Enrollment Growth Continues

This fall Southeastern has achieved a solid increase in enrollment across both undergraduate and graduate students, reaching its highest number of students in three years. Undergraduate enrollment rose by 1.5 percent, while graduate enrollment experienced an increase of .7 percent.

“We are pleased to see an increase in fall enrollment this year,” said Chief Enrollment Management Officer Kay Maurin. “In the midst of peak enrollment and recruiting season this past spring, the university switched to an online environment. As a result, recruiting, advising, new student orientation, financial aid counseling and many other functions that impact enrollment also shifted to the online environment. I believe we were successful because we created a seamless transition to that environment for current and future students and continued to offer a top notch educational experience rooted in our core values of excellence and caring.”

With an overall enrollment of 14,461, an increase of 1.4 percent, Southeastern experienced growth in several categories. Southeastern’s commitment to adult education yielded a 15.2 percent increase in enrollment of new graduate students. Enrollment of students from Southeastern’s top three feeder parishes of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Livingston increased by 2.3 percent.

“Our recruitment strategy is to remain mission centered. As such, our recruitment efforts focused on providing outstanding educational experiences for students on the Northshore and in the Southeast Louisiana parishes,” Maurin said.

Southeastern currently offers over 150 programs of study including many that are regionally and nationally ranked.

Support and Success Continues for Post-Secondary Inclusive Education Alliance

Southeastern has been awarded additional funding to expand an alliance of universities and colleges across the state that provides inclusive education opportunities for students with developmental disabilities, such as its Lions Connected program. Created by Associate Professor of Education and Director of Lions Connected Gerlinde Beckers, Louisiana Post-Secondary Inclusive Education was awarded $40,000 from the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council. Beckers received $40,000 last year to create the program.

“LA-PIE gives Southeastern the opportunity to assist other Universities in the state to establish inclusive post-secondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities, and it also gives us the opportunity to showcase our Lions Connected program,” Beckers said.

Dean of the College of Education Paula Summers Calderon said circumstances surrounding COVID-19 allowed Lions Connected to shine as a leader in the field of post-secondary inclusion.

“When schools and universities shifted to remote instruction in March, Dr. Gerlinde Beckers, Mr. Jim Zimlich, and the Lions Connected student mentors continued to provide quality instruction and support for our Lions Connected students. Teaching life skills in a virtual environment has it challenges. Have you ever tried to teach someone to tie shoes through Google Meet or Zoom?” Calderon asked. “The experience in spring 2020 has proven that our Lions Connected program is the example for other programs to follow. Southeastern and Lions Connected are in prime position to assist other programs in the state as they create and grow their post-secondary inclusion programs.”

In its first year, LA-PIE has developed a website that Southeastern hosts. The site features in depth information on the existing post-secondary programs. Beckers said that they also developed and currently maintain a LA-PIE Facebook that can quickly disseminate information.

Over the past year, the group discovered that only three of the four-year universities in Louisiana have inclusive post-secondary programs, but all three programs are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. Conversely, only three of the 36 community, vocational, technical, or community colleges have inclusive post-secondary programs, and only one is accredited.

Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, Beckers said they disseminated information at several state conferences and hosted a town hall meeting on the Bossier City Community College campus in March with the hope to facilitate more programs in the northern part of the state. Currently, the majority of the programs are in the southern part of the state, Beckers said.

“As a result of our town hall meeting, we have worked diligently with Grambling State University and Louisiana State University – Alexandria in providing technical assistance as they develop their programs and funding sources,” she said.

Moving forward, Beckers said LA-PIE would continue to work to increase inclusive post-secondary programs in Louisiana through mentoring and technical assistance.

“Although we have transitioned to virtual, our goals and desires to improve the post-secondary outcomes for individuals with disabilities have not changed,” said Beckers.

For more information on LA-PIE, contact Beckers at gerlinde.beckers@southeastern.edu.

Recipient of Healthy Communities Grant

Southeastern has been selected as a recipient of the Healthy Communities Grant by Keep Louisiana Beautiful, the State’s premier anti-litter and community improvement organization.

This year’s grant, in the amount of $8,000, will support Southeastern’s reduce, reuse, recycle initiatives with the addition of four refillable water stations and 1,900 reusable water bottles given to students. In 2019, Southeastern’s Sustainability Center launched the campaign “I Choose to Reuse,” giving away water bottles with bookmarks on “how to green your day.” The campaign encourages students to reuse the refillable water station across campus and continues through Keep Louisiana Beautiful’s Healthy Communities Grant.

As the recipient of this grant, Southeastern’s sustainability team is excited to further its sustainable impact within its region.

“These fountains will help promote sustainability and sustainable action from students on campus, as well as visitors,” said Southeastern Sustainability Manager Alejandro Martinez. “This method positively impacts the recycling program and reduces unsightly litter by reducing labor needs and beautifying our campus.”

Martinez is excited for Southeastern to be the recipient of this grant.

“Southeastern has already reduced over 300,000 bottles from going to the landfill, and we know it is just the beginning,” he said. “Besides, this grant will help us to provide reusable water bottles to our students, faculty, and staff. These filling stations have already made a huge impact on plastic bottle reduction and a great impression with everyone using refillable bottles.”

Martinez said Southeastern is committed to conserving resources and reducing the impact they have on the environment and making the campus greener by encouraging recycling on campus and using alternative fuel and energy sources such as geothermal and solar.

Keep Louisiana Beautiful, Inc. is the state’s anti-litter and community improvement organization focused on education, enforcement, awareness and cleanups. Affiliated with Keep America Beautiful, the Keep Louisiana Beautiful mission is to promote personal, corporate and community responsibility for a clean and beautiful Louisiana. With a network of 40 affiliates in communities throughout the state, over 172,609 volunteers work toward a clean and beautiful Louisiana.

Southeastern Sustainability Manager Alejandro Martinez hands out reusable water bottles to students.

Southeastern Professor Receives Fulbright Scholar Grant to Research Sea Turtles in Spain

Southeastern Professor of Biology Roldán Valverde has been named a Fulbright Scholar, which will allow him to perform research and undergraduate level teaching in Spain next year.

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Scholar Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and allows American scholars and professionals to lecture and research in a wide range of fields.

“Dr. Valverde has dedicated his professional life to the study of sea turtles,” said Dean of the College of Science and Technology Daniel McCarthy. “Not only is he an internationally renowned scholar for his scientific work, but he is also well known for his dedication to sea turtle conservation. He already serves as the scientific director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, so it is no surprise that Dr. Valverde received this prestigious award.”

A specialist in the reproductive and stress endocrinology of sea turtles, as well as the nesting ecology of sea turtles, Valverde will be working at the Universidad de Las Palmas de La Gran Canaria (ULPGC) in Spain. He will teach a class in Marine Ecology, a third year course in the undergraduate curriculum at ULPGC, and he is looking forward to the new experiences the grant will afford him.

“Taking part in this highly valuable opportunity will provide me with the energy and inspiration I need to develop new courses here in the U.S., such as marine biology, a course I think is going to be a hit, especially now that the oceans are in peril due to human activities,” Valverde said. “While at ULPGC, I am teaching a course in marine ecology. Marine biology and marine ecology share similar topics, and the latter can be very instrumental in the development of a course in marine biology in my department.”

As part of the grant, Valverde will also give four, one-hour seminars about his research specialty, an opportunity he welcomes to present his long-term research projects to students and colleagues alike.

“The presentation topics are ‘The Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles,’ ‘The Role of Vitellogenin in the Reproductive Physiology of Sea Turtles,’ ‘The Reproductive Ecology of Sea Turtles,’ and ‘The Evolution of Structure and Function of the Endocrine Stress Response.’”

While in Spain, Valverde will instruct students and colleagues on how to run testosterone and estrogen assays (the chemical analysis of a substance) to sex juvenile sea turtles. He will also instruct them on how to run the vitellogenin (the serum phospholipoglycoprotein precursor to egg yolk) assay.

“I developed this assay in my lab, and it is currently the only functional vitellogenin assay that has been used to measure this protein in wild sea turtle populations,” he said. “The implementation of this assay in Spain will help support studies of the reproductive physiology of sea turtles in that region of the world.”

In addition to his normal teaching duties, research, and serving as the scientific director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Valverde also collaborates with departmental colleagues to teach study abroad courses in Costa Rica. At the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Valverde’s mission is to oversee the scientific programs with emphasis on the biological stations in Tortuguero, Costa Rica and in the Bocas del Toro region in Panama.

“As a professor and as scientific director, my students and colleagues take advantage of the collaborative experiences and opportunities that I make available to them, which has helped me create a rich personal network to promote the advancement of our knowledge of sea turtle biology and conservation,” he said.

The Columbia Theatre Has Reopened With New Safety Measures

Southeastern’s historic Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts reopened on Saturday, October 3, with a new season and new safety measures in place. Columbia Theatre Artistic Director Jim Winter wants patrons to know they take their safety very seriously.

“No activity is 100 percent safe, but we are committed to providing you with the safest possible theatergoing experience,” he said. “We have installed bipolar ionization air filtration units throughout the building. We will also thoroughly sanitize the entire facility in between all shows and events and have implemented reduced capacity seating to allow for proper social distancing.”

Current state mandates require patrons and employees to wear masks at all times while inside the venue, Winter said. Entering and exiting the building have also been taken under consideration.

“The Hainkel Auditorium of Columbia Theatre features seven points of entry and exit for patrons and two stairways leading to and from the third floor loge and balcony seating,” Winter added. “The elevator will be limited to two people at a time, and Columbia ushers and staff members will be on hand to help patrons find the quickest and safest entry and exit points.”

Additionally, a plexiglass barrier has been placed at the box office so patrons can safely purchase tickets in person. Box office hours are Monday–Friday between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets can also be purchased online or by phone at 985.543.4371.

Workshop

Register today for a free certification workshop in Amazon Web Services (AWS)  Cloud Computing: Machine Learning – Specialty, sponsored by the College of Science and Technology and open to all Southeastern alumni. Sessions begin October 18, 2020.

Format:  24/7 asynchronous online instruction and scheduled live instructor-led support.  The workshop is three weeks in length and begins on October 18, 2020.

Workshop Description:  This intermediate-level workshop is designed for IT professionals seeking to add machine learning to their knowledge base and skill sets.  The workshop also prepares participants for the certification exam for AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty.

Topics include:  

  • Machine Learning (ML) on AWS
  • Learn how to apply ML 
  • Mapping to ML
  • Deep learning for foundational areas

Pre-requisites:  Python or other scripting language experience

Estimated time commitment:  20 – 40 hours

Pre-registration required:  Seating is limited.  Registration closes at 5:00 pm on Thursday, October 15, 2020.  Registrants gain portal access on Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 9:00 am.

Register here or contact us at WTI@southeastern.edu for more information.

A Hanging Question: What is the Link Between Bats and COVID-19

For Southeastern Magazine’s Spring 2020 issue, we sat down with Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Dr. Teague O’Mara to discuss his extensive research on bats—including their movements and impacts on ecosystems and people. Since that short time ago, the rapid rise of the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of questions and concerns over the potential link between the virus’s origins and these small flying mammals.
To address this, we asked O’Mara to explain from a scientific standpoint the real connection between bats and COVID-19.

bats

While there are a lot of uncertainties about COVID-19, the origin of this virus is commonly thought to be from bats. But is this necessarily true?

At the outset of this current pandemic, scientists were able to quickly and effectively sequence the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Thanks to broad efforts by the One Health Institute, the CDC, WHO, and others that have tried to document different types of viruses across the world, we’ve found the most closely related virus. This virus was isolated from an insect-feeding horseshoe bat and
called RaTG13.

These two viruses separated from each other approximately 50 years ago. This means that despite its recent outbreak, SARS-CoV-2 didn’t appear overnight; it has been spending time in another species since it left bats and before it infected humans.

SARS-CoV-2 didn’t jump directly from bats to humans, but we don’t know what the intermediate host is yet. It is curious that the spike protein that lets the virus enter human cells is much more similar to a coronavirus from a Malayan pangolin (a relative of the armadillo and anteaters) than any other bat virus, even though the entire SARS-CoV-2 genome is more similar to the bat virus. So, the origin of COVID-19 is still under active investigation.

But why are the new viruses that seem to have massive effects on humans so closely associated with bats? Recent work has shown that bats don’t necessarily harbor more viruses than other animals. There are over 1,400 species of bats (25 percent of all mammals), and the number of viruses any group of mammals has is proportional to the number of species in that group.

Bats are often linked (sometimes very weakly) to outbreaks of new infections. This is likely because bats have supercharged immune systems. They are able to master a wide range of infections, largely due to their ability to minimize their inflammatory response and seek and destroy DNA damaging free radicals in a way that no dose of antioxidant foods could even come close to handling. This makes understanding their immune systems and inflammatory control incredibly interesting to try and harness the molecular mechanisms they’ve come by naturally for our own health. It is also why we find antibodies that show bat immune systems have seen the virus, but there are no actual active viruses. Viruses that find their way into bat species and do manage to make a living must compensate for this incredible immune system.

Occasionally when a virus manages to escape from bats into an intermediate host, amplify and mutate, and then come in contact with humans, these zoonotic infections can be dramatic because we have not had a long evolutionary history with the virus. Measles, which had its origins in a cow virus, is one such virus that is well known.

Regardless of which animal species a zoonotic virus comes from, when viruses jump from animals to humans it’s almost always because of humans encroaching on them, not because they have invaded our space. Bats control our pest insects, pollinate the plants that give us tequila, and disperse seeds across the landscape—all for free. The incredible adaptations of their immune systems might also give us answers to longer, healthier lives. But to allow all of this to happen, it is important that we take care in how we treat them and provide them with enough space to do their work.

By Dr. Teague O’Mara

Student Reporters Honored in the Louisiana Press Association Better Newspaper Competition

The student staff of The Lion’s Roar, Southeastern Louisiana University’s student-run newspaper, garnered six awards in June from the Louisiana Press Association’s Better Newspaper Competition. Awards are presented annually during the LPA annual convention, but due to the current global health crisis, the organization decided to cancel the awards presentation this year.

The Lion’s Roar staff received awards for Best Overall Website and General Excellence, placing second in both categories. Thirty-nine LPA member publications, including college and university student newspapers, submitted 1,138 entries judged by the Nebraska Press Association.

Individual staff members receiving recognition include Symiah Dorsey, a communication sophomore from La Place, and Maiah Woodring, a biological science junior from Albany. Dorsey placed second in the Best Single Editorial category for her piece titled “Dorm residents need community kitchens,” while Woodring received a third place prize in the same category for her piece titled “Living without a phone, my life hack.”
 
“Being a student journalist is a gift that continues to give. There is not a single story I have written that I have not gained new knowledge or perspective from, and that is the beauty of being a reporter,” said Dorsey. “Being a part of The Lion’s Roar family is a blessing. Together, we create a platform that calls for greater tolerance and a deeper understanding of people in our community. Upon rereading my editorial on community kitchens, I realize how much I have grown. There is nothing I want more now than to continue growing while I challenge myself. Each story is a chance to become a better voice for those around me.”
 
“It is a great honor for The Lion’s Roar newspaper to receive these awards from the Louisiana Press Association,” said Editor in Chief of The Lion’s Roar Prakriti Adhikari, a senior accounting major from Hammond. “We have a team of dedicated staff who strive to do their job in the best way possible, and receiving these awards shows that working hard is always worth it. I am very proud of the entire staff for the recognition of our hard work and dedication.”

Adhikari acknowledged The Lion’s Roar and its shift to remote work during the latter months of the spring 2020 semester and the summer 2020 term. The dedicated staff continued to offer news and information to the Southeastern community, she said.

“This is a moment for all of us to be very proud,” Adhikari continued. “Despite going through a challenging time last semester after shifting to remote work, we were able to produce our weekly content. We are being rewarded for the quality content we have been able to produce. These awards are further proof that when we come together as a group and help each other succeed, we can achieve a lot.”

Other awards received by The Lion’s Roar were first place in the Best Sports Photo category, awarded to former staff reporter Hailey Bullock of Albany, and second place in the Best Front Page category awarded to Annie Goodman of Denham Springs, former editor in chief of The Lion’s Roar.

“Our talented student editors and reporters serve our campus community in innumerable ways,” said Dr. Lee E. Lind, director of Student Publications. “I’m so very proud of the well-deserved recognition they have earned.”

Readers can access content produced by student staff reporters through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @lionsroarnews, issuu.com, and via the newspaper’s website, lionsroarnews.com.

Southeastern Professor Awarded Fulbright Scholar Grant

Southeastern Professor of Biology Roldán Valverde has been named a Fulbright Scholar, which will allow him to perform research and undergraduate level teaching in Spain next year.

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Scholar Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and allows American scholars and professionals to lecture and research in a wide range of fields.

“Dr. Valverde has dedicated his professional life to the study of sea turtles,” said Dean of the College of Science and Technology Daniel McCarthy. “Not only is he an internationally renowned scholar for his scientific work, but he is also well known for his dedication to sea turtle conservation. He already serves as the scientific director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, so it is no surprise that Dr. Valverde received this prestigious award.”

A specialist in the reproductive and stress endocrinology of sea turtles, as well as the nesting ecology of sea turtles, Valverde will be working at the Universidad de Las Palmas de La Gran Canaria in Spain. He will teach a class in Marine Ecology, a third year course in the undergraduate curriculum at ULPGC, and he is looking forward to the new experiences the grant will afford him.

“Taking part in this highly valuable opportunity will provide me with the energy and inspiration I need to develop new courses here in the U.S., such as marine biology, a course I think is going to be a hit, especially now that the oceans are in peril due to human activities,” Valverde said. “While at ULPGC, I am teaching a course in marine ecology. Marine biology and marine ecology share similar topics, and the latter can be very instrumental in the development of a course in marine biology in my department.”

As part of the grant, Valverde will also give four, one-hour seminars about his research specialty, an opportunity he welcomes to present his long-term research projects to students and colleagues alike.

“The presentation topics are ‘The Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles,’ ‘The Role of Vitellogenin in the Reproductive Physiology of Sea Turtles,’ ‘The Reproductive Ecology of Sea Turtles,’ and ‘The Evolution of Structure and Function of the Endocrine Stress Response.’”

While in Spain, Valverde will instruct students and colleagues on how to run testosterone and estrogen assays (the chemical analysis of a substance) to sex juvenile sea turtles. He will also instruct them on how to run the vitellogenin (the serum phospholipoglycoprotein precursor to egg yolk) assay.

“I developed this assay in my lab, and it is currently the only functional vitellogenin assay that has been used to measure this protein in wild sea turtle populations,” he said. “The implementation of this assay in Spain will help support studies of the reproductive physiology of sea turtles in that region of the world.”

In addition to his normal teaching duties, research, and serving as the scientific director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Valverde also collaborates with departmental colleagues to teach study abroad courses in Costa Rica. At the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Valverde’s mission is to oversee the scientific programs with emphasis on the biological stations in Tortuguero, Costa Rica and in the Bocas del Toro region in Panama.

“As a professor and as scientific director, my students and colleagues take advantage of the collaborative experiences and opportunities that I make available to them, which has helped me create a rich personal network to promote the advancement of our knowledge of sea turtle biology and conservation,” he said.

Latin American Initiative Aids Relief Efforts for Families in Need

The Hispanic community has been one of the most impacted by COVID-19, not only with health issues but also by unemployment—and consequently basic needs such as lack of food for their families.

Southeastern’s Latin American Initiative, led by College of Business Instructor Dr. Aristides Baraya in alliance with the Killian First Baptist Church Food Pantry, has come to the rescue, providing basic food for multiple Hispanic families.

More than 75 people have benefited so far from this initiative that will continue to support Hispanic families in need and with limited financial resources.

“In these difficult times, serving and giving needed help to the Hispanic community is a great pleasure. Hispanics require everyone’s help and support,” said Killian First Baptist Church Food Pantry’s David Crowell.

“We are pleased that we have been able to develop these alliances that have enabled us to expand our community services for Hispanic people in our Parish,” Baraya explained.
According to Pew Research Center, Louisiana is home to approximately 222,000 people who identify as Hispanic. The Latino and the Hispanic community is one of the fastest-growing segments in America this decade.

The Latin American Business Development Initiative at Southeastern Louisiana University is dedicated to advancing global education among the University’s students and the Latin American population, supporting the American Hispanic community in the United States and developing closer international relations between Louisiana and Latin American countries.

Top image, from left: Monica Monarrez; Veronica Hernandez, Hispanics Family Group; David Crowell, Killian First Baptist Church; and Dr. Aristides Baraya, director of Southeastern’s Latin American Initiative.