Volume 43 No. 06
June 2012










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1834 Freshmen Named Kemper Scholars

Two freshmen – political science major Devon Pruitt of Meridian MS (Meridian High) and English major Mia Ruffin of Baton Rouge LA (Baton Rouge Magnet) – have been named to the Kemper Scholars Program’s Class of 2013.

Designed to prepare students for leadership and service, the prestigious program promotes education in the liberal arts while providing opportunities for career exploration and practical experience through internships. It has been sponsored by the James S. Kemper Foundation of Chicago since 1948.

Kemper Scholars receive annual scholarships of up to $10,000 a year (based on need) as well as stipends while serving internships at major nonprofit organizations in the Chicago IL area and at major for-profit corporations in the summer following their sophomore and junior years, respectively.

1834 Jones named
Chips Qiunn Scholar

Maya Jones, a 2012 mass communications graduate from Plano TX (Plano West High), has been selected as a 2012 Chips Quinn scholar and to the national Sports Journalism Institute.

As a Chips scholar, she will attend training at the Freedom Forum's Diversity Institute in Nashville TN before heading to the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism to participate in a sports journalism "boot camp." She then will complete a paid internship at the Detroit News. Both selections were highly competitive.

Jones served as editor of the Xavier Herald this past academic year. She also was a summer 2011 Diversity Institute Multimedia Scholar. She completed an 11-day immersion course at the center in Nashville TN, followed by a paid, eight-week internship at The Tribune in South Bend IN. In the summer of 2010, she interned in the sports department at the Times-Picayune, followed by work as a stringer.

1834 XU STEM Program Cited by Initiative

Xavier’s undergraduate STEM program has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the UNCF/Merck Science Initiative (UMSI), in conjunction with the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building, for a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Capacity Building Program.

As the only recipient of this competitive grant, Xavier was able to demonstrate the strength of its STEM program and stand out in UMSI’s selection process.

“With support from UMSI, Xavier is making a difference, not only in this important field, but in the lives of the students we’ll be able to help with this grant,” said XU President Norman C. Francis. “We are proud to be the only recipient of this grant which will nurture STEM students into graduates.”

Over the next four years Xavier will use the STEM Capacity Building Program to grow the number of students graduating with a STEM degree and pursuing research careers in the biological and chemical sciences by providing assistance to students at risk of incompletion.

1834 Catholic Honor Society Inductees

Ten graduating seniors have been inducted as members of Kappa Gamma Pi, the National
Catholic College Graduate Honor Society.

Two of the new members were inducted on the Baccalaureate level (Tamera Warren-Jackson and Jasmine Wise), while another eight were inducted on the Graduate level (Toni Bailey, David Collins, Rebecca Hardy, Courtney Harrel, Eric Nethercott, Thao Thu Nguyen, Casey Robinson, and Katedra Sanchez.

The new Kappa Gamma Pi members were recognized for exemplifying excellence in leadership, scholarship, faith, and service


Incoming freshman Taylor Denton of Memphis TN (Central High School) and her parents Gyneon and Janet Denton – winners of the tuition lottery held during the University’s Lagniappe New Student Summer Preview Weekend – are all smiles as they accept a representative check from XU Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Loren Blanchard.

Photo by Irving Johnson III


he Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has announced that Xavier is one of 47 small colleges and universities in the United States selected to participate in a $50 million initiative that will enable the school to create more engaging science classes, bring real-world research experiences to students, and increase the diversity of students who study science.

Identified as one of the best universities in the nation at producing graduates who go on to science careers, Xavier was given a Capstone Award of $1 million. Capstone recipients will be charged with assessing which elements of their various approaches to science education have been successful and why, establishing a leadership role for these schools. MORE


550 graduates received their degrees at Xavier’s 85th annual commencement May 12 at the Kiefer Lakefront Arena.

Xerox chairman and chief executive officer Ursula Burns, the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company, delivered the commencement address at the event and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Business degree. Read her remarks HERE.

Two other special guests also received honorary degrees. Fr. Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., a monk and professor of church history who has authored several works on black Catholic history, received a Doctor of Humane Letters, and Terence Blanchard, local jazz performer, composer and five-time Grammy Award winner, was awarded a Doctor of Music.

Three students – Jasmine Holmes, a chemistry/premed major from New Orleans; Ashley Matthew, a chemistry/premed major from Quincy MA; and Asia Matthew, also a chemistry/premed major from Quincy MA – headed this year’s group of SUMMA CUM LAUDE graduates with perfect 4.0 grade point averages.

Click HERE for a list of all honor graduates.
Click HERE for a list of all graduates.


Mia Holmes and Kaitlyn Gaddis were named recipients of the University’s two most coveted senior service awards at the 2011 Baccalaureate Mass and Honors Convocation.

Holmes, a biology/pre-med major from New Orleans (Ben Franklin High) who served as Miss Xavier 2011-12, and Gaddis, a speech pathology major from Snellville GA (South Gwinnett High) who served as Student Government Association president in 2011-12, were presented the St. Katharine Drexel Award and the Mother Agatha Ryan Award, respectively.

Click HERE for a list of all University service awards and College of Pharmacy awards.


Five faculty members were honored during commencement for their extraordinary performance in the areas of teaching, service and scholarship.

The winners of the 2012 Norman C. Francis Faculty Excellence Awards were:

Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching: (junior faculty) Dr. Stassi DiMaggio in chemistry and (senior faculty) Dr. Janet Privett in chemistry.

Faculty Excellence Award in Service: (senior faculty) Dr. Joe Melcher in communications. 

Faculty Excellence Award in Scholarship: (junior faculty) Dr. Hector Biliran in biology and (senior faculty) Dr. Dominique Gendrin in communications.  

Initiated in 2009, the Faculty Excellence Awards are designed to honor both "junior" faculty (those who have worked at the XU for seven years or less) and "senior" faculty members (more than seven years of service.) The awards of $5,000 each will be split evenly between the award recipient and his/her academic area.


The XU Division of Education is offering new and established mathematics and sciences teachers in the Greater New Orleans Area and surrounding parishes a chance for professional growth, with the extra benefit of tuition scholarships and salary supplements.

The Mathematics and Science Teacher Institute (MSTI) at Xavier has announced new two new programs – the Noyce Teacher Fellows Program and the Master Fellows program – both designed to address the critical need for K-12 teachers in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the local school system.  MORE

2012 Summa Cum Laudes


Kearston Barnes, a P2 student from Fort Valley GA (Peach County High), has been accepted as a summer trainee in the James A. Ferguson Infectious Diseases Fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta GA.

Mylinh Hoang, a senior mass communications major from New Orleans (Edna Karr High), has been selected as one of 12 summer 2012 Diversity Institute Multimedia Scholars. She will complete an 11-day immersion multimedia course, followed by a paid, 8-week internship.

Daniel Smalls, a senior business/management major from Decatur GA (Southwest DeKalb High School), has accepted a position as a sales representative for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.


Markita Harris ’08, currently teaching English abroad to elementary students in Turkey, will serve as a manager of teacher leadership and development for incoming Teach for America corps members in Baton Rouge LA.

Tamorah Hawthorne ’11, has been invited serve in the Peace Corps in the Philippines as a Youth Development Facilitator beginning July 2012.

Dr. Marilyn Jones ‘92, a family practice physician at Vandalia Family Medicine in Dayton OH, was featured on the local WDNT-TV’s “Living Dayton” program.

Dr. Margo Montgomery ’03, has earned a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Mississippi.

Monica Sanchez ’90, has been named director of the Cancer Center at the Thibodaux (LA) Regional Medical Center. She previously served as director of pharmacy at TRMC.

Dr. Edward Stemley, Jr. ’96, was one of the recipients of the prestigious Jack L. Beal Post baccalaureate Award for 2012 from The Ohio State University in recognition of his outstanding service to the professional practice of pharmacy.

Dr. Cleopatra E. Thompson ‘97, chief executive officer at Crescent City Dentistry, LLC
in Harahan, LA, will be opening up a second dental office in St. Rose this summer. She has been in private practice for 10 years.

Dale Valdery ’76, head basketball coach at SUNO, was named Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches Small College Coach of the Year. He led the Knights to their first winning season (17-13) in seven years and the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference tournament championship.

Dr. Carlos Vital ’95, a board certified, Adult & Pediatric Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology
Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Texas A&M University School of Medicine, appeared on the Discovery Channel’s profiles series to discuss allergy, asthma, and the environment.

Aja Wheeler ’11, has been named associate producer at KGTV Channel 10 (the ABC affliliate) in San Diego CA. She previously served as the production assistant at the KUSI News.

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Ashley Matthew
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Asia Matthew
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J. Nguyen
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M. Nguyen

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T. Nguyen



Dr. Yu Jiang has been named director of Xavier’s new Confucius Institute (CI), according to XU President Norman C. Francis.

Xavier is the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the nation and the first university in Louisiana to establish a Confucius Institute (CI) following a historic agreement endorsed by Hanban, the Confucius Institute headquarters in Beijing, China in December 2011.

Xavier’s CI is partnered with China’s Hebei University, the only comprehensive university in the Hebei Province and one of the first institutions in China to admit international students. The primary focus of the partnership is cultural-educational exploration through the disciplines of education, pharmacy, art, and music as well as language instruction (Mandarin).

Jiang, who grew up in China’s Sichuan Province near Tibet, comes to Xavier from Southern University at New Orleans, where he had been serving as an assistant professor of Museum Studies. Prior to that, he served as an assistant professor of art history at Florida Atlantic University and as a curatorial postdoctoral fellow in the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

He holds a B.A. in archaeology from Beijing University, as well as a M.A. and Ph.D. in art and architecture history from the University of Pittsburgh.

“We are pleased to have identified Dr. Jiang to lead our Confucius Institute going forward,” said Francis. “We are confident that under his leadership Xavier’s Institute will provide our students and faculty unprecedented access to Asia particularly at this critical historic moment of increased globalization.”

Jiang said he envisions the Xavier CI becoming a leading teaching, learning and resource center of China for students, educators, community groups, civic organizations, and businesses in the Greater New Orleans area.

Jiang has already begun to organize a broad range of activities through the Confucius Institute, including: teaching Xavier students Chinese language, culture, and economic development courses; providing support, pedagogical training and certification of the Chinese language to K-12 school teachers; developing student/faculty exchange programs with partner schools in China; offering non-credit Chinese language and culture courses for professional and personal enrichment to individuals and groups; forming partnerships with local community groups and educational organizations; opening Summer School for students interested in learning US and Chinese cultures and traditions; exploring, documenting, and presenting the roots and achievements of local communities; offering customized workshops on Chinese business etiquette and communications to organizations; and providing consulting services about China’s market and business opportunities. 

“The Confucius Institute aspires to collaborate with the entire Xavier community to prepare students to become global leaders,” said Jiang. “With foreign language skills and multicultural perspectives, our students receive quality education on their way to becoming highly competent professionals and leaders in society.”  The Confucius Institute also “aims to facilitate research activities and promote increased understanding between the United States and China,” Jiang further noted. 

Xavier began offering Mandarin courses this past semester. A group of faculty and administrators will visit Hebei University this summer to continue to plan the activities of the CI.

The campus office of the Confucius Institute, which will be housed in the newly-renovated St. Joseph Academic and Health Resource Center, is expected to officially open this September.


Lakeysha Arthur (Institutional Advancement) has received a Master of Science degree in Management Information Systems from Southern University-New Orleans.

Alan Green ’02, MA ‘08 (athletics) was chosen Wilson Coach of the Year in NAIA Region IV men's tennis by the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Association. It's the first regional coaching award for Green, who guided both the women’s and nationally-ranked men’s teams to regional titles and spots in the national tournament.

The Rev. Bryan Massingale (Institute for Black Catholic Studies) has been awarded an honorary doctorate by Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Chicago IL.

Carolyn Thomas (Director, Career Services) was presented the Archdiocese of New Orleans’s most prestigious lay award, the Order of St. Louis IX Medallion, at the annual ceremony held at St. Louis Cathedral. The honor is given to individuals who have contributed their time and talents to the Church.


Carla Harris, managing director at Morgan Stanley and a member of the XU Board of Trustees, was presented the prestigious Merit Award in recognition of her career accomplishments in finance by the Women's Bond Club, a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to the professional development and networking of women in financial services.


Newly graduated Xavier physicians and current medical students muster at the University of Rochester School of Medicine’s 2012 Commencement, during which U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin ’79 (back row, center) was awarded an honorary degree. On hand are: (front row L-R) Dr. Ellegant Pearson ’08, Chante Calais ’11, Kordell Hunter ’11, Kristen Walker ’11, and Dr. Dorcas Pinto ’08; (back row) Steve Morgan ’11, Dr. Arie Shaw ’08, Benjamin, Conisha Holloman ’09, and Dr. Thomas Fugate II '07.

Photo courtesy University of Rochester Medical School

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“There is an enormous trove of know-how and wisdom at these schools, and we would like to see how that information can be shared more broadly,” said David Asai, director of HHMI’s precollege and undergraduate program. “We are looking forward to seeing how the Capstone awardees can provide leadership to some of the other grantees who are new to HHMI, as well as to advise HHMI about our efforts in undergraduate science education.”

Xavier’s proposal, entitled Project SCICOMP, was chosen out of 182 submissions after two rounds of peer review and a scientist’s panel. Project SCICOMP will focus on high enrollment in the sciences and continued enthusiasm in pre-med programs to address the growing and urgent problem of declining African American professionals in the field of medicine. Project SCICOMP will develop a competency-based pre-professional curriculum implementing specific recommendations issued by the Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians (SFFP) committee. A joint venture between the Association of American Medical Colleges and HHMI, SFFP’s goal is to make students more active learners with demonstrated knowledge and ability to apply the principles of biology, mathematics and statistics along with those of computer programs, physics, chemistry and biochemistry to human health and diseases.

Project SCICOMP will introduce an array of innovative instructional approaches. Two new courses in Biology will be launched to address self-reported impediments for freshman level success and labs will be revised to infuse more discovery/research oriented projects such as those in Xavier’s currently HHMI funded ‘Phage Genomics’ course offered in the department of Biology. Several additional pre-med courses will be infused with increased in-class’ activities, more interdisciplinary content, and exercises to hone students’ computational and critical thinking skills with an emphasis on the application of knowledge as opposed to rote memorization.

In addition, non-STEM courses will be identified that could be revised and/or added to the premed curriculum to more greatly enrich the liberal education experience of premed students. Students also will have the opportunity to serve as STEM Undergraduate Teaching Assistants or serve as peer tutors. Equally importantly, the SCICOMP project will support processes that will introduce newer types of testing, assessment and student-tracking mechanisms that will result in formative and summative evaluation of course/curricular revisions.

“What happens during the undergraduate years is vital to the development of the student, whether she will be a scientist, a science educator, or a member of society who is scientifically curious and literate. HHMI is investing in Xavier because they have shown they are superb incubators of new ideas and models that might be replicated by other institutions to improve how science is taught in college,” said Sean Carroll, vice president of science education at HHMI. “We know that Xavier has engaged faculty. They care deeply about teaching and how effectively their students are learning about science.”

Xavier President Dr. Norman C. Francis stands proud of the longstanding and ongoing accomplishments of the University in producing the highest quality science graduates well-prepared for graduate and professional schools in the field. 

“Xavier has achieved a national reputation for excellence in placing the most African American students in medical schools and graduating the most African American biologists, chemists, and physicists, in addition to an impressive number of African Americans completing PhDs in science and engineering,” said Francis. “HHMI support for the past twenty years has played a vital role in our success.” 

Project SCICOMP and management of the HHMI grant will be led by Dr. Shubha Kale Ireland, Professor and Chair of the Biology Department, an accomplished researcher and teacher with a history of success in multi-year, bench-based and multi-disciplinary pedagogical projects.

“With the current HHMI support, Xavier will continue to be a leader in science education and share our results and components of Project SCICOMP nationally through journal publications, faculty presentations at national conferences, and distribution of brochures and CD-ROMs,” she said.

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The Noyce Teachers Fellows Program offers recently-graduated STEM students and professionals the opportunity to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching degree, which will lead to Louisiana State Teaching Licensure and a teaching position at a high needs elementary and secondary school within the Orleans Parish School District. Participants can receive a full tuition scholarship toward completion of the MAT degree, as well as $10,000 stipend in addition to their regular teaching salaries upon graduation.

The Master Fellows Program is geared toward highly qualified teachers who wish to become national board certified in either math or science. The program offers intensive professional development hours at Xavier, the Stennis Space Center, the ExxonMobil Mickelson Academy, and Algebra Project. Master Teaching Fellows will also serve as mentors for the Teacher Fellow cohort. Participants can earn up to $10,000 in salary supplements as well as tuition assistance toward their national boards.

“The focus of the Mathematics & Science Teacher Institute is two-fold: to encourage new young professionals to enter the teaching profession and to encourage continuous professional growth and development among all STEM teachers in the area,” said Ahdija Donatto, Interim Program Director of the Institute. “The ultimate goal, of course, is to increase student achievement in Orleans Parish elementary and secondary schools.”

There are only 10 positions available in each of the new programs, which are funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Robert Noyce Foundation, with additional support and in partnership with the ExxonMobil Corporation. The MSTI is supported by a grant from ExxonMobil.

For more information, contact Ahdija Donatto at 504-520-7533 or acbaker@xula.edu or Shoneka Thomas at 520-5143 or srthomas@xula.edu.

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