Stories from the Oaks
Student groups excel despite pandemic
Dillard University Mock Trial Team member Renee Simien '22 competes virtually at the
University of Alabama Crimson Classic where the team came in first place. Photo: Sabree
By Eddie Francis and Sabree Hill
February 10, 2021
Updated July 19, 2021
During Black History Month 2021, Dillard celebrated “History Made, History in the
Making.” Everyday, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the University posted #DUBlackFacts to celebrate Dillard’s contributions to society.
Despite how COVID-19 changed life at Dillard during the 2020-2021 academic year, student
groups lost neither their competitive edge nor their desire to be the best. As a different
kind of academic year kicked off, Bleu Devils wasted no time making their mark. All
photos are by Dillard's photographer, Sabree Hill.
Dillard’s Beta Gamma chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. had an impressive year. The chapter received the Edward Giles Irvin award, the highest award for a college chapter for exemplary service to the community, making them the fraternity's best small chapter. At their Southwestern Province’s 84th Province Council Meeting, the chapter was honored as the chapter with the second highest GPA in the province. It was Traelon Rodgers, however, who exemplified one of the fraternity's dearest values--achievement. Rodgers earned the Guy Lewis Grant Award which is given to an undergraduate for meritorious achievement. He also received the Byron Kenneth Armstrong Award which is given to an undergraduate for the highest GPA. So impressive was the co-valedictorian and Marshall-Motley Scholar's leadership that Rodgers graced the back cover of The Kappa Alpha Psi Journal which a fraternity representative noted is a rare feat for one of their undergraduates.
Another Dillard fraternity made their presence known outside of the University. The Beta Phi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., earned honors at their national convention in July as the College Chapter with Highest GPA and Chad Fuselier ‘22 earned honors as the College Brother with the Highest GPA with a 4.0. The chapter also earned honors for their performance at their district’s debate competition in January.
Having competed for only their second year, the Dillard University Debate Team placed fifth in the East Coast Early Bird Speech and Debate Competition in September 2020. Jerika Edwards ’23, advanced to the final round in the Open Division IPDA (International Public Debate Association) category and placed second out of 23 competitors. That same month, the Division of Student Success launched the Bleu Troop Public Health Ambassador program to address campus health and safety measures in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group went to work immediately when they helped the Office of Community and Church Relations donate hand sanitizer, digital thermometers and over 600 face masks to the campus and surrounding communities.
The Bleu Troop Public Health Ambassadors got off to a strong start at the beginning of a most unusual academic year by teaming up with the Office of Community and Church Relations to distribute PPE around the University and community.
The Dillard Diamonds got a pleasant surprise on Instagram in October. Support Black Colleges, a retail company, featured the Diamonds one of the “10 Dope Dance Teams.”
In the midst of these achievements, one of the newest student groups began their philanthropic efforts. The New Wealth Society, an organization that focuses on financial literacy, awarded a fortunate fellow Dillard student with a scholarship.
Dillard’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) is familiar with distinction. The chapter earned national recognition by being named a 2020 Outstanding Chapter Award. This marks an improvement from being named a Distinguished Chapter in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In addition, two chapter members, Jamaya Wilson '20 and Eboni Collins '21, wrote an article for the SPS website about how SPS adjusted their 2020 outreach efforts for the DU WISHES (Dillard University - Women in STEM High School Experience in Summer) program.
Never to be outdone is the award-winning Mock TrialTeam. The team got their first win in November at the Castagna Classic hosted by Pace
University. Amaya Ronczyk ‘22 and Reneé Simien ‘22, won top attorney honors. LaJeanne
Shelton ‘21, Chasity Washington ‘23 and Simien earned top ranking witness honors.
A significant win came at the University of Alabama’s Crimson Classic in January where
the Mock Trial Team bested institutions such as Florida State University, the University
of South Carolina, Pennsylvania State Univer, Emory University, Wake Forest University,
the University of Tennessee and Alabama. There, Ronczyk won the Top Attorney Award.
Additionally, the team hosted its second Big Easy Invitational in January, making
Dillard the first HBCU to ever host a mock trial tournament. Participating institutions
included Gonzaga University, Penn State, Baylor University, the College of William
and Mary, the University of South Dakota and Southern Methodist University.
In 2020, the Dillard University Mock Trial Team did not even place at the University of Alabama Crimson Classic. What a difference a year makes. Dillard was the smallest of the 21 institutions and the only HBCU. Of the victory, the Honorable Kern Reese, one of the team's coaches and Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge, said, "What Dillard accomplished was incredible and historic."