Southeastern Alumni Create the First Digital Driver’s License

The driver’s license has been an indispensable part of many Americans’ lives for decades. But while its components have evolved over time and between states, at its core it has essentially remained the same—a physical piece of identification. Now, well over 100 years after the first personal driver’s license was issued on a simple, small piece of paper, the State of Louisiana and one Southeastern alumni-led company have begun ushering in the second phase of the driver’s license by pioneering the arguably inevitable digital future of personal identification.

In 1903, the year that the Wright Brothers took to the sky at Kitty Hawk and only five years before Henry Ford’s iconic Model T was unleashed on the world, Massachusetts and Missouri began issuing the first required non-commercial automobile driving licenses. Americans were on the move, and state regulations had begun trying to keep up.

Over the next 51 years, possessing a driver’s license became a requirement in every state for those getting behind the wheel. Louisiana adopted this policy in 1946. Photographs were added to non-commercial driver’s licenses for the first time in the US one year later, and by the mid-1980s the incorporation of anti-counterfeit devices on state IDs was
becoming standard.

But these advancements have now fallen behind where we are today: a world where a continually increasing majority of people turn to tiny, illuminated screens to discover current news, learn, be entertained, keep up with their mail, and connect with others. Love it or hate it, using mobile technology for all the information you need while on the go, and then some, is the new norm.

Two years ago, the State of Louisiana addressed this need to meet citizens where they are by passing House Bill 481, a legislation championed by Representative Ted James. Louisiana had officially become the first state in the nation to legislatively approve acceptance of a digital driver’s license, leading the way for the next chapter in the story of the American driver’s license.

But then there was a new challenge—actually creating it. After thoroughly assessing proposals from various companies, Louisiana chose the well-developed, creative approach offered by Southeastern alumnus Calvin Fabre and his company Envoc. Fabre, along with his all Southeastern alumni Envoc team of six developers and a group of 10 state employees, met the challenge by creating a user-friendly and secure app for both iOS and android devices—an app that also meets a myriad of legal requirements for acceptance by State Police and other agencies. They named it LA Wallet.

Achieving this, though, was certainly not without obstacles. “The most challenging part of the project is always a commitment to ongoing privacy and diligence,” said Fabre. The user’s safety and security were indeed of primary concern when developing the app, which is not only secure but also contains anti-forgery precautions and carries a no-touch policy.

“State Police asked for a no-touch solution,” said Fabre. “This means that when showing your digital ID to an officer or anyone else, you will never have to allow them to touch your phone, let alone hand it over.”

To combat fraud and prove that it is a valid license, there are two simple methods the driver can utilize. The first one is to hit the refresh button, which connects the app with the Office of Motor Vehicles, resending the information to the device and proving that the license is still valid. The second method is interactive with the user. When a user presses the rendering of their driver’s license in the app, the seal for the State of
Louisiana pops up—effectively demonstrating that the license is real and not a screenshot.

The image of the license itself is not a direct capture of a physical driver’s license either. Information is pulled directly from the Office of Motor Vehicles and reassembled to create a high-resolution digital rendering. As Fabre explained, the result is “a unique image generated by our servers, that only our servers can create. And it is a unique image that leverages all of the anti-forgery, anti-tamper-proof techniques that the state has developed.”

While the image on the “front” of the license will still be familiar to people though, the “back” looks somewhat different. This screen contains additional information such as endorsements. To further aid the no-touch policy, the bearer’s license number appears in a large font on this side for better readability at a distance.

The beauty with which all of these new technological and identity challenges were overcome is perhaps only overshadowed by the truly collaborative effort involved. According to Fabre, “Public Safety, State Police, state attorneys, and technology all got in one room and all worked together to find something that’s going to best serve the citizens, and they were genuinely wanting to serve the citizens. It’s a great application of many disciplines that don’t normally get together. That’s diversity.”

And this product of Louisiana’s insightful vision, Envoc’s technological innovation, and the harmonious collaboration between state and private—between various backgrounds and specialties with one common purpose—has now truly made history. In early July, the final app store approvals were granted and the product officially launched to the public.

Its prospects extend even further—far beyond acceptance by State Police, and most likely beyond Louisiana. According to Act 625, all parish and municipality police officers in Louisiana are also legally authorized to take LA Wallet for identification purposes, and the establishment of state-wide acceptance procedures and training is currently underway.

Envoc has additionally worked closely with the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control and has met their requirements by completing requested modifications to the app. This summer, the digital license officially became a part of the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control’s responsible vendor program. With this agency’s approval obtained, LA Wallet is now valid for the purchase of alcohol and other restricted products sold at Louisiana retailers, including bars, restaurants, and stores. However, since the app is quite new and businesses are still implementing it into their procedures, for now it’s a good idea to also carry along your old driver’s license before heading to your local watering hole or picking up a six-pack.

From library cards to school IDs, this new technology has a potentially bright future aside from the driver’s license as well—with further applications that Fabre is passionate about one day bringing to life. “Think of the possibilities of allowing a college to have an extension of the digital driver’s license on their phone,” he said.

All of this has not gone unnoticed by other states, either. One undisclosed northern state has already reached out to Envoc, expressing interest in following the path now being blazed in Louisiana. As the download numbers keep going up, an increase in other states looking to Louisiana will likely closely follow.

And there’s plenty of reason it should. Fabre said that while we may not have always received national coverage on it, “Louisiana is very forward thinking in this and other areas related to serving its citizens through technology. We are the Silicon Bayou.”

Anyone with a current Louisiana driver’s license can now download the app for both Android and iPhone. The app can immediately be used for identification with Louisiana State Police, with the other uses to evolve in the very near future. The app itself is free, but an in-app purchase is required to initially activate and then to renew the license when it expires, similar to paying for a new physical driver’s license.

While you shouldn’t plan on tossing out your current Louisiana ID just yet, it’s quite possible that time may soon come. The first paper driver’s license was created to keep up with people more on the move as a result of the day’s increasing acceptance of and reliance on industrial technology. Americans today are still on the move, perhaps more than ever; but we have also collectively embraced a whole new concept of being mobile—and a whole new era of technology. Louisiana, along with Envoc’s Southeastern alumni-led team, has now crossed the threshold of being the first state to fully join its citizens in this digital era. The next chapter in the story of the American driver’s license has begun, and Louisiana citizens can now be among the first to help it unfold.

Health Education and Promotion Program Named First in the State

Southeastern’s Health Education and Promotion Program has been ranked as the best program in the state by Each school’s ranking is based on a compilation of data from government sources, student surveys, college graduate interviews, and editorial reviews.

The purpose of the Health Education and Promotion program is to prepare students to work in the field of public health. Students in the program have an opportunity to work with nationally known faculty, participate in student research, and travel to professional conferences. Graduates of the program receive the prerequisite knowledge and skills necessary to sit for the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam.

“I am very proud of the accomplishments of the faculty and students in this degree program,” said Ann Carruth, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. “This unique program teaches methods needed to help people make healthy behavior changes by addressing knowledge, attitudes, skills, and beliefs in various settings. Being ranked number one demonstrates our commitment to excellence and meeting the needs of our community.”

Forging New Opportunities at Career Fair 2018

During their time at Southeastern, students meet life-long friends, learn to become independent, deepen their knowledge of the world around them, gain inspiration from new ideas, and decide on the path that they would like to follow.  When students and alumni are ready to begin moving forward on this path, or simply see where other roads could lead, Southeastern’s Career Fair is the answer.

On Thursday, September 20 this annual event once again took place, with hundreds of hopeful students and graduates flooding into the Pennington Student Activity Center, eager to embark on their career journeys. Resumes in hand and donning their most polished, professional attire, one-by-one they confidently approached some of the 380 representatives (nearly a third of whom were fellow alumni) from the 168 organizations that were present.

Recognizing the well-rounded quality of a Southeastern education, many of the employers on site were interested in networking with and hiring Southeastern students of any major. “Students were engaging and very enthusiastic; they asked lots of good questions, even when the job field was not in their major,” noted one employer. About 70 percent of the organizations there were open to students and alumni of any major—elevating the career prospects of attendees.

Attendees were also not limited by a certain type of position. In addition to 158 employers looking to fill full-time, post-graduation level positions, 65 of the organizations hoped to find interns and 70 sought part-time employees.

The advantage of attending also didn’t stop at in-person networking. Upon entering, the first thing that many students flocked to was a set-up offering professionally photographed LinkedIn headshots free of charge—tapping in to the growing necessity of social media networking for broadening career prospects. Through this new Career Fair offering, over 185 Southeastern students were able to build a more polished social media presence by having their headshot professionally taken.

The day was a major success for both employers and attendees, with countless lasting, impactful connections formed between the two. Students and alumni were also able to leave better prepared to follow their chosen path—or start on a freshly discovered one. As one student commented, “I have been given a large amount of opportunities today to help me in the future.”

90 Years of the Columbia Theatre: Bringing the Arts to Life in Downtown Hammond

On September 1, 2018, Southeastern’s Columbia Theatre turned 90. Generation after generation have been able to enter Columbia’s doors to escape into another world—a world of music, movies, theatre, art, and beauty. And with both Southeastern’s Fanfare festival and the annual theatre season once again in full swing, the opportunity for everyone in the region to experience the arts through this jewel in Hammond’s downtown is as timely as ever.

Hammond residents and visitors flocked to the Columbia Theatre for its first event and celebration in 1928. After a silent movie accompanied by a live organ and tenor performance, attendees moved outside for a dance party in the middle of Thomas Street. Over the next two decades, the theatre served as a center of entertainment for the region, providing an escape for people facing the uncertainty and harsh realities of the depression and war years—if only for a couple of hours.

c. 1930_2
Columbia Theatre c. 1930
c. 1937
Columbia Theatre c. 1937

By the 1960s, however, people had begun neglecting downtown areas in favor of local malls, and movie theatre attendance was suffering with the rise of home television. The Columbia was in need of major repairs, and while some were made its revival was not able to fully come to fruition. By the 1980s the theatre lay vacant, its days of venerated grandness only a memory.

c. 1986
Columbia Theatre c. 1986

But as fate would have it, the Columbia Theatre’s story was far from over. In the early 1990s Marguerite Walter, director of the Hammond Downtown Development District, and Harriet Vogt, director of Southeastern’s Fanfare, began working to save the
theatre. Under advice from a representative of the League of Historic American Theaters, who pointed out the need to act quickly with the roof in danger of collapsing at any moment, Walter and Vogt registered the theatre as a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) and secured funding for the most pressing repairs.

In 1994, First Guaranty Bank, who owned the building, agreed to donate it to the Hammond Downtown Development District (DDD) for restoration as a theatre. Plans were made for Southeastern to take ownership and manage the theatre’s operation after the improvements were made. The DDD, City of Hammond, and Southeastern worked together to secure funds to revitalize the theatre. The adjacent former JC Penney building was also purchased and a portion of the old Firestone Tire building was received through a donation, further expanding the Columbia’s footprint in downtown Hammond.

c. 2001_2
Columbia Theatre c. 2001

Upon completion of the restoration, Southeastern received ownership of the Columbia Theatre in the spring of 2001. The Columbia was once again filled with the happy chatter of theatre-goers and the reverberation of quality performances. With Southeastern now having the Columbia Theatre as a resource in the heart of downtown Hammond, the University began using it for some of its popular Fanfare programming as well—directly bringing this festival for all even deeper into the surrounding community.

Fanfare had begun a decade and a half earlier, in October of 1986. It was launched by a group of Southeastern faculty members, among them the current executive director of the Columbia Theatre, Roy Blackwood, to celebrate the arts, humanities, and sciences while heightening cultural awareness and making the arts more accessible for everyone within the region. The festival became so successful that it eventually encompassed the entire month of October.

Early appearances included those of internationally-renowned playwright Edward Albee, poet Maya Angelou, and singer Louise Mandrell, as well as popular performers from within the community. This tradition of pulling in talents in a variety of fields, from both near and far, has continued. Fanfare patrons can experience over 50 events that span theatrical productions, films, lectures, workshops, concerts, dance performances, and art exhibitions.

But as fun and exciting as Fanfare may be, it is certainly not the only reason for people to pay a visit to the Columbia Theatre today. When Fanfare’s month-long celebration of the arts draws to a close at the end of October, the party is still just getting started.

Fanfare serves as the opening act of the theatre’s annual performance season. From newer works and youth-oriented programs to beloved hits such as The Nutcracker, visitors of all ages and tastes can take in a favorite classic as well as experience something completely new to them.

While much has changed in the world since visitors first filled the Columbia’s seats, when the house lights dim this season, it’s still easy to see how patrons must have felt 90 years ago when taking in that very first performance. The beauty of the Columbia Theatre proudly lives on—in not just its renovated physical structure and accoutrements but in the timeless, personally enriching experience that the arts can bestow.

Columbia Theatre today