Marketing & Communications

June 2018



XU President Dr. Reynold Verret, keynote speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones, and President Emeritus Dr. Norman C. Francis ’52 share a quiet moment backstage with the University’s 2018 Summa Cum Laude graduates just prior to the annual commencement ceremony: (first row L-R) Imani Miles, Amanda Stevens, Selena Gray, Jennifer Phan, Faith Simiyu, and Indigo Gill; (second row) President Verret, Lauren Hamilton, Andrea Phang, Janice Nguyen, Taqiyyah Elliot, Jazmyne Darby, Hassen Owens, Jessica Carmon, Anthony Nguyen, Rania El-Desoky, Gabrielle Gaston, and honorary degree recipients Dr. Norman C. Francis ’52 and Nikole Hannah-Jones (third row); Jazmin Stenson, Ezinne Agwaramgbo, Noor Fatima, Morgan Cottingham, Hannah Mbony, Sydney Labat, Steven Do, Son Nguyen, Thao Pham, and Ebony Browne (fourth row); Dominique Cameron, Asha Tate, Ronald Salmen, Veronica Mayer, Sarah Bilbe, Savannah Samuel, Imani Reid, Jordon Smith, Bryant Redmond, An Nguyen, and Joshua Adkins. Not pictured: Summer Flowers, Ashley Gragg, Cassandra Johnson, Marilyn Ndukwe, Jonathon Nguyen, Deja Washington, and Phi Nguyen.


500 graduates were awarded their degrees during Xavier’s 91st annual commencement May 12 at the University Convocation Center. 

Award-winning New York Times investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones delivered the keynote address and was awarded an honorary degree, as was President Emeritus Dr. Norman C. Francis ’52.

Five students with perfect 4.0 grade points averages headed this year’s group of 44 summa cum laude graduates, including: Hannah Mbony, a biology/premed major from Brookeville, Md.; and four pharmacy students – Sarah Bilbe of Kenner, La.; Rania El-Desoky of Muscat, Oman; Thao Pham of New Orleans, La.; and Amanda Stevens of Kenner, La. [more]


Bryan Redmond (St. Katharine Drexel Award) and Kylar Wiltz (Mother Agatha Ryan Award) earned the University’s top honors for service. [scroll down for more photos from commencement] Both students are BUILD  scholars.


College Consensus, a unique college ratings website that aggregates publisher rankings and student reviews, ranks Xavier University of Louisiana as the nation’s #2 HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in its newly released publication, Best HBCUs for 2018.

To compile its rankings, College Consensus combined the latest results from the most respected college rankings with thousands of real student reviews to produce a unique consensus score for each school. According to CC founder Jeremy Alder, "College Consensus gathers the publisher rankings and student reviews from around the web and distills the results into simple, easy to understand scores so students can quickly and easily compare schools. It is the ranking of all rankings, so to speak."

The top 10 schools, in ranking order, are: Spelman, Xavier, Hampton, Howard, Morehouse, Oakwood, Alcorn State, Tuskegee University, North Carolina Central University, and Fisk. [more]


Dr. Camellia Moses Okpodu, a former professor and director at Norfolk State University, has been named the new dean of the Xavier College of Arts and Sciences.

"We are tremendously excited about what Dr. Okpodu will do to enrich Arts and Sciences and Xavier as a whole," said XULA Senior Vice President and Provost Anne McCall. “Her leadership will be crucial to ensuring that Xavier continues its tradition of excellence in educating our students to become servant-leaders of the future."

At Norfolk Okpodu was serving as director of the university’s NIH Extramural Research Office and as an American Council on Education Fellow. Her previous leadership experience also includes serving as Chair of the Biology department at Norfolk State and at Hampton University. She also held the first endowed professorship at Elizabeth City State University.

Okpodu holds a B.S. in Biochemistry and Ph.D. degree in Plant Physiology/Biochemistry from North Carolina State University. Her Post-Doctoral work in Plant Molecular Biology was conducted at Virginia Tech.

Okpodu replaces Dr. Anil Kukreja, who is moving back into teaching after serving as Dean for six years. She will officially join Xavier in July. [more]

new dean


Curtis Wright, who presently serves as the Dean of Campus Life and Chief Diversity Officer at Wagner College, will become Xavier’s next Vice President of Student Services.

"I am pleased to welcome Mr. Wright to the Xavier family and look forward to his creative contribution to the student experience and to Xavier as a whole," said Xavier President Reynold Verret. “This position is key to the development of students who not only achieve academic excellence but also become servant leaders who will change the world."

Previously, Wright served in a variety of roles at Wagner University including Dean of Campus Life and Leadership, Associate Dean of Campus Life and Director of the Office of Co-Curricular Programs. Prior to his tenure at Wagner, Wright also served at New York University and at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Wright replaces longtime Vice President of Student Services, Dean Joseph Byrd, who is retiring after decades of dedication to generations of Xavierites. He will officially join Xavier in his new role on August 01.  [more]



Enhanced global competency: 15 Xavier students start their two-week summer study abroad in China at Hebei University.



  • Timothy Ambrose, a senior political science major from New Orleans (St. Augustine High), has been selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U 2018) at the University of Chicago this fall. Funded by the Clinton Foundation and hosted former President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, the annual event brings students, university representatives, topic experts, and celebrities together to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges.

  • Mekhi Price, a freshman biology/premed major from Memphis TN (Lausanne Collegiate High, has been accepted into the Tennessee Institutes for Pre-Professionals (TIP) program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.


  • Kyla Baron ’18 has been accepted into Rutgers University, New York Medical College, and Charles R. Drew University Public Health Schools.

  • Destine’ Cammon-Thompson ’18 has been accepted into the master’s program in biomedical and health sciences at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

  • Jessica Chu ’16 has been accepted into the physician assistant program at the A.T. Still University School of Health Sciences.

  • Arielle Crook ’18 has been accepted into the master’s program in Latin American Studies at Tulane University.

  • Taurah Dizadare ’12 has been accepted into the St. George’s University School of Medicine.

  • Dr. Chad Dyer ’95 has been named Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for the City of New Orleans. He had been serving as the Director of Code Enforcement and as an attorney, also in New Orleans. His primary responsibility with the CAO’s office will be overseeing land use departments.

  • Reniesha Franklin ’13 has been accepted into medical school at LSU-New Orleans.

  • Dr. Kelley Harris-Johnson ’03 has been appointed an Assistant Dean of the College of Letters and Science at the University Wisconsin-Madison. She previously served as Biology Major Program Manager and Student Services Program Manager III at UW-M.

  • David Heron ’17 has been accepted in medical school at the University of Lllinois and Howard University.

  • Tarius Hill ’18 has been accepted into the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine MEDPREP program.

  • Chelsea Kelland 18 has been accepted into the Ph.D. program in immunology at the University of California-Davis.

  • Courtney Lavallais ’14 has been accepted into the Howard University College of Dentistry.

  • Imani Miles ’18 has been accepted into the University of Rochester School of Medicine.

  • Dr. Brice Miller ’98 has been named the Director of the Office of Cultural Economy for the City of New Orleans. A jazz musician and vocalist, he is the owner/creative director of two entertainment companies specializing in music/cultural performers and digital story-storytelling.

  • Catherine Nash ’17 has been accepted into the Psy.D. programs at Midwestern University, the University of La Verne, and the California Lutheran University.

  • Anthony Nguyen ’18 has been accepted into medical school at LSU-New Orleans.

  • Jonathan Nguyen ’18 has been accepted into the LSU School of Dentistry.

  • Bryan Redmond ’18 has been accepted into the University of Rochester School of Medicine.

  • Riley Smith ’17 has been accepted into the Ross University School of Medicine.

  • Mariah Tate ’18 has been accepted into the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine MEDPREP program.

  • Shavonne Temple ’18 has been accepted into the LSU-Shreveport School of Medicine.

  • Quyen Tran ’18 has been accepted into optometry school at the University of Incarnate Word and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

  • JaNiece Walker ’18 has been accepted into the Howard University College of Medicine.

  • Corinne Ashley Williams ’18 has been selected for a highly competitive, ten-week internship in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Rural Health. During her internship she will live in Washington DC, work in communications, and help to develop new programs for veterans in rural areas. 

  • Darrius Williams ’17 has been accepted into medical school at the University of Mississippi.

  • Kylar Wiltz ’18 has been accepted into medical school at Howard University and the University of Missouri.

  • Che’La Woods ’13 has been accepted into medical school at Rosalind Franklin University-Chicago.

  • Two alumnae – New Orleans Mayor-Elect Latoya Cantrell ’96 and AT&T Executive Tanya Lombard ’95 – were named to Essence magazine’s 2018 WOKE 100 list, which honors women who are proven change agents, shape-shifters, and power players.Twenty 2018 graduates have been inducted as members of Kappa Gamma Pi, the National Catholic College Graduate Honor Society, including: (undergraduate)  Ariel Bonneé, Dominique Cameron, Gabrielle Gaston, Javion Gutter, Margaret Hazelton, Maya Leslie, Morgan Moore, Shakayla Morgan,  Zerlander Smith, Jessica Ray, Myka Taylor, Williamson Turner, Camille White, Ammiel Williams, and  Kylar Wiltz; (graduate) Sidoline Achemenkong, Evonne Murphy, Ciara Pemberton, Andrea Phang, Jazmine Phang, and D’Undria Taylor.


  • The University Rank and Tenure Committee has approved the promotions of 11 faculty members in five different disciplines. Promoted to the rank of full professor were Dr. Thomas Wiese in pharmacy and Dr. Kun Zhang in chemistry, while those promoted to clinical professor in the College of Pharmacy were Dr. Amne Borghol and Dr. Kristi Rapp. Six other faculty – Dr. Jeremy Cohen in psychology, Dr. Cecily DeFreece in biology, Dr. Anupo Kundu in biology, Dr. Sharlene Sinegal-Decuir in history, Dr. Jayalakshmi in chemistry, and Dr. Qian-Jin Zhang in biology – were all promoted to the rank of associate professor. Promoted to clinical associate professor in pharmacy was Dr. Christopher Gillard.


Award-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, the keynote speaker, accepts an honorary degree from XU President Dr. Reynold Verret.


President Emeritus Dr. Norman Francis ’52 graciously acknowledges applause from the audience after receiving his honorary degree from XU President Dr. Reynold Verret.


Commencement 2018 produced Xavier’s inaugural class of doctoral graduates in the Division of Education – (L-R) Tania Coleman, Rosalyn Hartman, and Candace Williams.

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