A Hanging Question: What is the Link Between Bats and COVID-19

For Southeastern Magazine’s Spring 2020 issue, we sat down with Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Dr. Teague O’Mara to discuss his extensive research on bats—including their movements and impacts on ecosystems and people. Since that short time ago, the rapid rise of the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of questions and concerns over the potential link between the virus’s origins and these small flying mammals.
To address this, we asked O’Mara to explain from a scientific standpoint the real connection between bats and COVID-19.

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While there are a lot of uncertainties about COVID-19, the origin of this virus is commonly thought to be from bats. But is this necessarily true?

At the outset of this current pandemic, scientists were able to quickly and effectively sequence the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Thanks to broad efforts by the One Health Institute, the CDC, WHO, and others that have tried to document different types of viruses across the world, we’ve found the most closely related virus. This virus was isolated from an insect-feeding horseshoe bat and
called RaTG13.

These two viruses separated from each other approximately 50 years ago. This means that despite its recent outbreak, SARS-CoV-2 didn’t appear overnight; it has been spending time in another species since it left bats and before it infected humans.

SARS-CoV-2 didn’t jump directly from bats to humans, but we don’t know what the intermediate host is yet. It is curious that the spike protein that lets the virus enter human cells is much more similar to a coronavirus from a Malayan pangolin (a relative of the armadillo and anteaters) than any other bat virus, even though the entire SARS-CoV-2 genome is more similar to the bat virus. So, the origin of COVID-19 is still under active investigation.

But why are the new viruses that seem to have massive effects on humans so closely associated with bats? Recent work has shown that bats don’t necessarily harbor more viruses than other animals. There are over 1,400 species of bats (25 percent of all mammals), and the number of viruses any group of mammals has is proportional to the number of species in that group.

Bats are often linked (sometimes very weakly) to outbreaks of new infections. This is likely because bats have supercharged immune systems. They are able to master a wide range of infections, largely due to their ability to minimize their inflammatory response and seek and destroy DNA damaging free radicals in a way that no dose of antioxidant foods could even come close to handling. This makes understanding their immune systems and inflammatory control incredibly interesting to try and harness the molecular mechanisms they’ve come by naturally for our own health. It is also why we find antibodies that show bat immune systems have seen the virus, but there are no actual active viruses. Viruses that find their way into bat species and do manage to make a living must compensate for this incredible immune system.

Occasionally when a virus manages to escape from bats into an intermediate host, amplify and mutate, and then come in contact with humans, these zoonotic infections can be dramatic because we have not had a long evolutionary history with the virus. Measles, which had its origins in a cow virus, is one such virus that is well known.

Regardless of which animal species a zoonotic virus comes from, when viruses jump from animals to humans it’s almost always because of humans encroaching on them, not because they have invaded our space. Bats control our pest insects, pollinate the plants that give us tequila, and disperse seeds across the landscape—all for free. The incredible adaptations of their immune systems might also give us answers to longer, healthier lives. But to allow all of this to happen, it is important that we take care in how we treat them and provide them with enough space to do their work.

By Dr. Teague O’Mara

Student Reporters Honored in the Louisiana Press Association Better Newspaper Competition

The student staff of The Lion’s Roar, Southeastern Louisiana University’s student-run newspaper, garnered six awards in June from the Louisiana Press Association’s Better Newspaper Competition. Awards are presented annually during the LPA annual convention, but due to the current global health crisis, the organization decided to cancel the awards presentation this year.

The Lion’s Roar staff received awards for Best Overall Website and General Excellence, placing second in both categories. Thirty-nine LPA member publications, including college and university student newspapers, submitted 1,138 entries judged by the Nebraska Press Association.

Individual staff members receiving recognition include Symiah Dorsey, a communication sophomore from La Place, and Maiah Woodring, a biological science junior from Albany. Dorsey placed second in the Best Single Editorial category for her piece titled “Dorm residents need community kitchens,” while Woodring received a third place prize in the same category for her piece titled “Living without a phone, my life hack.”
 
“Being a student journalist is a gift that continues to give. There is not a single story I have written that I have not gained new knowledge or perspective from, and that is the beauty of being a reporter,” said Dorsey. “Being a part of The Lion’s Roar family is a blessing. Together, we create a platform that calls for greater tolerance and a deeper understanding of people in our community. Upon rereading my editorial on community kitchens, I realize how much I have grown. There is nothing I want more now than to continue growing while I challenge myself. Each story is a chance to become a better voice for those around me.”
 
“It is a great honor for The Lion’s Roar newspaper to receive these awards from the Louisiana Press Association,” said Editor in Chief of The Lion’s Roar Prakriti Adhikari, a senior accounting major from Hammond. “We have a team of dedicated staff who strive to do their job in the best way possible, and receiving these awards shows that working hard is always worth it. I am very proud of the entire staff for the recognition of our hard work and dedication.”

Adhikari acknowledged The Lion’s Roar and its shift to remote work during the latter months of the spring 2020 semester and the summer 2020 term. The dedicated staff continued to offer news and information to the Southeastern community, she said.

“This is a moment for all of us to be very proud,” Adhikari continued. “Despite going through a challenging time last semester after shifting to remote work, we were able to produce our weekly content. We are being rewarded for the quality content we have been able to produce. These awards are further proof that when we come together as a group and help each other succeed, we can achieve a lot.”

Other awards received by The Lion’s Roar were first place in the Best Sports Photo category, awarded to former staff reporter Hailey Bullock of Albany, and second place in the Best Front Page category awarded to Annie Goodman of Denham Springs, former editor in chief of The Lion’s Roar.

“Our talented student editors and reporters serve our campus community in innumerable ways,” said Dr. Lee E. Lind, director of Student Publications. “I’m so very proud of the well-deserved recognition they have earned.”

Readers can access content produced by student staff reporters through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @lionsroarnews, issuu.com, and via the newspaper’s website, lionsroarnews.com.

Southeastern Professor Awarded Fulbright Scholar Grant

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 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.

Latin American Initiative Aids Relief Efforts for Families in Need

The Hispanic community has been one of the most impacted by COVID-19, not only with health issues but also by unemployment—and consequently basic needs such as lack of food for their families.

Southeastern’s Latin American Initiative, led by College of Business Instructor Dr. Aristides Baraya in alliance with the Killian First Baptist Church Food Pantry, has come to the rescue, providing basic food for multiple Hispanic families.

More than 75 people have benefited so far from this initiative that will continue to support Hispanic families in need and with limited financial resources.

“In these difficult times, serving and giving needed help to the Hispanic community is a great pleasure. Hispanics require everyone’s help and support,” said Killian First Baptist Church Food Pantry’s David Crowell.

“We are pleased that we have been able to develop these alliances that have enabled us to expand our community services for Hispanic people in our Parish,” Baraya explained.
According to Pew Research Center, Louisiana is home to approximately 222,000 people who identify as Hispanic. The Latino and the Hispanic community is one of the fastest-growing segments in America this decade.

The Latin American Business Development Initiative at Southeastern Louisiana University is dedicated to advancing global education among the University’s students and the Latin American population, supporting the American Hispanic community in the United States and developing closer international relations between Louisiana and Latin American countries.

Top image, from left: Monica Monarrez; Veronica Hernandez, Hispanics Family Group; David Crowell, Killian First Baptist Church; and Dr. Aristides Baraya, director of Southeastern’s Latin American Initiative.

Launching the Industry Connect Distinguished Lecture Series

Southeastern Louisiana University’s Department of Computer Science is offering a new Industry Connect Distinguished Lecture Series, the department recently announced.

“The series will feature industry experts serving to introduce our students, faculty and interested guests to technologies currently used in industry that can be utilized immediately in Southeastern’s industry connect classes or in personal projects, thereby connecting the theory of a university degree with state-of-the-industry and current leaders in the field,” said Bonnie Achee, undergraduate coordinator and instructor in the Department of Computer Science.

Scheduled Sept. 17 from 4 to 5 p.m., the premiere lecture in the series will take place in the Envoc Innovation Lab, room 2026 in the Computer Science and Technology Building. Although maximum capacity for the event is 36, all are invited to join in via Google Meet.

The first featured speaker is William Assef of Sparkhound, who will share his expertise on databases for developers with all interests, Achee said.

For more information, contact the Department of Computer Science at
985-549-5740.

Top Image: Envoc Innovation Lab

2020-2021 GOLD Council

The Southeastern Alumni Association is excited to announce the newly appointed 2020-2021 GOLD (Graduates Of the Last Decade) Council members.

New members include Justin Archote of Independence; Tara Bennett and Taylor Marceaux of Hammond; Maya Garnier of Plaquemine; Alyssa Larose of Kenner; Mitchell Rabalais of Baton Rouge; and Austin Rogers of Denham Springs.

Returning members include Neil Bourgeois of Springfield, Mo.; Marci Gaines Bradley and Keturah Green of Baton Rouge; David Cavell of Thibodeaux; Allie Dyer, Kaityln Seiler, and Anna Strider of Mandeville; Baylen Fontenot of New Orleans; Larshell Green and Yazmyn Smith of Hammond; Christopher Jackler and Kati Morse of Ponchatoula; Kent Landacre, Jr., of Prairieville; Seth Leto of Loranger; and Renee Picou of Livingston.

Executive Director of Alumni Relations Michelle Biggs said the GOLD Council is dedicated to fostering and sustaining relationships with graduates from Southeastern of the last decade to keep them engaged and actively involved with the University.

“We were very pleased with the continued interest in this initiative, further proving that our alumni want to stay actively engaged,” said Biggs. “Members are selected on the basis of their former campus involvement, professional experience, and community engagement, taking into consideration a broad representation of class years, geographic location, ethnic diversity, and gender.”

Biggs said the council advises the Office of Alumni Relations and assists with developing programs and communications tailored to the newest alumni. It also acts to shepherd the development of volunteers and future leaders in ways that deepen their commitment to Southeastern and prepare them for active alumni leadership roles.

Members are selected from a body of former students who have graduated from Southeastern within the last 10 years. They serve a two-year term with the option of serving two terms.

Click here to learn more about the Southeastern GOLD Council.

Fall Athletics Moved to Spring to Ensure Health and Safety During COVID-19

As recently announced, the Southland Conference, of which Southeastern is a member, will postpone league fall athletic competition to the spring.

Both Athletics Director Jay Artigues and President John Crain are in full support of the decision which prioritizes the health and safety of student-athletes.

Although some Southland institutions may choose to participate in limited fall competition, Southeastern, along with the other Louisiana member institutions, will not take part in any athletic competitions in the fall.

“The efforts associated with ensuring the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and other athletics staff amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic quickly become very challenging,” President Crain said.  “The nature of athletic competition, especially for some sports, along with related travel and other activities, clearly creates heightened risks for those involved that we are just not comfortable taking.”

“I am extremely disappointed for our student-athletes, coaches and other staff who have worked so hard to prepare for competition this fall, but I look forward to working with them in preparing for and anticipating spring competition.  Likewise, I know our students, alumni, fans, and other supporters of Lion Athletics are disappointed but would want us to prioritize the health and safety of our people,” Crain added.

It is expected that league athletic directors will immediately begin work with Southland Conference staff to plan for spring competition.

Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Success During COVID-19

In early March our daily lives and routines began to change in unexpected and unprecedented ways, with each sunrise seemingly ushering in new questions and lingering uncertainties—and one more day of this difficult period in history.

But for Southeastern and its people, the best way to overcome a challenge is through fierce determination, creativity and innovation, and working together towards a common purpose. Instead of succumbing to the difficulties that each day has brought, Southeastern’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni have been conquering them with great success.

When in-person classes were suspended beginning Friday, March 13, faculty and staff across the board tirelessly focused on creating strategic plans, along with researching and learning new tools and methods, in order to ensure that students continued to thrive and be fully engaged. On Wednesday, March 18, remote instruction officially began. Standing upon these initial plans and tools, it was time to enter this new world of virtual learning amidst the backdrop of a growing pandemic.

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Southeastern’s Center for Faculty Excellence and Center for Student Excellence are two such areas that began preparing for the move in advance of the first day of fully remote learning—and continue to offer a variety of tools and resources for members of the Southeastern community.

When the transition was announced, the Center for Faculty Excellence, which exists to provide support to Southeastern educators, rapidly pivoted to provide on-campus workshops to faculty before the University physically closed, followed by both live streaming and recorded webinars and online advising and tools.

“You can’t just put a face-to-face class online,” said Dr. Mary Ballard, the center’s director. “Learning objectives have to be re-examined, and new ways of achieving them are often needed. Activities that work well in the physical classroom may no longer work in the virtual one. Our workshops and one-on-one time helped those struggling with this concept.”

The Center for Student Excellence, which offers guidance to first-year students, transfer students, and students that are uncertain about their major or career, in addition to tutoring and supplemental instruction for all students, quickly transitioned their services to a digital format as well—including making online advising and Tutoring Center sessions available to students through Google Meet.

a040220_124“This is a great opportunity for students to stay connected with Southeastern,” said Brooke Giaratano, a Communication Sciences and Disorders graduate student and Tutoring Center graduate assistant. “Students can access many resources for remote learning during this time.”

Continually supporting faculty, staff, and students also remained the primary mission of Sims Memorial Library, which physically closed on March 18 but was able to fluidly transition to the new remote requirements. “Most of our services and hundreds of thousands of books and journal articles are available online,” said newly retired Library Director Eric Johnson.

In addition to these vital resources, members of the Southeastern community have also been able to access a variety of materials, including digital magazines, language learning tools, and special online libraries, allowing the library to effectively continue this mission.

To provide as close an experience to that of walking into the library, staff have remained available to help with research and locating books and other materials through an online 24/7 reference chat feature, text, telephone, and email.

For patrons who prefer physical publications, the library automatically renewed all checked out books until the end of the semester. On June 1, Inter-Library Loan operations resumed, and staff began offering Sims-2-Geaux, a new service that offers touchless curbside pickup of reserved books and equipment.

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For those who wished to purchase books and other items including apparel, electronics, and school supplies, or send gifts to their favorite Lions during lockdown, the University Bookstore offered free shipping with no minimum purchase during the height of the pandemic. The store continues to offer free shipping with a $65 minimum purchase, along with free curbside pickup.

Southeastern’s Textbook Rental, which saves students thousands of dollars each year as compared to the standard requirement by most universities to purchase all course materials, initiated a way to make returning books convenient and free for all students. While students in the area were able to drop off their items, return shipping labels were also made available so that those from further away, having already returned home, could mail their books back without the burden of a return trip or mail costs.

Throughout all initiatives enacted across the University, the health and safety of members of the Southeastern community has remained at the forefront. Three different areas that already specifically catered to facilitating the mental and physical health of members of the Lion Family actively ensured the continued welfare of those that they serve throughout the physical closures.

According to the CDC, “fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children,” and social isolation can also take its toll. To help students, faculty, and staff overcome such mental and emotional burdens, the University Counseling Center stepped up to provide crucial counseling services through telemental health counseling, serving both ongoing and new clients in need. As of May 31, 140 students have reached out about this service, and 74 have completed the required paperwork and scheduled appointments.

The University Health Center never physically closed in order to serve students who remained on campus and assist by appointment individuals without suspected COVID-19 who require an in-office visit, commonly for TB skin tests or physicals for internships and blood work for the nursing program. To cut down on people having to come in, Health Center staff helped people over the phone as much as possible, including with prescription refills, and, on May 11, they began offering telehealth visits.

The REC, citing studies that demonstrate how exercise benefits not only physical but also mental health, began creating and implementing virtual 5ks to help keep participants active and well. Over 75 registrants took advantage of the first two races, and more virtual events are scheduled over the coming months. The REC additionally offered access to free online fitness resources, a sports movie bracket challenge, and e-sports intramural leagues.

modern - CopyAlso identifying this need for virtual offerings to help keep the community engaged, the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts created several initiatives with their own specialized spin. Columbia Famous, an online talent contest, attracted over 60 entrants who were able to express themselves and demonstrate their artistic talents in a variety of categories. Over 3,500 people voted for their favorites. The Columbia Theatre will begin offering this new contest on an annual basis due to its demonstrated success. Some of their other offerings include the new High School Playwriting Contest, virtual theatre performances, and a visual arts project that is currently in the works.

Communicating information about these ways to maintain success and stay connected—as well as providing critical and in-demand news, helping alleviate some uncertainties during these often confusing and stressful times—has remained of paramount importance to Southeastern. The University’s communications outlets have jumped feet first into ensuring that the community receives accurate, useful, and timely information.

The Southeastern Channel launched Northshore News Update: Coronavirus on the Northshore. This program provides a weekly update of the most timely, critical, and useful information for residents of the Northshore, with student reporters Lorraine Weiskopf, Gabby Cox, and Kaylee Normand working, interviewing guests, and filing reports from home.

The program was selected as one of three broadcast winners from over 700 entries and 258 universities for a national College Coronavirus Coverage Award. The Society of Professional Journalists in conjunction with the Associated College Press; Society for News Design; College Broadcasters, Inc.; and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education presented the Southeastern Channel with this prestigious award.

Student newspaper The Lions Roar, in continuous publication since 1937, was also honored for its coronavirus coverage. It was the only college newspaper in the state recognized in a front page competition organized by the Louisiana Press Association to draw attention to the personal impacts of COVID-19.

KSLU, which recently took home awards for Best College Radio Station and Radio News Reporting in this year’s Southeastern Journalism Conference competition, as well as multiple awards from the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Broadcasters and Media Editors College Competition, has been maintaining its broadcasts to continue entertaining and connecting with listeners while also providing Southeastern students with increased hands-on experience.

For business owners, the co-hosted Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) at Southeastern and WTGG Tangi 96.5 radio program Let’s Talk Recovery was of particular benefit. It helped provide crucial guidance specific to business recovery during this economically difficult and hard to maneuver time. LSBDC at Southeastern has also been creating and facilitating online workshops for businesses, with 1,530 attending by mid-May and new virtual series being offered over the coming months.

a030620_039While alumni can benefit from the above offerings, additional online resources were launched by the Southeastern Alumni Association to better meet the needs of those that it serves. A more visually appealing, easy to navigate, and mobile-friendly website was made live soon after the physical shutdown in March. Among the many features are a news section that highlights alumni, the University, event information, and announcements from the Alumni Association; information on Southeastern traditions; and downloadable items such as Roomie emojis, desktop wallpapers, and a ringtone of the fight song.

“The new site gives better access to ways to get involved, connect with one another, give back, and show Lion Pride,” said Executive Director of Alumni Relations Michelle Biggs.

To aid graduates and students in supporting the businesses of fellow alumni during this critical time, a business directory was added to the Alumni Association’s Southeastern Connect platform. Alumni entrepreneurs have the ability to list their businesses so that members of our community can identify and patronize them. Users can also securely and directly contact listed businesses, as well as receive special offers.

“During this time of uncertainty and financial loss, we need to support our alumni, friends, and community more than ever,” said Biggs. “We are excited for the opportunity to give our alumni-owned businesses a platform that allows their business to shine.”

The Alumni Association has also partnered with Southeastern’s Workforce Talent Initiative program to promote free Amazon Web Services certifications and with the Office of Career Services to share information on Handshake to help alumni stay career competitive.

For overall University communications to not only students and alumni but also the entire community, the Office of Marketing and Communications tackled the need for updates and information by releasing 370 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn posts with 2,952,018 total impressions; 39 news releases; 19 YouTube videos; and 18 e-newsletters / emails between March 11 and May 18. A webpage, southeastern.edu/coronavirus, was created at the beginning of the pandemic to serve as a resource for all University COVID-19 information, news, and announcements.

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While most departments have been working remotely, several have maintained a presence on campus in order to continue to provide essential services. Dining Services provided to-go meals and University Housing maintained residence halls for those who needed to remain on campus. The Document Source, Southeastern’s printing and mail center, remained open with limited hours two days a week—as well as on call—to meet the needs and continued work of the University community. The University Police Department maintained a presence to ensure a safe environment, keeping with Southeastern’s reputation as one of the safest campuses in the region, while Physical Plant kept the grounds and buildings in top shape, awaiting the return of a once again full campus. Additionally, sanitation and protective measures were carried out that included disinfecting all surfaces across campus, from desks and books to housing rooms, doors, and water fountains, along with installing plexiglass counter guards.

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Thanks to these efforts and more, the future looks as bright as ever. Enrollment reached 4,215 for the summer semester, a 10.4 percent increase over last year, with students choosing to take advantage of Southeastern’s innovative Summer Online program. This
reimagined summer semester features virtual courses; a $300 credit for both undergraduate and graduate students; waived student-assessed, out-of-state student, and international student fees for undergraduate and graduate students; and no application fee.

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To aid this high level of enrollment and counteract the necessary cancellation of many recruitment events, Admissions developed new ways to stay in touch with high schoolers and their families while the University operated remotely. Live streaming events on sites including Facebook, Instagram, and Zoom were held. Students, parents, and family members have also been able to schedule appointments with University recruiters or take virtual tours of campus. Additionally, a new website was created to allow students near and far to stay connected to Southeastern and provide a one-stop source for admissions virtual events and updates.

“We are excited to be among the first in the region to launch a dedicated website to continue to serve our future Lions during the statewide closures. Moving quickly to online was an easy switch for the Admissions Team,” said Director of Admissions Anthony Ranatza. “You matter here is not just a tagline—it is personal with our team.”

All of these measures are still only a taste of the University community’s efforts to keep Southeastern strongly moving forward in the face of the unexpected obstacles presented by COVID-19. Each member of our Lion Family has played their own unique role, making it impossible to fully delve into all the individual and area achievements. But while each has made a tangible impact, together they unite for something far larger and more powerful: the personal success of countless current and future students, the continued economic success of the region, and a prime example of the boundless fortitude of Southeastern and its people—a vivid demonstration of true Lion Spirit.

By Sheri Gibson

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Celebrating Graduates with Virtual Commencement

Southeastern held a virtual commencement for spring graduates Saturday (Aug. 8). Each student’s name was read and shown on screen, and graduates were addressed by President John L. Crain and Southeastern Alumna and Good Morning America Anchor Robin Roberts.

Graduates and relatives were able to join the celebration courtesy of the Southeastern Channel. Watch the ceremony here.

A full list of our newest alumni is available on Southeastern’s commencement page.

Graduates were also able to visit the Alumni Center this week to pick up a Grad Pack and their diploma cover.

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First Virtual Lion’s Code CyberCamp Becomes a Roaring Success

Southeastern once again hosted the Lion’s Code CyberCamp this summer in June with new materials and an online-only format. The camp was sponsored by the College of Science and Technology through the Department of Computer Science and was offered free of charge as a community service.

Director of the Lion’s Code Camp Bonnie Achee said the camp provides an enjoyable summer camp experience for high school students that challenges them academically in the foundational concepts of computer science and builds the skills of teamwork, public speaking, and relationship building.

“This summer we stepped away from the constructs of coding to explore and develop both the critical thinking skills foundational to computer science, as well as interpersonal skills of teamwork and collaboration,” Achee said. “Campers joined the Department of HomeLion Security as Jr. Agent CyberSleuths to crack the case of ‘The Bridge’ and compete in a virtual Capture the Flag, hosted by Cyber.org.”

Campers also had the opportunity to earn digital badges; learn about Web Cookies, cybersecurity, and cyber careers; take virtual video tours of Southeastern, the Computer Science and Technology Building, and the Computer Science Department; and watch a virtual interview with Department Head John Burris.

Achee said the camp was a success thanks to an amazing team effort, with 49 campers participating from over 19 schools. Plans are already underway for next summer’s camp.