Saving Our Swamp

Southeastern is no stranger to the marsh in the Lake Maurepas and Pass Manchac areas. In fact, the biology department has conducted many projects over the last few decades to study the decline of the area.

The problem was brought to light several years ago through the research of scientists, including Southeastern Professor of Biological Sciences Gary Shaffer. Shaffer has been studying Louisiana wetlands for years and has compiled a significant body of research on the impacts that logging of native trees, erosion, nutrient starvation, saltwater intrusion, herbivores such as nutria, and other factors are having on the deterioration of wetlands of southeast Louisiana.

He explained that the establishment of levees over the last century along the Mississippi River to eliminate natural flooding removed a once reliable source of fresh water, sediments, and nutrients that swamps require for healthy growth.

“This has enabled saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico to make further inland intrusions,” he said. “Combined with rising sea levels and the construction of massive canals, such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), the intensity and frequency of saltwater intrusions has only grown worse. Consequently, most of the Maurepas Swamp appears to be in transition to marsh and open water.”

The findings are based on comparisons of selected groupings of sites in the southern wetlands of Lake Maurepas. The sites had three different levels of water quality: including stagnant and nearly permanently flooded areas, sites with severe saltwater intrusion, and sites that receive some freshwater runoff. Salinity levels appeared to be the major factor causing sites to rapidly deteriorate, with the most degraded areas located near Lake Pontchartrain or along the margin of Lake Maurepas.

Recently, Gerard Blanchard, professor of physics and undergraduate coordinator, and Southeastern physics / electrical engineering dual degree student Fawaz Adesina have joined in the research efforts to study groundwater salinity in the Turtle Cove area, located on Pass Manchac between lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas. Encouraged by Rob Moreau, manager of Southeastern’s Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station, and aided by two grants through the Southeastern Center for Faculty Excellence, Blanchard and Adesina designed and installed at Turtle Cove the first of four groundwater salinity monitors that will be deployed in a line that is perpendicular to Pass Manchac. The monitors take daily readings at three different depths—10 cm, 20 cm, and 50 cm—to get a two-dimensional view of the salinity profile. “This improves on the current method, which uses manual weekly readings that do not distinguish the variations in salinity with depth,” Blanchard said. “The scientific goal is to build a physical model of the salt transport.

Blanchard has been collaborating with Shaffer on the project. Shaffer currently has wells in the marsh, where salinity levels are checked once a week to study the health of the marsh. “The higher the salinity levels in the marsh, the harder it is for things to grow, or for what used to be out there to grow,” said Blanchard. “Getting the salinity down is a big part of the restoration efforts.”

Blanchard said an equation is used to measure how the saltwater flows from one position to another and up and down. The data collected will hopefully identify the factors that cause the salt levels to change at different locations and help scientists determine if the levels are getting worse. Scientists are working on diverting the water from the Mississippi River into Lake Maurepas that will then flow through that area to try to preserve the marsh.

“When we get our information, we are going to try to fit the data with this equation. There are some unknowns and some constants that specify the exact type of soil, the sources, and how much evaporation exists,” Blanchard said. “With the data, we can specify the equation to that particular time and place. If we do it well, we can use that to predict future levels.”

Blanchard said the educational goal of the project is to give Adesina practical experience with electronics, instrument calibration, data analysis, and presentation of results. Adesina gained more experience than he bargained for with this project. Originally from Kenya, it was his first time in a boat when they installed the instrument.


“I was not prepared for that journey,” Adesina said. “It was a cold morning and we were on a boat in the middle of a cold lake going at high speed. The blowing air froze my face, my nose was running and my fingers were so cold. But the opportunity of installing a device that I helped build was worth the whole experience.”

Adesina also expressed his excitement about the project helping prepare him for a career in his field.

“As a student, this project is an opportunity for me to prepare for the real world and to gain some research background,” he explained. “The knowledge of the electronics part of the project will be immensely helpful to me in my engineering classes and labs. The project also put me on the path of finally overcoming my fear of coding.”

The project, Adesina said, has not only helped him academically, but personally as well.

“I have learned to ask questions when I don’t understand things; I never used to ask questions,” he said. “It has taught me that patience is the key to success—or you’ll get burned by a soldering iron. This project has given me many experiences that I would not have gotten in a class, and that is the main purpose of working on research as an undergraduate. It is the extracurricular activities that help you in class and help you
decide what you want to do in the future.

“Southeastern has a way of making you feel at home, while also training you to venture into the real world and how to communicate with people from different backgrounds and break down barriers,” he said. “Through conferences, on-campus job interviews, seminars, and even talking to professors on campus, my communication skills, as well as my people skills, have improved.

“I have always loved to take things apart and see how they work, and the chance for me to actually build something with my own hands is like a dream come true.”

Student Fawaz Adesina (front) and Physics Professor Gerard Blanchard (back) install a groundwater salinity monitor in Pass Manchac.
By Tonya Lowentritt

One of the Only Universities in America to Offer Ground-Breaking International Baccalaureate Program

Southeastern’s College of Education houses an innovative and unique program that helps enable educators to teach within the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. After successful completion of courses leading to the IB Educator Certificate in Teaching and Learning, candidates may apply for their level of certification through the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Only 45 universities in the world and 12 in the United States offer this.

The IB program started in 1968 after World War II. Diplomats were moving their families from country to country and realized that moving their children caused them issues with schooling. They wanted a universal but also rigorous curriculum so that when students moved from school to school, they didn’t fall behind or lose credits. The IB program helps students master skills within a core group of 10 principles:
• Inquirer
• Open-Minded
• Knowledgeable
• Caring
• Thinker
• Risk Taker
• Communicator
• Balanced
• Principled
• Reflective

“The International Baccalaureate program is designed not only to get students to college, but also through college,” said Cherissa Vitter, assistant professor in the College of Education. “All students at schools offering the IB program benefit from the learning strategies upon which the program is built. They actually learn how to learn. When students learn how to learn, they are in control of their own education.”

Cherissa Vitter


Vitter came to Hammond on a mission—to implement IB programs for this part of the state. Challenged with a community expectation that Hammond High School would become a regional destination school, she went to work right away and helped launch a new way of thinking in her role as IB coordinator.

Various elements of the community (business, education, and community at large) worked together to think differently and create a new school with no boundaries to student learning. The business community realized building good schools would be good for the region and the regional economy. This required a heavy investment in the Hammond schools both financially and cognitively. Vitter says that it was worth the effort. The word was out—Hammond schools now host the only IB continuum in the state of Louisiana, offering a world–class education to every student ages 3-19.

“The community was anxious to make improvements at Hammond High,” Vitter said. “We wanted to respond to those community needs. And the students at Hammond High felt valued and heard. We had to train this mindset from within. Everyone at Hammond High would be trained in the program, and big changes were coming.”

Greg Drude, Hammond real estate agent and recent inductee to Southeastern’s Educator Honor Roll, was instrumental in helping to bring IB to Hammond High. “I had spoken with several community leaders, especially through the Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce, and people were moving out of the area,” Drude said. “Good schools promote people coming in. We tested a program at Hammond Eastside Elementary Magnet School that produced high scores and results, and when that happened, we knew it was time to grow opportunities for children in the area.”

In just a few years, Hammond High Magnet School fully implemented the IB program and catapulted to national recognition, boasting students who experience school differently, capitalize on their own talents, and reflect on the learning process.

“It’s a strenuous program,” Drude said. “Kids are challenged in IB, and they have the work ethic to succeed. There is trickle down success for everyone at the school.”

Lyndsey DeVaney, a member of Southeastern’s inaugural International Baccalaureate
Educator Certificate class, gains hands-on experience while participating in the program.


As the Hammond schools improved, Southeastern Louisiana University administration was paying attention and quickly saw the value in the program. The university soon committed to developing courses that would lead to IB certification for educators.

“It’s an investment by the university to do this,” said Kate Kuhn, professional services manager, IBEC, International Baccalaureate Organization. “When the number of IB World Schools expands, there will also be an increasing need for educators who have a deep understanding of how to teach in an IB context.”

Southeastern now has the curriculum in place to help train teachers to become IB educators. The graduate program offers multiple tracks leading to the IB Educator Certificate in Teaching and Learning. Vitter says the certification opportunities are yielding global attention.

Dean of the College of Education at Southeastern Dr. Paula Calderon said, “Southeastern’s teacher education program is well respected throughout the state and nation, and I was proud to relay that during a recent presentation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. With the IB educator certifications, we have an added opportunity for student success with graduates who will be using IB best practices whether they end up teaching in IB schools or not.”

Calderon noted that this additional certification allows teachers to work in IB schools all over the world, and it also invigorates those who are teaching at schools that do not adopt this programming. “Teachers who go through IB certification learn how to readapt on their feet, adjusting strategies during their lessons when they recognize specific needs of students,” she said.

At Southeastern, Vitter is working to continue growing opportunities for would-be teachers and those wishing to continue their education. To become an IB educator, teachers must attend IB training to keep that consistency in the program on the global scale.

“We offer five tracks at Southeastern, and IB has awarded 15 certificates to Southeastern students so far,” Vitter said. “We have university students from all over the world who now have Southeastern on their resumes. It’s quite an honor.”

Additionally, Southeastern has been instrumental in ensuring that the high school students who receive the IB diploma have an easier admissions process going on to college. Vitter credits Southeastern’s Assistant Vice President for Academic Programs Dr. Jeff Temple for helping to develop the admissions process for these students, an initiative that has now been heralded by the International Baccalaureate organization and adopted at many universities.


High schools that adopt IB programming don’t just do so for a few of their students; the entire school benefits. All teachers must gain certification and training, and this touches every student enrolled. “Hammond High is not a regular high school with a select group of students who go through IB,” Vitter said. “Everyone there benefits, from the students to administration.”

Since launching, the results have been very positive. Students and teachers have been recognized nationally; over 90 percent of those who finish the IB program become college graduates; the schools have now been recognized in the region for their academic strength; and as a note of success, recent planning meetings for IB’s 2019 global conference in New Orleans have been held at Hammond High, putting it on a global stage and recognizing its achievements.

Calderon says offering the IB educator program at Southeastern demonstrates forward thinking. “As we become more mobile and our teachers begin moving to other parts of the country and the world, they take this certification with them,” she said. “Our Southeastern graduates with this certification won’t have to seek other credentials because this certification is recognized worldwide. We can also be a resource as IB programs continue to grow in our area. If local schools want to become IB schools, Southeastern can provide training. This is a benefit not only for our university, but also for schools and students throughout the region.”

Southeastern again finds itself at the heart of innovation that spurs positive regional impact.

By Amber Narro

Home to the First Public University Collegiate Recovery Program in Louisiana

Above Image: The Lion Up Recovery Advisory Council met for the first time recently to discuss Southeastern’s collegiate recovery program. Seated, from left are Vice President for Student Affairs Eric Summers, Coordinator of Collegiate Recovery Madison Evans, Dean of Students Gabe Willis, Greg Snodgrass of Cumberland Heights, Chris Flanagan of River Place Hospital, Angie King of Beacon Behavioral Health, Angela Tyrone of Florida Parishes Human Service Authority, and Donna Bliss of Child Advocacy Services. Standing, from left, are University Counseling Center Director Peter Emerson, Tom Bennett of Acadia Health, Assistant Director of the UCC Annette Baldwin, Dan Gilmer of The Grove, Southeastern Reference and Instruction Librarian Ben Bell, Licensed Professional Counselor Stuart Carpenter, Andrea Peevy of the University Health Center, student Alaina Fontenot, Madison Nyquist of St. Christopher Addiction Treatment, and student William Sadler. Not pictured are Emily Meyers of LongBranch Treatment Center, Emily Simcoe of St. Christopher Addiction Treatment, community member Chip Thirstrup, and Felicia Kleinpeter of Imagine Recovery.

Southeastern Louisiana University will soon host the first and only collegiate recovery program at a public institution in the state of Louisiana. Launching this fall, “Lion Up Recovery” is recognized by the Association of Recovery in Higher Education and is a voluntary program to help students in recovery achieve their higher education goals.

“This new program as a resource for our students is an extension of Southeastern’s core values,” said President John. L. Crain. “Not only do we provide an exceptional education, but we also care about our students and their collegiate experience.”

The National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reports 37 percent of college students have used an illicit drug and abused alcohol on a regular basis. Approximately 6.64 million college students meet criteria for excessive substance use, approximately 1.26 million meet criteria for substance dependency, and approximately 315,000 are actively seeking help from substance dependency.

“There is a close relationship between the use of alcohol and drugs and the number of those who start but then fail to graduate from college. More importantly, we are aware of the huge risks and all of the associated problems that go along with early-age drinking and other drug use,” said University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors member Dr. Pam Egan. “I am delighted to hear of Southeastern’s success in developing Lion Up Recovery to provide support to students who encounter such problems.”

ARHE is the only association exclusively representing collegiate recovery programs, the faculty and staff who support them, and the students who represent them, said Southeastern Interim Coordinator of Collegiate Recovery Madison Evans. The organization provides the education, resources and community connections needed to help change the trajectory of recovering students’ lives.

“Lion Up Recovery was established to help those students who identify as being in recovery. Southeastern staff trained in substance use disorders and recovery will lead the initiative,” Evans said. “Lion Up Recovery is a program that offers specialized and strategic support to help students achieve growth and success in their recovery and academic journeys.”

The program offers students on-campus support groups, sober tailgating for select Southeastern football games, academic advising and counseling, accountability, and staff intervention, if needed. Also offered are leadership and civic engagement opportunities, studying and sober socials, service opportunities through recovery-oriented support groups, and participation with ARHE regional and national events.

Requirements to participate in the program include, but are not limited to, attending weekly seminar classes, attending at least two recovery meetings per week, attending monthly “Southeastern Recovery Night” meetings, and meeting with an academic adviser each semester.

By applying and choosing to participate in Lion Up Recovery, Evans said, students recognize the support provided by the program is essential to their efforts to sustain recovery while undertaking academic challenges. Expectations are geared to help enhance students’ ability to maintain recovery, achieve academic success, complete degree requirements, and continue to develop as individuals and leaders.

“Lion Up Recovery provides a supportive environment within the campus culture that reinforces the decision to engage in a lifestyle of recovery from substance use,” Evans said. “It is designed to provide an educational opportunity alongside recovery support to ensure that students do not have to sacrifice one for the other.”

For more information on Lion Up Recovery, email or go to

Lions Roar Students Earn Louisiana Press Association Awards

Above Image: Southeastern Louisiana University Lion’s Roar Reporter Nikisun Shrestha was recognized for his photography by the Louisiana Press Association “Better Newspaper Contest” for 2019. Shrestha received a second place award in the Best Feature Photo category, along with a first place award in the Best Sports Photo category for this photo. Shown is Southeastern senior pole-vaulter Devin King as he attempts to regain the facility record at Southeastern Track Complex. He held the previous record that was broken by Lafayette High School’s Armand Duplantis with a height of 19-01 feet. Photo credit: Nikisun Shrestha / The Lion’s Roar.

Southeastern Louisiana University’s student newspaper, The Lion’s Roar, recently received several awards from the Louisiana Press Association “Better Newspaper Contest” for 2019.

The Lion’s Roar staff was recognized in several categories of the competition with awards for first place in the Best Overall Website category and second place in the General Excellence category. Southeastern student journalists also received awards for page design and photography. The Nebraska Press Association judged this year’s 1,034 entries from 37 publications and college and university student newspapers.

The Lion’s Roar Editor-in-Chief Annie Goodman, a senior majoring in communication from Denham Springs, took first place in the Best Feature Story category for her piece titled “Overcoming Addiction: four years sober.” Goodman also received second place in the Best Front Page category for her design work for the front pages of the August 28, 2018 and November 13, 2018 issues of The Lion’s Roar.

“I have learned so much from working at The Lion’s Roar,” said Goodman. “I never expected to be where I am today achieving the things I am. I’ve won a few awards over the years, but this is my first, first place award, which is pretty exciting.”

Reporter Nikisun Shrestha also received recognition for his photography. Shrestha, a senior majoring in accounting from Nepal, was honored with a first place award in the Best Sports Photo category, along with a second place award in the Best Feature Photo category.

Recently the staff of The Lion’s Roar also received awards from the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters and Media Editors College Contest competition and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Gold Circle Awards in March.

Jacob Summerville, a senior political science major from Baton Rouge, was awarded second place in the Feature Photo category at the LA-MS APME Career Day and College Awards held at the Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson, Miss. Summerville’s photo featured students who performed in the production of “The Beautiful Bridegroom.”

For the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Awards, Riana Brasleman and Jonathan Rhodes, both former staff reporters for The Lion’s Roar, were honored for their work in cartooning and sports photography respectively.

Brasleman, a senior majoring in social work from Mandeville, was recognized for her cartoon portfolio showcasing her work titled “Dear College,” which received a second place award in the Cartoons category and a third place award in the Cartoon Portfolio of Work category.

Rhodes, a recent graduate in communication from Slidell, also placed third in the Single Sports Photography category for his photo titled “Lions Win Game Despite Rainout.”

“My staff has grown so much since they joined, and I love watching them flourish,” Goodman continued. “Seeing them recognized for their good work is really amazing – especially since I know I don’t praise them nearly enough. Now, I can’t wait to see what awards our newer staff members will receive this time next year.”

Goodman was also recognized by the Gold Circle Awards for her opinion piece titled “Decoding the Barcode Tattoo,” with a second place prize in the Personal Opinion: Off-campus Issues category.

“These talented students continuously learn and grow as individuals, while at the same time serving the campus with compelling and unique news information,” said Lee E. Lind, director of Student Publications. “We are extremely proud of the recognition they have received for their hard work and dedication to the Southeastern community.”

The Lion’s Roar and its staff have garnered over 20 awards in the past two years from competitions such as the LPA’s Better Newspaper Contest, the LA-MS APME, the American Scholastic Press Association and the CSPA Gold Circle Awards.

To view past issues of the award winning publication, readers can visit Readers can also view content from The Lion’s Roar by subscribing to the publication’s new e-mail newsletter sent out weekly, following the newspaper’s social media accounts, reading a digital version on, or picking up a copy of the paper at one of our 88 newsstands located on campus or in the Hammond community.

College of Business Student Group Receives Superior Merit Award

Southeastern Louisiana University’s student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest human resources association, has received a 2018-2019 Superior Merit Award designation for providing superior growth and development opportunities to its chapter members.

The primary goal of SHRM at Southeastern is to provide educational and networking opportunities for students. Since 2001, Southeastern’s chapter has received 12 Superior Merit Awards and has been ranked in the top 10 chapters in the nation several times.

Established in 1972, the SHRM student chapter merit award program was created to encourage student chapters to require ongoing excellence in the following areas: student chapter requirements, chapter operations, chapter programming and professional development of members, support of the human resource profession, and SHRM engagement.

“SHRM is committed to engaging the future leaders of the human resources profession – human resources and business students. As we strive to shape better workplaces, where employers and employees can thrive together, we are energized by the work our student chapters are doing to encourage students to choose human resources as a career path,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of SHRM. “Presenting this Superior Merit Award designation is just one small way for SHRM to recognize and celebrate the big steps the Southeastern SHRM student chapter has taken this past academic year.”

SHRM student chapters have the opportunity to earn an award based on the number of activities they complete during the merit award cycle. During the year, Southeastern chapter members assisted at the Louisiana Conference on Human Resources, conducted a meeting of the Northshore Professional SHRM chapter, the group’s sponsoring chapter, and welcomed a number of human resource professionals to its meetings.

Students Named to Future Educator Honor Roll

Students from Southeastern Louisiana University’s College of Education were honored by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Kim Hunter-Reed, and State Superintendent of Education John White for being named to the Future Educator Honor Roll.

Scott Jarreau and Keyana Davis, both graduates from Southeastern’s College of Education in May, and Delaney Inabet, a high school student at St. Amant High School in Southeastern’s STAR program (Students Teaching And Reaching) who plans to pursue a career in education, were among 40 future teachers in the state in the inaugural class of honorees recognized by the Louisiana Board of Regents at the State Capitol last month.

The Future Educator Honor Roll is the first of its kind, initiated by Hunter-Reed in an effort to recognize and honor future educators during Teacher Appreciation Month.

Pictured above, from left, are Inabet; Davis; Dr. Paula Summers Calderon, dean of Southeastern’s College of Education; and Jarreau.