Meet the Fall 2023 LSU Distinguished Communicators

During December 2023 Commencement, nine graduates across three 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. 

To celebrate the accomplishments of these exceptional students, CxC will be hosting a medal ceremony honoring Distinguished Communicators, as well as celebrating them through a series of digital posts on social media and

This distinction is the first of its kind in the nation and is sponsored by LSU Communication across the Curriculum (CxC), a nationally-recognized program for its excellence in enhancing learning experiences and improving students’ communication skills across all disciplines. As of December 2023 Commencement, LSU has awarded 917 graduates with the Distinguished Communicator Medal.

Continue reading to learn more about these Fall 2023 LSU Distinguished Communicator graduates.

College of Engineering 

Hani AshrafHani Ashraf, Chemical Engineering
Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.
Advisor: Adam Melvin

Hani Ashraf likes to soar, but also keeps herself grounded, literally—two of her favorite hobbies are piloting and gardening, and she says that she “finds joy in acquiring skills that often catch people off guard.” Her time as a UN Youth Ambassador honed her diplomacy skills, and she says that her secret superpower is conflict resolution, rooted in her ability to maintain composure in the face of hostility and defuse tense situations. Her advice to future Distinguished Communicators is to “approach each communication task with an open mind, view challenges as opportunities for growth, and be proactive in seeking feedback.” She takes pride in the relationships she has cultivated with her professors and others at LSU. After graduation, she plans to work with BASF to get experience in the chemical industry before pursuing a PhD in chemical engineering.

Jourdan CheekJourdan Cheek, Chemical Engineering
Minor: Business Administration
Hometown: Ponchatoula, La.
Advisor: Adam Melvin

Jourdan Cheek is proud to have stepped out of her comfort zone and joined several organizations that now “feel like family.” During her time at LSU, she participated in The Society of Women Engineers, the American Institute for Chemical Engineers, and Halliburton Diversity Scholars, as well as working with Dr. Adam Melvin on research about oil recovery. Of all her recognitions and experiences, she is most proud of her Distinguished Communicator medal and most enjoyed her time offshore for two weeks during her internship. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family in Ponchatoula, hanging out outdoors and playing with her dogs. After graduation, she will be taking a job at Halliburton to work in the oil and gas field.

Hannah ElkholyHannah Elkholy, Biological Engineering
Minor: History
Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.
Advisor: Marybeth Lima

Hannah Elkholy is especially proud of her Distinguished Communicator medal because finishing the program “became a way for me to prove my strength to myself.” As an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Anne Grove’s lab in biochemistry, Hannah co-authored a paper on proteins that help protect plants from pathogens that was published in the Journal of Bacteriology. Her most rewarding experience at LSU came through service with Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS), when she served as a reading buddy for a first-grade student at Jefferson Terrace Academy and used their shared love of drawing to build her student’s confidence. After graduation, she will continue working as a medical assistant while deciding between graduate school and medical school.     

Ann JonesAnn Jones, Environmental Engineering
Hometown: Lafayette, La.
Advisor: Aaron Bivins

Ann Jones’s advice to future students and Distinguished Communicators is to “never forget that you can keep improving. You will never reach a limit.” As an environmental engineering major, Ann has worked on projects from gathering data at the Center for River Studies to designing a system for storing drinkable water in space, and also studied hydrology in London as part of a study abroad program. An avid volunteer, Ann sat on the National Panhellenic Council at LSU and served as the scholarship director of her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. Her favorite volunteer position was at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum. She wishes she had a hidden talent, but she has trouble keeping anything secret! She is currently applying to graduate programs.     

Mariana ManchesterMariana Manchester, Industrial Engineering
Hometown: Baton Rouge, La.
Advisor: Gerald Knapp

Mariana Manchester’s hidden talent, jumping rope on a balance beam, is an apt metaphor for her collegiate experience. Working three jobs concurrently while maintaining a full-time course load and taking part in multiple extracurricular activities has allowed her to fully embody hard work and dedication, attributes that she believes will have lasting impacts for her future. Of all the recognitions she’s received, she is most proud of earning the LSU Engaged Citizens Medal. “Earning this award as proof that I've impacted my community in some way is the most rewarding thing to me,” she says. And she is particularly proud of being the first in her family to pursue an engineering degree. Her internship at BASF gave her valuable insight into how a chemical plant operates, and she seized every opportunity to learn along the way. “I felt like a sponge just soaking up all these tiny pieces of information that I may or may not use again,” she says. “It was just really fun.” When she’s not trying to maintain literal and metaphoric balance, she’s fangirling over superheroes and honing her professional DIY skills. Following graduation, Mariana will be working for Entergy as an entry level engineer.

Madalyn MoutonMadalyn Mouton, Environmental Engineering and Civil Engineering*
Hometown: Lafayette, La.
Advisor: Navid Jafari

Madalyn Mouton decided to pursue engineering after watching her hometown suffer during the 2016 flood, saying “I can’t sit here and do nothing when I know I have the ability to try to help make a change.” Her dedication to supporting her community has led her to an internship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working in the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, and to being the first LSU graduate with dual degrees in environmental and civil engineering. She has also been named one of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ New Faces of Civil Engineering, a national honor awarded to only 10 students in the U.S. Madalyn also has a passion for creating in an impressive variety of ways: she paints, crochets, makes puppets, and bakes! After graduation, she will continue her work with the Army Corps of Engineers. She hopes to one day be a professor at a Louisiana college to give back to the community that she loves.   

Nekita PittsNekita Pitts, Mechanical Engineering
Minors: Aerospace Engineering and Robotics Engineering
Hometown: Zachary, La.
Advisor: Ingmar Schoegl

Nekita Pitts knows the value of persistence. It took her four tries to get through her Fluid Mechanics course, but in the end she mastered the course material to the point of qualifying as a supplemental instruction leader for the following two semesters! She most values her third-place recognition in the LSU Discover Day Visual Display category in 2023 as the culmination of her skills as an undergraduate researcher in several LSU labs. Her most surprising use of her communication skills was in convincing her apartment’s leasing office to compromise on their intended rent increase. She took this experience to heart in her advice to future Distinguished Communicators, saying “Most of the time, there is a way to talk things through with another person and come to an agreement or compromise.” Nekita also enjoys wood carving and embroidery, and has created a set of custom pillowcases by embroidering the edges ripped by her washing machine. She is looking forward to one day landing her dream job in the aerospace industry. 

Manship School of Mass Communication

Juliette LeRayJuliette LeRay, Mass Communication (Public Relations)*
Minor: Business Administration
Hometown: Hammond, La.
Advisor: Sadie Wilks

Juliette LeRay’s self-described hidden talent is “super speed,” something that has been particularly handy when juggling her extensive list of extracurriculars with classes, internships, and a personal life. “I value managing my time effectively and efficiently,” she says. And she’s done just that. From achieving her goal of becoming an LSU Tiger like her parents to finding ways to enact her service mindset, Juliette is committed to forging her own meaningful path and setting an example for others. Her philanthropic involvement with her sorority has been a highlight, volunteering to help guide visually impaired peers to and from their classes and building relationships along the way. She has honed her leadership skills through numerous organizations including LSU Ambassadors, Student Government, and the Public Relations Student Society of America (to name only a few) and was elected Homecoming Queen earlier this semester. After graduation, Juliette will continue her internship with ExxonMobil before starting the LSU Flores MBA program in the Fall.

College of Science

Gabrielle BoutteGabrielle Boutte, Biological Sciences
Advisor: Tyrslai Williams-Carter
Hometown: Lafayette, La.

Gabrielle Boutte’s dedication to medicine is personal. Because she so often found herself one of the few Black students in her science courses, Gabrielle turned that isolation into motivation to continue her studies in the hopes of becoming an advocate for minorities in spaces where they are not typically represented. After losing a friend to a fentanyl-laced drug, she joined Dr. David Spivak’s research lab, working on a test to detect fentanyl that she hopes will one day be available to first responders and the general public. She turns roadblocks into opportunities, like setting up Zoom meetings to make sure she completed her communication-intensive coursework during the Covid shutdown. Gabrielle currently works as an intern with the East Baton Rouge Coroner’s Office, which has sparked her interest in a future career as a surgeon. She is currently in the process of applying to medical schools.

*Honors students are designated with an asterisk.