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Above: Will Packer and Taraji P. Henson on the set of “No Good Deed.” Photo courtesy: Screen Gems

Cover photo by: Robert Ector


ROBINSON RETURNS A Legacy of Compassion and Commitment Continues


COVER STORY: WILL PACKER A Resilient Rattler’s Journey from the “Hill” to Hollywood


CORPORATE CONNECTIONS FAMU Alumni Partner with Fortune 500 Companies to Pay it Forward

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ROYALLY & ORDINARILY “IJAY” Queen of Orange and Green Makes Rattler History PASSING THE BATON New Director Honors Band’s Legacy, Marches Boldly Toward Future MORE THAN A MARCH 50-Year Marching “100” Alum Takes Field One Last Time FROM INSTITUTE TO RESEARCH POWERHOUSE FAMU School of the Environment Turns 20


FAMU SCHOOL OF NURSING Celebrating 80 Years of Perfecting the Art of Caring and Curing


AT THE TOP OF THE PYRAMID FAMU Cheer Team Jumps Obstacles, Brings Championship to the “Hill”


FACES OF FAMU Highlighting Alumni Making a Difference on Campus


04 President’s Message 05 Editor’s Letter 48 Campus Notes 52 From the Bookshelf 54 Fallen Rattlers


INTERIM UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT Larry Robinsion, Ph.D. EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR COMMUNICATIONS Kathy Y. Times EXECUTIVE EDITOR Kanya Stewart COPY EDITORS Vickie Hampton Sabrina Thompson Mona Malone LAYOUT AND DESIGN Charles R. Collins, III STAFF WRITERS Domonique Davis Asia Johnson Brian Lucas, DM

Shandra Hill Smith Amaya Mann

PHOTOGRAPHY Adam VL Taylor Vaughn Wilson Quantrell Colbert Victor Gaines

Michael Cork Wayne Dunwoody Johnny Crawford

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT Tawanda Finley ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT Lawana Clark EVENTS, MARKETING, ADVERTISING Vernon Bryant Charlene Balewa EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Tashavia Graham Miracle Green Deja Allen FOR MORE INFORMATION (850) 599-3413 Twitter: Facebook Search: Florida A&M University YouTube: The A&M Magazine is the official magazine of Florida A&M University, and is designed to inform alumni, supporters, and friends about issues of importance about the University. This public document was promulgated at a total cost of $10,200 or $1.02 per copy. FAMU is an Equal Opportunity/Equal Access University.

Dear Alumni and FAMU Supporters: It is with great honor that we present this edition of A&M Magazine. I am humbled to once again serve FAMU as its interim president, and I remain enthusiastic about what the future holds for our beloved University. Among FAMU’s greatest assets are our students. They are the reason we come to work every morning. Their futures matter, and it is up to us to prepare them for success as great contributors to our society. And we are doing just that by creating new opportunities for excellence. For instance, our new partnership with Lockheed Martin makes us the first HBCU to offer students and faculty the opportunity to supply support and services to NASA for its mission to Mars. This is one of the many accomplishments you will read about in this edition. At FAMU, our faculty and staff are working vigorously to provide the best programs and resources available to our students. This issue showcases how our students take advantage of those offerings and flourish. Our very own Queen of Orange and Green, Ijeoma Chiemela Ogala, known as “Ijay,” is among the tenacious scholars profiled in this issue. Ogala, who is from Abia State, Nigeria, is the first international student to be crowned Queen of Orange and Green. She is an example of what it means to persevere in unchartered territory. Her story represents what’s special about FAMU: its unique and unmatched ability to develop young minds into the future leaders of our world. Our bright and promising students like Ogala go on to become distinguished alumni, and in this issue, you will read about Rattlers who are making a difference right here on the “Hill” and around the globe. I want to thank each of our alumni and supporters for the investment they have made in FAMU with their time, treasure, and talent. Indeed, your presence makes all the difference in our efforts to provide a world-class education to our students, and that was evident in the overwhelming support you showed during Homecoming week and the Florida Blue Florida Classic. As you read the inspiring stories in this issue, we hope that you will support the programs you learn about by participating in our annual giving fund. You can find out more about how to contribute online at Please be sure to share the good news in this issue with others and continue to let the world know about the “Great Things Happening at FAMU Every Day!” Yours in Service,

Larry Robinson, Ph.D. Interim President 4 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE

Greetings Rattlers: Welcome to the winter edition of the award-winning A&M Magazine. Providing a world-class education and access to a promising future have been at the core of FAMU’s academic programs since its founding. Thanks to Rattlers around the globe, FAMU continues to build on its rich legacy, and in this issue, we are commemorating some remarkable milestones. Two of those milestones are anniversaries: The School of Nursing celebrates its 80th anniversary and the School of the Environment marks its 20th year. Each school has made innovative contributions to our community and society, and on the pages that follow, you will learn more about their influence. The stories of these remarkable schools reveal that they both remain relevant and provide much-needed responses to global needs. Also, in this issue, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the incomparable and world-renowned Marching “100,” along with the resilience of one of its most inspirational alumni -- Patrick Arnold. Indeed, resilience is the overarching theme in this issue as we celebrate Rattlers who showcase great commitment to their life callings. In “Faces of FAMU” (a special series of “Alumni Applause”), we recognize alumni who are longtime University employees and have dedicated their careers to supporting “The College of Love and Charity.” Among our showcase of resilient Rattlers in this issue is none other than super producer Will Packer, who graces our cover. In an ever-changing film and television industry, Packer has successfully navigated Hollywood and has become a sought-after and respected producer. Recently, he was recognized by his peers with an Emmy® nomination. Another resilient Rattler highlighted in this issue is our very own interim president, Larry Robinson, Ph.D. Earlier this fall, Robinson returned to the helm of the University to guide the transition into our next era—“the platinum era,” as he calls it. He is nearing the 20th anniversary of his becoming a member of the FAMU family. Over the years, he has exemplified an unwavering dedication to FAMU’s success, and it all started with an unexpected encounter with a few Rattlers in a Tennessee laboratory. Rattlers, we have a lot to be proud of, and I hope this issue further inspires you to continue holding up the big, bold, and bright banner of FAMU. Thank you for your continued support of A&M Magazine. Enjoy! With Rattler Pride,

Kanya Stewart Executive Editor LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The A&M Magazine welcomes letters to the editor about stories in its issues. We reserve the right to edit emails and letters for clarity or spacing. Emails may be sent to: or letters may be mailed to the Office of Communications, Florida A&M University, 1601 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Suite 200 Lee Hall, Tallahassee, Florida 32307-3100. A&M MAGAZINE // WINTER 2017 // 5


ROBINSON RETURNS A Legacy of Compassion and Commitment Continues BY [Kanya STEWART]

“You are the reason that I came here.” These passionate words echoed throughout the fourth floor of Florida A&M University’s Lee Hall from the mouth and heart of Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. In the midst of a jam-packed Homecoming week, Robinson carved out time to address some of the University’s most important stakeholders. His audience: a group of first-year scholarship students. The place: the President’s Conference Room, where decisions are made every day about the future of the University and its students. The group’s rapt attention to his words and expressions of excitement revealed an understanding of the importance of Robinson’s invitation to meet with him. He told them how important they were to the success of the University and encouraged them to pursue their dreams with the knowledge that FAMU would do everything in its power to help them excel. “I want you to understand that our focus is on academic excellence,” Robinson said, assuring the students that under his leadership the University’s actions would center on providing opportunities to help them attain their dreams.

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT FAMU Robinson recounted to the students the story of how his relationship with the University began. It was an encounter with bright and eager FAMU students just like them that drew him to the University. One day in 1995, Robinson met a few FAMU students visiting in his laboratory in Tennessee. At the time, Robinson was a research scientist and group leader at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “I came to FAMU because I wanted to work with the next generation of scientists. I was so impressed with those


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students; I figured this (FAMU) was the right place to be because of their talent and their ambition,” Robinson said. The time he spent sharing his story with the students in the conference room on that October day was symbolic. As he paused to take photos with the group, the smile on his face and the delight in his eyes, made it obvious that he had no regrets about accepting the offer of former President Frederick Humphries, Ph.D., to join the FAMU family in January 1997. “There is something special about FAMU that I have known and felt long before I set foot on the campus,” Robinson said. “Without a place like FAMU, in my personal history, I can’t even dare to begin to think how my life would have gone.” Since then, Robinson’s work as a professor, researcher, and director in the then-Environmental Sciences Institute from 1997 to 2003, and his service as vice president for Academic Affairs from 2003 to 2005 and in 2012, has embodied the University’s mantra, “Excellence with Caring” – which he calls “FAMU’s special venom.” Robinson’s passion for his work, coupled with his exemplary leadership style and experience, is what led to his selection by the Board of Trustees to help strengthen and transition the University as interim president in 2007 and again from 2012-2014. Robinson was appointed in September 2016 to lead a third time. Robinson does not take the confidence placed in him lightly. Since his return to Lee Hall as interim president, Robinson has been meeting with stakeholders, identifying new opportunities, and traveling the country with the goal of bolstering the University’s ability to support and execute its mission. A key component to his efforts is unifying the Rattler family around the common goal of student success, he says. “We must focus on the success of our students,” said Robinson, during an interview after landing in Tallahassee from a trip to meet with Congress members. He, along with several HBCU presidents, discussed the need for additional resources for students at historically Black, land-grant universities.



Robinson emphasized why seeking additional resources is so vital to the University. “We must continue to provide our students with innovative, rigorous, and relevant educational experiences – igniting a spark in them to not only do well for themselves, but also for their fellow students, their communities, and our society in general,” he said.

BUILDING TOGETHER Since beginning his new term as interim president, Robinson has spoken consistently and zealously about the need for a unified focus among the FAMU community, as it is

He underscored that it is important to understand that FAMU’s success goes beyond simply continuing its history of providing life-changing opportunities to its students. He believes the University’s success has a direct impact on the success of our nation and the world. “By working together to build on the foundations of our past, we become the instigators of change and innovation in the realm of higher education. Adhering, without waver, to our core values and vision will allow us to better serve our constituents,” Robinson said. As Robinson calls on Rattlers, near and far, to join him in rising to the occasion in ensuring that FAMU can offer its best to

sustaining its future: and thinking about how to make things better for its students – a nod, perhaps, to his background as a scientist. “In order to compete in today’s higher education landscape, FAMU must continue to push the envelope and find new and unique ways to attract and retain stellar students, and the faculty and staff who help to usher them into their future,” he said.

POSSIBILITIES AND PROMISE When asked about his vision for the University’s future, Robinson said he’s encouraged by the possibilities for FAMU to reach new levels in fostering excellence.

By working together to build on the foundations of our past, we become the instigators of change and innovation in the realm of higher education. crucial to sustaining the University’s legacy and its ability to educate and graduate the next generation of Rattlers. “It is critical that we focus on uniting the FAMU family, ensuring that we recognize the obvious benefits of us all working together to advance the University’s agenda,” he explained. “Together, we must place a major emphasis on the issues that impact our financial well-being, including performance funding metrics, enrollment management, fundraising, funded research, and responsible fiscal management.”

students and the communities it serves, he says that he is also looking inward to make sure that he excels as a leader. “I hope to listen more and talk less; build stronger teams and coalitions; work harder and smarter; and pray more than ever,” he said. His statement is an illustration of his leadership style, and even the shortest encounter with Robinson will quickly give away his approach. He’s always thinking – thinking about how to advance FAMU and how to innovate its programs; thinking about

He explained that FAMU must continue to open its doors to talented students looking for a higher education institution that will embrace them and help them reach their full potential. “I strongly believe that FAMU will continue to be a model for institutions of all types and sizes, and the place to emulate for excellence in student success; innovation in teaching, research, outreach and extension; and exemplary stewardship; operational efficiency; and customer service,” he said. To help FAMU reach its next level, he has 4 A&M MAGAZINE // WINTER 2017 // 9

IGNITING A SPARK5 Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., (center) poses with FAMU scholarship students after an inspiring meeting in October 2016.

been working around the clock, with the Board of Trustees, National Alumni Association, Division of Student Affairs, senior administrators, and other groups and supporters, to reach scholars who will benefit from FAMU’s diverse offerings. In November 2016, more than $1 million in scholarships were given out at Florida recruitment events, and several aggressive programs are underway that will not only help to recruit the best and brightest students, but retain them. Robinson partnered with trustees, deans, staff, and alumni at receptions in Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, and Jacksonville to recruit National Merit semifinalists. The goal of these efforts is to re-establish FAMU’s success as a National Merit® Scholarship Program participant. Robinson also announced the availability of $5 million, approved by the FAMU Foundation Board of Directors, and strongly endorsed by the FAMU Board of Trustees, to help provide resources for scholarships for new and returning students. The funds will also provide assistance for investing in FAMU’s faculty, a key component of student success, Robinson said. “We have not exceeded our capacity to serve the educational needs of young men and women aspiring to greatness,” Robinson said. “There are still families and communities that are yet to experience all that the American dream truly has to offer.” For Robinson, FAMU is more than a place where he has established a fruitful career. The University has also played an essential role in helping him realize his own American dream. “I personally know what FAMU means to our current students and those who have come to this place over its 129-year history,” Robinson said. “We have to protect and advance the mission of this special place with a passion and tenacity that yields to no force known to humankind.”



One-Year Plan In order for student success to remain a priority and reach new heights at FAMU, Interim President Larry Robinson has developed a one-year plan focused on implementing aggressive approaches that will position the University to reach its own goals and the metrics it must achieve at the state level. Those approaches include, but are not limited to, developing and implementing strategies designed to: • Increase the University’s six-year graduation rate by strengthening and implementing new programs • Increase the percentage of first-time-in-college students returning to FAMU after their first term(s) with a 2.0 GPA or greater • Lower the percentage of bachelor’s graduates with excess credit hours, which will help to decrease student debt and increase graduation rates • Evaluate and enhance the current advisement structure to align with best practices in higher education, which will help to ensure higher graduation, retention, and job-placement rates • Increase the productivity of bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded in areas of strategic emphasis, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), education, health, and other areas of critical need for Florida’s workforce






hen most celebrities enter a crowded room with thousands of people, a few things could happen. Their security guards spring into action. They retreat to a reclusive VIP section. They find the quickest method to avoid the paparazzi or they purposely draw attention to themselves. But when Emmy®-nominated, Hollywood blockbustersuper producer Will Packer entered a standing-roomonly gymnasium full of proud Florida A&M University alumni during the 2016 Homecoming Convocation, something different happened. He blended in with the crowd. Without hesitation, Packer made his way to the aged, wooden bleachers of Gaither Gymnasium and made

himself comfortable. He sat quietly among a sea of students, alumni, community members, and University staff, most clad in their orange and green. He seemed to study the atmosphere with deliberation, taking in the fact that he was back on his old stomping grounds. He was, as he often says, at home on the “Hill.” And while those in the audience watched him in awe, he, too, seemed to be star-struck. He looked around in admiration of his alma mater – the place that he credits as the foundation for his success. That success includes producing nine, No.1, multi-milliondollar grossing films, and groundbreaking television such as the remake of “Roots” (which drew more than 8.5 million viewers during its debut). 4

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3HOME ON THE “HILL” Will Packer and his wife, Heather, enjoy the 2016 FAMU Homecoming Parade.

Unknown to him, our writers sat directly behind the St. Petersburg, Florida, native during the convocation, and observed his interactions with the crowd. He appeared to turn on some type of mental camera, recording each person within his view. He shook hands, exchanged smiles, complimented spirited outfits, cheered for the speakers and presenters, and danced to the music. It was that moment that exemplified just why Packer has been so successful in delivering compelling characters and stories on the big screen and television. He’s perfected the art of relating to and understanding people, evidenced by the gamut of human emotion and experience offered in his diverse and cross-genre repertoire. His actions that day hinted at the attentiveness and thoughtfulness that he must put into his work, perhaps a product of the electrical engineering degree he received from FAMU in 1996, which was accompanied by a magna cum laude distinction.

‘FAMU Taught Me’ Packer’s record-shattering productions range from such hits as the November 2016 star-studded comedy release “Almost Christmas” (starring Danny Glover, Omar Epps, Kimberly Elise, Gabrielle Union, and Nicole Ari Parker), and the BET drama series “Being Mary Jane,” which stars Union and premieres its fourth and much anticipated season in January 2017. His true-to-life portrayal of romance, friendship, family, career, social, and community dynamics has garnered him an unrelenting fan base, and respect and admiration among Hollywood’s elite. Since debuting as a producer with his first film, “Chocolate City (1994),” Packer has ascended as one of the most sought-after producers in the world. “Chocolate City” was made on FAMU’s campus with fellow Rattler Rob Hardy (who co-founded Rainforest Films with Packer earlier in their careers). The 90-minute film, which chronicled the historically Black college and university (HBCU) experience,


would go on to serve as the launching pad for Packer’s contributions to Hollywood. “When myself, Rob Hardy, (actress/ screenwriter) Kelsey Scott, and other Rattlers, some who are still in the industry, made ‘Chocolate City’ while undergrad students, it allowed us to see that we could create something for our audience and market it to them successfully without major Hollywood connections,” Packer said. Packer and his team’s ability to connect with audiences on a more personal level would soon draw the attention of major studios. Since then, he’s produced backto-back major hits, including “Ride Along 2 (2016),” “Straight Outta Compton (2015),” “No Good Deed (2014),” “Think Like a Man Too (2014),” “Ride Along (2014),” “Think Like a Man (2012),” “Takers (2010),” “Obsessed (2008),” and “Stomp the Yard (2007).” Among the fans flocking to Packer’s films and television productions are proud Rattler alumni and students who consider his career a shining example of the value of a FAMU education. In fact, he is one of a few alumni to receive the University’s highest honor, the Meritorious Achievement Award, and Packer says he is just as proud to be a product of America’s No. 1 public HBCU. “Wherever I go, whatever I do, I carry the Rattlers with me,” said Packer reflecting on the role FAMU has played in his career. “This is where I got my start. [FAMU] is what taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be.” Packer catapulted the entrepreneurial, critical thinking, and technical skills he acquired as a student at FAMU into the underpinnings of an award-winning production company – Will Packer Productions, which has been credited with producing some of the most thoughtprovoking and entertaining movies to hit the silver screen.


where I go, I represent FAMU. I learned everything I needed to know in the film industry right here (at FAMU),” said Packer. “Hollywood is an extremely competitive environment where you are judged on your results. I learned to strive in the ultra-competitive environment fostered on the ‘Highest of Seven Hills.’” In recent years, Packer has returned to FAMU many times to express his gratitude. With each visit, you will find him donned in his best orange and green ensembles (like his FAMU inspired Nikes that have been the talk of Facebook), and excited to give his beloved Rattler family a first look at his forthcoming projects. The 2016 Homecoming celebration was no different. His schedule was jammed-packed throughout the festivities, including serving as the grand marshal for the Homecoming parade and hosting a food truck-inspired tailgate for fans. However, he found time to make an appearance at multiple events and interacted with as many attendees as possible. Further evidence that he possesses the unique ability to remain undistracted by the hustle and bustle often associated with the Hollywood lifestyle. Instead he chooses to focus on what he says is an essential key to success in life and business: people. “I hope people will feel something,” said Packer, when asked what he wants audiences to experience when viewing his

Wherever I go, whatever I do, I carry the Rattlers with me. This is where I got my start. [FAMU] is what taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. - Will Packer

The company is producing several new projects via a first-look deal with Universal Pictures and Universal Television, such as the “Jacob’s Ladder” reboot starring Michael Ealy and Jesse Williams, and “Girl Trip” starring Queen Latifah, Jada PinkettSmith, Regina Hall, and Tiffany Haddish. Packer also recently announced several new television installments, including the “Carwash” (ABC) reboot, “Incognito” (CBS), and “Big of Me” (NBC). “The only reason movies that show intelligent Black men and families, like ‘Almost Christmas,’ get made is because you all go out and support it, and that is huge,” said Packer, thanking Rattlers for their faithfulness as fans. He explained that the support he’s received from the FAMU community over the years is what he attributes to his ability to make history as one of the only AfricanAmerican producers to have more than seven films debut at No. 1 during opening weekend. “I have been all around the world. I have made nine, No. 1 movies, and no matter

productions. “I never want people to feel like they wasted their time with a Will Packer movie.”

‘I Am a Storyteller’ During a surprise visit at Homecoming with alumni celebrating the 115th anniversary of the FAMU National Alumni Association and its history book unveiling, Packer’s words to the crowd further revealed the formula behind his success in Hollywood. “I work in an industry where there’s a saying that goes: ‘Until the lions become the storytellers, the hunters will always be the heroes,’” said an impassioned Packer. “I am a storyteller.” Being a storyteller is often associated 4

WILL PACKER AND RAPPER/ACTOR TI4 On the set of “Takers” Photo courtesy: Screen Gems

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3ON THE SET OF “THE WEDDING RINGER” Will Packer’s smile is known to be infectious in Hollywood. Photo courtesy: Screen Gems

with those who write, direct, and produce for television and film, but the term is not something Packer takes lightly. He considers it a great responsibility, particularly in the African-American community. He explained that we, as a people, have to be at the forefront of how our story is told to the present and next generation. “There’s power in us telling our own story,” he said. “We need to control our story, and that’s what I endeavor to do every day of my life.” Packer spent much of his time during Homecoming talking with students, including participating in panels and discussions with the Student Government Association, the Marching “100,” and the Rattler football team. And while many of the students he encountered had questions about life in Hollywood and what it takes to succeed there, he strategically sprinkled each conversation with life lessons, such as the importance of voting, giving back, economic empowerment, and how to realistically prepare for life after college. His advice to students for achieving success in their careers, and in life, is simple but strong. “Imagery is powerful,” he said. “You never know who is watching, so you have to always give 110 percent, and that’s how you take your destiny into your own hands.” Among the FAMU students who were impacted by Packer’s words was Ernest Nelfard, the producer of the Internet sensation “Rattlers United.” Nelfard was invited by Packer to shadow him and document his Homecoming visit. The opportunity made a lasting impression on

the aspiring filmmaker and photographer. “What inspired me about Mr. Packer was how down to earth he was. It was obvious that he cares about the people around him and is always very approachable,” Nelfard said. He added, “When Mr. Packer gave his testimony about when he first showed ‘Chocolate City,’ and the front row seats he reserved for Hollywood elite were empty, that was powerful. He was not discouraged. He kept going, and the movie turned out to be a great success. That made a real impact. What resonated with me from his personal story is that, in life, a lot of times you just have to go ahead and write your own story.” The importance of writing your own story is what Packer continued to emphasize as he spent time with more students. He explained that even as he focuses on producing great content for diverse audiences and ensuring that Will Packer Productions is “at the forefront of new


media distribution models,” it’s always important to hold true to your core values no matter how successful you are in the industry. During a discussion hosted by journalism student Sierra Brown, a correspondent for the University’s digital radio show “FAMU Now” on Sirius XM, Packer explained his reverence for having the ability and access to share the AfricanAmerican story on screen. His time at the “FAMU Now” studios offered a trip down memory lane, as Packer served as radio DJ “Will Power” for FAMU’s WANM 90.5 and chief justice of the Student Supreme Court during his time on the “Hill.” “A lot of people’s perception of Black people is what they see (on camera),” Packer said. “I made a decision very early in my career that the movies that I was going to make would not show unrealistic depictions, but that they were always going to be intelligent, articulate, and professional…. Something I would be proud of and something that would be an accurate and diverse representation of us.” And that, Packer explains, is what FAMU taught him: Never give up on what you believe in; never compromise the mark you want to make on the world. It’s that messaging that he has intricately woven throughout his productions and in his many educational and motivational speeches to young people and those aspiring to enter the film industry. “Sometimes it feels like: is it really worth it?,” said Packer, while addressing studentathletes about working hard to attain goals before the Homecoming football game. “Let me tell you that it is worth it. When I was here (at FAMU), I had a dream, and I didn’t know how to get there. But I figured out

a way with the relationships I made on campus, and I started right here, just like you.” Vaughn Wilson, an alum and assistant athletics director, was there to observe Packer’s inspiring message to the students. He said that Packer’s words stirred up something special in the players and coaches (later that week they won their game against Hampton University). “The players barely blinked,” Wilson said. “I was standing behind him as he told them how he perfected his craft right here at FAMU. He said they could do anything they wanted with an education from FAMU. To see one of the world’s top movie producers reiterate the University’s influence on his career to our football team was enormous.” After such an impactful return to the “Hill,” Packer can add another skill to his long and impressive résumé: teaching. After all, that is what much of his visit was about. His presence, his words, and his pride in being a Rattler, taught students and alumni alike a valuable lesson: You never forget where you come from and the people who helped you along the way. “It’s about the relationships that you make today,” Packer said. “That’s what’s going to make your life, your career, and your passion work.”

Kelsey Scott, Will Packer Work FAMU Connection in Hollywood The story of the African Diaspora is not always effectively told in Hollywood, but, in recent years, productions like “12 Years a Slave” and the remake of “Roots” have reignited critical dialogue about the plight and impact of Black people in America. At the core of these successful productions are Rattlers, who credit their success and contributions in Hollywood to the experiences and education they gained at FAMU. FAMU journalism alumna, actress, and screenwriter Kelsey Scott (“How to Get Away With Murder,” “NCIS,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Army Wives”) portrayed Anne Northup in the Academy Award-winning film “12 Years a Slave.” The movie chronicles the life of a free Black man who was abducted and sold into slavery. Will Packer produced the Emmy®-nominated reboot of “Roots,” a historical portrait of a family’s journey through the horror of American slavery, which features alumna Anika Noni Rose as “Kizzy.” “I was at the Emmy Awards, way out there in Hollywood and a long way from the ‘Highest of Seven Hills,’ and I saw Kelsey Scott,” said Packer. “We shared a hug, took a picture, looked at each other and said, ‘Look at us Rattlers out here at one of the biggest events in Hollywood representing FAMU.’” The moment represented the realization of their dreams as young Rattlers coming full-circle. But their shared status as FAMU alumni was not the only reason for their excitement to see one another at the Emmys®. Their paths had crossed before and their journey to Hollywood virtually started together. Scott served as the speaker for the 2016 Homecoming convocation, where the two reunited once again. While telling the audience the story of how she overcame obstacles to pursue her dreams, she paused to celebrate the impact Packer had on the first steps she took toward Hollywood. She had just quit her job as an assistant to a studio executive to take a leap of faith and follow her heart for theatre and film, which was rooted in her experiences at the FAMU Essential Theatre and in the University’s student media programs. “I came into the office, sat down, stood up, and gave 30 days’ notice,” she said during the convocation. “Exactly two weeks later, I got a call from a producer – Will Packer. He, Rob Hardy, and I were classmates here. I acted in their first film, ‘Chocolate City,’ and Will cut his on-camera teeth as one of the early hosts of ‘Snake Eyes’ (an on-campus, student production she spearheaded). Somebody told Will I’d added screenwriting to my résumé. He was working on a new project and asked me for a writing sample. That was the beginning of my professional writing career.” Scott would go on to write the screenplay for the Rainforest Productions-produced thriller “Motives.” The success of these two Rattlers in Hollywood, underscores Packer’s conviction that achieving your dreams is connected to the people you surround yourself with. A&M MAGAZINE // WINTER 2017 // 17

BY [Shandra HI




or Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) alumna Nicole Petite, giving back to her alma mater comes naturally—especially when it is an opportunity to pay it forward to show gratitude for her educational experience. “It is important to give back because my experiences at FAMU helped shape me into the person that I am today,” said Petite, senior purchasing manager at Ford’s CD Program (think Fusion, Explorer, MKX). “I made lifelong friends and had rich academic experiences, which polished the professional woman that I have become. My ‘FAMUly’ is still my largest support network and a Godsend,” said the Detroit resident, who received her MBA in marketing/business administration from FAMU. For Petite, using her platform at Ford to support her alma mater is just one way to Nicole Petite assist with developing the next generation of FAMU-educated leaders. She explained that she works hard to encourage the company to recruit the best and the brightest from the “Hill,” and she often shares stories of “all the great things that are happening at FAMU every day” with company leaders. According to Petite, FAMU’s relationship with Ford is decades strong. She was a driving force in reigniting that bond. Today, FAMU has a “premier Photo courtesy: Ford Motor Company

Levasseur Tellis

I made lifelong friends and had rich academic experiences, which polished the professional woman that I have become. My ‘FAMUly’ is still my largest support network and a Godsend... - Nicole Petite

relationship” with Ford, an honor that only 20 colleges and universities in the U.S. hold. This coveted status recognizes the campus as one of the few schools with which Ford will dedicate additional resources to with the goal of helping its college partners continue to build on their rich legacies. One benefit of the FAMU-Ford connection is FAMU’s recent participation in the HBCU Community Challenge. FAMU students Shelby Avery, Jamel Booth, and David Holmes proposed an awardwinning community service project that earned them iPad minis to support their schoolwork and a $25,000 prize ($10,000 in scholarships and $15,000 to implement their ideas). Another perk of FAMU’s relationship with Ford was exemplified at a recent unveiling of its new products on campus. Alumnus Levasseur Tellis, an electrical engineering graduate and technical specialist for functional safety at Ford, hosted a special exhibit during Homecoming, along with other Ford Rattlers. The display included a sneak peak of the new Ford GT Supercar and Ford GT350R for the campus community. The goal was not only to showcase the innovation and forward-thinking that Ford offers, but also served to spark interest with FAMU students who may consider pursuing a future at the company. The exhibit was a hit, attracting droves of Rattlers and fans to take advantage of the exclusive opportunity to preview the cars. “For the past 18 years, I’ve been an employee of Ford


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Motor Company,” Tellis said. “I was recruited out of FAMU.” Tellis expressed his pride in Ford’s consistent outreach and support to FAMU’s stellar programs and students. “Ford Motor Company and FAMU have shared a relationship of mutual benefit for several years,” said Tellis. “In fact, Ford has sponsored several scholarships, totaling more than $50,000, for FAMU students over the years, and continues to recruit

Tameika Hollis

engineering and business graduates for our internship program and full-time openings.” Tameika Hollis, an engineering executive at global security company Northrop Grumman, has also successfully encouraged her employer to support the University. Today, Northrop Grumman seeks to engage with students through professional development events and in their learning communities, according

to Hollis, who serves on the Northrop Grumman-FAMU executive sponsor team. This fall, the company hosted events such as a Rattler Round-Up, the Technology Showcase, and a School of Business and Industry (SBI) Forum. “Your alma mater equips you to think critically and add value to a dynamic world,” said Hollis, a 1998 mechanical engineering graduate. “Supporting your alma mater by engaging with students and the institution is a way of paying it forward for those to come.” Thanks to Rattlers like Hollis, who have proudly showcased the talent that FAMU develops, Grumman has consistently invested in the University over the years. Most recently, Grumman partnered with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) to offer FAMU $400,000 in funding to support engineering students over the next three years. Also, Grumman and NSBE have provided $45,000 in funding to support a living-learning community that engages engineering students. Recently, Grumman also invested $50,000 into the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering to provide funding for senior research projects. At Yum! Brands, FAMU industrial engineering graduate Bridgette Bell is doing her part in growing the relationship between FAMU and her employer of five years. She has helped the company identify ways to increase its minority recruitment efforts by partnering with FAMU. “Building a partnership like this allows me to identify minority students to come in and work for specific functions for Yum! Brands,” Bell said. “Generally, we have not recruited in this way.” Bell works in Plano, Texas, the headquarters for the company’s Pizza


Bridgette Bell Hut and KFC global locations. She said her company is looking to recruit and create opportunities for FAMU students in science, agriculture engineering, or with interest in culinary innovation — primarily those willing to work outside of the country, considering Yum! Brands has 44,000 restaurants in 130 countries. Recently, Bell helped to facilitate a business case competition on campus, where students from the School of Business and Industry and cross-functional disciplines – such as engineering and agriculture – showed off their skills and talent. The challenge called for students to develop a business plan based on a real scenario: for example, “how KFC grows in Vietnam.” Additionally, Yum! Brands executives have recently visited campus, interacting with hundreds of students at forums and other key University events. Although she believes that FAMU students will fare well in the competitive marketplace, she said that this brand of corporate connections gives Rattlers an extra advantage. “It’s always great to have personal connections,” she said. George Cotton, FAMU’s vice president for University Advancement, underscored the benefits of having alumni who leverage their corporate

connections to support the University. “We are extremely grateful to the Rattlers who continuously express their gratitude to the University by working to establish and maintain corporate partnerships,” Cotton said. “Such relationships are critical and create opportunities for students, faculty, and the broader University community.” He added, “It also advances our mission by creating and enhancing scholarships, professional development, recruitment, and research sustainability. We can say without a doubt that our success is easily traced to the impact that FAMU Rattlers make within the corporate arena.”

For Petite, it boils down to the responsibility as a professional and a FAMU alumna to “ensure that current students have access to the kind of opportunities that I was able to tap into when I was a student.” “Ford Motor Company offered me the kind of global experience and international leadership development opportunities that couldn’t occur at other companies simply because of their scope,” she said. “I’ve traveled throughout the world because of the preparation that I received at FAMU and the opportunity that Ford afforded me.”

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BY [Amaya MANN]


arbed in a mustard yellow dress and sitting with crossed legs and a regal spirit, it is clear that the Florida A&M University Queen of Orange and Green carries herself with poise and grace even on her off days. Ijeoma Chiemela Ogala, better known to her fellow students as “Ijay,” is a third-year architecture student from Abia State, Nigeria. And if being a female architect hopeful from the other side of the globe wasn’t unique enough, Ogala is also a history maker. She’s FAMU’s first international student to serve as the Queen of Orange and Green. Coming from a lineage of Nigerian queens and kings, Ogala believes it was fate that would lead her to carry on the tradition here in the United States on the hallowed hills of FAMU. The student leader is known for her honesty and her inviting, outgoing

have always had great confidence in me.” After deciding to throw her hat in the race, Ogala said she was unsure how she would fare in a pool of incredibly worthy contenders. “I ran for queen against people who were involved in Greek and multiple organizations. I had no title or affiliation to my name,” she said. In the end, however, it was less about her affiliations and more about her common touch that earned her the title. “I believe I won because I could relate to the average student,” she explained. “I’ve learned that at the end of the day, it’s not about what you do, or what you belong to, but it’s about how you impact people. If that helped me win, then why not continue to reach others where they are?” And that is exactly what Ogala is doing. No matter what event she’s attending, you can find her mixing

still getting used to it.” Unlike most FAMU students, Ogala knew very little about the University when she arrived. “It sounds bad, but at first I randomly selected FAMU. I did not know what an HBCU or a PWI was because they do not exist in Nigeria,” she admitted. “I chose Florida because I thought it would be hot like Nigeria. I did not know that Florida was much hotter and, at times, colder than back home. My father knows a professor in the engineering school, so I trusted what he told me and decided to come to FAMU.” When Ogala arrived for new student orientation with her parents, she immediately knew that she made the right decision. In fact, she said, it is one of the best decisions of her life. “I am happy I came here. I now understand that although I picked this school randomly, I didn’t choose FAMU – FAMU chose me,” Ogala said. “FAMU

I’ve learned that at the end of the day, it’s not about what you do, or what you belong to, but it’s about how you impact people. - Ijeoma Chiemela Ogala

personality. However, despite her stellar reputation and royal bloodline, friends had to persuade her to vie to be crowned FAMU’s leading lady of “Rattler Spirit.” “Growing up Nigerian, there is only one aim in life: graduate with a degree,” said Ogala, who is known for her straightforward approach to life. “I did not think I was coming here to win a competition or even had a chance to win, but my friends knew I would. They

and mingling with a diverse range of students—especially the freshman class. The challenges she faced as an international student acclimating to college life in a new country motivates her to help freshmen students with their transition. “Being separated from my family has been an experience,” Ogala said. “I go home to Nigeria for every holiday just like American students, but coming here has been a whole culture shock. I am

took a chance on an international student like me. I could have tried other schools, but once I came to campus, I saw that this school genuinely cared about me.” As she works toward graduation, Ogala is busy honing what she believes is one of the most valuable skill sets FAMU has taught her – the ability to reach back and lift someone else up. “I want to show others the same care that FAMU has given me,” she said.

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New Director Honors Band’s Legacy, Marches Boldly Toward Future BY [Brian LUCAS, DM]

Shelby Chipman, Ph.D., knows that the work before him as the new director of the world-renowned Florida A&M University Marching “100” is a watershed occasion— both literally and figuratively.


“Tears definitely started to run down,” said Chipman, recalling the announcement of his new role as director during the 2016 FAMU National Alumni Association Convention. “At that moment, I had come full-circle, and it was just like my mother said, ‘Let your work speak for you.’” For the past three decades, his work has spoken volumes. In 1998, Chipman began serving as the assistant to the director of bands and since has served as associate professor and director of symphonic bands. His responsibilities in the Department of Music have ranged from teaching instrumental music and conducting to coordinating recitals and music interns. He’s played a major role in the administration of the marching, symphonic, and pep bands, and he has been credited with leading the University’s Wind Symphony to national acclaim, including an appearance at Carnegie Hall. Before Chipman, a proud Marching “100” alumnus, returned to FAMU to join the faculty, he taught music in the Miami-Dade County school system, including serving as the band director at Miami Central High School for nine years. It was at Central that he developed a solid reputation in the music community. He successfully grew the program from 85 students to 275 and led the Central band to national acclaim—including a performance at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Now Chipman has grasped a baton that has been passed only three times in the Marching “100’s” remarkable 70-year history. As the fourth leader of the iconic band, he expresses gratitude to former Director of Bands Julian E. White, Ph.D., who played an important role in his leadership development. “Certainly from the time I met him, Dr. White was just one of those people that I could just confide in. He had the trust in me to allow me to do some things that probably some other students didn’t get an opportunity to do, such as being one of the first to serve as a student conductor with the marching and symphonic bands,” Chipman said. Although he was privileged to serve in multiple capacities as a student under White’s tutelage, Chipman said he never envisioned himself as a future director of the Marching “100” during those days. “Initially, I just wanted to be in the band, and I wanted to be a drum major like I was in high school,” said Chipman, who quickly


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stood out as a mentor to his fellow students and excelled as a section leader in the trumpet section. Now, Chipman is grateful for the path he took in band leadership and said he’s most excited about setting his own mark and taking the band to the next level. “We’re planning to do some unique things in regards to animation and continuing to think and perform out of the box,” Chipman said. “Dr. William P. Foster, our founder, always emphasized connecting with the audience on various levels. I’m really excited about maintaining the artistic balance that we’ve always been noted for and taking it to the next level.” Just as they did during his days in the marching band, current students say they look to Chipman as a source of guidance and an example of

stellar musicianship. Atlanta native Gabrielle Farmer, the current piccolo section leader in the Marching “100,” said the band first caught her attention during a performance at the Florida Classic when she was in high school. “I loved it. The band was so together, so disciplined. There wasn’t anything I had seen before that could compare to their performance,” said Farmer. “It was just like they were famous celebrities and I was at a concert. It was so exciting,” Now a music major at FAMU, Farmer believes Chipman was the best person to succeed Sylvester Young, Ph.D., the band’s third director, who was instrumental in helping the band overcome one of its greatest challenges after the untimely death of band member Robert


Champion. “Dr. Foster and Dr. White believed in Dr. Chipman to carry the torch, and for the founder of an organization to believe in you that much, there has to be something special about you,” Farmer said. Young, Chipman’s predecessor, concurs. “There is no one else more qualified to direct this program than Dr. Chipman,” he said. “He was 100 percent by my side during my tenure, and it is now his time to take the lead. He is going to take this band to a new and higher level.” Calvin Long, trombone section leader and a music industry major from Orlando, said the precision and energy of the Marching “100” also first attracted him to the band. “It all boils down to continuing what was started by Dr. Foster 70 years ago. But what makes

this band stand out the most and what makes it so important to me is how proud we are to be Rattlers,” Long said. Foster is widely-recognized as one of the most respected bandleaders in the world. As his biography states in the Florida Artists Hall of Fame: “Foster truly revolutionized marching band techniques and reshaped the perception of the art form.” Chipman has set out to honor Foster’s legacy by achieving new innovations that would make Foster and his other predecessors proud. From its more than 30 innovative techniques and Super Bowl appearances to its showstopping performances at the Bastille Day Parade in Paris and presidential inaugurations, the sky is truly the limit for the “best band in the land.” Among Chipman’s chief priorities as director is

ensuring the band’s ascent by strengthening its resources. He has initiated the 70 for $70 Campaign for the 2016-2017 academic year. Band supporters are asked to contribute at least $70, or as Chipman often says with a smile, “add a few zeroes to that.” “We have an international brand, and it’s time to celebrate that in new and exciting ways,” he said. “If we can get 10,000 people to give $70, we’ve already reached $700,000.” Chipman is already proving that he’s got what it takes to rally the support needed to take the band into its next era. Alumni Bernard and Shirley Kinsey recently answered his challenge for supporters to add a few zeroes to their donations and pledged a $500,000 gift to the band during the Florida Blue Florida Classic. Overall, Chipman said he is

VISIONARY LEADERSHIP4 To honor the vision of Dr. William P. Foster, Dr. Shelby Chipman has launched the $70 for 70 fundraising campaign to ensure the continuation of the band’s legacy of quality and precision. Donations are being accepted at

most appreciative of the support that has been given to him throughout his career, noting that fans and supporters are all instrumental in the band’s success. He highlighted the commitment and dedication that Foster, White, and Young each displayed as leaders, and explained that as a result of their leadership, the Marching “100” not only has had a remarkable influence on the University’s legacy, but has also left an undeniable imprint in music history. “The band program is moving forward as it continues to stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “Stay tuned.”

Dr. Foster and Dr. White believed in Dr. Chipman to carry the torch, and for the founder of an organization to believe in you that much, there has to be something special about you. - Gabrielle Farmer

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50-Year Marching “100” Alum Takes the Field One Last Time BY [Asia JOHNSON]


When Patrick Arnold was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2004, he decided to fight the disease by returning to a favorite pastime of his college years: getting in shape with the FAMU Marching “100.” “My doctor told me that my best friend, when it comes to combatting diabetes, is exercise,” said the 67-year-old. “So, I had the idea to apply my preparation for the alumni band Homecoming performance to my fitness plan. I made the decision then and there to take charge of my health.” An estimated 13.2 percent of African Americans suffer from Type 2 diabetes, and exercise is a key component of controlling the disease. So, for 12 consecutive years, Arnold has prepped year-round to take the field during Homecoming with support from his fellow alumni band members. This year’s Homecoming march was his last. And the moment was sentimental. The very band that had drawn him to FAMU was the same prescription that helped to save his life. He drew upon his old band practice routine to combat the impact of diabetes in his life. “The more I exercise, the more I practice, the lower the A1C numbers,” he said. The A1C test is a blood test that provides information about blood sugar levels. Fifty years ago, Arnold took the field for the first time as a freshman cymbal player in the Marching “100.” He said he distinctly remembers the moments leading up to his decision to join the “baddest band in the land,” or as he describes it “the Rolling Stones of marching bands.” “I saw the ‘100’ as a junior in high school, on a band trip to FAMU,” said the Chicago resident. “When they came to attention, it thrilled me. I said to myself, ‘This is where I want to go to school and march.’” The principles taught by then-band director Dr. William P. Foster have stayed with him all these years. After studying music education at FAMU, the training he received under Foster’s guidance, encouraged him to pursue a master’s degree at the prestigious American Conservatory of Music, leading to a fruitful career as a director of music at Kentucky State University and as a professor at Governors State University in Illinois. “The spirit, values, and ideals you learn from being a member of the ‘100’ are immeasurable,” he said. “Dr. Foster taught us to strive for excellence and perfection in all areas of life.” Arnold’s wife, Helen, has accompanied him to each Homecoming.

“I saw him take the bull by the horns and decide he was not going to be defeated by the [diabetes diagnosis],” she said. “Every year, he comes out to march and starts practicing right after Homecoming. After 12 years, I still get excited every time I see him,” she said. His son, Aaron Arnold, who was named one of FAMU’s 125 top alumni, is the founder of MusicIsMyBusiness. He explained that his father’s passion and persistence continues to motivate him to live his best life. “My dad always taught me perseverance and humility, and he motivates me in many ways,” said Aaron, who equally shares a love for music with his father. That love is conveyed by his work in music publishing, brand management, and production. Aaron explained that his father’s commitment to overcoming diabetes allows him to tackle life with no excuses – and that includes getting in shape. “I’ll be back in the gym. If he can do it, there’s no question that I need to as well,” Aaron said. When asked if this year’s Homecoming was really his last march, Patrick Arnold said he believes “everyone who has ever marched in the band will always want to march again.” But, after 50 years, he believes it’s time to let go. And while he has retired from performance, there is one thing that he will always carry with him – his drive. Something that has been firmly established in the heart of every musician that has ever high-stepped with the Marching “100.” It is that drive that will carry him into many more years of living a healthy lifestyle. “It’s been an experience I will always cherish. Marching with the ‘100’ will always be in my blood, but it’s time to retire,” he said. “As we say on the field: Hubba, Doc!”

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The 2016 Homecoming week represented more than just a reunion of proud alumni for the FAMU School of the Environment (SOE). It also marked a milestone of unprecedented growth and great impact in the research community as the school kicked off its 20th-anniversary observance.


Though among the University’s youngest schools, FAMU’s SOE has already fostered a distinguished history of providing solutions to today’s problems through its innovative partnerships, groundbreaking discoveries, top-notch faculty, award-winning students, and influential community outreach. The milestone was marked with a celebration that was held at the Frederick Humphries Science Research Center, which houses the school. The building was named in honor of former FAMU President Frederick S. Humphries, Ph.D., back in 1998, just a few years after its founding. Since then, the school has transformed from a promising institute into an academy of unmatched interdisciplinary programs and research dedicated to environmental equality. Humphries and then-Provost and former President James H. Ammons, Ph.D., initiated the creation of an environmental science institute at FAMU. It was quickly approved by the thenFlorida Board of Regents and implemented by the late Charles C. Kidd, Sr., founding director and former associate vice president. A $4 million grant provided by the U.S. Department of Energy helped to support the institute in its early stages. The institute experienced rapid progression as it quickly established an unprecedented three degree programs back to back from 1995 through 1999. Within four short years, students could earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Sciences. Because of its impressive reach across multiple disciplines, the Environmental Institute formally became a school in 2012 under Ammons’ presidency. Today, the school offers five degree programs, including two recently implemented bachelors in environmental studies. “We live in a world where the sustainability of the environment is our life force, and FAMU remains dedicated to ensuring that we are involved in that process,” said Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., who served as the director of the institute from 1997 to 2003. “We are thankful to Dr. Humphries, Dr. Ammons, and Dr. Kidd for their collective vision and unwavering commitment, and to each of the leaders, faculty, staff, and students who have helped to make the school a success.” 4


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EMPOWERING COMMUNITIES Humphries said the creation of the institute was a reaction to uncovered environmental injustice in Tuskegee, Ala., which is populated largely by minorities. “Stories about contamination in the rivers of poor communities, which served as a food source, dominated the media at the time,” Humphries said in reference to the history of the school. “It became increasingly important for us to do something about it. The School of the Environment has been a very important addition to the FAMU legacy. We owe thanks to all who contributed to the School’s inception. It’s an honor to see all the progress the school has made.” That progress includes successfully executing a bold mission that focuses on developing remedies for existing environmental problems and educating the community on environmental science and policy issues. More specifically, the school centers on offering scientific and intellectual preparation to students, ensuring that they are uniquely equipped to address present and future interdisciplinary environmental science and policy needs. SOE has established itself as a gateway for providing opportunities for students to receive hands-on experience with addressing local, national, and global issues related to the world around them. Among the students benefiting from the school’s offerings is 2016 graduate and Gates Millennium Scholar Andrea Pugh. She received a scholarship to support her FAMU education through the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Environmental Cooperative Science Center (ECSC), which is led by the School of the Environment. The center was established at FAMU in 2001 as part of a program designed to address ecological and coastal management issues at specific National Estuarine Research Reserves and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Under the leadership of director Michael D. Abazinge, Ph.D., former interim dean of the school, the center serves to increase the number of scientists, particularly from underrepresented minority groups in the environmental, coastal, and oceanic sciences; and facilitate community education and outreach relating to the function and significance of coastal ecosystems. As a result of the training Pugh received as an environmental science student, she has been nationally recognized as one of the first African-American females to achieve success in conducting research on Biochar and its value in improving soil and water quality. Biochar is charcoal produced from plant matter that is deposited into soil as a method of eliminating carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


“The School of the Environment equipped me with the tools necessary to compete globally in my field,” said Pugh, who was named by The Root Magazine as a “Top 25 Young Futurist.” “The diverse and rigorous curriculum at FAMU has allowed me to excel in my current studies in the Master of Public Health program at the University of Michigan.” While a student, Pugh was awarded the second highest honor at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in San Jose, California. She also wrote a grant that became the University’s 2016 winning entry in the Home Depot Retool Your School competition. The proposal helped to land FAMU a $30,000 grant to build an outdoor, eco-classroom on campus. Preceding remarkable scholars like Pugh at the School of the Environment are alumni like LaToya Myles. She returned to campus during Homecoming to receive an SOE 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award and praised the efforts of the school in preparing students for the future. “The School of the Environment has worked tirelessly over the years to prepare the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals for careers in research, education, policy, law, and many other fields,” Myles said. “SOE’s faculty and staff continue to create an atmosphere in the school where questions are encouraged, ideas are nurtured, and collaborations are developed.” Myles, who received her doctorate from FAMU, is deputy director of the NOAA Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division at the Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Her current research explores atmospheric deposition of trace gasses and particles to terrestrial ecosystems, and she often reaches back to FAMU to mentor students who come through NOAA’s training and internship programs. SOE’s success in developing trailblazers like Pugh and Myles is also underscored by distinctive multi-year, multi-million-dollar research and training partnerships with federal agencies. Since 2001, the school has received more than $30 million in research funding from NOAA’s Educational Partnership Program. In September 2016, the school received a $15.4-million award to establish the Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems (CCME). The five-year award will allow the FAMU-led partnership to make profound national impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems education, science, and policy through interdisciplinary research. “At least 50 percent of the funds are used to support students, which is particularly unique and impressive,” said Robinson, who also serves as the CCME director and principal investigator. “We are committed to enlarging our capacity to recruit students in the areas

of environmental sciences and sending them out into the world to enact lasting change.”

A LEGACY OF LEADERSHIP CCME and ECSC are not the only resource centers located in the Humphries Building. The building also houses one other critical program: the Center for Environmental Equity and Justice (CEEJ), which pays homage to the school’s roots. In 1998, the Florida Legislature provided funding for the establishment of the CEEJ at FAMU. The center’s focus is to increase the level of awareness about environmental justice issues among community and faith-based organizations, state, and local government, and any other interested parties. The center addresses environmental issues through research, education, training, and community outreach, and makes recommendations to be used in developing policies that are designed to protect all citizens from exposure to environmental hazards in Florida and throughout the country. SOE serves as an example of how colleges and schools can revolutionize sustainable practices and create opportunities for interdisciplinary faculty and students to go after research endeavors that can change the course of history. Dean Victor Ibeanusi, Ph.D., who took the helm of SOE in 2013, is focused on maintaining the school’s legacy and recruiting talented students to advance its science enterprise. “The global environmental changes and impacts of today demand that we develop students that are prepared to assume leadership positions that will stimulate the long-term restoration and sustainability of the environment,” said Ibeanusi, who recently announced the creation of a new Scholars-in-Residence Program at the school. The goal of the program is to examine the resources needed to advance and sustain a well-trained workforce in STEM and in environmental policy areas. The program will provide solutions that help to address society’s needs in energy, water, and food security. It will also offer eligible students scholarship and mentorship opportunities, including experience in the coastal and ecosystems research disciplines. “The outcome of our efforts at the School of Environment will spur new research innovations and training opportunities for our students,” said Ibeanusi. “We want them to be inspired to solve real-world environmental problems in their local communities and beyond.”

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Several times a year, students in FAMU’s School of Nursing spend time in the program’s simulation laboratory. The entire set-up is an impressive display of stateof-the-art technology. Electronics have replaced the mercurial thermometers, blood pressure apparatuses, and paper charts. A breathing, life-like model—complete with a heartbeat and gastrointestinal sounds—“tells” the nurses in training about its symptoms. The students play certain roles. Some are nurses, practicing modern-day nursing with the technology of the day as they go on a discovery mission of the model’s malady. Others are observers, pitting their knowledge and training against the actions of the nurses. Then there is the student who is assigned the role of the patient’s mother or friend. “When we care for a patient, friends and family are included in their care, as well,” explained Chenell Henderson, the school’s senior class president who graduates this

We had to fight to be respected. We had to be ‘better than’ to measure up... - Brenda Bryant

year. “If you don’t take the position of a mother or friend, you don’t know if you’re being sensitive to their needs.” This scenario provides a glimpse into the juxtaposition of technology and the human touch, the balance between science and the art of caring, that is the hallmark of the FAMU School of Nursing. Ruena Norman, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing, has come up with a statement that perfectly describes the dichotomy of the nursing profession: “Nursing is the art and science of caring and curing.” “Healthcare is changing. It is the fastest growing industry in the country,” said Norman. “We must keep ourselves up on cutting-edge changes in healthcare. The laying on of hands is important, but technology is a prerequisite in nursing.” Carswella Phillips, assistant professor of nursing, who specializes in medical surgical nursing and health policy, agrees. She explains that today’s students must be comfortable with the new, ever-emerging

Culture of Mentoring Tamekia Carter-Lee was a combat medic for 14 years before she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Her decision to attend FAMU was impressed by its standing among the top nursing schools in the nation and the acclaim it received for successfully preparing its graduates. Yet, the medic, who had worked on battlefields, admits to originally experiencing some trepidation when it came to the classroom. “Coming to the classroom was different. It was a difficult experience,” she said. “I’d been in my career for more than a decade. I was older and around younger people.” She says her professors helped her hurdle the difficulties. “They opened my mind to learning different things. Whenever I

tools of nursing. “I think it’s very important because we are educating 21st-century students,” she said. They are seeing chart documentation in computer systems, high-fidelity simulators, electronic medical administration, and, most recently, electronic tablets that faculty use in clinical courses. “Our faculty have tablets with software that mirrors what’s being used in today’s world,” said Phillips. “Instead of bringing in heavy textbooks, students can use the tablets for researching references and to find the latest best practices immediately.” She continued, “We develop really strong relationships with our partners. If they get new technology, they invite (the faculty) in and train us. We may not have the resources every time there’s a change, but this way our students can become familiar with new and changing technology. We really value those partnerships, and they really value our students.”

needed help, they were there,” she said. “If it weren’t for my professors, I wouldn’t have made it through the program.” Carter-Lee is now a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army and works at San Antonio Military Hospital, the military’s flagship hospital. Having conquered her anxiety about the classroom, she has continued her education and expects to receive a master’s in nursing administration from Liberty University in Virginia in May 2017. Norman also credits her FAMU mentors with putting her on the track that eventually led to her becoming dean of the school. “I had such good mentors,” she says. “They saw me as somebody who could succeed and helped me grow as a young faculty member. One of my mentors was the late Dr. Margaret Lewis (former dean). She would say to me, ‘Visualize what you could become.’” 4 A&M MAGAZINE // WINTER 2017 // 35

Both the standards and the expectations are high at the School. Faculty members are known for cultivating strong mentoring relationships with students. They insist on professionalism—from being on top of the course material to showing up on time. They often encourage students to further their education, spurred by the notion that a higher degree allows students to “do more and affect more people.” Brenda Bryant, one of the School’s longest-tenured faculty members, believes this culture of elevated expectation shifted a gear higher when FAMU’s former hospital—Tallahassee’s only Black hospital that provided services to Blacks in a six-county area during the time of racial segregation—closed in 1971.

FAMU students were sent to the “majority” hospital for their clinical experience, and thus began a critical lesson in “better than.” “We had to fight to be respected. We had to be ‘better than’ to measure up,” said Bryant, who received her bachelor’s in nursing from FAMU in 1976. “It came from the deans on down that we had to be ‘better than.’ If somebody did 10, we had to do 20.” Today, the legacy of “better than” is alive and well, and growing far beyond the confines of Tallahassee. Norman says the school is dedicated to providing a solid foundation in global nursing so that FAMU-educated nurses can compete anywhere in the world. “We try to put demands

on them, set standards for them—because when you leave here, we want you to rise to the occasion. You’re going to stand strong because you came from FAMU,” she said. Bryant admits that students don’t always appreciate the rigor and demands of their education until after they graduate and face the test of real-world nursing. “Once we finish with them, that’s when we get the accolades,” she said. “When they leave and start their careers, they see the difference in their preparation.” Carter-Lee, the military nurse, certainly did. While non-military nursing school graduates go straight to their specialty areas after graduation, military nurses

Community Care In 1891, when Florida A&M University became a land-grant institution, its founding mission was to provide a quality education to those who otherwise may not have had the opportunity and to produce graduates who would empower their communities. There is perhaps no greater potential impact to be made on underserved communities—particularly the African-American community—than health care. The nowfamiliar litany about the general state of poor health in the Black community goes unabated, despite news of amazing breakthroughs or mind-boggling medical advances. The African-American community is sicker and dies quicker than nearly any other ethnic group in the nation. In 2010, Uloma Onubogu, the School’s director of adult/gerontology nursing, conducted research on breast cancer survival in Black women, who in 2013 (according to Susan B. Komen report), had a nearly 40 percent higher chance of dying from the disease than White women. For Phase II of her study, Onubogu is seeking funding to study the connection between breast cancer survival and obesity. She is planning to partner with Bond Community Health Center, a town-and-gown collaboration 36 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE

must first work on a medical, surgical floor for at least 18 months, then spend another six months under the tutelage of a preceptor in the specialty. Carter-Lee explained that because of this added preparation, meant to make them battlefield-ready, military nurses are known for their proficiency. Still, as she works alongside colleagues from universities and colleges around the country and across the seas, Carter-Lee says her education at FAMU ranks up there among the best. “Because of FAMU, never once did I feel inadequate or not prepared. I probably knew more than some of my counterparts,” she said.

that ensures her that the study will have a significant impact on the community. “This research is focused on a need that the community identified and talked to us about. They told us how we could (help them),” she said. “It’s truly an area of necessity and could extend to other individual schools interested in the study.” FAMU is making an impact on the community in another unique way. According to Onubogu, no other institution in North Florida is offering adult gerontology and producing practitioners. Yet, by 2020, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65 and will have a greater need for health care. “We’re meeting a critical need, and that makes us very special,” she said. Research is only one element of Onubogu’s multifaceted role as a nursing professor that has her contributing back to the community. “Not only am I able to practice, teach, and conduct research, but I help produce other people who will go back in the workforce and serve,” she said. Besides being practitioners in hospitals and other health care agencies, School of Nursing alumni are deans, professors and administrators at colleges and4

History of Excellence The FAMU School of Nursing is the oldest continuing baccalaureate nursing program in Florida, and is the oldest continuing baccalaureate nursing program among historically Black colleges and universities.

Something to Tout About Now celebrating its 80th anniversary, the School has much to tout. It was recently ranked among the nation’s top 20 best value nursing programs by, and among the top 25 (No. 21 out of 1,189) in the Eastern region by the 2015 Nursing Journal. Photos courtesy: FAMU Libraries

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During her tenure, Dean Norman has led the School in securing numerous top rankings and national recognitions, and we are proud of all that was accomplished under her leadership. - Rodner Wright

universities; CEOs at health care agencies; researchers; developers and regulators for state and national policies; and military officers. In fact, Norman says that every investment in the education of a FAMU nursing student has an exponential return— especially in areas where quality and accessible health care is anemic. “When I educate one student, I see them impacting 50 of their family members,” she said. “That’s one way we see them make an impact. They go to areas that serve minorities, the underserved. They have no inhibition about going out to care for the underserved. They’re going out to influence their family, neighborhood, and community.”

Forward and Beyond There is a lot on the horizon for the School of Nursing. As part of the planning committee for the School’s 80th anniversary celebration, Bryant is working to resurrect the FAMU Alumni Nursing Association, which has been inactive for more than a decade. The committee has set up a Facebook page to connect with nursing school alumni and held its first gathering during Homecoming in October. The School is finalizing the search for its new dean, someone who will usher in the future with exciting developments like the implementation of the new Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which will help ensure the school’s ability to thrive in the 21st century. “I hope for someone who will bring the School forward and beyond what I can envision,” said Norman, who will retire from FAMU with the knowledge that the nursing program is aptly poised for another 80 years of success. As the school prepares for its next leader, Interim Provost Rodner Wright pointed to the strong foundation that Norman and those who came before her have provided for the next dean to build on. He explained that FAMU nursing graduates around the globe have played an integral role in the advancement of the nursing profession, and the success of some of the most respected health care organizations. “During her tenure, Dean Norman has led the School in securing numerous top rankings and national recognitions, and we are proud of all that was accomplished under her leadership,” Wright said. If the first 80 years of the School of Nursing’s existence is indicative of its future, then indeed it will not only be promising but pioneering.

This story is dedicated to the memory of former nursing school dean Margaret Lewis, R.N., Ph.D., who passed on December 22, 2016.


We look forward to seeing you

Next Year!

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At the Top of the Pyramid FAMU Cheer Team Jumps Obstacles, Brings Championship to the ‘Hill’ BY [Domonique DAVIS]

When members of the Florida A&M University competitive cheerleading team packed their bags and traveled to Norfolk, Virgina for the 2016 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Cheer Competition, there was something in the air. This year would be special. The team could feel it.



ver the past year, they endured funding challenges, hectic practice schedules, and late-season injuries. But, together, they leaped over whatever obstacle came their way and now stood determined to secure a first-place victory. “We’d been coming in second place overall for the past six years,” cheer coach Brandi Tatum said. “We had so many individuals on the team who were hungry for that first-place award, so the drive was a little bit more intense for us to bring it home this year.” But before that hunger could be satisfied, the group would face another obstacle. During warm-ups, senior Evelyn Ross, one of the team’s veterans and a two-time all-star, tore her lateral meniscus. After

years of cheering on the sidelines at sporting events and center stage at MEAC competitions, Ross was not going to let the injury stop her from performing. “At that point, I knew we had already been through so much to get here, and this was just another bump in the road. Once we won, it would all be worth it,” Ross said. “At first, Coach Tatum said we might have to drop out, but I told her, ‘there was no way!’ I would be out there on one foot if I had to.” So, Ross got busy and prepared to work past the pain and into the champions’ circle. The trainers wrapped her knee, and she literally hobbled on one foot into the routine. “I wasn’t able to do the whole choreography for the routine, but I came in for the stunts,” Ross said.

Her tenacity paid off. The team performed a near-perfect routine. Coach Tatum said she felt the anticipation in the air as the team waited for the results. “The team couldn’t sit still,” said Tatum. “This was the moment of truth.” While the team awaited the results, fellow coach Felicia Barnes remained cool. She knew it was finally their time. “As we stood there, facing our competitors, I told myself, ‘there’s no way we could not win this. I know we’ve got this,’” she said. Her confidence was remarkable, considering the facts. The FAMU cheer team had come in as underdogs and the reigning champs, Morgan State University, had won for the past five consecutive years.


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We worked so hard the whole season, so to be able to accomplish our goal, it meant so much. Everyone was crying. It was an amazing moment.


Striking the Community with a Dose of Rattler Pride Whether he’s dancing on the sidelines of a football game or greeting children at Fan Day, Venom never fails to put a smile on the faces of Rattlers of all ages. After undergoing a serious facelift in 2013, the popular mascot is now deployed more frequently for campus and community events. He works hand-and-hand with the FAMU cheer team to set the tone for athletic competitions and other campus activities. Kendrell Watkins, FAMU Athletics marketing coordinator, said seeing Venom at athletic and community events evokes school spirit and pride. “Venom represents everything about the FAMU experience,” Watkins said. “When people see Venom, and the motivation he brings into the atmosphere, it symbolizes just what it means to ‘strike and strike and strike again.’” Venom continues to strike a cord with seasoned and current Rattlers, and he’s now reaching future Rattlers through new initiatives. The athletics department is helping to connect community children with FAMU through the Venom Kids Club, where young participants receive invitations to special events, autograph sessions, and special recognitions. Watkins hopes that Venom will not only boost community engagement, but also athletic ticket sales. “Having Venom out in the community more often will help create a new generation of Rattler fans, and with those new fans will come their families and friends. Everybody loves Venom. I can’t find one person who doesn’t,” he said.


- Evelyn Ross

At the Top of the Pyramid Cont’d from pg. 41

But this time would be different. Barnes’ intuition proved right. Finally, the big announcement came: FAMU had dethroned Morgan and clinched the championship title. “We worked so hard the whole season, so to be able to accomplish our goal, it meant so much. Everyone was crying. It was an amazing moment,” said Ross, who had to undergo surgery after returning to Tallahassee, but added that the sacrifice was worth it. Though it is not governed by NCAA regulations, the FAMU cheer team’s dedication to early-morning workouts and late-night practices is equal to that of all the other athletic teams on campus, according to Tatum. A typical day involves a 5 a.m., or 6 a.m., workout, a break for daily

classes and work, then reconvening at 6 p.m., and practicing until 9 p.m. Also, the team commits to three-hour weekend practices. Ross, a broadcast journalism student, said she often forgoes outings to balance class and practice. But at the end of the day, it’s worth it to participate in the sport she’s always loved. Since she was 5 years old, she’s gotten fulfillment from tumbling, leaping, lifting, and spiraling through the air—all while listening to detractors say cheerleading is not a “real” sport. With this championship victory, Ross hopes she and her team members will earn their rightful place as accomplished athletes and ambassadors for the University. “I just want people to know that we work really hard, and we put forth a lot of effort to make sure our school is represented well,” she said. “When we won, FAMU cheer was all over social media, and it brought back some good recognition to our school, and that’s

really all we want.” Now that the team has finally gotten ahold of the championship title, they have their eyes set on another prize – an achievement that will involve the entire FAMU community. According to Tatum, due to budget constraints, the team can only afford to travel to a few football and basketball games per season, and their uniforms have not been updated in years. Now that they are a championship team, the coaches are asking Rattler fans to help them with a much-needed makeover. “If people understood the athleticism and devotion of the cheerleading team, many of the funding and support challenges we face may be resolved,” she said. That is why winning the championship meant so much to the team. “Cheerleading is a highlycompetitive sport,” said Tatum. “Our motto is ‘Athletes lift weights and cheerleaders lift athletes.’ We just want people to understand that cheerleading is just like every other sport, and [our athletes] have to work just as hard.” Fans can donate to the championship cheer squad and other teams by visiting

Lady Rattler Track Stars Win 5th Straight MEAC Title As the FAMU Cheer Team looks toward their next title, they can draw inspiration from a group of Lady Rattlers who are shattering records in more ways than one. The FAMU Women’s Cross Country team not only took home the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championship trophy for the fifth straight year, it also became the first team in MEAC history to win five back-to-back tourneys. The championship marks the team’s ninth overall conference title. “Last year, we won our fourth in a row and set a FAMU record,” Lady Rattlers head coach Darlene Moore said. “In order to keep the kids from being complacent, we set the goal to go out there and set a MEAC record.” Moore was named “Outstanding Women’s Coach” for the fifth straight year. Student-athlete Judith Kibii was named “Outstanding Performer,” becoming the second Lady Rattler in school history to win an individual championship title. Kibii also was the MEAC player of the week for multiple consecutive weeks during the season. “Dr. Moore and the Lady Rattlers are a phenomenal example of what it means to be champions in the classroom, in life, and on the field,” said Athletics Director Milton Overton. “ We are proud of the dedication and commitment they continue to display, and we look forward to many more years of success for this team.”

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BY [Domonique DAVIS] + [Adam TAYLOR]



alk into any building on the campus of Florida A&M University, and you’ll be sure to meet an alum working hard to push the University forward. Their talents and abilities could have taken them anywhere in the world, but their commitment to the future of FAMU led them to remain or return to the “Hill.” With every Rattler employee that you will find on campus, comes a compelling personal story about the overwhelming passion and pride that accompanies serving their alma mater. These Rattlers help keep the Eternal Flame of FAMU glowing, and their stories are just as bright. Inspired by the award-winning photo series, “Humans of New York,” Faces of FAMU randomly showcases the personalities that make our campus shine. In this special feature, Rattler alums from across campus share their experiences, history, insights about their roles, and advice for the next generation.

Kelvin Rossier Assistant Director of Building Maintenance “I remember my time as a student here. I grew up here. I went to the high school here. When the opportunity was presented that I could come back, I came back with a mentality of service. I wanted to make things better for the next generation, and that’s the most rewarding part for me. Looking back, I would tell my younger self to be ambitious early, because that is what I would tell the students today. My 20s were a good time for me. I made some accomplishments. However, had I been a little more focused, I would be even further along now. So, I want current Rattlers to take advantage of their youth and all that FAMU offers. Work and play hard, but focus on the work early while you’re younger.”

Michael James Director of Application Management & Assistant CIO “I got my start at the University in enrollment management in the Registrars’ Office, and I did that for 25 years. I got an opportunity in 2006 to join the Information Technology Services staff to manage the PeopleSoft related processes for students and administrators, and I’ve been here, in this area, for about 10 years now. Ironically, I don’t consider myself a ‘techie.’ I consider myself a manager of a technical system. Of course, we’re living in a technological age, and there’s an expectation to be able to do everything online. So, I am glad to be a part of the campus evolution. I remember the days when you filled out a piece of paper, turned it in, and something happened. Now the expectation is that: ‘I go online, I interact, I do and translate my business, and I get a product from that.’ Things have definitely changed since I was in school here, but there’s nothing more inspiring than to be a part of that change.”

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Lashawnda Swanigan Welcome Center Coordinator “I’m a two-time graduate. I graduated in 2002 and 2009. My bachelor’s degree is in public relations, and my master’s degree is in public administration. Seeing and meeting the wide-range of people that converge on our campus, and helping others, inspires me. I know that’s kind of a trite statement, but helping people is the best part of my day. I especially love working with students. I feel like I’ve really been called to do what I do here at FAMU, that I’m destined to do this. Growing up, I wanted to be a lawyer, and I wanted to be an actress. I loved ‘Matlock.’ He loved to help people, and he was drawn to people. The way he interacted with others still has the same effect on me as it did when I was 5 years old. Helping people drives me, and that’s what I love about my job at FAMU.”

Franzetta Fitz Director of the Office of Instructional Technology “My life story literally began here at Florida A&M University in the former administration building because it used to be a hospital. My four siblings and I were born in Foote-Hilyer. I’m the youngest of five. My mother is an educator, she’s retired, but says that she’s a lifelong learner and teacher, so she still considers herself an educator. So, playing a role in the educational process makes me proud. My mother stressed going to college. For us, going to college was the only option. I attended undergraduate here, majoring in computer information systems in undergrad, and then I went on to pursue my master’s degree in the College of Education. Now, I am a doctoral candidate working on my dissertation in educational leadership in the College of Education. I’m a Rattler through and through.”

Frederick Simmons Communications Coordinator, College of Science and Technology “Educating and giving back to the youth is what’s special about working here. I’m able to help our students use this opportunity to explore their full potential. I probably would have been a little further ahead in life had I listened to some older people who were trying to guide me back when I was in college. So, I try to provide that guidance that I missed out on to others. Being a younger employee, actively involved with Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and being the coach of the FAMU Wrestling Team, has provided me with a little more leverage to positively influence and connect with the next generation. It’s especially important to be able to reach our young men. I think seeing a young, professional Black man that can relate to them, whether it be on a personal level or an educational level, makes it a lot easier for our male students to reach for success. It’s really rewarding to see this generation do better than I did.”


Lt. Norman Rollins FAMU Police Officer “One of the things that I look at is the amount of enjoyment that I get from just doing my regular law enforcement activities every day. I enjoy simply having the opportunity to truly be an active part of the community and campus. I grew up here. I hadn’t always planned on becoming a local law enforcement officer, but as things evolved in my life, I had the ability to make a difference, and more importantly, right here at my alma mater. Making a difference – that’s what I’ve chosen to do, and that’s what working at FAMU allows me to do.”

Carita Evans Assistant Director of Financial Aid “I’ve been here at FAMU for 30 years now. I went to FAMU High, and my dad was a professor here. He taught in the School of Business and Industry. I think the atmosphere is the same from my time as a student here. It’s all about the unique culture, and having been a part of that culture, has helped me to better work and connect with the students here now. I’ve been in Financial Aid for 16 years, and I love it. I really love what I do. What I have learned in my time here is that you always take it one day at a time.”

Lawrence Brown Academic Success Coordinator “This is an opportunity to change lives. The opportunity to be able to work with students and set them on the right course, and make sure they understand what the college experience is all about, is priceless. It’s always an awesome experience, and once you see students who you’ve brought in matriculate and graduate, you know what it’s all about. You get a chance to see that you’ve just helped to influence a Black doctor, a Black nurse, or a Black pharmacist. It’s amazing. To me, that’s very powerful. I was a non-traditional student. I was a transfer student, and I commuted from my home every day, which was in Chattahoochee, Florida. I never really had the traditional college experience. I came to school, went home, and went to work because I also had a family. So, being able to introduce students to our campus environment is a great opportunity.”

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Campus Notes 3OUT OF THIS WORLD PROJECT FAMU and Lockheed Martin officials celebrate a new Mars exploration partnership.

FAMU, Lockheed Martin Sign $5M Agreement for NASA Space Exploration Projects

“The Road to Mars Begins at FAMU.” This is a saying you will often hear over the next several years at Florida A&M University. A new master agreement between the University and Lockheed Martin was recently signed to enable students and faculty in the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering to work on NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle

program and other Lockheed Martin space exploration projects. Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., and Scott Jones, Lockheed Martin director of Supply Chain Management on Civil Space Programs, recently executed the agreement in Orlando. During the five-year collaboration, Lockheed Martin will provide up to $5 million in funding to FAMU through a series of task orders commissioning work related to space exploration, including Mars exploration. The contract-signing ceremony was held at the historic Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the NASA John F. Kennedy Space Center, which is the assembly and test area for the Orion spacecraft.

FAMU Announces Multimillion Dollar Initiative for Student Scholarships A $5 million initiative to support scholarships that will strengthen student retention and recruitment was recently announced by Interim President Larry Robinson at the annual Florida Blue Florida Classic in Orlando. Leaders from the FAMU Foundation and FAMU Board of Trustees, as well as prominent alumni, joined Robinson on the football field for the announcement at Camping World Stadium. While most of the funding will go toward scholarships and scholastic enhancement, $600,000 will be earmarked for faculty support. The initiative will help the University increase its graduation rate, enhance academic programs, and recruit top talent. The initiative represents a collaborative partnership that increases the possibilities for student success and university performance. 48 // FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY // A&M MAGAZINE

SUPPORTING OUR STUDENTS5 FAMU Board of Trustees members, FAMU Foundation Board members, and distinguished alumni announced several funding opportunities to support student success during the Florida Blue Florida Classic.

Further information about the initiative will be released in early 2017. However, students can apply for scholarships now by logging on to

FAMU Receives $400,000 from Northrop Grumman, NSBE FAMU and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) recently signed an agreement to disburse nearly $400,000 in funding from Northrop Grumman to 24 deserving students over the next three years. Northrop Grumman, a global defense and security company with more than 60,000 employees, provided the funding based on its commitment to offering opportunities to students attending historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

NSBE has more than 30,000 members around the world and is one of the nation’s largest student-governed organizations dedicated to the academic and professional success of AfricanAmerican engineering students and professionals. An additional $45,000 in funding will be provided to the University to support livinglearning communities for engineering students.

STRENGTHENING DIVERSITY IN STEM5 The NSBE and Northrop Grumman are working with FAMU to increase opportunities for minorities in the engineering field.

Environmental Scientist Becomes First FAMU Professor to Receive Gold Medal Award for Scientific Innovations

THE GOLDEN STANDARD5 Professor Henry Neal Williams is making history with his groundbreaking research in the FAMU School of the Environment.

The Tallahassee Scientific Society has named Henry Neal Williams, Ph.D., a professor in the School of the Environment, as the recipient of its highest honor, the Gold Medal Award. Established in 2004, the Gold Medal Award is annually granted to a scientist or scholar of outstanding merit from the Tallahassee community. The society selects the recipient based on scientific or mathematic achievements and outstanding contributions to science education and public service. Williams made history by becoming the very first researcher from Florida A&M University to receive the accolade. He is considered the leading authority on the ecology of the bacterial predators, Bdellovibrio and like organisms (BALOs). His research could potentially change the structure of the oceanic carbon cycle, which is critical to the way the earth’s environment functions. Williams’ work could also possibly create alternatives to antibiotics.

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Campus Notes FAMU Enshrines 2016 Sports Hall of Famers The latest members of the FAMU Sports Hall of Fame were formally announced during the 40th Anniversary Enshrinement Ceremony at the Alfred Lawson Multipurpose Center and Teaching Gymnasium. The induction class of 2016 included: • Mary Jones Wellens, Vogel Newsome, Pamela Oliver, and Pamela Porter – Women’s 4×400 Relay Team (1984) • William C. Carroll – Football (1988-1991) • Marvin Green – Golf Coach (2001-present) • Kevin Hicks – Track (2004-2005) • Irene Nelson Holden – Athletics supporter • Thomas Lomack – Baseball (1966-1969) • Jimmy Vertuno – Football (1987-1990) • Robert Wilson –Football (1993-1997)

White House Names FAMU Doctoral Candidate 2016 HBCU All-Star The White House Initiative on HBCUs has recently named FAMU doctoral candidate Terrance McNeil as an HBCU All-Star. McNeil, a fourth-year doctoral candidate studying educational leadership, was selected from more than 300 students from 24 states. FAMU has consistently been represented on the list of ambassadors, who are tasked

FAMU Named on Forbes List of Top U.S. Colleges

FAMU has once again been listed among “America’s Top Colleges” by Forbes Magazine. The magazine’s annual rankings also reveal that FAMU not only returned on its “Best Colleges in the South” list, but also now appears on its “Best Research Universities” and “Best Public Colleges” lists. Universities and colleges appearing on the


with providing outreach opportunities, and communicating with other students about the value of both education and the initiative as a networking source. McNeil is the national vice president for the Holmes Scholar Executive Board and Graduate Feeder Program coordinator in the FAMU School of Graduate Studies and Research.

Forbes lists are recognized for providing their students with the best return-on-investment. “America’s Top Colleges” are judged by such metrics as student satisfaction, post-graduate success, academic success, career success, nationally competitive awards, student debt, retention, and graduation rates.

FAMU Rises in 2017 U.S. News & World Report Rankings Florida A&M University has risen to the No. 7 spot on U.S. News & World Report’s overall “Best Historically Black Colleges and Universities” list. FAMU’s 2017 ranking surpassed last year’s No. 10 listing. Climbing three spots from last year, the ranking also reveals FAMU as the No. 1 public HBCU and among the “Best National Universities.” Ranking measurements included peer

assessment, faculty resources, student selectivity, and financial resources. FAMU earned a 4.1 out of 5 for its peer assessment; a testament to the University’s strong reputation among the HBCU community. U.S. News has earned a reputation as the leading provider of service news and information that improves the quality of life of its readers by focusing on health, personal finances, education, and more.

FAMU Professor’s Passion Lands Him in Top Research Spot For the second year in a row, agribusiness professor Daniel Solis, Ph.D., is the most read researcher on, a premier online community consisting of two million researchers. With research interests that include developmental, agricultural, applied, and natural resource economics, Solis is arguably one of the most interesting professors on campus. Born in New York to a German immigrant and a native of Spain, Solis spent his adolescence in Chile where he attended the University of Talca-Chile. He said working and interacting with small scale and minority farmers in Central America prepared him for where he is today. His hobby is studying efficiency and productivity. This summer, Solis was invited to serve as visiting faculty in the Department of Economics at the University of Castilla- Spain. Solis conducted research on deficiencies in productivity of public universities in Spain. He said he is excited to “continue to develop methodologies that can inform performance metrics in the state of Florida.”

FAMU Students Win Black Enterprise Competition Three School of Business and Industry students, Brooke Slauter, Shytina Harley, and Walter Bennett, led by business instructor LaTanya White, brought home first place in the first Black Enterprise Smart Case Competition for students. The competition, which was held during the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit in Miami, brought together teams from Fort Valley State University, Morgan State University, Hampton University, and FAMU. Each team sought to find solutions for cases presented by the Black Enterprise team. The FAMU team chose to focus on the black-owned Industrial Bank, based in Washington, D.C., developing a plan that would help them market financial products to millennials. Though many teams offered similar marketing solutions, Black Enterprise Education Editor Robin White Goode, said FAMU students captured the judges with their impressive presentation. According to White Goode, FAMU won the judges over with its presentation quality and flow, its use of personal narrative, and ability to put a face on the millennial market. The team was also heralded for its ability to offer clear, specific, and actionable solutions.



From The Bookshelf FAMUans around the globe continue to emerge as award-winning, thought-provoking, and inspirational authors across multiple genres. In this issue, we take a glimpse into three unique literary works that are sure to empower, enlighten, and entertain readers for years to come.

Stamped from the Beginning By Ibram X. Kendi


Some Americans believe we are not living in a post-racial society; others believe the election of the first Black president meant the end of racism. In “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” author and historian Ibram X. Kendi takes a deep look into why and how racial thought remains alive in America. The book explores the importance of understanding how racist ideas were developed, disseminated, and enshrined in American society. Kendi chronicles these ideas through the lenses of American leaders such as Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, scholar W. E. B. Du Bois, and activist Angela Davis. Kendi’s ability to expose the complexity of racism, and offer hope on how to move forward from our past, has been heralded for its insight and intensity. In November 2016, “Stamped” earned the National Book Award for nonfiction, one of the highest honors in the literary world. Kendi earned his undergraduate degrees in journalism and AfricanAmerican studies in 2004 from FAMU. He is a native of Manassas, Virginia, by way of Jamaica, Queens, and is currently an assistant professor of African-American history at the University of Florida. For purchases and more information, visit:


Onyx McFly Saves the Day By Crystal Judkins


If you’ve seen little girls dressing up as a superhero with afro puffs, then chances are they’ve probably read the book, “Onyx McFly Saves the Day.” The colorful page-turner chronicles a tough and determined 8-year-old girl, who is as bright as she is brave. With her multi-colored sidekick named “Boom” by her side, Onyx uses her imagination and surroundings to transform herself into a superhero, using her flair and resourcefulness to solve real life problems. Her adventures teach her, and supporting characters, unforgettable and important life lessons. Author and FAMU alumna Crystal Judkins, a native of Alexandria, Virginia, draws from her own childhood experiences to bring Onyx to life. It was at the tender age of seven that she began writing and eventually evolved into a poet, songwriter, and now a published author. Her goal with “Onyx McFly,” she says, is to promote diversity and to encourage children of all abilities to think big and reach for the stars by using their imagination. Judkins begin her writing career as a student at FAMU with her first published poem, titled “Responsibility.” She is the co-founder of Two Pens and a Grind Publications. For purchases and more information, visit:

More Than Sisters By W. Mason Dunn


It has often been said that secrets can tear a family apart, but a new novel by W. Mason Dunn reveals that secrets also have the power to bring people together – if only they could love past the pain. In the debut novel, “More Than Sisters,” Dunn uses the backdrop of her hometown Bossier City, Louisiana to tell the story of one of our world’s greatest blemishes (rape) and how it can change the course of a family and its faith forever. Inspired by her award-winning sister, screen and playwright Judi Ann Mason (“Sister Act II: Back In The Habit,” “A Different World,” and “I’ll Fly Away”), W. Mason Dunn showcases her love and passion for writing in the top-ranked Amazon book. The compelling story follows the Rev. Daniel Ferguson and his wife, as parents of three girls: 20-year-old Olivia, 8-year-old Gayle, and 18-month-old Dani. Mrs. Ferguson seems healthy, which is why it is a surprise to everyone when she has to go to the hospital, and things are no longer the same. Olivia promises her dying mother that she will help her father care for her two young sisters. Years pass and their father dies of a heart attack, causing a series of unexpected occurrences to draw the sisters into adverse situations that lead to a dark secret – one that could drive the family apart for good. Dunn is currently an administrative coordinator and long-time employee of FAMU’s Office of Human Resources. She is often invited to authors’ circles and literary events to share her remarkable personal and fictional story. For purchases and more information, visit: A&M MAGAZINE // WINTER 2017 // 53



Elgin A. Chatmon, May 2016 Chatmon served as a Florida Junior College staff member and previously worked with the Leon County and Duval County public school systems. He also served as an officer in the United States Army. He earned a bachelor’s degree from FAMU.

Morris Hawkins, May 2016 Hawkins served as the Student Government Association Budget Coordinator at FAMU. He earned associate degrees from Tampa Technical Institute and South Florida Community College and a bachelor’s degree from FAMU. Reginald L. Patterson, May 2016 Patterson served as an employee for State Farm Insurance Company for 37 years to include underwriter, claims adjuster, and agent. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from FAMU. He also earned a master’s degree in counseling from the University of South Florida (USF). Reuben Patrick, June 2016 Patrick served as a director for Job Corps. He was a star tennis player and earned his bachelor’s degree from FAMU. Capt. Antonio Brown, June 2016 Brown served as a captain in the United States Army Reserves and as a human resources director at Lowes Home Improvement Center. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from FAMU and an MBA from the University of Mary.


Lucille Martin, July 2016 Martin served as a building services employee at FAMU for 30 years before her retirement from the University. Joseph P. Ramsey, Ph.D., July 2016 Ramsey served the University in several capacities, including assistant dean of the College of Education, chairman of the Department of Health, and director of athletics. He also served as coordinator of the sports management graduate program and a track coach. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from FAMU, a master’s degree in physical education from the University of Florida (UF), and a doctorate from Florida State University (FSU). Gussie Mallory, July 2016 Mallory was a retired educator with more than 50 years of service to the students of Jefferson and Leon counties. Mallory earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from FAMU. At 107 years old, she was FAMU’s oldest living alumna. Lettie White, Ph.D., July 2016 White was a retired educator who provided more than 42 years of service to students before her retirement from the Jefferson County School System. White earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from FAMU. She also earned a second master’s degree from USF and a doctorate from Bethany Theological Seminary. Capt. Rosamary Hadley, July 2016 Rosamary served as a captain in the United States Air Force assigned to the Mental Health Unit at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from FAMU. She also earned a

master’s degree from Northwest State University and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Jackson State University. Johnnie Mae Davis, August 2016 Davis was a FAMU retiree who served the University for 37 years. She also served as a Kmart employee for more than 20 years. Markel O. Mazelin, October 2016 Mazelin was a public relations major at FAMU from Miami, Florida. He was also an entrepreneur who was celebrated for his enthusiasm and passion. Quinton Langford, October 2016 Langford was a construction engineering technology major at FAMU from Plant City, Florida. He was also president of the student chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America. George Bruton, Jr., November 2016 Bruton taught vocational education courses in graphic arts, metals, woodwork, and tailoring in Broward and Duval counties for more than 30 years. Bruton earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts and a U.S. Army commission as a second lieutenant from FAMU. Dorothy P. Williams, December 2016 Williams helped to implement the Eternal Flame on FAMU’s campus while serving as vice president for University Relations and Public Affairs. She also served as assistant corporate secretary for the Board of Trustees. Previously, she served as head librarian/media specialist at high schools in Palmetto and Jacksonville, Florida, and associate director of libraries at the University of North Florida. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in library science from FAMU and Syracuse University, respectively. Margaret W. Lewis, R.N., Ph.D., December 2016 Lewis was a U.S. Army veteran who began her career as a nurse at the former FAMU Hospital. In 1982, Lewis was appointed dean of FAMU’s School of Nursing. She oversaw the school’s baccalaureate program and implemented a master’s degree with a specialty in advanced adult/gerontological nursing. She also created a collaborative doctoral nursing science program with UF. Lewis earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from FAMU, a master’s degree in nursing from Ohio State University, and a doctorate from FSU.



Save the Date

The Harambee Festival will feature vendors from across the region, live performances, African drum and dance, spoken word, cultural art, eclectic jewelry, African designers, international food, and much more! For vending, performance, and volunteer opportunities please contact the FAMU Office of Communications at

A&M MAGAZINE // WINTER 2017 // 55

850/599-3494 or

Profile for FAMU Communications

Winter 2017 A&M Magazine  

The Winter 2017 edition of the award-winning A&M Magazine celebrates remarkable milestones, including the accomplishments and anniversaries...

Winter 2017 A&M Magazine  

The Winter 2017 edition of the award-winning A&M Magazine celebrates remarkable milestones, including the accomplishments and anniversaries...