Eight students were honored during Fall 2014 Commencement ceremonies as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Alumni Association’s Outstanding Graduates.
Every spring and fall semester, deans from eight academic colleges each nominate a student as an Outstanding Graduate, based on leadership, scholarship and service. A selection committee of the Alumni Association interviews the candidates and selects one to receive the overall award.
The overall Outstanding Graduate will be announced during the Fall Commencement General Assembly on Friday, Dec. 19, at the Cajundome.
Here’s a look at this semester’s Outstanding Graduates.
Nicholas Lott is the Outstanding Graduate for the College of the Arts.
He is an architectural studies major who has a 3.663 cumulative average.
Lott received numerous awards and scholarships for his work, including the Design Excellence Award and the Acme Brick Scholarship Award. He earned a competitive internship with Eskew, Dumez and Ripple, a New Orleans-based multi-disciplinary architectural firm.
In 2012, Lott was a fourth-place finalist in a “Little Libraries” contest. Architecture students were challenged to design and build tiny libraries – big enough to hold about a dozen books – that were placed in Lafayette neighborhoods. The contest was sponsored by the Louisiana chapter of the American Institute of Arts.
Lott was a Marine/Navy hospital corpsman for four years before enrolling at UL Lafayette.
He is the son of Dr. Hulon Lott Jr. and Noel Lott of Baton Rouge, La.
Alexandra Dardar is the Outstanding Graduate for the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration.
She is an accounting major with a 3.89 GPA, and has been on the President’s List.
Dardar was vice president of service for Beta Alpha Psi. At a regional meeting of the honor society, she placed first in the best practices competition.
She was recognized at the UL Lafayette Valedictorian and Top ACT Award Banquet.
Dardar received the Moody College of Business Administration Scholarship.
She attended the Institute of Management Accountants Student Leadership Conference in Indianapolis, Ind., and participated in the UL Lafayette Study Abroad Program in Costa Rica.
Dardar was a member of the 2014 Homecoming Court.
Her community service includes working with Habitat for Humanity, the Autism Society of Acadiana, St. Joseph’s Diner, St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, and North Vermilion High School.
Dardar plans to pursue a master’s of business administration degree at UL Lafayette.
She is the daughter of Clayton and Susan Dardar of Abbeville, La.
April Begnaud is the Outstanding Graduate for the College of Education.
An elementary education major with a 4.0 GPA, Begnaud has been on the President’s List.
She received the TOPS Honors Award, and was a member of the Kappa Delta Pi and the Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.
Her numerous scholarships include the UL Lafayette Transfer Scholarship, the Black Faculty and Staff Association Scholarship, the Ezell Butaud Coleman Foundation Scholarship, the Jesse and Irma Jewell Endowed Scholarship, and the Joan and Alexander Haig Foundation Scholarship.
The Black Faculty and Staff Association recognized Begnaud as Outstanding Female Graduate in the College of Education.
She has performed community service for the United Negro College Fund, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Special Olympics, Autism Society of Acadiana, and Read Across America program.
Begnaud wants to teach elementary students, and plans to pursue a master’s degree in gifted education or mathematics education.
She is the daughter of Paul and Cheryl Lemelle of Lafayette.
Austen Catlin is the Outstanding Graduate for the College of Engineering.
A petroleum engineering major, she has a 3.7 GPA and was on the dean’s list for every semester of her college career.
She earned a Society of Petroleum Engineer’s Evangeline Section Academic Scholarship and the Margaret McMillan Endowed Scholarship. Catlin was vice president of Pi Epsilon Tau Petroleum Engineering Honor Society this academic year. Also, she was a member of the Petrobowl Team that competed at the SPE annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in Amsterdam this year.
In the Summer of 2013, Catlin interned with Halliburton Energy Services, which gave her the chance to observe drilling operations. Last summer, she interned with Chevron as a drilling engineer. Catlin will begin working with Chevron as a drilling engineer in Bakersfield, Calif., after graduation.
She is the daughter of Mike and Judy Catlin of Mountain Home, Ark.
Emma Trahan is the Outstanding Graduate for the College of General Studies.
She is a general studies major with a concentration in arts and humanities.
Trahan has a 3.72 GPA. She was recognized for academic excellence at Honors Convocation ceremonies during the spring semesters in 2013 and in 2014.
She has been a member of the Sigma Alpha Lambda, a national leadership and honors organization.
Her community service includes working with the Games of Acadiana, an annual event that is sponsored by Miles Perret Cancer Services. She also participated in the Buddy Walk, which is sponsored by the Down Syndrome Association of Acadiana.
Trahan is the daughter of David and Suzette Trahan of Abbeville, La.
Taylor McCaulley is the Outstanding Graduate for the College of Liberal Arts.
She is an English major with a 4.0 GPA, and was on the President’s and Dean’s lists.
McCaulley was a member of the UL Lafayette Honors Program, and the Phi Kappa Phi and the Phi Beta Delta honor societies.
Her numerous scholarships include the UL Lafayette Academic Transfer Scholarship, the UL Lafayette Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship, and the Fresenius Medical Care Scholarship.
She served on the Discipleship Team at Our Lady of Wisdom Catholic Church. As Student Director of Formation, she also coordinated Newman Night lectures.
McCaulley interned for the Aquinas Institute for Theology and Catholic Studies, writing material for a course catalog and website articles.
She is a youth group leader at Sacred Heart High School.
McCaulley plans to pursue a master of arts in theological studies at Notre Dame Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in New Orleans.
She plans to become a Christian counselor and writer, or to enter the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word, a religious community in Irondale, Ala.
McCaulley is the daughter of Randy and Melinda McCaulley of Ville Platte, La.
Garrett Darbonne is the Outstanding Graduate for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions.
A member of four honor societies, he has a 3.6 GPA.
Darbonne founded the UL Lafayette chapter of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing and is its president.
He served on the College of Nursing and Allied Health Profession’s Dean’s /BSN Advisory Council for five semesters and represented the college as a member of the Student Government Association. Also, Darbonne served on the Student Leadership Council and was a member of the Student Organization Leadership Association.
He has worked as a volunteer with several organizations, including Ragin’ Cajun Catholics, Faith House of Acadiana, and Rebuilding Together – Lafayette.
Darbonne participated in a mission trip in Kingston, Jamaica, to work with the Catholic Missionaries of the Poor.
He is the son of Arlene and Don Darbonne of Scott, La.
Merlin Dartez Jr. is the Outstanding Graduate for the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences.
A chemistry major with a 3.6 GPA, he earned American Chemical Society certification and a minor in mathematics.
His work has already been published twice in two prestigious chemistry journals.
Since 2010, Dartez has been promoting science and chemistry to students of all ages. He has visited more than 15 elementary, middle and high schools in the area to coordinate a Science Day or offer demonstrations intended to interest students in chemistry.
From August 2011 until 2013, he was a chemistry tutor on campus.
Dartez, three other students and two faculty members, participated in a foreign exchange program in Yinchuan, China, during the summer of 2013. They conducted research with the chemistry and biosciences department at Beifang University there.
He is the son of Helen and Merlin J. Dartez Sr. of Crowley, La.
Photo info: Shown, left to right, are: (Top row) April Begnaud, Austen Catlin, Garrett Darbonne, and Alexandra Dardar. (Bottom row) Merlin Dartez, Jr., Nicholas Lott, Taylor McCaulley, and Emma Trahan.