1,156 Graduates Celebrated During 2021 Spring Commencement Ceremonies

Southeastern honored 1,156 graduates Tuesday, May 18, and Wednesday, May 19, in several separate commencement ceremonies on campus.

Southeastern graduates included 434 men and 722 women, who were receiving 15 different degrees and representing 21 states and 22 countries.

Candidates for associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees were honored.

The university awarded its highest academic honor, the President’s Medal for Academic Excellence, to 16 students with the highest cumulative grade point average in the university’s five colleges. All medal winners finished with a 4.0 grade point average.

For a full list of graduates and President’s Medal for Academic Excellence recipients, click here.

Southeastern Student Named State’s Top Student Broadcaster

For the sixth time in the past eight years, a Southeastern student has been named the state’s top student broadcaster.

Raychelle Riley of Denham Springs was named 2021 Louisiana Student Broadcaster of the Year in Television by the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters (LAB) at its annual Prestige Awards ceremony held virtually this year.

Riley was selected from all college television students from throughout the state by the LAB, made up of all television and radio professionals and stations in Louisiana.

“I am so thankful to be named by the LAB as the state’s top student broadcaster,” Riley said. “I am so honored and grateful to have been recognized among so many amazing television broadcast professionals. Being selected is uplifting, motivating, and quite humbling. This reassures me that I am headed in the right direction, and that hard work does pay off in the end.”

Riley joins former Southeastern Channel reporters Erika Ferrando (2014), now at WWL-TV Ch. 4 (CBS) in New Orleans, Paul Rivera (2015), currently at WESH-TV Ch. 2 (ABC) in Orlando, Fla., Dominique Brogle (2016), formerly at KTBS-TV Ch. 7 (ABC) in Shreveport, Wesley Boone (2018), now at KTAL-TV Ch. 6 (NBC) in Shreveport, and Chris Rosato (2020), now at WAFB-TV Ch. 9 (CBS) in Baton Rouge.

“It’s a great honor that once again the Southeastern Channel has produced the top student broadcaster in Louisiana,” said Rick Settoon, Southeastern Channel general manager. “Our previous winners have taken advantage of the unique training that we offer at the Southeastern Channel, and it’s catapulted them to top state, regional and national awards. It has also prepared them for stellar careers in the industry as evidenced by the fact they are already reporting and anchoring in larger TV markets nationally in such a short amount of time after graduation. I have no doubt that Raychelle will follow suit.”

Riley was a news anchor and reporter for the Southeastern Channel’s student newscast Northshore News, which has been named the second best student television newscast in the nation by College Broadcasters, Inc.

“One of my goals, always, is to make a difference, and reporting and anchoring give me the opportunity to do that,” Riley said. “I hope to gain the trust of my viewing audience and be someone they can always count on for clean, unbiased news.”

A December 2020 graduate from Southeastern as a communication major in broadcasting, Riley was hired immediately by WVLA-TV Ch. 33 (NBC)/WGMB-TV Ch. 44 (FOX) in Baton Rouge as a news reporter. Her stories air every morning for the Baton Rouge and surrounding area in roughly 300,000 TV homes.

The LAB also honored Riley a year ago with its prestigious Student Broadcaster Scholarship of $2,000. The LAB’s scholarship program supports promising future broadcasters and aids them in seeking the best quality education in the field of broadcasting. It states that the purpose for the scholarship is to encourage students of the highest caliber to enter broadcasting as a career and guarantee the future quality of broadcasting in Louisiana.

“TV news reporting and anchoring presented itself as a perfect accumulation of the things that I love, which include my community, meeting new people, writing, leadership, communication, working with the camera, and my passion for touching lives, which I have the opportunity to do every day,” Riley said.

In addition, Riley was selected as Southeastern’s first-ever personal intern for Southeastern Alumna and Emmy-winning news anchor for ABC’s Good Morning America, Robin Roberts. Interning at GMA in the summer of 2019, Riley worked closely on a daily basis with the network superstar, contributing to each morning’s GMA news production at the show’s studio in New York’s Times Square.

Riley said that working for the Southeastern Channel’s Northshore News newscast has given her invaluable, real-world training for a career in television news.

“The Southeastern Channel operates as a real, local television station,” Riley said. “It helped me accumulate all of the skills that I needed in order to be prepared when I transitioned into my career at WVLA/WGMB.”

Riley’s stories contributed to Northshore News this spring winning “Best Overall College Television Newscast” given by the Society of Professional Journalists in its “Mark of Excellence” awards for Region 12, made up of all colleges in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. The newscast was also honored as first-place “Best College Video News Program in the South” by the Southeast Journalism Conference, which is made up of 40 universities from eight states in the southeast U.S.

“The Southeastern Channel helped me attain this success by taking my passion for people, storytelling, and my community, and then providing me with the tools I needed as a reporter to bring it all together,” Riley said. “The staff and professors there are the best to learn from. They have a great deal of knowledge to share and plenty of experience in the industry. I have learned so much from them and others throughout this program. They work hard to put you in the best position for a successful career in TV News.”

The Southeastern Channel has won over 400 national, international, regional and state awards in the past 18 years, including 20 awards from the Emmys. The channel can be seen on Spectrum 199 in Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, Livingston and St. Helena parishes and at mthermonwebTV.com in Washington Parish. The channel’s live 24/7 webcast can be seen on Roku, Apple TV and thesoutheasternchannel.com which includes video on demand. The Southeastern Channel can also be accessed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Beauty in the Chaos


Throughout this past year of world-wide uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, there has perhaps never been a better time for both creating and engaging with the arts. As Thomas Merton once said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

Southeastern’s Contemporary Art Gallery has remained a valuable resource for students and the entire community throughout this difficult time—providing physical and digital spaces for both education and reflection. Importantly, it has also served as a venue for Southeastern faculty to showcase their own recent works and artistic processes, such as during the Gallery’s recent 2021 Art + Design Faculty Exhibition.


This exhibition, which was held from January 20-February 24, is an annual event open to all Southeastern faculty. This year’s installment featured approximately 20 artists, many of whom are working in series, and their wide-ranging works that include photography, video, sculpture, ceramics, fashion or costume design, theatre design, and more.

Cristina Molina
Cristina Molina

Associate Professor of New Media and Animation and Director of the Southeastern Contemporary Art Gallery Cristina Molina explained that the goal of this exhibition “is to highlight the work of faculty so that students in the Visual Art + Design Department have an idea of what their professors and instructors are making creatively. It’s to support the idea that we, as teachers, are also engaged in a creative practice, and that is part of our research which we also then bring to the classroom.” Moreover, it is also created to allow the larger community to become more familiar with the recent artistic work coming out of the studios of Southeastern faculty.

The work presented in the exhibition is indeed quite diverse—in terms of media, but also in terms of concepts and concerns being explored. While there can sometimes be a lack of understanding when it comes to contemporary art, Molina explained how each piece displayed is deeply thought out. “I’d like viewers to appreciate the efforts and the talents of our faculty, but also to appreciate the amount of research and scholarship that goes in to creating these works, and to see that each artist is really considering theme and subject matter as they’re making these works,” said Molina. “It’s a very thoughtful and carefully considered process.”

Every artwork has its own unique story to tell, but some of the pieces in this exhibition were directly influenced by the subject matter of the pandemic. One of these, by Professor of Art Education Dr. Kim Finley, is a monochromatic, abstracted landscape that directly references the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. “It’s a very thoughtful piece, a very current and poignant piece for us to consider the gravity of this pandemic and to remember to take care and take precautions, because it is a very serious problem right now,” said Molina.

Kim Finley, Negation; Survival’s Guilt or 185,000 Americans Dead Due to Covid-19. Mixed media print, paint stick, graphite. drawing pencil 2021.

Other featured artists and faculty members including Christopher Burns, Tom Walton, and Vanessa Centeno reference the pandemic in their artwork as well.

Burns’ work, a photographic survey of the rural South Louisiana landscape, uses vibrant colors while also being quiet, dark, and omitting people. According to him, “This reflects not only the coronavirus restrictions placed on my practice, but the way outsiders struggle to relate and understand the landscape here, geographically and socially.”

Artwork by Instructor of Photography Christopher Burns

The art community has been one of the hardest hit by the economic repercussions of the pandemic, with many museums and galleries being forced to close their doors and artists’ sales in steep decline. Following a 2020 national survey of COVID-19 impact on museums in the United States, the American Alliance of Museums, the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community and the premier museum accrediting body in the U.S., concluded that one out of three museums in our country may close forever.

Yet, there is a great benefit to maintaining a physical space for the arts. “I think a physical space is important, especially for viewers, because there are certain facets of artworks that can’t be translated via a screen,” said Molina. “This can be especially true for three-dimensional media, the materials and dimensionality of which can be documented but are hard to translate. Additionally, the space itself helps create a heightened level of experience and engagement with the art. I think that anyone who appreciates art can remember being confronted with an artwork that really blew them away. That was meaningful to them. They felt transcended by it. And such experiences are also because of the conditions of the space. For example, it’s very quiet [in the Gallery]. Part of the role of the Gallery is to create these conditions where artwork can be viewed in a contemplative space free of any distraction and offer space and time for that kind of viewing participation.”

While maintaining this physical space for the arts is vital, implementing associated programming to enhance understanding of and engagement with this and other exhibitions is also essential, especially during the pandemic. At the Contemporary Art Gallery, this has been done through continuing the visiting artist talks, including in a new virtual format while in-person gathering has not been possible. The Gallery also traditionally provides exhibition tours, catalogs, and more. “It’s very important to have these peripheral programs so that they inform the current exhibitions,” said Molina.

012721_0008The development of virtual programs like the Gallery’s visiting artist talks is just one way in which the arts community has developed innovative methods to survive and reach others during this past year. “I think that the artist community is very resilient,” said Molina. “We’re trained to solve problems creatively. So I’m hopeful that out of this will come some new, innovative ways to get work distributed, but also to engage audiences.”

From students to the wider community, Southeastern’s Contemporary Art Gallery does indeed continue to serve and engage audiences. With new exhibitions to explore almost every month, both in person and virtual programming for enhanced experiences, and a serene space for reflection with free admission for all, it remains a respite in the arts, both from afar and in person in the heart of Southeastern’s campus.

By Sheri Gibson


Cristina Molina
Cristina Molina, associate professor of new media and animation and director of the Southeastern Contemporary Art Gallery, installs artwork created in 2020 by Christine
Crook, assistant professor of theatre, for the 2021 Art + Design Faculty Exhibition.
Screen Shot 2021-03-09 at 4.34.18 PM
Vanessa Centeno, instructor of 2-D design, Neon Tears (detail). Acrylic on canvas, wood, LED light, 2021


Explore new paintings, works on paper, and a collaborative animated music video by New Orleans Based Artist John Isiah Walton in Black Paintings: Cybernetic Folklore, Place, + Spirit, open June 14-September 2, 20201.unnamed

New Professional Sales Training Room Now Open

Students in Southeastern’s new Professional Sales Program will now benefit from a state-of-the-art training room thanks to a $100,000 donation from Northwestern Mutual. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held recently to celebrate the opening of the Northwestern Mutual Training Room located in Garrett Hall.

Managing Partner of Louisiana and Mississippi Steven Dugal and Managing Director of the Mandeville and Gulfport District Offices Paul Hodge were recognized as donors with matching gifts from Northwestern Mutual’s corporate office.

Southeastern’s Professional Sales Program was created to draw high-ability students toward selling as a career, better prepare those students for early success in professional selling careers, and connect them with sales professionals in the region. According to research conducted by the Sales Education Foundation, more than 50 percent of business school graduates enter the workforce in a sales-oriented position.

Dean of the College of Business Toni Phillips said the core sales curriculum consists of courses in personal selling, advanced professional selling, and sales management and is supported with other marketing courses in consumer behavior, marketing research, and marketing strategy. With the current goal to prepare students for success in the sales profession, the program has been developed for marketing majors with a future goal of including those majoring in areas outside of business who wish to pursue a sales certificate.

“We know that professional sales is not only a starting point for careers, but is becoming more and more important across all sectors of the economy,” said Phillips. “The Southeastern Professional Sales Program will help train the next generation of sales leaders, and the investment that Northwestern Mutual is making demonstrates that the program is on the right track. We are really appreciative of Northwestern Mutual.”

An important objective of the program, Phillips added, is to connect sales program students with sales professionals and organizations through role-play competitions, internships, guest speakers, panel discussions and career opportunities.

For more information about Southeastern’s Professional Sales Program or how businesses can get involved, contact Assistant Professor April Kemp at April.Kemp@southeastern.edu or (985) 549-2277, or visit southeastern.edu/sales.

slu_northwestern_mutualcrImage: Celebrating at the ribbon cutting ceremony are, from left, Southeastern President John L. Crain, Jordyn Eaton, Katy Dugal, Ryan Rhoto, Jason Navarre, Steven Dugal, Paul Hodge, Dicky Lyons (all with Northwestern Mutual), Sales Program Coordinators Assistant Professor April Kemp and Associate Professor Tará Lopez, Miss Southeastern Lily Gayle, Vice President for University Advancement Wendy Lauderdale, and Tangipahoa Parish President Robby Miller.

Student Speech Language Hearing Group and Advisor Honored by National Organization

The National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) has awarded the NSSLHA chapter at Southeastern with 2021 Gold Chapter Honors.

National NSSLHA Chapter Honors are awarded to affiliated chapters that demonstrate an outstanding effort to support the organization’s national mission to inspire, empower, and support students in communication sciences and disorders programs, said retired Professor of Southeastern’s Communication and Sciences Disorders program and Chapter Advisor Lillian Stiegler.

Lillian Stiegler 

“The Communication Sciences and Disorders program offers an undergraduate curriculum leading to the degree of bachelor of science,” said Stiegler, a resident of Covington. “The four-year curriculum prepares students to serve individuals with communication disorders. Clinical practica are required.”

The program also offers curriculum and external clinical practica leading to a master of science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders, added Stiegler, a specialist in the field of autism spectrum disorders.

Graduate student Mary Grace Kelley of Slidell nominated Stiegler for the Chapter Advisor Honors Award, which she received for the first time this year.

“Dr. Stiegler has served as our NSSLHA Chapter Advisor for 25 years—always emphasizing the importance of advocacy, voting, philanthropy, and service. She has a visible and contagious love for speech-language pathology, which spreads like wildfire through her students and chapter members,” said Kelley.

Kelley explained that Stiegler motivated her students to overcome obstacles created by COVID-19 and encouraged them to launch a mentorship program. Their efforts helped build relationships within the CSD program, as well as connect the students virtually with audiologists and speech language pathologists across the world.

“With Dr. Stiegler’s leadership, our chapter has received National NSSLHA Chapter Honors award multiple times, including Chapter of the Year in 2004, and the Award of Excellence twice,” Kelley said. “Since Dr. Stiegler has retired from Southeastern, we honor her efforts and achievements, and we truly believe she deserves this award.”

Lion4Life Lunch: Spring 2021

As a way to celebrate graduates in-person during COVID-19, the Alumni Office transformed the annual Lion4Life Launch event into a Lion4Life Lunch! On May 13, attendees enjoyed a free lunch, a complimentary gift, music and photo ops. Grads were also able to pick up their mini diploma and entered to win a Visa gift card. Relive or get a glipse of the celebration below!