Dear NSU Community,

In the past year, Northwestern State University has achieved remarkable milestones, setting the stage for an even more ambitious 2024. A significant highlight is the $2 million Title III Grant,  ElevateU, aimed at increasing retention and graduation rates by supporting first-generation and Pell recipients. The grant will assist in providing academic and student success support through advising, career engagement, and improving the student experience beyond the first year.

This grant will assist first generation and Pell recipients with tutoring and career-placement, and strategies for success that are specifically driven by what these students need to succeed.  The grant will enable students to grow academically, be involved socially and professionally across campus organizations and activities and learn strategies that lead to employment after graduation.

The NSU Entrepreneurial Innovation Center (NEIC), a $2.1 million federally funded project, is set to emerge as the epicenter of entrepreneurial development in northwest Louisiana. In partnership with the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, the NEIC will furnish a polished business setting, complete with co-working spaces and adaptable office accommodations, complemented by a suite of support services and networking opportunities tailored to the needs of emerging ventures and small enterprises.

Our Academic profile made significant strides during 2023. The establishment of the School of STEM has united academic efforts in Biology/Microbiology, Veterinary Technology, Physical Sciences, Engineering Technology, and Math. Notably, Veterinary Technology achieved a 100% pass rate on the VetTech National Exam. In its first year, the School of STEM has seen a marked increase in participation of events the allow prospective students to engage in experiential learning in the Sciences, Robotics, and Math solutions.

In 2016, The Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts began its quest to offer, for undergraduates, all the professional degrees required by the respective fields of study. In 2018, we launched the BFA in Dance, the BFA in Production and Design in 2020, and this last semester, launched the BFA in Musical Theatre. It stands out as one of the few Regional Universities providing such comprehensive professional degree offerings.

The inaugural cohort of Nurse Anesthetists from the DNP graduated this Fall. This significant milestone further deepened the comprehensive nature of degree offerings in our College of Nursing and School of Allied Health and saw a remarkable 16 out of 17 of students passing their state boards, officially earning the title of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists.

The NCLEX, a nationwide exam for nursing licensure in the U.S., revealed impressive results for the Summer 2023 Bachelor of Science in Nursing class with a remarkable pass rate of 99%. Also, the Spring 2023 Associate of Science in Nursing class achieved a pass rate of 98%. These high pass rates serve as a testament to the exceptional career preparation provided by the College of Nursing and School of Allied Health.

Our Elementary Education program secured a top 5 ranking for PRAXIS passage, the Ed.D. program celebrated a record-breaking enrollment, and Northwestern’s first ‘Call Me Mister’ graduate is making a difference in public schools. The Department of Health and Human Performance introduced a new degree in Sports and Recreation Management.

Accessibility and Disability Support accommodated 263 students, administering 521 exams in Fall 2023. The NSU Food Pantry assisted 85 registered students, totaling over 800 individual visits. In collaboration with Sodexo, Swipe Out Hunger assists students facing food insecurity by addressing campus hunger. This partnership facilitated the distribution of 1,148 complimentary meal swipes to 83 students during the Fall of 2023.

We celebrate our students’ desire to take full advantage of all that NSU has to offer, as well as the faculty, staff, alumni, and friends that make NSU a great place for our students. Our sole purpose as an institution is to grow the intellect, creativity, and personhood of our students, so they may experience life and career success.

This past semester, TRIO Student Support Services organized a successful First-Generation College Student Celebration Week, highlighted by a luncheon and alumni panel moderated by Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Kim Hunter-Reed. I applaud the students in New Media, Journalism, and Communication Arts who actively participated in the interview process with Dr. Reed. This interaction had a meaningful impact, offering our students a unique opportunity to connect and engage in hands-on learning experiences of exceptional quality.

Collaborating with NSU Athletics, New Media, Journalism, and Communication Arts students successfully launched ESPN+ live streaming for NSU athletic events. This collaboration isn’t just about streaming games; it’s a transformative venture that equips our students with practical skills beyond the classroom, preparing them for the dynamic and competitive media landscape.

Our achievements extend beyond academics. Recognized Student Organizations hosted 218 events, with 2,150 students participating, and the Student Union saw an estimated 131,234 attendees at various programs, meetings, and activities.

Service-learning and community involvement are essential responsibilities, and last semester alone, NSU students contributed thousands of hours to community impact projects addressing the environment, literacy, public health and wellness, mental health, and many other needs.

Career Services hosted two successful Career Fairs with 70 employers and 366 student participants. On the international front, the President’s Leadership Program (PLP) took students to France, showcasing the global reach of Northwestern State University.

In January 2024, our University Police unveiled the Campus Shield Safety App. You can anonymously submit tips and safety concerns with photos/videos through the app, as well as activate an emergency button slider. I recommend downloading the Campus Shield Safety App from either the App Store or Google Play.

On February 24, 2024, the restructured Northwest Literary Rally Committee welcomes over 3,000 high school students to our vibrant campus. Career Services presents the Spring Career Fair on February 27 and the Teacher Job Fair on March 7. Stay tuned for NSU Recruiting’s 12 engaging recruiting receptions in early spring.

Moving forward, the primary focus will continue to be the improvement of our academic portfolio, student experience, and campus safety. The many accomplishments in the past year lay a robust foundation for an even more promising 2024. Our commitment to excellence in academics, student support, and community engagement propels us toward a future of continued success and impact.

As we reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we move forward into 2024 with inspiration to demonstrate unity through our daily actions. Please join the NSU community for MLK Day Week of Events, during the following times:

Friday, Jan. 12
9 a.m.- Rolling Hills Ministries
3 p.m. – Boys and Girls Club

Saturday, Jan. 13
9 a.m. – Highland Park Clean Up
1:30 p.m. – Nursing Home Bingo
3 p.m. – “Echoes from the Civil Rights Movement” Presented by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame

Monday, Jan. 15
11 a.m. – Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration (CANCELLED due to inclement weather)
6:30 p.m. – NSU Basketball Game (Prather Coliseum)

I extend my best wishes and good luck to Makenzie Scroggs, a junior dance major from Marksville, as she represents Louisiana and NSU in the Miss America pageant this weekend. Preliminary events for Miss America kicked off earlier in the week, featuring receptions, appearances, rehearsals, and various activities. The finals are scheduled for 6 p.m. (CT) on Sunday, Jan. 14, at the Walt Disney Theatre in Orlando, Florida.

I also want to give a shoutout to our NSU Cheer Team and NSU Purple Pizzazz Pom Team as they participate in the UCA and UDA Cheer and Dance Nationals today and throughout the weekend in Orlando, FL.

I’m excited to witness an energetic campus this semester. As you stroll through campus, you will observe the ongoing construction of Alost Hall, a state-of-the-art academic building set to become the focal point for learning and collaboration.

Welcome back to NSU, where great things continue to unfold. Your journey here is a constant source of inspiration, and I’m eager to see the achievements that lie ahead.

Dr. Marcus D. Jones
Northwestern State University