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Chapter Spotlight: Christiana Smith African American Alumni

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In 1956, Christiana Smith became the first African American graduate from then-Southwestern Louisiana Institute. Now, her legacy lives on through an alumni chapter. The Christiana Smith African American Alumni Chapter was formally chartered in 1992. The chapter initially started as several friends gathering together for a reunion. Today, the chapter has grown tremendously and puts on premiere events, awards scholarships, and provides engagement opportunities for alumni.

Tonya Bolden-Ball is the current president of the Christiana Smith African American Alumni Chapter. She’s been involved with the Christiana Smith African American Alumni Chapter for over a decade and has truly impacted the chapter with her leadership. Bolden-Ball is a proud alumna of the University and serves as the Regional Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Ochsner Lafayette General. Once Bolden-Ball graduated from the University, she knew that she wanted to give back to her alma mater in any way that she could. “I made a promise that I was going to give back to UL Lafayette,” said Bolden-Ball.Hollis Conway rides the Christiana Smith African American Alumni Chapter float at the 2021 Homecoming Parade.

Bolden-Ball has focused her presidency around member engagement for the chapter. There are four committees that members can join to get more involved — academics, events and fundraising, athletics, and member engagement. One of the premier fundraising events that the chapter puts on to honor alumni is Sweet Sounds of Sharing. However, Bolden-Ball hopes to start conversations about increasing the chapter’s programming. “Programming is going to be essential for retention and recruiting,” said Bolden-Ball. Some ideas for expanded programming include incorporating mentorship opportunities within the chapter and strengthening the chapter’s relationship with student-athletes on campus.

The chapter is also known for its scholarship program. Over the past few years, the scholarship program has changed its focus to award scholarships to students in their fifth year of college who may have run out of financial resources. “We started looking at how we can create a collective impact and help these students graduate,” said Bolden-Ball.

In the future, Bolden-Ball has big dreams for the Christiana Smith African American Alumni Chapter. Those dreams include possibly having a permanent space for the chapter and continuing the chapter’s partnerships with student organizations on campus. She ultimately wants to educate, encourage, and equip chapter members to be advocates for the chapter, the Alumni Association, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

There are many ways to get involved with the Christiana Smith African American Alumni Chapter. Bolden-Ball says the best way is to update your information with the chapter. You can also email Bolden-Ball at tonyabball@gmail.com to learn about other ways to get involved. The Christiana Smith African American Alumni Chapter has made a significant impact on the University and community since its inception. The chapter will continue to honor the legacy of Christiana Smith for years to come.

Attendees of the chapter's Sweet Sounds of Sharing pose for a group photo.

Thumbnail Photo Caption: Tonya Bolden-Ball, president of the Christiana Smith African American Alumni Chapter, addresses attendees at their annual Sweet Sounds of Sharing (Photo Credit: Brandon Foster) Story Photo 1 Caption: Hollis Conway rides the Christiana Smith African American Alumni Chapter float at the 2021 Homecoming Parade. (Photo Credit: Courtney Bergeron) Story Photo 2 Caption: Attendees of the chapter's Sweet Sounds of Sharing pose for a group photo. (Photo Credit: Brandon Foster)

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