school, I knew Grambling would be more of a home,” said Baker.

About Mustapha Yoosuf-Akinlaja 

Mustapha Yoosuf-Akinlaja, a criminal justice major from Lagos, Nigeria. Yoosuf-Akinlaja plans to attend law
school after matriculating at Grambling State; he has already been accepted into three prestigious law programs.
Yoosuf-Akinlaja plans “to give back to the Grambling community by serving as a valuable resource for past, current and future Gramblinites.”

About Fall 2019 Commencement

Both valedictorians are first-generation college graduates who will finish with a 3.98 grade point average. Baker and Yoosuf-Akinlaja will be honored for their outstanding academic performances during Friday’s Fall commencement exercises.

Related articles: 

Shreveport Mayor, Adrian Perkins, To Address Grambling State Fall Graduates 

Grambling State University Fall 2019 Commencement Information 

For more information, please contact or call (318) 274-2866.

Grambling State Wins Bayou Classic BizTech Challenge for the Second Consecutive Year

IMG_7357Student Team Develops App Concept for $7,500 Prize in Technology Business Model Competition 

GRAMBLING, La – December 3, 2019 – Three Grambling State students took home $7,500 cash prize at the 2019 Bayou Classic BizTech Challenge, a competition presented by Louisiana Economic Development. The competition give students the opportunity to present a technology-based business plan and receive mentorship from industry leaders and win funding for their idea.  

“Participating in the challenge for a second year was even more enriching than the first,” said Glossom, senior computer science major. “It’s amazing to have our business model receive this level of support and to learn the ins and outs of pitching the idea for stakeholders.”  

With the help of their coach, Dr. Sreekumari, the Grambling State team’s pitch won against two teams from Southern University, one team from Southern Law, and one team from Xavier University. 

IMG_7334Team members Cameron Jackson (first time participant), Gary White (second consecutive win), and Nakiaus Glosson (second consecutive win) developed a business model for a mobile application that alerts monitors homeowners of structural risks and damages in real time. The app is called MiEye and is designed to take the guesswork out of ensuring home safety.  

“I had a blast developing the business model and app concept to save people’s homes and generate revenue for insurance companies,” said White. “Winning the competition for a second time really validates that I’m on the right track for a promising career thanks to Grambling State and LED.” 

The top five teams were invited to pitch their business and technology solutions live before a panel of judges at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans. Grambling State’s winning team caught the attention of representatives from sponsors and recruiters from industry leaders such as American Airlines and the CIA. 

“We’re extremely proud of our students’ ingenuity and hard work,” said President Rick Gallot. “Their successes in these competitions prove that innovation starts the day our students step foot on campus. Their bright ideas from the classroom aren’t just thoughts, but viable business concepts that can change the world.”  

Additional sponsors of the event included American Airlines, ExxonMobil, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, AT&T and Delta Regional Authority. 

“I’m excited by the prospect of making our mark in the industry with all the skills and tools we’ve learned from the competition, said Jackson, junior Computer Science major. “This experience is proof that there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.”

For interviews and more information about the Bayou Classic BizTech Challenge, please contact or call 318-243-5012. 

About the BizTech Challenge 

The BizTech Challenge, presented by Louisiana Economic Development, is an educational and interactive program that teaches currently enrolled undergraduate or graduate students how to apply what they’re learning inside the classroom to solve real-world problems. With the end user in mind, student teams are charged with designing a technology that solves a problem in the marketplace and creating a successful business model around that technology. Team members have the opportunity to interact with industry professionals and business owners, which can potentially lead to internship and employment opportunities. 

Grambling State Appoints Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost

waltonheadshotBoard Approves Dr. Connie Walton to Lead Accreditation and More as the University’s Academic Leader 

GRAMBLING, La. – December 9, 2019 – Following a national search, Grambling State University has announced that Interim Provost Dr. Connie Walton has been appointed to the role of Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost.  Continue reading

Grambling State Partnership with Edward VIA Offers Fast Track to Doctor of Osteopathy

High Achieving Minority Students DSC_5010to Enter Med School as Sophomore Rocovich Scholars

GRAMBLING, La – December 10, 2019 – Today, Grambling State University announced the signing of a memorandum of under
standing (MOU) with Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) ensuring future opportunities for minority students to advance in the medical field. 

  Continue reading

Grambling State University Fall 2019 Commencement Information

GRAMBLING, LA – Grambling State University, a National leading producer of African-American Computer Science graduates, will celebrate its Fall 2019 Commencement Ceremonies Friday, December 13, 2019 at 10 a.m. in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.

Commencement will be keynoted by Shreveport’s Mayor, Adrian Perkins. Members of the media are encouraged to RSVP to to attend.


WHO:             Grambling State University
WHAT:           Fall 2019 Commencement
WHEN:           Friday, December 13, 2019 at 10 a.m.
WHERE:         Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center, Grambling, LA

Visitor information is available at

For interviews and more information, please contact or call (318) 243-5012.

Grambling State Announces $6.65 Million Three-Year Fundraising Campaign Total

Bring It Home Campaign Generates Millions Toward Student and University Advancement 

GRAMBLING, La – December 3, 2019 – Grambling State University has completed one of the largest fundraising campaigns in the institution’s history with $6,655,435 raised over the course of three years. Generous portions of the sum were donated by alumni and major donors such as the University’s new dining partner, SodexoMAGIC.

“The success of the campaign is a representation of the outpouring of support from the community,” said David Aubrey, chairman of the Grambling University Foundation. “Donors have made it clear that they believe in the University leadership and larger vision for Grambling State University and are dedicated to ensuring the best outcomes for our students.”  

Funds will support institutional programming and student scholarships. The campaign targeted Grambling State community and alumni with an annual goal of raising $1 million. The yearly breakdown of campaign results includes: 

  • $1.2 million in 2017, 
  • $1.4 million in 2018, and 
  • $4 million in 2019 including a $2 million investment from SodexoMAGIC and 1.2 million in scholarship grants. 

Funding the Future of North Louisiana Higher Education  
With a $1 million per year goal, the Bring It Home campaign was a bold declaration of the institution’s direction from the outset. With the 2019 groundbreaking of Louisiana’s first Digital Library & Learning Commons, a distinction for a Center of Academic Excellence in Mathematical Achievement for Science and Technology and the possibility of Louisiana’s first bachelor’s degree in cloud computing on the horizon, funding is more urgent now than at any point in Grambling State’s history.  

“The pace of our growth in recent years is unprecedented, and our supporters are dedicated to making sure it continues,” said Grambling State President, Rick Gallot. “As our community continues to experience the University’s advancement, we will continue to see tangible evidence of their support for our students.” 

During the campaign’s second year, the University also gained approval to launch the state’s first 4-year cybersecurity degree program, which accepted its first cohort in Fall 2019. Funds from the Bring It Home campaign will help secure needed resources to augment the program. 

Grambling State Grads Give Back 

The University generated an unprecedented 150% increase in alumni participation and totaled over 5,700 gifts over the course of the campaign. University Vice President of Advancement Marc Newman credits the hard work of University staff for the effort to drive donor engagement. 

“Since Bring It Home began, we’ve garnered support from across the campus and across the nation,” said Newman. “The campaign was truly a University-wide initiative with stakeholders and affinity groups from across the spectrum participating.  We are excited about the number of first-time donors and gaining support from those who haven’t taken advantage of giving opportunities in years. The future of philanthropy at Grambling is very bright.” 

Newman spearheaded the Bring It Home campaign, leading the University Office of Advancement’s strategic donor engagement initiatives throughout the three-year charge.  

“Because the of the University’s family-like culture, our alumni are lifelong partners of the institution.” Newman added, “It’s no surprise that they were substantial contributors year after year.” 

Powered by Partners 

Along with alumni, sponsors and partners of the University made significant contributions to the institutions growing list of programs. Telecommunications giant AT&T and technology trailblazer IBM are among the list of investors in student success in computer science fields. In September, SodexoMAGIC gave the largest unrestricted donation of the campaign, $2 million, to be allocated to the University’s new STEM Grambling initiative, student gap scholarships, campus infrastructure upgrades and more.  

Student Financial Support 
From its start in 2017, the Bring It Home campaign has provided more than $1 million in direct support for students in need to include the establishment of 60 new scholarships and endowments.  Funding has impacted the balances of hundreds of students through a variety of scholarships including GAP, which is designed solely to support students in reaching the academic finish line. 

Research, Grants & Internships 
To date, Grambling State’s Bring it Home campaign has helped bring more than $1.2 million in grants. Those contributions help fund research, scholarships and cutting-edge programs. 

“The support we have gained through Bring It Home goes deeper than donations,” said Martin Lemelle, Grambling State’s Executive Vice President. “Powerful conversations around investment lead to a variety of possibilities for our students including research grants, unique internships and new networking opportunities with industry leaders.” 

GramTalks, a product of the Bring It Home campaign, are a budding addition to the University’s calendar in which Grambling State students have a forum-style conversation with top executives of the world’s leading organizations. The first of the series featured AT&T’s President of Public Sector and Wholesale Solutions, Xavier Williams. 

Closing Out the Campaign 

The three-year campaign ended with a cocktail and “kicks” ball in New Orleans where attendees dined and donated while mingling with celebrity supporters. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, CEO of SodexoMAGIC, opened the night by encouraging attendees to continue their trajectory of giving. Beacon Award were presented to honorary alumni including rapper E-40 and Dallas Chief of Police Renee Hall before performances by international recording artist Musiq Soulchild and Louisiana music legend, DJ Jubilee. A live online auction allowed non-attendees to participate in the final night of giving leading up to the announcement of the $6,655,435 three-year total. 

“It’s outstanding what we can accomplish with a clear vision and dedicated support,” said Newman. 

Ongoing University Support 

The Office of Advancement and the Grambling University Foundation are always accepting planned gifts, donations, and endowments. The next big push for support comes on December 3, Giving Tuesday, a worldwide charity support holiday. Donors are encouraged to visit to support the University on Giving Tuesday.