Northwestern State University hosted Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Kim Hunter Reed for a campus visit Nov. 7. Reed’s visit coincided with NSU’s First Gen Week, a celebration of students who are the first in their family to attend college, and NSU’s Wellness Week and Wellness Fest.
Reed began the day at a workshop for Student Affairs professionals, “First-Generation Faculty and Staff as Influencers,” led by NSU alumna Dr. Mary Blanchard Wallace, assistant vice president of Student Experience at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Reed later toured NSU’s Health and Human Performance Building and met with student media in the NSU-TV studio where she answered questions about her background and how her role as commissioner affects policies that support first-generation students.
The focal point of Reed’s visit was a luncheon and panel discussion that highlighted points of view from current students, alumni and NSU staff who are/were the first in their families to attend college. Reed moderated the panel that included students Peyton Fuller of Buckeye, a sophomore majoring in biology with a concentration in veterinary technology, and Coree Nash of Jena, a junior social work major. Alumni panelists were Wallace, Misty Dalme of Natchitoches, a family nurse practitioner in the Emergency Department at Natchitoches Regional Medical Center and director of Emergency Services, and LeAndre Benton, assistant principal at J. J. Pearce High School in Richardson (Texas) ISD. Veronica Biscoe, NSU’s executive director of Institutional Effectiveness and Human Resources, was a staff representative.
Panelists discussed common struggles they faced as first-generation students, the importance of mentoring and building a community of support, the desire to start their own family legacies in education and the importance of paying it forward.
Wallace was also keynote speaker discussing “A Story for Every Student,” including her personal journey as a first-generation student from Brusly to her current role as an assistant vice president at UAB where she is an advocate for first-generation students.
NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones said about 34 percent of NSU’s student population are first-generation students and those students are blazing a trail and forging connections that will benefit succeeding generations.
To conclude the visit, Reed visited NSU’s annual Health Fest at the Wellness, Recreation and Activities Center, toured the NSU Food Pantry and visited with officers in the Student Government Association.
Working with the Louisiana Board of Regents, Reed leads the state’s talent developing efforts, focused on increasing educational attainment, erasing equity gaps and increasing prosperity. Last year, she led efforts to secure additional state funding of more than $150 million, the most significant strategic investment in Louisiana higher education to date.
Earlier this year, Reed was named to the 10 Top 10 higher educational leaders by Forbes Magazine and was also named co-chair of the Higher Ed Climate Action Task Force, a part of the Aspen Institute’s This is Planet Ed initiative.
NSU’s First-Generation Week is a multi-day celebration presented by TRIO Student Support Services in cooperation with the Office of the President, First Year Experience, Office of Accessibility and Disability Support, Alpha Lambda Delta, Recruiting, Enrollment Management, NSU Residential Life, the Alumni Association, University Programming Council, NSU Publications and the Office of Marketing and Branding. The week-long celebration commemorates the signing of the Higher Education Act on Nov. 8, 1965.