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
For Black History Month 2021, Dillard University is celebrating “History Made, History in the Making.” Everyday, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the University is posting #DUBlackFacts to celebrate Dillard’s contributions to society. Despite how COVID-19 has changed life at Dillard, student groups have 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 university photographer, Sabree Hill.
Competing for only their second year, the Dillard University Debate Team placed fifth in the East Coast Early Bird Speech and Debate Competition in September.
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.
Dillard’s Beta Gamma chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., also earned honors in September. At their Southwestern Province’s 84th Province Council Meeting, the chapter won the Chapter of the Year award for small chapters while also earning distinction as the chapter with the second highest GPA in the province. Traelon Rodgers had the highest GPA in the province. Currently Rodgers is competing for two of the fraternity’s national awards.
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 district conference in January. The chapter won Chapter with Highest GPA and the district’s debate competition. Chad Fuselier ‘22, earned top honors as the Brother with the Highest GPA.
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."