Monday, April 27, 2015

Freshman Awards

Going back to about 2007 I have done special awards for first year students. Some are for those who work with the lecture series as this is always a great opportunity for freshmen to get involved.

Lauren and Tevon were my Diaper Dandys, essentially 2 freshmen who had a great year. When I do freshman lunch group meetings I always ask them who is impressive in their class. These two were mentioned a number of times, plus they did extremely well academically.
I also added one more for a student that really understandings hustling. Aaron, as a freshman, tracked down the president of Entergy New Orleans because he is interested in energy law, went to his office to have breakfast, and now has a great connection. In addition he will be an intern with one of his Congressmen from Georgia. This is what I want all students to do- don't wait for things to happen to you, make them happen FOR you.
The Prez

Monday, April 20, 2015

Killer Class (#PHI444)

So I was watching the VH1 special on Hip Hop and Atlanta, and was seeing tweets from Killer Mike. Some kind of way we began connecting through the show and I said he needed to come speak to my class. Interestingly, his sister is a Dillard graduate so that was an additional motivation.

Don't ever let people tell you there is not brilliance in hip hop. Mike "Killer Mike" Render is brilliant. He began Morehouse College only to get signed by what would have been his senior year, and yet his extensive knowledge was evident by the books he cited. Very well read!

So we were able to talk about not just First Amendment issues, but broader ethical issues related to hip hop, Black communities, etc. I think he wowed the class.

The Prez

Honoring the Legend

Yesterday we honored Xavier University president Dr. Norman C. Francis with an honorary degree. He has received a few and many more to come, but I felt that as a sister institution we should be among that group.

Dr. Francis is the longest serving president in the nation, in his 48th year. In fact, he began those duties on April 4, 1968 (historic in its own right). I turned one later that month so he has essentially been the president there my entire life.

There will be many pieces written about his impact on higher education, but he has been a tremendous advocate for HBCUs and has been able to bring those issues to the highest levels of government for decades. There will never be another one like him, and I am glad I know him.

The Prez

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Philosophy 444 (#PHI444)

This is my second semester teaching Philosophy 444 (I Cram to Understand: Hip Hop, Sex, Gender and Ethical Behavior). It came out of discussions with MC Lyte and she was the co-instructor last term. I was only going to teach the class once a year but there was still interest so I am continuing it this semester. This is a flipped class, where most lectures, videos, etc. are viewed before class and then we have the time in class to work through issues and have rich discussions.

Skype has been an important tool. I have been able to have some great guests, including public intellectuals Michael Eric Dyson and James Peterson, Industry Ears founder Lisa Fager, and pastor of Impact Church in Atlanta, Rev. Olu Brown. Above, Attorney Deanne Arthur in San Diego spoke to us about a case where her client (Tiny Doo) is being tried on conspiracy charges for rapping about gang life. They are trying to tie him to some murders even though his lyrics are not about any specific crimes. This case has been covered by national media including CNN, so it was a coup to get her for class.

This past week journalist Rajul Punjabi stopped by to discuss issues including cultural appropriation. I was in New York for the UNCF meeting so I had to Skype in, which was cool because I could still hear her presentation and engage the class as well. There are just so many more options with technology these days.

I am looking forward to the rest of the semester. Killer Mike is coming to visit March 25th, hip hop industry exec Shanti Das will be here April 1st, and hopefully I can get a surprise guest in soon (hopefully this week!)

So I think I will teach the class every semester now. It is extra work, but it has been a great way to interact with students I might not normally meet. I have 17 this semester but going up to 24 in the fall. That might be the ceiling for enrollment.

Follow the class on Twitter using the hashtag #PHI444.

The Prez

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Arthur J. Winfield '70

It is hard finding a picture of someone who often has a camera in his hands. But this picture was taken on my birthday last year with the staff development committee. On the far left is Mr. Arthur Winfield whose funeral was held Saturday at Dillard. I would guess that over 600 people attended, and as many say, if you live your eulogy every day, you will see this kind of outpouring of love and support at your service of celebration.

Mr. Winfield always had a camera available to take photos. It really was a symbol that he was a servant leader- he didn't have to be in front at all, but working behind the scenes to make things happen. I learned yesterday that he served as the undergraduate advisor for our Kappa Alpha Psi chapter for over 15 years, and that his line brother is former NBA champion George Johnson (6'11" tall), so they were the bookends of their line in the late 1960s.

Some people you can just say are "good people." You never hear any bad words spoken about them, and they are always positive. That's how I would describe Mr. Winfield - good people. He lived his life in a manner that many of us should emulate.

And it starts with understanding that we need not be in front of the camera all of the time. Sometimes we need to get behind it so we can help others see what they might not normally see. Because being behind the camera can give you great perspective.

Here's to a great son of Dillard, Arthur James Winfield.

The Prez

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dillard Pre-Law LSAT Prep

We just began our third annual LSAT prep course. This course and the growth of our pre-law program is a result of the university honoring Justice Revius Ortique when the new professional schools building was opened. We launched the Ortique courtroom and hosted the first Ortique lecture on law and society in 2010 with Attorney General Eric Holder. This past December the speaker was Benjamin Crump.

The main challenge facing students of color is having no experience with the LSAT prior to taking it, therefore the scores are low (with African Americans the lowest). For the first two years the average score increased by 10 points for all completers, with a 14 point increase for students who fully engaged in the course.

This year we're starting with 19 students (almost all juniors)! Thanks to the support of alums and friends who have made this experience possible for our students. So we're expecting a big group entering law school for the fall of 2016.

The Prez

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mardi Gras Parades

It doesn't take long to get used to Mardi Gras. Just a great time to celebrate life, friends and family. The parades are great because it is a chance to see all of the high school and college bands perform. HBCUs are very prominent in the mix. This year we saw bands from Southern University, Talladega College, Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University. They are always crowd favorites.

And of course a highlight is catching all the beads and the like. Of course it helps when you get to sit in the Mayor's box (these two are going to be spoiled!)

The Prez