Southeastern Nursing Programs Named Best in the State

Two Southeastern nursing programs have been recognized by the Louisiana Nurses Foundation with the Nightingale Award as the Nursing School of the Year—the master’s degree in nursing, which is offered in a consortium with three other state institutions, and the undergraduate program in nursing. The awards recognize the achievements of both nursing program’s students and faculty.

This is the third time Southeastern has been recognized with a Nightingale Award for an advanced practice program, with the master’s program being recognized as program of the year in 2013 and 2019. In addition, Southeastern’s undergraduate nursing program has been recognized with the Nightingale Award three previous times; this time marks the fourth.

The competition is evaluated by a panel of out-of-state judges who review the nominations submitted by nursing programs throughout the state. The Nightingale Awards are the foundation’s highest recognition for quality, service, commitment and excellence among Louisiana registered nurses.

Ann Carruth, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said nursing programs are evaluated for the award by a wide range of criteria, including accreditation status, innovations in education and teaching, nursing examination passage rate, and comments solicited from graduates, faculty and area employers.

Carruth added that being recognized for the BSN and MSN programs is especially significant this year because 2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife and the 200th year of Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

“The fact that this year also highlights the prominence of nurses as healthcare heroes during this pandemic is an additional testament to the profession. I’m as proud of our graduates as they start their careers as nurses and advanced practitioners,” Carruth said. “At the suggestion of the President of the Alumni Association Dickie Whitson and to commemorate this special year and honor faculty and alumni, Mike Legendre, an alumni and friend of Southeastern, designed a special nursing pin.”

Southeastern’s master’s program is offered in a consortium with the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, McNeese State University in Lake Charles and Nicholls State University in Thibodaux.
“The consortium has been recognized by the Louisiana Board of Regents as a model of collaboration, articulation and the wise use of scarce resources,” said Carruth. “Through a sharing of resources – including creative collaboration by committed faculty – we are able to offer top quality, cost effective postgraduate education in an easily accessible online model.”

“Our best assets are our faculty and students,” she added. “Together we have graduated advanced practice nurses to meet the healthcare needs of the region, nurse leaders to solve complex health care management crises and nurse educators to train future nurses.”

The program offers concentrations leading to a master of science degree in nursing in three different areas: family nurse practitioner, family psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner, and nurse educator. The program is accredited by the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education.

“Since 1992, this program has helped prepare a steady number of professionals to meet the growing health and wellness needs of the state,” Carruth said. “Most of our students work full time and require some degree of convenience and flexibility in their graduate program. By offering our courses online through web-based distance learning, the consortium is meeting the needs of these professionals and allowing them to learn at their own pace and time.”

School of Nursing Department Head Ken Tillman attributes the nursing faculty and teaching resources to the ultimate success of the undergraduate program’s students and graduates.
“Our nursing faculty are dedicated to the success of our students,” he said. “Teaching resources, such as great instructional spaces, skills practice labs and patient simulation labs, both on campus and at the Baton Rouge Center, is another top feature of our program.”

“The nursing program’s clinical affiliation agreements with leading healthcare systems located on the Northshore and Baton Rouge region is another advantage for students. Our nursing students have an opportunity to learn and apply their knowledge by working side-by-side with some of the best nurses and healthcare professionals anywhere.”

Southeastern’s nursing school also operates a completely online RN to BSN degree program that allows registered nurses with an associate’s degree or nursing diploma to complete courses leading to a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

Teacher Preparation Programs Ranked Among Top in the Nation

Southeastern’s undergraduate and graduate elementary teacher preparation programs have been named among the top in the country by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit research and policy organization, for strong training in classroom management strategies and high-quality clinical practice experiences.

This month, NCTQ released its 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Clinical Practice and Classroom Management, which finds encouraging progress in teacher preparation programs’ adoption of evidence-based classroom management strategies that are universally effective, regardless of student age or the subject being taught. For the first time since NCTQ began publishing ratings in the 2013 Teacher Prep Review, half of the nearly 1,000 traditional elementary teacher preparation programs evaluated earn an A or B grade, up nearly 30 percent from seven years ago.

Southeastern’s programs stand out as among only 17 elementary programs in the country that earn an A in both clinical practice and classroom management and serve as a model of excellence for others.

“We’re delighted the National Council for Teacher Quality recognizes the hard work College of Education faculty and school partners have devoted to making sure our teacher candidates are prepared for the classroom,” said College of Education Dean Paula Summers Calderon. “We take pride in ensuring our teacher candidates have the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions to deliver quality instruction in any school district in the country.”

According to NCTQ, fewer advancements have been made nationally in the adoption of quality control metrics of clinical experiences, including student teaching and residencies, particularly in the process for selecting mentor teachers, which is managed not only by teacher prep programs, but also by their partner school.

Southeastern’s program was recognized for its strong clinical experience requirements, including the following: calling for candidates to spend 10 or more weeks in an experienced teacher’s classroom with at least four days per week or the equivalent in the classroom each week; screening mentor teachers for mentorship skill and/or instructional effectiveness as measured by student learning, among other skills; and requiring program supervisors to give student teachers written feedback based on observations at least four times during the clinical practice experience.

The evidence for the importance of high-quality clinical experience is undeniable. A National Research Council report said that clinical practice experience is one of three “aspects of preparation that have the highest potential for effects on outcomes for students,” and recent research has found that having a high-quality clinical practice experience can mean a first-year teacher starts out as effective as a typical teacher in their third year.

Now in its fourth edition, the Teacher Prep Review assigns a team of experts to evaluate teacher preparation programs on their adherence to evidence-based classroom management strategies and their requirements that support quality clinical practice experiences.

Southeastern Vertebrate Museum Awarded $400,000 National Science Foundation Grant

A specialist in the diversity of fishes at Southeastern has been awarded a grant of $409,200 by the National Science Foundation.

Professor of Biological Sciences and ichthyologist Kyle Piller received the three-year grant to improve the Southeastern Vertebrate Museum. The project will focus on curation of existing museum specimens and tissue samples, digitize and georeference specimen data, and integrate the data with online repositories, making the data available to the general scientific community.

“Southeastern has Ichthyology and Herpetology collections that initially were developed for teaching and research in the 1950s,” said Piller. “The bulk of the collection is comprised of fishes – more than 120,000 specimens and over 7,000 tissue samples – with the majority of the specimens from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin in southeast Louisiana and, more recently, from throughout Mexico and Central America. We also have an ever-growing herpetology collection, part of which was recently obtained from the orphaned Tulane University herpetology collection.”

“The grant will be truly transformative for our Ichthyology and Herpetology collection at Southeastern,” said College of Science and Technology Dean Daniel McCarthy. “The museum is much more than a collection of jars to look at; rather, it contains a record of the reptiles and fishes from our region from decades ago, which will prove to be an invaluable resource to scientists studying this ecosystem. Furthermore, the educational outreach component of the grant will expose thousands of students to the importance of reptiles, amphibians and fish to the Gulf Coast.”

The project, Piller said, will revitalize interest in the natural world by using natural history collections to highlight the unique organismal diversity in Louisiana and beyond. Southeastern personnel will develop a traveling fish, reptile and amphibian program titled “The Bone Sheaux.”

“This outreach program will be used to stimulate interest in organismal biology to K-12 students in southeastern Louisiana, which includes some of the most impoverished parishes in Louisiana,” he said. “A permanent loan will also be made available to Southeastern’s field station, Turtle Cove, which hosts more than 3,000 visitors annually for public outreach and teacher training workshops.”

“Although the bulk of the vertebrate museum is comprised of fishes, with five herpetology research oriented faculty on staff and herpetology oriented graduate students in the department, the herpetology collection will continue to grow in the coming years, as our specimen growth primarily has been a by-product of ongoing research and thesis projects, as well as for specimen usage in the classroom,” he explained.

Piller said a natural history museum course will be developed for Southeastern’s undergraduate students to provide them training in museum curation and specimen preparation.

“This team-taught course will focus on collection care and curatorial techniques, and will give students first-hand experience in a research collection,” he explained. “The course will culminate in the development of a museum website and a small working museum exhibit that will be displayed in the lobby of the biology building.”

Well-curated collections have and will serve the scientific community for decades to come, Pillar said, and the value of scientific collections and data they contain are becoming increasingly important as major initiatives push the bounds and usefulness of museum data.

“Beyond hard-core science initiatives, natural history collections represent reservoirs of knowledge that need to be promoted and publicized to the general public,” he said. “Southeastern has specimens with scientific value, and this study will assure that these specimens are curated and available for study by the scientific community.”

Commemorating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage

A group of Southeastern faculty and staff are helping commemorate 100 years of women’s suffrage in the U.S. through a multidisciplinary, multifaceted approach—and sharing it with people across the region.

On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, securing for all American women one of the most fundamental rights of citizenship: the right to vote. With the U.S. movement for women’s enfranchisement fully kicking off decades earlier in 1848 during the Seneca Falls Convention and the Louisiana movement launching in 1878 in New Orleans, the long road to this pivotal moment in history was strife with a variety of social, racial, economic, legal, and political challenges. Yet, it is also a story characterized by unwavering fortitude that created sweeping changes both in Louisiana and throughout the entire country.

To commemorate 100 years since the 19th Amendment’s ratification and shed light on associated underlying themes through an array of disciplines, Southeastern’s Centennial Woman’s Suffrage Project (CWSP) was launched in 2019 by Carol Madere from the Department of Communication and Media Studies and Angela Dunnington from Sims Memorial Library. Other members include Samantha Cavell (Department of History and Political Science), Amber Narro and Elizabeth Hornsby (Department of Communication and Media Studies), Lisa Moody (Department of English), Jordan Ahrend (Department of Teaching and Learning), Elizabeth Sanders (Sims Memorial Library), Sheri Gibson (Office of Marketing and Communications), Megan Sanders (graphic design specialist), and Stephanie Katz (media and photography specialist).

CWSP has developed several ways for members of the community to join in the centennial commemoration and connect with the associated topics throughout 2020. Following presentations leading up to 2020 in alliance with the National Women’s History Museum, the group partnered on February 13, 2020, with Preserve Louisiana (formerly the Foundation for Historical Louisiana) to provide a panel discussion. The program, held in Baton Rouge in the Old State Capitol as part of Preserve Louisiana’s popular monthly Heritage Lecture series, overviewed the suffrage movement both in the state and the U.S. as a whole.

A few weeks later, on March 5, CWSP’s largest event of the year was held—a one-day conference titled Determined to Rise: 100 Years of Grit and Grace. The conference, hosted by Southeastern in the Student Union, featured individual research papers, panel discussions, round table discussions of works in progress, and poster presentations that addressed women’s issues and progress across the disciplines of history, English, communication, political science, and sociology. The conference will become an annual Southeastern event, drawing academics, students, and anyone with an interest from across the region, with each year’s occurrence featuring a different theme.

A Determined to Rise traveling exhibit was also officially launched during the conference. The now-touring exhibit presents through eight panels a timeline of significant events, the movement from the African-American woman’s perspective, laws that have changed since women gained the vote, and Louisiana women who have made their mark on history, accompanied by historical artifacts, further reading material, suffrage music, a short video, and on occasion a Zoom panel discussion with Madere and Moody. This resource is provided to public venues, including libraries and cultural centers, free of charge thanks to an LEH Rebirth grant, affording everyone with an opportunity to connect with material in their own community. The exhibit is consistently booked through June of 2021 and will have been on view at dozens of venues across Louisiana by that time.

A Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources regional grant program funded an open course institute to help K-12 teachers design lessons and work with teaching primary sources dedicated to gender equality and the suffrage movement. Originally a face-to-face institute, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the project to an online component, and teachers will be able to share their experiences through online activities with their colleagues.

On December 9, 2020, at 6 p.m., a virtual panel discussion will be held in conjunction with Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses in New Orleans. Madere, Moody, and Hornsby will lead the presentation.

Together, these various initiatives serve as an avenue for all members of the public to not only commemorate the women’s suffrage movement but to also better understand their current world by exploring the past and bridging disciplines.

For more information on CWSP programs, visit

By Sheri Gibson

Honoring 2020 Graduates

Since Louisiana has moved into Phase 3, Southeastern has developed a new plan to honor its spring, summer, and fall 2020 graduates. The pandemic and statewide event limitations previously prevented the University from holding a face-to-face commencement for spring graduates in August as originally planned. Southeastern is now able to move forward with honoring its graduates in four separate, in-person ceremonies in Strawberry Stadium.

“We are excited to announce plans for an in-person winter 2020 commencement,” said Chief Enrollment Management Officer Kay Maurin. “In order to maximize the safety of our graduates and their guests, the format has been updated to include multiple ceremonies at an outside venue. Every candidate will have the opportunity to cross the stage as a proud Southeastern graduate.”

Southeastern will hold two commencement ceremonies on Tuesday, Dec. 8—at 10 a.m. for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and at 2 p.m. for the College of Business. The College of Nursing and Health Sciences commencement ceremony is scheduled Wednesday, Dec. 9, and 10 a.m., while the ceremony for the College of Education and the College of Science and Technology will take place the same day at 2 p.m.

So that all guests may be safely accommodated according to current capacity limitations, each graduate may invite two guests. All participants and guests will be required to wear masks, social distancing will be strictly enforced, and limited handicap seating is available.

For those unable to attend, all ceremonies will be streamed online and will be broadcast on the Southeastern Channel via Charter Spectrum. Afterwards, the Southeastern Channel will broadcast it several times, will make it available on their website for on-demand viewing, and will place it on YouTube.

“Our mission as a university focused on its students is to work diligently every day to help our students achieve success,” said Maurin. “Their success is our success, and we enjoy nothing more than celebrating and commemorating their achievements with them.”

For more information, visit

Enrollment Growth Continues

This fall Southeastern has achieved a solid increase in enrollment across both undergraduate and graduate students, reaching its highest number of students in three years. Undergraduate enrollment rose by 1.5 percent, while graduate enrollment experienced an increase of .7 percent.

“We are pleased to see an increase in fall enrollment this year,” said Chief Enrollment Management Officer Kay Maurin. “In the midst of peak enrollment and recruiting season this past spring, the university switched to an online environment. As a result, recruiting, advising, new student orientation, financial aid counseling and many other functions that impact enrollment also shifted to the online environment. I believe we were successful because we created a seamless transition to that environment for current and future students and continued to offer a top notch educational experience rooted in our core values of excellence and caring.”

With an overall enrollment of 14,461, an increase of 1.4 percent, Southeastern experienced growth in several categories. Southeastern’s commitment to adult education yielded a 15.2 percent increase in enrollment of new graduate students. Enrollment of students from Southeastern’s top three feeder parishes of St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Livingston increased by 2.3 percent.

“Our recruitment strategy is to remain mission centered. As such, our recruitment efforts focused on providing outstanding educational experiences for students on the Northshore and in the Southeast Louisiana parishes,” Maurin said.

Southeastern currently offers over 150 programs of study including many that are regionally and nationally ranked.

Support and Success Continues for Post-Secondary Inclusive Education Alliance

Southeastern has been awarded additional funding to expand an alliance of universities and colleges across the state that provides inclusive education opportunities for students with developmental disabilities, such as its Lions Connected program. Created by Associate Professor of Education and Director of Lions Connected Gerlinde Beckers, Louisiana Post-Secondary Inclusive Education was awarded $40,000 from the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council. Beckers received $40,000 last year to create the program.

“LA-PIE gives Southeastern the opportunity to assist other Universities in the state to establish inclusive post-secondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities, and it also gives us the opportunity to showcase our Lions Connected program,” Beckers said.

Dean of the College of Education Paula Summers Calderon said circumstances surrounding COVID-19 allowed Lions Connected to shine as a leader in the field of post-secondary inclusion.

“When schools and universities shifted to remote instruction in March, Dr. Gerlinde Beckers, Mr. Jim Zimlich, and the Lions Connected student mentors continued to provide quality instruction and support for our Lions Connected students. Teaching life skills in a virtual environment has it challenges. Have you ever tried to teach someone to tie shoes through Google Meet or Zoom?” Calderon asked. “The experience in spring 2020 has proven that our Lions Connected program is the example for other programs to follow. Southeastern and Lions Connected are in prime position to assist other programs in the state as they create and grow their post-secondary inclusion programs.”

In its first year, LA-PIE has developed a website that Southeastern hosts. The site features in depth information on the existing post-secondary programs. Beckers said that they also developed and currently maintain a LA-PIE Facebook that can quickly disseminate information.

Over the past year, the group discovered that only three of the four-year universities in Louisiana have inclusive post-secondary programs, but all three programs are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education. Conversely, only three of the 36 community, vocational, technical, or community colleges have inclusive post-secondary programs, and only one is accredited.

Prior to COVID-19 restrictions, Beckers said they disseminated information at several state conferences and hosted a town hall meeting on the Bossier City Community College campus in March with the hope to facilitate more programs in the northern part of the state. Currently, the majority of the programs are in the southern part of the state, Beckers said.

“As a result of our town hall meeting, we have worked diligently with Grambling State University and Louisiana State University – Alexandria in providing technical assistance as they develop their programs and funding sources,” she said.

Moving forward, Beckers said LA-PIE would continue to work to increase inclusive post-secondary programs in Louisiana through mentoring and technical assistance.

“Although we have transitioned to virtual, our goals and desires to improve the post-secondary outcomes for individuals with disabilities have not changed,” said Beckers.

For more information on LA-PIE, contact Beckers at

Recipient of Healthy Communities Grant

Southeastern has been selected as a recipient of the Healthy Communities Grant by Keep Louisiana Beautiful, the State’s premier anti-litter and community improvement organization.

This year’s grant, in the amount of $8,000, will support Southeastern’s reduce, reuse, recycle initiatives with the addition of four refillable water stations and 1,900 reusable water bottles given to students. In 2019, Southeastern’s Sustainability Center launched the campaign “I Choose to Reuse,” giving away water bottles with bookmarks on “how to green your day.” The campaign encourages students to reuse the refillable water station across campus and continues through Keep Louisiana Beautiful’s Healthy Communities Grant.

As the recipient of this grant, Southeastern’s sustainability team is excited to further its sustainable impact within its region.

“These fountains will help promote sustainability and sustainable action from students on campus, as well as visitors,” said Southeastern Sustainability Manager Alejandro Martinez. “This method positively impacts the recycling program and reduces unsightly litter by reducing labor needs and beautifying our campus.”

Martinez is excited for Southeastern to be the recipient of this grant.

“Southeastern has already reduced over 300,000 bottles from going to the landfill, and we know it is just the beginning,” he said. “Besides, this grant will help us to provide reusable water bottles to our students, faculty, and staff. These filling stations have already made a huge impact on plastic bottle reduction and a great impression with everyone using refillable bottles.”

Martinez said Southeastern is committed to conserving resources and reducing the impact they have on the environment and making the campus greener by encouraging recycling on campus and using alternative fuel and energy sources such as geothermal and solar.

Keep Louisiana Beautiful, Inc. is the state’s anti-litter and community improvement organization focused on education, enforcement, awareness and cleanups. Affiliated with Keep America Beautiful, the Keep Louisiana Beautiful mission is to promote personal, corporate and community responsibility for a clean and beautiful Louisiana. With a network of 40 affiliates in communities throughout the state, over 172,609 volunteers work toward a clean and beautiful Louisiana.

Southeastern Sustainability Manager Alejandro Martinez hands out reusable water bottles to students.

Southeastern Professor Receives Fulbright Scholar Grant to Research Sea Turtles in Spain

Southeastern Professor of Biology Roldán Valverde has been named a Fulbright Scholar, which will allow him to perform research and undergraduate level teaching in Spain next year.

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Scholar Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and allows American scholars and professionals to lecture and research in a wide range of fields.

“Dr. Valverde has dedicated his professional life to the study of sea turtles,” said Dean of the College of Science and Technology Daniel McCarthy. “Not only is he an internationally renowned scholar for his scientific work, but he is also well known for his dedication to sea turtle conservation. He already serves as the scientific director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, so it is no surprise that Dr. Valverde received this prestigious award.”

A specialist in the reproductive and stress endocrinology of sea turtles, as well as the nesting ecology of sea turtles, Valverde will be working at the Universidad de Las Palmas de La Gran Canaria (ULPGC) in Spain. He will teach a class in Marine Ecology, a third year course in the undergraduate curriculum at ULPGC, and he is looking forward to the new experiences the grant will afford him.

“Taking part in this highly valuable opportunity will provide me with the energy and inspiration I need to develop new courses here in the U.S., such as marine biology, a course I think is going to be a hit, especially now that the oceans are in peril due to human activities,” Valverde said. “While at ULPGC, I am teaching a course in marine ecology. Marine biology and marine ecology share similar topics, and the latter can be very instrumental in the development of a course in marine biology in my department.”

As part of the grant, Valverde will also give four, one-hour seminars about his research specialty, an opportunity he welcomes to present his long-term research projects to students and colleagues alike.

“The presentation topics are ‘The Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles,’ ‘The Role of Vitellogenin in the Reproductive Physiology of Sea Turtles,’ ‘The Reproductive Ecology of Sea Turtles,’ and ‘The Evolution of Structure and Function of the Endocrine Stress Response.’”

While in Spain, Valverde will instruct students and colleagues on how to run testosterone and estrogen assays (the chemical analysis of a substance) to sex juvenile sea turtles. He will also instruct them on how to run the vitellogenin (the serum phospholipoglycoprotein precursor to egg yolk) assay.

“I developed this assay in my lab, and it is currently the only functional vitellogenin assay that has been used to measure this protein in wild sea turtle populations,” he said. “The implementation of this assay in Spain will help support studies of the reproductive physiology of sea turtles in that region of the world.”

In addition to his normal teaching duties, research, and serving as the scientific director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Valverde also collaborates with departmental colleagues to teach study abroad courses in Costa Rica. At the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Valverde’s mission is to oversee the scientific programs with emphasis on the biological stations in Tortuguero, Costa Rica and in the Bocas del Toro region in Panama.

“As a professor and as scientific director, my students and colleagues take advantage of the collaborative experiences and opportunities that I make available to them, which has helped me create a rich personal network to promote the advancement of our knowledge of sea turtle biology and conservation,” he said.