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Stacey Simmons, associate director for economic development at LSU's Center for Computation & Technology, was recently named Louisiana's Technology Leader of the Year.

An Animated Career: LSU’s Stacey Simmons Selected as Technology Leader of the Year

Creating the largest animation festival in the United States, forming a professional consortium to attract new businesses to the state’s capital, working with different state and local agencies to lure EA Sports to Baton Rouge and helping develop a new digital media curriculum for college students might seem like a tall order for one person’s day job.

But these are among the achievements for Stacey Simmons, who was named Louisiana’s Technology Leader of the Year at the Governor’s Technology Awards earlier this spring.

Simmons, who is associate director for economic development at LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology, or CCT, has spent her career finding innovative ways to highlight the intersections between art and technology.

A native of the New Orleans area, Simmons moved to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of working in the film industry and held production roles with different studios. But after several years there, she decided to return to Louisiana and help establish the film industry in her home state.

After working as an adjunct professor with Tulane University, Simmons came to LSU in 2003 to develop strategic initiatives for the CCT. She wanted to find a way to make high-performance computing technology understandable and accessible to members of the Baton Rouge community. This idea became the Red Stick International Animation Festival.

Red Stick, which Simmons created along with Professor Stephen David Beck in 2005, has grown into the largest animation festival in the United States in only five years and has become a draw for both scientists and artists who are interested in seeing the latest developments in digital media.

Through her work on the festival, Simmons realized the city could benefit from a consortium of local business and government agencies that worked specifically at attracting digital media industries to the state. She founded the Baton Rouge Area Digital Industries Consortium, or BRADIC, which encompasses LSU, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President’s Office. It is the only organization of its kind in the nation, an innovation that was one of the key reasons she was nominated for the highest technology honor in the state.

BRADIC promotes the state’s lucrative tax credit program, talented workforce and teamwork between education and business to animation studios, video game development companies, visual effects houses and other digital media industries to entice them to Louisiana.

These tax incentives for digital businesses and the strong partnerships among key agencies in the area are the primary factors that convinced EA, the world’s leading independent video game developer and publisher, to locate their North American Test Center in Baton Rouge, at LSU South Campus in late 2008.

Another factor in EA’s decision to locate here was the Arts, Visualization, Advanced Technologies and Research, or AVATAR, Initiative to create a new curriculum and research opportunities in digital media. LSU created AVATAR in spring 2008, and Simmons is one of the professors working to develop this program, which will help students learn the skills they need for careers in this exciting and emerging field.

The AVATAR Initiative will launch the university’s first minor in digital media in the fall 2010 semester. To promote the program, Simmons created a lecture series for the spring and fall semesters, which will bring in professionals from various areas of digital media to campus.

“As a professional working in digital media, I often get approached by college students who want jobs as video game developers, animators, artists and much more,” Simmons said. “I am excited to be part of the group that created this new curriculum so we can give students a chance to learn how they can get jobs in this field. And because the digital industry in our state is growing, this program will train students for jobs they can get in this area, which will make them more likely to stay here after graduation.”

Kristen Sunde | Public Relations Manager | LSU Center for Computation & Technology
May 2010