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Tonight we hosted our senior awards. I have a chance to present several, and last year I began to recognize the students that spent part of their freshman year working with me on the Brain Food lecture series. I started Brain Food in 2013, continuing what I did with Bless the Mic at Philander. There is great research on the value of early engagement of freshmen. So each I year try to personally engage about 30 students. I call the group PODUS (President’s Organization of Dillard’s Up-and-coming Superstars) since I am the PODUS (president of Dillard University number seven). And they hosted some significant people: Michael Steele, Misty Copeland, Charles Blow, Iyanla Vanzant, and Jason Riley.

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But going back to the research reasons for doing this, this group was successful. We had a group of 21 in the fall of 2014. While 21% of Black students nationally graduate in 4 years, 81% of this group graduates in 4, and all but one still enrolled. Seventy-one percent of them received a Pell grant.

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They graduate with a collective 3.51 GPA. They have been class presidents, SGA president (2X), editor of the school paper, member of the mock trial team, athletes, and dance teams. 59% joined a sorority or fraternity.

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I found this picture too. Pretty prophetic because I awarded 3 of them with the best all around student prize tonight. More on that later…

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