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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.