Xavier University in Louisiana will use a $2.5 million grant to transform a noted residence hall on the campus into a STEM center that will focus on science, technology, engineering, and math.
St. Michaels Residence Hall will house an advisement center for students entering health professions, including medicine, research, and laboratory sciences, and a tutoring center, according to NOLA.com.
St. Michaels was once a safe haven for the Freedom Riders as they rode buses around the South, challenging segregation.
“As we come back many years from now, this building, which housed the Freedom Riders, will also be the place that will house the … future health professionals who will be taking care of people like me, and many in this community, and also will be a beacon for young people,” said Xavier University President, Reynold Verret.
The 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides was last year. Greyhound restored a bus to mark the event. The bus was enshrined at Montgomery’s Alabama Historical Commission’s Freedom Rides Museum.
U.S. Rep. Troy Carter presented the university with an oversized check noting that the STEM Center “will give the opportunity to further develop our young minds in those areas of the hard sciences.”
Xavier reportedly sends more Black students to medical school than nearly any other college or university in the nation. One Xavier student, Noah Williams, who is headed to dental school, spoke at a press event where he said that having a dedicated advising center for pre-health students is important.
“This effort may not diminish every hurdle that we face as minorities within the field of medicine and healthcare, but it will continue to strengthen and support and encourage future Xavier students to become doctors, nurses, dentists, engineers, and researchers that we need to make this world a better place.”
Verret added that the center “will allow us to increase our capacity to bring in more practitioners of color into professions where, as we know, the representation … is important both for trust and for relieving the health disparities that exist in our country.”
The funding is part of general appropriation dollars from the state, which make up the Community Funding Project, a $17.5 million government package that will fund seven other projects in the New Orleans area. The projects aim to provide mental health services and public health research and will make upgrades to local parks.
Xavier is the nation’s only Black and Catholic University with only 3,300 students. According to its website, its College of Pharmacy is also among the top producers of African American pharmacists.