New Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom Coming to UL Lafayette

Students at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will soon be able to take their learning outside of the traditional classroom setting by building an innovative outdoor classroom to study Louisiana’s Cajun Prairie, according to a news release from the school.

The new classroom is just one of two new environmental changes happening at the University as part of their Sustainability Strategic Plan, an initiative that encourages the creation of urban prairie environments on ULL’s campus. The project to cultivate the planned Cajun Prairie Habitat aligns with the Office of Sustainability’s master plan for stormwater management. By installing more urban prairies instead of other types of landscaping systems and structures, ULL will reduce the need for mowing, help to reduce stormwater runoff, and provide a habitat for bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Once the urban prairie is installed on the campus, it will also serve as an outdoor classroom from which students can conduct research and learn about stormwater runoff erosion management, native grasses and plants, bees and other pollinators, and soil quality. Also, in addition to being used by students directly involved in STEM courses and research studies, the outdoor environment will also serve as a type of gathering spot for all types of learning.

Gretchen LaCombe Vanicor, the director of the University’s Office of Sustainability said of the layout, “the idea is to have a plaza-like outdoor seating area with no walls or roofing – a true outdoor classroom where students, faculty members, and the public can meet while they are working on the project.”

This vision of a school-wide classroom isn’t just a concept that exists in the completion of the Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom, but the interdisciplinary aspects of the project’s inception, planning, construction, and much more will provide learning opportunities for students from many colleges and disciplines.

The work to bring this project to life will begin this fall semester with an interdisciplinary effort to plant more native flowers and grasses along the 4 acres on either side of Coulee Mine, a stream that bisects University Common behind Blackham Coliseum. The planting of more native fauna along this section of the waterway will be led by UL Lafayette’s Ecology Center and its Office of Sustainability. This work will lay the foundation for what will become of the urban prairie environment, as it allows for students, community officials, faculty members, and researchers to gather and learn about the ecological value of native flowers and grasses in an environment where they actually exist.

Vanicor went on to highlight this stage as “one of the most important components of the project, because native plants’ expansive, fibrous root systems hold soil, reducing erosion caused by stormwater runoff. They slow water drainage, which reduces flooding, and also filters contaminants.”

Outside of the Ecology Center leading the installation and planting of the prairie, other ULL schools are collaborating to bring the project to life. For example, students who will help design and build the outdoor classroom will be from the School of Architecture and Design. Then, after it’s completed, students partaking in community service with the University’s AmeriCorps program and the Office of First-Year Experience’s ‘Big Event’ will coordinate the maintenance of the urban prairie along the coulee.

According to Vanicor, any findings and research gathered at the future site will be shared with public officials and water management professionals in an effort “to inform community dialogue and decisions, including about implementing flood mitigation methods.”

So while it’s encouraging for UL Lafayette to have so many students from several of the University’s departments and schools coming together to bring the academic and ecological dream of the Cajun Prairie Habitat and Outdoor Classroom to life, the Louisiana community outside of the school will also be able to benefit from the research conducted in the urban prairie as well.

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UL Lafayette and SLCC Partner on New Engineering Transfer Agreement

It was recently announced that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and South Louisiana Community College are collaborating on a new transfer pathway agreement that will allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering from both institutions.

This beneficial transfer agreement, which is set to begin with the Fall 2021 semester, will allow students beginning their post-secondary studies at SLCC to earn an associate’s degree in general studies with a pre-engineering concentration at SLCC. The student will then transfer to UL Lafayette’s College of Engineering to complete coursework, earning them a bachelor’s degree in engineering with no course credits lost in the process.

For decades high school graduates in the Acadiana region regularly attend their first two years of post-secondary education at SLCC before transferring’ over to ULL. Students choosing this pathway do so to save on tuition costswhile they earn generalized course credits that transfer over with them when they transfer to the four-year university. It should be noted that in transferring from a community college to a public university, many students notice that not all of their course credits transfer to their new degree program; luckily this won’t be the case with the announced transfer agreement.

SLCC’s chancellor Dr. Vincent G. June commented on the aim of the agreement, saying that it was designed to help a larger percentage of the student body achieve both their academic and career goals as well as give a boost to the development of the engineering workforce.  When speaking of the organization of the agreement, Dr. June was quoted as saying “to ease the transition for SLCC students who ultimately intend to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering from UL Lafayette.”

While at SLCC students will complete a curriculum consisting of 61-63 course credits that include classes in English, history, math, natural sciences, and social sciences. In addition to these courses that are applicable to a General Studies degree, students will also be required to take several engineering courses that are to be taught on UL Lafayette’s campus by professors from its College of Engineering. This cross-campus learning model is best suited for students entering the transfer pathways agreement as it will acclimate them to the learning environment, practices, and student body of the school in which they will ultimately finish their degree.

The press release confirmed that all credits taken in the pathway will successfully transfer to UL Lafayette, allowing students to pursue an engineering degree in a variety of disciplines and concentrations, including chemical, civil,electrical and computer, mechanical, and petroleum engineering. In order to earn an undergraduate engineering degree from ULL students must have completed at least 127 course credit hours of study.

Members of UL Lafayette’s administration who were present at the signing included Dr. Joseph Savoie, president, Dr. Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Dr. Ahmad Khattab, dean of the College of Engineering. Representing SLCC at the historic signing that occurred in late May were Dr. Vincent G. June,chancellor, and Dr. Darcee Bex, interim vice chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs.

Dr. Bex, who is also SLCC’s dean of STEM as well as Transportation and Energy, spoke to ULL Press on the beneficial aspects of the agreement, “upon enrolling, transferring students will already know some of our professors and their fellow students and be acclimated to campus. They will also have about four semesters of coursework completed. Aligning the community college with university partners like UL Lafayette just makes sense. This transfer pathway will increase educational attainment in Acadiana and is a commitment to those students seeking a career as an engineer. We’ve created a pathway to get these students to that career.”

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ULL Awards Jefferson Caffery Research Award

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has recently awarded the 2021 Jefferson Caffery Research Award to a student examining how Cajun and Creole cultural identity is altered when assimilating into American society, according to a press release from the school.

René Champagne, a senior at UL Lafayette double majoring in French and Francophone Studies as well as Anthropology, wrote his award-winning research paper, “Cajuns, Creoles, and the Impact of Americanization on Ethnic Identity in Louisiana,” in an effort to pay tribute to his hometown of Galliano, Louisiana.

Champagne, who plans on graduating in Fall 2021 and pursuing masters and doctoral degrees in anthropology, attributes his award recognition to his lifelong tracking of the diminishing French culture of the small, unincorporated Lafourche Parish town. Located along Bayou Lafourche, Galliano still has a modestly-sized French-speaking community today, but over the past century, it has greatly diminished due to the region’s assimilation into American society.

According to the UL Lafayette Office of Communications and Marketing, Champagne wrote the award-winning paper as a means to “examine the “evolution of race and ethnicity as a result of factors such as assimilation, and the resulting impact on cultural identity.” Since childhood, the senior has had a fascination with “monitoring cultural changes that have been created by outside influences.” This passion for cultural studies is what had inspired the senior to investigate the many ways that culture is exhibited, celebrated, and suppressed, causing his paper to cover a wide range of topics including customs, traditions, languages, dialects, hurricanes, land loss, and even ways in which culturally-specific holidays were celebrated during the pandemic.

Speaking of Galliano’s declining evidence of South Louisiana culture, Champagne told ULL press, that the town’s “culture is still very present, but south Louisiana, in general, is decreasing rapidly in terms of both culture and land – which is so strongly tied to culture – and that’s a huge interest to me.” The research paper utilizes nearly two dozen sources such as The New York Times, U.S. Census Bureau, the Journal of Anthropological Research, and the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development.

In order to be considered for this annual award, students must either cite or directly investigate primary source documents found in UL Lafayette’s Edith Garland Dupré Library. Specifically, these documents must be found in the Special Collections department of the library, which includes the Louisiana Room, Rare Book Collection, Ernest J. Gaines Center, Cajun and Creole Music Collection, U.S. Government Information, and the University Archives & Acadiana Manuscripts Collection.

Created in 1967, the Jefferson Caffery Research Award was established by Ambassador Jefferson Caffery and his wife, Mrs. Gertrude Jefferson Caffery, to recognize outstanding scholarly research conducted through materials offered by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The award is accompanied by a $500 prize and is bestowedannually by both the Edith Garland Dupré Library and the University Library Committee.

The award’s namesake, Ambassador Caffery was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and he was an integral part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s early days as an educational institution. Specifically, he was a part of the school’s first graduating class when it was initially established as the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute. Caffery kept his ties with the school over his historic career as an American Diplomat, serving as a United States Ambassador to Egypt, France, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, and El Salvador from 1926-1955. ULL has since honored Caffery not only by annually awarding out the Research Award but by keeping an archival catalog of library holdings in the Jefferson Caffery Reading Room, which is located on the 3rd Floor of Dupré Library.

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ULL’s Roy House hits Fundraising Goal

The Roy House on ULL’s campus will soon be home to a new Center of Louisiana Studies, all thanks to a global philanthropist helping the “Restore the Roy” campaign reach its fundraising goal, The Advocate reports.

If you’ve traveled in the downtown area of Lafayette, Louisiana, and you’ve passed by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, chances are you’ve seen the famed Roy House, along with signage of the school’s efforts to “Restore the Roy” as well. Located on the corner of University Avenue and Johnston Street, the 120 year-old is now due for its first modern renovation, having been in ULL’s possession since the 1990s.

Enthusiasts for the historic former home of J. Arthur Roy, an early Lafayette business leader and stalwart of the community, had reached and surpassed their goal of raising $800,000 in funds to restore the two-story, 5,000 square foot building. The restoration effort had only raised the much-needed $400,000 in the last few weeks, which included a donation from a foundation based in Washington State.

It’s estimated that the restoration will be completed by 2022, and once complete, “The Roy” will house the Center for Louisiana Studies. The University Center was founded in 1973, and it is dedicated to researching, promoting, publicizing, and overall preserving the culture and storied history of Louisiana.

For any Lafayette visitors traveling to the city from Interstate 10, the Roy House provides a substantial first glimpse at the campus, and director of the center, Joshua C. Caffery believes that the newly renovated building will provide an attractive welcome to such visitors, saying, “The renovation of the Roy House and its lot will transform one of Lafayette’s busiest intersections and contribute to the citywide effort to beautify the University corridor.”

Simply put, that “busiest intersection” isn’t hyperbole; it’s pure fact, as the state Department of Transportation and Development reports that the estimated average daily traffic count for the specific intersection that the Roy House has stood on since 1901, the same year that ULL’s campus first opened to students, is 43,730 vehicles.

The Center for Louisiana Studies is made up of three divisions: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, theResearch Division and the Programming and Special Projects Division, including the Archive of Cajun and Creole Folklore, heralded by the campus as being the “largest collection of audiovisual materials related to the traditional cultures of southwestern Louisiana.”

Caffery said that most of the restoration money was raised throughout the year through grants and private donation, conclusion with the $400,000 amount from the Sage Foundation, and its President and Treasurer, E.W. Littlefield Jr, a philanthropist who is long-involved in the music industry as both a musician and supporter of marts and music efforts.

Caffery noted, “The interest we received from out of state is a testament to the fact that Acadiana culture continues to be of significant national and even international interest. Our goal is to launch a major interior restoration by spring, hopefully by mid-April or early May,”

The next steps, according to Caffery, are to assemble a restoration team, including architects and contractors and to secure the appropriate permits and approvals. The Roy is the only building on ULL’s campus that’s on the National Register of Historic Places, so it must meet specific guidelines for its restoration.

Caffery stated, “despite the turmoil of 2020, we’ve received an outpouring of support this year, both from people who love the Roy House and value its architectural and historical significance, as well as from people who support the mission of the Center for Louisiana Studies.

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UL Lafayette President Announces Record R&D Milestone

A remarkable milestone was announced this year by UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie during his annual State of the University address; the milestone being that the university had broken records with $144 million spent towards expenditures in research and development last year, as reported by KATC.

As reported, 2019 was the third year in a row in which UL Lafayette spent more than $100 million on Research and Development (R&D), according to the conducted Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) Survey. This survey is the National Science Foundation’s annual indexing of United States colleges and university’s research spending.

Each year the University of Louisiana at Lafayette competes against other universities for both federal and state government grants as well as private sector contracts with the university acting as steward or the funds awarded to faculty and staff researchers.

The goal of increasing UL Lafayette R&D expenditures was set back seven years prior in 2013 with the accredited learning institution setting the goal of attaining $100 million in expenditures by 2020, though this might have been an undersight as the school had surpassed that expectation, achieving the goals three years sooner than expected- in 2017.

The record was broken yet again in the following year, 2018 with spending increasing to 124.7 million in the matter of a single year. This remarkable figure increase had placed UL Lafayette among the top 23 percent of the total 647 research universities included in the HERD survey.

Though this most recently announced $144 million figure has not yet been released by the National Science Foundation, the amount is the highest attained by ULL R&D to date, and it signifies an astounding achievement of the goal set in 2013.

President Savoie aptly referred to this achievement as “astonishing” when the milestone was communicated to faculty, staff, and students at the annual beginning of the semester address, which in previous years is delivered to nearly a thousand members of the University’s community in the Angelle Hall auditorium, but this year it was presented virtually as a result on the state of Louisiana’s restrictions on larger indoor gatherings.

As KATC reported from Savoie’s address, he had stated being that UL Lafayette is a public university, “in good times and in trying moments, the work we do should benefit the public. The research being done here does not stay here,” Savoie continued to say, “it is consequential and valuable to our society.”

The annual address serves as a way for the university president to set a tone for the start of the fall semester and new academic year, as classes at the four-year university officially began Thursday, August 17th. During the presentation, Savoie also reaffirmed UL Lafayette’s commitment to building a more diverse community on its campus, meeting the goals established in the Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence, a national framework adopted by multiple higher education learning institutions.

The Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence serves as a framework for enhancing equity, diversity, and inclusion across the school’s course offerings, hiring practices, student services and recruitment, and broader community outreach. Savoie also noted that the university’s increased efforts over the past decade to recruit and retain women and students of color are paying off.

In the 2019-2020 academic school year alone, the University awarded a record 3,610 degrees, and among those recipients receiving awards, there was a historic number of women, Black, Hispanic, and Asian graduates with the Spring 2020 graduation class being the largest and most diverse in the University’s 122-year legacy.

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