Campus News

Dillard selects five valedictorians, two salutatorians to lead the 2023 graduating class

For Immediate Release
Contact: Danielle Miller,
May 10, 2023

NEW ORLEANS – Dillard University’s Office of Academic Affairs has announced their selections for valedictorian and salutatorian ahead of the 2023 commencement exercise that will take place on Saturday, May 13 at 8 a.m. on the Avenue of the Oaks.

Alexis Campbell, Ahjenea White, Erica Woodridge, Valesha Rhodes and Jerika Edwards will receive the distinction of valedictorian, and Carolyn Hernandez and Olivia Johnson will receive the distinction of salutatorian. 

Campbell, a Shreveport native, will receive a bachelor of arts in criminal justice with plans to work as a licensed attorney. Upon graduating, Campbell will take some time to tour a variety of law schools before making a decision on where she will pursue a Juris Doctorate degree. While at Dillard, she was the recipient of the 431 Exchange Scholarship and the Art Vining Scholarship. She was also awarded for having the highest GPA in the criminal justice department, and was recognized for being a co-moderator on a panel discussion with former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Rosen. Campbell is member of the President’s Organization of Dillard’s Up-and-Coming Superstars (PODUS), the Pre-Law Program, Foundation to LEAD, the Thompson-Cook Honors Program, Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honors Society, Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honors Society, Tri-Alpha Honors Society and the Beta Upsilon Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She also worked as an intern for the University’s Center for Racial Justice. 

White, a Sacramento, California native, will receive a bachelor of arts in criminal justice. She plans to focus on law and legal practices to provide support for the families of police brutality victims. White has secured a summer internship with Venture Global LNG and will be working on their new Plaquemines Parish project. Afterwards, she plans to attend law school. White is the treasurer for Dillard’s National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, she worked as the director of logistics as well as the president of the Mock Trial Team, in which she received several accolades. She is also a member of the Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society, Alpha Chi National College Honor Society and the Alpha Kappa Mu National Honor Society. While at Dillard, she received the Justice Revius Ortique Scholarship, as well as the Thompson Cook Honor student award. Additionally, she received the acknowledgement of recognition from Congressman Troy Carter and a Certificate of Merit from the New Orleans City Council.

Woodridge, a New Orleans native, will receive a bachelor of arts in criminal justice, with plans on working in the Juvenile Justice System to help youth in the community. Upon graduating, Woodridge will continue her work at the District Attorney’s Office and plans to obtain a master’s degree in criminal justice. She is a member of Alpha Phi Sigma-Criminal Justice Honor Society and was a recipient of the Benjamin E. Mays/ Samuel Dubois Cook Presidential Scholarship.

Rhodes, a Memphis Tennessee native, will receive a bachelors in psychology, and plans to create her own non-profit organization to promote the education and empowerment of members of the African Diaspora. Upon graduating, she plans to pursue a law degree as well as a master’s degree in social welfare to pursue a career in family law and wellness, child advocacy and education rights. Rhodes was admitted into three law schools and received a full ride to two of those schools. She was named a graduate fellow at the University of California and will receive $50,000 a year as well as a $10,000 Trial Advocacy Scholarship. Rhodes is a LEAD scholar and serves as a teacher’s assistant in the LEAD Program; a member of the Mock Trial Team; she’s the president of the Omicron Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.; the secretary for the Student Government Association, a member of the NAACP; a presidential ambassador, a member of Leading Ladies DU, Political Science Honor Society; the vice president elect of the National Pan-Hellenic Council; and vice president of the Psi Chi Honors Society. Rhodes is a two time recipient of the Justice Revius Ortique Scholarship, in addition to the Ortique Foundation Award, the Class Act Award from The Crescent City Chapter of Links, Inc., University Scholar, Thompson Cook Honors College Scholar, and the winner of the HBCU 20×20 Pitch Competition. 

Edwards, a Prichard, Alabama native, and the current Miss 87th Dillard University, will receive a bachelor of science in urban studies and public policy with plans to pursue a career in public service. She wants to advocate for minority communities, education, gun control and other social justice issues to create a more equitable society. She has been accepted and or received interviews for six fellowships that are focused on public policy, government, education and public affairs. Edwards is the recipient of the 2023 “Unsung Hero” Award, the “Vic Bleu Spirit” Award, a White House Initiative on HBCUs White House Competitiveness Scholar, the Kimberly Clark Foundation Bright Futures Scholarship, the UNCF Samuel Newhouse Scholarship and the Arthur Vining Scholarship. She is currently a member of the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society and the Thompson Cook Honors Program.

Hernandez, a Brooklyn New York native, will receive a bachelor of arts in criminal justice with plans to become a forensic psychologist with the FBI. Upon graduating, she will attend the University of Louisiana Monroe to major in psychology with a concentration in forensics. Hernandez is a merit scholarship recipient and a member of the Daniel C. Thompson/Samuel DuBois Cook Honors Program, Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society, treasurer for the Beta Upsilon Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Psi Chi The International Honor Society in Psychology, Pi Delta Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, The Criminal Justice Honor Society, the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, the Epsilon Pi Chapter of Tri-Alpha and the Leading Ladies of DU. Hernandez also worked as an intern for The Center for Racial Justice.

Johnson, a Pensacola, Florida native, will receive a bachelor of arts in theatre performance, with plans to pursue a career in acting and playwriting. Upon graduating, Johnson will attend the South Young Playwrights Festival at Horizon Theatre Company in Atlanta, Georgia. During her time at Dillard, she has received the Big Easy University Theatre Production for Dillard’s play “Yellowman”, in addition to having her play “The Second Prophecy” selected by the Black Academy of Arts and Letters for an Equity staged reading in Dallas, Texas. In addition to her work in the theatre department, Johnson is also the president of the Alpha Psi Omega National Theatre Honor Society. 

During the commencement ceremony, valedictorians will receive the Benjamin E. Mays/ Samuel DuBois Cook Scholarship, and the salutatorians will receive the Michael L. Lomax award.

About Dillard University
Dillard University is a historically Black institution that cultivates leaders who live ethically, think and communicate precisely, and act courageously to make the world a better place. Located in New Orleans, Dillard is a private faith-based liberal arts university that offers 22 majors and two certificate programs. Ranked 5th on 2021 The New York Times Overall Mobility Index and 14th in 2022 by Academic Influence for Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship, Dillard’s call to future leaders is to Write Your Legacy. Find out more about Louisiana’s oldest HBCU by visiting