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Conversations on the Oaks
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Conversations on the Oaks

Author: Dillard University

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Conversations on the Oaks thoughtfully provides views and information about issues that affect communities, particularly in Black America and at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
23 Episodes
At a faith-based institution, a role that can go unnoticed, but serves an important purpose, is that of the chaplain. What exactly is a chaplain's role and how does the chaplain help students through their college journeys? Rev. Herbert Brisbon III, Dillard University's chaplain, joins the podcast to discuss how he serves the University community, even doing his part in student retention. Learn more about Dillard's Office of the Chaplain.
Part of Dillard University's legacy is the line up of festivals and cultural events that have happened on The Oaks. Some of these events include the Festival of Afro-American Arts, the Jessie Covington Dent Festival, and productions by the Dillard Players’ Guild. Around the same time as some of these festivals, one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world began at a small outdoor venue in New Orleans; and some Dillard alumni believe that the scene on Gentilly Boulevard served as inspiration for the Crescent City's vibrant festival culture. During Black History Month, Dillard featured information and images from some of those festivals and events from the late '60s and early '70s. John Kennedy '10, former Dillard University archivist, joined "Conversations on the Oaks" to talk about these important cultural events.
Write Your Legacy

Write Your Legacy


Eddie Francis switches from one side of the microphone to the other to talk about Dillard University's brand evolution campaign, "Write Your Legacy." The director of communications and marketing discusses the development of the campaign and why it focuses on language. Danielle Miller, Dillard's communications specialist, hosts this episode of "Conversations on the Oaks."
We live in a world of computers and computer technology. However, there is a gap in gaining access to this very important skill and knowledge base in the Black community. At the same time, the career options are plentiful with a plethora of in-demand roles. Dennis Sigur is an assistant professor of computer science, a Dillard University ACUE Distinguished Teaching Scholar and a program manager of the Dillard HBCU C2 Initiative. He visited "Conversations on the Oaks" to talk about the world of computer science and the opportunities for students. In September of 2022, Professor Sigur took a team to the BE Smart Hackathon in Dallas, where they won the Best Engineering Design award.
Dr. Rochelle L. Ford began her tenure as Dillard University's eighth president July 1, 2022. In her first week, she hit the ground running, representing the University at ESSENCE Festival of Culture events and signing an MOU with the Department of Homeland Security. Ford took the time to sit with "Conversations on the Oaks" to discuss her vision for Dillard as well as her background. She even gives mass communication majors a glimpse of what they can expect from her as one of their professors. Ford also discusses how she intends to write her legacy.
At Dillard, mock trial is more than a competition. It is an opportunity to diversify the legal field by exposing future Black lawyers to the courtroom environment. After competing among a field of more than 700 teams at the American Mock Trial Association's regional tournament, Dillard Mock Trial is one of 192 teams moving on to the national championship's Opening Round Championship Series. The feat is significant because Dillard is one of fewer than 10 HBCU mock trial teams and one of only four in Louisiana.  Amaya Ronczyk, president of Dillard's mock trial team, joins "Conversations on the Oaks" to explain how mock trial works, its importance to her and her peers, and what makes the Bleu Devils so good.
Whether it is helping people through a pandemic, disaster recovery or personal situations, social workers are there. But their work isn’t limited to helping people from under-resourced communities. Even the well-off need social workers. Octavia Edinburg, a social work instructor at Dillard University, discusses where we see--and even don't see--social work in our everyday lives.
Supply Chain Blues

Supply Chain Blues


In the wake of Hurricane Ida, images of empty supermarket shelves were posted on social media and shown on news outlets thanks to issues with the supply chain. Such challenges are not new, however, due to COVID-19. To answer calls by the business community, Dillard University added supply chain management as a concentration of the business administration program. Dr. Dorian Williams, dean of Dillard’s College of Business and an assistant professor of economics, joined "Conversations on the Oaks" to help us understand why the supply chain is a component of business that is important for the public to understand.
Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been numerous public conversations about public health, but what exactly is public health? Dr. Rachael Reed, interim chair of Dillard University's School of Health and Wellness and an assistant professor of public health, joins the podcast to define the field. She also talks about which public health issues she is keeping her eyes on and the University's new health science program.
The Ray Charles Program in African-American Material Culture at Dillard University is truly one of a kind. It is the only one of its kind in Louisiana and a rarity in the United States. Zella Palmer, director and endowed chair of the Ray Charles Program joins “Conversations on the Oaks” to talk about that program, the influence of food plus Dillard’s new minor if food studies.
Urban Water Management

Urban Water Management


Dillard University's Urban Water Management Certificate program is unique, so much so that it is the only one of its kind in the state of Louisiana and one of a few in the United States. Dr. Robert Collins, a Conrad N. Hilton Endowed Professor, talks about the importance of the program. A professor of urban studies and public policy, Dr. Collins also talks about that academic program in addition to the policy issues to which he is paying attention.
Dr. Sean Gibbs, coordinator of Dillard University’s psychology program and associate professor of psychology discusses how mental health is taught in the classroom, mental health in Black America, and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also gives his thoughts on what self-care really looks like.
National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month


On episode 7, we talked about the magic of arts and humanities with Cortheal Clark, the chair of Dillard University’s School of Humanities. Dillard has to its credit, a former Louisiana poet laureate in Brenda Marie Osbey and a Pulitzer Prize winner in poetry in Jericho Brown who was a student of Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy. She is a Conrad N. Hilton Endowed professor of English, an author and a folklorist. On this episode, Dr. Saloy talks about poetry's benefits and why it touches and inspires us in so many ways.
We consistently hear about the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the healthcare profession. But, what about the challenges the pandemic has brought to institutions charged with preparing healthcare professionals? Dr. Sharon Hutchinson, dean of Dillard University's College of Nursing and Gloria Kabacoff Endowed Professor in Teaching and Informatics, discusses how the program has managed the unexpected while staying on task to help prepare the next generation of healthcare professionals.
Americans saw probably the most contentious presidential election that any of us have seen in our lifetimes. Dillard Political Science has been hard at work analyzing an extraordinary race for president of the United States. Dr. Gary Clark is the chair of Dillard University’s School of Social Sciences, the coordinator of the political science program and a Barron Hilton endowed professor of political science. Also joining the podcast is Professor Blair Condoll, assistant professor of political science.
Episode 4's conversation about COVID-19 and health disparities shone a light on the need for more Black representation in healthcare. Dillard University addresses this through their Pre-Health Program. Pre-health advisor, Tracie Thomas, discussed how the program prepares students, most of whom are African American, and how her students view their roles in health professions.
Artists, linguists, photographers, speakers, writers, journalists and a host of others celebrated National Arts and Humanities Month every October. The celebration was created in 1993 to celebrate culture in America. With its impressive arts and humanities programs and alumni, this is certainly a time to celebrate at Dillard University. Cortheal Clark, the chair of the University's School of Humanities talks about the importance of arts and humanities.
When Dillard began its recovery from Hurricane Katrina, they turned to a young, energetic former college basketball standout to revive the athletics program. From there, Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes led the Bleu Devils to a string of Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championships while collecting accolades for herself including a 2019 Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year award while becoming the first woman to serve as president and the first Black woman to serve as commissioner of the GCAC. And she did it the only way she knows how--by thinking big. Dr. Barnes joins "Conversations on the Oaks" to talk about how she stays motivated to achieve lofty goals.
It is common to hear someone cynically say that lawyers are a dime a dozen, but that does not seem to be the case when it comes to Black lawyers. For Adria Kimbrough, Esq., Black representation in the legal field is thin. That fuels her dedication to ensuring that Black students are prepared for law school admission and tackling the pressures of law school. Through Dillard Pre-Law, the LEAD (Legal Education Advancing Diversity) Program and the award-winning Mock Trial Team, Kimbrough works with students to shatter the barriers to Black representation in law.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the African American community has suffered disproportionately according to research by the Dillard University Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center. Only days after the city of New Orleans began its quarantine, Dr. Amy Lesen wrote a column that sounded the alarm. A week later, Dr. Peter Fos published a white paper that continued the conversation about the health disparities that were uncovered by COVID-19. While the issue seems to have died down in the media, Lesen and Fos continue to have serious concerns about how the African American community is affected by COVID-19.