BRAC & Local Universities Band Together to Retain Graduates to the Region

Louisiana State University, Southern University, and The Baton Rouge Area Chamber have combined efforts to retain graduates in the region by leveraging and utilising an existing talent recruitment platform, as reported by the LSU Media Center earlier this month.

The trio of educational and city-wide institutions will focus on connecting students to career opportunities through their participation in professional internships, thus setting students up for successful, extensive careers by giving them personally-tailored, hand-on experience by way of the Handshake platform.

Handshake is a university-based online, career resource that brings students and alumni together to offer personalized career recommendations to students. Recommendations made are based on individuals’ interests and network, allowing applicants to explore potential career pathways and build a new career by discovering new opportunities, employees, on-campus events through the Handshake platform.

Both LSU and Southern have invested in the Handshake platform in 2018, and as of today roughly half of the student population of both universities have active profiles visible to the 489 active employer profiles in the region. The platform itself allows employers of all sizes to create a profile at no cost to potentially recruit talent and graduates from LSU and Southern, as well as the over 900 other universities on the platform. Once having created a profile, employers can post job opportunities, filter candidates, and schedule interviews from a single log-in, thus saving more time for business-owners to find the right match for their company.

The president and CEO of BRAC, The Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Adam Knapp remarked to LSU journalists that this collaboration is a “ historic joint commitment of our region’s traditional four-year institutions to be intentional about connecting students to local internship and job opportunities. Now more than ever, talent drives economic development, and our college students are one of our greatest assets.”

The collaboration from LSU, SU, and BRAC holds all three institutions accountable for expanding the number of active student (graduates) and employer profiles in the system. They’ve implemented a system with a larger goal to increase the awareness of the Baton Rouge region as a vibrant, prosperous community in which recent, rising, and former graduates should consider launching a career. They do this by implementing strategic data tracking to measure applicant progress, advocating confidently for paid internships as both a critical, necessary part of the curriculum and of talent pipeline management strategies.

Hoping to get new users registered and matched with an employer, BRAC will be hosting workshops with each university’s career services centers to help employers set up Handshake profiles, learn how to most effectively engage with the Handshake platform and access the multitude of additional resources available through the career service centers.

Businesses located in the Baton Rouge region are encouraged to take the following steps in the next six months in order to both support and participate in this effort:

  • Activate an “employer” account on Handshake
  • Attend one of the Handshake 101 workshops offered by BRAC
  • Create a ‘paid internship program’ and recruit for it through Handshake
  • Recruit candidates for entry-level positions through Handshake

While initially beginning with Louisiana State University and Southern University, the BRAC will be pursuing similar agreements with the other postsecondary institutions in the area, namely, Baton Rouge Community College, FranU, and River Parishes Community College in order to retain even more graduates to the area.

Handshake’s Vice President of Higher Education and Student Services, Christine Cruzvergara commented by stating, “Access is the most direct path to opportunity, and we’re excited to partner with BRAC to help students connect with local businesses. This initiative demonstrates the strength of Handshake’s platform to help more students easily discover opportunities and help employers recruit young talent in an efficient and cost-effective way.”

For more education related information, click here.

NFL Draft Picks out of Louisiana Colleges

The last Saturday of the 2020 NFL draft, Saturday April 25th, was another big day for players from universities in Louisiana.  In total, ten players from universities of The Pelican State were drafted into NFL teams, of which four were from LSU, two from Tulane, two from Louisiana Tech and two from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.  Two more LSU players went in the fourth round, which gave LSU a record-tying total of 14 players in the three-day draft.  The record is now shared with Ohio State, who produced 14 draftees in 2004.

Although the following recaps those Louisiana ten athletes that were selected on the last Saturday of the draft, it should be highlighted that the first NFL draft pick was that of LSU’s quarterback Joe Burrow, who led the team to a national championship after a 15-0 season.  Burrow was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Among Louisiana’s big Saturday draftees were LSU’s offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles, who was the second overall pick in the round, chosen by the Washington Redskins.  He started nine games in LSU’s national championship season of 2019.

The 12th LSU player drafted was Rashard Lawrence of LSU.  Touted as being good at the point of attack and holding his ground well against the run, he is remarkably seasoned, having started 34 of 44 games he played while at LSU.  Lawrence was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.

A solid and accomplished blocker, guard Kevin Dotson of UL-Lafayette, the second Ragin’ Cajun offensive lineman drafted (after Robert Hunt), was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Louisiana Tech saw two of its stars drafted back-to-back in the fourth round when defensive back L’Jarius Sneed was chosen by the Kansas City Chiefs (2020 Superbowl champions) and corner back Amik Robertson was snagged by the Las Vegas Raiders.  Sneed is known for being a spectacular leaper and returning three interceptions for touchdowns at Louisiana Tech.  Roberston is described as an “electric talent” who plays with attitude and fears nothing.

Tulane star wide receiver Darnell Mooney was picked up by the Chicago Bears at pick 173.  He is remarkably fast and a consistent deep threat who scores nearly every time he touches the ball.

Long Snapper Blake Ferguson of LSU went to the Miami Dolphins.  Ferguson is an elite talent and was notably the only exclusive long snapper chosen in the draft.

At pick No. 237, Tulane cornerback Thakarius Keyes was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs.  Keyes, also known as “Bopete” was a two-year starter for the Green Wave of Tulane and started in all but one of the 24 games he competed in.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted University of Louisiana (Lafayette) running back Raymond Calais in the seventh round.  Calais is small, but is a fast and effective gunner which could increase his chances of starting for the Bucs.

Finally, LSU tied the record in the NFL Draft with a 14th selection as their tight end Stephen Sullivan was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks. Sullivan, a converted wide receiver, has a huge catch radius. He is big, but excels as a receiver as opposed to a blocker.  Although he was often lost in the crowd at LSU with so many great wide receivers, he was still picked up due to his intriguing talent on the field.

In sum, the coming years should be a great time for pro football enthusiasts in Louisiana as we go on to watch some of our favorite college ball athletes show off their talents on the NFL gridirons.

For more Louisiana related articles, click here.

Joe Burrow Calls Lowe’s Employees in Hometown

On Thursday, April 23, 2020, LSU’s national championship-winning quarterback Joe Burrow partnered with Lowe’s Home Improvement to call several employees in his hometown of Athens, Ohio to surprise them and show appreciation for them working during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These calls were conducted in advance of him becoming the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. See the video here.

With each call made, Burrow surprised each worker he spoke to with an offer to host them at one of his future games, no matter which NFL team he ended up playing for.

The Cincinnati Bengals have landed Burrow as their next franchise quarterback. The night after the calls to the Lowe’s employees, speculation that had gone for months ended when the Bengals, of Cincinnati, Ohio (Burrow’s home state), chose him the LSU powerhouse as their first overall pick in the NFL draft. This year’s draft happened virtually due to the ongoing pandemic, and clips of Burrow were shown as he celebrated with his family from his home in Athens County, Ohio and adorned a Bengals hat.

Shortly after being added to Cincinnati’s roster, Zac Taylor (head coach), stated that Joe Burrow would be expected to compete for the position of quarterback. Although current quarterback Andy Dalton is entering the final year of his contract, Taylor wouldn’t go so far as to name Burrow as the team’s starter in week one. One of the biggest challenges, Taylor Said, for Burrow and other incoming rookies is adapting to the speed in the NFL. Even players like Burrow who played college ball at the highest level can struggle to adapt to the breakneck speed.

This audition to be starting quarterback position was an understanding that Burrow shared, stating, “That’s exactly how I expect to do it as well. I’m going to come in and compete and try to be the best player I can be.”

Coming off a historic season at LSU, during which he threw for an record 60 touchdowns, he captained the Tigers to a national championship. He also won the Heisman Trophy and completed 76.3% of his passes .

The Cincinnati team made it clear before the official draft that they intended to officially draft Joe Burrow. According to reports, Burrow was officially welcomed to Cincinnati by Bengals’ president Mike Brown on Wednesday when he sent a letter that said, among other things, that he is anticipating “building championship football teams with (Burrow) for many years to come.” In addition, Burrow and his parents were sent No. 9 Bengals jerseys by Mr. Brown. This will be the number that Burrow will be wearing in Cincinnati, and this was also the number he was wearing during his recorded breaking year at Louisiana State University.

Joe Burrow said he will have to adjust to missing the mental prep he would’ve gained during minicamps for rookies and other such events that would’ve helped him prepare to compete for the starting position. These events have been postponed because of the pandemic. Instead, Burrow has revealed the off season process for him will include studying the playbook and getting comfortable with calling plays in the huddle.

“You have to be stern in your voice, because if you are in there wavering and wobbling and fumbling over words, all the guys are going to be like, ‘What is this guy doing in here, Coach? Get him out. Get someone else in,'” Burrow said. “So, that’s something I’m going to be really focused on.”

For more Louisiana related articles, click here.

LSU Students Create a Beach Wheelchair

An article recently published on 4WWL explores the amazing beach wheelchair design of LSU students. On April 30, Cheslyn Simpson was officially able to visit the beach with her family with help from nine Louisiana State University engineering students.

The group of dedicated students designed and built a motorized wheelchair so that the 23-year-old from Plaquemine, La can comfortably visit the beach with her family on their annual beach vacation trip. The Simpson family would usually use a regular wheelchair, but beaches are not wheelchair accessible in terms of travel. Recreational wheelchairs are extremely uncommon.

The initial plans for the wheelchair were created by seniors in the class 2018, who were not able to take the next step toward building and testing the wheelchair. They did, however, leave their plans with the hopes of the next graduating class finishing the project and gifting it to Simpson.

Simpson has Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare genetic disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system and movement problems. The disorder normally displays symptoms between 10 and 15 years old. The disorder causes impaired speech, a loss of sensation in the arms and legs, and difficulty walking. In 2017, Simpson’s speech therapists urged her to write as essay asking for help visiting the beach with her family to the LSU Senior Capstone Design Program.

The wheelchair has three fat wheels for navigation, a cup holder, a cooler, and a Bluetooth speaker to play music. The students also included headlights, umbrella holders, and lights on the underside of the wheelchair that change colors. The group also consulted with Simpson on the design of the wheelchair as she chose the colors and the upholstery.

The initial group that began the project received a donation of $3,000 from the LSU Foundation. This year’s group created a GoFundMe that doubled the amount. Local businesses donated the welding and the frame. A company in New Zealand donated the motors. The students had every intention of purchasing all of the materials they needed but, thanks to generous donors, they didn’t have to.

To prevent the Simpson family from spending an unimaginable amount of money on a special wheelchair charger, the students made the new chair compatible with the one the family used for Cheslyn’s everyday chair.

This year there were 46 teams for the Senior Capstone Design Program. Each team was assigned a project and, this year, the projects varied immensely. There was a portable wheelchair for a child with cerebral palsy, a neighborhood surveillance system, a smart WiFi router system, and even a system to test the resistance of various sugarcane chopper blades to wear and tear.

The students participating in the Senior Capstone Design Program are all electrical and/or mechanical engineering majors at the university. This program is a way for them to take what they learned and put it to the test. It is safe to say that this project is one that most of them will not forget.

For more education related information, click here.


LSU Study puts School’s Statewide Economic Impact at 5.1 Billion


According to this article written by, “Louisiana State University had a $5.1 billion economic impact on Louisiana in 2017 thanks to the jobs it created, the lifetime earnings of grads and a range of other factors.” This information was discovered after there was a study done by LSU’s Economics and Policy Research group. It was stated that “The study is the first time the school has measured its impact both systemwide and individually for each of its eight campuses.” has pointed out that the study “relies on multiple data points to show the size of the university’s economic footprint, including jobs created by LSU alumnus and faculty, the role of the university in attracting talent and businesses to Louisiana, and the collective increased lifetime earnings of all graduates”.

For more information, including a breakdown of economic impact by campus, click here.

Benny Cenac, Houma Philanthropist, Provides LSU Endowment

Benny Cenac, Houma Philanthropist and CEO of Cenac Marine Services, was honored for his donation of $250,000 for an endowed Scholarship towards the Swimming and Diving programs at LSU. The scholarship is named The Cenac Family Endowed Scholarship Fund.

At the LSU VS. Auburn game on October 14th, many Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) donors were honored for their generous gifts made to support the LSU Athletic programs. In a video the TAF posted on Facebook, you can watch the ceremony.

The ceremony was a special presentation to honor a group of incredible individuals who are committed to the TAF and the athletic foundation.  These honorees will be remembered forever for their incredible passion and effort to educate student athletes at LSU.  Along with the honorees on the field were legacy students, athletes and coaches who have also committed to giving LSU their all on and off the field.  Also on the field to present awards was President and CEO of the TAF, Rick Perry and Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, Joe Alleva.  Mr. Benny Cenac, Houma Philanthropist and owner of Cenac Marine Services, was honored to be amongst those in attendance.

The donation will go into a fund with LSU and is accrued from the investment fund used to provide scholarships. Mr. Cenac’s donation will help the Swimming and Diving program as long as LSU is in existence.

LSU’s Swimming and Diving program is one of the best in the country, thanks to donations and support like that given so generously by prominent businessman, Mr. Benny Cenac.  Opened in the summer 1985, the LSU Natatorium has served as the exclusive home of the swimming and diving teams for the past 26 seasons.

The complex features a 50-meter pool, which can be converted into two 25-meter or 25-yard pools with the use of bulkheads. Furthermore, the facility houses a championship diving well, which was completely renovated in the summer 2003 with one- and three-meter springboards and five-, seven- and 10-meter platforms.

With donations from supportive philanthropists and business like Cenac of Houma, programs added new graphics and signage throughout the venue in the fall 2011 and upgraded the scoring system in the fall 2008, unveiling a pair of state-of-the-art videoboards. Refurbished locker rooms were also completed in September 1998. The spacious locker rooms feature separate varsity lockers, both for men and women, and include public showers and locker areas.

The facility has played host to several national competitions, including the 1985 National Sports Festival, the 1986 Men’s Southeastern Conference Championships, the 1987 NCAA Diving Regional and the U.S. Diving National Championships in the spring 1987. The Natatorium was also the host facility during the 1999 NCAA Regional Diving Championships.

Last season both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving squads posted fifth place finishes at the SEC Championships. The second consecutive top-five finishes for both teams bodes well for the future of the program.

LSU has returned six women and two men who qualified for the NCAA Championships, including NCAA All-American Honorable Mention divers Alex Bettridge and Daniel Helm and distance swimmer Craig Hamilton. In addition to a strong recruiting class, four athletes named to the All-SEC Freshman team return to solidify the team’s core.

The landmark is located immediately north of the LSU Field House and can comfortably accommodate 2,200 spectators. Admission to all LSU swimming and diving meets is free.

Thank you, Mr. Cenac, and all other donors that understand the importance and impact they have on these talented students.

For more information on the endowment Scholarship, you can click here. And you can find more information on the Tiger Athletic Foundation, here. For more on Benny Cenac’s Houma Philanthropy please click here.