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Akpapuna continues family tradition as 3rd sister named valedictorian, Ryan selected as salutatorian PDF Print E-mail
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NEW ORLEANSStephanie Akpapuna, a Theatre Arts major from Lagos, Nigeria, has been named valedictorian of the Dillard University Class of 2016.  Arin Ryan, a Film major from LaPlace, Louisiana, has been selected as class salutatorian.

Akpapuna will deliver the valedictory address at Dillard’s Commencement exercise on Saturday, May 7.

Akpapuna is part of a very unique family tradition at Dillard University.  Both of her older sisters, Jennifer, ’04, and Merrilyn, ’14 were valedictorians of their graduating classes.

“I’m proud and humbled by the fact that I could do my sisters proud and also keep the legacy they started going,” said Akpapuna.  “Dillard has been a wonderful experience.  I’ve enjoyed my stay here and I’ve learned so much. I would have been a number somewhere else, but at Dillard you are treated as an individual.  Here we’re so family oriented and it’s great to have that.”

After graduation, she will attend Carnegie Mellon University where she will pursue her Master of Fine Arts in stage and production management.

Akpapuna has been named a Presidential Scholar and is a recipient of the Humanities Talent Scholarship, the Ray Charles Scholarship as well as the Denzel & Pauletta Washington Scholarship.

She is a member of the Dean’s list and has been inducted into Alpha Kappa Mu National Honor Society and Alpha Psi Omega National Theatre Honor Society. Akpapuna is also a participant in the Daniel C. Thompson/Samuel DuBois Cook Honors Program.

As a member of the Theatre Department she was worked on or appeared in 14 theatrical productions.

A graduate of Reagan Memorial Baptist Girls Secondary School in Lagos, Nigeria, she is the daughter of Dr. Emmanuel and Rita Akpapuna.

4-28-2016-salutatorianArin Ryan has been named salutatorian of the Class of 2016.  She will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film.

She is the fourth member of her family to graduate from Dillard, following her mother, aunt, and sister.

Ryan is a four-year Dean’s Scholar and a winner of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Torchbearer’s Award.  She is a member of the Dillard University Producer’s Club.

She started her academic career at Dillard as a biology major, but found her calling in film. 

“I thought that I would enjoy what I was doing, but I wasn’t really into it,” said Ryan.  “I realized that I needed to do something that I loved.  I’ve always made movies and did photography, so I went to film.  I felt really welcome there and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

She has been recognized for her film work, as a crewmember of the film “The Cutoff” which was among the top twenty films at the Louisiana Film Prize contest, and she worked on the film “Cover Me,” which premiered at the 2015 International Film Festival.  She was also behind the scenes on the Big Easy Award Nominated play “Shine On.”

Ryan was part of the ensemble in the production of “The Lion and the Jewel”, where she also performed production work. Additionally, she was a member of the cast of the independent films “There’s a New World” and “The Dunning Man.” 

Ryan has several other credits to her resume in film, television, and stage production, including “Rodeo and Juliet” and “NCIS: New Orleans.”

After taking a year off, Ryan plans to attend graduate school and then open her own film production company.

She is a graduate of A Beka Academy, where she was valedictorian of her class.  Arin Ryan is the daughter of Fontella Baker and Arnold Ryan.

Dillard to Conduct Assessment of its School of Nursing; New Admissions to be Suspended for 2017-18 Academic Year PDF Print E-mail
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Nursing crop

NEW ORLEANS – Dillard University has announced it will conduct a full internal assessment of its generic baccalaureate and LPN-BSN nursing programs.  As a result, the University will suspend admission of new students into the programs for the 2017-2018 academic year.  During the suspension, the program will continue to be evaluated and honed with a focus on the skill development and academic needs of its students.  The primary focus will be raising the performance of students on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

This suspension will not affect the status of those students currently enrolled in the program.

Dr. Yolanda W. Page, Vice President for Academic Affairs, stated such an assertive approach  is necessary to allow administrators to thoroughly review all aspects of the program, including curriculum, staffing, and support mechanisms.

“Dillard University is home to Louisiana’s first BSN program,” said Dr. Page.  “We owe it to our alumni and current students to ensure that the Dillard legacy of excellence in nursing remains intact.”

While suspending the program was a difficult decision, this action serves as an indicator of the University’s commitment to ensuring the program’s viability in the future.

School of Nursing Chair, Dr. Sharon Hutchinson added: “The School of Nursing has been working with and will continue to work closely with the Louisiana State Board of Nursing in getting the program back to the lofty status it has had historically.” 

Because the suspension will affect students enrolling for Fall 2016, making the announcement at this time allows prospective freshmen and their families the opportunity to make a decision about selecting another major.

The baccalaureate nursing program currently has the conditional approval of the Louisiana State Board of Nursing and is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Dillard’s VisionQuest Chorale to Perform at 2016 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival PDF Print E-mail
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WHO:             Dillard University VisionQuest Chorale

WHAT:           2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

WHERE:         New Orleans Fair Grounds, Gospel Tent

WHEN:           Thursday, April 28, 5:55 – 6:40 p.m.

The VisionQuest Chorale has provided a singing ministry that works with the Lawless Chapel Ministry of Dillard University. They have ministered for on-campus and non-chapel related events as well as off-campus ministry endeavors.  One of the primary functions of the Chorale is to foster leadership and spiritual development with its members. One of the overall goals of the VisionQuest ministry is to lean toward a holistic synergy of the growth and development of its members. We expect this growth and development in their spiritual walk and their student life here at Dillard. This also includes being the best ministers in song and praise while participating in worship service in Lawless Chapel on Sunday evenings.  The Chorale is making its first appearance at Jazz Fest since 2009.

For more information contact Rev. Earnest Salsberry at 504-816-4555 or visit for a full schedule of events.

Brain Food Concludes with Mara Brock Akil, Michael Eric Dyson and Lawrence Ross PDF Print E-mail
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Mara Brock Akil, creator of Being Mary Jane. Photo by L. Kasimu Harris

Brain Food, Dillard University President’s Lecture Series, 2015-2016, had intellectual offerings that ranged from race and religion to education, entertainment and politics that appealed an array of senses. Walter M. Kimbrough, Ph.D., president, curated leading minds, who are at the forefront of their professions. The series concluded this year with Mara Brock Akil, television writer, and Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown University professor, and MSNBC political analyst and author Lawrence Ross.

 In March, Mara Brock Akil, an American television writer and producer, provided insight to the creative and business aspects of Hollywood and perspectives of black womanhood. She is the creator of “Being Mary Jane,” the hit drama series on BET that stars Gabrielle Union. She worked on ABC’s “Cougar Town,” UPN’s “Girlfriends” and recently signed a multiyear deal with Warner Bros., TV.   

The next month, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor, MSNBC political analyst and best-selling author of 17 books. His latest effort, “The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America” was released in February. The book examines the powerful and unexpected way the politics of race have shaped Barack Obama’s identity and unprecedented presidency.

Weeks later, the series concluded with Lawrence Ross, author of  “The Divine Nine”and a leading expert on sororities and fraternities will speak about race and college. He dicussed his recent book, “Blackballed:The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses” is a dynamic and controversial book that tears off the veil of America's hidden secret: America's colleges have fostered a racist environment that makes them a hostile space for African-American students.

A Brief History of the Dillard Presidential Lecture Series

Beginning with the university’s first official president, William Stuart Nelson in the 1930s, public intellectual discourse has been a part of Dillard’s heritage. In the 1950s, Albert Dent organized the Edwin R. Embree Memorial Lecture Series whose guests included Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall, Mary McLeod Bethune, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jackie Robinson. Subsequently, Dillard presidents have assembled lectures that reflected their sensibilities. During Samuel DuBois Cook’s tenure, 1974 to 1997, he established a lyceum series, but also built a fine arts center to provide a new venue for lectures, theater and music. Walter M. Kimbrough launched Brain Food in 2013, and has continued the tradition with speakers such as Iyanla Vanzant, Misty Copeland, Benjamin Crump and Michael Steele.  

Photos Brain Food of Lawrence Ross

Photos from Brain Food of Michael Eric Dyson

Photos from Brain Food of Mara Brock Akil

Actor and Author Terrence “J” Jenkins to Deliver Dillard University 2016 Commencement Address PDF Print E-mail
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Photo: Terrence “J” Jenkins

NEW ORLEANS – Dillard University holds its 80th Commencement on Saturday, May 7, at 8 a.m., on the historic Avenue of the Oaks.  The University will confer more than 200 undergraduate degrees that day.

The University is proud to announce that actor, philanthropist, and author Terrence “J” Jenkins will deliver this year’s commencement address.  Jenkins may be best known for his seven-year stint on “BET’s 106 & Park” and his starring role as Michael in the films “Think Like a Man” and “Think Like a Man Too.”  Most recently he spent three years co-hosting “E! News” on the E! Network.  In 2013 he published his first book, “The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom,” which was an in-depth look at his mother’s journey raising him as a teenager.  In addition to his thriving entertainment career, Jenkins is also a spokesperson for Ronald McDonald’s House Charities Future Achievers Scholarship Campaign, a mentor with Steve Harvey’s Disney Dreamers Academy and an avid supporter of the Newark New Jersey Boys and Girls Club.  The Queens, New York native spent his formative years in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism from North Carolina A & T University.  Jenkins is also a proud member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.

This year’s honorary degree recipients are President of the Ray Charles Foundation, Valerie Ervin and actor Garrett Morris ’58 (“2 Broke Girls,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” “Saturday Night Live”).

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.05.09 PMValerie Ervin began her career hand-selected by international music icon Ray Charles to serve by his side and today stewards his legacy as president of the foundation that bears his name.  She played an important role in the production of the Oscar-winning film “Ray” and in the release of the best-selling album “Genius Loves Company,” featuring duets with Mr. Charles and some of music’s most legendary names.  Ervin also orchestrated the establishment of the Ray Charles Memorial Library, the U.S. Postal Service’s Ray Charles Forever Stamp, the naming of a Los Angeles USPS branch in Charles’ honor, and the recognition of his RPM Building as a historic site.  Today, she oversees the work of the Ray Charles Foundation in the fields of hearing and education that began some 30 years ago, including the Dillard University Ray Charles African-American Material Culture Program, which was established by Charles in 2003 to help preserve the unique culinary traditions and culture of New Orleans and the South.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 5.05.20 PMGarrett Morris, who has been entertaining audiences for nearly six decades, is a native New Orleanian and proud Dillard alumnus.  After graduating from Dillard he attended Manhattan School of Music and studied voice for five years at Julliard.  His professional career as began as a performer with the Harry Belafonte singers, with whom he performed for a decade.  During this time Morris branched out into acting, appearing in both Broadway and Off-Broadway productions of “Porgy and Bess,” “Show Boat,” “The Great White Hope,” and others.  He took on his most-well known role in 1975 as one of the original cast members of the landmark sketch-comedy series “Saturday Night Live.”  Since leaving SNL in 1980, Morris has been a fixture on television.  He is also the playwright of two original works, and in 2014 he added recording artist to his list of credits, releasing the CD “Black Creole Chronicles,” with jazz musician Billy Mitchell.  Morris currently resides in Los Angeles, where Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa honored him in 2007 for his work and contributions to the black community.

Each of this year’s honorary degree recipients will be conferred a doctorate of humane letters by Dillard President Walter M. Kimbrough.

“Our honorary degree recipients are all extremely accomplished in their fields and are embodiments of the type of success that should inspire our graduates,” says Dr. Kimbrough.  “They also reflect Dillard’s enduring commitment to the arts and celebrate the transformative power of the platform that each of these individuals have worked so hard to reach.”

As part of the commencement ceremonies, the University will also present Golden Citations to members of the Class of 1966, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

For more information on the 2016 Dillard University commencement ceremonies, and for a copy of the commencement guide, visit

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