Adapting to Change: Allie Gressaffa

Southeastern students have been adjusting to the necessary changes that have been set in place by the university and government leaders to help protect the health and safety of the people in our community during COVID-19.  Allie Gressaffa, a senior Elementary Education major for grades 1-5, shared her experience with these changes.

Allie started student teaching in the fall of 2019 and planned to continue it until May 2020. She is a student teacher at Bonne Ecole Elementary in Slidell, Louisiana.  Her student teaching has been “suspended until further notice” due to COVID-19.

During these unusual times, Allie’s supervisors and professors have been in regular contact with her through her Southeastern Email, Moodle, and Google Meet. The professors are using this as a teaching experience.  Allie said the student teachers are learning “how we can learn from this time to help our classroom and future students.”

IMG_12281Through this experience and being a student teacher, Allie has learned that “students of all ages are being affected by this.” On March 22, 2020, Allie had the opportunity to participate in a “BEE Superstar Car Parade” with teachers from Bonne Ecole Elementary. The teachers were each in their own cars and followed a neighborhood map. The teachers decorated their cars and waved to students and their parents. She said, “we were so excited just to see how much our students miss us; [it] was so moving. I am so excited to go back to school if that is in the works and able to happen.”

Allie was planning on graduating in the spring of 2020.  She said that “it is upsetting because [we] still want our moment and want to be recognized, because we put in so much work into this, but we are all doing the best that we can and being as flexible as possible.”

As part of Southeastern’s efforts to find a solution to this difficult situation, Allie received an email to participate in a survey from the Student Government Association (SGA) president, Karley Bordelon, about options regarding the time of graduation. The options included to graduate at the end of the summer of 2020, the end of the fall in 2020, not participate in graduation, and another option for students to add their own idea of a solution. Although it may not be in the exact manner they originally envisioned when embarking upon their academic journey, Southeastern and the SGA are committed to still helping these students celebrate their accomplishments in the best way possible, while ensuring the health and safety of them, their loved ones, and of everyone in our community.

Adapting to Change: Brooke Giaratano

Students across the country are adapting to changes due to COVID-19 and transitioning to remote classes for the remainder of the semester, and students at Southeastern Louisiana University are no exception.

Communication sciences and disorders graduate student Brooke Giaratano, of Ponchatoula, graduated from Southeastern in December 2019 with a bachelor of science degree in communication sciences and disorders. She is currently a graduate assistant for Southeastern’s Tutoring Center.

Brooke has experienced new modes of learning as well as ways to help other students through the challenges that COVID-19 has brought this semester.

She said that this experience has been a challenge in the sense of “keeping up with your assignments,” but she has overcome this challenge by “sticking to a healthy routine just as you would when having face-to-face classes.” Brooke is also using resources, such as Google Calendar, while adapting to online classes.

The professors in communication sciences and disorders have provided Brooke with support through Southeastern email, Moodle, Google Meet, and Google Classroom. Additionally, they have provided an opportunity to create student interaction online through discussion boards and have been in frequent contact with their students, continuing to be available during office hours to meet any educational needs.

Brooke expressed her gratitude for the support and being able to use Google Meet.

“This has been helpful in maintaining a form of community and normalcy,” she said. “Google Meet also gives us opportunities to ask questions during lectures, just as we would in a face-to-face format.”

She has not only used Google Meet for interaction and participation during classes, but she has also used it when meeting with classmates to complete group projects or to have study groups.

Brooke has taken an opportunity to use many resources Southeastern has provided to continue to support her education, as well as help bring educational experiences to others. As a graduate assistant for the Tutoring Center, she helps students attend tutoring sessions online through Google Meet.

She said Southeastern’s Tutoring Center is offering a valuable resource for undergraduate students who need tutoring through Google Meet for select courses. Students can find the calendar for drop-in tutoring sessions on Southeastern’s website.

“This is a great opportunity for students to stay connected with Southeastern, and it is available for all undergraduate students,” she said. “Students can access many resources for remote learning during this time.”

In the upcoming weeks, Brooke plans to continue to connect with her classmates, friends, and family through Google Meet. Additionally, she has enjoyed having this time to complete schoolwork outside and will continue to have a positive outlook on the situation, using this time to seek new educational opportunities through this experience.

“Overall, although this is not an ideal situation, I feel that I have adapted well to the changes that COVID-19 has brought,” Brooke said. “I plan to continue to work hard in my classes and make the best of this situation.”

Students Honored for Excellence in Written Works

Above Image: Jordan Goines, Marketing major, Junior; Dr. David Wyld, Management professor and creator of the WOWED! program

Southeastern’s College of Business held its inaugural Written Projects or Works of Excellence and Distinction (WOWED!) program awards ceremony Dec. 5.

The WOWED! program was created to recognize students who have created the “best of the best” written individual and group projects, works, or papers each semester under the guidance of a faculty mentor, said Merritt Professor of Management and Program Director David C. Wyld. Three students were selected by the awards committee to be honored for their written projects – Taylor Steele, a senior marketing major from Springfield, Jordan Goines, a junior marketing major from Slidell, and Celeste Knight, a senior general studies major from Franklinton.

The program was established by College of Business Dean Antoinette Phillips in an effort to advance the College of Business’ learning goal in regards to continually working to improve students’ written communication skills, said Wyld.

“The WOWED! program is significant for several reasons,” said Phillips. “It recognizes students for excellent academic written work, further encouraging and rewarding their efforts in this area. It also reinforces one of the college’s key learning goals and provides a venue for celebrating student success, and archiving the selections provides other students with current, peer-authored examples of excellent writing.”

Each student gave a brief overview of their work at the ceremony, having turned their papers into academic posters for the event. Steele presented her project on “Hometown Pharmacy,” which explored the challenges facing her own family’s business. Professor of Marketing Michael Budden nominated Steele for the program.

Goines presented his work titled “New Cable: The Obsolescence of Cable in the Age of Streaming,” which detailed the massive changes across the entertainment industry—and personal lives—with the rise of streaming services. Assistant Professor of Marketing Juliana White nominated Goines for the program.

Knight presented her work on “Wild Blu Boutique,” a women’s clothing store in Bogalusa. Budden also nominated her for the program.

Phillips said the students honored for their written works were nominated by their faculty mentors as exemplifying the excellence that all College of Business students should strive for in demonstrating their written communication skills. They competed with their peers and were judged as the best not only in their respective classes, but also among all other courses taught across the College of Business.

“These projects, works, and papers will have a lasting impact, as they will be featured on Moodle as examples for future students to follow in preparing high-quality and highly effective written works,” Wyld said. “In doing so, these students have done a great service to help their future peers to develop better written communication skills to aid them in their college careers, and more importantly, in their careers beyond Southeastern.”

Professional Sales Team Takes Home International Win

Above image, from left: From left: Tara’ Lopez, sales coach, and student team members India Williams, Karlie McDonald, and Paxton Page.

Southeastern’s Professional Sales Team won the Rookie Award at the 2019 International Collegiate Sales Competition (ICSC). Hosted each year in Orlando, Florida, by Florida State University, the ICSC is the largest and most prestigious university sales competition in the world.

Southeastern’s Professional Sales program has been named one of the top sales programs in the country for the past two years by the Sales Education Foundation. The winning team was comprised of Southeastern students India Williams of Baton Rouge, Karlie McDonald of Tickfaw, and Paxton Page of Prairieville.

“We are extremely proud of the sales team’s performance at the International Collegiate Sales Competition,” said Tara’ Lopez, associate professor of marketing and one of the sales coaches. “Having success in these competitions helps bring recognition to what we are doing at Southeastern to prepare students for successful and fulfilling careers in sales. They also provide a great opportunity for our students to network with their peers and interact with employers from around the country at career fairs.”

In addition to the team Rookie Award, Williams placed in the top 20, and McDonald placed in the top 40 out of 160 student competitors from other top U.S. schools. Sales competitions such as this one, said Lopez, allow students to test their selling skills against their peers through role-playing scenarios, cold calling, case competitions, and speed selling.

The competition also offered a career fair attended by over 40 national companies that were there to hire these outstanding students.

Annual Business Lecture Features Independent Consultant and Leadership Coach Jennifer Ledet

Jennifer Ledet, senior professional in human resources, independent consultant, and leadership coach, was the featured speaker at Southeastern’s annual College of Business Lecture.

Titled “Own It and AMP It! Amplify Your Influence to Accelerate Your Success,” the lecture was held Wednesday, March 4, in the Student Union Grand Ballroom. The presentation was supported by the Junghans family and was free and open to the public.

As an independent consultant and leadership coach, Ledet’s areas of expertise include leadership development, communication skills, interpersonal skills, and teambuilding.

Aside from working in human resources, Ledet uses her job as an independent consultant to work with executive-level leaders to help create leadership teams that work cohesively and effectively.

“Jennifer Ledet ‘facilileads’ leadership retreats for the C-suites of organizations in a wide variety of industries, as well as provides one-on-one leadership coaching,” said Dean of the College of Business Antoinette Phillips.

From designing a comprehensive leadership training facilitation program to using her certification of the behavioral assessment called “DiSC,” Ledet uses a variety of tactics to help participants improve their leadership skills. Most of the information taught through these tactics derive from her experience in leadership and human resource management.

“Using humor and fun, she is able to draw out audiences and participants and get them actively engaged,” said Phillips. “Participants report that they gained greater insight and learned more about themselves and their co-workers from one of her sessions than they did from other similar learning experiences.”

Ledet has also put her experience to pen, writing articles on leadership and management and monthly leadership columns, as well as creating her own e-newsletter and online blog.

Food Pantry

For some who choose to pursue their dreams of achieving a college education, worrying about grades is only one of the stressors they face. Hunger continues to be an issue in the United States and can sometimes be a major burden on college students. This burden can easily become an impediment to focusing on school and earning a degree, holding one back from reaching their goals. To help prevent this, the Southeastern Foundation established, and continues to fund, a Food Pantry to better serve those in need of this area of support—filling bellies as well as brains to help all students achieve success.

Many college students across the country deal with food insecurity, a state of not having a sufficient amount of affordable and nutritious food. Although reports vary, a 2016 study by The National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness estimates that close to half of college students in our country have struggled to afford meals. First-generation college students were found to be even more at risk, with 56 percent facing food insecurity.

This can result in much more than a rumbling stomach. The study also noted that food insecurity can be linked to an inability to buy a required textbook, missing a class, or even dropping a class altogether.

In addition to putting their education at risk, hunger also puts a student’s health in jeopardy. “Hunger and health are deeply connected,” claims Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. “People who are food insecure are disproportionately affected by diet-sensitive chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and according to research, food insecurity is also linked to many adverse effects to overall health.”

Food insecurity can be temporary, such as when an illness or change in working hours means a student’s paycheck is less than usual. But for students who struggle to keep up with the cost of tuition and housing, it is an ongoing situation.

Where are these scenarios happening? Everywhere—even on our own campus. According to Tasha Cooper, a University Advancement employee who helped establish and manage the Food Pantry when it was operated by the Southeastern Foundation, a 2013 survey found that more than half of Southeastern students either knew someone who faced food insecurity or experienced the issue themselves.

No matter the circumstances, students who are focused on where their next meal is coming from cannot fully focus on school. To help students fight food insecurity, more than 500 universities across the nation have opened their own campus food pantries. The Southeastern Food Pantry was established in 2013 and has been a model for other Louisiana universities starting their own programs.

Graduate Assistant Johannes Verhaegh helps stock supplies at the Southeastern Food Pantry.

“The food pantry is an awesome resource for Southeastern Students,” said Marjorie Parker, coordinator for Southeastern’s Office of Multicultural and International Student Affairs (MISA) and interim director of the Office for Student Engagement. “We have hundreds of students who use the pantry throughout the year. Many students are silently fighting battles that we know nothing about, and it is great that we have a resource for them to go to if they need it.”

Now managed under MISA, the Food Pantry provides nonperishable food items and hygiene products to Southeastern students who can visit once per week and choose up to 15 items. No personal information is necessary, and students only need to show their Southeastern ID to access the program.

Over the years, the Food Pantry has become more accessible and organized. It now has an email address ( to help students who may want to learn more about the service or schedule an appointment. This has improved opportunity as well as comfort for students to take advantage of this important resource.

Each year since its inception, more students have utilized the service. As of publication, April 2019 was the busiest month for the Food Pantry yet, with almost 300 students acquiring over 2,000 items, according to MISA Graduate Assistant Johannes Verhaegh.

Campus-based organization drives comprise a significant portion of the Food Pantry’s annual donations.

Many of the items that the students receive are a result of donations, and the uptick in use of the food pantry requires increased donations to keep items in stock. Most donations are received from Southeastern athletics and campus-based organization food drives, especially during the Thanksgiving season. But with hunger a concern throughout the year, personal and organizational donations, as well as help spreading the word about this on-campus resource, are always gratefully welcomed.

By providing food and much-needed items, no questions asked, the Southeastern Food Pantry is helping alleviate the burden of hunger for students—allowing them to better concentrate on their studies and remain on a path to success.

The Story Behind Chris Yandle’s New Book

Lucky Enough: A Year of a Dad’s Daily Notes of Encouragement and Life Lessons to His Daughter is a recently published non-fiction book by Chris Yandle, an adjunct instructor in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences Sport Management program. After penning notes of encouragement and guidance to his young daughter that went viral when he shared them on social media, he wove them into a heartfelt publication which was released this past fall. Yandle shared with us the story behind what led to that first note, the publication of his book, and what the project has meant to him.

Yandle_Chris_13270_cvr-v1.inddNot every story starts like a fairy tale, and the story behind why I started writing notes is paved with good intentions—although it’s a story at times I didn’t think would ever be written.

In my previous career, I spent more than a decade chasing my life’s dream of being a college athletics director. Chasing that dream required moving my family all across the country from Lafayette, Louisiana, to Waco, Texas, to Miami, Florida, to—finally— Atlanta, Georgia. When we arrived in Atlanta in 2014, I thought this was the most important stepping stone to achieving my career goals. At the age of 32, I thought I was getting closer to “making it” while putting my wife and two young children in a position to succeed.

Through our many moves as a family and the many moves I made before as a young adult, I learned many life lessons—some without pain and regret, while others were dripping in difficulty, heartache, and results that were oftentimes difficult to swallow. The most difficult lesson came in 2016 when I lost my job. My dream career path abruptly ended. We were some 600 miles from home with no plan in regard to what’s next.

My wife Ashleigh and I ultimately decided it was time to come home to Louisiana. We decided to move to Mandeville in St. Tammany Parish to give our kids a great education and stable quality of life for the first time. When we enrolled our kids in school, Ashleigh and I suddenly had the realization that our daughter Addison would start third grade at
one elementary school and then begin fourth grade at another school. That would be her fourth school in five years. This was not how we planned, and if we could do it all over again, we would have strived for more stability in our children’s school environment.

Nevertheless, she excelled in third grade and had been a resilient young lady through all of this transition . . . until fourth grade. She began exhibiting signs of anxiety, and since Ashleigh and I both battle anxiety and depression, we knew we didn’t want her anxiety to consume her. What’s a dad to do?

After I made Addison’s and our son Jackson’s lunches for the first day of school, I wrote their names on their new lunchboxes—because kids need new everything for the first day of school!—and after I wrote her name, I had an idea. I grabbed the Sharpie and wrote a message on her sandwich bag: Addy—Treat everyone like they are the most important person you’ll ever meet. Love, Dad. I took a picture of it, posted it on my social media platforms, and after that, I didn’t think twice about what I had done.

SLU014_Fall-2019_Inside_v1.inddI kept doing this for the next few weeks, seeing if Addison would say anything about the messages I wrote her. At least give me an ‘Ugh, dad!’ response. One morning, we were running late for school, and as I was hastily putting together their lunches, Addison reminded me: “Dad, don’t forget my lunch note!” On the outside, I was playing it cool, but on the inside, I was dancing and singing loudly! She does notice what I’m doing!

It was in that same week that her fourth-grade teacher asked me if it were OK if she used one of the notes to share with her class. Soon, her principal was following me on Facebook and lamenting that these notes were the highlight of her week. They were the first two people who suggested that I collect these notes and put them in a book.

Midway through Addison’s fourth-grade year in March 2018, I started a Kickstarter account to raise money to publish my book through an independent publisher out of New York City. In six weeks, I raised $3,500, and my dream of writing a book became a reality.

My book, Lucky Enough: A Year of a Dad’s Daily Notes of Encouragement and Life Lessons to His Daughter, was published in September 2018 and hit the shelves at Barnes & Noble locations in Metairie, Mandeville, and Lafayette in early 2019.

Since that first note I penned, I have written more than 300 notes to my daughter that range a variety of topics—but most importantly, they are a daily opportunity for me to tell Addison how much I love her.

More information on Yandle’s daily notes to his daughter can be found via TwitterFacebook, and Instagram at @chrisyandle.

By Chris Yandle

Innovators in Sustainability

Southeastern’s Sustainability Center has been awarded the Innovation Champion Award by the Louisiana Chapter of U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The university received the award for its innovative hybrid geothermal residence halls.

The two new state-of-the-art residence halls, Ascension and Twelve Oaks, are cooling and heating using energy from the ground.

Sustainability Manager Alejandro Martinez explained that with this type of system, pumps move heat from the ground to the building when the weather outside is chilly. When cooling is needed, the process is reversed. The result is a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and economical solution to heating and cooling. Given the conditions in Louisiana, he said, geothermal is a highly effective system for the South.

“Over time, it is projected that savings greater than 50 percent will be captured on energy expenses compared to a traditional method and build,” Martinez said. “Equally important on a university campus, the system also serves as a learning laboratory for real-world ready experiences for Southeastern students in various disciplines.”

USGBC is a nonprofit organization that houses Green Business Certification Inc., the only group to administer project certifications and professional credentials and certificates within the framework of the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. LEED designation is the international standard for environmentally sound buildings.

UL System Names Southeastern Professor Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year

Award-winning novelist and Southeastern Louisiana University Assistant Professor of Creative Writing David Armand has been named the University of Louisiana System’s Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year. Armand was recognized recently at the UL System’s For Our Future Conference in Monroe.

“The Universities of Louisiana Outstanding Faculty Award is intended to recognize faculty with a commitment to higher education from within the University of Louisiana System. This award recognizes superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service,” said UL System Communication Director Katelyn Wilkerson. “David Armand was selected from a highly eligible pool of nominees for his exemplification of the qualities of an outstanding faculty member.”

A native of Folsom and resident of Hammond with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in English from Southeastern, Armand is the author of three novels, two books of poetry and a memoir based on the mental health struggles of his mother. He is due to have another novel published later this year.

He has spoken at a number of universities as a visiting writer, including James Madison University, Southeast Missouri State University, and the Mississippi University for Women, where students studied Armand’s work and attended readings and workshops that he conducted.

Armand served as Writer-in-Residence at Southeastern from 2017-2019 and has been recognized as a Gambit Magazine “40 Under 40” recipient.

In 2016 he was honored with Southeastern’s President’s Award for Artistic Activity, the Southeastern Faculty Senate President’s Award, and was named the St. Tammany President’s Artist of the Year. His first novel, The Pugilist’s Wife, earned the George Garrett Fiction Prize, and his second novel, Harlow, was listed on Amazon’s best novels about dysfunctional families.

Armand has been recognized by reviewers as an up-and-coming Southern author whose works have been compared to William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Cormac McCarthy. He draws heavily from his experiences in south Louisiana in his work.

In addition to The Pugilist’s Wife and Harlow, his works include the novel The Gorge, the memoir My Mother’s House, and the book of poetry The Deep Woods.

Southeastern Student Wins History Channel’s Forged in Fire

Southeastern industrial technology freshman Cade Jenkins recently competed on the hit reality show Forged in Fire, thanks to his incredible blacksmithing skills and his decision to continue a family legacy, and won his “French Pioneer Sword” episode.

“My grandfather was a full-time blacksmith for 30 years, and he is unable to continue because of health issues,” said Jenkins. “So, I decided to carry on the legacy.”

Forged in Fire involves four bladesmiths competing in four rounds to create the best blade. The winner is crowned as the episode’s Forged in Fire champion and receives $10,000.

However, Jenkins’ decision to join the show was not an idea he came up with on his own. It was really his mother’s.

“One day I was watching the show with my family, critiquing the contestants and the things they were doing wrong,” said Jenkins. “My mom said, ‘Why don’t you do it then and show them how it’s done?’ and so I applied for the show.”

Jenkins calls his time on the set of the reality show the greatest experience of his life.

“I competed against three great smiths and even better men,” said Jenkins. “We are still friends to this day. It was a huge challenge to complete, but in the end it was so worth it.”

The Loranger resident started learning blacksmithing at the age of 12. He identifies himself as an architectural blacksmith, creating items like hinges, stair railing furniture, and custom knives.

When it comes to Jenkins favorite thing about blacksmithing, he explains that it is his passion along with the desire of his inner child.

“I may be 18, but like every man, I still have a 13-year-old boy inside of me who loves fire and beating on things,” said Jenkins. “It is a passion of mine and every project has its own little story because everything I make is made from scratch by hand.”

As an industrial technology major, Jenkins plans to be a welder. He wants to merge his skill set as a blacksmith with the new information he learns in his program at Southeastern to create works of art.

“When learning how to blacksmith, I learned how to heat, treat, and temper metal, but I never knew the science behind my craft,” said Jenkins. “I only knew how to physically do it. In the little time I have been at Southeastern, I have learned so much information that I have brought it to my shop, and it has made me a better blade-smith and blacksmith.”

After graduating from Southeastern with a degree in welding inspection and material testing, Jenkins hopes to combine his current knowledge of metallurgy through blacksmithing to become the best in the business.

Cade Jenkins