The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

The Student News Site of University of Louisiana Monroe

The Hawkeye

University’s past, present, future honored at Envision

Jacobe Boston

In another year of change and tradition, members of the ULM’s past, present and future joined at Envision. 

Performances and guest speakers took up much of Thursday evening’s event at the Clark M. Williams Innovation campus, and ULM President Ron Berry took the stage to discuss his vision of the university’s potential to aid the region. 

He spoke about how ULM and its new Innovation Campus can bring jobs and resources to northeast Louisiana, a region scarred by poverty. 

 According to the U.S. Census, Louisiana has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation at 16.9%, and some of the worst rates are found in the northeastern portion of the state. 

Nearly all parishes in northeast Louisiana have almost double the average poverty rate of 11.5%. East Carroll and Madison parishes sit among some of the most impoverished areas in the country with poverty rates of over 40%. 

Part of his plans center around the Innovation Campus, a multimillion-dollar donation from Lumen earlier this year, and its potential to bring jobs and industry to the region. 

Berry said the university has a two-front effort to help combat poverty in the region. He said the acquisition of the Innovation Campus is a way to attract new jobs to the region, while he said he wants to use the university to increase access to quality education in the region. 

“You know the way out of poverty? It’s education,” Berry said to the crowd made up of politicians, alumni and other supporters. 

He mentioned some of the   Centennial Scholars that were invited to Envision as part of ULM’s investment in future education. These are nearly 3,000 current elementary students who each received $500 scholarships to be a part of ULM’s 100th freshmen class in 2031. 

Berry referred to these students as part of ULM’s future, but he arranged much of the night to pay homage to ULM’s present and past. He proudly said that all of the guest speakers and performers are ULM alumni, ULM employees or current students. 

Showing the impact the university can have on someone’s life, Berry invited Nita Whitaker to take the stage that evening.

Serving as both a performer and a speaker, Whitaker took the stage to mention how ULM changed her life for the better. Whitaker donned the crown of Miss Louisiana in 1981, and she went on to have a career as an ICU nurse before transitioning into music and acting. 

“I left this university with a terrific education,” Whitaker said. “I left armed with the skills that still carry me throughout my life.”

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