Marketing & Communications

October 2018


white coat

First-year College of Pharmacy students (P1s) sign their professional oaths at the conclusion of the 17th annual White Coat Ceremony, during which the neophyte students received their first professional uniform symbolizing ethical practice and signifying the beginning of their professional pharmacy educations.


A 20 percent increase in new freshmen has boosted Xavier University of Louisiana’s overall enrollment to its highest level in eight years. This is a more than six percent increase over 2017. 

The fall 2018 numbers show 866 new freshmen and 71 new transfers on campus, which pushes the university’s current overall enrollment to 3,231 students. That marks the largest group of new freshman since 2010 (then 781) and the highest overall enrollment numbers since 2011 (then 3,399).

“It’s very gratifying to see students from across the nation choose Xavier to pursue their goals,” said Xavier University President Reynold Verret, attributing the surge to the University’s continuing excellence and leadership in STEM and its solid liberal arts curriculum, as well as a well-thought recruitment and enrollment effort.

“We have never compromised our commitment to academic excellence or our innovation in academic offerings that provide an academic experience that prepares students for careers of today and the future," said Verret. "Our students continue to compete and excel in the traditional fields of study, and many more are taking advantage of new program offerings in the fields of neuroscience, interdisciplinary programs, Afro-Caribbean studies, jazz studies, and more.”

The university experienced so much growth this year that it successfully arranged housing on nearby college campuses to insure that any student wishing to pursue a Xavier education had the chance to do so.


New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Gayle Benson (center) is flanked by other Saints/Pelicans, Xavier, and Archdiocesan dignitaries participating in the Sanctuary naming ceremony/Mass acknowledging the $1.5 million gift from the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Foundation which also established a scholarship fund. On hand for the event: (L-R) Dennis Lauscha, Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Dell Demps, Benson, President Dr. Reynold Verret, Alvin Gentry, Dr. Norman C. Francis ’52, Gia Soublet ’91, and Judge Ivan Lemelle ’71.


Xavier has been awarded a three-year, $844,448 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a systematic approach to increasing the participation and advancement of women in academic STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers.

The grant, the result of a proposal submitted to the NSF’s national ADVANCE Adaptation project, “Supporting Transformation: Intersectional Directions to Engender Success (XULA STrIDES),” is specifically designed to support the hiring, the retention, and the success of women of color in the STEM faculty at Xavier.

“Xavier has always embraced inclusive excellence as a core value and is committed to fostering a welcoming, affirming, diverse community in which all members feel central to our mission, called upon to realize their unique gifts, and are valued in their contributions,” said Dr. Anne McCall, XU Provost and Senior Vice President for Academics. “While this grant is focused on women of color in STEM, the breadth of engagement is such that we anticipate positive impact on personnel practices across identities and employment functions.”

Proposal co-writers Dr. Stassi DiMaggio and Dr. Mehnaaz Ali, both professors in the Department of Chemistry, will have responsibility for the overall direction of the grant. The major element of the grant is the funding of a Diversity Fellow, Dr. Payton-Stewart, a 1999 Xavier graduate now an associate professor of chemistry at the University. She will have broad responsibility for working with campus leadership to create sustainable policies and procedures that support hiring processes, retention practices, and cultural competency.


Xavier is ranked as the nation’s No. 2 HBCU (Historically Black College and University) in Money magazine’s “Best Colleges for Your Money” 2018-19 college guide.

In selecting what it called the “727 Best Colleges in America” for its report, Money said it focused on the three basic factors that surveys show are the most important to parents and students: quality of education, affordability, and outcomes. In doing so, the guide analyzed graduation rates, tuition, family borrowing, alumni earnings, and 22 other data points to find the country’s best values.

Xavier, ranked 582nd overall, came in as the guide’s No. 2 HBCU behind only Spelman College, which ranked 323rd overall. Other HBCUs making the list were: Tuskegee Institute (612), Howard University (627), Hampton University (647), Morehouse College (685), Florida A&M University (681), and North Carolina Central (697).


XU President Dr. Reynold Verret joins Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng and Philippine Honorary Consulate General- Louisiana R. G. Romero at the New Orleans Chinese Cultural Festival celebrating the NOLA Tricentennial, which was held at Lakeside Mall in Metairie LA. The event was co-sponsored by the Xavier Confucius Institute.


Two key members of the University’s Marketing and Communications team have received promotions.

Diana Hernandez, who previously served as Manager of Marketing, Communications and Digital Strategy has been appointed as Director of Marketing and Communications. Ashley Daniels, who had served as Marketing and Communications Specialist, has been named Manager of Digital Strategy.

“Ms. Hernandez and Ms. Daniels both possess the expertise to move Xavier’s Marketing and Communications Department forward, and they will be key to effectively communicating the University’s unique history and mission,” said Xavier President Reynold Verret.

In her new role of Marketing and Communications Director, Hernandez will oversee all aspects of Xavier’s marketing and communications efforts, including leading our marketing strategies, media outreach, advertising campaigns, social media, community relations, and branding implementation for the organization. The department will report to Patrice Bell Mercadel, Chief of Staff at Xavier.

Hernandez’s experience includes a valuable mix of corporate marketing and advertising agency roles, which has shaped her integrated approach to communications. She is a results-driven, creative leader and is accomplished in developing successful local and national media campaigns. Before joining the Xavier team, she was the Public Relations Manager for Transdev Services, public-private operating partner of the Regional Transit Authority.

A first-generation New Orleanian, Hernandez earned her Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the University of New Orleans.

In the new role of Manager of Marketing and Digital Strategy, Daniels, a 2010 Xavier graduate, will oversee the management of digital communications including digital strategy for social media and Xavier’s website. Daniels bring eight years plus of experience managing multiple facets of marketing programs and platforms.

Daniels holds a B.S. in Sales and Marketing with a minor in History.

hbcu tennis

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ’97 cuts a ribbon inside the XU Convocation Center  officially opening the Shell and Xavier co-sponsored NOLA Back to 2 School Fest during which close to 2,000 students were provided free school supplies, health screenings, haircuts and more.Xavier alums celebrate with members of the XU Women’s tennis team after them captured the HBCU National Women’s Championship in Orlando FL. (L-R) Lareesa Ferdinand-Dukes ’98, Charlene Goreau, Yi Chen Pao, coach Alan Green, Mariia Borodii, Farah Baklouti, Lacee Ancar, Demetria Hill Sloan ’95, and Lisa Cochran Porter ’87.

Among those on hand for the unveiling of a plaque in the University Library Archives - paying tribute to the devoted service of Mae Ethel Robin Jupiter during the 1940's and 50's - were her husband Clyde Jupiter '49, daughters Lisa Crusto '95 and Carol Garibaldi, and Dr. Norman Francis '52.



  • Allana Barefield, a senior mass communication major from Lynn MA (Lynn English High), is among six aspiring African American journalists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) named as Rhoden Fellows, a sports journalism internship program that identifies and trains aspiring African American journalists. The program is sponsored by “The Undefeated”ESPN’s multiplatform initiative focusing on the intersections of sports, race and culture.

  • Nia Laing, a junior sociology major from Stone Mountain GA (Stephenson High School) has been invited to participate in the SVB Trek, a four-day tour of Silicon Valley sponsored by Silicon Valley Bank designed to connect ambitious, entrepreneurially-minded university students with creative pioneers, world-class investors, and industry leaders throough an immerse learning experience. A member of Xavier’s X-ncubator, she is credited with starting a business market street furniture (bus stop benches and shelters) designed and constructed by students at the Net Charter High School to the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) in conjunction with the Arts Council of New Orleans.

  • Four P4 pharmacy students – Gabriela Andonie of Gretna LA (Thomas Jefferson High) , Mikayla Johnson of Natchitoches LA (Natchitoches High), Phillip Vo of  New Orleans (Jesuit High), and Amir Zaki of Metairie LA (Haynes Academy) – participated in an Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience at St. Joseph Hospital in Ridoré, Haiti, where they served as part of an international health care team which provided substantial healthcare, education, and human rights assistance to the local inhabitants.


  • John Ashaolu ’04 has been named the Director of Athletics at Point Park University in Pittsburgh PA. He previously served as Director of Athletics at the Community College of Allegheny County. He holds a Master's degree in Sports Leadership from Duquesne University.

  • Jacob Evans ’11 has been promoted to Diversity Specialist at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.

  • Kareka Gree ’15, is serving as an associate producer with the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), where she handles product integration, steps for DIY projects and social media content for the show Home Made Simple with Laila Ali. She previously worked with Snapchat as a Content Editor.

  • Jamika Pessoa ’01, celebrity chef and caterer to the stars, is hosting a new show on Food Network, “Let's Eat”, which airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m. / 8:00 a.m. CDT. The show premiered in August. Check it out HERE.

  • Ramont Roberts ’98 has been named Superintendent of the Saginaw Public Schools District in Michigan. He previously served as the interim superintendent.

  • Two alumni Microsoft employees – Profitability Optimizer Rita Reed ‘02 and Group Audit Manager Mia Wallace ’02 – have both been accepted into the company’s Dale Carnegie Aspiring Leadership program.


  • Jennifer Bodnar has joined the University administrative staff as Director of Violence Prevention Education and Advocacy. Previously she oversaw Student Victim Assistance at Georgia State University. Read more HERE.

  • Dr. Thomas Bonner (Emeritus) was a “Guest of Honor at the annual Pirate's Alley Faulkner Society's Festival, where he co-presented a talk "Place as Inspiration and the Making of Nobel Laureate William Faulkner." He also spoke on "Place in Poetry" and read poems from his book Parterre. His commentary on Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily" was published in the program.

  • Tracy Jackson has been named Interim Director for Career Services. She had been serving as program manager for the Career Pathways Initiative grant from the UNCF.

  • Katheryn Krotzer Laborde (English) gave a reading of "Celeste Avenue Jesus" (flash creative nonfiction) which was featured on "The Bubbler" blog on Free State She also read "The Facebook Monologues" (flash creative nonfiction) at the recent Word Crawl, a literary marathon and fundraiser sponsored by The Festival of Words Collective in Lafayette LA.

  • Dr. David Lanoue (RosaMary Professor of English) has published in Germany a bilingual English-German collection of haiku: Ein Gefühl von Neugierde (A Feeling of Curiosity).

  • Dr. Yashoda Pramar (Pharmacy) has been awarded the “Silver Award” from the United States Pharmacopeial Commission in recognition of two drug stability studies (the compounded liquids of Clindamycin Hydrochloride and Spironolactone) accepted as official monographs under the Donor Recognition Program. Her research team includes Dr. Levon Bostanian, Richard Graves, and Dr. Tarun Mandal. It’s another first for Xavier.

Loyalty Society Profile

Xavier’s Loyalty Society honors those individuals who have made a long-term financial commitment by making gifts to the Annual Fund, the lifeline of the University’s operations, over a designated consecutive number of years (5 years for new graduates, 10 for others).

Kevin Barnes ’10

A famous ancient Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The same could be said of gift-giving.

Take the example of Kevin Barnes Jr. His record of giving to the Xavier Annual Fund is relatively short, and for good reason: he just graduated in 2010. And yet the young Director of Communications for the Orleans Parish School Board is well on his way to becoming a life-long supporter of his alma mater, a fact that the University graciously acknowledges with Ambassador level membership in the Loyalty Society. Considering there are only 144 alumni whose giving currently qualifies them for the Loyalty Society, that’s quite a noteworthy achievement.

Barnes began giving to Xavier shortly after graduation. As a recipient of grants and scholarships while a student himself, he knew first-hand the importance of giving. Worrying about money is not conducive to focusing on your education.


“If others hadn't given when I was a student then I wouldn't be standing here today as a Xavier graduate because I could not afford it,” said Barnes. “Now I give back to Xavier because I understand that the University needs the financial support of its alumni, but more importantly because this generation of students needs our help.”

“Xavier is a unique and special place,” he said. “I would not be where I am today without the support, love, prayers, and guidance from the amazing people that make Xavier the great institution that it is.” 

For more information about the Loyalty Society call (504) 520-7575.

Did You Know?

Last year Xavier alumni gave a record-high $1.6 million to support scholarships and University programs. The 2018 fiscal year contributions included a $500,000 cash planned gift from the estate of Leo Sam ’53, the largest planned gift ever received an alumnus.

According to Kimberly Reese, Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving, the Office of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving has implemented a number of strategies to increase the number of alumni including Xavier in their estate plans and making annual contributions to the University, including peer to peer solicitation, Alumni Annual Fund Co-chairs, personal visits, and social media.

The alumni giving goal for fiscal year 2019 is $1.5 million with an alumni percentage goal of 20 percent. 

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