Derrick Warren, Southern University System Alumni Affairs and Alumni Federation Executive Director, (left), surprised members of the university's Los Angeles Alumni Chapter after asking them, "Who are the most important people at Southern University?"
Chapter members, representing classes of 1954 to 2014, said, "The students."
While Warren acknowledged students' importance, he also credited alumni. "You are the most important. Most students I meet say they chose Southern University because of alumni," he said.
The Bastrop, La., native, a 1982 computer science graduate of Southern and 32-year IBM employee, also revealed a stark reality of why alumni support matters. "The university,formerly receiving 70 percent of assistance from Louisiana, currently receives 30 percent of state assistance," Warren said.
Budget cuts, affecting various programs, ravaged enrollment numbers and alumni morale.
But, Warren brought good news to the Los Angeles Alumni Chapter members gathered at the Alpha Phi Alpha Foundation Building earlier this month.
Southern University and A&M College, the Baton Rouge, La., 512-acre flagship campus of the world's only HBCU system, has experienced a rebirth, due in part to increased alumni support. They, including Los Angeles chapter members, spoke. SU listened.
Building upgrades, including dormitories and apartments;
Reinstatement of a budget cuts casualty: Out-of-State fee waivers for students whose parents are Southern University graduates;
"SU Smiles," a new bar code-based customer service program;
The Alumni Affairs and Alumni Federation website redesign, including Federation members-only Community Forums and a Comments Box for all alumni.
Warren said he often assures the less tech-savvy of the "5 generations of Southernites" the Alumni Federation serves will continue to receive important news via U.S. mail.
The department will also “host webinars to help alumni learn how to navigate the website."
New Orleans-based The Spears Group was named the agency of record for the university's marketing and branding campaigns. Among its first efforts is Southern University's new slogan: "Excellence defines us. Pride sustains us. Tradition guides us."
The university's improvements reinforce its new slogan, especially since Southern has strengthened its California ties, said Los Angeles Alumni Chapter President Camille Mayo. "Southern signed a transfer agreement with the California Community College System," the 1993 accounting graduate revealed.
The Los Angeles native explained the agreement’s impact on local students. "Starting this fall, those receiving associate's degrees from California community colleges may enroll at Southern University and be classified as juniors."
Chapter Vice President Douglas Robinson, a 1998 broadcast journalism graduate, mentioned another California tie. "Southern partnered with California State University and the Multimedia Education Resources for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) organization for the design and operation of two programs. Southern’s Affordable Learning Solutions (AL$) Initiative and the Southern University Open Online Library for Education, (SUOL4Ed), will allow students to receive access to course materials at little to no cost to them."
The “State of Southern University” address proved impactful for the Los Angeles Chapter.
"Mr. Warren’s message energized us. More alumni are ready to serve, strengthen and support the university by joining our chapter and the national Federation. We trust that SU and our fellow alumni will continue to be positive change agents for current and future Southernites," said Robinson, a Columbia, La., native.
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