SUAF alumni conference recharges university mission and alumni engagement

“I want to welcome you back home to the Bluff,” expressed Ray L. Belton, president-chancellor of the Southern University System at the opening of the Southern University Alumni Federation’s biennial conference.


The conference’s first day was filled with informative sessions that spoke to the recent initiative, Imagine 20K. This initiative is geared towards strategically investing and recruiting 20,000 students to become a part of Southern by the 2027.


The first session featured a panel of System partners, including Belton, Domoine Rutledge, Southern University System board member and for president of the SU System Foundation Board of Directors, Alfred Harrell, chief executive officer of Southern University System Foundation, and Preston Castille, Alumni Federation president, to discuss the inner workings of the initiative.


“We lean on your level of giving to help support us,” adds Belton. He reflected on the strenuous legislative session that recently passed and how shifting existing revenue to sustainable programs that our students will be successful in is a considerable move.


Beyond what the System can do to move this initiative forward, the alumni meeting hosted a discussion with community partners on how Imagine 20K affects the community surrounding the University. The panelists noted that Southern University is an anchored institution in the area.


During lunch, Sharon Weston-Broome, mayor-president of East Baton Rouge, touched on alumni engagement and how Southern University affects East Baton Rouge.


Afternoon sessions focused on recruitment and retention throughout the System. Kimberly Scott, vice chancellor of SUBR student affairs, Melva Williams, vice chancellor of SUSLA student affairs, and Donna Grant, vice chancellor of SUNO student affairs, sat on a  panel to lay out strategies and priorities for their respective campus. Moving to a paperless admissions process and increasing visibility of high demand majors were mentioned as key steps to bringing in high waves of students.


The day closed with a debut SUAF event to recognize young alumni. A “40 Under 40” Recognition program was held at the Manship Theater in downtown Baton Rouge.


University climate and Federation initiatives filled the agenda during Friday and Saturday’s alumni conference sessions.


As the alumni conference continued, discussions were held around our recent initiative, Imagine 20K, and how the University and community can bring this to fruition. To start the day, Dr. Janette Hoston Harris, an SU alumna, recalled her experience during the 1960 Baton Rouge Sit-ins.


Friday morning sessions started with a public partnerships panel with parish government representatives. Also, a panel focused on K-12 education and opportunities for the SU System in the K-12 sector was assembled with local education leaders  


The new Louisiana Higher Education Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed was the guest speaker for the Leadership Luncheon. “The story cannot stop here. Southern University has to be a beacon on the Bluff,” stated Reed, a Southern University alumna. As she spoke about her experience at Southern, she delved into why education is a “rally cry” for African Americans


The Friday afternoon session welcomed the System President and chancellors who provided System and campus updates and discussed administrative strategies and new programs, customer service, and overall climate of the University.


As the day came to a close, new Federation election results for national officers were announced and verified. The new officers are: LaQuitta Thomas, National President; Teacey Taylor-Jarrell, 1st Vice President; Pamela Burleigh, 2nd Vice President; Georgette Carter, 3rd Vice President; Shayla McCullough, Sergeant At Arms; Tamara Montgomery, Chaplain; and Brandon Cassimere, Parliamentarian.


On Saturday, alumni met in various groups. Sessions included Governance, Retention and Mentoring, and Recruitment. Some members of the Class of 1968 hosted a session.

Athletics and Band provided updates on their upcoming season and what alumni can look forward to.

The day ended with a well-attended Circle of Achievement gala where television personality, Roland Martin, was the guest speaker.


See full conference photo gallery here


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