Historical Overview

SUSLA sign

Southern University at Shreveport, a unit of the Southern University System located at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was created by Act 42 of the ordinary session of the Louisiana Legislature on May 11, 1964, and designated a two-year commuter college to serve the Shreveport-Bossier City area. Its basic emphasis was to provide the first two years of typical college and university work.

ACT No. 42


To establish, as a branch or extension of Southern University, a two-year junior commuters college in the Shreveport-Bossier City area and to direct the State Board of Education to determine the location for the college, acquire the necessary land therefore, to erect, equip and furnish necessary buildings for the establishment of the college, and to administer the college.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of Louisiana:

Section 1. There is hereby established, as a branch or extension of Southern University, a two-year junior commuters college which shall be located in the Shreveport-Bossier City area.

Section 2. The State Board of Education shall determine the location for the college, shall acquire the necessary land therefore and shall construct, equip and furnish the buildings necessary therefore.

Section 3. The State Board of Education shall administer the college.

Section 4. If any provision or item of this Act or the application thereof is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions, items or applications of this Act which can be given effect without the invalid provisions, items or application., and to this end the provisions of this Act are hereby declared serverable.

Section 5. All laws or parts of laws in conflict herewith are hereby repealed.


Governor John H. McKeithen signed this Act on June 27,1964, and the Institution was opened for instruction on September 19, 1967. The definitive designation of Southern University at Shreveport as a unit of the Southern University System reflects historical precedence.

On October 28, 1974, the Louisiana Coordinating Council for Higher Education (now Board of Regents) granted to the Institution its approval of six associate degree programs in Business, Office Administration, Natural Sciences, Medical Office Assistant, Social Sciences, and Humanities. The Board's approval resolved any conflict of definition in the historical statement of purpose. Therefore, today, applying the terminology of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Southern University at Shreveport is a unit of the Southern University System, rather than a branch or extension of the Baton Rouge campus.

Furthermore, in 1977, the Board of Regents Master Plan for Higher Education in Louisiana cited. Southern University should begin immediately to plan programs and services of the type appropriate to a comprehensive community college in order to contribute to the future economic development of the greater Shreveport area. Therein, the Institution was charged to expand its one- and two-year offerings in keeping with the manpower needs of the Shreveport area and to cooperate with nearby vocational- technical schools where possible. The Master Plan defined research activities as appropriate to further the role of the Institution as a comprehensive community college, with lower level undergraduate instruction and public service receiving top priority.

By April 1978, Southern University at Shreveport was granted approval to begin awarding the associate degree in Medical Laboratory Technology. With the thrust toward instruction in paraprofessional or occupational education opportunities, the Institution began exploring the nature of the comprehensive community college.

In 1981, the Federal Justice Department mandated that the Southern University System enter into a Consent Decree that led to several major changes for the Institution. When the Consent Decree was ordered on September 8, 1981, inconclusive issues remained concerning post-secondary education in the Caddo-Bossier area. As a result, a panel of experts was appointed to study the situation and by March 15, 1982, all parties involved entered into an Addendum to the Consent Decree (Civil Action No. 80- 3300, Section A of the United States District Court), a move that had tremendous impact on Southern University at Shreveport. Several enhancement procedures were mandated in the addendum by the court, including new administrative positions, the utilization of an assisting agency in developing long-range plans and programs, the creation of a six-year institutional plan, the piloting of off-campus extension sites, and the interchange of students and faculty with Bossier Parish Community College.

For seven years, the Institution participated in this Consent Decree. All activities, as described in the Decree, had to be monitored on a bi-monthly basis through reports submitted to the Louisiana Board of Regents. Southern University at Shreveport complied with every portion of the mandate. The Board of Regents approved fifteen new programs for implementation at the Institution during this time period. Southern University at Shreveport was the only state institution commended for the manner in which its proposals were presented to and defended before the Board of Regents. These new programs helped the Institution to promote its development as a comprehensive community college.

The Consent Decree, in part, involved the acquisition of a satellite campus site, preferably in an area of the city that was amenable and accessible to the diverse multi-cultures served by the Institution. A downtown location was deemed best, primarily because of the large number of business sites and office workers employed in that area. After conducting assessments of the kinds of educational training needs projected by the downtown employee population, the Institution chose to bid on portions of 610 Texas Street in 1987. The Southern University Board of Supervisors, the State Board of Regents, and the Division of Administration approved the bid by October 1987.

Southern University at Shreveport held its first classes at the downtown site, the Metro Center, in Spring, 1988. Specific educational programs are housed at the Metro Center in order to place them in close proximity to the business community. Sections of general education and computer classes are also taught at the Center.

In 1999 for the first time in the history of higher education in the State of Louisiana, a two-year college board was organized.

This board controls all two-year colleges except those under the Southern University and Louisiana State University systems. Because of the unique situation that places Southern University at Shreveport under the Southern University Board of Supervisors, it became necessary to investigate the appropriateness of the assigned name (Southern University at Shreveport-Bossier City). As a result, the Board and other leaders chose to align the name with the pattern of other campus names in the Southern University System. Thus, Southern University thought it feasible to name the Shreveport campus, Southern University at Shreveport, which coincided with Southern University at Baton Rouge and Southern University at New Orleans. This kept the name of the school identifiable in reference to its location, and reinforced when the acronym SUSLA was assigned to the Southern University at Shreveport, Louisiana campus.

Throughout the years, outstanding leadership has guided Southern University at Shreveport. Dr. Walter Austin served as the Institution's first chief executive officer, followed by Dr. Leonard C. Barnes.

Upon the recommendation of President G. Leon Netterville to the State Board of Education, Dr. Barnes was appointed to serve as Vice President of the Shreveport Campus in July 1971. The Board of Supervisors for the Southern University System changed the title of Vice President to Chancellor in March 1977; therefore, Dr. Barnes continued to serve the University as Chancellor until July, 1987. Dr. Robert H. Smith served as the University's third executive officer. Under Dr. Smith's leadership, more than 1,000 students were enrolled during the 1988 spring semester, the largest enrollment in the history of the Institution at that time. Dr. Mary L. Wilson was appointed as the Interim Chancellor in June 1993. She was the first woman chief executive of the University. Dr. Jerome G. Greene, Jr., assumed duties as Chancellor in November, 1993. Under his tenure a General Studies degree program was developed, and a groundbreaking ceremony for a new gymnasium and physical education building was held. Mr. S. Albert Gilliam was appointed Interim Chancellor, August 1998. Dr. James C. Brown assumed the role of Chancellor in May, 1999, and in October, 2000, Dr. Press L. Robinson was appointed Interim Chancellor. In November, 2000 Southern University Board of Supervisors named Dr. Ray L. Belton Chancellor, effective December, 2000. Under Dr. Belton's leadership, an all-time record enrollment of over 2,300 students was reached. Moreover, high school articulations were formed, academic programs were expanded and off-campus sites established.

The Institution currently occupies eleven (11) buildings on 103 acres of land located at 3050 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Northwest Shreveport.

At present the Southern University at Shreveport Metro Center occupies nearly 50% of the 610 Texas Street Office Building, housing computer labs, allied health labs, classrooms, academic and administrative offices, a media productions studio, the Southern University Museum of Art at Shreveport, and a compressed video distance-learning classroom. The building is an example of turn-of-the-century urban commercial architecture and consists of two structures. The six-story red brick building was built in 1919 by the Jacobs family as office space. The adjoining four-story building, known as the Barrett Building, was constructed in 1929 by a Little Rock, Arkansas department store for use as a ladies specialty fashion store. In 1982 the two buildings were combined and renovated to create the existing structure which now contains approximately 70,000 square feet. In 1992, the building was given the DSU Award for Preservation of Historic Architectural Buildings in Downtown Shreveport, Louisiana.

The Aerospace Technology Center, located at the Shreveport Downtown Airport, 1560 Airport Drive, occupies two aircraft hangars with classroom space in the main terminal building. The Downtown Airport was Shreveport's first commercial airport. Delta Airlines flew its initial routes from Dallas, Texas to the Downtown Shreveport Airport in 1929. The airport was officially inaugurated on July 14, 1931. After Shreveport Regional Airport opened in the early 1950s, the Downtown Airport became a general aviation airport serving private pilots, companies and schools based at the airport. The Aerospace Technology Center is housed in the first hangar ever built at the airport.

On June 20, 2002, the Student Activity Center was renamed as the Johnny L. Vance, Jr. Student Activity Center. The building was dedicated to the memory of Johnny Vance (1954 - 2001), an educator and community leader who began his academic career as a SUSLA student and later returned to serve with SUSLA as Counselor, Recruiter, Financial Aid Director, Dean of Students, Student Support Services Director, and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. The Johnny L. Vance Jr. Student Activity Center was the first building to be named after an individual who has contributed to the evolution of the Shreveport Campus.

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