Pathway to the World’s Stage

Southeastern prides itself on inspiring its students and community to dream big.

Recently, students have been making headlines nationally and internationally by performing and following their dreams.

Each one has a unique story and something special that inspires them, whether it be a childhood dream, a past teacher, or the feeling you get knowing you’re doing what you love. Here are a few that have been taking the world by storm.



Instilling Excellence

“I have been performing since I was six years old, and what really sparked my love for it is the pride I feel just after I have finished performing a piece of music in front of an audience.”

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Even at her young age, Southeastern Community Music School participant Anna Johnson has already had a love of music for years.

She has performed with the Southeastern Symphony Orchestra and the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra, and most recently she has taken on one of the most prestigious venues in the world—Carnegie Hall. Anna was one of a few junior finalists selected to perform in this year’s Middle School Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall. “The best part about getting to perform in Carnegie Hall was that I was able to perform in a concert hall that is historical and well-known throughout the world,” she said.

The Middle School Honors Performance Series is a five-day experience, taking place in Carnegie Hall, which allows students to work with master conductors and with other students from around the world while also getting to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Big Apple.


Anna gives much of the credit for her early musical success to Southeastern’s Community Music School (CMS). “My teacher, Mrs. Jivka Duke, played a huge part in getting me to where I am now. She taught me everything from basic music note sight reading to improvements in my technique and how I play something. The different programs at CMS, which include orchestra camps and seasonal recitals, give me the opportunity to meet other people my age who have an interest in music.”

Anna_Carnegie Hall_4Southeastern’s Community Music School offers private music lessons on various instruments and voice. It provides an opportunity for both children and adults within the community to learn to play the violin, cello, guitar, piano, and more—allowing them to gain access to professional instruction from Southeastern’s distinguished music faculty members, regardless of age or level of experience. Everyone who wants to embark on a musical journey or enhance their skills is able to at Southeastern’s Community Music School.

At the end of each semester, participants are also able to showcase what they have learned and practice performing in front of audiences during recitals.

Anna has been taking lessons at the Community Music School for the past seven years with Mrs. Duke, the director of the Community Music School, whose pride in the youngster’s talent and accomplishments is evident. “Anna is a very dedicated and hard-working violin student, constantly looking to learn more difficult pieces and seeking to excel at the violin more every day. Her love for the art of music performance, her drive, and her talent is remarkable.”

At such a young age, Anna is still unsure of what career she would like to pursue, but she doesn’t see herself quitting performing anytime soon.

“I want to use music to go to college, but I have other interests. I do hope to continue performing. Music brings joy to not only me but others as well.”

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From the Stage to the Screen

“I started acting in elementary school and did musical theatre leading up into high school,” he explained. “I came to Southeastern and took my first theatre class, and I just caught the bug!”

Jaren Mitchell, a class of 2011 general studies alum with a concentration in theatre, credits Southeastern as the spark that ignited his passion for acting. Now he is regularly seen by hundreds of thousands of people as a television and film actor.

“I always loved to act, but it wasn’t like I had to do it until I got to college. Southeastern and the instructors had a big impact on me. They made me believe that I could actually act outside of just a hobby,” Jaren said.

Jaren spent much of his time at Southeastern on the stage.

“All I really did was theatre. I think the thing I did the best in regards to school was actually anything to do with the theatre department.”

During his time at Southeastern, Jaren worked with many different faculty members and built relationships with other students in the program. “My favorite thing about working with the faculty at Southeastern was the trustworthy and collaborative properties. It wasn’t just the director telling us we had to do it their way. It was an extremely collaborative experience.”

imagesJaren shared that the program was very helpful in getting him connected with people in the industry. “I was getting access to people from all over while still being in Hammond.”

The theatre program at Southeastern continues to offer students unparalleled hands-on experience from industry professionals, and recently it has expanded even further. During the 2021-2022 academic year, Southeastern began offering a bachelor of arts in theatre in addition to the general studies degree with a minor in theatre and an art degree with a theatre design concentration. This new program provides for the study of theatre with a focus on acting, stage management, and directing within a liberal arts environment, preparing students for successful entry into careers in theatre and film, as well as advanced academic study. There are also opportunities throughout the year to participate in productions at the beloved Vonnie Borden Theatre, which allows other Southeastern students to attend high-end performances free of charge.


Southeastern’s new bachelor of arts in theatre is the only program in the state with a theatre design concentration within the Visual Art Department, and the theatre budget is dedicated completely to undergraduate education.

Since graduating, Jaren has been a part of multiple film projects. Most recently, he has been working on the seventh and final season of acclaimed OWN series Queen Sugar, which began airing this September. He also has another project coming out later this year called The Channel.

Jaren3“I enjoyed all of the experiences,” Jaren said of his career so far. “Most memorable would be The Purge TV series, or Queen Sugar, which is the first project with a recurring character that I have been able to stick with over multiple years. I really enjoy stage combat and using the weaponry, a lot of action stuff, and I got to do some of that with The Purge.”

From the Vonnie Borden Theatre’s stage to screens across the world, today Jaren is following and achieving his dreams—and he encourages others to have the determination to do the same.

“My favorite thing about working in film is the freedom,” he said. “It is a blessing to be able to wake up and act. I know I am very fortunate that, at the end of the day, I am getting paid to do what I like to do. When you find something you love to do, commit to it, and don’t worry about the outcome. Just keep going. You are going to find forks in the road, but just pivot around them and keep moving forward.”


Coming Together Across the World

“When I was a child, I had a dream. I saw clearly my time spent on stage wearing the 18th- and 19th-century dresses, and that is how I knew I was meant to sing opera.”


Natalia Turchin, a Southeastern master’s student majoring in music with a concentration in performance and a native of Moldova, has always had a special place in her heart for the performing arts. Through intense determination and support from the Southeastern and local communities, she recently traveled to Italy to perform and enhance her skills as a professional opera singer.

Although still a student, Natalia’s childhood dream of performing opera has already become a reality, and she is
loving every minute of it. “Music is where I can create, be free, and take on roles. It’s all about acting; you can become anyone you want to be on the stage.”

“There are a lot of different feelings when you are on the stage, when you can share something and give back. There is a contact and connection between you, the audience, and the rest of the people on the stage,” she added. “When you are on stage, you are a team.”

Her love of performing has led her to strive to find ways to continue developing her talent, and all the way from Moldova to Hammond, La. “My friend from school back home had graduated from Southeastern, and I asked her, ‘do you think I could get a master’s degree there?’” After applying, Natalia started her master’s in August of 2021.


Southeastern’s music graduate program helps students to advance their performance skills; strengthen their abilities to investigate, organize, integrate and evaluate information; and develop their overall professional expertise. Students in this program possess the self-motivation and discipline to complete the individual study, research, and project preparation that constitutes the majority of the degree program.

Shortly after arriving in Hammond, the faculty took her in and were like a second family. “Dr. Mouledous is like a mother to me,” Natalia said. “She is an example, open to help, open to giving to people. Two weeks after arriving here, Hurricane Ida was coming, and she asked me how I was preparing for it. She offered to let me to stay with her at her house. Before even meeting me in person, she also met me at the airport to welcome me and help me get settled.”

Natalia was selected and invited to attend the Festival of International Opera Italia this summer, a month-long experience for vocal performance students to have intensive training in Italian, workshops with opera masters, and a final collaborative performance.

However, when the turmoil between Ukraine and Russia began earlier this year, Natalia’s family back home in Moldova, a neighboring nation to Ukraine, started to feel the effects financially. Natalie sent all of the money she had saved for the program back to her family to help support them through this time. At a loss for how to come up with the funds, Natalia started to lose hope of attending the program.

“I was very close to giving up, but so many people were telling me not to give up.”


Then one of the professors suggested she organize a benefit concert series. “I connected with a church, and then they connected me to another church, and the church connected to people,” she explained. “And it became not just my goal, but it became a group accomplishment. I would like to thank all of the sponsors for me to be able to go to the program and the people who encouraged me to do the benefit concerts.”

Through the benefit concerts and a GoFundMe, Natalia was able to raise enough to be able to still attend her program in Italy.

Once there, she had a very busy yet extremely organized schedule. “We had lessons in Italian. We had lessons with the pianists, and we were taught how to sing the song and diction. We had voice lessons with our preferred professors, and there were rehearsals with the whole ensemble.”

IMG_4742The program performed a total of four shows in three cities in Italy, with ensemble participants coming from different universities all around the world. “Even though we were all totally different, we were able to come together and work together far from home,” she said.

One aspect that made these performances unique for Natalia was that the singers got to perform with a full orchestra. “It was my first time working with a full orchestra with a great conductor maestro, Joseph Rescignio.”

Natalia loved her time working with the program and shared that it was a great experience. “I would encourage anyone pursuing music to go, and it is always good to have more operas for your resume.”

Even though the experience of performing in Italy was so unique, when asked about her favorite performance she has participated in, Natalia said, “I have one; it was not a performance, but I was singing a song with a group of friends, and when I began to sing, one of my friends was so moved that they began to cry. My favorite performances are when I touch someone’s soul.”



The Scotch House

Alumnus and owner of Bracy’s Nursery Randy Bracy has turned his passion for Scotch into a gallery of liquid treasure.

Many people collect things. It’s a part of human nature—that sentimental desire to create an assortment of objects that are loved. Whether it’s stamps, dolls, vinyl records, or even Pokémon cards, most people have started a collection of some sort. But a few have turned their collecting into an art form, and Randy Bracy is one of those collectors.

Randy, a 1974 Southeastern graduate, collects Scotch. Enough to need a small fortress to house it all, completewith museum-quality shelving displays, LED lighting, and climate control. And don’t forget the vault door and bulletproof windows!

Welcome to The Scotch House.


Once you’ve had a moment to take it all in (the sheer number of Scotch bottles, the 3,100 feet of wooden shelving, the mood-setting lighting, the deep leather chairs, the impressive mahogany table, and more), Randy will kindly pour you a glass of his favorite Scotch (Highland Park, neat) and happily regale you with the story of how it all started: with a fifth of Scotch in Friendship Circle.Randall “Randy” Bracy was born a third-generation dairy farmer and majored in animal science at Southeastern in the early 1970s. He felt right at home and made friends quickly.
“The thing I loved about Southeastern was that it had a small-town feel with all the amenities of a much larger university,” explained Bracy. “We knew all of our teachers really well. Classes were small and we had good relationships with everyone.”

The combination of a quality education and familiar social aspect on campus is what Randy cherishes the most about his time at Southeastern. “It was and still is a true community,” he said.

After graduation, Randy intended to return to the dairy business. But he soon realized that his knack for business and background in science could go beyond the sale of just dairy cows.

“My father-in-law was a horticulturist in Hammond,” says Randy. “He had a chance to get some peach trees. Turns out, I was much better at selling fruit trees. Each year after that, we started to sell more and more. Then we realized we could sell more than just fruit trees because of our big customer base.”
Those few peach trees turned into the booming horticultural hub that is now Bracy’s Nursery in Amite, La. Randy and his wife Dr. Regina Bracy, who is also a graduate of Southeastern, have overseen the enterprise of nearly 250 acres and approximately 130 employees for over 30 years. Bracy’s Nursery proudly serves as one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the South, shipping from Oklahoma to the Carolinas.

Randy is a heart-warming example of the phrase “hard work pays off.” The son of Louisiana dairy farmers took the skills, connections, and degree he earned at Southeastern and used them to create his own little corner of paradise. And as the years passed, he got to enjoy the fruits (and trees and plants) of his labor every evening over a good glass of Scotch.

“I love the idea of Scotch in that it’s so simple,” says Randy. “It’s only made of three things: barley, water, and yeast.” His love for this simple beverage, which turned into a not-so-simple hobby, began over 50 years ago with a group of friends at a Southeastern football tailgate.

Here in South Louisiana, it’s no secret that football fans (those of age, of course) can be found enjoying the adult beverage of their choice at a tailgate. Randy and his buddies were no exception. But none of them had any idea that a simple change in libation would have such an effect on their lives nearly 50 years later.

“My friend Ernie Bush (also class of ’74) and I used to go to Southeastern Football games,” Randy chuckles. “We’d bring a fifth of Bourbon—but by halftime, it would be gone. So, he got smart and brought a fifth of Scotch to the next game. No one wanted to drink it, so it lasted for several games.”

The Scotch became a tradition for them, one that Randy carried with him for the rest of his life. And every time he sits down in his favorite leather chair, drink in hand, Randy fondly recalls the good friends he made at Southeastern and the memories they made together.

Randy has simple advice for current and future students: “Enjoy it. Southeastern will be the greatest time of your life.”

Savor it, perhaps, like a good glass of Scotch—all the way down to the last drop.


Southeastern Food Ranked Best in Louisiana

Students’ opinions and taste buds earned Southeastern 2023 Best College Food in Louisiana recognition and a national Top 50 ranking, too. The rankings were published by Niche, the market leader in connecting colleges and schools with students and families.

The ranking, based on student reviews, considers meal plan costs and student access to healthy, quality food across a wide range of cuisines and dietary preferences.

At the national level Southeastern came in at No. 35. Only one other Louisiana university made the Top 50 cut.

“With the expansion of our Student Union, we completely transformed the dining experience on campus,” said Connie Davis, director of Auxiliary Services. “After much research, we found that trends in campus dining include a central location that offers both healthy and delicious options with affordable variety for the students and campus community. The Mane Dish restaurant has an ever-changing menu that can be customized to the consumer’s preferences. Located in the Student Union, it’s a great space to relax and enjoy a meal while on campus.”

The ranking was based on survey responses obtained from students at more than 1,300 public and private traditional four-year colleges and universities across the United States. Among the criteria considered were healthy and organic options, overall quality, and variety of offerings.

Student opinions collected in the survey referred to the many options for campus dining, the variety of meals from which to choose, quality and freshness of food, and reasonable prices.

“The food is great and also good for you,” said one student online reviewer. Another said, “The quality of the dining experience is fantastic. The staff is friendly and the food is always fresh and delicious.” “There are plenty of options to choose from to eat; I love having so many choices,” said a third.

In addition to its Mane Dish dining facility, which offers all you care to eat meals made on site, Southeastern also maintains a food court, featuring a variety of nationally-based vendors.

Southeastern Channel named Best Television Station in the South

For the 10th time, the University’s Southeastern Channel has been recognized as the “Best College Television Station in the South.”

The channel earned first place “Best of South” honors for the fourth year in a row and the seventh time in the past 10 years at the annual Southeast Journalism Conference. Its seven years of winning “Best College TV Station” since 2013 are the most by any university in the Southeast region of the U.S. During that time, when the Southeastern Channel didn’t win first place, it won second place.

The Southeast Journalism Conference (SEJC) celebrates student journalism and offers an opportunity for participants to develop relationships with students from schools throughout the Southeast United States.

This year’s “Best of South” competition featured 348 entries from 30 universities throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. Winners were announced in a virtual ceremony from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. Current television professionals judged the television and broadcast categories.

The Southeastern Channel swept all of the television categories at the conference, winning first place in every overall and individual TV and broadcast category.

“It’s a terrific honor to once again be selected as the Best College Television Station in the South over all of those stations at universities much larger than ours,” said Southeastern Channel General Manager Rick Settoon. “The fact that we swept first-place honors in all of the television and broadcast categories speaks volumes.”

“It reflects the quality of our on-air programs that provide impactful information and excellent educational, cultural, entertainment, community, and sports content for our Northshore viewers,” Settoon said. “It also shows that our students are very well-trained and ready for great careers in the television, video and film industries. We’re so proud of our students.”

In addition to “Best College Television Station,” the Southeastern Channel won first place for “Best College Video News Program” for the student newscast Northshore News. The newscast has won first place eight times now, including six times in the past 11 years, the most of any school in the region.

The Southeastern Channel’s individual winners included Jacqueline Doucet of Denham Springs, who was the SEJC’s top winner in television with first place for both “Best College Television Journalist in the South” and “Best College Television Feature Reporter in the South.”

Lauren Hawkins of Ponchatoula won first place for “Best College Television News Reporter in the South” and fourth place for “Best College Television Journalist in the South.” Joseph Trosclair of Baton Rouge brought home first place for “Best College Advertising Staff Member in the South.”

In selecting the Southeastern Channel as “Best College Television Station in the South,” judges stated that the channel exhibited not only the best quality of production, but also the greatest depth and breadth of its student-produced programming with shows like the Northshore News newscast, The Big Game student sportscast, and the Southeastern Times student newsmagazine.

The Southeastern Channel won “Best College Video News Program in the South” for its June 28, 2021 episode of Northshore News. The episode was produced by Hawkins and anchored by Hawkins and Trinity Brown of Baton Rouge.

Northshore News focuses on all areas that you should know to be a great journalist,” Hawkins said. “Not just the reporting or anchoring, but the technical work that goes along with it—the writing, camera work, and use of a video camera. This is what puts this program ahead of others—making sure students are well rounded and properly equipped with the knowledge they need in all aspects of the industry.”

Also a reporter for the winning episode, Hawkins contributed the newscast’s top story about a doubled reward for the murderer in a double homicide case in Independence. In addition, Hawkins reported on the “Litter Gitter,” a unique invention of Tangipahoa Parish resident Don Bates designed to keep the waterways of Tangipahoa Parish clean.

The winning episode included a story by AnaClaire McKneely of Amite about Fentanyl variants, their widespread use and destructive impacts. McKneely also reported on the new K-12 curriculum at the Southeastern Laboratory School.

Kaylor Yates of Baton Rouge reported on the push for COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the Livingston Parish school system, while Joliette Vincent of Luling covered Tangipahoa’s proposal for a new half-cent sales tax to provide raises for parish school teachers.

Reporter Taylor Nettle of Slidell covered the Hammond groundbreaking for a new 600,000 square foot distribution center for the pharmaceutical supply giant Medline, while Jordan Kliebert of Mandeville produced a story on the new improvements to guard rails on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.

In the individual categories, Doucet won “Best College TV Journalist in the South” and “Best College Television Feature Reporter in the South” for a pair of feature stories that she produced for the Southeastern Channel’s newsmagazine show Southeastern Times.

“It feels amazing,” Doucet said. “I feel honored and humbled that my work has received such recognition. It shows that my hard work in developing my skills has paid off.”

One of her features, “A Quarantine with Stars,” was about Father Mike O’Rourke at the St. Albert’s Catholic Student Center on campus who traveled to a remote part of Texas to stargaze with his telescope during the COVID-19 quarantine. Her other winning feature story, “Our Daily Bread,” covered a local food pantry’s service to the needy during the pandemic.

“I think the uniqueness of the stories made them special and award worthy,” Doucet said. “Every person in each story had something special and personal to share that has made an impact in their lives, and that stuck out to me.”

Hawkins won “Best College News Reporter in the South” for her Northshore News stories “Double Homicide,” “Litter Gitter,” and “Hammond Airshow.”

“I feel very honored to have won this title,” Hawkins said. “It lets me know that the energy and efforts I have put into my passion have not gone unnoticed.”

A December 2021 graduate of Southeastern, Hawkins now works as a TV news and traffic reporter for WBRZ-TV Ch. 2 (ABC) in Baton Rouge.

“Working for the Southeastern Channel also gave me a very ‘hands-on’ experience with how a newsroom is run,” Hawkins said. “I was well rounded by the time I got offered my first job. From anchoring at a desk, to writing, to editing packages and doing all of my camera work, I received constructive criticism in each of these areas that prepared me for a real-world job in this profession.”

As a Southeastern Channel videographer-editor, Trosclair won “Best Advertising Staff Member in the South” for three spots he produced, directed, shot, and edited. These included the promo “Halloween at the Southeastern Channel,” along with the PSAs “Buzzed Driving” and “Group Assignment.”

In its 20 years of existence the Southeastern Channel has won over 500 national, international and regional awards, including 23 awards from the Emmys. The channel can be seen on Spectrum Channel 199 in Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, Livingston and St. Helena parishes and on in Washington Parish. The channel’s live 24-7 broadcast is streamed on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, the Spectrum App, and on, which also offers video on demand. The Southeastern Channel can also be accessed through its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts.

Celebrating Summer and Fall 2022 Graduates

Southeastern honored its summer and fall 2022 graduates with two commencement ceremonies on Dec. 10. More than 1,000 degrees were awarded.

Whether you missed the ceremony or want to relive the memories, scroll below for a peek at the big day.