Competing in First Southland Title Game

Southeastern women’s basketball team achieved an historic postseason run, making their first-ever Southland title game appearance at the Southland Conference Tournament championship on March 13 at the Merrell Center in Katy, TX. Their excellence continued throughout the final game, with a close 56-52 loss in overtime to Incarnate Word.

The Lady Lions ended the season with a 16-11 overall record and a 10-4 conference record.

While five players will be graduating after this season, head coach Ayla Guzzardo believes the team is well prepared for the next season to potentially be an even bigger success. “We’ve gotten the taste of the big stage and the feeling from this last game is going to make our returners hungrier this offseason,” Guzzardo commented. “We’ve built this program by recruiting not only good players, but good people, and we’re going to continue to add quality to our roster.”

The Stories Behind the Bricks

Southeastern’s Friendship Bricks solidify cherished memories and create lasting legacies in the heart of Southeastern’s campus.


Friendship Circle is the heart of campus, and its pulse is embedded in the memories of Southeastern’s students, alumni, and community friends. Nestled between the area’s legendary Friendship Oak and new Lion statue sits Southeastern’s Friendship Brick Plaza.

Graduation recognitions, memorials, marriage proposals, and more line the pavement of the plaza. Under foot, the messages are both clever and sincere. Some engravings are cryptic, while others are obvious.




No matter the message, each brick shares one commonality: pride.

ring medal and gownFor ZYRIA GUILLORY, her brick symbolizes her proud journey of “firsts.” The Lafayette native earned a degree in business management and the title of first-generation graduate in spring of 2020. She was part of the first class to graduate during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group that will be remembered for their resiliency and perseverance. During her time at Southeastern, Zyria was also a member of the first Lionette Dance Team to win a national championship. “My brick inscription reminds me of all of the memories and important milestones I experienced at Southeastern. I’ll forever be a Lion, and I can’t wait to visit my brick in Friendship Circle whenever I’m back on campus!“


Because of its proximity to Strawberry Stadium, Friendship Circle is a major part of the game-day experience, and the bricks have become a fan favorite at football tailgates. It’s not uncommon to see Lion fans hunched over the concrete, searching for their brick, reading engravings of those they may know or studying a message that belongs to someone they’ve never met. One of the most memorable tailgate searches belongs to MEGAN AND HAYES WALKER, who got engaged at Friendship Brick Plaza in 2015.

The pair met in Dr. Laver’s military history class in spring of 2013. Hayes sat behind Megan, and his Theta Chi fraternity brother formally introduced them a few weeks into the semester. “Because we met and dated at Southeastern, I felt it appropriate to incorporate the University into the proposal,” Hayes said.


While in college, some of Megan and Hayes’ favorite memories were centered around Homecoming. Hayes saw the event as an opportunity to pop the question and left a special note for his bride-to-be to find at the 2015 tailgate.


When asked about the proposal experience, Megan describes it as being unreal. “Hayes had me unknowingly invite our friends and family to tailgate with us for the homecoming game. Of course, they were all in on it. Seeing the brick surrounded by friends, family, fraternity brothers, and sorority sisters was just so surreal. It was something I never knew I wanted.”

Today, these Southeastern sweethearts have a little Lion at home and another on the way! They love knowing that their children can go see the brick whenever they visit campus.

Megan's family picture

For many families, bricks are a special way to honor their loved ones in a permanent way.



For the PICOU FAMILY, the Friendship Bricks they hold dear symbolize the family legacy they have created here at Southeastern. Alumni Lamar and Stacy gifted a brick to their daughter, Renee, as a reminder of her time and the success she experienced while at the University.


“I thought it was the best thing ever for them to donate a brick with MY name on it,” said the former Miss Southeastern, Alpha Omicron Pi alumna, and member of the Thirteen Club. “It meant the world for my parents to gift it to me. It’s extra special for me because I’m a second-generation Lion!”

Renee senior portraitRenee grew up with Lion pride. Her mother is a former Southeastern Livingston Parish Alumni Chapter president and her father is a former Lions Basketball player, Thirteen Club member, and Roy E. Hyde Sociology Award honoree. In 2018, Stacy purchased a brick as a gift for her college sweetheart, cementing Lamar’s name and his accomplishments in Friendship Brick Plaza.


“Stacy surprised me with the brick one Christmas. What a unique gift!” recalls Lamar. “It was very touching to see my name on the campus where I played ball, studied, and then graduated. A kind of marker to show I was part of a great university. The Christmas present of that brick was super and totally unexpected! One I will never forget.”

Friendship Bricks are, indeed, an unforgettable gift, one that calls our Lion family back home to remember their time on campus.

DICKIE WHITSON has considered Southeastern home since 1968. Fraternity events, football games, Friendship Oak, Homecoming festivities, and the lifetime friendships formed while at Southeastern are all wonderful memories the former Alumni Board president cherishes from his collegiate days.


“Southeastern has provided me a quality education and an enormous amount of enjoyment as both an undergrad and alum,” said the ’71 graduate who currently serves on the LAA board as well as countless Southeastern committees. “Now in my retirement, the University affords me the opportunity to benefit our student-athletes, fans, and alumni through volunteer service, all of which helps fill a huge void in my life since the passing of my beloved spouse, Sylvia, in 2011.”

His brick inscription recalls the treasured memories of being a newlywed living in an on-campus married student’s apartment with his wife in 1971.

Photo_2021-08-08_223217OUR FIRST HOME

“While I was completing my final semester, Sylvia would commute five days per week by car, bus, or train to New Orleans, where she was employed at Chevron Oil,” said Whitson remembering fondly. “On weekends we enjoyed quality time together and with friends. After one semester there, we vowed to return one day to live in the Hammond area. That brick serves as a constant reminder to me of the humble beginning to my adult life, where together with Sylvia, Southeastern, and God was formed a solid foundation for a lifetime of success and happiness.”

The love, determination, and success denoted within these bricks showcase Southeastern’s strong foundation of caring and excellence. Lion pride resonates through the engravings, celebrating the milestones, memories, and people that make our University great.

Cement your legacy on campus by purchasing a Friendship Brick at

By Olivia Graziano


Remembering Members of the Southeastern Community

The Alumni Association will host its annual Golden Silence ceremony to honor deceased Southeastern alumni, students, faculty, and staff or their family members Wednesday, April 27. The event is free and open to the public.

The annual event will be held at 6 p.m. in the Pottle Performance Circle on Ned McGehee Drive in Friendship Circle.

“We invite the campus and the public to let us know if someone from the Southeastern family, such as students, faculty and staff or graduates, has passed away during the past year so that they can be honored at Golden Silence,” said Executive Director of Alumni Relations Michelle Biggs.

Attendees are asked to RSVP so that event organizers can arrange for enough seating and candles. A list of honorees is available and RSVPs can be made at

For more information or to add a name to the list of honorees, contact the Alumni Association at 985.549.2150 or

Grooving into a Grammy

Southeastern alum and New Orleans jazz musician Craig Klein is making his mark on the city’s brass band tradition and earning recognition for it, including by taking home the music industry’s top honor.

Craig Klein embodies the spirit of New Orleans music—a unique mash-up of skill, soul, creativity, and endurance that draws from diverse influences. A class of ’84 marketing major who also played at Southeastern throughout his college career, he has combined the knowledge obtained from this degree with his talent and passion for jazz to achieve a highly successful and storied career as a professional musician. His most recent album with his band New Orleans Nightcrawlers helped solidify his place in the national spotlight, earning a Grammy.

A born musician, Craig grew up in New Orleans and embraced the area’s thriving arts scene from the time he was a small child. His uncle Gerry Dallmann, whom Craig always looked up to, was a professional trombonist. By third grade, Craig had begun following in his footsteps—taking up the trombone himself. Throughout his teenage years, he immersed himself in a world of improvisation, rhythm and swing, instruments, harmony, and form, often within the walls of Preservation Hall.

With the goal of being a professional musician but also enticed by the career opportunities of marketing, Craig began Southeastern in 1980. He was personally recruited by then Director of Bands Ron Nethercutt. Along with the personal faculty connection, Craig chose the University for its excellent music program and performance opportunities combined with an ability to achieve a solid foundation in marketing. The school’s convenient proximity to New Orleans’ rich music scene further enhanced the draw.

“[My time at Southeastern] kept me reading music. It really was a pivotal part of helping me to stay in music and keep my flow going because it provided me with the opportunity to continue playing,” Craig said.

Craig Klein

Along with playing in several bands on and off campus while a student, Craig served as a member of Delta Tau Delta and as a KSLU DJ, helping implement a jazz program for the station. “When I started at KSLU there was no jazz program, so I went to the director and asked to start a jazz hour—or three hours. Because such a program didn’t yet exist, I started with Southern rock—which I knew nothing about—while we worked on creating the jazz program. Man, I love KSLU. You can bet every time I am driving down I-55 that I am tuning in!” Craig said.

In his free time, Craig often visited New Orleans, where he began discovering and falling in love with the brass band scene. His uncle Jerry, who had initially sparked his passion for music, convinced him to join his brass band The Paradise Tumblers. Enjoying his time with this band and ready for an additional avenue for creating and performing, Craig started The Storyville Stompers. This traditional brass band remains together to this day, performing over 6,000 times and secondlining in the streets of New Orleans for 40 years and counting.

New Orleans

By the time Craig earned his Southeastern degree in 1984, he had already begun making a name for himself. He performed regularly with his bands, while also using his marketing skills to sell real estate. Then in 1990 he was hired as trombonist for Harry Connick Jr. He soon embarked on an international tour, playing alongside the legendary musician for several years.

While Craig enjoyed performing with Harry and felt honored at the opportunity, the bug to channel his creative energy into projects of his own began chasing him. After leaving Harry’s band, Craig returned home to New Orleans and began implementing these new projects: Bonerama, The New Orleans Jazz Vipers, and a little side project called New Orleans Nightcrawlers.

Fellow current members of the Nightcrawlers are Matt Perrine, Kevin Clark, Barney Floyd, Jason Mingledorff, Brent Rose, Cayetano Hingle, Kerry Hunter, and Miles Lyons—the latter of whom also attended Southeastern before earning his own renown as a professional musician.

Official Nightcrawlers hi res band shot copy

“The Nightcrawlers started as a side project because all nine people in this band are first-call players; it was almost impossible to book gigs for the Nightcrawlers because of our schedules. One person may be on tour here and another on tour there. So sometimes we would only play twice a year at French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest, and that would be it all year long. When the pandemic suddenly hit, it cleared up space in everybody’s schedule. Then we received the [Grammy] nomination, and it blew it up,” explained Craig.

Because of the acclaim received, the once side project has now become each member of the band’s main focus.

Craig and the Nightcrawlers’ response to the pandemic and cancellations—and desire to still bring new music to people—is part of what helped them earn the nomination.

rs=w_400,cg_true“We recorded this record in 2019 in three different sessions,” he said. “The idea was to put this record out for French Quarter Fest and roll with it. We liked it and knew it was a good one. When French Quarter Fest was canceled, everyone else was holding their records so they could use them for tour. But we decided to go ahead and put ours out so people could hear it.”

After hearing the record, titled Atmosphere, a local record producer and Recording Academy member submitted the Nightcrawlers for consideration for Best Regional Roots album for the 2020 Grammys. Craig commented how, after remaining dedicated to his calling for decades, he will never forget the moment he learned his passion project was nominated for the biggest honor in the American music industry.

“I’m in the grocery store shopping, buying some food. The next thing I know I’m getting messages saying we are nominated! My phone was blowing up, and I was so excited in the store that I wanted to tell someone in person, so I walked up to one of the guys stocking shelves and tapped him on the shoulder. I said ‘Hey man, can I share something with you?’ And from there, it just started unfolding,” Craig said.

The marketing savvy he obtained during his time at Southeastern and put into practice throughout his career to promote himself and his bands was utilized to help secure the win.

“There are only 10,000 people who can vote, and of the 80 categories, there are a limited number they can actually vote in. But they can choose where they want to vote,” Craig explained of the process. “For the category we were in, Best Regional Roots Album, we felt the need to really get the word out. We hired a publicist and began working the phones.”

On the night of the Grammys, the Nightcrawlers hosted a joint watch party with Cameron Dupuy and the Cajun Troubadours, a fellow New Orleans band nominated in the same category. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, they were unable to attend the ceremony in Los Angeles, but still made the most of it at home in New Orleans—where it all began. Sitting on stage with their families behind them, the Nightcrawlers received word they had won Best Regional Roots Album for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.


With natural talent, well-refined skills, and an unbreakable passion for creating and performing music, Craig may one day have another Grammy to add to his shelf. The Nightcrawlers have been hard at work on a new album, which is expected to drop before the end of the year.

But despite the national acclaim, Craig remains humble, crediting Southeastern for helping him get to where he
is today.

“Without Southeastern, we may not have had this opportunity,” he said. “Big thanks to Southeastern and the
experience it gave me; it allowed me to play and learn and become a better musician.”

By Allen Cutrer and Sheri Gibson

Tinsley Learning Center

Southeastern’s new Tinsley Learning Center is helping enhance student learning opportunities and success.

Tinsley Hall reopened this past year after undergoing a suite of renovations. A campus landmark for over 60 years, its array of physical updates were designed to better meet the needs of today’s campus community—and to provide even more opportunities for deeper learning and increased academic achievement through its new Tinsley Learning Center.

The building has emerged as a student center that includes an expansion of the Center for Student Excellence along with transformed tutoring spaces, a computer lab, and an SGA-funded lounge and meeting room.

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Greater energy efficiency was also a goal in the renovation of Tinsley Hall, with changes including replacement of the original single-paned glass with modern energy-saving windows.

Along with contributing to Southeastern’s efforts to become an even greener and more energy-efficient campus, one feature of the freshly remodeled building, which sits adjacent to historic Friendship Circle, is also making an impact.

The Southeastern Tutoring Center was reimagined and renamed upon its reopening in Tinsley Hall in August 2020. Measuring 3,076 square feet, the Tinsley Learning Center (TLC) is located on the second floor of the newly renovated building and creates a warm, welcoming space.

“The TLC overlooks the beautiful oak trees that line Friendship Circle,” said Marie Bernard, Tinsley Learning Center
coordinator. “The Center has an abundance of natural light that the students and staff love. Many of our students remain in the TLC to study because they love the beautiful space and friendly environment. Several departments have utilized the Tinsley Learning Center for meetings due to the spaciousness and adaptability of the room.”
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A College Reading and Learning Association certified lab, TLC offers a variety of educational resources where students are empowered to cultivate the skills needed for life-long learning. These resources include tutoring by appointment, drop-in tutoring, supplemental instruction, the Speech Critique Hub, peer assisted study sessions, French and Spanish conversation hour, Capstone presentation assistance, and a variety of study skills workshops. In addition to the TLC, Tinsley Hall offers a student lounge, computer lab and student accessibility services.

More than 40 student workers are employed at the TLC during the fall and spring semesters, and students are taking advantage of and benefitting from the resources it offers.

The enhancement of TLC to better meet the needs of today’s students and offer a more visually welcoming space is a physical extension of Southeastern’s core values. As even the initialism reflects, TLC is intent on providing caring, as well as innovative, programs to help students achieve all of their goals.

“Our impact on the academic success of our students cannot be overstated,” said Bernard. “One former client, for example, escorted two incoming freshmen to our office for introductions because our help was instrumental to his success as a student at Southeastern. He explained that when he was a student, he lived at the Tinsley Learning Center and wanted others to benefit from it as well.”

By Sheri Gibson and Tonya Lowentritt

Health Sciences Program

Providing New Educational and Career Opportunities Across the Healthcare Industry

A new program in Southeastern’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences is helping students achieve a strong, interdisciplinary foundation in healthcare, providing them flexibility to pursue fulfilling careers in a wide variety of
healthcare settings.

The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences program, part of the Kinesiology and Health Studies Department, began in the Spring of 2020 to help students broaden their knowledge and obtain a cutting edge in the ever-changing and multifaceted healthcare field. This contributes to not only better career opportunities for students but also a stronger workforce that is able to tackle the unpredictable challenges of today and tomorrow.

Department Head of Kinesiology and Health Studies Dr. Charity Bryan explained how this is preparing Southeastern students for the next step in their education, offering “a flexible curriculum to complete requirements for admission into physical therapy, physician assistant, dental hygiene, public health, and athletic training programs.”


Southeastern has already seen an interest in the program from the community. Bryan said, “The new Health Sciences program has proven very popular with over 235 majors.” In response to the growth and interest, Southeastern has welcomed new faculty members to “expand our class offerings and provide additional research opportunities for students.”

The faculty members are knowledgeable about the program and excited to share their knowledge with future health professionals. Professor of Health Sciences Dr. Ralph Wood said, “This is the perfect degree for students who want to pursue careers in public health and healthcare-related fields, such as health coaching and patient navigation.”

The Health Sciences degree will have a direct benefit to our local and state community. According to a study published in 2018 by the United Health Foundation, Louisiana was ranked the unhealthiest state. The program aims to help alleviate this problem. “The Health Science degree will allow graduates to specifically address health problems and help individuals pursue better health outcomes, improve health literacy, and make healthier choices for themselves and their families,” said Bryan.

This program gives students the opportunity to pursue many career paths across the health field. It includes a solid foundation in public health courses including epidemiology and two-course sequences on chronic disease management; a course solely focused on motivational interviewing and health coaching; and the necessary training to plan, implement, manage, and evaluate evidence-based programs.

The flexibility throughout the program offers students the opportunity to choose 22 hours of health science electives. They can pick from courses in athletic training, biology, physics, chemistry, kinesiology, health systems management, psychology, nursing, microbiology, zoology, and family and consumer sciences. The electives provide students the option to complete coursework to gain prerequisites required for graduate school programs in athletic training, occupational therapy, physician assistant, physical therapy, or other allied health professions. Students can also complete the requirements to earn a certificate in digital health management or population health management. Program Coordinator Carrie M. Edwards said, “The 22 hours of elective provide a framework for students to not only complete prerequisites for graduate programs in the allied health
sciences but also the flexibility to choose courses of interest in health and wellness to create a more holistic health degree.”

Students can collaborate with nationally recognized faculty through research opportunities. Faculty members within the program have research experience in health coaching and counseling; drug, alcohol, and tobacco prevention; chronic illness in children; nutrition and physical activity; worksite health programming; health disparities; minority health; stress and health risk behaviors; and other research topics.

Students are encouraged to engage in learning opportunities beyond the classroom and interact with other students and health professionals through attending professional conferences. Some of the conferences include the National Health & Physical Literacy Summit, Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), American School Health Association (ASHA), and American Public Health Association (APHA).

The career options post-graduation for students obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences are bright. “Graduates will be prepared with a solid undergraduate foundation to pursue careers in public health, health
education, and health coaching, as well as graduate study and/or professional degrees in pre-health, such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, physician assistant, dental hygiene, public health, and athletic training,” said Edwards. Students completing this program will be equipped to take the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) examination to become CHES certified.

For more information on Southeastern’s Health Sciences program, email or visit

By Mary Grace Kelley

Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice Presents Speaker Series “Voices of Justice and Change”

Southeastern’s Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice and the Social Justice Speaker Series are hosting the Criminal Justice Colloquium event “Voices of Justice and Change.”

Three speakers are scheduled for March 14, 23, and 29 on Southeastern’s campus in Fayard Hall, room 207. All events are free and open to the public.

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice William A. Chernoff said for the first time ever, changemakers transforming the face and soul of the justice system today will speak about their experiences with the justice system.

“By amplifying these voices, this speaker series aims to build lasting bridges between justice system professionals, service providers, scholars, advocates, and system-involved peoples and share the secrets to a more people-centered system of justice,” he said.

The first speaker in the series is Alex Johnson on March 14 from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. Known as “PoeticSoul,” the Lafayette native encourages others to never give up, stand up, be fearless, and be heard, Chernoff said. She has worked as a teaching artist in Lafayette Parish Juvenile Detention Home and was a featured panelist during the 2016 Split this Rock Poetry Festival in Washington, DC, where she discussed Language of the Unheard: Rural Children of Color. Johnson recently published a book of poetry titled Poisonous Thoughts and lead the Eyes of the Sun mural in Lafayette, a project sponsored by 24 Hour Citizen Project.

For more information, click here.

Giving Back: Freda Oddo Green and Ruth Settoon Kenelly

Two beloved members of the Southeastern community have left a lasting legacy on students, the University, and those who knew them, embodying the spirit of giving back and of true Lion Pride.

Some people become members of our Southeastern Family by earning their degree here, some by joining the ranks of staff and faculty. Others are initially drawn to becoming part of the community on their own through a variety of reasons—an appreciation for or interest in helping boost the economic and cultural impact the University has on the region, the fun and welcoming atmosphere, a desire to help current students successfully achieve all of their goals, and even love.

This past year Southeastern lost two very special members of its community: Freda Oddo Green and Ruth Settoon Kenelly. Each became a deeply rooted member of the Lion Pride through a beautiful, social personality; a desire to give back; and love for a fellow Lion. And each left an indelible mark on the institution and on those who knew them.



Freda was a force of nature. Born January 19, 1923, as an only child, she was a woman before her time—independent, strong, hard-working, determined, and not afraid to speak her mind, but also always displaying an impeccable sense of fashion and etiquette.

Freda had a passion for teaching younger generations the importance of etiquette, for traveling, and for spending time with family and friends. Wherever she went, she would form lasting friendships with the people she met, and she traveled the world.

Freda Green with grandaughter Cheryl BrunoAfter living in New York and New Orleans, Freda moved to Hammond from Amite for the great-granddaughter she raised, Michelle, who was attending Trafton Academy. Freda was first introduced to campus through Michelle, whose school used the facilities at Southeastern for running track. As Freda increasingly became involved in the local community with organizations like the Greater Hammond Chamber of Commerce and her church, she began meeting proud Lions. Recognizing Freda’s talent for getting things done, they invited her to join their activities at the University. When it was time for Michelle to enter college, she chose to attend Southeastern, strengthening Freda’s ties to and love for the University.

freda-green-new-orleans-la-obituaryFreda had a strong philanthropic spirit, and she never hesitated to lend her time and talents to organizations across the region. At Southeastern, she served as a member of the Community Advisory Council, a charter and past board member of F.E.Lions (Female Enthusiasts for Southeastern Athletics), a past mentor of the Women’s Basketball team, and a member of the Columbia Theatre Advisory Board.


IMG-1354Ruth was born in Denham Springs, Louisiana, on July 13, 1929, to Carl Chambers and Lela Barnett Chambers, the latter of whom started the family’s Lion legacy by becoming a 1934 graduate of Southeastern. After graduating from Denham Springs High School, Ruth attended Baton Rouge Business College. In 1947, she married V.E. “Son” Settoon. The pair owned and operated a general goods store together in Springfield, Louisiana, for close to 40 years, until Son’s passing.

In April of 1990, Ruth married legendary Southeastern director of athletics and Hall of Fame coach Pat Kenelly, attending almost all Southeastern home football and baseball games from then on. She also became a warm friend, generous supporter, and advocate of Southeastern, getting to see her two daughters, three granddaughters, and a grandson-in-law earn their degrees from the University.

“Whether she was called ‘Mama Ruth’ or the ‘Queen of Hammond,’ to know her was to love her,” said Mary Hannah (Prevot) Johnson, her granddaughter and the prior assistant athletics director for athletic advancement at Southeastern.
As a loyal supporter of Southeastern over the years, Ruth made a profound impact on countless students and the University through the establishment of the Pat Kenelly Endowed Scholarship in Baseball in 2004 and the naming of the Coach Pat Kenelly Baseball Diamond in 2006, along with additional annual program support. And, her memory keeps on giving through the newly initiated Ruth Settoon Kenelly Memorial Scholarship in Baseball, currently being funded by her devoted family and friends.

“Ms. Ruth was loved by her Southeastern Family,” added Wendy Lauderdale, vice president of University Advancement. “She had a way of making everyone feel special. And, she had an amazing ability of always reaching out and showing love and support at just the right time. It was like she was emotionally connected to all of us.

Scan Feb 27, 2021“Ms. Ruth could usually be found having breakfast with one of the members of the Southeastern Family at Yellow Bird, a local establishment in Hammond. She invited President Crain every time, hoping to have yet another opportunity to let ‘John’ know just how special she thought he was. Ms. Ruth loved everything about Southeastern and Southeastern loved everything about Ms. Ruth. We have all been blessed to have known her and rest assured that her memory will live on for generations to come in the hearts of her Southeastern Family.”

By Sheri Gibson

Cyber Security Summit for Educators

Southeastern will host a free professional development workshop for educators on Saturday, March 12, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for seventh through 12th-grade teachers. Scheduled in the Innovation Hub in Sims Memorial Library, the summit will cover basic cybersecurity concepts and give an overview of the summer GenCyber Professional Development Program.

The National Security Agency and the National Science Foundation have provided funding for this CyberSecurity Summit and the GenCyber Professional Development Program, also for educators, to be held in July. Southeastern was one of 32 universities and colleges nationally to be selected as a camp host last year and is the only university in Louisiana to offer it this year.

Computer Science faculty member Bonnie Achee will serve as program director for the GenCyber program with Southeastern faculty teaching camp courses. The event is free, and both in-person and virtual attendance options are available.

For more information or to register, visit

The Sound of Success

A Southeastern professor and two student researchers teamed up to develop beyond gold standard cochlear implant sound technology in only eight weeks, earning a national award.

Southeastern Professor of Physics Sanichiro Yoshida and graduate students Anthony Calmes and Conor McGibboney, both of Hammond, are making waves in research that could one day help others. Their efforts were recently recognized on a national level, earning an honorable mention in the first Cochlear Implant (CI) Hackathon. The team, with no prior experience in cochlear or sound technology, achieved better than the “gold standard,” a reference implementation of a fully featured cochlear implant sound coding strategy.

The CI Hackathon used a crowdsourced ranking structure to judge entries against each other and against a baseline, which essentially gives an approximation of what a cochlear implant sounds like today.

“Southeastern’s entry performed better than the baseline in the category of simple words. Essentially this means that their improved algorithm outperformed what the cochlear implant can do today in that sound category,” explained CI Hackathon Project Leader Leah Muller. “This is a huge feat in itself. We as organizers were both surprised and excited when we started seeing teams perform better than baseline, because that meant we were succeeding in the second part of our mission with the Hackathon: to generate promising new strategies that may improve hearing for real cochlear implant users.”

Southeastern Professor of Physics Sanichiro Yoshida (left) teamed up with graduate students Conor McGibboney (center) and Anthony Calmes (right) to create national award-winning cochlear implant sound technology.

Cochlear implants are electronic devices that restore hearing to people who are born without hearing or who lose their hearing over time. The implants allow some deaf people to hear sounds by overriding the innate hearing mechanisms of the ear. Although cochlear implants can restore or improve hearing, some users may experience difficulty, especially with hearing speech in a noisy environment and enjoying music.

Held virtually, the CI Hackathon encouraged national participation with contestants from five continents. Top tier entries represented academic institutions, commercial entities, and individuals. The Southeastern team placed in the top four against sixty registered teams from universities all over the world, as well as private biotech firms and other tech companies.

The competition was a joint effort between Advanced Bionics, University of California San Francisco, and University of Minnesota with a goal to inspire members of the public to improve CI sound processing. The hackathon ranked entries based on their performance in four sound categories—a series of three unrelated one-syllable words, natural speech, speech in a noisy background, and music across a wide range of styles. Advanced Bionics, one of three FDA-approved CI manufacturers, sponsored the contest and provided the gold standard reference.

Advanced Bionics and the University of Minnesota further provided a software framework for contestants to develop and test their own algorithms, including an acoustic simulation of the sound percept produced by a CI in
order for normal-hearing listeners to be able to optimize and ultimately judge the sound quality of the CI sound
processing algorithms.


Yoshida, whose expertise is in optical interferometry and field theory, heard about the competition and was intrigued by it. The opportunities it presented to bring together many different discipline backgrounds and fields for a common purpose was particularly enticing. Yoshida connected with Calmes and McGibboney, who were current graduate students in his department, and formed a team to dig deeper into this project. Dean of the College of Science and Technology Dan McCarthy encouraged him to enter the competition.

McGibboney said that what inspired him to compete at the CI Hackathon is general curiosity about the human brain. “Humankind has progressed so far, yet a lot of the mystery about what life is and how humans will continue to evolve is locked inside the human brain,” he said. “It was an excellent opportunity to take some of the knowledge we learned in physics and other areas and see what we could uncover or how we could apply it to the human brain.”

Yoshida, Calmes, and McGibboney worked on the project over winter break. Yoshida explained that the software his team developed for the competition included basic strategies, such as increasing the gain of part of the control unit. Next, Calmes and McGibboney tested the software and reported to Yoshida with the results. He then modified the strategy and sent it back to the students.

“The goal of the software development was to improve the performance of the sensor, the part that receives the sound and converts it to electronic signals; of the controller and conditioner, the part that controls various parameters to condition the electric signals; and the actuator, the part that generates the output sound from the electric signal processed by the controller and conditioner unit,” Yoshida explained.

“The sensing/actuation algorithm is similar to that used by LIGO (Laser Interferometer for Gravitational-wave Observatory),” he continued. “I participated in the LIGO project for about 10 years. This experience helped me develop the software for the Cochlear Hackathon, since our software development was physics based.”

While Yoshida and his team were able to draw upon extensive knowledge from such other areas, they actually saw the lack of experience with CI as an advantage in that it helped them form a unique approach to the competition.

“The scientific content of the competition was similar to what I covered in a graduate physics course in the semester prior to the competition,” Yoshida said. “What set our entry apart from the others was that our software design is based on physics, whereas our competitors developed their versions based on computer science or medical science.”

While an advantage may have been achieved in this way, the team’s accomplishment without prior experience in CI and sound technology is highly significant.

“Southeastern was one of the few teams that entered the hackathon with no background in acoustics, hearing, or cochlear implants at all,” explained Muller. “Over the course of eight weeks from Hackathon opening to final
entry, they not only learned the necessary principles of cochlear implant technology and sound processing, but they also used that knowledge to come up with a top-ranked processing algorithm.”

“The fact that Dr. Yoshida and his team beat out major research universities when he and his students had never worked on cochlear implants or anything like them before is simply astounding,” McCarthy said.


Along with the feat achieved in CI research from Yoshida and his students working together, participating in this project also had a profound direct impact on and served as a great hands-on learning opportunity for the younger researchers.

“The programming was definitely the most interesting thing I learned while undertaking this project with the CI Hackathon,” Calmes said. “I had not really done much with the computer programming aspect of it before, but it definitely was the most intense area for me.”

For McGibboney, realizing the direct impact that science can have on people’s lives created the biggest spark in him. “Sometimes, especially during a pandemic, you can develop distances between people, and I am aware that being deaf can cause a disconnect,” he said. “However, the idea that we could share in the first experience of listening to music again—and when I first learned how that impacted people that were wearing the cochlear implants—that was the most amazing thing to me. That’s a real connection from science in the classroom to making it into the marketplace to improve people’s lives.”

By Tonya Lowentritt