Alumni News

Profile photo of Whitney McDowell - Robinson, Ph.D., NCC

Tougaloo, MS, April 22, 2021 – Dr. Whitney McDowell-Robinson ’10 has been appointed as Vice President for Enrollment and Student Services at Tougaloo College.

Dr. McDowell-Robinson will assume her new position effective May 1st, President Carmen J. Walters said in making the announcement.  She will be responsible for the overall leadership of the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid, Chaplain, Public Safety, Residential Life, Student Engagement, Zero Tolerance, and Marketing & Communications.

As a member of the president’s cabinet, Dr. McDowell-Robinson will be an active partner in college-wide planning and policy discussions and provide leadership in the design and implementation of marketing, recruitment, and enrollment practices that seek well-prepared students, promote retention to graduation, and advance the mission and goals of Tougaloo.

“I am honored to advance within the Tougaloo community and consider it a great privilege to serve at a top, forward-thinking liberal arts historically black college,” Dr. McDowell-Robinson said.  “I am excited to continue my work with President Walters, faculty, staff, students, and external constituents to build on the College’s strong traditions at this time of innovation and change in higher education..”

Dr. McDowell-Robinson earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Tougaloo College, a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Jackson State University, and her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Urban Higher Education also from Jackson State University.



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Ida GibsonDaemen College has named Dr. Ida Gibson as the college’s first chief diversity officer as part of the institution’s continuing commitment to advance diversity and inclusion on campus. Her appointment was effective Jan. 2.

In this new role, Gibson will lead the college’s efforts to create and sustain a campus culture that embraces and promotes diversity and inclusion. She will serve as a key advisor and advocate, and will lead in developing the vision for Daemen’s new Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

As a member of the college’s senior leadership, Gibson will work closely with Daemen President Gary Olson and Dr. Greg Nayor, vice president for strategic initiatives, and other senior leaders to enhance the college’s efforts in diversity and inclusion and to set long-term goals.

“This newly created campus role is integral to strengthening Daemen’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and underscores our commitment to fostering a truly welcoming and inclusive campus community for our students, faculty, and staff,” said Olson. “We are confident that Dr. Gibson has the vision, expertise, and skills to lead us forward toward our goals for inclusive excellence.”

Gibson’s elevation from her most recent position at Daemen as director of diversity and inclusion to the newly created chief diversity officer role is essential to building on the college’s efforts in campus diversity and inclusion and for institutional planning in this area.

“Dr. Gibson serving in this new role will be key to leading our strategic initiative to advance efforts that will create an environment where all members of the Daemen community can live, learn, and thrive,” said Nayor. “I am excited to have the opportunity to partner with Dr. Gibson on this work.”

Prior to joining Daemen in 2019, Gibson was director of grants management in the Office of the City Administrator for the District of Columbia Government, and managed policy and program decisions, research, and projects for the Richmond City Council.

Gibson earned a doctorate in higher education administration from Jackson State University, a master’s degree in public administration from Savannah State University, and a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Georgia.

Her research interests and areas of teaching are in talent management, diversity initiatives, cultural competency, equity and access in public policy, and minority women in politics.

A native of LaGrange, Ga., Gibson resides in Buffalo.

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May be an image of 1 person, hair and standingDr. Lynda Batiste has been appointed to serve in the position of Interim Vice President for Business and Finance.  As the CFO, Dr. Batiste will be responsible for providing leadership, management, coordination and supervision of the university’s fiscal affairs. Dr. Batiste replaces Mr. Clayton Gibson who will be leaving the university to serve as CFO at the University of North Texas, the 41st largest Tier I research university in the country.

Dr. Batiste has the experience and is well prepared academically for this assignment.  She holds a Ph.D. in Urban Higher Education from Jackson State University and a Masters of Professional Accountancy (MPA) and Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Southern University and A&M College.  Additionally, she has completed 30 hours of course work toward the doctorate in business administration.

Since 2019, Dr. Batiste has served as the Assistant Vice President for Finance/Comptroller at Alabama A&M University.  In this role, she supervises the work of general accounting, accounts, payable, payroll, grants and contracts accounting, office of student accounts, and the cashier’s office.  One of her principle responsibilities is in ensuring the timely and accurate completion of the university’s annual audit.  This function has been quite effective as evidenced by the decreased time between the close of the fiscal year and the issuance of the audit report.

Other positions held by Dr. Batiste were Director of Finance for the Southern University Agriculture Research and Extension Center as well as instructor and fiscal assistant, trainer with the Southern University Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Development, and teaching positions with Southern University and Baton Rouge Community College.  Dr. Batiste is quite knowledgeable of the accreditation process and has served as member of three on-site SACSCOC reaffirmation committees, three off-site committees and one special committee. She has also presented at a number of professional association conferences and meetings.

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Dr. Kenney will provide leadership and direction through the planning, organization, coordination, and implementation of the College’s development programs. Her responsibilities will include leading the advancement team in carrying out the institution’s goals and funding priorities as determined by the College’s mission and vision. She will report to the president.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Kenney to our senior leadership team,” said Dr. Billy C. Hawkins, president of Talladega College. “She brings a wealth of experience in fundraising, development, and alumni relations, and has the vision and expertise to elevate our advancement efforts.”

Dr. Kenney previously served as director of alumni giving for Christian City, Inc., in Union City, Georgia, where she increased annual giving, donors retention, and employee giving. Prior to joining Christian City, she served as executive director of JSU (Jackson State University) Development Foundation, Inc., where she managed its $52 million assets operation, $3.5 million annual contributions, $17 million endowment, and $1.2 million operational budget.

Dr. Kenney holds a Ph.D. in Urban Higher Education from Jackson State University, a master of science in Higher Education – College Administration and Leadership from Purdue University Global, and a bachelor of science in Agricultural Business from Tennessee State University. She also earned a certificate in fundraising management from the Center for Philanthropy at Indianan University.


About Talladega College
Talladega College, Alabama’s first private historically black college, is consistently ranked among the best southeastern colleges and top HBCU in the nation. It was founded in 1867 by two former slaves, Williams Savery and Thomas Tarrant, and is the home of the renowned Hale Woodruff Amistad Murals. For more information, visit

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The Mississippi Community College Board (MCCB) selects Arianna Stokes,Ph.D. as Professional Development Specialist for eLearning and Instructional Technology





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With 25 years of successful fundraising, development and nonprofit management experience, Dr. Soublet will serve as the leader of the Division of Institutional Advancement, one of four divisions at the university. She will manage the overall operation of fundraising efforts for the university, build and cultivate corporate and foundation partnerships and support, and galvanize alumni. Dr. Soublet will work to advance a culture of philanthropy through the engagement of NCCU’s alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends (both individually and in the corporate community) in support of the university’s mission of preparing students to become global leaders and practitioners who transform communities. She will report directly to Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye, serve as a member of the Chancellor’s cabinet and manage a team, which includes liaisons to the academic colleges and schools.

Dr. Soublet previously served as vice president for Institutional Advancement at Xavier University of Louisiana from 2015 to 2020, where she oversaw strategic initiatives and daily operations for the office. Her achievements in this role include consistently meeting fundraising goals, increasing alumni engagement and giving, establishing a corporate partners program, and expanding the planned giving program. Her efforts to enhance donor stewardship garnered recognition for Xavier as having one of the highest donor retention rates among users of the popular Raiser’s Edge software. From 2007 to 2015, Dr. Soublet was assistant vice president for development at Xavier.

Prior to joining Xavier, she was director of corporate and foundation relations and a major gifts officer at Dillard University in New Orleans and, from 1997 to 2002, she worked for the United Way of Greater New Orleans, serving as vice president of campaigns her final two years there. During her tenure at United Way, Dr. Soublet won numerous national participation and goal achievement awards as director for the Combined Federal Campaign.

Dr. Soublet currently serves on the Board for the New Orleans chapter of the Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and is the principal for Soublet Consulting Group, where she provides governance, management and development consulting for nonprofits. Nationally recognized for her success in fundraising and nonprofit management, she has presented for the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), AFP and United Way conferences on various topics including major gift acquisition, building donor participation, board development, diversity and inclusion and ethics in fundraising.

Dr. Soublet holds a Ph.D. in urban higher education administration from Jackson State University, a Master of Business Management from the University of Phoenix, a bachelor of science in computer information systems from Xavier, and certification in Fund Raising Management from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Her research focuses on the impact of same-gender mentoring on the career progression of women of color in higher education.

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Howard O. Gibson, Ph.D. has been named the Vice President of the Division of Academic Affairs at Wiley College.

Dr. Gibson has 20 years of corporate and higher education administration and teaching experience at 4-year and 2-year public and private, rural and urban institutions.
Dr. Gibson served as Interim President of Arkansas Baptist Community College where he implemented and sustained a number of transformational processes including streamlining institutional operations; collaborating with fellow board members on advancement strategies for the institution; and making recommendations to the board for the adoption of instructional programs and other educational and community services, etc.

President Felton is delighted by Gibson’s onboarding. He states, “The College is extremely excited to welcome Dr. Gibson to our family. He is a seasoned administrator who can hit the ground running. He brings invaluable experience to us and is knowledgeable in strategic planning, SACS process, institutional research, faculty enhancement, as well as the Second Chance Pell Program. A learned professional, he’s also astute in the business space and looks to bring our online programming to a different level. The search committee recommended him with a unanimous vote for the national search that was conducted.”

Gibson’s curriculum vitae hosts a number of notable accomplishments such as authoring the Shorter College Second Chance Pell Grant Experimental Site Program Handbook (2017), developing and implementing a Student Government Association, requesting for proposal grant process in the Office of Student Programs and Resources (2015) and leading administrative efforts to create a 10-graduate agreement partnership between Arkansas Baptist College and Strayer University (2010).

He currently serves on an assorted list of accreditation, academic council, and judicial committees. In 2013, Dr. Gibson received the Outstanding Staff Achievement Award from Baton Rouge Community College.

Gibson holds 3 degrees from Jackson State University: a BBA in accounting in 1998, an MBA in business administration in 2000 and a Ph.D. in Urban Higher Education since 2008.

Dr. Gibson commenced duties at Wiley College on January 15, 2020.

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Dr. Braque Talley has been named Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Success at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“I am confident that Dr. Talley’s leadership will help us continue our upward trajectory in Enrollment,” said UAPB Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander. “We look forward to working with him and the entire enrollment management team in building on our most effective program of external engagement with two-year colleges, secondary schools, prospective students and their parents.”

Previously the Vice President of Enrollment Management at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Dr. Talley helped lead the college in achieving increases in overall student enrollment and retention. His team also has received more than $1 million in grants and other gifts to undergird student support initiatives.

Previously, he served as the Coordinator of Marketing and Recruitment at Alabama A&M University. Since 2008, he has served as an Ambassador to the Black College Fund (BCF), which allows him to travel domestically and internationally recruiting students and thanking BCF donors for their support.

A native of Starkville, Mississippi, Dr. Talley graduated from Rust College with a Bachelor of Arts in English/Liberal Arts. As an undergraduate, he was a member of the E.A. Smith Honors Society, Alpha Kappa Mu National Honors Society, and he was the President of the Student Government Association. He earned a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning, with a concentration in Community Development at Alabama A&M University, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Jackson State University.

Dr. Talley is active in several professional, civic and social organizations, and he has delivered numerous presentations at conferences and professional meetings. He has received recognition by the Starkville Daily News “Top 40, Under 40;” Mississippi Business Journal “Top 50, Under 40,” and Rust College “Top 10, Under 10.” Dr. Talley is married to Dr. Brittney Tate-Talley, and they have one daughter, Bridynn.

Dr. Talley succeeds Dr. Linda Okiror, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management and Student Success Emeritus, who recently retired from UAPB after 23 years of dedicated service. As vice chancellor, Dr. Okiror led the reversal of a downward trend in student enrollment, launched several initiatives that brought significant increases in student retention, and contributed to increases in the 4, 5, and 6-year graduation rates. She was responsible for the Offices of Recruitment, Admissions, the Student Success Center, the Living/Learning Centers, the summer Learning Institute and Opportunities for New Students (LIONS) Program. She also launched UAPB’s partnership with SEARK College for the new Associate’s to Bachelor’s Dual Degree Program. She provided leadership to programs that create opportunities for new students and persistence to graduation for all students. She was first employed at UAPB in January 1996 in the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, where she rose from Assistant to the Dean to Associate Dean for Academic Programs.

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Dr. Tonjanita Johnson, an Alabama native and veteran academic leader, will succeed Dr. Charles Ray Nash as Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs for the University of Alabama System. 

Dr. Johnson will join the UA System on December 2 and assume the title of Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs on January 1, 2020. She is currently Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for The University of Tennessee System, where she is second in command to the UT System President. 

Senior Vice Chancellor Nash, who joined the UA System in 1992, will serve until December 31, 2019 as Senior Vice Chancellor and will retire in July 2020 after 28 years of service. 

A native of Butler, Alabama, Dr. Johnson returns to her home state after leadership positions with the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Middle Tennessee State University, and Mississippi Valley State University in addition to her senior cabinet-level role with the UT System. A charter member of the University of Alabama Library Leadership Board since 1999, she is a member of the Council of Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Board of Trustees, the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine Board of Visitors and numerous other professional and civic affiliations.

She earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees in communications from the University of Alabama and received her Ph.D. in urban higher education at Jackson State (MS) University. A communications specialist at the University of Alabama from 1993-1996, she is a former higher education reporter at the Decatur Daily.

“Dr. Tonja Johnson brings 30 years of impressive higher education experience to her position with our System,” Chancellor Finis St. John said today. “As Senior Vice Chancellor she will provide oversight and leadership in academic planning, institutional research and programmatic coordination. We look forward to her arrival as we ensure a seamless transition following Dr. Nash’s distinguished tenure.”

In addition to administrative leadership positions, Dr. Johnson held faculty appointments at Stony Brook, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi Valley State and Herzing University. She was assistant director of the University of Alabama Minority Journalism Workshop from 1988-1991. 

Dr. Charles Nash’s career achievements include administrative positions with the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (Director of Special Studies and Assistant Vice Chancellor); Armstrong Atlantic State University (Dean of the School of Education); and the Commission on Colleges at the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC — Associate Executive Director). 

He chairs accreditation committees for SACS, is a member of the American Bar Association’s Council in the Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, the New York Academy of Science STEM Advisory Committee, the A+ Education Partnership, the Alabama Access to Justice Commission, and a long list of other entities devoted to education, workforce development, teacher preparation and family services. 

Dr. Nash earned his bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University, his master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and his doctorate from Mississippi State University. He is graduate of leadership development programs at Harvard, Stanford and Oxford University and has received many civic and professional awards. 

Comprised of three doctoral research universities (UA, UAB and UAH) and the UAB Health System, the UA System is Alabama’s largest higher education enterprise and educates more Alabamians than any university system in the world. Fall 2019 enrollment is approaching 70,500 and there are 45,000 System employees. Overall economic impact exceeds $10 billion annually.

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Stevie L. Lawrence II will join the Southern Regional Education Board September 4 as vice president for postsecondary education. In this role, he will lead SREB’s postsecondary programs, such as the Academic Common Market, Doctoral Scholars Program, education data services and state authorization reciprocity agreements. He will also be charged with developing additional initiatives to support postsecondary state offices and institutions.

“I am excited to serve in this capacity at SREB, leading and developing postsecondary programs and initiatives,” said Lawrence. “I look forward to creating strategic partnerships and efforts that will increase equity and access for higher education throughout the region.”

Lawrence comes to SREB from Fort Valley State University in Georgia, where he is founding dean of the University College and previously led student affairs and enrollment management. He has also held positions at the University of North Carolina system, Shaw University, Virginia Union University and Halifax Community College. His background includes strategic leadership in academic affairs, specifically in student success and retention.

Lawrence earned a bachelor of arts degree from North Carolina A&T State University, a master of public administration from North Carolina Central and a doctor of philosophy in urban higher education from Jackson State University.

“Dr. Lawrence is an accomplished, energetic, passionate administrator,” said SREB President Stephen L. Pruitt. “He has an abiding commitment to student success that will continue to drive his work on behalf of SREB higher ed agencies, colleges and universities, and students.”

Cheryl Blanco, SREB’s current vice president for postsecondary education, will work with Lawrence through September 30 as he transitions into the new role.

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