Gonzales woman ranked among Forty under 40 professionals, Two others with Ascension ties also land on list

Leslie D. Rose @Editor_Citizen
Alsie Dunbar

     As part of the Greater Baton Rouge region, Ascension Parish business and community leaders have the opportunity to find themselves among other area top professionals on the acclaimed Forty under 40 list presented by Business Report.

     According to the publication, Forty Under 40 celebrates the best and brightest professionals in the Capital Region. For it’s 2016 class, Ascension Parish has three representatives in Justin Champlin, Gabriel Vicknair and Gonzales native, resident Alsie Dunbar.

     Dunbar, who runs the mentoring program STEM GEMS, possesses dual degrees in  science and engineering, and was most recently employed by Motiva/Shell. She said she believes her being chosen for the 2016 class is due to her innovation and leadership.

     “I have a deep passion for my community,” Dunbar said. “I saw a need for a mentoring program to address the needs of minority female students and introducing them to STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math]. [I] challenged myself to be the change I wanted to see in the community.

     I am actively being a mentor and a role model to young girls and minority students who show academic promise in addition to having an interest in a STEM field of study. I am showing them that you can be anything that you set your mind to.”

     Dunbar said that her life’s mission is to change the perception of what a STEM professional looks like, one child at a time.

     “My STEM GEMS Mentoring Project is doing just that,” she said. “It’s all about investing in our youth as my elders did with me as a child. I was truly blessed to have both parents in my life who set the bar pretty high for me growing up. My mother was an educator and my father was a phenomenal professional athlete. Together they provided me the strong foundation needed to be a pillar in my community.”

     To that end, Dunbar said that she wants to instill in young girls the same principles that that city of Gonzales instilled in her.

     “As the African proverb says, it takes a village to raise a child, that is very much true in these days and times,” she said.

     Justin Champlin is a native of Baton Rouge, but he now belongs to Ascension Parish by way of his work as Chief Deputy at the Ascension Parish Assessor’s office.     

     “It’s an incredible honor to be recognized as one of the Baton Rouge Business Report’s Top Forty Under 40, and plenty humbling and a little intimidating to appear on stage with so many accomplished people, all under 40 and some well under 40,” Champlin said.

     He credited the leadership of Ascension Parish Assessor, Mert Smiley, for his recent success.

     “Whatever I’ve achieved is the product of countless man-hours put in by our team at the Assessor’s Office under the leadership of Louisiana’s best Assessor, Mert Smiley,” he said.

     Rounding off the Ascension Parish trifecta is Gabriel Vicknair – a Galvez native known for his work in growing downtown Baton Rouge, as the assistant executive diretcor of Downtown Development District.

     Vicknair said that while he would like to think his reputation for hard work and results in Downtown Baton Rouge helped him land on the list, it is more likely that his      

success is directly tied to the success of Downtown Baton Rouge.

     “I have worked hard with the Downtown Development District to facilitate the revitalization of downtown through sound planning principles, public space improvements and business development,” Vicknair said.

     He said investors and citizens who support Downtown Baton Rouge are major attributes of his recognition.

     As part of the Forty under 40 honor, each honoree was given a Mercedes GLC to drive for 30 days as a social media contest for charity. The person who posts the most and uses the most hashtags will have $2,500 donated to the charity of their choice. Dunbar, who has been seen all over Ascension Parish in the Mercedes has selected as her charity, Bright Futures Community Learning Center in Donaldsonville.

     “Anything for the kids. So here goes,” she shared in her first social media posting with Mercedes.

     The recipients are also given a plaque commemorating their recognition in the class.