Thursday, December 31, 2015

10 Dillard University Notables of 2015: #5 to #2

The countdown continues of memorable moments at Dillard in 2015.

#5 80th anniversary of DU Theater

Dillard has the oldest HBCU theater program in the nation and this year we celebrated our 80th anniversary. For Founder's Day this past October, Dillard alum Garrett Morris was the speaker. He of course got his start in DU Theater, and has gone on to do Saturday Night Live, Martin, Car Wash, and the Jamie Foxx Show.

Current theater students are doing well, with recent performances in local productions of The Color Purple and The Bluest Eye.

#4 Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture

2015 was the year the Ray Charles program finally took off. In 2014 Zella Palmer joined us as the chair of the program and she creatively jumped started a program which was established when Michael Lomax was president. In this past year there have been lectures, conferences, cooking demonstrations, and trips to better understand cooking and food culture. Look for more from this exciting program.

#3 MC Lyte

Lots of colleges and universities like to have celebrities on their boards who lend their names. That's not what MC Lyte has done. With her Hip Hop Sisters Foundation, she has provided scholarships for men to attend Dillard, the first two are freshmen now and she recently made another award on the Steve Harvey Show and two more at the Soul Train Awards.

MC Lyte though is an active trustee. She attends and ACTIVELY participates in board meetings, including conference calls. She offers ideas and suggestions, and shows a genuine interest in the students. She is doing this because this is her passion, and she has brought so much to Dillard. I am personally very thankful for her and her team.

#2 The Million Dollar Man

This year we received the largest, one time gift from an alum- $1 million. I had dinner with Mr. Edwards soon after the gift. He recounted how he attended Dillard due to the generosity of others, and vowed that one day he would do the same. He did. No talk, no fanfare, just action. All HBCUs need more alums who will follow his lead.

I'll share the top memory tomorrow, but you should know the answer which can be given in one word...

10 Dillard University Notables of 2015: #10 to #6

For the end of 2015 I am reflecting on a great calendar year. And since everyone has a list, I'll add one of my own. Here are some memorable moments at Dillard for 2015, starting with #10.

#10 Remembering Katrina ten years later

For several weeks the city of New Orleans took time to remember Hurricane Katrina. As most know, Dillard was impacted far greater than any other New Orleans area university. But under the leadership of Dr. Marvalene Hughes, who began her tenure as president only 7 weeks before Katrina hit, the campus has been able to rebound. There is still work to be done, but we continue to strengthen post-Katrina.

#9 Mike Newell is no joke (and neither is Dillard's men's basketball squad)

At the end of 2015, the men's basketball team is 8-4. Over the course of the previous 4 seasons we won 15 games- total. We won 5 last year. Mike Newell came in saying he wanted to be competitive, would recruit good guys with skill, and he has done just that. He is not playing. We just won a game last night by 47 points. FORTY-SEVEN.

#8 Awesome speakers continue to visit Dillard

Brain Food. Jason Riley. Charles Blow. Iyanla Vanzant. Sil Lai Abrams. Michael Morton. Karrine Steffans. Dance Theater of Harlem.

Ortique Lecture on Law and Society. Bryan Stevenson.

My class on hip hop, sex, gender, and ethical behavior. Killer Mike. Shanti Das. Dee-1. Monica Miller. Plus we had numerous guests via Skype including David Banner, Big KRIT, Michael Eric Dyson, James Peterson, Lady Leshurr, Carolina Dirty, Renada Romain, Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Bakari Kitwana, and Lisa Fager.

I'm committed to a wide range of people and a wide range of topics (including the controversial).

#7 DU Concert Choir, Jussie Smollett, Estelle, and UNCF

Empire was a break out hit this year, so it was awesome for our choir to perform one of the hit songs from the show on the UNCF Evening of Stars with Jussie Smollett and Estelle.

#6 Signature Programs- Physics and Film

Dillard has the oldest nursing program in Louisiana and is one of our largest programs. But this year we decided to give more emphasis on physics and film as programs that can be developed to become stellar programs along side our historic nursing program.

Dillard currently ranks second in the nation for producing African Americans with undergraduate degrees in physics. We are one of a few HBCUs with film programs, but being in Louisiana which is one of the top film producing states, we have distinct advantages as our students have worked on independent films, major films like The Butler, and TV shows like CSI New Orleans.

This is the first half of the list. Stay tuned for 5-1...

The Prez

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ozell Sutton

I got word last night that Ozell Sutton died. Bro. Sutton is someone I have known most of my adult life as he was a past general president of Alpha Phi Alpha. So I was excited when I became president of Philander Smith College in 2004, the place he famously called his "alma mama."

Sutton explained that your alma mater is the place where you matriculate, but an alma mater is a place that nourished and molded you. This nourishment led him to become a significant civil rights figure in Arkansas and in the South. 

We rolled out a social justice mission in 2007 and as the concept grew we decided to create a social justice award. Of course, it had to be named for Sutton and we announced the award in 2009 at the opening convocation where Father Michael Pfleger was the preacher.

Sutton then made the first presentation to Nigel Haskett, a McDonald's employee who was shot breaking up a domestic violence situation in the restaurant in August of 2008. We were excited to be able to recognize Haskett and have Sutton there for the ceremony.

I was glad to have his support when I was president at Philander.  He was a true trailblazer on many fronts, a civil rights legend, and an all around good brother.

The Prez

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The measure of your generosity

As we come down to the end of the year, this message from Bob Gass in his "Word for You Today" might inspire us all to be generous. At Dillard we have LOTS of great students who simply lack resources. Over the next few weeks most of us will spend money for things we don't need and even for people we don't like. Maybe we can give to help students stay in school.

The Prez

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.”  Mt 9:36 NIV

The measure of your generosity
In spite of economic challenges, people in the United States still live in the world’s most prosperous country. Yet less than 3 percent of their income goes to charity; that’s lower than it was during the Great Depression. You say, “If I ever get a lot of money I’ll be generous.” Who are you kidding! Prosperity has little to do with generosity. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is [invested], there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21 NIV). The median income in the state of Mississippi is the lowest in the country, yet it leads the nation in charitable giving. By contrast, New Hampshire leads the nation when it comes to personal income, but guess where it ranks in charitable giving? At the bottom! Financial expert Daniel Levin says, “Prosperity isn’t in what you’ve attained, but rather in what you give away.” The truth is, if you want to become a more generous person you can’t wait for your income to increase; you must allow God to change your heart. That means looking for a reason to give every day, and finding a compelling cause or a worthy ministry. And you won’t have to look far; they’re all around you. The Bible says of Jesus, “When he saw the [crowds], he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless.” When it comes right down to it the recipients of our generosity aren’t really churches, causes, or institutions. They’re people—people loved and valued by God; people for whom Christ died. So what are you doing for others? How you answer that question is the measure of your generosity! 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Brain Food: The Dance Theater of Harlem

Thanks to our friends at the New Orleans Ballet Association, we were able to host a special lecture/performance of the Dance Theater of Harlem. The performed at several venues that weekend, but we were excited to host this special session which was very informative.

The theater was formed in February of 1969, inspired after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Arthur Mitchell founded it to be unapologetically ethnic. Like many HBCU, it started in a church basement. And like HBCUs, have struggled some, closing for a while before reopening in 2012. We learned a great deal from Virginia Johnson, the artistic director, and Robert Garland, the resident choreographer.

Not only was the dancing great, but the history was inspiring. We have to support our institutions.

The Prez

Friday, November 27, 2015

Giving Thanks

Since 2009 we have hosted college students for Thanksgiving dinner, knowing that many can't go home for Thanksgiving. So this year was our 4th at Dillard.

We ended up with 12 students and 2 young alums, the bulk of the group from California. Even year we also host our non-biological daughter Carmela who was a freshman at Philander Smith when we started this tradition, so she has been to all of them.

Lots of good food and fellowship- one of the best days of the year for my family.

The Prez

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Talking about Black Colleges on Black radio

Had a great time this morning at WBOK radio with host Warren Bell as the 3 New Orleans HBCU leaders chopped it up discussing our schools, college choices for students, politics, financing college, etc. I hung out with the Chancellor of SUNO, Dr. Victor Ukpolo, and the president of Xavier, Dr. Reynold Verret. We were just together yesterday for another meeting, and we are all in the same athletic conference as well.

Would be great if we did this quarterly- I enjoyed it.

One of the things that I think is unique about New Orleans is that we have our own HBCU center with Dillard, Xavier and SUNO. While not in the same proximity as the AUC in my hometown, we are all about 10 minutes from each other. So having these 3 schools in this city I think is a plus for us. And we all have different strengths which I believe benefit the city.

The Prez

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Thanks to #PHI444 Guest MCs (moved the class)

Thanks to these great folks who visited with my class on hip hop, sex, gender and ethical behavior this fall:

Bakari Kitwana, author, "The Hip Hop Generation"-- helped us understand hip hop history after we went to see the movie "Straight Outta Compton"

Dr. Karen Dill Shackelford, media professor, Claremont Graduate School-- she testified before Congress in the Imus aftermath; helped us understand media as culture.

Dr. Monica Miller, religion professor, Lehigh University-- discussed the idea of new black godz and hip hop's God complex

David Banner, rapper and activist-- discussed how Black people have been programmed, so how do we reprogram to love ourselves and see the God in each other

Big KRIT, rapper-- discussed his values and why we need to hear a variety of voices

Dee-1, New Orleans hometown hero rapper-- made us think about why positive lyrics can get banned

Karrine Steffans, NY Times best selling author-- made us question why women can't tell their stories like the men can, or why no one protects women when male rappers use their actual names in songs

Rajul Punjabi, journalist-- explored the idea of cultural appropriation

Carolina Dirty, South Carolina MC and member of group Heresy-- you need to watch this video for their song "Da Call Out" and ask how do we get MORE hip hop like this!

Lady Leshurr, UK rapper-- helped us talk about differences between America and UK for rap and why she wants to be valued based on her flow and not her appearance.

These folks made for a GREAT semester. Working now to line up new MCs for spring 2016.

The Prez

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Senator Cassidy visits political science class

Last week Senator Bill Cassidy visited campus and spoke with a political science class. He engaged them in a good conversation about a variety of issues, even acknowledging potential ideological differences, but committed to engaging his constituents, which is great. I believe the students benefitted greatly, and it is always good for elected officials to engage their constituents.

The Prez

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Happy Birthday Benjamin!

First kid born in US commemorating the election of Barack Obama. Benjamin was born election day at 2:35pm.

The Prez

Monday, November 2, 2015


Last Friday I attended 2 inaugurations in one day. Started off the morning at Saint Augustine's University in Raleigh, where Dr. Everett Ward is president. He is also my fraternity brother whom I have known for years.

Then I drove almost 2 hours to Winston-Salem State where Dr. Elwood Robinson is president. Dr. Robinson has really embraced social media as part of his strategy. So it was a hectic day but I wanted to be part of these events.
The Prez

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Brain Food: Karrine Steffans

The day finally arrived. After the outrage, on line petition, surveys, etc., Karrine Steffans made it to Dillard, and amazingly, one week later, the place is still standing! Definitely a lot I could say, and will another time. But for now, I want to focus on what was a powerful day. We began with a visit to my PHI444 class (hip hop, sex, gender and ethical behavior). Hip Hop is a great vehicle to discuss this because this is an industry where women are routinely exploited.
Karrine is the outlier in that she flipped the script. One of the main questions in the class was her thoughts about it being right (ethically) for her to name names. She questioned why she is attacked for doing what the rappers do in their songs, providing real examples. Her point was that she too was giving them hip hop- just without a beat.
Our special guest was Miss Louisiana 2015, Candice Bennatt. Candice set the tone for the evening quickly since domestic violence was her platform. She shared that she was a victim of teen dating violence. At 16 she suffered a broken jaw and busted ear drum. You could feel the impact of her words in the standing room only crowd. I was pleased she was able to spend a few minutes with us- she is a second year law student at Loyola.

Karrine then came up for the keynote. She broken down violence as a language and started with how judgment is a language that she is all too familiar with. She openly referenced the opposition to her visit, sharing candidly how could those who attacked her by judging her and through social media, trying to tear her down, were essentially too late- her mother had done far worse to her when she was 6. She learned that language early.

But she indicates that when we tear people down we create cracks for predators to enter their lives. So every time we tell people they aren't good enough, or don't look good a certain way, we are using a judgment language that can aid abusers.

She wondered out loud why people instead don't ask her, "What happened to you? Who said what to make you who you are today?"

In a speech that kept a packed room eerily quiet, she recounted the abuse she endured in relationships, but understanding now that the abusers spoke her language. She offered that when people saw why didn't you just leave, is like telling someone to go to Germany and start speaking German- it is not your language. But she asked us to remember that abusers are victims too; it is the language that they learned as kids.

Her warning to us was to be careful what you say to others. Many reckless things were said about her (and me too) after it was announced she would be visiting. But I am thankful for that experience because it helped me to understand why domestic violence is so prevalent in our communities. Our willingness to freely demonize people without knowing their stories sets predators up to do what they do. Hopefully some folks will be slow to judge going forward.

After we finished, Karrine spoke to individuals another 90 minutes, many whispering their shared stories.

And this is why Karrine Steffans came to Dillard, and can come back whenever she likes.

The Prez

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Founder's Day 2015 with Garrett Morris '58

Recently we celebrated Founder's Day. For Dillard, it is traditionally near the birthday of James Hardy Dillard (October 24th). So this is an important day of remembrance for the university. This year also marks the 60th anniversary of Lawless Memorial Chapel, and before the main program we held a rededication program.

Since this year also marks the 80th anniversary of the theater program, we were pleased to welcome New Orleans native and Dillard alum Garrett Morris. Watching the students respond to him made me think that he was the perfect embodiment of this day. He was an original case member of Saturday Night Live, so their parents and grandparents would remember that. They have known him through reruns of Martin and The Jamie Foxx Show (which are during my time). So of course he entertained us for the afternoon.

And for me, this day is the beginning of the countdown toward graduation, the first time seniors get to wear regalia. It is always my hope that they start planning in earnest for their future, so this day puts them in that mindset.

The Prez

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Campus Royalty

This weekend we crowned our new campus royalty. Miss Dillard is Kamara Dunn from Bakersfield, California, and Mr. Dillard is Dakarai Moton from New Orleans. Both are exceptional students and great representatives of Dillard students. We had a great homecoming weekend and we honored them in exceptional fashion.

The Prez

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

#AmericasCollegeProm​ise & #UNCF

Today the UNCF led a "tweetstorm" to garner awareness and support for the America's College Promise Act. If Congress will support this legislation, it would greatly enhance the resources for students attending HBCUs. As you have heard there is considerable energy around making community college free. But for Black students, even if they need remediation, their chances of getting a 4 year degree are 4 times greater by starting at a 4 year school.

Graduation rates will be improved if students have more financial resources. HBCUs generally have enrollments that are greater than 60% Pell eligible, meaning those students come from families earning less than $40,000 a year. This new act could add potentially $8K a year to those students which will improve graduation rates.

This past weekend the UNCF New Orleans hosted its walk for education. New Orleans is home to 2 high performing UNCF schools- Dillard and Xavier. So combining the already great work of UNCF with this new act and we will greatly change the trajectories of many college students.

Contact your members of congress and ask them to support this act!

The Prez

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Dr. Monica Miller

On September 30th my class hosted Dr. Monica Miller from Lehigh University. She is a professor of religion and Africana studies, and provided two lectures. The first was about the Black church and hip hop, and the second is about language in hip hop with respect to women. Both talks were outstanding. I was excited for this young scholar to interact with my class and the larger community.

Also the lecture was sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. I think the interesting idea was the one of new black godz, essentially the way hip hop artists use language from the 5 percenters to make sure their humanity is recognized.

We'll have to bring her back soon.

The Prez

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hazing Prevention Week

I've served as an expert witness in hazing cases since 1998, so I have to keep up with hazing. This actually started when I was coordinator of Greek Life at Emory where I was responsible for much of the hazing training. So over the years I have not only trained students on my campus, but across the nation. That week I spoke at both North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central.

So a year ago I was surprised to get an e-mail from Michael Morton, former fraternity chapter president and SGA president who spent 2 years in jail- for hazing. In part, he said he wanted to play a role in helping to warn students about the consequences. It was a strong letter and I promised I would find an opportunity for him.

I had been appointed as chair of a hazing task force by the North American Inter-fraternity conference, and for our summer meeting I asked Michael if he would Skype in. My task force was blown away. Although the vast majority were members of predominantly white fraternities, Michael's story resonated with all of us. At that point I knew I needed to bring him to New Orleans.

Michael graciously accepted and during the last week of September, hazing prevention week, he spoke to over 600 students from several campuses about his experience. I don't want to retell the story- it is one that all college students should hear in person. So I am asking that you feel free to contact me so I can connect you with him and have him speak on your campus. Michael gave one of the most personal hazing experiences I have ever heard- absolutely phenomenal!

I will share this. I believe in lectures because they provide spaces for people to come together. The beauty is that you never know who might show up. Before the lecture Michael indicated he saw the father of the young man injured at FAMU which lead to his arrest and jailing. I was thinking that couldn't possible be true- he lives in Atlanta.

Well, after the event a man approached me and said he was the father of the student injured! He was also Michael's fraternity brother. Okay, I was a little nervous but he indicated he had no ill will. In fact, back then he and I spoke on the phone as the lawyers considered me as an expert witness for that case (I was not involved though). So when just about everyone was gone I saw these men (and a third fraternity brother who drove the father to New Orleans) have a heart to heart talk.

It really was a beautiful moment of reconciliation.

And that's why Brain Food is important.

The Prez

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Melton Fellows in China by Ayanna Woolfork '16

Traveling abroad brings about many emotions ranging from excitement to anxiety. Since I left the U.S. I have been on a constant cycle through anxiety, homesickness, excitement, and intrigue. When our group from Dillard first arrived, we were all sent to stay with a family. The first thing that I noticed was that even though both the mom and dad in our family are both university professors, they lived in an apartment and I literally saw no single family homes. When I asked them where the houses were, they said that because of the sheer amount of people in China, they are pretty much forced to build up and only the very rich can afford to buy land and build a home. They also fed me constantly! Every few hours they would have a large spread of food and they wanted me to try everything! The first meal they fed me had beans, salmon, chicken, fish, rice, noodles, soup, tofu, salted veggies, fruit, duck, and shrimp. And before I could digest that, there was a meal of a similar caliber in front of me again. Overall, my honestly was a great experience.

Quite possibly the experience that had the biggest impact on me so far has been going out in public, in China, as a black woman, with a weave. On the first day (Saturday) we went out to the most popular tourist destination in the Hangzhou area, Westlake. I stopped with my host mom to take a picture and the next thing I knew, there was a crowd of people around me, staring at me, and taking pictures of me. One guy asked if he could take a selfie with me and then even more people showed up. I was confused and honestly wanted to cry. I felt like a circus. Throughout the day, it didn't stop and my host family either didn't notice or didn't think anything of it. For me it was degrading and disrespectful, but I on the second day I tried to make the best of it by smiling and saying "ni-hao" to those I caught staring.....and by telling people who I caught taking pictures of me that I was famous in the U.S. It made me feel better so I guess it worked!

Overall my experience in China and within Melton has been amazing. I've gotten to see old friends and make new ones (specifically the new fellows from Ashesi University in Ghana). it's also been interesting to realize that all people of color are not minorities and to think of all people of color as minorities, is very distinctly American. Being in China and with the Melton Foundation has opened my heart and my eyes to a very different reality and I couldn't be more grateful for this experience!
Ayanna Woolfork is a senior public health major from Houston TX, reporting from China!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Judge Carl Stewart and the next generation of DU lawyers

This past Saturday the Greater New Orleans Louis A. Martinet Society hosted their scholarship Jazz Brunch. Dillard was in the house in a BIG way.

First, we congratulate our alumnus Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart, United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, who received the 2015 Martinet Lifetime Achievement Award. His wife and daughter, also alums, were there at the event (his daughter is also a judge).

Next, Jackie Fuller '16 received the Ortique Scholarship. Jackie is a pre-law student and active in a number of organizations on campus. Finally, there was a table of Dillard students there to represent the university, along with our alumni director (who holds a JD from UVa) and a 2012 DU alumna who is a law student at Tulane.

Expect to hear more from our pre-law program in the near future as it grows.

The Prez

Friday, September 4, 2015

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

Last week was interesting- the entire nation looked to see where New Orleans is ten years after Hurricane Katrina. As a campus that was the most damaged of any higher education institutions in the city, it was appropriate for us to have our own service of remembrance.

Our special guest was Dr. Marvalene Hughes, the 6th president of Dillard. She started as president here July 1, 2005. Katrina hit August 29th. I still can't even fathom what went through her mind. But as she said, she believed she was being prepared for this experience. I agree.

We also premiered a short documentary of the impact here. It was powerful especially for our students since about half are from outside of the area. And for me as someone who was not here but who housed Dillard students at Philander Smith, the ceremony was moving for me as well.

The Prez

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Faculty-Staff Institute

On August 13th we officially opened the year with our faculty staff institute. It is a time to get updates as we enter the year, have staff development sessions, and motivation. Our keynote speaker was Larry Jemison, Jr. who reminded us to focus on customer service. Always a good message.

We then recognized faculty and staff for years of service. A very important activity!

And we ecognized two retirements, Ms. Andrews in Student Success (over 40 years),

and Dr. Wiltz in psychology, close to 40 years. Both are (they will always be) valued members of our community. So we definitely started off right.

The Prez