This week, we had the honor of hosting Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, the Commissioner of Higher Education for Louisiana, on our campus for the First-Generation College Celebration. This annual event in November commemorates the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965 by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, which established federal financial aid programs and made significant investments in colleges and universities.

Dr. Reed started the day with a workshop for Student Affairs professionals, titled “First-Generation Faculty and Staff as Influencers,” led by NSU alumna Dr. Mary Blanchard Wallace, who serves as the Assistant Vice President for Student Experience at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Dr. Reed also toured NSU’s Health and Human Performance Building and engaged with student media at the NSU-TV studio, addressing questions about her background and the policies she oversees as commissioner in support of first-generation students.

I extend my gratitude to first-generation NSU student, Lia Portillo, as well as the other dedicated students in New Media, Journalism, and Communication Arts who actively took part in the interview process with Dr. Reed. The impact from this interaction is truly special, giving our students the chance to connect and enjoy hands-on learning experiences of exceptional quality.

The focal point of Dr. Reed’s visit was a luncheon and panel discussion, featuring perspectives from current students, alumni, and NSU staff who are the first in their families to pursue higher education.

I extend my appreciation to the individuals who participated in the First-Gen panel, offering valuable insights into common challenges, the significance of mentoring and support, and the aspiration to establish their own family legacies in education:

– LeAndre Benton: Assistant Principal, JJ Pearce High School
– Veronica Biscoe: Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness & Human Resources, NSU
– Misty Dalme: Director of Emergency Services, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center
– Peyton Fuller: NSU Student, majoring in Biology and Veterinary Technology
– Coree Nash: NSU Student, majoring in Social Work
– Dr. Mary Blanchard Wallace: Assistant Vice President for Student Experience, UAB

To conclude the visit, Dr. Reed attended NSU’s annual Health Fest at the WRAC, toured the NSU Food Pantry, and met with officers in the SGA.

I take pride in announcing that NSU has been granted Title III funding of $2,072,425 under the name Elevate-U, aimed at bolstering initiatives geared towards improving retention and graduation rates for low-income students. This grant will empower students to make informed decisions regarding their field of study, charting the most suitable academic path, and ensuring they’re well-prepared for careers post-graduation.

Elevate-U will provide first-generation and low-income students with access to tutoring, career-placement resources, and tailored strategies for success that address their specific needs. This grant will foster academic growth, active participation in campus organizations, and the acquisition of skills that pave the way to post-graduation employment.

The second component of this grant involves expanding the first and second-year experience at NSU through the implementation of residential living learning communities. These communities will engage low-income students, fostering a sense of belonging and community. I firmly believe that increased student involvement correlates with higher graduation rates. The Elevate-U initiative is poised to accelerate positive transformation across all aspects of NSU, and I anticipate its implementation for the advancement of our students.

The Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts takes great pride in presenting its annual Christmas Gala, signaling the start of the holiday season. Over 300 Northwestern State students, faculty, and staff from CAPA combine their talents to deliver this spectacular event, which serves as the kickoff to the Natchitoches Christmas Festival.

Performances are scheduled on the following dates at the A.A. Fredericks Fine Arts Auditorium:

– Wednesday, November 29 at 7:00pm
– Thursday, November 30 at 7:00pm
– Friday, December 1 at 7:00pm & 9:00pm

Tickets can be purchased at, priced at $15 per person. NSU, BPCC@NSU, and LSMSA students receive free admission with a current student I.D.

As Thanksgiving break approaches from November 20 to 24, I urge you to engage with your professors to ensure you’re on track for success as we approach the conclusion of the Fall 2023 semester.

Today our nation celebrates Veterans Day, a day to honor those who served in its wars, a tradition that began after the end of World War I.  Thank you to our veteran students, faculty, staff and their families for the ultimate sacrifice in securing our freedom.

Feel free to contact me with questions or concerns.

Dr. Marcus D. Jones
Northwestern State University