Southern Storytelling: Tim Gautreaux’s “Signals”

Southeastern Professor Emeritus / Writer-in-Residence Tim Gautreaux’s latest offering, Signals: New and Selected Stories, collects twelve new short stories alongside nine others from his previous two collections, Same Place, Same Things and Welding with Children, resulting in a nice sample of the author’s rich and unique oeuvre of Southern storytelling. It is a great starting place for newly introduced readers and a fine summation for old fans of Gautreaux’s work.

pubshot2Tim Gautreaux

Like most of his fiction, the bulk of these stories deals with failed relationships, the trials of old age, matters of faith and morality, and the blue-collar Cajun culture of Southwestern Louisiana. They are stories that are peopled with lonely and sometimes bitter men and women who live to fix things, but who also work to take them apart. Gautreaux is able to warmly infuse humor and wit so that his stories are never down-and-out depressing, thus comfortably eschewing the modern inclination toward nihilism and gimmicky structure and plot.

It is clear after reading these stories that Gautreaux, like one of his characters, would find “it hard to believe that anything on earth was empty,” thus reinforcing the idea of how important telling stories—sending out “signals”—is to the world and for posterity.  These stories are further able to provide a sort of moral guidepost without ever being overly didactic or preachy.

But much like Mark Twain, Gautreaux is at his best when he uses figurative language to convey not only humor, but a resounding message as well. In “Radio Magic,” for example, when the protagonist Cliff takes up painting in order to try to become “famous,” Gautreaux comments on his character’s failed attempts at painting nudes, saying they “looked like white cattle that had grazed too long on a nuclear test site.”

The deeper message of this story, though, is one that also resonates in a very unified and satisfying way throughout the entire collection, and that is the myriad ways in which we attempt to communicate with one another; and “how the sounds we make never really stop, and [how] all of us are famous but just don’t know it yet.”

The author here is able to weave this theme of communication throughout the majority of his stories. It is the idea of “signals” and the messages one sends out to the world, often never knowing who’s retrieving those messages—or if anyone’s retrieving them at all. In “The Furnace Man’s Lament,” for example, Gautreaux’s narrator poses the question: “Where does someone who’s totally disconnected go to connect?”

In perhaps the most satisfying story of the lot, the answer to that question is an online marketplace where disgruntled customers go to review products they don’t like. This is a surprisingly different tale for Gautreaux called “The Review,” in which an aspiring novelist tracks down the person who gave his first novel a one-star review on Amazon.com. Usually stories that are about writing and writers are hard to pull off without them feeling insular or trite, but Gautreaux brings the reader to near-tears with the surprising revelation in this one.

Gautreaux is also a writer who very clearly “like[s] symbols, [sees] the meanings in objects.” A radio, a mysterious sewing machine, an antique toy collection, a pair of old pilot’s wings, each offering a window into their owners’ souls. Yet as one character laments, “It’s all crap if you don’t know anything about it.”

But Gautreaux does know about these things, and he knows them well. And his job here seems to be to tell the reader about them, about the “importance of objects.” For “it [is] all about connections.” Both literal and figurative. And that’s just what these stories do. They serve as conduits for the reader to connect with Gautreaux’s often down-and-out characters, folks about whom the author writes with compassion, clarity, and warmth.

Signals is a collection that reaches beyond the South, stretching Gautreaux’s “own little postage stamp of native soil” to include stories that span the geography of North America—from Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Canada, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia—in order for him to communicate the vital necessity for art, for conversation, for preserving one’s history through the things one collects and then leaves behind, the earthly work one undertakes. This collection of stories becomes, for its readers, “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,” and it serves as a beacon of light and hope, a reminder of the importance of the finely honed and well-crafted tale.

By David Armand
This review, in modified form, was originally published in the New York Journal of Books.

Golf, Philosophy, and Mary Seacole: Black History Month Lecture Series Tees Off February 12

The Department of History and Political Science at Southeastern Louisiana University will hold a lecture series in February in honor of Black History Month. All the lectures are free and open to the public.

Scheduled for Feb. 12, at 11 a.m., the first lecture titled “Obstruction: African American Golfers and Southern Resistance in the Twilight of Jim Crow” will be given by Chad Duffaut in the Student Union Theatre.

“One of the most underappreciated narratives of the Civil Rights movement involves the sport of golf and the fight for equal access to proper facilities,” said Department Head of History and Political Science Bill Robison. “To African American golfers, this fight represented an opportunity to take the next step in changing a broken system and erasing the cruel and unjust life of Jim Crow.”

Next on the schedule is a lecture by Peter Gratton on Feb. 20 titled “African Philosophy: Past and Future.” Scheduled at 11 a.m., the lecture will take place in Pottle Music Auditorium.

“For too long Africans were thought not to have cultural beliefs or even simply ‘tribal religions,’” said Robison. “This talk demonstrates quickly just how false (and racist) this view is. First, Dr. Gratton quickly reviews the major trends in African philosophy, then discusses where the future of this set of philosophical traditions appears to be heading.”

The final lecture in the series is scheduled for Feb. 26, at 11 a.m., in the Student Union Theatre. Samantha Cavell will deliver a lecture titled “Mary Seacole: Breaking all Boundaries in the Victorian Age.”

“For more than a century the story of Mary Seacole, a Jamaican nurse who aided thousands of British soldiers on the front lines of the Crimean War, was lost in the long shadows cast by her rival, Florence Nightingale,” Robinson explained. “But Mary Seacole’s remarkable journey from traditional healer and specialist in tropical medicine to beloved ‘mother’ of the troops at Sevastopol stands as tribute to her steadfast belief in herself and her mission, and her iron will to overcome all obstacles, especially those of gender, race, and cultural bigotry.”

For additional information about Southeastern’s Black History Month lecture series, contact Robison at 985.549.2413 or wrobison@southeastern.edu.

Endless Innovation: New High-Tech Computer Lab Now Open

Above Image: Cutting the ribbon are, from left, Southeastern President John L. Crain and Envoc CEO Calvin Fabre

Students at Southeastern Louisiana University will soon benefit from a high-tech computer lab thanks to a generous donation from Envoc, a web and mobile software design, development, and application-hosting firm based in Baton Rouge, with a second location in Hammond.

Pending University of Louisiana System Board approval, the new space will be named the Envoc Innovation Lab. It is located in the newly constructed Computer Science and Technology Building on Southeastern’s campus.

After years of integrated teaching and mentorship in college classrooms, Envoc is investing in a more permanent involvement by funding development of the new lab, said Envoc CEO Calvin Fabre. Officially opened Jan. 29, the new lab will provide a work-like environment on campus that is an extension of Envoc’s company culture and mission to create a better reality.

“Many of our Envoceans at our Hammond office are Southeastern graduates, as am I, and we like to stay involved and create learning opportunities for future developers,” said Fabre. “We personally help develop the computer science curriculum at Southeastern, and some of our Envoceans even facilitate project classes, offering students an opportunity to work side-by-side with thriving professionals on innovative projects. The Innovation Lab enhances that experience on campus.”

Southeastern Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Undergraduate Coordinator of Computer Science and Industrial Technology John Burris worked closely with Envoc to organize the lab’s conception and opening.

“Students are highly motivated by the opportunity to experience a real-world work environment, so the vision for the Innovation Lab was to immerse students in the environment of a software agency and encourage professionalism and innovation,” said Burris.

Designed to mirror Envoc’s offices and provide students with a variety of stations to work alone or with a group, the new lab contains a lounge area, two rows of modern workstations, two futuristic privacy chairs, and a section where students can virtually sit in on Envoc’s developer meetings.

“The innovation center is the result of education and software institutions coming together to invest in young developers,” said Professor of Computer Science Ghassan Alkadi. “The lab will provide an environment for computer science majors to receive professional mentorship, work on client-based projects, and gain knowledge beyond what can be self-taught or learned in a textbook.”

For more information, contact the Department of Computer Science at 985.549.5740.

Advocates for Quality Teacher Preparation

Dean and Alumna Participate in Washington DC Roundtable Discussion

Above Image: 2018 College of Education Student Teacher of the Year Payton Bryant, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, College of Education Dean Paula Summers Calderon

Southeastern Louisiana University College of Education Dean Paula Summers Calderon was recently invited to Washington DC by US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to participate in a roundtable discussion about preparing classroom teachers. Southeastern is one of only seven school-university partners in the nation and the only one in Louisiana originally selected for the education coalition University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Education Preparation (US PREP).

“US PREP is a well-connected program advocating for rigorous university-based teacher education programs. In addition to advocating, US PREP provides clinical coaches who come to the university to train our methods instructors, host mentor teachers, and university site coordinators in best practices in teacher education,” Calderon explained. “As a new dean, I made the decision to continue the US PREP partnership, and the College of Education is delighted to be an inaugural and continuing member of the US PREP Coalition.”

Attending the meeting with Calderon was Southeastern alumna and 2018 College of Education Student Teacher of the Year Payton Bryant. Bryant currently teaches at Luling Elementary in St. Charles Parish.

“When Dr. Calderon asked me to attend the roundtable discussion in Washington DC to speak to Secretary DeVos, I was beyond excited for a chance to tell my story of what high quality teacher preparation can do,” Bryant said. “My ultimate goal was to implore Secretary DeVos to make my experience commonplace for new teachers in order to prepare them adequately and retain them for years to come.”

During the discussion, Bryant added, the participants explained their teacher education programs and the far-reaching impact of those programs on the students.

“I mainly discussed how pre-service teachers need a chance to fail with a mentor teacher there to guide them, because we do not have this chance when we begin in our own classroom,” Bryant explained. “I was fortunate to have a mentor teacher who held me to the highest of standards, gave me feedback each day, and never settled for anything less than my best. She never told me what to do but questioned me and made me figure out things for myself. This opportunity does not exist now that I am inside of my own classroom, which is why every single teacher candidate needs it.”

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During the meeting at the Department of Education, US PREP highlighted how it is addressing challenges that contribute to a national shortage of educators. Coalition deans and program graduates shared innovative features of the initiative and emphasized the importance of high-quality training for pre-service teachers.

“In some states, the standards are low for preparation programs, making it easy to become a teacher through low-quality programs,” said US PREP Executive Director Sarah Beal. “These teachers often teach in our highest need areas, and when they are not well-prepared, it can result in perpetuating inequities in our school systems as well as de-professionalizing the teaching profession overall.”

“Many policymakers are critical of colleges of education and have given up on us,” Beal added. “We were pleased to showcase the hard work that has been done by the partner universities in US PREP, and that it is possible to make innovative improvements and thoroughly prepare candidates to be ready to teach on day one. We are very grateful to Secretary DeVos and her staff for taking the time to listen.”

Among the features of US PREP are close partnerships between universities and schools, embedded university faculty in school districts, and intensive clinical experiences featuring a yearlong teaching experience and robust performance assessments. US PREP also supports their member providers with developing high-quality teacher preparation pathways that are affordable and accessible to prospective teachers.

US PREP is adding eight more partners, including in New York City and California. In all, the US PREP coalition will prepare over 5,000 new teachers each year.

 

Be in The Big Event

Job Site Registration Now Open for Area Businesses, Churches, and Organizations

Students at Southeastern Louisiana University are looking to add area businesses, churches, and organizations to their list of job sites for the annual community service day called The Big Event. The registration deadline for organizations to be included in The Big Event is March 1, and there is no charge to register as a job site.

Sponsored by the Student Government Association, The Big Event sponsors teams of students who participate in a day of voluntary community service in Hammond and the surrounding area. Now in its ninth year, The Big Event is scheduled for Saturday, March 30, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. In the case of inclement weather on March 30, a make-up rain date of April 6 has been reserved.

Litter removal, painting, landscaping, and other activities are the typical jobs handled by hundreds of students who participate in The Big Event each year.

Since students provide their own transportation, job sites should be within 25 minutes of the Hammond campus. Job sites must also have a contact person on location to supervise the work.

Organizations can get more information or sign up to provide a job site by visiting www.southeastern.edu/bigevent.

Going Places

Thousands of energetic and talented young adults graduate from Southeastern every year, excited to launch their careers and hit the ground running. Most of them settle in our region to have a life-long impact. Not only do these graduates bring fresh skills and cutting edge training to the workforce, but they also fill a need for our region’s and state’s workforce demands. In today’s economy, jobs that require a college education are rising significantly, and those that do not are shrinking. To be competitive, Louisiana and the Gulf South will need new graduates each and every year. Their economic impact will be great. But their stories are even greater.

To uncover some of these stories, we decided to hit the highway to visit five members of our Lion Pride in their new workplaces—exploring where the road has taken them since receiving their diplomas. Buckle up for a trip around the region as we catch up with a few interesting young alumni.

tika

Tika Pahadi is plugging away at his computer when we enter his office at Omnidek, situated on bustling Sherwood Forest Blvd. Tika, originally from Nepal, is a 2017 computer science graduate with a passion for creating software. His passion has driven quick success. Tika, only one year out of college, is already a senior software engineer / architect at Omnidek, as well as a private consultant for other companies in the Baton Rouge area.

He gets right to business. “This will be the next big thing,” he explains about his major project at Omnidek. “We’re trying to make a big product based footprint in Louisiana, one that will be the next big thing in business. One software for every business need.”

Tika’s love for his field is both evident and deeply ingrained within him. He’s focused on the great possibilities of the future. Particularly, he is interested in how data sets can be used to predict problems. “It’s amazing how we can predict traffic accidents and drive times right down to the minute. Who knows, we might be able to cure cancer by analyzing data and the cells’ behavior. For me, it’s not just a software product. It’s the way we live and the change we can see.”

Tika has wanted to work with software from the time he was a small child. “I was playing video games and asked my uncle, ‘How does this happen? How does it know what to do?’ He told me that it was something called software, and explained it to me. I said, ‘Alright. Someday I’m going to write software.’”

To help him achieve this life-long goal, Tika chose to move across the world to attend Southeastern. “Southeastern has a very good program in computer science, and the professors are great,” he reflects. “We had classes that let us think out of box. Most of the classes were project classes—you have your own idea, do it, and present it. So it gave a more hands-on experience.”

While Tika did enjoy attending events on campus and spending time with friends, the computer science classes and professors were his favorite part of Southeastern. “The collaboration,” he reminisces with a smile, “and how you could just knock on any professor’s door at any time and they would be happy to help. Those things helped create an atmosphere of a sense of home.”

Keeping himself busy at all times, Tika started an internship his first semester of college. By his second semester, he was employed full time for Fusionstak LLC in Baton Rouge, where he worked for the next two years. Even with this full time position, he graduated with a BS from Southeastern in three years, taking over 20 credit hours every semester.

Even though Tika enjoys keeping a full workload, he also likes to take time out for friends, fishing, and working on his Corvette—as well as table tennis. So he gladly shows his ping pong skill in action during a friendly match in his office’s breakroom. Apparently there’s nothing like hitting a ping pong ball around to get pumped up for creating potentially future altering software.

JordanR

A 2017 communications graduate, Jordan Reid is now a news producer for KATC TV-3’s 5 pm show and is already making an impact. “As a news producer, I write multiple stories for the 5 o’clock newscast,” she starts. “Along with writing the stories, I set up how they will be executed and which visual elements will be used to enhance the story (video, graphics, monitors, etc.). …Once it gets closer to show time and the scripts are printed, I head into the control room. When I’m in the control room I’m pretty much managing the show.”

There is a lot that Jordan enjoys about her job, including having the opportunity to work in this type of leadership role. “I am in kind of a management position,” she says. “I get to work with almost everyone in the newsroom. And by working with more people, I get a better understanding of what is expected from each job and how it works… While at Southeastern, I was president of the University’s chapter of the Broadcast Education Association and worked as a producer at the Southeastern Channel; so it was nice to still be able to take on a leadership position in my career as well.”

In addition to working with the Broadcast Education Association and the Southeastern Channel, Jordan was also involved with other areas of campus life. She was a member of the Press Club and attended the Southeast Journalism Conference (SEJC). During her first year at SEJC, she entered the news reporting competition with a fellow student and won second place. She comments that this conference was one of her favorite experiences during her time at Southeastern.

She has many fond memories of Southeastern. “I don’t miss homework, but I always enjoyed sitting in a classroom to learn more about something,” she says. “I also miss downtown Hammond—just being able to walk to whatever event was going on and also the great friends I made.”

Upon asking Jordan why she decided to attend Southeastern, the Luling, Louisiana native explains, “One of my friends told me about the Southeastern Channel, and I knew I had better opportunities at Southeastern to pursue something I was really interested in. I had the best resources to use while learning. Also, Southeastern was the perfect size.”

Attending Southeastern was something that Jordan readily admits helped prepare her for both a future career and life in general. “I felt most of the things we were taught were important beyond having a job.”

Jordan felt ready to start her career and her life because of Southeastern. Like Tika, she also gives credit to the hands-on learning style and knowledgeable, caring professors.

Chris

With so many fun events and programs always going on in Hammond, 2016 Southeastern graduate Christiano “Chris” Mouswaswa’s role as the assistant director of recreation for the city of Hammond is one that impacts many people all year long.

Chris, who was a business major, moved to Hammond from the Kongo, in Central Africa, to study at Southeastern. He was already enrolled at a college closer to his home, but one visit to Southeastern prompted him to make the extreme move. He explains, “I had heard that it was a good school. A couple friends of mine were at Southeastern, so one told me to just come and check it out. And as soon as I did, I transferred.”

The move to Southeastern helped lead Chris to the type of job that he had always wanted. “I wanted to be a manager growing up,” he says. “My dad was a doctor, and my mom had her own business. So I was at first interested in entrepreneurship, and that led me to realize that I wanted to go into management. I always liked dealing with people and solving problems.”

Southeastern and the surrounding community quickly came to feel like home for Chris, who enjoyed going to campus events, attending football games, and playing intramural soccer. He also began working full time for the city as a youth coordinator while still taking a complete class load. But successfully finishing his program of study was his major goal, so he was happy to find that the program and its faculty earnestly supported him in achieving it. “The classrooms were small compared to other universities; we had hands-on opportunities and one-on-one instruction with teachers. We could talk to the teachers at any time, and they were very helpful,” he says.

But as much as Chris loved his classes on campus, taking advantage of a summer study abroad program was his most memorable experience. He traveled to Costa Rica with the College of Business for hands-on learning—and of course a little time for fun, including ziplining through a rainforest. When Chris talks about the program he participated in, his eyes light up and a smile immediately crosses his face. “It was the best 10 days of my life,” he says. “It was awesome! Anyone who goes to Southeastern should definitely check out the study abroad program. It was the best experience, and it allowed me to earn credit for two classes—so it helped me graduate quickly as well.”

Chris believes that all of these learning experiences have served him well. He is now in a job that he both enjoys and finds personally enriching. While he does love overseeing and directly working with sports programs, after school academic programs, summer camps, offerings for seniors, and community events, for him the most important aspect is being able to connect with and help others. “I love working with and meeting people,” he says. “And most of all, the kids. Getting to help change their lives—that’s the part that I enjoy the most.”

Jaime

When we arrive at Oschner Medical Center in Slidell, Jamie Ban Vogel takes a break from her normal duties as a diagnostic medical sonographer to meet.

Jamie, who is originally from Covington and graduated in 2016 with a major in kinesiology and minor in health promotion, begins by giving us an overview of her current position as a diagnostic medical sonographer. “As a sonographer I verify physician orders and procedures to assure accuracy, explain the procedure to the patient to ensure understanding, independently operate ultrasound equipment to complete imaging procedure according to protocol, and review patient images prior to transmission to ensure images meet diagnostic quality standards. I also assist the radiologists in guided procedures,” she says.

The investigative and varied nature of this type of work fascinates Jamie. “Every day I am learning something new about the human body, my career, and myself,” she notes. “We get to see some pretty neat pathology and assist with procedures, making every day different and non-repetitive.”

In addition to the work itself, Jamie also very much enjoys her workplace environment. The young alumna talks about how much she appreciates and values the teamwork, atmosphere of positivity, and availability of state-of-the-art technology and tools.

While Jamie does indeed take great pride in her current work, she also believes in continually learning and growing. Jamie is currently studying to become a registered vascular technologist. “I will soon be registered in assisting physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of disorders and diseases affecting the vascular system,” she says.

Jamie knew from an early age that she wanted to go into the medical field, working directly with patients. She begins to discuss how Southeastern helped her get where she is now. “I received an amazing education at Southeastern. Through my time in the Kinesiology Building, I developed a better appreciation and understanding of the human body and how it works,” she says.

Jamie particularly credits her professors for helping her gain such skills and knowledge. “My favorite thing about my program of study was the professors. Each professor made class interesting and used relatable terms and examples to help students better understand the subject.”

Outside of classes and studying, Jamie also kept busy by becoming involved with several campus organizations—something that she recommends all students do in order to make the most out of their college years. She was a member of Phi Mu, the Rec Sports and Wellness Council, Southeastern’s chapter of Ducks Unlimited, and the Homecoming Court. Additionally, Jamie recently married another class of 2016 Southeastern graduate, creating a true Southeastern family.

JordanS

Upon entering the gates of the NASA facility, an enormous rocket powerfully looms into view. It’s obvious that Jordan Showalter, a 2017 engineering technology graduate originally from nearby Chalmette, Louisiana works at a place with real consequence.

Describing his time at Southeastern, Jordan explains that he kept quite busy with both classwork and extracurricular activities, and very much enjoyed the routine it provided him. He was on the Lions football team as a fullback throughout college; in Kappa Sigma fraternity, in which he served as the organization’s events coordinator; worked at Our Mom’s as a security manager before being promoted to bar manager; completed an internship; was a part of the ExCEL scholarship and leadership program; and was a member of Tau Alpha Pi engineering honors society, the National Honors Society of Collegiate Scholars, and the American Association of Drilling Engineers.

As an operations maintenance supervisor for Syncom Space Services, a contractor at NASA Michoud, Jordan is very much able to use that same discipline and strong work ethic in his current career. Only a year and a half out of college, Jordan has already been promoted once at Syncom. In addition to scheduling maintenance, monitoring systems, and running metrics to increase productivity, he supervises a group of highly skilled personnel who do preventative maintenance work across the facility, as well as maintain major systems that actually work on the tank. “It’s a lot to take on,” he admits, “but I’ve found a routine to make it work.”

Being in the engineering field and taking on these types of responsibilities is something that Jordan has always wanted to do. Growing up he idolized his uncle who was an engineer and wanted to follow in his footsteps. He also dreamed of one day being able to work with rockets, which is now his favorite part of the job. “I’ve always wanted to work as part of NASA. And now I’m doing something that actually impacts the build of the rocket,” he says with a wide smile.

Jordan also explains why what he does is so important to him. “I care about the little stuff, because it will make a difference in the bigger picture,” he starts. “For example, a simple light fixture could be in a critical area. If someone picks up and uses a wrong chemical on the tank because there’s dull lighting in the area, now they’ve just scrapped a couple million dollar tank. I take that to heart.”

Jordan concludes with how much he enjoyed his days at Southeastern, and describes some of the things he likes doing when he’s not helping maintain vital systems for space missions—including socializing with family and friends and going fishing and to the shooting range with his brother. “I try to stay active most of the time,” he mentions.

roadtripspread

These five young alumni, so full of positivity and passion for what they do, are truly living their dreams. From their professors and programs to campus organizations and extracurricular activities, Southeastern was able to help them achieve these goals and enter the working world with deep strength. Yet these five amazing young adults are only a very small percentage of the Lions out there, both near and far, who are now achieving the success that they always hoped for and making an impact on the world around them.

What’s in a Name: Changing Campus Street Names to Better Depict Southeastern

Four campus street names are changing to better reflect Southeastern’s identity, geography, and sense of place. At the request of the University, the Hammond City Council voted recently to approve that Texas Avenue will become Union Avenue, Tennessee Avenue will change to Mane Street, Virginia Avenue will be Roomie Road, and Tornado Drive on North Campus will become Lion Lane.

roomiesigns_crop

The new names came about at the urging of students after several first-time campus guests using computerized navigation expressed confusion as to why a university named and located in Southeast Louisiana would feature streets named for other states and a different mascot.

“It was just a bit confusing, for example, for someone visiting campus for the first time ever,” said Richard Davis, Southeastern Student Government Association president. “If you think about it, it just doesn’t make sense. Why would you take TEXAS Avenue to get to Southeastern LOUISIANA University’s Student Union? Or turn onto TENNESSEE Avenue for the Southeastern LOUISIANA University School of Nursing?”

With so many more travelers now accessing the former Texas Avenue in order to reach the new Ascension and Twelve Oaks residence halls or attending events at the Student Union, it seemed an opportune time to review all street names and see if any others needed changing now, too.

Once the four incongruent street names were identified, several student organizations were contacted to help craft a pool of potential names and select those that would be the best fit. Be on the lookout for new street signs that sport the names Union Ave. (replacing Texas Ave.), Mane St. (replacing Tennessee Ave.), Roomie Rd. (replacing Virginia Ave.), and Lion Ln. (replacing Tornado Dr.).

Online mapping services have been notified of the change and efforts are underway to update all campus maps and directional identifiers.

Why did they have those names in the first place? Historical reasons point to a street naming convention in the City of Hammond that features various states as street names. And, North Campus used to house Hammond High School (HHS), which explains why the street was named for the HHS mascot.

“Looking forward, we’re excited to see the new street signs go up to properly reflect the pride we have in our campus,” Davis added.

 

A New Life for Old Christmas Trees

Collecting Holiday Remnants to Enhance Our Wetlands

Southeastern Louisiana University is asking area citizens to give the environment a gift after Christmas this year. Discarded Christmas trees can be dropped off and used for a wetland restoration rather than throwing them out with the trash.

“We can put the old Christmas trees to work in our area marshland while also reducing the waste stream going into landfills,” said Rob Moreau, manager of Southeastern’s Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station located on Pass Manchac between lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas.

Although grant funding from the state for Christmas Tree recycling in many areas ended years ago, local partners have stepped up with donations to fund the collection of trees and make the project possible. This marks the 24th straight year Southeastern has conducted its recycled tree program. Moreau depends on volunteers and students to deploy the trees in the Manchac wetlands. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 trees have been deployed through the Southeastern program since that time.

Southeastern scientists at Turtle Cove use the discarded trees to help build up marshland in areas that have been impacted by erosion and other factors, said Moreau.

Moreau said the trees will be used in a variety of ways, including ongoing research on the trees’ effects on helping to fill in test logging ditches, creation of Christmas tree “mounds” to create habitats for wildlife and, of course, help to control erosion along various shorelines, most recently occurring on Galva Canal.

This practice also provides hands-on environmental education opportunities for students and other volunteers who help with the project.

slu_tree_recycling

Collaborating in the project for the fourth year is the Southeastern Sustainability Center on North Oak Street, which will serve as a drop-off point for area residents to leave their used Christmas trees. Other partners include the city of Hammond and Middendorf’s Restaurant in Manchac, which also serve as drop-off points.

A new drop-off location has been added this year in Madisonville. Trees can now also be taken to Pennington’s Hardware and Screenprinting, located at 407 Highway 22 W.

Trees can be dropped off through Mardi Gras from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hammond Maintenance facility, 18104 Hwy. 190, next to Piggly Wiggly Super Market. The Southeastern Sustainability Center, 2101 North Oak Street, will collect trees through the end of January from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 to 10 a.m. on Friday, and Pennington’s Hardware and Screenprinting will accept trees during the same time period from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Moreau said a Turtle Cove trailer drop off site will also be maintained at Middendorf’s Restaurant.

He said the city of Hammond will provide transport of collected trees to the Turtle Cove Galva Canal parking lot area in Manchac, where they will be stored until they are deployed in the marshes in March.

No flocked trees will be accepted, and all trees should be stripped of any ornaments, lights, tinsel, stands, nails and screws, etc.

Additional information can be obtained by contacting Moreau at rmoreau@southeastern.edu or by visiting the website at www.southeastern.edu/turtlecove.

Donations to help support the activity can be sent by check payable to “Friends of Turtle Cove” and mailed to Southeastern Box 10585, Hammond, LA 70402, or can be made by credit card online.

The Past Found: Three Friends’ Discovery of a Long-Lost Family Relic

For Southeastern marketing professor Mike Budden, searching the earth for physical remnants of the past is a popular pastime—one that was chronicled by the Southeastern Magazine two years ago. Since then, Mike and his friends Dan Fontenot and Gary Guidry (Southeastern class of ’76) have come across an array of finds, both trash and historical treasures. But what they discovered in early 2017 truly took them by surprise.

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Dan Fontenot, (back left), Gary Guidry (center), and Mike Budden (right) with their metal detecting equipment

The three men received permission to hunt the soil of a property in Jefferson Parish. One day Fontenot, who has known Budden since childhood, got a hit on his detector while working the area. What he eventually found, buried within the brown dirt, was a small gold ring.

Fontenot was of course happy with the catch, but because of the way that he found it his first reaction was one of shock. “It was deep, probably over a foot deep,” he recounted. “What I found was a big hunk of lead, probably the size of a fist, and then I checked the dirt before I filled the hole back in. I always check whenever I dig out the dirt, just to make sure there’s nothing in the pile by the hole, and then I got a hit when checking that dirt and the ring was in it. So if I hadn’t initially hit on that hunk of lead, I would never have found the ring.”

Finding the ring was only the first surprise that the piece of jewelry brought the three friends. After cleaning the ring off, Fontenot could tell that it was a seemingly simple band made of gold and, from the tiny size, had likely belonged to a petite woman. While the three men all dedicate time to tracking down the history behind the items that they discover, none of them noticed or suspected anything unusual about the ring itself.

A visit with fellow metal detecting hobbyists at a Southern Historical Research and Recovery Association meeting changed that perception. “Gary and I took it to one of our club meetings,” Fontenot said. “I thought it was just a gold ring, but then another guy saw it and said ‘It’s a split ring.’ …He opened it right in front of me and then it turned in to two halves with an engraving on the inner part that you couldn’t see when it was whole.”

Such rings are indeed foreign to many people today, but according to Fontenot’s research they were quite popular in the nineteenth century. This ring, carefully engraved on the inside with tiny cursive lettering, is believed by the men to have been a wedding ring due to the inscription. There are two names listed, Louise Cantrelle and Louis Ferchaud, along with a date of August 25, 1870. With this information as a guide, Fontenot got to work on tracking down the ring’s story. Upon scouring the internet, his search led him to the ring’s rightful heir, Kimberly King.

King also has a passion for history, but she channels it through genealogy rather than metal detecting. Fontenot was able to locate her because of the genealogical research on her family which she has made available online. “Just from the name of the man on the ring, which is her great-great-grandfather, I was able to find her on the net, and then we just got in touch via email and went from there,” he said.

If the name Kimberly King sounds familiar to you, there’s a reason. Serendipitously, King was the guest speaker at Southeastern’s annual Marketing Breakfast this past April. She is also a class of 1985 Southeastern alumna, who now resides in Tennessee.

Upon learning of the connection, Budden was shocked. “It was amazing when I saw the emails and realized that it was Kimberly King, who was our marketing speaker. I told Dan ‘I know that lady!’ …It’s amazing, I just met her in the spring,” he said.

King is not related to Louise Cantrelle, as she died in childbirth at the tender age of 21. However, Louis Ferchaud eventually remarried Caroline Jaufroid, and King is a direct descendent of this couple.

Kimberly's great-great-grandfather, Louis Ferchaud, with her biological great-great-grandmother.
Caroline Jaufroid Ferchaud and Louis Ferchaud

How the ring came to be buried where it was remains a mystery, though the men have a conjecture that the young couple may have lived there. “We’ve pulled out hundreds, if not thousands, of square nails from that property, which is a pretty good indicator that there was a building there,” explained Guidry. “So I think there was a house there that burned, and that’s how the jewelry got left there. That’s my theory, but we’ll never really know.”

While the possibility—albeit rare—of finding buried gold objects might draw some people to metal detecting, the three friends all commented that the biggest thrill for them lies in the history. They take the time to conserve and study the past behind the pieces that they uncover and then generally keep or give them away. Most of the objects found are also not of much monetary value, but the men are genuinely awed with the historical significance and connection to the past the pieces represent. “It’s amazing to find something from 200 years ago, or longer, and I just don’t see myself selling it,” said Budden. “It’s part of history.”

Dan presents the ring to Kimberly near her home in Tennessee.
Dan Fontenot gifts the ring to Kimberly King in Tennessee

So rather than keeping or selling the wedding band, the three friends traveled together to Tennessee in August to gift it to King—bringing to her a tangible piece of her own family’s history in the form of one extraordinary little gold ring.

Pitch Perfect: Southeastern Vocalists Win Awards at Louisiana Competition

Ten Southeastern vocal performance students and one alumnus placed at the Louisiana Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition held recently at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches. Four of these participants took home first place awards.

Sara Cage of Baton Rouge was the first student in Southeastern history to receive three first place awards at the competition: in the senior women’s division, Hall Johnson spiritual category, and upper level music theater-women. Cage also received the Governor’s Award as the most promising student at the competition.

Also receiving first place nods were William Dopp of Independence, sophomore men; Caitlyn Rodrigue of Thibodaux, sophomore women; and Joshua Staes of Baton Rouge, older advanced men.

Other students recognized at the competition include the following: Andrew Butler of River Ridge, second place sophomore men; Cody Sires, now a Southeastern alumnus of Violet, second place older student adult women and men; Alfred Harper of New Orleans, third place junior men; Jody Bennett of Hammond, fourth place junior men; Ryan Blanchfield of Hammond, fourth place younger advanced men; Camryn Rodrigue of Thibodaux, fourth place sophomore women; and Brennan Simmons of Hammond, honorable mention senior men.

The auditions were judged by voice teachers from the NATS Louisiana Chapter. Students participated in lectures and master classes as part of the conference.

Members of the Southeastern voice faculty who contributed to conference events included Jennifer Sciortino Mouledous, Joy Ratliff, Alissa Rowe, Stephen Rushing, and Kay Wainwright Schepker.