Xavier University Selected to Participate in Gulf Scholars Program by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Xavier University Selected to Participate in Gulf Scholars Program by NASEM

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) has selected Xavier University of Louisiana as a participant in their inaugural cohort of the Gulf Scholars Program. The program is a five-year, $525,000 project designed to build the capacity of universities and colleges in the Gulf region and motivate undergraduate students to address critical challenges facing the area. 

Through the program, which officially launched on October 6, Xavier aims to educate, enrich and empower the participating undergraduate students to practice active leadership in the survival and sustainability of the Gulf’s natural and human resources. Through pedagogical, co-curricular and research-based activities, Xavier will prepare students to acknowledge and advance the causes of the Gulf. 

More than half of Xavierites are from areas outside of Louisiana. Many of these students are unfamiliar with the Gulf South’s unique civic structure, ecology, history, culture, and anthropology. The Gulf Scholars Program allows students to learn about these areas through their own investigation and involvement. 

“Our intent is not to just educate a student academically, but also to expose them to the issues relevant to the Gulf region,” said Dr. Anderson Sunda-Meya, Dean of Xavier’s College of Arts and Sciences. Dean Sunda-Meya submitted the proposal for Xavier’s participation in the cohort. 

As a Gulf Scholar, students will learn about historical and institutional perspectives of the diverse Gulf area while using practical experiences under the guidance of mentors to develop professionally. The hands-on experience will provide them with an interdisciplinary and

multi-stakeholder understanding of the imperative affairs associated with the Gulf South.

For the first two years of the program, 10 Xavier students will be selected to participate and receive a scholarship. Dean Sunda-Meya says that other funding is being sought for further scholarship opportunities through the project. Students of all majors are welcome in the program, as the intersectionality of Gulf life means multiple facets and opportunities for various subjects of interest. Students will be empowered to create and implement innovative solutions to the Gulf’s problems using possible, pragmatic, productive, and people-oriented strategies.

Though the effects of Hurricane Ida have delayed the selection of students, Dean Sunda-Meya is confident that all participants will be selected by the end of October. Harish Ratnayaka of the Biology Department will serve as the program director of the project at Xavier. 

Other universities in the inaugural cohort include Tulane University, Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Jackson State University, Rice University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. More than 25 members will be added in the pilot phase, with up to seven additional colleges and universities incorporated annually.

Xavierites will be working closely with students and faculty from Tulane to take full advantage of the opportunities presented through the program. 

Having existed in the Gulf South for nearly one hundred years, Xavierites have a long history of restoring and examining issues facing the region. 

“Through this program, students will be more able to promote equity, sustainability, and quality of civic life for the gulf communities,” said Dr. Sunda-Meya. 

Xavier alum and Board of Trustees member Dr. Gilda Barabino is currently a member of NASEM.