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Grambling State University Holds Media Day (723 hits)

GRAMBLING — Grambling State University on Monday held its first meeting with members of the media since 2004, though President Horace Judson was "called away at the last minute" and was unable to attend.

Officials at the historically black university said they hoped Monday's event would establish an annual tradition of convening with reporters.

"In the spirit of moving this great institution forward, one of the things we wanted to attempt to do is improve our relationship with the media," said Robert Dixon, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "We have an obligation to keep the public well-informed. We promise you "» improvement."

Enrollment expanded to 5,200 students last year and is projected to grow to 5,400 this year, he said.

Dixon highlighted other campus projects Monday, chief among them, a commitment to producing more graduates in areas where minorities are under-represented, such as science and technology

Dixon said the university's Center for Mathematical Achievement in Science and Technology, now in its third year, will encourage more students to graduate in those areas. A $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation funds the center.

According to the foundation, black students earned only 8.4 percent of the bachelor's degrees in science and engineering in 2004, the most recent figures available.

In Louisiana, where almost one-third of the population is black, the group represents only about 18 percent of science and engineering graduates.

"We hope to have a serious impact in (those sectors)," Dixon said.

The Louisiana Board of Regents has established a $600,000 endowed chair of mathematics to further that goal. Dixon said the endowed chair places Grambling State in a unique spot. It is the only historically black college in the U.S. to hold a permanent, fully endowed chair in that subject area.

Dixon also touched on the campus master plan, introduced in February, which will beautify grounds, improve infrastructure and link the historic school to the 21st century.

Michael McKinley, executive assistant to the president, announced a capital campaign to raise $30 million in six years is "on target."

The school is anticipating a visit from nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner during homecoming festivities and will be using the occasion to solicit more funds.

Joyner's foundation recently announced Grambling State's selection as its August "School of the Month."

The foundation chooses 11 historically black colleges and universities to participate in the school-of-the-month scholarship and fundraising program each year. Grambling State's goal is $500,000, according to McKinley.

Among the buildings being opened in the near future are Tiger Village, the university's new 800-bed residential complex for freshmen, and the Fine Arts Building, headquarters of Grambling State's Tiger Marching Band.

Dixon said the school will offer a new program in film studies to provide career opportunities for students in the state's fast-emerging film industry.

Both Dixon and McKinley fielded questions from the media at the end of the session.

In answer to questions about deficiencies in a May auditor's report, Dixon expressed concern some of the issues may have been "misrepresented, in terms of significance."

One issue cited was the university's unlocated movable property.

Specifically, items totaling $306,560 were removed from the property records because they had not been located for three years. But Dixon said much of the property cited was obsolete or unusable.

"This is not a story which is told to the public," he said. "The real story is whether the audit serves the interest (of various parties involved)."

Dixon conceded that regardless of the value of the property, "everything should be accounted for."

University officials ended on campus safety. In late April the campus went into lockdown following allegations someone fired a firearm into the air.

No one was injured and officials maintained Monday that the incident involved firecrackers, not guns.

Still, they said the university has been working with the city of Grambling to close vehicle traffic on Main Street between College and Central avenues.

Dixon and McKinley said the closure would better control the campus and make it more pedestrian friendly.
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Wednesday, August 6th 2008 at 12:09PM
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