Marketing & Communications

May 2018



Xavier’s women’s team repeated as the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Track and Field champions, winning six events on day two and scoring a meet-record 258 points.


Award-winning The New York Times investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones will deliver the commencement address at Xavier's 91st annual graduation ceremony Saturday, May 12, at 10:00 a.m. in the University’s Convocation Center.

Hannah-Jones is expected to address some 550 undergraduate, graduate, and pre-professional students and their families at the commencement. She will be joined on the stage by Xavier University of Louisiana President Emeritus Dr. Norman C. Francis, who will be awarded an honorary degree from his alma mater.

Other scheduled commencement-related events include the Division of Education and Counseling’s Graduate School hooding ceremony Thursday, May 10, at 6:00 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom; the College of Pharmacy Hooding Ceremony Friday, May 11, at noon in the Convocation Center, and the Baccalaureate Mass/Honors Convocation Friday, May 11 at 5:00 p.m., in the Convocation Center.

The commencement is a ticketed event. All others are open to the public.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Hannah-Jones, who has been a staff writer for The New York Times since 2015, is known for her long-form writing style and her investigative coverage of civil rights, education, fair housing, school segregation, and discrimination in the United States.

During her career, which spans five newspapers and magazines in New York, Oregon, and North Carolina, she has accumulated 26 awards for journalism, writing, and radio reporting. Her article in The New York Times magazine documenting school segregation won a National Magazine Award last year, and before that she received a Peabody and a George Polk Award for work on the same topic. She was named Journalist of the Year in 2015 by National Association of Black Journalists.

Founder and president of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, a news trade organization dedicated to increasing the ranks of investigative reporters of color,  in 2017 Hannah-Jones was named one of 24 MacArthur Fellows by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which annually awards grants to “exceptionally creative people”. Often referred to as the “genius grant,” it comes with a cash award of $625,000, no strings attached.


Hannah-Jones has a Xavier connection, having penned a landmark piece for The New York Times magazine on Xavier’s premed program, “A Prescription for More Black Doctors," which appeared in September 2015. She also helped to edit a new book by one of the Xavier-educated physicians featured in that that piece (Dr. Pierre Johnson ’02) and two of his associates, “Pulse of Perseverance,” which was published earlier this year.

She is a graduate of the University of  Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Dr. Norman C. Francis

During his long tenure as president, Dr. Norman C. Francis and Xavier University of Louisiana were virtually synonymous.

As the leader of the nation's only historically Black and Catholic university, Francis guided Xavier's growth both in size and dimension. During his presidency, the University more than doubled its enrollment, broadened its curriculum, expanded its campus, and strengthened its financial base. Its tradition of academic excellence was further enhanced.

Francis, himself a Xavier graduate (1952), was at one time the longest-sitting university president in the U.S. He served at Xavier for more than five decades as an administrator, 46 of those as President. Francis was named Xavier “President Emeritus” in 2015.

Through his leadership, the University instituted a core curriculum and mandatory comprehensives, and become recognized nationally as a leader in minority education, particularly in the STEM areas. Among the major accomplishments of Francis' tenure was the successful completion of several capital campaigns. Giving by alumni also increased dramatically. He is credited with being the catalyst for nearly every building constructed on the campus during a period of four decades.


Francis also enjoyed a prestigious personal reputation. He served in an advisory role to eight U.S. presidential administrations – not only on education issues, but civil rights as well – in addition to serving on 54 boards and commissions. In 2006 then-President George W. Bush presented him with the nation’s highest civil award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2009 he was named one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News Media Group and the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) at Harvard Kennedy's School of Government.


Lauren Thornton in the research lab at Xavier University of Louisiana


Lauren Thornton, a junior biology major, was one of only two college students from Louisiana to be named a 2018 Goldwater Scholar by the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

A total of 1,280 students from 455 institutions nationwide were nominated for this year’s Goldwater scholarship class. Only 211 were selected, with Thornton, a native of Arlington TX (Mansfield Timberview High School), being the one of the two students selected from Louisiana.

The Goldwater Scholarship Program, one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics in the United States, seeks to identify and support college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming this nation’s next generation of research leaders in these fields.

The first XULA recipient of the scholarship, Thornton will receive $7,500 to cover costs associated with tuition, mandatory fees, books, and room and board for her senior year. She plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience or molecular biology after earning her undergraduate degree on her path to a career in higher education and independent research.

“I have always been interested in research, because it forces you to experiment, to think out of the box,” said Thornton. “There is something truly exciting about building on the knowledge that others have previously acquired and then discovering new things yourself.”

A BUILD/McNair scholar at Xavier, Thornton has compiled a 3.98 grade point average. Outside of the classroom, she has been extensively involved in a research study of a human neurodegenerative disease called Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP) under the mentorship of XULA biology professor Dr. Thomas Huckaba for the past two years.

According to Huckaba, HSP can be caused by mutations in a protein called kinesin, which is responsible for transporting cargoes from one place to another in cells. He said Thornton, who has been performing biochemical and biophysical assays to test their hypothesis that certain HSP-causing mutations would decrease the ability of kinesin to bind to the transport track, has also pioneered a set of computational studies to analyze potential structural changes in kinesin. He said her data points toward a mechanism at the heart of this neurodegenerative disease that could ultimately translate into a therapeutic target.

Although she is thoroughly immersed in the study of neurodegenerative diseases, Thornton, who was invited to participate in the University of California-San Diego’s prestigious STARS program this summer via the UCSD/XULA Graduate Pathways Partnership, is keeping her options open going forward.

"Lauren is a gifted young scientist; she already has many of the skills that are necessary for a productive career in scientific research,” said Huckaba. “I have no doubt that she will succeed admirably in the next levels of her training. I have been fortunate to have had Lauren in the lab and look forward to having her as a colleague in the future."


XULA Division of Business students (L-R): Anna Harus, Nia Lang, and Donia Messoudi, under the guidance of mentors Dr. Syed Adeel Ahmed & Professor Mark Quinn, presented their project on NOLA Bus Shelters at Values and Ventures Competition held at TCU.


XULA President Dr. Verret joined New Orleans Mayor-Elect Latoya Cantrell ‘97 at the "America's Future with China", forum jointly hosted by Xavier's Confucius Institute, the US-China Strong Foundation, and the World Trade Center of New Orleans at English Turn Country Club. At the event, Karl Turner and a long time benefactor donated $12,500 toward Xavier's students studying abroad in China scholarships.

The inaugural charter group of 43 individuals (including students, faculty, and administrators) celebrate during the chartering ceremony for the new Xavier Circle (chapter) of Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society. [more]


Xavier has been awarded a $196,854 Louisiana Board of Regents Targeted Enhancement grant to support the creation of a “mobile laboratory” for its Performance Studies Laboratory (PSL) program.

The PSL is a humanities-based interdisciplinary academic program which views performance as an object to be studied, a creative method of scholarly inquiry and representation, and a tool for community engagement. Working in an interdisciplinary context, the laboratory uses a performance-based lens for experiential learning and research that culminates with sharing creative work with public audiences.

The PSL offers wide-ranging learning and research opportunities for students such as undergraduate courses, research-based performance projects, practice-based workshops, and performance festivals involving multiple levels of community engagement and outreach. On average each year, the lab engages approximately 150 undergraduates in learning and research activities and reaches audiences of 500, including community members.

Xavier’s PSL is the only performance studies program in the nation at a historically black college or university (HBCU).

Dr. Ross Louis, a professor of communication studies and the principal investigator for the grant, said the funding will enable the PSL to create a “mobile laboratory” with a full range of stage, light, sound, and video design equipment which can be organized into smaller, transportable units for use in individual courses and workshops and combined for large-scale performance research presented to campus and public audiences. In particular, the robust collection of easily transportable materials will allow the PSL to expand its collaborative humanities-based laboratory to include more students from various disciplines.

“We are grateful to the Board of Regents for fully funding this initiative,” said Louis. “The mobile laboratory will dramatically expand the technical capacities of performance-based courses offered in various academic departments, while strengthening faculty and student research, interdisciplinary collaborations, and community partnerships.”


The National Endowment for the Humanities announced its support of Xavier University of Louisiana’s proposed project entitled "Digital Humanities, Data Science, and Digital Justice Minor," with $35,000 in funding through its Humanities Connections grant program, an initiative that is designed to expand the role of the humanities in undergraduate education.

Under the direction of Dr. Kim Vaz-Deville, professor of education and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the grant funds will be used to address the long-term plans of the university and the workforce development needs of the community it serves. The minor in Digital Humanities, Data Science, and Digital Justice will teach students the humanistic tools of critique, appreciation and engagement with the byproduct of providing skills development in digital platforms that are used in businesses.

Vaz-Deville said the minor is steeped in Xavier’s mission as a Historically Black and Catholic University preparing students for leadership and to work toward a more just and humane society.


The Premedical Office has been able to confirm that at least 23 Xavier alumni – and soon-to-be medical doctors – were successfully matched for first-year residency positions on the traditional “Match Day”.

For students participating in the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP), or “The Match”, it is the culmination of a year’s work to secure a Match. During the first half of their senior year, medical students apply for positions at residency programs of their choosing. In February, after they have visited program sites and been interviewed by program directors, the students enter their choices into a computer, in order of preference. At the same time, residency program directors nationwide enter similar rank order lists for the students they have interviewed.

Lists from each group are sent to the NRMP headquarters in Washington DC, where a computer matches students and residency programs. The Match is programmed to give students their highest choice possible. Results are released simultaneously throughout the nation. Future Xavier MD’s who were matched, their medical school, and place of residency were:

Nnanna Alozie ’11, Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University, emergency medicine residency at Hackensack (NJ) University Medical Center; Kristopher Boone ’10, Morehouse School of Medicine, internal medicine residency at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta GA; Chigozie Dike ’14, University of Texas-Houston McGovern School of Medicine, emergency medicine residency at the University of Texas-Houston McGovern School of Medicine in Houston TX; Jasmine Dillard ’13, Meharry Medical School, pediatrics residency at the Cleveland (OH) Clinic Foundation; Brandan Dotson ’14, University of California-San Francisco, internal medicine residency at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose CA; Mariah Dunbar ’14, St. Louis University School of Medicine, family medicine residency at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in South Bend IN; Dexter Graves ’11, Drexel University School of Medicine, emergency medicine residency at the University of Chicago (IL) Medical School; Mary Green ’06, LSU-New Orleans School of Medicine, pathology residency at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem NC; Stequita Hankton ’11, Virginia Commonwealth School of Medicine, family medicine residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago IL; Maura Jones ’14, LSU-New Orleans School of Medicine, OB/GYN residency at University of California-San Francisco Medical Center; LaDonna Kearse ‘14, Howard University College of Medicine, general surgery residency at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington DC; Alyssa Mercadel ’14, Texas A&M University School of Medicine, OB/GUN residency at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas TX; David Nguyen ’14, Tulane University School of Medicine, plastic surgery residency at the St. Louis (MO) University School of Medicine; Obinna Oko ’14, LSU-New Orleans School of Medicine, OB/GYN residency at the University of California-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento CA; Oluwadolapo Oyebadejo ’14, Baylor University College of Medicine, emergency medicine residency at the Baylor University College of Medicine in Houston TX; Courtney Royal ’13, University of Rochester School of Medicine, family medicine residency at the University of South Alabama Medical School in Mobile AL; Chavez Scott ’12, Meharry Medical College, emergency medicine residency at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta GA; Kristin Signater ’12, Morehouse School of Medicine, internal medicine residency at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis TN; Ashley Sutherland ’08, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, OB/GYN residency (active duty) at the Wright State University/Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton OH; Marleesa Thompson ’11, Meharry Medical College, emergency medicine residency at the University of Texas-Houston McGovern School of Medicine; Kaylise Trahan ’13, Morehouse School of Medicine, emergency medicine residency at University Hospital in Jackson MS; Stephanie Warfield ’08, William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, internal medicine residency at Merit Health Wesley in Hattiesburg MS; and Federica Williams ’08, Ross University School of Medicine, pediatrics residency at the LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport LA.

Xavier continues to rank first among the nation’s colleges and universities in the number of African American graduates who go on to complete medical school, according to data compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).


  • Sarah Bertrand, a biology/premed major from Port Allen LA (St. Joseph’s Academy), has been recipient of the Franciscan Mission Service's 2018 San Damiano Award, which recognizes college juniors and seniors who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to service in their universities and communities.

  • Taqiyyah Elliot, a senior political science major from Memphis TN (White Station High), has been awarded a Columbia University HBCU Fellowship to pursue a master of science degree in nonprofit management.

  • Gabrielle Gaston, a senior music liberal arts major (with a sales and marketing minor) from Marrero LA (Thomas Jefferson High), has accepted an offer as a Sales and Business Representative with Oracle in Austin TX.Victoria George, a senior biology/premed major from Memphis TN (White Station High), has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study and conduct research in West Africa’s Ivory Coast. Sponsored by the U.S Department of State, Fulbright is the nation’s largest international exchange program, currently operating in more than 155 countries nationwide.

  • Victoria George, a senior biology/premed major from Memphis TN (White Station High), has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study and conduct research in West Africa’s Ivory Coast. Sponsored by the U.S Department of State, Fulbright is the nation’s largest international exchange program, currently operating in more than 155 countries nationwide.

  • Kyle Logan, a sophomore biology/premed major from Hampton VA (Hampton High), has been selected to participate in the Summer Biomedical Sciences Institute at the Duke University School of Medicine.

  • Whitney Roth, a junior psychology major from Plano TX (Plano High), took third place at the 17th Annual U.S. Southern COllege "Chinese Bridge" Proficiency Competition, held in Dallas TX.

  • Four freshmen have been selected to conduct off-campus research at various sites via the First Year Research Experience Program (FRYE): Amyre Brandom-Skinner, mass communication, Detroit MI (Cass Technical High), Brown University; Gianna Haskin, chemistry, Bellaire TX (Bellaire High), University of Virginia; Theodore Melder, chemistry/pre-pharmacy, New Orleans (St. Augustine High), Vanderbilt University; and  Karen Osei-Boaman, biology/premed, Elicott City MD (Mount Hebron High), Vanderbilt University.

  • Three students have been selected to conduct off-campus research at various sites via the Summer Research Early Identification Program (SREIP): Myles Bartholomew, sophomore, biology, Missouri City TX (Hightower High), Brown University Alpert Medical School; Micah Holness, sophomore, psychology, Macon GA (Macon High), Brown University; and Jaleese Johnson, junior, sociology, Milwaukee WI (Rufus King High), University of Chicago;Two sophomores – Tiara Bradley, a psychology/premed major rom Chicago IL (Jones High);  and Taylor Dent, a biology/premed major from Collierville TN (Germantown High) – have been selected to conduct off-campus research at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine in Boston MA. 

  • 13 students have been selected to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF), which will immerse them in full-time research right here on campus. In that number are: Joy Alia, junior, psychology/premed; Kiyona Bentley, senior, chemistry; Christopher Creighton, junior, biology/premed; Altonessha Darby, freshman, biology/premed; Janelle Devry, freshman, chemistry/premed; Deja Gantt, sophomore, biology/premed; Hill Kamisha, junior, biochemistry; Zoela Leon, junior, neuroscience; Ja’Che Malone, sophomore, psychology/premed; Samirah Muhammad, freshman, chemistry/premed; Nancy Nguyen, biology/premed; Cameron Stevenson Monroe, sophomore, chemistry/premed; and Ly Tran, sophomore, chemistry/premed. 


  • Dr. L'Issa Gates '03, a pediatric physician at Ochsner for Children in Marrero LA, was named a National Minority Quality Forum 40 Under 40 Leaders in Minority Health Award recipient.  She was also inducted into the prestigious Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society.  

  • Candace Marshall ’13, who will graduate from the Meharry College School of Dentistry this month, will serve her advanced general dentistry residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

  • Lynda Plant McGee ’84, the college counselor at Downtown Magnets High School in Los Angeles CA, was named recipient of the 2016-17 Arthur S. Marmaduke Award by the California Student Aid Commission as the most outstanding high school counselor in the state of California. She has been a counselor at Downtown Magnets for 17 years, including 12 as the school’s college counselor.

  • Shavonne Temple ’13,  an administrative program coordinator at the Tulane University School of Medicine Aids Education and Training Center,  has been accepted in medical school at LSU-Shreveport.

  • Donielle Williams ’14, who will graduate from the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Dentistry this month, will serve her pediatric dentistry residency at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Dentistry.

    • Dr. Thomas Bonner, Jr. (Professor Emeritus of English) read passages his new book with the Xavier Review Press, Parterre: New and Collected Poetry and Prose, during a special event held at Xavier.

    • Dr. Violet Harrington Bryan (Professor Emeritus, English) presented a paper, “Corruption: The Black Male and Black / White Female in Richard Wright’s The Long Dream,” at the 78th Convention of the College Language Association, held in Chicago IL.

    • Joseph Byrd (VP, Student Services) was the keynote speaker for the closing session of the Student National Pharmaceutical Association held in New Orleans. The XULA College of Pharmacy co-hosted the conference, which was held in New Orleans.

    • Chantel Gant (Counseling & Wellness) was one of the panelists for SAMSHA BRSS TACS Recovery Live! Webinar on "Supporting Underrepresented Collegiate Student Populations Experiencing or At Risk of Serious Mental Illness or Substance Use Disorders" featuring excerpts from four XU Wellness Peer Counselors: senior education major Jameshaulyn Fernandez, senior biology/premed major Selena Gray, and junior psychology/premed majors Cara King and Amenze Omuruyi

    • Dr. David Lanoue (RosaMary Professor of English) made a presentation on Haiku poetry at the East Bank Regional Library in Metairie LA. He also participated in “Creation and Translation: A Panel of Translator-Poets” at the New Orleans Poetry Festival. 

    • Dr. Silas Lee (Sociology) co-authored a report with Andrew Sullivan of Hudson Pacific public affairs, “Want to Take Back Congress? Look to New Orleans for Campaign Lessons," published in Red/Blue State digital publication. A consultant and presenter of the draft New Orleans Disparity study exploring the minority business participation in New Orleans as well as the Executive Editor for the soon-to-be-released 2018 State of Black America, he served as a panelist at the Ortique Leadership Institute on African American leadership in New Orleans.

    • Dr. Kathleen Kennedy (Dean, Pharmacy) has been named the 2018 University of California-San Francisco Pharmacy Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in recognition of her “outstanding contributions to the profession of pharmacy, to society, and to UCSF”. She will participate in the May commencement and receive her award be honored at the Pharmacy Gala during Alumni Weekend. See her profile HERE.

    • Dr. Biljana Obradović (English) was invited to read from her poetry at the Louisiana Poetry Society's Annual meeting, held in in Kenner LA, where she read from her poetry. She also participated in “Creation and Translation: A Panel of Translator-Poets” at the New Orleans Poetry Festival. 

    • Dr. David Robinson-Morris (Institutional Advancement) served as a moderator for the African American Development Officers (AADO) Network panel discussion, “Leading, in 2018, as a Development Professional of Color,” during the AFP International Conference, held in New Orleans. He also wrote a chapter, "Curriculum Reform: The Aims and Purposes of Higher Education," for the recently published book, Controversies on Campus: Debating the Issues Confronting American Universities in the 21st Century.

    • Dr. Sharlene Sinegal-DeCuir (History) served as a panelist for the World War II Museum’s symposium, The Pelican State Goes to War, which discussed Louisiana’s unique wartime heritage. 


Six XULA alumni were honored at the National Minority Quality Forum’s “40 under 40” Leaders in Minority Health event. (L-R) Imani Lewis, Lauren Powell, Dr. Cedric Salone, Nicole Lee Plenty, Dr. Amber Robins, and Dr. L’Iissa Gates. 


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