Baton Rouge is known to have a rich history and at the very heart of it lies one of the nation’s largest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) system, Southern University and A&M College. Founded in 1881, Southern University opened at its first location in New Orleans, with 12 enrollees and the goal to broaden educational opportunities for Black students. Southern University later relocated to its current location at the very site the French explorers discovered Baton Rouge – Scott’s Bluff – on the Mississippi River. Throughout the years, Southern has grown in enrollment and education opportunities, with four-year degree programs, a nursing school and a law school, and continues to shape Baton Rouge and Black history.
Southern University has led in research for many years, but in early 2022, they kicked off the year by being designated a Carnegie R2 institution – the second-highest classification for American research universities. This designation signifies high research activity, and Southern is one of only 10 HBCUs to have reached this distinction. The ultimate measurable outcomes of this classification are that research efforts would result in an increased number of publications in referenced journals, more opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students to participate in research and building nationally reputable academic departments, colleges, schools and centers.
Housed in the oldest building (and what is now a historical landmark) on Southern University’s campus is the Southern University Museum of Art, dedicated to the African American pioneers who fought for artistic freedom. The museum is made up of four galleries – one half dedicated to African art from the main art-producing areas of Africa, such as the Congo, Tanzania and Ethiopia, and the other half dedicated to African American art pieces, including sculptures, paintings and abstract pieces. Here, you can find the work of late Southern University instructor Frank Hayden, the artist responsible for the iconic Red Stick sculpture on campus and Hayden Hall’s namesake. Through these works, SUMA aims to educate the public about the history of Africans and African Americans through the artistic, historical and cultural contributions they have made to the American experience.
In late 2021, Southern University and A&M College announced a strategic plan for campus-wide improvements and development plans aimed at increasing enrollment over the next decade. Projects received guidance from SU staff and administration and will include facility expansion, renovations, repairs and construction, as well as improvements to sidewalks, streets and landscaping. The master plan includes a new student union with event spaces, dining facilities, gathering spaces and a university bookstore; student housing that will add 3,000 on-campus beds to the university; and infrastructure improvements to include pedestrian-optimized streets and two new parking garages.
Accolades & Achievements
Southern University continues to enrich Baton Rouge and the state of Louisiana through many achievements and accolades made by its undergraduate and graduate degrees programs, as well as its extracurriculars. It is the first and only institution in Louisiana to offer degrees in philanthropic studies, and its College of Nursing and Allied Health won Nursing School of the Year in 2021, being the only college in Louisiana to offer a Ph.D. in Nursing. Southern University Law Center is also ranked among U.S. News Best Law Schools. Aside from academics, Southern University is known for its world-class marching band, the Human Jukebox, which has been featured in Presidential inaugurations, music videos and the Rose Parade.
Join us as we celebrate the contributions, culture and tradition of Southern University!