Northwestern State University’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity, was named for an individual whose life and career has focused on support and advocacy for minority and marginalized populations. A dedication ceremony took place April 19 honoring Gail Metoyer Jones, with a capacity crowd that included many former students, family, friends, faculty, staff and administrators from NSU and the Natchitoches community.
“Here at NSU, we understand the value of inclusion and equity work,” said NSU President Dr. Marcus Jones, who Gail Jones recruited to attend NSU. “Mrs. Jones has an exemplary record of community involvement, including years of service to NSU and the greater Natchitoches community. She is a true role model or all of us.”
Mrs. Jones, whose name was selected by students for NSU’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity, thanked the NSU presidents she served with, Dr. Robert Alost, Dr. Randall Webb and Dr. Chris Maggio.
“I didn’t get here all by myself. I have my family, students, trusted faculty and staff, presidents that believed in me, who saw something in Gail Jones,” she said.
The Gail Metoyer Jones Center for Inclusion and Diversity is located on the second floor of the Friedman Student Union. Brittany Broussard has served as the center’s director since 2016 when former NSU President Dr. Jim Henderson tasked a committee of students, faculty and staff to create a diversity center on campus.
“Dr. Henderson’s desire was to advance an inclusive campus culture at Northwestern,” Broussard said. “Through this committee, the Center for Inclusion and Diversity was established with the following mission: to promote a welcoming environment for all Demons. We are committed to combating prejudice and advocating for all minority and marginalized populations. We exist to give space and voice to everyone, including but not limited to all races, all religions, to the GLBTQ community and to the disabled community.”
Broussard added that the CID is not just for NSU students and faculty. Much of the Center’s programming is open to the community.
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Greg Handel said NSU embraces diversity and the important work of the Center’s mission.
“I’m thrilled we are continuing this important work and assure all of you that diversity is embraced in our classrooms,” Handel said. “We utilize it in our conversations and our dialogue that we have with our students.”
“Today we pay homage to Gail Jones, a trailblazer who has dedicated her life’s work to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion at NSU. Her tireless efforts have paved the way for many underrepresented communities on our campus, creating a safe space where everyone feel welcome and valued,” said Student Government Association President Bailey Willis of Opelousas. “The center will continue her legacy by providing resources that support diversity awareness programs while offering services that encourage cross-cultural exchange.”
NSU Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity Dr. Michael Snowden presented Mrs. Jones with a plaque that reads “Presented to Gail Metoyer Jones to symbolize the culmination of your presence on this campus by serving as an advocate for students at Northwestern State University. The Gail Metoyer Jones Center for Inclusion and Diversity will forever stand as a lasting safe haven with students, a place they can readily identify with and call their own.”
A key imprinted on the plaque symbolizes the numerous doors opened by Mrs. Jones throughout her career and providing access and opportunities to countless students, helping them unlock their full potential, Snowden said.
Mrs. Jones was inducted into the NSU Alumni Hall of Distinction, the Long Purple Line last October. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s in student personnel services from Northwestern State. Jones worked 15 years at NSU initially as an admission counselor and recruiter and served as counselor with the first Louisiana Scholars College class. She moved into the position as director of TRIO: Student Support Services and Retention Coordinator, Freshman Connection and New Student Programs.
In 1998, Jones became chief professional officer of Boys and Girls Club of Natchitoches, obtaining more than $1 million in funding from local, state and regional agencies and foundations to establish and enhance programming for local youth and families. In 2000, she was named J. Richard Ullom Rookie of the Year for Professional Excellence by the Boys and Girls of America at the Regional Conference. She served on local, state and regional boards and committees.
In 2005, she accepted a position with Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office as a grant writer and community outreach coordinator. That evolved into the establishment of a Community Services Division and Jones served as division chief. Over eight years the Division was successful in targeting the needs of youth and families through programs that helped the people of Natchitoches Parish.
Jones is a member of NSU Alumni Association, board member, emeritus, and has served on the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, chaired the Children and Youth Planning Board, Organizing Member-Vice Regent for Daughters of the American Revolution, member of the St. Augustine Historical Society, and vice president of the Association for Preservation of Historic Natchitoches.