Alexandra Arceneaux holds her service dog, Mishka's, honorary degree. Arceneaux battled
back from Neuromyelitis optica, a condition that left her paralyzed from the shoulders
down, to graduate on Dec. 16 with a degree in nutrition and food sciences from the
LSU College of Agriculture.Photo by Tobie Blanchard
When Alexandra Arceneaux crossed the stage with her service dog, Mishka, at the LSU
College of Agriculture commencement ceremony on Dec. 16 at the Maddox Fieldhouse,
the crowd erupted in applause. To say Arceneaux’s journey to graduation had obstacles
is to understate her struggle.
Arceneaux, of Bogalusa, La., came to LSU in 2008, but before she could finish her
degree, she developed Neuromyelitis optica, a condition that left her paralyzed from
the shoulders down.
“It’s sort of like a cousin to multiple sclerosis,” Arceneaux said. “But it comes
This was in 2012. Arceneaux spent the next year and half recovering in therapy. She
regained use of her arms but remains in a wheelchair.
“I could have continued in therapy to focus on walking, but I wanted to come to back
to school and get my degree,” she said.
Arceneaux received her degree in nutrition and food sciences with a focus on food
science and technology. She hopes to work in quality assurance in the food industry.
“The program had everything I wanted out of science,” she said. “My food science
professors have been so supportive, realizing my limitations. I felt a sense of community
in the program.”
Mishka, a Great Pyrenees, helped Arceneaux navigate the LSU campus. Mishka pulls Arceneaux’s
wheelchair, but getting around campus presented some challenges, including squirrels
that would sometimes distract Mishka.
LSU was very accommodating, Arceneaux said. She said she always felt comfortable asking
for things she needed to make her experience better.
Arceneaux is now turning her focus to her career, but she said she still hopes to
“I’m young. There is a lot of technology to be developed, so I’m hopeful,” she said.
Arceneaux said she doesn’t feel like her quality of life is diminished because of
her disability. With Mishka, she can live independently – he provides support when
she is standing and is trained to pick up things for her.
“I am doing everything I want to do, and going where I want to go,” she said.
Mishka, who attended all of Arceneaux’s classes, received an honorary degree from
the College of Agriculture at the commencement ceremony.