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GSU’s Department of History receives $94K NEH grant for digital oral history project

Dept. of History Researchers (l-r) Dr. Brian McGowan, Yanise Days, Dr. Edward Holt, and Dr. Gaidi Faraj have been awarded a $94k grant from NEH to curate a digital oral history project to capture the African American experience in northern Louisiana. Photo by Carlton Hamlin

Washington, DC – April 26, 2022 – The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in partnership with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) recently awarded a $94,817 grant to Grambling State University’s (GSU) Department of History to research and record the history of the African American experience in northern Louisiana.

“Voices of Grambling: A Digital Oral History Project,” intersects with the 120-year history of the institution and will be led by project investigator Dr. Edward Holt, an assistant professor and interim department head for GSU’s Department of History along with Dr. Roshunda Belton-Cardoza, a professor and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs; Yanise Days, a Department of History instructor; Dr. Gaidi Faraj, an assistant professor; and Dr. Brian McGowan, an assistant professor.

This team will collaborate with GSU undergraduates and scholars from across the U.S. on a digital oral history project to preserve voices from historically disadvantaged populations that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected.

“Many of the ones that have been disproportionately affected during the pandemic, including the loss of lives, have lived through so much history, some of which has been lost along with lives lost to COVID-19,” Holt said. “This project will help us gather much of that history and use understanding of the past to try and help build for a better future for GSU students and the population centered around Grambling itself.”

GSU’s award is part of a $2.5 million grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP) Act of 2021 initiative. NEH/SSRC SHIP grants were designed to address the pandemic’s wide-ranging impact on higher education and the humanities sector by offering organizations and academic departments a direct opportunity to rebuild and recover.

The University is one of 21 grantees, ranging from research universities, HBCUs, and small liberal arts colleges to nonprofit and community organizations, who will receive awards of up to $100,000 each to support the full spectrum of humanities infrastructure.

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university founded in 1901. The University has been accredited by 13 accrediting associations and holds accreditations in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. The 590-acre campus offers 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs. Grambling State University is a member of the University of Louisiana System. For more information, visit gram.edu.

‘The Choreographer’s Last Dance’ performance to honor Dianne Maroney-Grigsby

40-year GSU choreography instructor plans to continue inspiring love of dance

by T. Scott Boatright | Office of Communications

She has not only lived a life of dance — she has spent decades teaching others to love a life of dance.

Dianne Maroney-Grigsby, director and choreographer of Grambling State University’s Orchesis Dance Company, is retiring after nearly 40 years in that position.

But the lady known for her exuberant personality will go out “tripping the light fantastic” as Extensions of Excellence Performing Arts Inc. will present “The Choreographer’s Last Dance” at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Strand Theatre in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Members of the Orchesis Dance Company will join Legacy Dance in the 13th annual Dance His Praise show in the choreographer’s honor.

“For her, dance is not only an artistic form, it’s a lifestyle,” said Orchesis member Octavia Hill about Maroney-Grigsby. “It’s about life. You have to be on time, every day. You’re going to miss something if you don’t come every day. You miss one day, you feel like you miss a whole week. She has taught us so many things.”

In 1983 Maroney-Grigsby succeeded Virgie Broussard Pradia to become the third artistic director for GSU’s Orchesis Dance Company.

And she brought a lifelong love of dance along with her.

That love came as an elementary school student growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, but it was cemented when an opportunity for Maroney-Grigsby to audition for Norfolk State Dance Theatre that led to meeting nationally renowned master Inez Howard, founder of the National Black College Dance Exchange.

“Inez Howard was the person who opened my eyes,” Maroney-Grigsby said. “I thought I had been dancing until I met her, but she opened up a whole new world of dance for me. She changed my life forever.”

Howard warned Maroney-Grigsby of her limited prospects as a dancer without a change toward a healthier lifestyle, including losing weight. Howard also took Maroney-Grigsby to see a performance of Alvin Ailey’s Dance Company and introduced the young dancer to Dan Wagner at the American Dance Festival in Richmond, Virginia.

It was Wagner who helped Maroney-Grigsby to receive a scholarship to study dance in New York City.

Maroney-Grigsby strengthened her love of dance in the “Big Apple,” improving her skills and knowledge and joining the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, extensively touring the U.S. She also performed with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, touring in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

She said that’s where she strengthened her love for and commitment to dance, qualities she has passed on to her students over the years.

“Commitment is a big thing for her,” Orchesis member Jasmine Crawford said. “Because in life, you’re going to have to find your commitments. Whatever you’re going to do, you’re going to have to stick with it. You have to stand strong and have self respect.”

In 1983, Maroney-Grigsby left her positions as soloist and assistant artistic director of the Ailey Repertory Ensemble, and also full-time faculty member at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, to head southward to Louisiana to become artistic director of GSU’s Orchesis Dance Company.

It was a move that would make her love of and commitment to dance even stronger. She would go on to receive her bachelor’s degree from GSU and her master’s degree in theatre from Louisiana Tech University. She also served as a longtime dance teacher at both universities.

“I am indebted to so many people like Inez Howard and Dan Wagner,” Maroney-Grisby said. “They both left lifelong marks on my life and taught me how to do so for the students I’ve taught. Coming to Grambling changed my life and made me stronger than ever.”

Grigsby-Maroney also taught at Louisiana Dance Foundation’s (LDF) Summer Dance Festivals from 1983-2007 and developed numerous award-winning ballets on LDF’S resident dance company, Louisiana Dance Theatre.

She also led Orchesis to performances in Japan and throughout America, from New York to California. Under her guidance, Orchesis has been featured in Proctor and Gamble national TV commercials, live appearances with recording artist Vickie Winans, and with the GSU World-Famed Tiger Marching band in the hit movie “Drumline.”

Grigsby-Maroney continues making an important impact on Orchesis members today.

“I met Ms. Maroney my senior year in high school,” Hill said. “I was interested in dancing in college. I didn’t know where. She came into our class, and she’s funny … full of personality and life. Even though this is her last dance, she doesn’t make it seem like that. Her love of dance is kind of imprinted on all of us. She makes it like that.”

Crawford said Maroney-Grigsby is the fuel that builds the fiery love of dance for Orchesis members.

“Just the energy she gives off is so valuable,” Crawford said. “ We feed off of her energy. Everything she does is just personality. She gives us tips. She tells us stories — I love her stories. She’s just a wonderful being to work with. And her love of dance is very passionate.”

While Saturday’s performance is titled “The Choreographer’s Last Dance,” Maroney-Grigsby said her love and commitment to the art will continue.

“I’m not giving it up,” she said. “I’m just not going to be at Grambling or at Louisiana Tech,” Maroney-Grigsby said. “I’ll still choreograph and still teach classes. ‘The Choreographer’s Last Dance’ was just a hook the producer (Vincent Williams) came up with to catch people’s attention. And it is catchy. But this change will give me a lot more time to do some other things. It’s time to be able to do some of that, too.”

Tickets for Saturday’s performance of “The Choreographer’s Last Dance” will cost $25. To order tickets or to get more information about the performance, call The Strand Ticket Office at 318-226-8555 or go online to thestrandtheatre.com.

Orchesis members performing in the production call the opportunity a chance to honor and show their love for their longtime dancing and life-skills mento.

“Thank you for being there … for inspiring us,” Orchesis member Jada Thompson expressed toward Maroney-Grigsby. “We really appreciate you. We thank you for everything you have done.”

Theatre wraps up season with “The Meeting”

by T. Scott Boatright | Office of Communications

It was a meeting that never happened but could have changed the world if it did.

This week, the Grambling State University Department of Visual and Performing Arts presented “The Meeting,” a 1987 play written by Jeff Stetson, at the Floyd Sandle Theatre inside the Conrad Hutchinson Jr. Performing Arts Center.

“The Meeting” is about an imaginary meeting between Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X in 1965 in a hotel in Harlem during the height of the civil rights movement.

According to a Washington Post article published in 2018, the two men only came face to face once, while both were in Washington, D.C. to watch the U.S. Senate debates regarding the (eventual) passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On March 26, 1964, they briefly spoke with each other as they walked through the Senate together for about a minute.

The article said King was stepping out of a news conference when Malcolm X, dressed in an elegant black overcoat and wearing his signature horn-rimmed glasses, greeted him.

“The Meeting” imagines what the pair might have discussed if they actually did sit down and talk to each other during those critical times. Differing in their philosophies, but alike in their mutual respect, the two men debate their varying approaches to the same grave social problems, both prepared to die for their beliefs but neither aware of how soon their assassins’ bullets await them.

The GSU VAPA production of “The Meeting” was directed by Kyle T. Zimmerman, an assistant professor of theatre history, along with coaching by Carsey Walker Jr. The play starred GSU Mass Communication student Kam Holland portraying Martin Luther King, Jr. while Performing Arts student Karrington Jackson starred as Malcolm X.

GSU Performing Arts student Artevius Williams also appeared, playing Malcolm X’s bodyguard.

Sen. Katrina Jackson reflects on accomplishments, impact, future during Women’s History Month Convocation

by T. Scott Boatright

Grambling, La. – March 29, 2022 – Persevere by learning from the past to help build a better future was the message given by Louisiana State Sen. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) Monday morning as Grambling State University held its Women’s History Month Convocation at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.

Before beginning her speech Jackson asked if there were any students in attendance coming from Senate District 34, which she represents and serves constituents from at least parts of Concordia, East Carroll, Madison, Morehouse, Ouachita, Richland, and Tensas parishes.
Freshman music education major Quinesha Thomas, who was there as a member of the GSU Choir, which performed during the event, was the only student to stand and was promptly told by Jackson that she was being awarded a $500 scholarship just for being a student from Jackson’s district attending the event.

“I know people didn’t expect that, but I always try to give something back in whatever I do,” Jackson said. “It might always be monetary, but that’s something I always try to do.”

Jackson started her speech by talking about how women’s roles have changed over the years.
“It is so important for us to take the time to reflect on and recognize the magnificence of our gender, so I thank the administration of Grambling State University for acknowledging this very special time of the year and for inviting me to share it with you.

“Once upon a time as women, we were very rarely admitted to attend college. We were destined to be homemakers, charged with raising our children and relying on our husbands to take care of us. …. Today, women not only attend college, but we succeed, and we obtain master’s and doctorate degrees, and we even lead Fortune 500 companies. We as women must recognize that we didn’t arrive here solely based on our own merit. So many women before us fought to prove to others that we deserve a seat at the table. And not only do we deserve a seat at the table, we deserve a prosperous life filled with endless opportunities.”

Jackson then said that in preparing for Monday’s speech she reflected on women over the years, decades, and centuries and that she found that women have continued playing bigger and more important roles through the same ambition and hard work shown before them.

“Each woman tilled the soil, making it a little more fertile and a little more fruit-bearing for the woman coming behind her,” Jackson said. “We all have to bring something to the table to nurture that seed and to see that growth-caused success manifest in all of us. The soil is richer, finer, because a woman has tilled it. I can say and submit to you, with a certainty, that every woman sitting here is meant to go higher than the one before them in the past. We are who we are because a woman helped us, and because we had the tenacity, the gumption, and some may say the unmitigated gall, to think larger than a box that many try to place us in. We are deeper thinkers, greater movers, greater shakers, and we are quick on our feet because we are simply made to lead.”

In her speech, Jackson also touched on great women from the past like American writer and poet Maya Angelou as well as several women who continue making history today, including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, former First Lady and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, and current Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“As I look back on the first female Black Vice President, I can raise my hand and say, ‘One nation, under God,’ prouder than I ever have before because we watched her break the glass ceiling for the second-highest office in this nation. However, if you take your own walk down memory lane, you will find Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to be elected to Congress. She was also the first African American woman to run on one of the two major party tickets for the office of President. She ran on the slogan of ‘unbought and unbossed.’ Her slogan meant that she couldn’t be bought and that she wasn’t going to sell out her people, her race, nor her gender.

Simply put, Congresswoman Chisholm refused to be bought out so that Congresswoman Harris could be brought in.”

Jackson then moved on to Clinton.

“Hilary Clinton was a woman who dared to run for President in modern times. Even today, no woman has ever held the office of President, but she dared to run. … She ran because she knew when the next woman would come to run for President she was going to face some of the same tough times, but she wanted to make sure that women were strong enough to not care. Each one of these women went higher than women before them, and maybe even in this audience today is the woman who is meant to raise her hand and be sworn in as the first female President of the United States of America.

“And now we stand together with Vice President Harris knowing that America is a better place because women are being placed in higher positions. These women have tilled the soil of politics so that you can go higher — even to the highest office in our nation.”

Then the senator moved on to Supreme Court nominee Jackson.

“In 2022, there is no more ground to cover, no more greater heights to reach,” Sen. Jackson said. “You and I stand to witness another amazing achievement for our gender and our race. We stand at the precise time of the confirmation of the first African American woman to the United States Supreme Court — Judge Brown Jackson. With her ascension to the highest court in this land, women take another seat at the table, knowing that it’s been a long time denied us, and a long time deserved by us. Judge Brown Jackson has persevered.”

Jackson concluded her speech by focusing on the female GSU students in attendance.

“As I take my seat I am persuaded to tell you that you’re going to go higher, you’re going to sit in rooms that we were once forbidden to sit in and that we were locked out of. Today, you are made to open those doors and not only sit in those rooms but pave the way to invite others to join you.”

GSU’s Lonnie B. Smith Career Fair returns to in person format

Grambling, La. – March 23, 2022 – For the first time in two years, Grambling State University’s Office of Career Services held an in-person Lonnie B. Smith Career Fair on Tuesday at the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center. After holding the fairs virtually the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 53rd annual version brought students face to face with prospective employers.

Fifty GSU students were able to attend the fair dressed for success thanks to a JC Penney Suit-Up event held on March 20 that was coordinated by GSU Director of Career Services Kellye Blackburn with the help of David Wilson from Accenture Business Services.

“Thank you David Wilson and the Accenture team for bringing my dream to provide Grambling students with new professional clothes to life,” Blackburn said. “I approached Mr. Wilson with my JCPenny Suit Up Sponsorship idea because of Accenture’s commitment to making an impact in the community through philanthropic efforts.”

Each of the 50 students who attended the JCPenny Suit up event on March 20, received a $100 JCPenney Gift card to purchase professional clothing. The remaining 25 gift cards will be given to students to purchase business attire at the Fall 2022 Suit-Up event.

“I look forward to a continued partnership with Accenture as Grambling strives to become Accenture’s HBCU of choice when seeking to recruit top talent,” Blackburn said.

The career fair is named in honor of the late Smith, a Safety and Engineering professor in GSU’s Department of Industrial Arts who for 34 years also served as the university’s Director of Placement. Smith passed away in 2005.

Blackburn said she was pleased to finally be able to have GSU students meet once again face-to-face with prospective employers.

“I’m really happy to be open and back live on campus,” Blackburn said of Tuesday’s event. “We’ve got 63-plus employers, 20 industries represented including federal agencies, top Fortune 100 companies, and more than 20 school districts. We had more than 150 students registered before the event.

“The last three fairs have been virtual over the past year and a half and those actually had many more employers participating. We had 150 employers for last spring’s career fair and 200-plus participated in the virtual fair last fall, so we get more diversity virtually for those employers who might not be able to travel to rural Louisiana for a fair. We had 120 employers participate in a virtual fair in February, so I’m kind of a fan of both virtual and in-person.”

Blackburn said that it’s important that students get an early start on the career fairs as opposed to waiting until their senior years to start attending.

“Career development is really important for students of all classifications to come out to a career fair just to learn about the job market and learn about industries and what types of opportunities are available so that they can build their skills to match what employers are looking for.”

Junior psychology major and GSU tennis team member Georgina Kaindoah was one of the students taking early advantage of Tuesday’s career fair.

“It’s been difficult but you just kind of find the balance between school and tennis,” Kaindoah said. “It’s about time management and planning. And athletics helps with that because you need that to play a sport like tennis as much as you do to succeed academically. Both are about discipline. And you want to work hard and start early in whatever you do, be it academics or athletics. That’s why I wanted to come today and begin making contacts that will help me in the future, even though I’m still a junior.”

GSU Vice President for Advancement, Research and Economic Development Melanie Jones was on hand for Tuesday’s event.

“Today’s career fair is an incredible opportunity to connect our students with internships and rewarding careers aligned with their academic major and other personal or professional priorities,” Jones said. “ It is exciting to host this event in person, affording all participants — employers and students — the chance to engage in meaningful dialogue, experience each other’s authentic qualities, and connect in ways to help better determine alignment — something that just cannot be achieved in the same way in a virtual setting. Additionally, it is always a privilege to host our hiring partners on-campus, where they get a firsthand experience of all the exceptional things about GSU.”

Junior senior Deja Southall, a business management major from Chicago, and Skyler Raines, a junior biology major also from Chicago, attended the event together late on Tuesday afternoon.

“We went to a few concerning biology, my major. It was a cool event. There were a lot of schools there looking for graduate students, and that’s something to consider. I’m glad I came,” Raines said.

Scholastic achievement of more than 3k students to be recognized at Honors Convocation March 29

Annually Grambling State University gives special recognition to undergraduate and graduate students who have labored diligently to attain academic excellence. Set for Tuesday, March 29 at 11 a.m. in the Fredrick C. Hobdy Assembly Center, the event will recognize a combined 3,436 scholars from the Spring 2021 and Fall 2021 semesters.

President’s List | Spring 2021

The following full-time undergraduate students earned a 3.5 or higher grade point average during the Spring 2021 semester.

Abdur-Rahim, Mujahid, Chicago, IL
Abraham, Taye L., Baldwin, LA
Adams, Morgan E., Monroe, LA
Addison, Kenterria B., West Monroe, LA
Age, Dazia L., Pine Bluff, AR
Agee, Omega L., Oakland, CA
Agnew, Madison B., North Las Vegas, NV
Ajunwa, Obiageli J., Ruston, LA
Alexander, Aiyana, Elkhart, IN
Alexander, Christiana, Jeanerette, LA
Alexander, Deandre’a M., Arcadia, LA
Alexander, Joseline, Grand Bay, XX
Allen, Avanii D., Pflugerville, TX
Allen, Jasmine L., Zachary, LA
Allen, Qmarr J., Los Angeles, CA
Allums, Courtney J., Ringgold, LA
Almaguer, Jeremy I., San Antonio, TX
Almaw, Eyita G., Denver, CO
Alphonse, Khaddim J., Roseau, Dominica
Alsharari, Tariq S., Tabarjal, Saudi Arabia
Ambrose, Shanella S., Grambling, LA
Anderson, Bianca S., Bossier City, LA
Anderson, Joy D., Mesquite, TX
Anderson, Trinity G., Shreveport, LA
Andrews-Dice, Alniece C., Odessa, TX
Armstead, Chandlier, Riverside, CA
Armstrong, Aliyah S., Fort Wayne, IN
As-Salaam, Nia H., East Point, GA
Ashley, Sinclair A., Portland, OR
Askins, Katrell J., Maywood, IL
Atkins, Shelissa J., Alexandria, LA
Atkins, Thomas A., Mamou, LA
Audain, Shay-Ann E., Grambling, LA
Augman, Stephen P., Charenton, LA
Auzenne, Kaleb A., Carencro, LA
Avila, Benjamin A., Walden, NY
Aziz, Malik M., Los Angeles, CA
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Grambling State lifts mask requirement

Free COVID testing, vaccination remain available to students, employees, community

Grambling, La. – March 10, 2022 – Grambling State University (GSU) has lifted the protective mask requirement that has been in effect since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020. Face masks and coverings may be worn on campus but are not required.

GSU gradually resumed on-campus work for team members beginning in June 2020 with a mask mandate that remained in place since that time.

After months of virtual and hybrid learning due to the COVID pandemic, GSU returned to in-person learning for the fall 2021 semester with the mask requirement remaining in place until now.

GSU will continue to adhere to UL System guidelines and follow the recommendations of state and local health officials as much as reasonably possible to continue to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

GSU will continue to monitor COVID-19 rates and may, when necessary, reinstate the mask requirement on campus.

Pfizer, Moderna, or the single dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccinations and boosters are still being administered by the Louisiana National Guard. The free service is available for students, employees, and the community in Grambling Hall Auditorium on the GSU campus from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays (excluding holidays).

The Louisiana National Guard provides free COVID-19 testing for students, employees, and the community in Grambling Hall from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Mondays – Thursdays and from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. on Fridays.

Free COVID-19 testing for students is available at the Foster Johnson Health Center (temporarily located at the GSU Laboratory High School on the GSU campus). Free Rapid Testing for students is available at the Health Center and is temporarily located at 407 Central Ave. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. on Fridays.

GSU professor, eight students, headed to Ghana to promote develop partnerships with West African universities

(l-r seated) Vanecia Lewis, NaKiyah Scott, Sanaa Gamble, Jesslyn Reed, Karleisha A. Coleman; standing (l-r): Jalen Livingston, Dr. Aaron Livingston, Justin Richard. Not pictured: Cameron Jackson.

Grambling State University Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator of Sports Administration Dr. Aaron Livingson along with eight GSU students departed Saturday morning en route to Ghana, where the group hopes to develop partnerships between GSU and three universities located in the West African country.

Livingston said the trip will be about promoting education, sports, and cultural enrichment and will consist of three components.

“During the educational component, I will be conducting a series of meetings with university officials and department heads at the University of Ghana, The University of Education, Winneba, and the University of Cape Coast,” Livingston said. “The purpose of these meetings will be to introduce partnerships between these universities and Grambling State University.”

He said hopes are that the partnerships will result in the development of memorandums of understanding between the Ghanaian universities and GSU for student/faculty exchanges in Sport Administration and other disciplines.

“The sport component is driven by the vision of Mrs. Nikiel Winston, who is the founder, president, and CEO of Healthy Life Global,” Livingston said. “Grambling State University and Healthy Life Global have a partnership that began in the fall semester of 2018. The purpose of the sport component is to serve as an international catalyst for the personal and professional development of future leaders who transform culture through progressive actions and healthy lifestyles beyond the court, field, and stage.”

GSU students making the trip will be heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of youth sport camps as well as organization and administration of coaching seminars. Livingston said the cultural enrichment component of the trip is aimed at exposing the GSU students to the educational structure of and the sport area of Ghana.

“The students will be assessing the similarities and differences as it relates to the education and sport culture between the United States and Ghana,” Livingston said. “Upon returning home, the students will be asked to participate in a research project and/or open presentation about this experience.”

This won’t be the first time GSU students have made the journey to Ghana.

“On our first trip to Ghana in February of 2020, we took a team of six, which included four interns and the Healthy Life Global team,” Livingston said. “The student interns were available to attend because of our already established partnership with the Grambling State University Sports Administration Program and Healthy Life Global.

“While in Ghana, we met with a group of University of Ghana students who had an interest in leadership and the development of sports. We also provided youth camps and clinics for future coaches in Soboba and Kyekyewere. Additionally, we visited and spoke to elementary school students. Throughout our visit, we had the pleasure of meeting numerous hospitable individuals and created relationships that encourage efforts for future growth.”

The GSU students making this trip will be developmental education major Karleisha A. Coleman, biology major Sanaa J. Gamble, computer science major Cameron T. Jackson, sport administration major Vanecia R. Lewis, marketing major Jalen B. Livingston, kinesiology major Jesslyn M. Reed, kinesiology major Justin O. Richard, and biology major NaKiyah K. Scott.

“Students were selected for the trip based on their levels of experience, expertise in their field of study, and their willingness to serve as university ambassadors,” Livingston said. “Biology students will be volunteering in local clinics in Ghana. They will be assisting local physicians and other medical staff providing aid to local residents. Computer science students will be setting up computers in the local schools.”

Dr. Livingston continued that Healthy Life Global is gifting more than 60 computers and 10 laptops along with other reading and educational materials to schools in Soboba. Kinesiology students will be developing, organizing and implementing youth sport camps as well as conducting coaching seminars.

Coleman, who is the Graduate Student Association president at GSU and is working on a doctoral degree, said she has traveled abroad before but that this trip to Ghana will offer a unique experience.

“I’m working with Dr. Livingston on research, and we’ll be collaborating with the universities there,” Coleman said. “We’ll be traveling to four of the regions in Ghana to provide the sports camps as well as leadership opportunities for the students. It’s a wonderful and unique opportunity, especially traveling to West Africa, which is the birthplace of African civilization. So, it really means a lot to us to be traveling there. It feels like going home for me.”

Scott said she’s simply looking for a new mindset by taking the trip.

“I just hope this trip opens my mind to a lot of different opportunities, and I’m grateful for the experience and thankful for my university,” Scott said.

UpStartWorks donates 10,000 containers of sanitizing wipes to Grambling State

10,00 containers of clean-cut sanitizing wipes arrive from UpStartWorks to benefit students at Grambling State University.

Grambling, La. – March 1, 2022 – The COVID-19 pandemic saw America pull together as a country to look out for each other and work to care for our own for the better good of all.

And in that same spirit, UpStart Works, a company with expertise in product development, supply chain management, marketing, e-commerce solutions, and go-to-market strategy to guide brands as they look to grow on any of the world’s other leading marketplaces, recently donated 10,000 containers of disinfectant wipes that will be used across the Grambling State University campus.

UpStartWorks client portfolio manager Myles Davis, a 2021 Grambling State graduate, was instrumental in making the donation happen.

Above (l-r): Grambling State President Rick Gallot, John Allen – Client Services Intern, Myles Davis – Client Portfolio Manager, Deshandra Henderson – Director of Strategic Initiatives, Melanie Jones – Vice President of Advancement, Research, and Economic Development, UpstartWorks President/Founder Rohan Thambrahalli, GSU interim Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Rudoplh Ellis.

“We were just kind of brainstorming about what we could do for Black History Month and then the idea popped up of, ‘What about giving back to HBCUs?’” Davis said. “In our industry, we have a lot of clean-cut sanitary wipes, so the idea was brought up — “Why don’t we donate towels and sanitary wipes? And we just ran with it. And of course, when we said HBCU, I said that we’ve got to do Grambling.”

UpStartWorks Director of Strategic Initiatives Deshandra Henderson said making the donation in February — Black History Month — also played into her company’s decision.

“There’s a theme associated with (Black History Month) every single year,” Henderson said. “This year’s theme is Black Health and Wellness. So, we just brainstormed and tried to figure out how we could associate that while making it a meaningful impact? And we realized that it all goes hand-in-hand. We’re still in the thick of the pandemic. It’s not going anywhere, and we just felt like this could go a long way. It could seem small, but we hope the donation will go a long way.”

Henderson said she also hopes that donation will help lead to bigger things in the future.
“If there are other ways to partner together — we had these wipes and we have other things that maybe Grambling State could utilize, then we’d love to have that conversation to see if there are maybe other ways we can partner with each other in some of the other things that we do at UpStartWorks,” Henderson said.

UpStartWorks Founder/President Rohan Thambrahalli said careful thought was put into where the donation should be made.

“Companies have to be deliberate about the impacts we want to make,” Thrambahalli said. “Our organization is very keenly focused on making sure that we’re investing in not only giving opportunities to African American talent, but we’re very deliberate about it. The easy thing to do would be to take this and give it to the American Heart Association, or another organization, or whatever. We want to make sure we’re deliberate in making sure that we’re giving with a purpose. And I’m glad that we’re doing this and not just randomly giving it to some other charity that may not be as purposeful.”

GSU interim Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Rudolph Ellis said the university is appreciative of the donation and the fact that it was made with thought toward the health and well-being of GSU students.

“One of the main things I appreciate is that we have different institutions looking out and appreciating our alumni as well as our students,” Ellis said. “A GSU alumnus played a key role in making that connection in this case. I’m happy to see one of our alumni making an impact on a company they interned with and now work for and realize the value of what comes from Grambling State University. That’s first and foremost.”

“Secondly, I appreciate that during Black History Month we have companies that are reaching out to us and trying to make a difference,” Dr. Ellis continued. “Focusing on health and wellness, I’m very appreciative that they thought about us. Giving out these sanitizer wipes that benefit our students will make a big difference for those students. It shows that we continue the fight to alleviate or prevent COVID-19 for the health of our students.”

Grambling State students collaborate with theater professor to write stageplay about Black joy

Opening night set for Feb. 23

Grambling, La. – February 22, 2022 – Liberating Black joy is the goal of “Bottled Juice,” a play to be presented by Grambling State University’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the Floyd L. Sandle Theatre.

Laura Oliver, a GSU VAPA lecturer, and play director said that the concept for “Bottled Juice” was born out of her interest in revitalizing black joy on GSU’s campus.

“This is my first year as a faculty member, but I realized there was a need to shift the conversation away from violence and remind students of the joy that still exists on campus,” Oliver said. “I believe that one of the best ways to do that is to look within and create art outwardly.”

The short play looks at various expressions of Black joy through poems, monologues, singing, and dancing to highlight the everyday struggles and achievements of Black people and culture.
Oliver said that students auditioned for the show in October and once they were officially cast in the show, work on content for the script began.

Major contributors to the script are Kaylen Randall (a December 2021 GSU graduate), Jaeda Garner, Lahmad “Kam” Holland, Katrice Mullen, Micah Anderson, Dwedee Kobbah, Madison Mason, and Steven Thompson. Cast members were also able to make changes to monologues to demonstrate additional creativity. The students answered questions for a writing prompt that Oliver created.

“They listened to different styles of black music and did free-writing in a poetic way,” Oliver said. “I then took their writings and arranged them in an order that made sense for the message of Black joy.”

“We experienced quite a few hiccups with the development of this show and a few students had to step away from being in the show. From COVID to the death of a faculty member, we have pushed through the obstacles. Our words and spirit live in the show, and we want to encourage the faculty, staff, students, and community to feel empowered by their blackness as we journey throughout the rest of the school year.”

Oliver said one of the most important things that many people might not know about this show is that that that is will be presented as what she terms “devised theater.”

“Devised theatre is the kind of theater where you create a show as you go along,” she said. “Meaning all the parts do not come together until the end. It’s almost like putting a puzzle together with no reference photo. Sometimes it looks messy and unorganized. Sometimes it looks like it won’t even come together, but I like to remind the students that their message is most important, and their effort is what people will remember after the show is done.”

Oliver explained further that devised theater is a new technique she is introducing to the VAPA community.

“That is where the fun part comes into play,” she said. “Creativity gets a chance to grow in its own way. The students get an opportunity to grow their acting and directing skills in new and challenging ways. That’s what it’s about for me.”

Masks will be required and social distancing will be enforced for those attending the play.
General admission tickets will cost $5 for general public and $1 for children 12 and under.
GSU students can attend for free by presenting their university ID card.

For more information, contact GSU’s VAPA office at (318) 274-2201.