Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, and Natchitoches Community,

It is with gratitude that I announce my departure as President of Northwestern State University (NSU) to serve as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the University of Louisiana System, where I will also serve as a senior advisor to President Gallot. Serving Northwestern State University for the past 25 years has been an immense pleasure and a profound honor.

These mixed emotions are a direct reflection of my incredible time at NSU and the opportunity to build upon these successes on a statewide level. Higher education is at a crucial juncture – one in which universities must rapidly and aggressively innovate to ensure we meet the needs of all learners and bring positive, impactful growth to the communities and economies we serve.

I have seen the benefits of this mindset firsthand over the past few years at NSU, and I am eager to do so in service to the other universities that comprise the UL System. Serving in this capacity is an honor and a distinguished opportunity. With my decades of experience within the UL System and commitment to advancing student success across Louisiana’s public higher education institutions, I am excited to collaborate with President Gallot in innovating and re-envisioning the future of higher education in our state.

Reflecting on my time at NSU, I am thankful for the incredible memories and the growth we have achieved together. From capital outlay initiatives to significant expansions in our academic programs, our university’s momentum is undeniable.

Here are just a few reasons why I believe NSU is on a positive trajectory and shines brightly as a premier regional institution dedicated to the personal and professional success of our students:

  • Our graduates excel in critical fields such as healthcare, STEM, business, and education. They are filling essential workforce gaps and propelling industry advancements, creating high-paying jobs, enhancing Louisiana’s economic competitiveness, and strengthening national security.
  • Our esteemed Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts continues to evolve, serving as the cultural heartbeat of our campus and a hub of activity for Natchitoches and the surrounding region. Our graduates consistently make their mark in various fields: as music educators and performers in schools across Louisiana and on stages worldwide, as journalists navigating an ever-evolving media landscape, as actors and dancers on Broadway, cruise ships, and theaters globally, and as artists and designers shaping the visual world.
  • We have made tremendous strides in recruiting and retaining high-quality students. Enrollment applications continue to rise, with ACT scores and GPAs of incoming freshmen surpassing the state average.
  • The NSU Foundation secured $7 million in private contributions, leading to transformative contributions across campus. This generosity, coupled with a 16% return on our endowment, fuels our historic growth.
  • Investments such as the Entrepreneurial Innovation Center, a partnership with Louisiana School for the Math, Science, and the Arts, will serve as a hub for entrepreneurial activity in northwest Louisiana. Meanwhile, funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation will alleviate nursing shortages, with the potential of helping us contribute over 1,000 nurses to the state by 2032.
  • Speaking of our nursing programs, they continue to excel – with a 100% job placement rate for graduates in 2023 and exceptional NCLEX pass rates of 99% for BSN students and 98% for ASN students.
  • Our new School of STEM includes five departments focused on interdisciplinary collaboration, ensuring NSU remains a leader in STEM education.
  • Our teacher preparation programs rank among the top five in Louisiana for Praxis® Elementary Education pass rates.

The list can go on and on. Our collective accomplishments in innovation, student success, and community impact are a testament to the dedication and hard work of our faculty, staff, students, graduates, and expansive network of 61,000 living alumni. Together, we continue to make NSU a beacon of excellence and a premier research institution.

I am both proud and excited about the future of this extraordinary institution. I am proud because of our 140-year legacy of excellence in higher education and our lasting impact on countless lives and the broader community. I am excited because of the future I see ahead – one that I will continue to be part of, albeit in a different way that will enable me to support the exciting futures of all the institutions that comprise the UL System.

President Gallot will share more information with the NSU community in the coming weeks as I begin my transition into my new role with the UL System.

Thank you for the privilege of serving as your 20th president. I am deeply grateful to the NSU community for your support and look forward to witnessing and contributing to the continued success of this remarkable institution.

Steadfast and True,

Dr. Marcus D. Jones
Northwestern State University