Grambling State Alumnus Says GSU Faculty and Staff Made a Difference in His Life, Career Path

GRAMBLING– When Ryan Burrell came to Grambling State University (GSU) in2016, he thought he knew what he wanted to study. But advice from GSU educators completely changed the trajectory of his career path and he’s glad he had such caring educators.

“I first planned to major in kinesiology,” Burrell said. “However, during orientation back in the summer of 2016, Dr. (Danny) Hubbard convinced me to major in math and physics since I’d always been good at math. Looking back on it, I’m very happy about that decision as it’s opened plenty of doors for me.”

Burrell, who is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, graduated from Grambling State in spring 2021. He is currently an intern at LSU Health Shreveport, working in business intelligence. In September, he will start a new job as a support analyst at Citibank.

Looking back, Burrell admits that he wasn’t doing his best when he first started college.

“I wasn’t applying myself the way I should until Dr. (Parashu) Sharma, who was my Calculus 2 professor at the time, spoke to me,” he said. “This was very important to me. I think every student needs that teacher to let them know that they believe in them. It stuck with me and still does to this day.”

That type of support and advice continued in fall 2019 when Dr. Babu Kaji Baniya, a computer science professor, suggested that Burrell add computer science as a minor.

“I didn’t want to bother with it at first but I thought about it and figured that computer science would complement my math skill pretty well,” he said. “So, I decided to do it even though it would add at least another semester to (the time until) graduation.”

Still, Burrell said he’s happy he made the decision. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

When the university moved classes online, he went back home and assisted with the care of his 88-year-old grandmother who had dementia.

Online classes were a bit of a struggle for me so I decided to go back to Grambling for spring 2021 which would be the last semester I had,” he said. “Classes went a bit more smoothly since I was on campus with fewer distractions. But, unfortunately, only 20 days before I was set to graduate college, my grandmother died.”

Burrell was devastated. His grandmother passed just six days before her 89th birthday.

“We held her funeral five days before my graduation,” he said. “After she died, I had to still finish. It was literally the last 100 meters of a marathon.”

If there’s one life lesson that he has learned, it’s that hard times aren’t everlasting, Burrell said, adding that sharing his story is his way of reaching back to help a student or future student at Grambling.

“One of the amazing things about Grambling that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else is an abundance of faculty and staff who care about the well-being of students on an individual level.” he said, adding that while he may not have mentioned all of them, “you know who you are and I want to thank all of you.”

Burrell found the internship opportunity at LSU Health Shreveport through the guidance and support of Kellye Blackburn, director of Career Services at Grambling State University.

“GSU Career Services provides comprehensive career development services, and we connect GSU students and alumni with valuable, relevant internship and full-time employment opportunities,” Blackburn said.

A certified career coach, she provided career counseling to Burrell, helped him update his resume, and helped him practice his interview skills with a mock interview. In addition, Blackburn forwarded Burrell’s resume to her network of employment recruiters, which helped him obtain his internship and ultimately led to him receiving a full-time job offer at Citibank.

“I am passionate about helping GSU students and alumni find and succeed in their dream job or internship,” Blackburn said.

For more information, contact GSU Career Services at

About Grambling State University
Grambling State University, located in Grambling, Louisiana, is a historically black university founded in 1901. The University has been accredited by 13 accrediting associations and holds accreditations in all programs required by the Louisiana Board of Regents. The 590-acre campus offers 43 undergraduate and graduate academic programs. Grambling State University is a member of the University of Louisiana System.

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