Drive to Win

Southeastern student Darian Boesch has mastered the formula for combining his business education and passion for speed—becoming an NHRA World Champion.

Darian Boesch
Darian Boesch

From video or pick-up games to art, yoga, or getting lost in the great outdoors, most students have a hobby, a way to unwind and recharge at the end of a long day or week. But Southeastern senior and Ponchatoula resident Darian Boesch has accelerated his hobby to another level.

Outside of his studies, Darian channels his time and energy into racecar driving. At the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Finals held in Las Vegas this past fall, engines and spectators roared as Darian tore across the finish line in his carbon fiber Jerry Haas Camaro SS to become the NHRA World Champion in the Top Sportsman category. This would be an epic achievement for anyone, but for someone only 21 years old and a fulltime college student it’s even rarer.

“For me, it’s the biggest thing you can do in racing,” Darian said of the competition. “Everybody shoots for the world championship. Whether it’s Formula-1, NASCAR, or any other kind of competition, you want to have a world championship and have that big ‘#1’ on everything.”

Racing is in Darian’s blood. His dad, Mario Boesch, began racing when he was close to Darian’s age and introduced him to the sport. Darian began competing in Jr. Dragsters when he was 7, earning 18 championships in that category alone.

Darian Boesch
Darian and his father, Mario Boesch

“Pretty much my earliest memory is in the shop,” said Darian. “One of our cars was in there, and my dad had just put the motor back in. He fired it up and actually let me crack the throttle a couple of times, so I got to hear the motor rev up… And from there I have not looked back.”

While Darian is mainly the one behind the wheel while on the track, his family is part of his secret weapon for success. In honor of this, their self-funded team is named MKD (Mario, Karen, and Darian) Racing. Mario, a New Orleans business owner who also still occasionally competes with the team, pitches in with tuning the cars and driving the team trailer to all of the events, most of which are at least nine hours away. Since weather plays a significant role in how the cars run, one of Karen’s biggest roles is managing the computer weather acquisitions. “A five-degree temperature difference, or the humidity or density altitude, makes a big difference,” said Darian.

Darian BoeschAnd as for Darian, racing takes much more than just jumping in the car, and for vehicles to be pushed hard and continue to perform at such a top level they take a lot of maintenance. While the fabrication, painting, and motor and transmission assembly are outsourced to professionals, putting the cars together and preparing them for racing on a weekly basis is mostly up to Darian—whether it’s changing out motors, fluids, or various parts and pieces at his home racing garages.

MKD Racing owns and maintains a total of six competition vehicles, including four dragsters, the Camaro, and a Top Sportsman S-10 truck/grudge car.

Darian BoeschDarian has reached 235 mph in the dragster and 230 in the Camaro, but in NHRA, there is also much more to being behind the wheel than crossing the finish line the fastest. Competitors must set a predicted finish time and come in as close to it as possible, and if they cross faster than it they lose.

“To do that I’m not actually looking down the track,” explained Darian. “I’m looking at my opponent the whole way. You want to make the race as close as possible. You can use the gas pedal, the brake pedal, the parachutes—anything to get as close as possible without going too fast. Generally my car can go about 230 mph, but I usually cross the finish line at about 205-210 because I’m killing so much ET (elapsed time) to go slower. A lot of times I’ll get to the finish line a foot or two in front of my opponent, which is hard to get that close at 230 mph.”

“Basically, it’s like a 200-mile-per-hour chess match,” he said. “They’re making moves. You’re making moves. It’s all about who can outsmart the other one going that fast. And you have 6 seconds to figure it out.”

IMG_6720
Darian and his parents regularly travel together across the country for races, whether it’s Florida, the Carolinas, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, or everything in between. Doing this and preparing the cars—in addition to working for his family’s business—takes a lot of time, but Darian remains on track to graduate in December 2021.

Along with learning how to fine-tune his time-management skills, Darian noted that the support from his professors has been instrumental in helping him to academically succeed. Not only have they been helpful in working with him if he needs to miss a class or turn in an assignment or test early due to travel for a competition, he said that most actually get excited when they learn of his level of racing, even before the National Championship win. Their personal support and the proximity of campus to his home garages have allowed him to pursue his dream of racing, not to mention becoming a national champion, while earning a quality education.

He has also been able to translate what he has learned in his studies into his racing career. “My business administration major has made me think about how to make things function a little bit better,” said Darian. “Some of my management classes, for example, have taught me how to make things run smoother and to cut out parts you don’t need, which has really helped a lot, not just in terms of getting things done better with racing, but also with work. Every little extra you can cut off that will save you time or money helps; it’s so much work, you need every little bit you can get. There’s definitely a lot that I can apply from my classes into this.”

Darian BoeschAs for work and the future, Darian plans on taking on more with his father’s company when he graduates, eventually running it. But he is far from done with racing. With one World Championship under his belt, he is revved up to keep firing for more, such as winning the World Championship in two different cars in the same year.

“I have a very long future ahead of me in this,” he said.

To learn more about MKD Racing, visit mkdracing.com.

By Sheri Gibson

SEE MORE

Leaving a Legacy: James McClimans

Southeastern was home to alumnus James “Jim” McClimans (class of ’58) from a very young age, and it remained a place to which he contributed and supported throughout his life.

Jay McClimans
Jay McClimans

Jim was the son of Dr. Jay W. McClimans and Martha Orr McClimans, who raised their family in Hammond down the street from Southeastern’s beautiful campus. In 1942, Jay began serving as a mathematics professor at Southeastern. He eventually became the University’s first department head of mathematics.

“Our entire family went to athletic and cultural events at the college,” Jim once said, reflecting on his childhood memories with his sister Mary Lee McClimans Bass.

When he moved to Hammond as a young child, Jim began his journey at Southeastern’s Laboratory School in second grade. He continued his education on Southeastern’s campus, attending Southeastern High School and graduating in 1953. This all happened within the same hallways as what is now McClimans Hall, which was at that time the education building.

After graduating high school, he continued to pursue his education by studying engineering at both Texas A&M and LSU and building his work experience with Chance Vaught Aircraft. In 1956, he returned home to Southeastern and, following his father’s passion, majored in mathematics. In 1958, Jim graduated with a bachelor of science in mathematics and a minor in physics.

After graduating from Southeastern, Jim began his career at Shell Oil Company as a geophysicist, gaining experience with the oil and gas company. He traveled around the world managing projects for Shell Oil Company and became the manager of Geophysics Research at Shell Development Company. This led him back to Louisiana, working as the chief geophysicist of the Southeast region.

Jim McClimans
Jim McClimans

Jim had many career achievements, including record Shell Exploration and Production Company profits from the Michigan Play in the 1970s, significant commercial discoveries in Cameroon and Syria, and in 1989 record Shell (U.S.) discoveries in the deep water Gulf.

On July 24, 1981, Jay W. McClimans Hall was dedicated in honor of his father Jay’s commitment to education and support of the mathematics program.

Jim carried on his parents’ love and support of Southeastern throughout his life, making his own mark by giving back to the university that helped set him on a path to lifelong success and breaking down financial barriers for current and future generations. Over the years he positively impacted the lives of countless students through his philanthropy.
Leaving a Legacy

Southeastern named Jim the Distinguished Alumnus of the College of Science and Technology in 2006 in recognition of his success and contributions to the community. He established significant endowments in STEM, including support for the University’s Mathematics Department to continue to honor his father’s legacy.

About his support for Southeastern, Jim previously said, “Marilyn [my wife] and I initiated this gift to Southeastern in the form of retirement fund assets as a way to honor my father. It is a symbol of the love my family has for this fine institution.”

Jim passed away July 15, 2020, but many can learn from his example of hard work, dedication, and giving back to the community that helped shape his future.

“Sharing a friendship with Jim was one of the greatest blessings of my career,” said Vice President of University Advancement Wendy Lauderdale. “His devotion and commitment to Southeastern was evident in every initiative he supported. He will be greatly missed.”

The McClimans’ legacy will live on, especially through the ongoing learning within McClimans Hall across from historic Friendship Circle.

Jim and Marilyn McClimans
Jim and his wife, Marilyn McClimans

By Mary Grace Kelley

Nationally Ranked Information Technology Program

Southeastern’s Information Technology program has been ranked in the top 100 in the nation for affordability according to UniversityHQ. The organization provides students with the necessary resources to prepare and plan their career paths in their chosen fields and strives to present an objective, unbiased view of colleges so that students can set reasonable expectations and discover outstanding schools.

The only university in Louisiana included, Southeastern’s program was ranked 59th in the nation. With 500+ students and an enrollment that has more than doubled over the past decade, Southeastern’s Computer Science and Information Technology programs are recognized as leaders among and as two of the state’s fastest-growing computing and information technology programs.

“We are immensely proud of the Information Technology program,” said John Burris, Computer Science department head. “This ranking took into account Southeastern’s low tuition cost combined with factors such as retention and graduation rates. However, with information technology graduates having an average starting salary over $50,000, the program is more than just affordable, it is a great investment.”

Southeastern’s programs offer concentrations with an emphasis on scientific computing, business, and data science, as well as a master’s degree in integrated science and technology with computer science and data science areas of study. The program also provides opportunities to connect with faculty for undergraduate research.

To gather data, UniversityHQ uses government sources, which are unbiased, consistent, and reliable. Each college in the rankings is assessed using the same data sources so that the comparisons are all even and consistent.

The criteria for ranking included cost of tuition, admission rate, retention rate, graduation rate, graduating salary, number of programs offered, online programs offered, loan default rate, diplomas awarded, and percentage of students receiving financial aid.

For more information about the Computer Science and Information Technology programs, email cs@southeastern.edu or call 985-549-5740.

The full listing can be accessed here.

Simplifying Admission for Fall 2022 and Beyond

During a recent high school counselor workshop, Southeastern announced a new admissions opportunity for first-time students called “Fast Track.” Beginning in the fall of 2022, high school students with a minimum 2.50 GPA will be automatically admissible to the university through Fast Track. As an expansion of the university’s test-flexible approach, ACT scores will not be required for admission.

For Southeastern, test-flexible refers to the types of test scores accepted for English and math placement, including Accuplacer, ALEKS, ACT, Pre-ACT, PSAT, SAT, and LEAP. Meeting eligibility requirements for TOPS and institutional scholarships at Southeastern will still require ACT/SAT scores.

“As a leader in higher education, we are committed to serving the needs of our region by providing access to an outstanding post-secondary education and college experience,” said President John L. Crain. “Fast Track will allow us to provide earlier admission decisions for students, be flexible in using multiple potential measures to place them in appropriate courses of study and shepherd their success through academic support systems, including academic skill-building coursework and corequisite models for math and English when appropriate.”

While the existing admission criteria for the university remains in place, the additional option of admitting based solely on the high school GPA allows for greater student opportunities and aligns with the mission of Southeastern, said Director of Admissions Anthony Ranatza.

“As the pandemic continues to disrupt some of the traditional admissions processes, such as securing ACT or SAT scores, Fast Track will allow Southeastern to provide faster admission decisions without having to rely on these scores,” Ranatza explained.

St. Scholastica Academy College Career Advisor Caroline Capps was delighted to hear about the program.

“As an alumna of such an innovative university,” said Capps, “I am excited to learn that Southeastern continues to seek out unique and creative ways to provide opportunities for students.”

Introducing New Logos

Southeastern has reinvented its visual identity with the creation of new logos for both the University and athletics. The change comes as the University approaches its 100th anniversary in 2025.

“Since its opening in 1925, Southeastern has had a long and storied history of empowering generations of students to reach for and achieve their best future,” said Southeastern President John L. Crain. “As we are in the final years of our first century and beginning to envision our second century, the time has come to update and unify the University’s brand and identity.”
 
Drawing from iconic elements of Southeastern’s identity, campus, and heritage, the new logos bridge Southeastern’s history and future, Crain said.

“Logos should reflect our character, strengths, excellence and values. These new logos do just that,” added Crain. “The logo change is merely the beginning of a process to give Southeastern a modern brand identity that will lead us into the centennial anniversary.”

Leaping Forward

THE SOUTHEASTERN VERTEBRATE MUSEUM IS GROWING, CURATING, DIGITIZING, AND SHARING ITS COLLECTION TO ENHANCE ICHTHYOLOGY AND HERPETOLOGY RESEARCH.


The National Science Foundation has awarded a Southeastern specialist in the diversity of fishes a grant of $409,200.

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.

Kyle Piller
Kyle Piller

“Southeastern has an Ichthyology and Herpetology collection that initially was 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.”

In addition to the reptile, amphibian, and fish collection, Piller said the museum also has birds and mammals, although their numbers are much smaller. Specimens in the collection include sea turtle shells, a whale vertebrate, and alligators.

museum

“We actually have alligator purses and shoes to show our guests what is done with alligator skins once they are harvested,” Piller said. “We have a whooping crane, which is hard to come by, and a couple of toucans that are mounted. We are slowly growing in all areas, but the fish collection has grown the most because that’s what I study.”

College of Science and Technology Dean Daniel McCarthy said the grant will be transformative for the Ichthyology and Herpetology collection at Southeastern.

“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,” he explained. “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.”

a102714_186

Both undergraduate and graduate students use the specimens in the museum for research and study as part of undergraduate honors and graduate theses. Many students, Piller said, use the specimens to study their diets.

“Students can cut open the belly of a 20- or 30-year-old specimen and see what the species was eating back then versus what they are eating now,” he explained. “It also gives us a record of the presence of species now versus what they were 30 or 40 years ago, so we can look at change in communities in our region.”

Piller said the project will help 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.”

museum

“This outreach program will be used to stimulate interest in organismal biology for 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 researchoriented 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.

Raw00545

“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 will continue to 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.”

By Tonya Lowentritt

The Lion’s Roar Takes Home Numerous Louisiana Press Association Awards

The student staff of The Lion’s Roar, Southeastern’s student newspaper, brought home nine awards from the annual Louisiana Press Association (LPA) Better Newspaper Competition.

The Lion’s Roar, edited by Gerard Borne, Jr., a senior communication major from Norco, garnered second place accolades in the “General Excellence” category. Student newspapers from Loyola University New Orleans and Grambling State University placed first and third place respectively.

The staff also placed second in the “Best Front Page” category of the competition for the front-page designs of the March 17, 2020, and April 7, 2020 issues. Individually, Brynn Lundy, a senior communication major from Lutcher, took second place in the “Best News Story” category. In addition, Maiah Woodring, a senior biological sciences major from Albany, earned a first-place award for her photography in the “Best News Photo” category.

“It really shows how hard our staff have worked over the past year. I am honored to say that the staff and I have received this recognition,” Borne said. “I could not be happier, as I think we have some of the best writers and photographers working with the newspaper.”

Several additional staff reporters also earned individual awards from the LPA. Borne earned recognition in the “Best Sports Photo” category, taking both first and second place. Also, Symiah Dorsey, a junior communication major from LaPlace, received awards for both written and photography pieces. She placed first and second place in the “Best Single Editorial” category. Dorsey also placed third in the “Best Feature Story” category.

Director for the Office for Student Publications Lee E. Lind acknowledged the dedication and work ethic of the student staff over the past year, despite restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

“I am always proud of the quality and success of the work produced by our student editors and reporters,” he said. “This past year has been an especially challenging one, but through it all, these student journalists never wavered in their commitment to the work, the publication, and the campus community. To see them recognized for that dedication is greatly rewarding.”

Forty-four LPA member publications, college and university student newspapers submitted 973 entries for the Better Newspaper Competition. The Colorado Press Association judged the competition this year.

Southeastern Channel Named Best Television Station in the South

For the sixth time in the past nine years, the 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 third year in a row and the fourth time in the past six years at the annual Southeast Journalism Conference. Its six 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 span, the only times that the Southeastern Channel did not win first place, it won second place.

The 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 369 entries from 30 universities throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. There were 45 judges for the competition, including broadcast and print journalism professionals. Winners were announced in a virtual ceremony from Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.

“It’s a great honor to once again be recognized as the very best college television station in the South,” said Southeastern Channel General Manager Rick Settoon. “This is a tribute to the high quality standards of our students, the Southeastern Channel staff, and the television instructors in the Department of Communication and Media Studies.”

In addition, the Southeastern Channel won first place for “Best College Video News Program” for the student newscast Northshore News. The newscast has won first place five times in the past 10 years, the most of any school in the region.

In the individual categories, Kaylee Normand of Mandeville won second place for “Best Television Journalist in the South,” while Chris Rosato, also from Mandeville, won third place for “Best Television Hard News Reporter.” Both Normand and Rosato won for their Northshore News stories.

Emile Stretcher of Jennings and Cameron Pittman of Bogalusa won second and fifth place, respectively, for “Best Advertising Staff Member.” Raychelle Riley of Denham Springs won second place for “Best Journalism Research Paper.”

“Best of South” judges were impressed with Northshore News, which has won honors from College Broadcasters, Inc. as the second-best college TV newscast in the nation.

“These newscasts were very well produced,” said one judge. “Great local stories. Nice variety. Good mix of hard and soft. Strong visuals. Well-stacked shows with balance.”

Comments from another judge included, “Extremely professional and watchable program here! Great news judgment, as stories seemed well sourced and appeared where they ‘should.’ Nicely done. The hurricane footage was especially gripping!”

Anchors for Northshore News included Rosato, Normand, Lily Gayle of Greensburg, and Gabrielle Cox of Hammond.

Reporters for the newscasts were Rosato, Normand, Riley, Gayle, Cox, Dylan Domangue of Houma, Kayla Martin of New Orleans, and Lorraine Weiskopf and Caroline Fussell of Covington.

Student reporter Coby Sanchez of Baton Rouge, a certified storm spotter for the National Weather Service, captured dramatic live footage of Hurricane Zeta from inside the storm’s eyewall for one Northshore News episode.

This is the second consecutive year that Rosato has won an individual honor at the Southeast Journalism Conference. Last year he won third place in the “Best Television Journalist” category and third in the onsite competition for “Best Television Anchoring.”

Rosato also won regional honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and a first-place national award from College Broadcasters, Inc. for his news stories. Additionally, the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters, made up of all television and radio professionals in the state, named him the 2020 Louisiana Student Broadcaster of the Year.

Normand won an SPJ national award for her reporting and anchoring for the Southeastern Channel news magazine Southeastern Times, as well as a regional SPJ Mark of Excellence award for news feature reporting.

Rosato, Normand and Riley were hired as television news reporters right after graduating in December of 2020. Rosato was hired to report for WAFB-TV Ch. 9 (CBS) in Baton Rouge, while Normand was hired by KATC-TV Ch. 3 (ABC) in Lafayette. Riley now reports for WGMB-TV Ch. 44 (FOX)/WVLA-TV Ch. 33 (NBC) in Baton Rouge.

In its 19 years of existence, the Southeastern Channel has won over 400 national, international and regional awards, including 20 awards from the Emmys. The channel can be seen on Spectrum Channel 199 in Tangipahoa, St. Tammany, Livingston and St. Helena parishes and on mthermonwebtv.com in Washington Parish. The channel’s live 24-7 broadcast is streamed on Roku, Apple TV and thesoutheasternchannel.com, which also offers video on demand. The Southeastern Channel can also be accessed through its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts.

Save the Date for an Exciting Year of Performances at the Columbia Theatre

Southeastern’s Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts recently announced its 2021-22 season, which offers everything from live music to dance to theater. Dates and additional information are available at columbiatheatre.org.

The Columbia Theatre curtain officially opens Aug. 14 with a screening of Jaws, the first of the Columbia Movie House Series. Scheduled at 7:30 p.m. and as a Shark Week celebration, the film is a big screen showing of Steven Spielberg’s legendary creature feature. Film historian Jason Landrum will introduce the film and share some fun facts about the making of the cinema classic. Tickets are $20 and include free popcorn and a shark week “swag bag,” while supplies last.

Next up is a screening of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on Aug. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Once again, film historian Jason Landrum will introduce the film and share some fun facts about the making of the legendary John Hughes film centered on a high school senior playing hooky. Tickets are $20 and include free popcorn and an 80s “swag bag,” while supplies last.

Just in time for Halloween, the first of Columbia’s Original productions is scheduled Oct. 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. Directed by Columbia Theatre Artistic Director Jim Winter, The House on Haunted Hill is adapted for the stage from the Vincent Price film. The creepy classic is filled with Halloween thrills and chills, Winter said.

“An eccentric millionaire is throwing a party…inside a haunted house,” Winter explained. “Riches await his guests if they can survive the night.”

Tickets are $35 for adults, $20 for students and children.

A special screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, is scheduled Oct. 29 and 30 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and students, and VIP tickets are $25.

“Back by popular demand and hosted by master of ceremonies Joe Burns, our two screenings of this cult classic feature a shadow cast, costume contest, and more,” Winter said. “VIP tickets include a throw bag filled with all the interactive props you need and a surprise from our shadow cast.”

Next up is The Last Waltz, an array of local musicians that join forces on the Columbia Stage to perform the set list from the famous farewell concert by The Band. Scheduled Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m., the concert features Byron Daniel, Will Vance, Soul Revival, Lacey Blackledge, Bayou Honey and many more. Winter said this event is a fundraiser for Serenity Treatment Centers, Southeastern Students in Recovery, and True Rescue.

Tickets are $25 for adults and students, and VIP tickets are $35. A VIP ticket includes a reusable, spill-proof Columbia Theatre tumbler.

The holiday season at Columbia begins on Dec. 3 with Columbia Theatre’s Holiday Extravaganza. Scheduled at 6 p.m., the event invites patrons to come in their pajamas for a holiday celebration where they can explore the decorated lobby, meet Santa Claus, take selfies, listen to live holiday music, and enjoy a special screening of The Polar Express at 7 p.m. Free popcorn, hot cocoa, and a holiday “swag bag” are included, while supplies last, with the purchase of a ticket. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and children.

The Hammond Ballet Company celebrates its 25th anniversary of The Nutcracker on Dec. 10, 11, and 12. Scheduled at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11 and at 2 p.m. Dec. 12, the timeless holiday classic features the combined talents of professionals and all-star locals. Tickets are $35 for adults and $20 for students and children.

The first Columbia production of 2022 is scheduled Feb. 4 and 11 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 5 and 12 at 2 p.m. Directed by Winter, Puffs Or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic is Matt Cox’s smash hit Off-Broadway comedy that celebrates all things Harry. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students and children.
 
“If you are a fan of a certain boy wizard,” Winter said, “you do not want to miss Puffs.”
Next up is Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show March 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $20 for children and students.

“Come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab as the Columbia Theatre and Southeastern Theatre combine forces to bring you the live musical sensation that inspired the legendary cult film,” Winter said.

Columbia Theatre will host four primetime concert events for the 21st annual Bill Evans Jazz Festival April 6–9. Each concert is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. and will feature current Southeastern students, alumni, faculty and special guest artist Lisanne Lyons. Adult tickets are $20 and tickets for students and children are $15.

The Phantom of the Columbia: A Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre rounds out the month of April on the 27–30 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $100.

“Dress for an evening of fine dining and operatic grandeur because you’re invited to a very special on-stage dinner at the Columbia. One Thirteen Executive Chef Ryan Haigler will provide a delicious meal complete with some scrumptious Candlestick Bakery desserts,” Winter said. “Unfortunately, someone or something seems to be haunting our theatre. Oh, and did we mention members of the cast and crew have been dropping like flies lately? Perhaps you can help us catch the killer. Maybe you will be the next victim? Or are you the Phantom of the Columbia?”

Fittingly, the final film screening in the Columbia Movie House Series is scheduled May 4 at 7:30 p.m. Landrum will introduce the film Star Wars: A New Hope and share some fun facts about the making of this cinema classic that started it all. Free popcorn and Star Wars “swag bag” are included, while supplies last, with ticket purchase. Winter said patrons should arrive early to enjoy the decorated lobby that will include fun photo-op spots. Tickets are $20.

All tickets are available at the Columbia Theatre box office, located at 220 E. Thomas Street in Hammond, or by calling 985.543.4371.

For more information, contact the Columbia Theatre at 985.543.4366 or visit columbiatheatre.org.

Catching the Storm

Southeastern student Coby Sanchez has turned a fear of storms into a passion for understanding them and sharing information to help others—becoming “Southeastern’s first meteorologist.”

When Southeastern freshman and Baton Rouge native Coby Sanchez was a small child, storms were the boogeyman. As the wind roared and the tinny sound of rain reverberated off the windows and roof, little Coby would become more and more frightened, the outside world seeming to slide into dangerous, uncontrollable chaos. “Momma, I don’t want there to be a tornado!” he would cry inconsolably.

Then in 2008, Coby experienced a storm that would forever change his life: Hurricane Gustav. Gustav tore across Hispaniola, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba before making landfall in the U.S. near Cocodrie, Louisiana, as a category two hurricane. It lashed the Gulf Coast, creating about $6 million (in 2008 dollars) in damages in the U.S., 1.5 million power outages in Louisiana alone, and a spark in one local boy who lived through it.

After hours of white-knuckled fear, watching towering trees fall and roofs ripped off of homes, the pounding rain and roaring winds finally subsided—and Coby knew that if he were to ever conquer his biggest fear, he would have to better understand it. Eventually, instead of cowering from storms, he would seek them out, chasing them and studying their mysteries. No longer just to put himself at ease, and above even an unquenchable thirst for more knowledge, his ultimate mission has evolved to help others better prepare for and survive the wrathful monsters that so terrified him as a child.

a012521_057
Coby Sanchez

“The importance of studying storms and meteorology to me is saving lives,” said Coby. “As humans, we’re curious about nature. We want to have a visual within a storm to see what’s going on, what’s happening. But being prepared and preparing other people, residents in cities and states that will be impacted, that’s the whole point of meteorology. Because these are dangerous storms. They can take lives. I’d love to help prevent that.”

Over the ensuing years, Coby has pursued countless storms, from riding them out and investigating their aftermath to studying their characteristics and patterns from afar. While still in high school, he even received certification as a National Weather Service (NWS) SKYWARN® storm spotter, a program that, according to NWS, allows volunteers to “help keep their local communities safe by providing timely and accurate reports of severe weather to the National Weather Service.” He additionally shares the information that he gathers as a certified member of the Spotter Network.

Coby plans to one day turn his passion for storm chasing into his career, informing mass audiences by becoming a meteorologist and television weatherman, hopefully even following in the footsteps of renowned Weather Channel on-camera meteorologists like Jim Cantore and Tevin Wooten. So when it came time to begin choosing a college, the opportunities presented by Southeastern and the Southeastern Channel—winner of over 400 awards since its inception in 2002 and the only university channel in Louisiana to have ever won an Emmy, let alone have done it 20 times—immediately caught his attention. The Southeastern Channel has won first place in the nation 11 times at the National Student Production Awards given by College Broadcasters, Inc. and has been named “Best Television Station in the South” eight times by the Southeast Journalism Conference. Southeastern’s strong reputation of caring was also a plus for Coby.

“I heard a lot of great things about Southeastern,” said Coby. “At Southeastern, in my experience, they care. They definitely care to help and better you as a student and as a person for the future.”

a020821_043 (1)

Along with this, he recognized how the Southeastern Channel would be a perfect fit with his career goals. “After college, I’d love to go straight into meteorology, if possible. Working with the Southeastern Channel will give me that experience which would better my chances of getting a job.”

So in the fall of 2020, as the most record-breaking hurricane season ever recorded was still gearing up, Coby enrolled at Southeastern.

The Southeastern Channel, which Coby knew would be the perfect way to gain invaluable, hands-on experience while also sharing some of his own expertise, did not currently have a weather segment. Undaunted, he approached Southeastern Channel General Manager Rick Settoon about incorporating one.

“I’ve always wanted to have a weather segment for student training and experience at the Southeastern Channel, especially for those who would like to do the weather, and a lot of things have come together to make that happen,” said Rick. “One is having a student who’s knowledgeable enough about weather with a strong career focus of becoming a TV meteorologist, someone who’s dedicated to developing a regular segment. Coby has that laser focus and can become the real trailblazer in this regard.”

a020821_330

Rick and Coby are partnering together to begin building a program for adding weather segments to the Southeastern Channel, identifying and learning the appropriate programs, tools, and approach. Since Coby is not yet a certified meteorologist, he will convey rather than create weather predictions in order to effectively bring local forecasts and weather reports to Southeastern students and the surrounding community.

“I tell students all of the time that at the Southeastern Channel our mission is to help make their dreams come true,” said Rick. “We’ve done that for students who’ve become professional news anchors and reporters, sportscasters, producers, writers, directors, videographers, editors, and filmmakers. We plan to do that for Coby with weathercasting. So it’s the perfect fit.”

Although he’s still in his first year at Southeastern and the weather segment at the Channel is still taking shape in development, Coby, who plans to one day round out his experience at Southeastern by attending meteorology school, has already learned a great deal.

“Working with the Channel has given me first-hand experience of working for a news channel. That’s the closest I’ll get until actually landing a job like that,” he said. “It’s taught me how to work programs like Premiere Pro, which is a computer-based program for video editing. And most importantly, it’s taught me to be more open and step out of my comfort zone. Because when interviewing people or anchoring segments, you can’t be scared. You’ve got to just do it. And if you mess up, you keep going.”

Delta_2020-10-06_1340Z“A weather segment will help students like Coby who plan to eventually attend meteorology school and also those who can get jobs at local stations where they don’t require a meteorology degree to do weather,” said Rick.

In addition to helping build the weather segment so that future students with a similar passion can also gain such an experience, Coby dove into the chance to capture the historic, seemingly endless, 2020 hurricane season, reporting on Hurricane Zeta from the field for the Channel’s Northshore News program. He chased a total of five hurricanes that came into the Gulf and was in Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Zeta as the eyewall actually came ashore.

While the season was one that he will definitely never forget, his venture into Zeta was particularly eventful. Coby described how, despite careful planning, downed equipment left him and his aunt, who shares his love of storm chasing, to ride out the hurricane in their vehicle.

“I went to Slidell and was getting some footage for the Southeastern Channel, and a Doppler radar temporarily lost signal, so I was not able to get that radar feed from my velocity radar like I wanted. By the time it updated and came back online, it was too late. The eyewall was hitting, so we had to pull over at a gas station near the Twin Spans. And when it hit, it came with a punch. There were winds that topped off at maybe 100 miles per hour. I was actually planning on getting out to get footage for the Channel of me in that wind. I could not open the door. I actually tried using my feet to open it. I could not push the door. The car was shaking.”

With nothing else around but a gas station, Coby and his aunt moved to hunker down behind the gas station, away from the awning which Coby feared could be snapped off and lifted away like an umbrella at any moment.

pexels-josh-sorenson-1154510

Despite the precarious situation that Coby found himself in during Zeta, which certainly also caused some nail-biting worry and fervent prayer on the part of his parents, Coby did say that safety is at the top of his mind when planning to go out into a storm.

He begins the process by watching the news, checking the radar, plotting where he will be and where all of the exits and alternate routes are, and checking to see which radars he will use and if any are damaged or out of service. Food, water, and battery for recharging his phone are packed. Throughout the storm he uses RadarScope, which has two radar feeds—velocity radar for understanding the wind speed and identifying spinups or tornados and a precipitation depiction for seeing the rain.

B6485CA3-B71F-4C62-BA0D-1A57AA1A0F06Coby mentioned that there is always an unpredictable aspect to storms, which is why preparing as much as possible is so important. However, it’s also part of their beauty. “It’s always a new experience with each storm. Each storm has its own feeling—own unique aspect, or character, within it.”

By the time it was over, the 2020 season produced 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes (with top winds of 111 mph or greater). Records were broken for the most named storms, the most named storms to make landfall in Louisiana (five), the strongest storm (Hurricane Laura) to hit Louisiana since 1856, the first time a hurricane eye has passed over New Orleans in more than half a century (Hurricane Zeta), the most storms to form in a single month (five in September), only the second time in history forecasters had to move to the Greek alphabet for names, and more.

Coby has experienced and tracked other storms, including being caught in a few isolated tornados and interviewing survivors in the aftermath of an EF4 tornado in Southern Mississippi. But hurricanes remain the most intriguing to him. And he sees plenty of opportunities in the future for studying them.

“For future hurricane seasons, or any type of weather, I do think they could potentially get stronger over time,” commented Coby. “I think it will be years, maybe even decades, but I do believe climate change and global warming will eventually fuel future hurricanes. I think they will strengthen in size and category. I believe even the way meteorologists predict the weather or the way we learn about the weather could eventually change.”

a032421_0374

But for now, Coby is continuing to soak in all he can about meteorology while gaining real-life experience on how to effectively inform others of what may lie ahead.

“I wake up, and I’m excited to go to work and learn something new,” Coby said of being at Southeastern and a part of the Southeastern Channel. “I’m excited to get this thing started, working on the green screen and eventually adding that weather segment. It’s a dream come true.”

Through a yearning for knowledge and a desire to help others, Coby has transformed his dark, incomprehensible monster of wind and water into what appears to be a radiant and deeply fulfilling future.

By Sheri Gibson