Lions Connected Earns National Honor

Lions Connected, a Southeastern Louisiana University Department of Teaching and Learning program that provides personalized, post-secondary educational experiences for individuals with intellectual disabilities, has received national recognition.

A comprehensive transition and post-secondary program approved by the US Department of Education, Lions Connected was named the Exemplary Program for Vocational Training and Transition from the American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES).

Gerlinde Beckers, program coordinator and associate professor of education at Southeastern, said Lions Connected works closely with on-campus inclusive vocational opportunities, community partnerships, parents and college-age peer mentors. Socialization with typical peers, independent living and self-advocacy, career development and experience, knowledge, personal health, skills and enrichment are some specific goals with the ultimate goal to increase the quality of life for students through a college experience, she added.

“Lions Connected serves five parishes in southeast Louisiana, four of which meet rural population indicators,” said Beckers. “The program aims to address students from high poverty, rural parishes with limited resources and opportunities. I am thrilled Lions Connected received this award. So many people at Southeastern have worked very hard for Lions Connected to become a program worthy of being considered exemplary.”

Southeastern middle school special education / social studies major Emma Beckers has been working with Lions Connected since she was a high school student.

“I have been involved with Lions Connected since its first year through high school service learning. It only seemed natural for me to become a peer mentor when I started at Southeastern last fall,” she said. “Being involved with Lions Connected is like having a very diverse second family, where we all belong and help each other succeed.”

Now in its third year, Lions Connected is certified by the Department of Education and must meet student academic progress goals set according to the federal standards in the areas of class attendance, class participation, assignment completion, and life skills curriculum.

Theresa Danos, mother of Lions Connected charter member Adam Danos, said her son completed the program and has now moved on to employment.

“Adam is on the autism spectrum and although he functions at a very high level, he would not have been successful attending a traditional college program. Adam really expressed a desire to attend college, and the program provided him with this avenue. We are thrilled!”

Danos added that the inclusive vocational opportunity is a vital part of the program.
“Having the students leave with job skills and experience will benefit them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “So many individuals with learning issues end up unemployed, and we are so happy to support a program that provides hope and life-long learning skills.”

For more information on Lions Connected, contact Gerlinde Beckers at

Above image: From left are Chair of American Council on Rural Special Education Tina Hudson, Lions Connected Program Coordinator and Associate Professor of Education Gerlinde Beckers, Southeastern middle school special education  /  social studies major Emma Beckers, and Southeastern Teaching and Learning Department Head Colleen Klein-Ezell.

Department of Biological Sciences at the Cutting Edge of Uncovering Ants and Saving Salamanders

When you think of cute and cuddly critters, leafcutter ants and three-toed amphiuma are probably not the first creatures that come to mind. But members of the Southeastern Department of Biological Sciences have developed a true love for learning more about these little guys, as evidenced by their recently published research. Thanks to their highly-acclaimed, impactful work, we now know more about the extent to which ants cultivate their own food—and have possibly found the key to saving amphibians from extinction.

The leafcutter ant packs a lot of might in its tiny frame. Endemic to South and Central America, Mexico, and parts of the US—including western Louisiana and Texas—leafcutter ants can carry 20 times their own body weight. They can build underground nests that include over 1,000 chambers, with millions of ants living and working together, each with their own role. Leafcutter ants can strip a tree of its foliage in less than 24 hours. They bring this foliage back to their underground nests where they cultivate it in “gardens” to grow fungi, which they eat.


Southeastern Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences April Wright, along with collaborators from Rice University and the University of Texas–Austin, set out to prove another interesting aspect of these ants by providing factual evidence on the range of funguses that they actually cultivate. “For many years, it was thought that one species of ants would cultivate one type of fungus,” Wright said. “This work shows that different species of ants may share funguses, and may farm multiple types of fungus in their nests.”

April Wright 1
April Wright

Wright specializes in computational and mathematical methods for understanding the history of life on Earth. “The work I did sits at the intersection of statistics and biology,” she explained. “My collaborators used specialized technology to get DNA sequences from funguses grown by ants. I used several methods to estimate the phylogenetic relationships between these sequences.”

“To me, the most exciting part of this research was getting to participate in uncovering something that people have long suspected,” Wright continued. “While the dominant narrative has been that one ant will cultivate a narrow range of funguses, people who have carefully observed ants for a long time have known that the story is probably more complicated. It was my pleasure to be able to help represent the complexity that natural historians have observed in hard numbers and statistics.”

While fungus may be vital fuel for leafcutter ants, two types—Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, which cause the disease chytridiomycosis—have contributed to diminishing amphibian populations around the world. However, thanks to the research of Kenzie Pereira and her fellow team members, the future may now be brighter for these vulnerable species.

Pereira was a master’s degree student at Southeastern when she began this potentially life-saving study on the three-toed amphiuma alongside Southeastern faculty Brian Crother, David Sever, and Clifford Fontenot Jr; John Pojman Sr. of LSU; and Damian Wilburn of the University of Washington. She is now continuing her research as a PhD candidate at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Kenzie Pereira
Kenzie Pereira

The three-toed amphiuma, an eel-looking salamander, sports four vestigial legs that each have three toes, giving it its name. It is commonly found in Louisiana and several additional states in swamps, ponds, lakes, and other permanent bodies of slow moving water. Importantly, this slimy salamander also secrets antimicrobial substances onto the surface of its skin.

Image courtesy of Peter Paplanus

The potential properties of these substances intrigued Pereira, who began to study them with encouragement and guidance from her advisor Crother and thesis committee members Sever, Fontenot, and Pojman.

Pereira gently prodded salamanders to collect their skin secretions. She then sent these to Wilburn—who determined that they were probably antimicrobial—while also testing their effect on the growth of the two types of fungi in question in test tubes. Pereira was amazed to find that at certain doses the salamander’s skin secretions completely killed the potentially lethal fungi.

“Fungi are killing off amphibians at an alarming rate. If these secretions hold secrets to fungus resistance, her work could be responsible for helping save amphibians from extinction,” said Crother.

“Being able to explain why some salamander species are more vulnerable to the pathogen than others allows us to develop conservation strategies to better protect salamander biodiversity,” continued Pereira. “It is also exciting to be reminded that there is so much left to learn about animals that are found in our own backyards!”

Pereira, who plans on training another Southeastern master’s degree student to aid in additional studies on the role of skin secretions in protecting amphibians from disease, reflected on how her time at Southeastern led her to this impactful work. “Southeastern’s Department of Biological Sciences played a pivotal role in making this research possible by giving me the freedom and encouragement to explore my own curiosities and passion for amphibians. Further, without the abundant natural history collection within Southeastern’s Vertebrate Museum, the histological portion of this research may not have been possible.”

Wright has also taken an interest in the problems facing salamanders, recently co-authoring a study on the endangerment of 13 salamander species in Central Texas due
to overexploitation of groundwater. Conservation efforts are currently underway to help save these little critters.

Ants and three-toed amphiuma may not be the largest—or to many, the cutest—of creatures, but they are still an important part of our ecosystem. And thanks to the love for them demonstrated in the monumental research of Wright and Pereira, along with their team members, others may also begin to see them in new ways, getting a glimpse of their unique, amazing characteristics. The work of these members of our Southeastern family is not only important for increasing a scientific understanding of nature, it is additionally important for aiding a human understanding of the world around us and the other creatures that we share our planet with—including creatures that may have otherwise become lost to us forever.

By Sheri Gibson

College of Science and Technology Project is Helping Save Our Wetlands

Southeastern is no stranger to the marsh in the Lake Maurepas and Pass Manchac areas. In fact, the biology department has conducted many projects over the last few decades to study the decline of the area.

The problem was brought to light several years ago through the research of scientists, including Southeastern Professor of Biological Sciences Gary Shaffer. Shaffer has been studying Louisiana wetlands for years and has compiled a significant body of research on the impacts that logging of native trees, erosion, nutrient starvation, saltwater intrusion, herbivores such as nutria, and other factors are having on the deterioration of wetlands of southeast Louisiana.

He explained that the establishment of levees over the last century along the Mississippi River to eliminate natural flooding removed a once reliable source of fresh water, sediments, and nutrients that swamps require for healthy growth.

“This has enabled saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico to make further inland intrusions,” he said. “Combined with rising sea levels and the construction of massive canals, such as
the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), the intensity and frequency of saltwater intrusions has only grown worse. Consequently, most of the Maurepas Swamp appears to be in transition to marsh and open water.”

The findings are based on comparisons of selected groupings of sites in the southern wetlands of Lake Maurepas. The sites had three different levels of water quality: including stagnant and nearly permanently flooded areas, sites with severe saltwater intrusion, and sites that receive some freshwater runoff. Salinity levels appeared to be the major factor causing sites to rapidly deteriorate, with the most degraded areas located near Lake Pontchartrain or along the margin of Lake Maurepas.

Recently, Gerard Blanchard, professor of physics and undergraduate coordinator, and Southeastern physics / electrical engineering dual degree student Fawaz Adesina have
joined in the research efforts to study groundwater salinity in the Turtle Cove area, located on Pass Manchac between lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas. Encouraged by Rob Moreau, manager of Southeastern’s Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station, and aided by two grants through the Southeastern Center for Faculty Excellence, Blanchard and Adesina designed and installed at Turtle Cove the first of four groundwater salinity monitors that will be deployed in a line that is perpendicular to Pass Manchac. The monitors take daily readings at three different depths—10 cm, 20 cm, and 50 cm—to get a two-dimensional view of the salinity profile. “This improves on the current method, which uses manual weekly readings that do not distinguish the variations in salinity with depth,” Blanchard said. “The scientific goal is to build a physical model of the salt transport.

Blanchard has been collaborating with Shaffer on the project. Shaffer currently has wells in the marsh, where salinity levels are checked once a week to study the health of the marsh. “The higher the salinity levels in the marsh, the harder it is for things to grow, or for what used to be out there to grow,” said Blanchard. “Getting the salinity down is a big part of the restoration efforts.”

Blanchard said an equation is used to measure how the saltwater flows from one position to another and up and down. The data collected will hopefully identify the factors that cause the salt levels to change at different locations and help scientists determine if the levels are getting worse. Scientists are working on diverting the water from the Mississippi River into Lake Maurepas that will then flow through that area to try to preserve the marsh.

“When we get our information, we are going to try to fit the data with this equation. There are some unknowns and some constants that specify the exact type of soil, the sources, and how much evaporation exists,” Blanchard said. “With the data, we can specify the equation to that particular time and place. If we do it well, we can use that to predict future levels.”

Blanchard said the educational goal of the project is to give Adesina practical experience with electronics, instrument calibration, data analysis, and presentation of results. Adesina gained more experience than he bargained for with this project. Originally from Kenya, it was his first time in a boat when they installed the instrument.


“I was not prepared for that journey,” Adesina said. “It was a cold morning and we were on a boat in the middle of a cold lake going at high speed. The blowing air froze my face,
my nose was running and my fingers were so cold. But the opportunity of installing a device that I helped build was worth the whole experience.”

Adesina also expressed his excitement about the project helping prepare him for a career in his field.

“As a student, this project is an opportunity for me to prepare for the real world and to gain some research background,” he explained. “The knowledge of the electronics part of the project will be immensely helpful to me in my engineering classes and labs. The project also put me on the path of finally overcoming my fear of coding.”

The project, Adesina said, has not only helped him academically, but personally as well.

“I have learned to ask questions when I don’t understand things; I never used to ask questions,” he said. “It has taught me that patience is the key to success—or you’ll get burned by a soldering iron. This project has given me many experiences that I would not have gotten in a class, and that is the main purpose of working on research as an undergraduate. It is the extracurricular activities that help you in class and help you
decide what you want to do in the future.

“Southeastern has a way of making you feel at home, while also training you to venture into the real world and how to communicate with people from different backgrounds and break down barriers,” he said. “Through conferences, on-campus job interviews, seminars, and even talking to professors on campus, my communication skills, as well as my people skills, have improved.

“I have always loved to take things apart and see how they work, and the chance for me to actually build something with my own hands is like a dream come true.”

Student Fawaz Adesina (front) and Physics Professor Gerard Blanchard (back) install a groundwater salinity monitor in Pass Manchac.
By Tonya Lowentritt

New Book Co-Edited by Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Raul E. Diaz Jr.

Southeastern Assistant Professor of Biology Raul E. Diaz Jr. has co-edited a new book titled Heads, Jaws, and Muscles: Anatomical, Functional, and Developmental Diversity in Chordate Evolution. The 303 page tome, published by Springer, was designed to be straightforward and easy to understand while increasing understanding of the vertebrate head in a unique multidisciplinary manner.

Dr. Raul E. Diaz Jr.

Publisher’s Summary by Springer:
The vertebrate head is the most complex part of the animal body and its diversity in nature reflects a variety of life styles, feeding modes, and ecological adaptations. This book will take you on a journey to discover the origin and diversification of the head, which evolved from a seemingly headless chordate ancestor. Despite their structural diversity, heads develop in a highly conserved fashion in embryos. Major sensory organs like the eyes, ears, nose, and brain develop in close association with surrounding tissues such as bones, cartilages, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. Ultimately, this integrated unit of tissues gives rise to the complex functionality of the musculoskeletal system as a result of sensory and neural feedback, most notably in the use of the vertebrate jaws, a major vertebrate innovation only lacking in hagfishes and lampreys. The cranium subsequently further diversified during the major transition from fishes living in an aquatic environment to tetrapods living mostly on land. In this book, experts will join forces to integrate, for the first time, state-of-the-art knowledge on the anatomy, development, function, diversity, and evolution of the head and jaws and their muscles within all major groups of extant vertebrates. Considerations about and comparisons with fossil taxa, including emblematic groups such as the dinosaurs, are also provided in this landmark book, which will be a leading reference for many years to come.


Professional Sales Education Growing and Earning Accolades

With an eye to the dynamic nature of business today, Southeastern’s new marketing concentration in professional sales provides real-world experiences in what many executives call the single most important function in any business—sales.

According to statistics produced by the Sales Education Foundation, sales as a discipline plays an important role in both the economy and the professional lives of today’s college graduates. A recent Harvard Business Review article stated that nationally, over 50 percent of college graduates will take on a role in professional sales at some point in their career. That percentage grows to 88 percent for marketing majors. However, only three percent of colleges in the United States offer a professional sales program. In 2017, Southeastern moved forward to enter this growing area with its own program.

Students who graduate from university sales programs, when compared to their non-sales educated peers, fare better in the workplace. They receive an average of 2.8 employment offers before they graduate; experience, on average, over 90 percent job placement; ramp up 50 percent faster with standard company training; have a current average starting salary of $60,000/year; and 77 percent report high career satisfaction.

Southeastern prides itself on working with regional companies to respond to industry needs—the development of curricula in industrial technology and welding inspection are recent examples. The professional sales program is no different.

“Our Marketing Degree Advisory Board was instrumental in confirming the need for graduates with specialized sales training. We also had many companies reaching out to us looking for students interested in going into sales positions,” said Dean of the College of Business Antoinette Phillips.

Once it was obvious that the need was high, Dr. Tará Burnthorne Lopez and Ms. April Field Kemp, marketing faculty members in the College of Business, worked to get the program started. The program helps students differentiate themselves in the job market by enhancing their analytical and tactical skill sets, focusing on consultative selling, relationship building, and developing trusted long-term partnerships with clients.

According to Phillips, “The professional sales concentration was approved to begin in the fall of 2016, but real momentum began in Spring of 2018 when the first Advanced Professional Sales course was offered, and Southeastern students began competing in on-campus and regional sales competitions. We had been teaching an Introduction to Personal Selling course for many years, but we wanted to offer a deeper level of sales
training for our students.”

Sales Coach

The core sales curriculum consists of courses in Personal Selling, Advanced Professional Selling, and Sales Management, and is supported with other marketing courses in Consumer Behavior, Marketing Research, and Marketing Strategy. Because the current goal is to prepare students for success in the sales profession, the program has been developed for marketing majors with a future goal of including those majoring in areas outside of business who wish to pursue a sales certificate.

“We know that professional sales is not only a starting point for careers, but is becoming more and more important across all sectors of the economy. With the proliferation of technology, data analytics, and CRM applications, the role of the salesperson has become significantly more sophisticated as have the skills needed to be successful. The Southeastern professional sales program will help train the next generation of sales leaders,” said Phillips.

The success of an academic program can be seen in several ways—student interest, industry interest, and third party accolades. After only one year up and running, the professional sales program has achieved all three.

The strength and effectiveness of the program is already being recognized. This past year Southeastern’s sales concentration was named one of the top professional sales programs by the Sales Education Foundation. Student numbers were immediately strong and businesses from all over were looking to participate through support, sponsorships, and recruitment for interns and graduates. “We’ve been very fortunate that the program started off so strong with so much support,” said Kemp.

As the program got off the ground well over 30 companies have shown interest in participating in some way, many making financial commitments. Most recently Northwestern Mutual has sponsored the program at a significant level. Through a generous financial commitment, professional sales students will learn in a new Northwestern Mutual Training Room, to be located in Garrett Hall, with renovations to the existing space set to begin early this year. Steven Dugal, managing partner of the Mississippi and Louisiana offices, as well as Paul Hodge, managing director of the Mandeville and Gulfport offices, are supporting the initiative. “We are excited to get involved in Southeastern’s sales program. From our experience at other universities, sales students ramp up faster than non-sales students, have lower turnover, and are more prepared for the workforce” said Dugal.

“The investment that Northwestern Mutual is making demonstrates that the program is on the right track. We are really appreciative of their support,” concluded Phillips.


Sales Team Earns Awards at Bayou Sales Challenge

A team of seven Southeastern Louisiana University students successfully competed in the Bayou Sales Challenge, a role-play competition held recently at Nicholls State University.

Members of the sales team included Mary Graves of Kentwood; Alee Hess of Belle Chasse; Austin Rogers of Denham Springs; India Williams of Baton Rouge; and Garrett Buras, Danyel James, and Taylor Windom, all of Covington.

In only Southeastern’s second time participating in the competition, Hess won the Individual Sales Competition, the highest honor of the sales challenge, while Buras and Graves won the Team Selling Competition, said April Kemp, marketing and sales instructor and professional sales program coach.

Overall Southeastern earned three of the top five spots after the first round of competition and four of the top 10 spots after the wildcard round against six other universities, including Florida State, LSU, Nicholls, Southern, University of Louisiana – Lafayette, and Xavier.

“I am so proud of our students’ performance at the Bayou Sales Challenge. Their hard work and preparation did not go unnoticed,” Kemp said. “Having success in these competitions brings recognition to what we are doing at Southeastern to prepare students for sales careers.”

During the competition, Kemp added, the participants gain real-world sales experience through complex role-play scenarios.

“It encourages the students to develop essential sales skills and business acumen, while interacting with business professionals who sponsor and judge the event,” she said. “It also gives them an opportunity to interview with companies who are looking to hire graduates to work in sales.”

Kemp said 44 students competed in the event. Students engaged in a series of 15-minute sales calls, taking on the role of sales personnel for Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. Participants advanced through a series of three rounds of role-playing, each increasing in difficulty and competition.

For more information about the professional sales program, visit

Above image: From left, are Tara’ Lopez, associate professor of marketing; sales team members India Williams, Danyel James, Mary Graves, Alee Hess, Austin Rogers, Garrett Buras, and Taylor Windom; and April Kemp, marketing and sales instructor.

Coming Soon: Northwestern Mutual Sales Training Room

Students in Southeastern Louisiana University’s new Professional Sales Program will soon benefit from a state-of-the-art training room thanks to a $100,000 donation from Northwestern Mutual.

Pending University of Louisiana System Board approval, the new Northwestern Mutual Sales Training Room will be located in Garrett Hall on Southeastern’s campus, with renovations to existing space beginning in early 2019.

Steven Dugal, managing partner of the Mississippi and Louisiana offices, as well as Paul Hodge, managing director of the Mandeville and Gulfport offices, are supporting the initiative.

“We are excited to get involved in Southeastern’s Professional Sales Program. From our experience at other universities, sales students ramp up faster than non-sales students, have lower turnover, and are more prepared for the workforce” said Dugal, noting that Northwestern Mutual has been instrumental in donating to other similar, successful programs at universities.

Southeastern’s Professional Sales Program was created to draw high-ability students toward selling as a career, better prepare those students for early success in professional selling careers, and connect them with sales professionals in the region. According to research conducted by the Sales Education Foundation, more than 50 percent of business school graduates enter the workforce in a sales-oriented position.

Dean of the College of Business Toni Phillips said the core sales curriculum consists of courses in personal selling, advanced professional selling and sales management and is supported with other marketing courses in consumer behavior, marketing research, and marketing strategy. With the current goal to prepare students for success in the sales profession, the program has been developed for marketing majors with a future goal of including those majoring in areas outside of business who wish to pursue a sales certificate.

“We know that professional sales is not only a starting point for careers, but is becoming more and more important across all sectors of the economy,” said Phillips. “The Southeastern Professional Sales Program will help train the next generation of sales leaders and the investment that Northwestern Mutual is making demonstrates that the program is on the right track. We are really appreciative of Northwestern Mutual.”

An important objective of the program, Phillips added, is to connect sales program students with sales professionals and organizations through role-play competitions, internships, guest speakers, panel discussions and career opportunities.

For more information about Southeastern’s Professional Sales Program or how businesses can get involved, contact Instructor of Marketing April Kemp at, 985.549.2277, or visit

Above image: Seated, from left, are Northwestern Mutual Managing Director/Financial Advisor Paul Hodge and Northwestern Mutual Managing Partner of Louisiana and Mississippi Steven Dugal. Standing, from left, are Southeastern Associate Professor of Marketing Tara’ Lopez; Brian Jones, Northwestern Mutual college unit director/financial advisor; Kolby Hodge; Lisa Dugal; Katy Simpson, chief marketing officer; Michael Bazile, chief operating officer; April Kemp, instructor of marketing; and Vice President for University Advancement Wendy Lauderdale.

Dean Ann Carruth Appointed to State Board of Nursing

Southeastern Louisiana University Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences Ann Carruth has been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to the Louisiana State Board of Nursing, on which she will serve a four-year term.

The mission of the 11-member board is to safeguard the life and health of the citizens of Louisiana by assuring persons practicing as registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses are competent and safe.

“Dr. Carruth is highly respected by her colleagues and in the healthcare community in general,” said Southeastern President John L. Crain. “Over the years, she has developed a significant body of scholarly work and has received a number of grants related to various healthcare issues. She will make an excellent addition to the Louisiana State Board of Nursing.”

A graduate of Southeastern with a bachelor of science degree in nursing, Carruth earned a master’s degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and doctor of nursing science degree from LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including being selected a “Top Nurse” in 2011 by the Tangipahoa District Nurses Association. In 2003, she was the recipient of Southeastern’s President’s Award for Excellence in Research and a Nightingale Award as the Outstanding Nurse Researcher by the Louisiana Nurses Foundation.

The author of numerous nursing and scientific publications, she serves as vice-chairman of the Board of Commissioners for North Oaks Health System. Carruth, the only nurse on the board, serves as quality council to address performance improvement and emphasis on quality and patient safety.

As a nurse educator for over 25 years, Carruth has emphasized evidence-based curriculum / course development, accreditation, faculty mentoring, and student success and retention. For the past eight years, she has also served on the Deans Administrative Council for the Intercollegiate Consortium for the Master of Science in Nursing.

A resident of Hammond, Carruth has served on the faculty of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Southeastern since 1990.

Ann Carruth
Ann Carruth

Ken Tillman Appointed as New Nursing Department Head

Ken Tillman, a registered nurse since 1984 with over 18 years of experience in nursing education, has been appointed Southeastern’s School of Nursing department head.

Tillman began his career in nursing education in January 2000 as an instructor with Southeastern. During his time at Southeastern, he taught in both undergraduate and graduate level programs, and served as coordinator of the Baton Rouge Center.

Since 2013, he has held various leadership positions in nursing education, including Director of Undergraduate Programs and Associate Dean of Academics at East Tennessee State University College of Nursing, and Dean and Associate Provost of Health Sciences and Nursing at Northshore Technical Community College.

Tillman earned his BSN from the University of South Alabama (1984), his MSN from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (1989), and his PhD from Louisiana State University (2006).

Prior to his career in nursing education, he held various administrative positions in hospitals and home health care agencies and has received several awards of recognition for excellence in leadership, teaching, and research. Areas of interest for his teaching and research include leadership and management, community health, stigmatization and care of marginalized groups, men in nursing, and men’s health issues.

In 2014, Tillman was honored to be selected for “Fellow of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing Leadership for Academic Nursing Program.”

Ken Tillman
Ken Tillman

Southeastern Athletics: Building a Holistic Experience

Over the course of the past five years, Southeastern’s Department of Athletics has experienced success across the board.

When current Athletics Director Jay Artigues was named to the position, he hoped to chart a path toward a very strong future. Almost immediately, with input from the department’s head coaches, a fresh mission statement was crafted that embodied the new vision for athletics at Southeastern: Committed to excellence in the classroom, in the community, and in competition. “We wanted to clearly establish what it means to be a part of the athletics program here at Southeastern. Whether you are staff, a coach, or an athlete, we all should be working toward the same goals, and I think we have achieved that focus,” said Artigues.

By targeting these three key areas outlined in the new mission statement, Southeastern has excelled in each. This success is visible both on campus and in the community. The impact has been stellar and has brought a holistic approach to the program and the anticipated results for student-athletes.

“I commend our coaches for committing to our mission…it starts in recruiting student-athletes that are committed to excellence in all three areas,” Artigues said. “The mission statement is posted in every athletic building on campus. I wanted our student-athletes and coaches to see it every day everywhere they went.”

Excellence In The Classroom
In the classroom, student-athletes are thriving. In the spring of 2017, Southeastern recorded its highest GPA in department history. The department continues to break records academically and foresees improving the overall GPA over the course of the next three semesters. This past fall semester, student-athletes achieved a 3.16 overall GPA with more than 50 percent recording an individual 3.0 GPA or higher.

“While we are about winning athletic competition, we are also about forming student-athletes for a strong and productive future. Our overall academic progress has been fantastic and I could not be more proud. This ensures that whatever these students may go on to do, they can do it with excellence after they have graduated from Southeastern,” said Artigues.

Academic Center

Excellence in the Community
Part of any education is not just the book learning that prepares one for a career, but it is the life education that teaches one to be a great person. With a specific focus on giving back to the community, Southeastern Athletics ensures that every student-athlete engages in service to the community each year. “We hope that this helps form the overall person that they will become,” said Artigues.

Southeastern now averages 15 hours of community service per student-athlete each year. The department routinely accumulates more than 5,000 combined hours of service
annually. With record-setting numbers, Southeastern earned the Southland Conference Community Service Award in 2017.

move-in mania

Excellence in Competition
Student-athletes are excelling on the field, court, and track. Since the fall of 2013, Southeastern has claimed a pair of Southland Conference football titles, indoor and outdoor championships in men’s track and field, a baseball regular season title and a Southland tournament championship, a men’s basketball regular season title, and a women’s soccer tournament championship.

At the NCAA level, track and field athlete Alex Young earned a national title in the men’s indoor weight throw during the spring of 2016. Since then, the baseball, football, and softball teams have all churned out program records for most wins in a single season.

Excellence on the field requires a great deal of focus. In addition to strong recruiting and coaching, facilities play a huge part. Having good facilities that support the students are an important part of the recruiting process. Creating physical improvements throughout the department is a focal point for Artigues.


Excellent Infrastructure and Support
“I think it’s important to show every year that you’re making some sort of major improvement, one thing every single year,” Artigues said. “If we do that in every sport, you look up five years later and we’ve accomplished a lot. Tip your hat to the coaches and administration; everyone has pitched in and done a great job.”

Behind-the-scenes upgrades to the Dick & Glory Sharp Academic Center and the Doc Goodwin Athletic Training Room, along with the Naquin Strength & Conditioning Center, benefit all Southeastern student-athletes, cheerleaders, and members of the national champion Lionette dance squad.

Improvements have been made across nearly all facilities including Strawberry Stadium, the University Center, North Oak Park, the North Campus Athletics building, the Tennis
Complex, Track and Field Complex, and Alumni Field. The academic center, located on the west side of historic Strawberry Stadium, has received additional computer stations, study rooms, informational signage, flooring, and furniture. An NCAA grant helped provide for additional academic counselors.

“We’re developing a holistic student-athlete,” said Artigues. “The academic center has paid dividends by recently generating the highest GPA in department history. It is no coincidence. We’ve committed to excellence in that area, providing the resources we need to be successful academically.”

Renovations have also allowed for the new North Oaks Nutrition Center to launch. The nutrition center is only one piece of an entire nutritional program for the Lions and Lady Lions, developed by North Oaks Dietetic Internship Director Leslie Ballard and Southeastern Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Brandon Albin. The program is designed to not only provide sustenance through the nutrition center, but
also to better educate all Southeastern student-athletes on the best dietary practices.

Naquin center a013119_076

“It’s important we also give the nutritional resources to be successful,” Artigues said. “They get their three meals a day, but it’s also important they have the proper nutritional information.”

“Our goal with this program is for the student-athletes to see better performance, fewer injuries, faster recovery, and overall better health,” Ballard said.

Over the past five years, the numerous facility upgrades were made possible by an increase in fundraising, sponsorship, and concession dollars, identifying internal funds and cost efficiencies, routine maintenance, and a variety of grant monies. Concession revenues have doubled since bringing the operations in-house, and developing a partnership with Peak Sports Management to handle sales has led corporate sponsorships revenues to quadruple.

Through a focus on classroom, community, and competition excellence, Southeastern athletics is reaping the benefits of success.

By Kemmler Chapple