SU Fall 2016 top grad encouraged by parents on journey to SU, and to her dreams


The top graduate for Southern University's Fall 2016 Commencement, Laura Syori, was born in Gitega, Burundi, a small country in East Africa about the size of Maryland.  

Syori, who is graduating magna cum laude, with a bachelor of science in biology from the College of Sciences and Engineering, will lead the 437 SU fall candidates for degrees.

After graduating first in her class in high school, Syori was encouraged by her father Aloys Syori, a specialist in photogrammetry and cartography at the Geographical Institute of Burundi, and her mother Rose Ngendanzi, a registered nurse and nursing instructor at the Paramedical School of Gitega, to pursue higher education.

In addition to her academic achievements in high school, Syori was a talented student-athlete as well. She was recruited by SU head tennis coach Jeffrey Conyers, and in 2012, accepted Southern University's offer to attend with a full scholarship, with her decision to pursue a bachelor of science in biology.

The eldest of four children, the 23-year old says her greatest motivators have always been her parents who "unceasingly supported and encouraged her pursuit of higher education at Southern University and A&M College."

"I truly am very grateful to my parents for all the sacrifices they made for me to get where I am today, to my tennis coach Jeffrey Conyers for giving me the exceptional opportunity to attend Southern University, to each and every one who made my stay at Southern University worth it and memorable, and lastly to my church friends and family in Baton Rouge. I sincerely appreciate all the care, love, and values I have received from them. The journey hasn't been easy but I give all the glory to God because without his grace, I wouldn't have made it this far," said Syori.

Coming from a French-speaking country, this fall's chief student marshal spoke little English when she arrived at SU, and she had to make a rapid transition. Because of her remarkable work ethic, the dedicated student finished her first year with a 4.0 grade point average. Just like any other college student-athlete, Syori had to balance her schoolwork and tennis. During her time at SU, she's had one goal: to be on the Dean's list, which was her parent's greatest wish. True to her ambition, Syori has been on the Dean's List 2013-2014, 2014-2015, and 2015-present.

Like in high school, the dedicated SU student-athlete excelled in her sport here as well. In 2015, Syori was chosen the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) most valuable player in the women's tennis category, was picked SWAC 2014-2015 All-Academic Team, 2014 and 2015 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Scholar-Athlete, NCAA All Academics 2015, and Diverse: Issues in Higher Education's Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar 2015 and 2016,

"Being the 2015 MVP for the SWAC tournament on the women's tennis team was one of my most memorable SU experiences," said Syori.

Her coach and mentor Conyers couldn't be prouder of the scholar-athlete he recruited and guided.

"This is an honor that Laura and myself spoke about after her first semester at Southern. I told her that I knew she had the drive and potential to not only be great on the tennis court, after winning her first of three Southwestern Athletic Conference championships, but also in the classroom. I told her that I wanted her to strive to be the chief student marshal of her graduating class. Coming from a French-speaking country, she taught herself English as a pre-requisite to achieve her 'ultimate' goal," said Conyers.

A focused student and eager to put her knowledge to work, Syori acquired new skills and insight from her participation in summer research programs: Louisiana Biomedical Research Network at Louisiana State University (2015), and "Big Data to Knowledge" at the University of California Santa Cruz (2016).

She also was a tutor at the SU Center for Undergraduate Student Achievement (C-USA) for two years.

Syori's plans after graduation include attending graduate school and majoring in biomedical engineering.

Southern University Baton Rouge will hold its fall commencement exercises, Friday, December 16, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

Xernona Clayton, a civil rights leader and pioneering broadcasting executive best known as the founder and CEO of the Trumpet Awards, will be the guest speaker.


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