Get to know the Fall 2020 LSU Distinguished Communicators
During December 2020 Commencement, 17 graduates across eight colleges will receive the LSU Distinguished Communicator Medal. Recipients of this honor are outstanding writers and speakers, with a strong command of visual literacy and technological communication. They have earned high GPAs in their communication-intensive courses throughout their baccalaureate years, sought 1-1 mentorships with faculty and have built websites that display their communication competencies and professional talents, both in and beyond the classroom. LSU Distinguished Communicators also graduate with the LSU Communicator Certificate, launched in Fall 2018.
College of Agriculture
B.S. in Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising and a B.A. in Mass Communication, minor in Business Administration
Madison plans to pursue a career in fashion merchandising; with her majors in mass communication and textiles, apparel and merchandising, and her minor in business administration, she has hit the ground running! Madison was accepted for her dream internship for a fashion brand in Los Angeles in 2020. COVID-19 threw some wrenches in that plan, but she didn’t let that stop her from harnessing her energies elsewhere. Instead of traveling to LA, Madison started her own sweatshirt business, and in her “spare time” works as a freelancer in digital branding. Madison’s energy and optimism inspire those around her. Whether it’s serving as a Resident Assistant or an LSU Ambassador, Madison has dedicated her time and talents to LSU and local communities. Madison credits her focus on her communications skills development and key factor in the accomplishments she has achieved to date. About the DC program, she says “This is important to me because I took extra steps and put in countless hours to improve my communication skills. I took the time to learn and take information from my classes and apply it to my portfolio. What I learned also goes beyond completing a portfolio. I know this will carry into post-graduation life.”
B.S. in Natural Resource Ecology and Management, minor in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences
Josef Schuster has a fascination with marine and freshwater fishes, a spark that was first ignited by hours of programming on the Animal Planet and Discovery channels. He initially set that passion aside—even entering LSU as a business major—but returned to what he loved most in his sophomore year by majoring in natural resource ecology and management. After working in four labs, volunteering with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and interning with Louisiana Pond Management, Josef has developed a keen understanding of the variety of paths he can take in his field post-graduation. Seeing his coursework reflected in those real world experiences and entering the Distinguished Communicator program helped motivate Josef. “I feel that I have a purpose in the world and can see how I got to where I am now,” he says. He also credits the program for preparing him for leadership in the Aquaculture and Fisheries Club at LSU. “I have been pushed into situations where someone needed to step up and the program prepared me for those moments,” Josef says. “I felt confident being in those positions because CxC provided tons of useful information and skills that ultimately were implemented when leading my club.” After graduating this December, he’ll be exploring the ocean in more depth with plans to complete dive certifications in Belize and Honduras to attain Divemaster certification.
E.J. Ourso College of Business
B.S. in Marketing with a concentration in Professional Sales, minor in Communication Studies
Sam Allen says “For me, communication of any kind is what brings us closer together. It's how we learn, understand, and grow!” Sam Allen is graduating from LSU with a degree in Marketing with a focus on Professional Sales and a minor in Communication Studies. He credits the programs and organizations he’s been involved in with helping him grow in numerous ways. One of Sam’s favorite undergraduate experiences was volunteering for the Baton Rouge organization called Live 2 Serve, where he used his communication skills to connect with and foster empowerment for children from underserved Baton Rouge neighborhoods. Sam is also graduating from the business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, where he served as Service Chair and the Director of Corporate Relations. For the LSU professional sales team, Sam served as co-captain and mentored younger team members. Starting in Summer 2021, Sam will enter the LSU Flores MBA Program. When reflecting on his time in the DC program Sam shared, “This program allowed me to better myself beyond communication skills, it reminded me that working hard pays off.”
College of Coast & Environment
B.S. in Coastal Environmental Science
Committing to the Distinguished Communicator program felt like an act of courage for Kendall Brome. As a self-described shy person and a full-time working student, she was nervous to engage. “Initially, I felt like I was far behind, had few accomplishments, and lacked academic stature,” she says. That nervousness dissipated thanks in large part to Kendall’s drive and determination—and a few champions along the way. “This program and my mentors totally boosted my confidence and helped me rethink my own life experiences,” she says. “It became true that simply waitressing throughout college was a strength of mine; I just needed to know how to articulate it.” With that boost of confidence and real-world experience, Kendall was able to push herself into leadership roles and fully explore successful communication in her major: coastal environmental science. “I have had to learn a multi-faceted, interdisciplinary way of communication that articulates highly scientific matters to people from all backgrounds in meaningful and applicable ways.” Not only has she put that practice to use in her research projects and lab work in the PAST lab, it allowed her to gain experience as a presenter at the 2020 American Geophysical Union meeting earlier this month. This spring, Kendall will begin pursuing her masters in Geography. “Being accepted to LSU's Graduate School is something I cannot express my gratitude for,” she says. “Knowing my mentors/advisors believe in my scientific aspirations is something I cherish.”
College of Engineering
B.S. in Biological Engineering
Jacqueline Begue’s LSU experience was largely shaped by one organization: the Biological Engineering Student Organization. “It's a small community, but it is well established in my major and is special to so many people,” she says. “I am grateful for the opportunities BESO has given me and for the friends I've made through the club.” From organizing club meetings to leading the group as Vice President, Jacqueline was really able to put her skills from the Distinguished Communicator program into practice—something that will come in handy when she’s using those same skills as an engineer. “Being an LSU Distinguished Communicator means having the ability to work with many different people from many different backgrounds and be able to have others understand your thoughts and ideas,” she says. One of the achievements for which she is most proud was her role in organizing the Dr. Michael Mailander Scholarship Fundraiser, a scholarship for freshmen in BESO. “College can be expensive, and I definitely appreciated every penny I got from scholarships,” she says. “To give a freshman a scholarship opportunity I had was one of my ways of giving back to the BESO community.” That commitment to giving back continued with her internship during COVID-19 when her responsibilities at Three Roll Estate pivoted from assisting with spirit distillation to manufacturing hand sanitizer with ethanol. When Jacqueline isn’t working on her goal of turning her home into a forest of houseplants, she’ll be in search of new opportunities to explore different areas of engineering.
B.S. Industrial Engineering, minor in Business Administration
Industrial Engineering graduate Phillip d’Aquin also graduates with a minor in Business Administration, and cites Disneyland as his favorite college experience - though not for the attractions and characters. For over 8 months Phillip worked at Disneyland as part of the Disney College program, where he underwent training in problem-solving, teamwork, guest service and effective communication. For Phillip, “Working at Disneyland was a dream come true. I never lived outside of my state for longer than 4 months. Moving to a different state and not knowing anyone there, the situation pushed me to grow out of my comfort zone. I made a lot of friends and the experience impacted part of who I am today.” Phillip has taken that inspiration and made use of it. In addition to his internship at Seaport Global Investment and his current role at Sherwin Williams, Phillip has dedicated his time and skills to volunteer for various causes. He was a volunteer for Hurricane Sandy relief and the VoluntEARS Food Bank. He also puts his leadership and communication skills in literal action while serving as captain to multiple sport teams, and as a member of the LSU Ballroom Dance Team. Phillip credits his time with fellow Distinguished Communicator Candidates as inspirational to him, and wants future Distinguished Communicators to know that even if you’re not feeling confident about your skill sets, “With the right amount of preparation and guidance, anything is possible.” He also wants folks to know that even amid all he has achieved and experienced over the duration of his college career, “Making it through college is enough for me.”
B.S. in Chemical Engineering
Morgan Donaldson is a proud 4th generation LSU student, and today she becomes a graduate with a degree in Chemical Engineering. When she wasn’t scuba diving, weight lifting or snow skiing, Morgan dedicated her time and focus toward her fellow engineering students, serving as a team leader and mentor for the Society of Peer Mentors. She also served as Senior Representative and Secretary for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. She cites the Distinguished Communicator program as being particularly helpful as she fostered her teamwork and collaboration skills. One of her favorite internships was with Marathon Petroleum Company, where she was given the opportunity to directly apply her academic knowledge to her process engineering position. While her hometown of Houma, LA will always stay with her, Morgan sets her sights on points westward to Utah for a change of climate as she embarks on the next journey in her career.
B.S. in Industrial Engineering
For Ahmad Hamed, being a Distinguished Communicator is one of his most valued accomplishments. “The program has been very beneficial and helped me recognize the value of displaying my communication skills and creating an eportfolio,” he says. “I’m proud to be part of this small group of people recognized for their communication skills.” We’re especially proud of Ahmad, too—he has been a member of our CxC Studio Team since 2017, helping peers with their communication projects and giving tours of the Chevron Center for Engineering Education. Born in Ramallah, Palestine, he maintains a connection to his heritage at LSU by participating in organizations like the Muslim Student Association LSU, Arabic Club, and Students for Justice in Palestine. He credits the DC program with giving him the tools to become a better public speaker, and as a result, a better leader. His favorite opportunity at LSU was participating in the Consortium for Innovation in Manufacturing and Materials Research Experience for Undergraduates. The CIMM REU gave Ahmad a chance to utilize those public speaking skills by presenting at the symposium, where he earned 3rd place. “I enjoyed getting hands-on experience in research and engineering and making new connections,” he says of the program.
B.S. in Chemical Engineering
Eban Hanna was always fascinated with scientific exploration and how the world around him worked, making the pursuit of chemical engineering a natural fit. After taking a gap year, he earned one of his most valued achievements, the Prime Time Foundation Scholarship, allowing him to broaden his horizons and leave his native Bahamas to attend LSU. Through the Distinguished Communicator program, Eban was able to step further outside his comfort zone and develop skills to be a successful leader. “You realize that the best things in life require discipline and sacrifice, and you are not afraid of either if the result is a better you,” he says. He credits the program for helping him improve both his public speaking and interpersonal communication, specifically as it relates to working collaboratively and communicating complex concepts to a team. Working as a research assistant in the Sabliov Laboratory gave Eban the chance to hone those skills, learning valuable knowledge while enjoying “the willingness of the group members to educate those around them on their research projects.” Eban will begin a masters program at LSU in the spring, making him the first of his family to attend graduate school.
B.S. in Industrial Engineering, minor in Business Administration
Vivian Ji takes joy in enhancing people’s lives. As an industrial engineering graduate, she’s already had practice impacting the day-to-day with projects that focus on improving efficiency in environments from coffee shops to hospitals. The Distinguished Communicator program has helped her develop critical communication skills necessary to facilitate those large-scale corporate projects as well as lead large groups—a skill that led to being a founding member of Esports at LSU. “I met a lot of new people and spent a lot of time making sure people had a community where they felt accepted,” Vivian says of the Esports club, now one of the most recognized organizations in the collegiate gaming society. “I’m happy to just be a part of making that happen for people.”
Mae Anne Claire Mangaoil
B.S. in Chemical Engineering, minors in Environmental Sciences and Chemistry
Mae Anne Claire Mangaoil might have the most extensive community service experience of this year’s class of Distinguished Communicators, so it’s fitting that her most valued accomplishment—the LSU Engaged Citizen Distinction—celebrates that work. “This specific program has given me the opportunity to learn more about the needs of my community and what I could do to help,” Mae says. “It has made me realize the importance of being an engaged citizen, and how everyone should do his or her part in being more involved in community outreaches and events in order to make the community that he or she lives in a better place for years to come.” Her commitment to community is a throughline in all of her work, from her dedication to sharing STEM with peers and K-12 students to using her chemical engineering degree to identify innovative solutions for saving the environment. For Mae, the Distinguished Communicator program laid a foundation that she built on throughout her time at LSU, starting with developing skills to communicate effectively in class projects and discussions all the way through to leading organizations and helping others become better communicators and leaders. “This program has been a huge part of who I am now and what I have achieved during my college career,” she says. “I wouldn’t have expected to be a part of Leadership LSU 2019 or have been awarded the Happy Award, Love Purple Live Gold Legacy Award, and the LSU Engaged Citizen Distinction, but this program has made them all possible.”
John "Fischer" Robinson
B.S. in Biological Engineering
For Fischer Robinson, the President’s Alumni Scholarship paved the way for his college experience. “It allowed me to not worry about the financial burden of my education and I could focus on excelling academically and getting involved on campus,” he says. That campus involvement extended into the community, including serving as a childcare worker for teenage mothers, a Reading Buddy for Volunteers in Public Schools, and his favorite project: the LSU Community Playground Project. “Designing playgrounds in BE 1252 was one of my favorite parts of the Biological Engineering curriculum and I wanted to stay involved with it somehow,” Fischer says. “I was able to volunteer on builds around the Baton Rouge community and eventually was hired on the playground team.” Fischer’s experience with the Distinguished Communicator portfolio has given him the valuable opportunity to “paint a more well-rounded picture than just a resume.” He also credits the program for helping him develop successful two-way communication in interpersonal settings. “I've seen an improvement in the way I approach conversations on teams, in school groups, and at work,” he says. This skill, which he is always aiming to improve, will prove especially useful as he enters medical school and ultimately becomes a physician.
College of Human Sciences & Education
B.S. in Kinesiology and B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Music, Health Science and Sociology
(see bio under College of Humanities & Social Sciences)
College of Humanities & Social Sciences
B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Music, Health Science and Sociology and B.S. in Kinesiology
Joneya’s interests run a seemingly broad gamut—she is an avid trombonist, health care advocate, and her extensive service while at LSU also earned her the Engaged Citizens Award. But to her, this work is all a part of the same goal. After graduation Joneya will be continuing coursework on her path to medical school, where she intends to fuse these passions via a focus on health care for women. Joneya majored in Kinesiology and Interdisciplinary Studies, the latter of which involved concentrations in Music, Health Science and Sociology. One of her favorite college memories is serving as a medical volunteer for the Louisiana Marathon and the Poll marathon. She says, “I have seen people fall and keep on going and I have seen children run for a cause. I loved seeing everyone working towards their goals because it gives them more hope to keep pushing forward.” Amid all of her volunteer work for others she cites the Distinguished Communicator program as an experience that helped her reflect and hone her communication skills. About the DC program, she says “It helped me realize that my voice is meant to be heard and there are many opportunities to express myself.” We’re excited for where you’re headed, and keep expressing! (Photo credit: LSU Center for Community Engagement, Learning & Leadership)
Manship School of Mass Communication
B.S. in Textiles, Apparel and Merchandising and a B.A. in Mass Communication, minor in Business Administration
(see bio under College of Agriculture)
College of Science
B.S. in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Secondary Education
Biological Sciences major Corey Cooper also graduates with a concentration in secondary education, and is steadfastly focused on helping others. He notes that the Distinguished Communicator program enabled him to foster his own growth to better serve. “Being an LSU Distinguished Communicator means a lot to me, not for the medal or certification, but in facing my past and present selves. My purpose in life is to be a pillar in my community. That's what gives me joy and has truly ushered me into both teaching and medicine. To best fulfill my purpose, I must likewise be the best version of myself. The LSU Distinguished Communicator program has served as an opportunity for me to refine myself as a leader among my peers; to go above and beyond my limits.” And Corey has done just that. Throughout his undergraduate tenure he has: achieved College Honors, become an LSU Distinguished Communicator, earned the Distinguished Undergraduate Researcher award, earned his teaching certificate from GeauxTeach, served two years as an elected executive officer of the LSU Chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, been a TEDxLSU team member, residence life desk attendant and resident assistant, garnered more than 600 hours of classroom experience while student teaching 6th grade at the University Lab School, written more papers than he can count, supported medical emergency operations on 84 ambulance runs while on an international service trip in Colombia, and saved a victim in a Search and Rescue event. After taking a well-deserved gap year, Corey will be continuing to go above and beyond his limits at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
B.S. in Biological Sciences
After three and a half years at LSU, Jadyn Lewis is graduating today with a degree in Biological Sciences. Her determination to succeed has served her well in her college career, allowing for opportunities to develop important connections through the LSU Summer Scholars' Program, Summer Health Professionals Program, and National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NCBW). Jadyn credits the Distinguished Communicator program with not only making her a better communicator but also allowing her to be a more successful leader in every aspect of her life. Her commitment to her field and the community have played a constant role in her time at LSU—something that will continue as she looks toward a career in dentistry. Whether mentoring students through NCBW and SCI 1001 or promoting voter advocacy in Lafayette and volunteering for Baton Rouge Free Dental Clinic, being a well-rounded communicator and community-focused leader has been key to her success. “This program made me realize all of my work, academic or extra-curricular, cohesively depicts who I am as a person,” she says. “All the hard work and long hours were not made in vain, but to better myself as a communicator.”
B.S. in Chemistry, minor in Biological Sciences
Since arriving on campus, Salim Lutfallah has strived to graduate with the LSU Ogden Honors College—an accomplishment he earns with his degree in Chemistry today. That commitment to going the extra mile led to leadership opportunities with organizations like SCI-LEAD and volunteering for ChemDemos, where he brought hands-on chemistry demonstrations to K-12 classrooms. Through those experiences, Salim saw how skills developed in the Distinguished Communicator program paid off. “It has allowed me to improve my ability to delegate and communicate my ideas and goals with others,” he says. And those skills are serving him now as he prepares for his future. “The improvements in my communication skills have been evident during my medical school interviews,” Salim says. “The hard work I put in to learn and improve these skills has been positively impacting my future and will hopefully help me accomplish my goals of becoming a doctor.” His prep for medicine has already begun, from shadowing doctors in several focus areas to working as a medical scribe. His research focus on anti-cancer drugs led to being selected for a highly competitive internship with St. Jude Research Hospital, which was unfortunately canceled due to COVID-19. When asked what he is particularly proud of that we should include in celebration of his accomplishments, Salim credits his father, who recently passed away, for his success. “All that I am working towards and that I have accomplished has been done with my dad in mind,” he says. “I would not be the man I am today without him and his guidance. I owe everything to him.”
Mary Margaret Sanford
B.S. in Mathematics, minors in Business Administration and English
Mary Margaret Sanford is an enthusiastic advocate for the Distinguished Communicator program. “I recommend the program to anyone and everyone,” she says. “The Distinguished Communicator medal is the most valued award I have received. I have always struggled with communicating, specifically with public speaking, and this award shows how much I have improved my communication skills.” Those improved skills have given her the confidence to lead in her sorority, serve as an ambassador for the College of Science, and flex her one-on-one communication skills as a peer mentor and tutor—all skills that will serve her well as she plans to pursue education, with the ultimate goal of developing engaging mathematics curriculum for a company or state department. Through the GeauxTeach program, she has already gained valuable classroom experience that helped her recognize her passion for secondary education—and adaptability. Due to COVID-19, her in-person student teaching experience at Central High School was cut short, giving her the opportunity to fully implement the range of communication skills gained through the DC program. “The most impactful thing I have learned while being in the DC program is how interconnected all forms of communication are with each other,” she says. “It is difficult to use one method without the others, and the DC program has helped me to utilize all of them effectively and cohesively.”