LSU’s Black Male Leadership Initiative Fellows Had Productive Summer Break

09/26/2013 02:00 PM

BATON ROUGE – While many LSU students were relaxing or enjoying a break from classes, several Black Male Leadership Initiative, or BMLI, fellows advanced their academic interests by studying abroad, participating in summer research programs and performing internships.

Biology junior and BMLI Co-Chair Kristian Black, of Shreveport, studied biochemistry lab techniques through the Summer Multicultural Access to Research Training, or SMART, Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The SMART Program aims to improve access to research training for racial groups underrepresented in STEM fields.

While in Boulder, Black balanced his academic studies with participation in outdoor activities, including hiking and whitewater rafting.

“The SMART Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder was a great, well-rounded experience,” said Black. “I feel privileged to have been a part of it.”
Kinesiology junior Ricky Richard, of Lake Charles, studied Spanish abroad in Granada, Spain, where he realized the similarities of people from different cultural backgrounds.

“Everyone I met in Spain was so inviting and friendly, even when they could not understand what I was saying,” said Richard. “I would say it felt a lot like Southern hospitality. It was awesome!”

Biochemistry junior and BMLI Co-Chair Travoll Payne, a native of Jacksonville, Ark., interned at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where he discovered the importance of having a strong support system throughout medical school.

“The medical students I met taught me to not give up; they were determined to reach the goals they set for themselves,” said Payne. “This summer program was easily one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

One fellow had the unique opportunity to learn how he could apply his classroom learning to everyday problems.

As part of the Halliburton Camp Tiger Program, chemical engineering junior Taoheed “Lekan” Kassim, a native of Houston, toured Halliburton Energy Institute’s training facility in Duncan, Okla., where he was able to view Halliburton’s raw chemical, manufacturing and field operations.

“This program helped me put the things that I learn in my curriculum into perspective, ultimately motivating me to continue working hard,” said Kassim.

Though the fellows had different summer experiences, they all said that BMLI helped provide the tools necessary for their success.  

“BMLI helped me gain entrance into the University of Arkansas Medical Services program because of the emphasis that it places on leadership development,” said Payne. “BMLI instills a commitment to success in all of the fellows.”

“We are delighted that our Fellows continue to expand their own horizons by participating in summer research opportunities and other experiences,” said Chaunda Allen, director of the LSU- Black Male Leadership Initiative. “It is a testament to their hard work and their belief in the BMLI principles of academics, leadership and civic engagement. We are very proud of them.”

The BMLI Fellows Program is a retention and leadership development program established by the LSU Office of Equity, Diversity & Community Outreach and the Office of Multicultural Affairs. For more information or to support BMLI, contact Chaunda Allen at 225-578-4339 or Vincent Harris at 225-578-7020, email at or visit the BMLI website at

Billy  Gomila 
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Thursday, September 26, 2013