Author Archives: Bobbie Handcock

Grambling State University Enters into Partnership with ProTrain, a Leader in Continuing Education 

Left to right: Dr. Rory Bedford, Michelle Hopwood and Miloni Perera

GRAMBLING, La – October 14, 2021 – Grambling State University’s Office of Continuing Education and Service-Learning has partnered with ProTrain, a leader in continuing education to bring quality training to GSU students and the community that meets national, regional, and local requirements leading to careers in high demand fields. Served industries include: healthcare; information technology; business and leadership; and industrial and skilled trades. Course offerings are ideal for both career entry and career advancement opportunities.

The partnership offers various programs for individuals, corporate, and government including Military Tuition Assistance (TA), Military Spouses Scholarship (MyCAA), Wounded Warriors, Veterans, Vocational Rehabilitation, and those that are Unemployed or Underemployed (WIOA).  While all persons who desire to retool or enhance their current educational skills can take advantage of the resources available through the Office of Continuing Education and Service-Learning, the ProTrain agreement provides special opportunities and financial assistance for the military community.

“ProTrain is proud to serve our military and their families in helping them achieve their educational goals,” said ProTrain Chief Operating Officer Kevin M. Smith, a retired U.S. Army colonel.

The partnership also provides an affordable solution for students seeking in-demand careers.

“When we began working on this agreement, we wanted to make sure that we could meet the needs of both the community and the student body as it relates to career readiness,” said Dr. Rory Bedford, director of Continuing Education and Service-Learning. “We are excited that our partnership with ProTrain expands our course offerings towards our goal.”

He said that participants will be able to retool and gain important training to enhance and further their careers in an online format. In addition, students can earn a degree and add certifications that place them in a position to be more marketable than those who do not have certifications.

“When we approached Dr. Connie Walton, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, she worked in concert with us to make sure that the courses and agreement met guidelines provided by the University of Louisiana System,” Bedford said. “President Rick Gallot and the University of Louisiana System recognized the value of the partnership and approved the agreement.”

ProTrain Chief Executive Officer Betty L. Gardner said that education is the key to our future.

“It is the one gift that we can give ourselves that neither the economy nor other forces can take from us,” she said. “Our communities and society continue to benefit from the quality education with which we reward ourselves. ProTrain provides the real-world employer with relevant, highly sought after, training for real people. Education is the bridge to your future.”

Over the past month, Bedford, Miloni Perera, Michelle Hopwood, and others have been meeting with representatives from ProTrain to receive training to launch the program. It officially launched on the GSU website on October 1, 2021.  Access to course information and payment methods are available at https://gram.theknowledgebase.org/  or email hopwoodm@gram.edu or pereram@gram.edu.  For additional information, please call 318-274-2553 or 318-274-2118.

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university that was founded in 1901. The institution has been accredited by SACSCOC, 13 associations, and in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. A member of the University of Louisiana System, Grambling State University has the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college. Offering 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs, the 590-acre campus is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life that enable our scholars to grow and learn in a positive environment. For more information, visit gram.edu.

BMF producer/writer Randy Huggins among alumni to be featured at entertainment panel Oct. 14

Other panelists include Atlanta film/entertainment director & GSU student filmmaker

Randy Huggins

Randy Huggins

GRAMBLING, La. – October 13, 2021 – Among this week’s homecoming events at Grambling State University is an intriguing panel which promises an insider’s look into the entertainment industry. The October 14 GramFam Lights, Camera, Action Entertainment Panel will be held at 2 p.m. in the Nursing Building Auditorium.

The event will feature GSU alumni including executive producer/creator/writer Randy Huggins (BMF on STARZ),  current GSU student Kayla Sullers (Power Book IV on STARZ) and actress Angela Davis (P-Valley on STARZ) The panel will be hosted by GSU alumna Cardellia Hunter, director of film and entertainment for the city of Atlanta.

The theme for this year’s homecoming is “Homecoming 2021: Unapologetically ____ – A Homecoming Your Way”. Panelists are expected to discuss how they pursued their entertainment careers their way.

Randy Huggins is the creator, writer and showrunner of the upcoming STARZ’s drama “BMF,” and an executive producer along with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. Huggins was a consulting producer on “Power Book II: Ghost” and spent the two seasons on the FOX drama, “Star.” He also served as a consulting producer on BET’s “The Quad” and was the showrunner of BET’s “Rebel,” which he executive produced with John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood).

Huggins also wrote on the first three seasons of the STARZ hit drama “Power “and later served as the show’s co-executive producer. He launched his writing career on FX’s police drama “The Shield,” where he served as the writers’ assistant for four seasons and earned a “story by” credit for the episode titled, “Cutthroat.” That same year, he joined the writing staff of “The Unit” and went on to become the executive story editor on STARZ’s first scripted drama, “Crash.” Then, he became a co-producer on NBC’s medical drama, “Trauma.” Huggins also served as a producer on ”Criminal Minds” and wrote three episodes.

Born and raised in Detroit, Huggins received a bachelor’s degree in history from GSU. He worked as a fifth-grade teacher in Detroit before relocating to Los Angeles.

Cardellia Hunter,

Cardellia Hunter,

Hunter is a 15-year entertainment industry veteran with experience in music, television and film production. As the director of film and entertainment for the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office, she serves as the liaison to the state film office and collaborates with other city stakeholders on film and workforce development initiatives.

Some of Hunter’s favorite films that she has worked with include the Fast & Furious franchise, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Baby Driver. She has received numerous accolades from her peers, including the Locations Manager Guild International Award for her work on the film Baby Driver.

Kayla Sullers

Kayla Sullers

Hunter was acknowledged with an award by her alma mater Grambling State University, Office of Alumni Affairs as a 2019 GramFam Influencer. She graduated from GSU with a bachelor’s degree in marketing.

Kayla Sullers is a native of Chicago and a rising senior at GSU majoring in mass communication with a minor in marketing. Her work as a filmmaker has been recognized by the Chicago International Film Festival’s CineYouth, Museum of Science & Industry’s Black Art Exhibition, and many more publications. She’s worked on the sets of Empire, Candy Man 2021, Snowfall, Power Book FORCE, and others.

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university that was founded in 1901. The institution has been accredited by SACSCOC, 13 associations, and in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. A member of the University of Louisiana System, Grambling State University has the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college. Offering 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs, the 590-acre campus is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life that enable our scholars to grow and learn in a positive environment. For more information, visit gram.edu.

 

GSU and Coca-Cola celebrate 100 years

by Jessieca Carr | Ruston Daily Leader

GRAMBLING, La. –  October 13, 2021 – There are very few times when two entities can remain together for a century. However, in the case of business partnerships, it is truly a testament to dedication when two institutions can join forces to improve the lives of many generations. Grambling State University and Coca-Cola have pulled off that feat.

“To know that at the sunset of this partnership will mark almost 100 years, that says something,” said Tisha Arnold, university director of communications for GSU.

“How many times can you say that an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) has partnered with an organization like Coca-Cola for nearly a century?”

The 120-year-old university and the popular beverage company started their partnership when the Biedenharn family founded the Monroe Bottling Company. The company began in 1912 and was owned and operated by the Biedenharn family, UNITED Coca-Cola bought the company. Somewhere in the transition from the company’s inception to 1920 when the soda drink enterprise took over, Grambling State became a major partner.

“You just do not get the gratitude that comes from Grambling at other places,” said Keith Biedenharn, Sales Center Manager for The Coca-Cola Company. “I want to thank Grambling for that. I want to thank Coca-Cola team in Atlanta, North America and Michael and his team for putting this together. It was a lot of work behind the scenes. Investing in Grambling is an investment in the kids, staff, school, and brand. It is also an investment in the future.”

The partnership has been beneficial to GSU as it has been able to provide opportunities for students to obtain internships, job opportunities, and support for the university’s 13 intercollegiate athletic programs. Inaugural Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Trayveon Scott spoke about how the partnership has paid dividends to the student-athletes and his department. He also talked about the help and dedication that the university has received from Michael Braxton, senior manager for Multicultural Marketing/HBCU at The Coca-Cola Company.

“I’m very excited and privileged to thank Coke for all of your efforts and commitment, not only to Grambling State University as an institution but Grambling State University athletics,” said Scott. “Mr. Braxton’s commitment to branding that Coca-Cola emblem and that ‘G’ is something that I appreciate thoroughly in our relationship.”

After he was introduced, Braxton said the beverage behemoth was happy to be continuing its partnership with the storied institution.
He also said they were excited about the things that were going to be happening soon as the partners begin to make more plans. Student Government Association President Cameron T. Jackson shed light on the academic and material benefits that the campus gained because of the partnership. Jackson said Grambling students loved the products, and it was one of the biggest things that the student body took pride in.

“We just had our new Coke facilities that were built on behalf of athletics,” said Jackson. “Building that speak numbers and that really puts so much energy into our students and our student body.”

Gallot said GSU’s relationship with Coca-Cola is extremely meaningful.

GSU Professor, Students Involved in Research to Study, Monitor Coronavirus in Southern U.S.

Outreach event “Health Starts at Home” will be held today, 9 a.m.- 1 p.m. in Nursing Building

GRAMBLING, La. – Oct. 13, 2021 – Dr. Paul Kim, an associate professor of biological sciences at Grambling State University, is on the frontline of research related to the coronavirus and its impact on underserved communities.

“We’re working on two projects to respond to COVID-19,” he said, explaining that one focuses on tracking disease through wastewater from sewer systems while the other involves sequencing the virus to better understand how it evolves and spreads.

Two undergraduate students are assisting with the work while faculty from the School of Social Work are helping with outreach. The first outreach event is the “Health Starts at Home” forum that will be held today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Nursing Building.

The Research

The first project, which began in April 2021, involves monitoring the level of coronavirus in wastewater to get a sense of how much COVID-19 is in the community. The second project involves a collaboration with LSU Health Shreveport and Louisiana Tech to form one of the four Rockefeller Regional Accelerators for Genomic Surveillance.

Genomic sequencing allows health officials and scientists to study prolonged outbreaks, understand behaviors that spread COVID-19, and map coronavirus clusters.

The other regional accelerators are the Broad Institute of MIT/Harvard, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Florida/Central Florida.

“As we’ve all seen with Delta, the coronavirus mutates and can create variants that pose a risk to public health,” Kim said. “By sequencing the genome of viruses collected from patients, we have a chance to detect the next variant as it emerges, before it spreads out of control. “

The goal of the accelerator is to increase sequencing volume and representation in the southern U.S. because these states tend to lag behind other regions in viral sequencing, Kim explained.

“We believe that the same factors driving other health disparities are at work here which is why we’re focused on equitable sequencing,” he said.

The Findings

“We find very low levels of SARS-CoV-2 in the city of Grambling wastewater,” Kim said. “Often the level is below our limit of detection.”

This was also the case at GSU during the summer when few students were on campus. However, since the start of the fall semester, there has been an increase and this increase correlates with the number of cases in the student health center.

“Over the past two weeks, we’re seeing a decline in viral load that mirrors the decline in cases in Louisiana and throughout the U.S. – with the exception of a few states,” Kim said. “We have partnered with free clinics and campus clinics to sequence SARS-CoV-2 from their patient specimens and to share that genomic data with researchers through a database called GISAID EpiCoV.”

The result has been more data that can be used to monitor the coronavirus.

“As of today, there are 112 viral sequences from Lincoln Parish shared on GISAID since the start of the pandemic. Our group is responsible for 93 of those,” he said. “That’s significant considering that we started in late July 2021. Most of those sequences are from the LSUHS Emerging Viral Threat lab but recently GSU started sequencing the coronavirus in my lab and we now have sequences from 18 specimens uploaded to EpiCoV.”

The Importance of the Work

“Wastewater-based epidemiology may be a useful tool for tracking infectious disease, particularly COVID-19 because many cases are asymptomatic or so mild as to go unreported.” Kim said.  “It’s data that our campus administration can use to make informed decisions.”

He said that “sequencing the virus helps us to understand the disease, how it evolves, and spreads. Our work helps ensure that the virus is being sequenced from a population that reflects the ethnic and geographic diversity of the U.S.”

Mathematical models have estimated that scientists need to sequence 5% of positive cases to detect an emerging variant early.

“Before our work, only 0.43% of cases were being sequenced in Lincoln Parish,” Kim said. “Now it’s approximately 5.2%. We’ve accomplished this through a grassroots effort involving free clinics and small university clinics and labs with a modest budget. We think that this can serve as a model for other communities to start their own genomic surveillance programs.”

He said a major motivation for him is to involve GSU faculty and students in this work.

“As an underserved community, it’s one thing for others to come and serve us, but another thing for us to have an opportunity to do the research and the work ourselves,” Kim said. “I have two undergraduate students (Lescia Valmond, Madgrie Francis) working in my lab on these projects. Dr. Elise Reed and Dr. Gayberyl Wesley in the School of Social Work are developing the outreach component of the Regional Accelerator.”

This morning’s  “Health Starts at Home” outreach event  is the first of many.

“We’ll be taking lessons from this event to do more events in the community outside GSU to increase awareness, promote vaccination, and collect specimens for sequencing,” Kim said.

Grambling State University Gearing Up for Unapologetically Memorable Homecoming Oct. 10-17 

GRAMBLING, La. – Oct.  8, 2021 – Get ready for an unapologetically fabulous homecoming at Grambling State University, Oct. 10-17, 2021. While COVID-19 protocols mean some changes to events, organizers say the gathering promises to be entertaining and memorable.

“Attendees should expect the unexpected,” said Kourtlin Williams, the Favrot Student Union Board President at GSU. “None of us, including alumni, have seen a homecoming or Spring Fest in two years so it may get a little wild, but Grambling style. School spirit will be an ongoing thing whether it is through social media, attire, or just being who you are. People will be Unapologetically GramFam and that is the only way to put it.”

Williams, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, said he is extremely excited about everything that is coming up.

“We are bringing events for students to learn, network, and build their brands such as: Grambling’s Black Wall Street and the Entertainment Panel,” he said.  “It will be a time for alumni and students to see what Grambling has and can produce. There will also be events for students to turn up, laugh, and have a good time such as: The DJ Verzuz, Talent Show, My Black is Beautiful Day Party, and Laser Tag.”

Each homecoming event features a unique take on the theme “Unapologetically____ A Homecoming Your Way”. The “Unapologetically Blessed” praise and worship service takes place at noon on Oct. 10 in the T.H. Harris Auditorium. Oct. 12 features an “Unapologetically Motivated” Greek & non Greek stroll off on The Yard. The My Black and Beautiful: Shades of Brown Day Party will be held on The Yard at 2 p.m., Oct. 13 which is “Unapologetically Dope”. The comedy show will be held at 7 p.m. that night at Hobdy Assembly Center.

Oct. 14 highlights the “Unapologetically Creative” entertainment panel at 2 p.m. in T.H. Harris Auditorium and the homecoming concert at 7 p.m. at the Hobdy Assembly Center. Oct. 15 features “Unapologetically Black” events including the Fred D. Hearn Memorial Scholarship Golf Classic at 8 a.m. at Trial’s End and the Black and Bougie Maskerade Alumni Party at 10 p.m. at the Hobdy Assembly Center.

“As HBCU students and alumni, we are unapologetically black, unapologetically GramFam, unapologetically motivated, unapologetically whatever want to be,” said Chere Kirkland, alumni events coordinator. “This year’s theme speaks to that and allows our attendees to live out their unapologetic story.”

The Oct. 14 GramFam Lights Camera Action Entertainment Panel will be hosted by Cardellia Hunter, director of film anc entertainment for the City of Atlanta. It will feature current student Kayla Sullers (Power Book IV on STARZ), actress Angela Davis (P-Valley on STARZ), and executive producer/creator/writer Randy Huggins (BMF on STARZ).

“All students across all majors are encouraged to attend this event, participate in the Q&A and get some photos,” Kirkland said.

Black Wall Street promises a festival-type feel on Oct. 15. Student and alumni vendors will line the streets near T.H. Harris Auditorium, food trucks will be available, and stage acts throughout the day in the Quad.

The annual homecoming parade takes place on Oct. 16 beginning at 9 a.m. on Main Street. It’s a great time to get glimpse of the World Famed Marching Band and Miss Grambling Faith Daniels and the Royal Court. To assist with social distancing and manage overcrowding, parade participants cannot throw favors of any kind. At 2 p.m., Grambling State University will take on Texas Southern University at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium.

University officials encourage attendees to enjoy homecoming safely and responsibly. All students, parents, alumni, and guests must present an ID and either proof of full vaccination or negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours prior to any homecoming event. It is recommended that those who are planning to attend multiple homecoming events take advantage of the homecoming wristband.

The wristbands will be distributed Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, through Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. in the Tiger Den of the Favrot Student Union.

Homecoming wrap-ups Oct. 17 with “Unapologetically Grateful” activities including a 1 a.m. alumni breakfast bar, an 8 a.m. “Big Event”, and 11 a.m. brunch.

All homecoming events will adhere to COVID-19 protocols and are subject to change based on university, state, and Louisiana Public Health guidelines. The university continues to monitor developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans for Homecoming Week remain subject to change based on developments locally, statewide, and nationally, as well as changes in university policy.

A few more items to note for alumni activities:

  • All alumni events are advance ticket sales only. No tickets will be sold at the door for any of the events shown here.
  • Purchasers will be provided ticket pickup instructions via email.
  • Any tickets for the Homecoming game, concert, step show, and comedy show must be bought through the university.
  • All events are cash bar only, no other forms of payment will be accepted. ]
  • No refunds. Consider your purchase unapologetic support of the university and current students.

For the full calendar of events, visit  gram.edu.

For Gameday tickets, visit https://www.ticketmaster.com/event/1B005AA5D1253C5D.

For Alumni event tickets, visit: https://secure.qgiv.com/for/gsuaf/event/839010/.

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university that was founded in 1901. The institution has been accredited by SACSCOC, 13 associations, and in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. A member of the University of Louisiana System, Grambling State University has the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college. Offering 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs, the 590-acre campus is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life that enable our scholars to grow and learn in a positive environment. For more information, visit gram.edu.

Grambling State University Announces American Rescue Plan Grant Guidelines

University students may be eligible to receive federally-funded relief

GRAMBLING, La. – October 7, 2021 – Grambling State University has announced student eligibility guidelines for American Rescue Plan Act grants to students.

On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act, 2021, (ARP) was signed. This new law gives the U.S. Department of Education approximately $39.6 billion to distribute to institutions of higher education in order to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.

Grambling State University received $21.9 million in federal support, $10.9 million of which to distribute to students for emergency financial aid grants.

All students are not eligible for ARP grant assistance and those who are not eligible will not have access to the application. Students who meet pre-qualification to apply for ARP Act grant assistance will find the application in their student portals beginning October 10, 2021. Students must submit their ARP Grant Application for the fall semester no later than 11:59 p.m. on October 17, 2021. Those who do not meet the submission date will have their grant applications considered only if funding is still available.

Students can find specific information on accessing grant funds HERE. More on Grambling State’s coronavirus prevention and response can be found at gram.edu/coronavirus.

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university that was founded in 1901. The institution has been accredited by SACSCOC, 13 associations, and in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. A member of the University of Louisiana System, Grambling State University has the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college. Offering 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs, the 590-acre campus is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life that enable our scholars to grow and learn in a positive environment. For more information, visit gram.edu.

Theatre Returns to Grambling State University With Production of 21A 

Kyle T. Zimmerman

Kyle T. Zimmerman

GRAMBLING, La. – October 4, 2021– After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Grambling State University is bringing theatre back with the stage play entitled 21A. The show, which runs Oct. 12-15 at the Floyd L. Sandle Theatre in the Conrad Hutchinson Performing Arts Center, is a comedy that delves into the lives of eight everyday passengers riding Bus 21A.  

It’s about “the people we see every day but may not bother to get to know,” said Kyle T. Zimmerman, an assistant theatre professor at GSU and the play’s director.  “21A is the bus route that runs to the other side of the tracks. Its regular passengers are the poor, homeless and hopeless.” 

They are thrown together during a bus hijacking and the audience gets a glimpse into their lives. 

“Just like real lives, their stories range from the comic, to the dramatic, to the tragic to the absurd,” Zimmerman explained. “What I love about the play is that it takes stereotypical characters from street life like the guy who talks to himself, a homeless drunk or a bag lady and gives us a more three-dimensional picture of those characters as people. You start out laughing at the characters but soon find yourself laughing with them and finally empathizing with them and relating to the struggle those characters face as human beings.”  

 Zimmerman said he and the cast are excited about bringing the show to theatre audiences. 

 “It’s great to be back in rehearsal and putting work on stage again,” he said. “Last year was hard for theatre artists because everything we do is about ensemble and community.  We were able to do some limited readings, playwriting exercises and puppetry on video but it’s not the same as staging a live performance.  Everyone came back ready to work.  I think missing a year made us appreciate being live and together that much more.”  

While the pandemic meant a change in the show that had been planned, it hasn’t put a stop to theatre. 

 “COVID has been a hurdle,” Zimmerman said. “Early in the summer when it looked like everything would be back to normal by the fall semester, we had selected a show called The Illusion.  That show is an 18th century fantasy melodrama with princesses, evil servants, pirates and even a wizard.  As August approached and the Delta Variant reared its ugly head, we decided that we could not do that show under COVID protocol.  I had directed 21A many years ago and remembered it had some aspects that really played into the COVID requirements.” 

 Llonte Harrison, a GSU senior from New Orleans, plays the lead role of Ron Huber, the driver of Bus 21A. Harrison is interested in becoming a film actor and sees performing on stage at GSU as a stepping stone to that goal.  He said he has a great time on stage especially when he “gets it right.”  

The other cast members are De’Lia Madison, a senior from New Orleans; Victoria Eggleston, a senior from Grand Prairie, Texas; Isaiah Johnson, a freshman from Pensacola, Florida; Je’Menique McNeil, a junior from Jonesboro, Louisiana; Jurnee Dilworth, a senior from Miami;  Dwedee Kobbah, a senior from Charleston, West Virginia; Steven Thompson, a senior from Franklinton, Louisiana; Jackson Featherstone, a junior from Austin, Texas; Mckinley Harbor, a freshman from Dallas; Madison Mason, a freshman from Bossier City, Louisiana; and  Tylur Woods, a junior from Dallas. 

The show is 80% monologues and only one actor appears and speaks at a time. 

“The show is short, so even though the audience will be masked, they won’t be sitting masked for more than an hour,” Zimmerman said.  “There will be unmasked actors on stage, but they will be at least 20 feet from the audience and never more than two unmasked people at a time on stage.”   

 Show dates and times: October 12, 13, 14, 15 at 7:30 p.m. and October 14 at noon.  This show includes adult language and may not be appropriate for all audiences. 

 General admission is $5 for 12 and older, $1 for attendees under 12, and GSU students are free with a valid university ID. Contact: 318-274-2201 or gsuvapa@gram.edu

About Kyle T. Zimmerman/span>
Kyle T. Zimmerman is an assistant professor of theatre history at GSU beginning his third year of service.  He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting from East Carolina University and an master of fine arts in directing from Virginia Commonwealth University.  He has directed over 20 university and professional productions. Zimmerman has also worked professionally as an actor on stage, film and television, a fight choreographer and playwright.  

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university that was founded in 1901. The institution has been accredited by SACSCOC, 13 associations, and in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. A member of the University of Louisiana System, Grambling State University has the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college. Offering 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs, the 590-acre campus is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life that enable our scholars to grow and learn in a positive environment. For more information, visit gram.edu.

Thomas Appointed College of Education Dean at Grambling State University

GRAMBLING, La. – Oct. 1, 2021 – Dr. Debbie G. Thomas has been appointed dean of the College of Education at Grambling State University. Most recently, she served briefly as vice chancellor for learning and instruction at Arkansas State University Mid-South.  Prior to that, she served as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Kentucky State University.

Thomas’ higher education career journey has included service as a teacher education professor and numerous leadership positions. She has served as vice president for academic affairs, vice chancellor for learning and instruction, dean of academic affairs, associate provost for institutional effectiveness, and director of teacher education. Additionally, she served as executive director of a university center for regional excellence.

“Transformative education is in my DNA,” she said. “For 30 years, I have served in higher education and remained steadfast in my dedication to the advancement of excellence, access, and equity.”

Thomas is a first generation college student who grew up in Vivian, Louisiana as the sixth of seven children.

“Although our parents were not afforded the opportunity to complete high school or attend college due to daunting sociocultural and socioeconomic challenges, they willingly sacrificed to ensure we could do so,” she said. “From them, we inherited a legacy of perseverance and grit, with which we were determined to either find a way or make one.”

Growing up, Thomas and her siblings learned that with or without bootstraps, they could pursue higher education.

“The question was never if, but rather when and where,” she said. “This familial credo will bode well for me as dean of the College of Education at Grambling State University.  It undergirds my commitment as a catalyst for change who is paying it forward by providing educational opportunities to transform the life trajectories of others, just as mine was changed.”

Thomas said she has a family connection to GSU explaining that “two of my six siblings attended college at Grambling.  My brother, Troy Thomas, aka “Too Tall,” played football under the great Coach Eddie Robinson.”

During her career, Thomas provided institutional leadership for regional community engagement across a seven-county area by developing transformative initiatives to enhance the quality of life region-wide through collaborative partnerships promoting research, teaching, and service with organizations focused on education, health disparities, culture, economic development, arts, and environmental sustainability.

“My career achievements in higher education have included leading collaborative teams to create and implement an institution-wide academic program review and operational efficiency model; directing institutional accreditation and reaffirmation as well as program accreditation efforts,” she said.

Thomas’ work has also included implementing strategic planning initiatives for student success; securing grant funding to enhance teaching, research and service; providing professional development and support programs; maintaining transparent communication and shared governance; and eliminating institutional silos to promote collaboration.

“While I am indeed grateful for each of the aforementioned achievements, the absolute greatest honor of my life is to serve as the proud single mother of my two adult children: Stephen, who is a physician, and Imani, a professional creative and director of digital marketing,” she said. “They have been my best teachers and it is from them that I have learned my most transformative life lessons.”

Thomas has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) (formerly, Northeast Louisiana University). She completed her doctorate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a focus on curriculum and instruction.

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university that was founded in 1901. The institution has been accredited by SACSCOC, 13 associations, and in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. A member of the University of Louisiana System, Grambling State University has the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college. Offering 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs, the 590-acre campus is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life that enable our scholars to grow and learn in a positive environment. For more information, visit gram.edu

 

Artwork of GSU Department Head, Alumna Featured in Masur Museum of Art Exhibition

“Many Rooms: The South Got Something to Say” runs through Nov. 6

Rodrecas Davis

Rodrecas Davis

GRAMBLING, La. – September 28, 2021 – Artwork by Rodrecas Davis, head of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) at Grambling State University, is being featured in an exhibition at the Masur Museum in Monroe, Louisiana. The show entitled “Many Rooms: The South Got Something to Say” also features the works of GSU VAPA alumna Benicia King.

The exhibition is a collaborative effort between Davis, King, K’shana Hall-Davis and Vitus Shell – all members of the Black Creatives Circle of North Louisiana (BCCNL).

“In discussing what the exhibition could be, we knew that we wanted something that was more than just a glorified showcase,” Davis said. “We obviously wanted to present works that were reflective of our individuality, but also indicative of the aim of the BCC.”

From Davis' A Room for Living: Suite Extracts

From Davis’ A Room for Living: Suite Extracts

When it came to deciding on the title “Many Rooms,” Davis said it was clear that they were not just addressing the layout of the Masur Museum (which is a former residence), and the compartmentalization of the Black experience, but the psychological impact of living a challenged existence during perilous times.

The works that Davis presents are three distinct approaches considering the psychological and emotional toll on being of American of African descent in the 21st Century.

“All of the ‘suites’ (inspired by songs), like a lot of my work, deal with the spiritual, the tangible/intangible, and the layers that make up individual realities,” he said. “A Room for Living is just that. Space. Space to breathe, be, and be seen.”

One series is completely digital, and the other two are collage-based.

inkjet digital photo

inkjet digital photo by Benicia King

King’s photo contributions to the exhibition include ‘How It Feels to Be Colored Me” based on the essay by Zora Neale Hurston. The self-portrait series of inkjet digital photos focuses on being different from stereotypical images of black women and being yourself.

Her other piece, “Church Attire”, is a 35mm film series that focuses on the forgotten history of the Black church and looks at fashion attire. The gelatin silver prints are striking black and white images of churchgoers.

“My grandfather was a reverend and I grew up in the church,” said King, who was raised in Grambling, Louisiana.

Davis said his work and the work of his fellow BCCNL artists is important for several reasons.

“First, to my knowledge, this is the first exhibition at the Masur Museum of Art to feature solely a diverse group of local African American artists – both emerging and established,” he said, adding that the exhibition “aids in dispelling the myths that Black America is a monolith, that there is one way to be an artist, or that there is some barrier to entry for understanding and appreciating the work.”

According to data by the Masur Museum, Davis said “Many Rooms” boasts the largest exhibition attendance in about 15 years. It is drawing museumgoers from across Ouachita, Tensas, and Lincoln parishes.

Self-portrait series by Benicia King

Self-portrait series by Benicia King

A native of Monroe, Georgia, Davis is a graduate of the University of Georgia Fine Arts program – with an emphasis in drawing and painting. His work has been featured in the Politics Issue of Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters, ColorLines, and over sixty exhibitions.

King has studied photography and business at the Art Institute of Seattle and Seattle Central Community College. She also attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and completed her bachelor’s degree in digital art at Grambling State. She has photography experience in the fashion industry and has worked with marketing companies abroad in Milano and Sicilia.

While the “Many Rooms” exhibition is best experienced in person, those who are unable to visit the museum in person can view it virtually at https://masurmuseum.wixsite.com/manyrooms.

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university that was founded in 1901. The institution has been accredited by SACSCOC, 13 associations, and in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. A member of the University of Louisiana System, Grambling State University has the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college. Offering 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs, the 590-acre campus is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life that enable our scholars to grow and learn in a positive environment. For more information, visit gram.edu.

GSU Student Among Artists at HBCUs Who Created Murals Interpreting Themes in Candyman Film

GRAMBLING, La. – Ja’Marcus Willis, a junior visual and performing arts major at Grambling State University (GSU), is among student artists at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) who brought film to life through art.

HBCU Buzz, a multi-media company, teamed up with Universal Pictures and Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions for the Candyman HBCU Artist Showcase. Six student artists at HBCUs around the country were selected to interpret the social impact and artistry in the film by creating murals.

The recently released movie is a sequel to the 1992 horror classic. It featured the bee-infested and hook brandishing Candyman character, who frightened movie goers and illustrated the treatment of marginalized people in inner city Chicago.

The sequel is again set in Chicago – this time at the location of the original Cabrini Green housing projects now gentrified. An unsuspecting artist learns the sad and unjust story of urban legend Candyman and wants to bring the story to life through his art. However, it may prove to be a momentous mistake. The film touches on the present day social climate and injustices.

Willis’ artwork, titled “Candyman Vision Perspective”, is on display at the campus bookstore. He describes it as “a bee’s reflection of its eyes inside the eyes that show symbolism and descriptions of what the movie is overall about and consists of.”

Willis, of Springhill, La., said he got interested in art at a young age.

“It has always been a part of my life and was first a hobby but now it’s my best passion,” he said. “I want to make it a career somehow.”

Willis said he enjoys the creativity and uniqueness of being an artist and feels thankful and blessed for his gift.

Rodrecas L. Davis, head of the GSU Department of Visual & Performing Arts, said Willis is “heavily inspired by graphic design, and street art aesthetics.”

“There’s an immediacy in his work that was perfect for the emotional content of this fil,” Davis said. “The opportunity, which required that students work within the confines of a deadline, collaborate remotely, and synthesize the broader concerns of a topic into a singular image – all things that we push for our majors to experience.”

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university that was founded in 1901. The institution has been accredited by SACSCOC, 13 associations, and in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. A member of the University of Louisiana System, Grambling State University has the academic strengths of a major university with the benefits of a small college. Offering 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs, the 590-acre campus is home to world-class athletics, an internationally renowned marching band, and vibrant student life that enable our scholars to grow and learn in a positive environment. For more information, visit gram.edu.