A total of 1,786 degrees were awarded during the UL Lafayette’s 161st Commencement ceremonies Friday at the Cajundome and Convention Center.
Dr. Jack Damico has attended the UL Lafayette Foundation's Distinguished Professor Award banquet every year since joining the university's faculty in 1991.
" I've said to people over the years that I'm very proud to be a member of this university when I go to those kind of functions and see the quality of the people that we have here," the professor of communicative disorders recalled during a recent interview.
This year, Damico joins esteemed colleagues as a Distinguished Professor Award recipient, along with Dr. Ann Broussard, professor of nursing, and Tom Sammons, professor of architecture. Dr. Jeff Sandoz, assistant professor of educational foundations and leadership, is the Excellence in Teaching Award honoree.
Award recipients are chosen by a committee composed of university administrators and colleagues.
The Distinguished Professor Award program, which began in 1965, is the only university-wide recognition program for faculty. Award winners each receive a stipend and their names are inscribed on plaques on display in Edith Garland Dupré Library.
The Excellence in Teaching Award was added in 1992 to recognize commitment to and effectiveness in teaching and instructional innovation.
The Foundation has awarded a total of 132 Distinguished Professor Awards and 16 Excellence in Teaching Awards.
" This says a tremendous amount for the Foundation Board of Trustees and how much they revere and appreciate our UL faculty," said Julie Bolton Falgout, executive director of the UL Lafayette Foundation.
Professor exemplifies the best of nursing
DR. ANNE BROUSSARD
Dr. Anne Broussard
A thousand thoughts bounded through Anne Broussard's mind while giving birth to her first daughter in 1972.
She thought about the pain.
She thought about the responsibility of being a mother and the hopes and aspirations she had for her newborn child.
She thought about the nursing care she received while pregnant - and how it could be improved.
It was that last thought that redirected her professional career, recalled Broussard, a UL Lafayette nursing professor and a Distinguished Professor Award honoree.
After graduating from USL in 1967, Broussard worked as a medical-surgical nurse in an intensive care unit and a cardiac unit. But it wasn't until her daughter's birth that she realized maternity care was the path she wanted to take in her profession.
" Being pregnant was so important to me personally and I learned so much about self-care, how to eat better and how to prepare for childbirth," she said in a recent interview. "There were some things that I thought could have been done better with my nursing care, where I thought, 'I need to get into this.'
" Every nurse who assists a mother in labor should be fully knowledgeable about the ways to make them more comfortable to better facilitate birth."
That's been Broussard's goal ever since - as a Lamaze childbirth educator, a certified nurse-midwife and, since 2001, a professor in UL Lafayette's College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions.
" She has motivated countless students to explore this area of nursing upon graduation," wrote Melinda Oberleitner, head of UL Lafayette's Nursing Department, in a letter nominating Broussard for the Foundation's award. "Anne has poured her heart and soul into her profession and into the education of nursing students. She epitomizes all of the characteristics that make our profession strong, vital and vibrant."
Broussard infuses her classroom lessons with personal knowledge gained as a nurse, midwife and mother. She insists that her students gather some practical experience before they graduate. Every summer, she supervises about 20 nursing students while they serve as health care interns in Piedras Negras, Mexico. She and her students also work with the Lafayette Parish school system's Genesis Program for pregnant teens.
Numerous community activities and involvement in professional organizations help Broussard keep up with the latest issues in maternity care. But she said it's her students who keep her excited about her profession.
" The thing I enjoy the most is seeing the light go on above a student's head. It is wonderful when things really click for them and they grasp a subject. That's what an educator lives for, those kinds of moments. To know you have been a part of that is really gratifying."
Patient approach helps kids learn to read
DR. JACK DAMICO
Dr. Jack Damico
During his career, Dr. Jack Damico has traveled from Australia to Zimbabwe to talk about his research.
Since joining the UL Lafayette faculty in 1991, the Doris B. Hawthorne Eminent Scholar in Communicative Disorders has presented lectures at 61 universities in the United States and abroad. He has also consulted with 41 school districts across the nation.
But he prefers to live and work in his home state of Louisiana.
He was in New Mexico for almost 10 years before returning to the Bayou State to teach at LSU in Baton Rouge. "When I decided I wanted to leave LSU, I had a number of offers, but I made a conscious decision to stay in the state because too many native sons and daughters leave," he said.
Damico was instrumental in establishing UL Lafayette's doctoral program in applied language and speech sciences. It dovetails with a summer literacy program that he and Holly Damico, director of the university's Speech, Learning and Hearing Center, revived a few years ago. They work with children who have been diagnosed with language disorders or learning disabilities.
" It's an opportunity for us to train graduate students to work with these kids in literacy. It's an opportunity for the kids to become readers or come close to the cusp of reading, which is something that some of them haven't been able to do in several years in their schools. And, it's a great opportunity for me to collect research data. . . So far, we've been very successful," he said.
Instead of teaching the kids how to read by separating sounds and building on their ability to "sound out" words phonetically, the Damicos use what he describes as a "meaning-based approach."
" You read good literature, like The Magic Treehouse series. . . Since they don't know how to read at first, you read with them," he explained, just like parents read bedtime stories to their young children. Ultimately, the kids get the hang of it.
" You just have to be more patient and you have to sort of pitch the lesson at their level, rather than the level of everybody in the classroom. Over these past several years, we've collected lots of data that shows that every one of these kids progressed rather significantly in their abilities to become readers and learners."
It's rewarding work.
" I'm doing what's both a vocation and an avocation for me," Damico said.
'What I enjoy most is teaching'
If he ever decides to leave the field of architecture, Tom Sammons could probably get a job teaching time management.
He has found a way to successfully handle a time-consuming career, community service and church activities.
As director of UL Lafayette's Community Design Workshop, Sammons works with fourth-year architecture students on major urban design and planning projects each semester. He quickly recites some examples: revitalizing Lafayette's Oil Center; rejuvenating the Simcoe Street Corridor; preparing a Jackson Parish master plan; improving Johnston Street; collaborating with planners about a five-lane, north-south beltway around Lafayette; and developing bike and pedestrian paths in University Common on UL Lafayette's campus.
Each project starts from scratch, with a fresh batch of eager students. The planning process begins with public hearings and goes on to incorporate just about every aspect of urban design. For the students, it ends with a comprehensive, professional report filled with renderings, detailed findings and practical recommendations.
But some CDW proposals are put to use, sometimes years after students finished them. So, Sammons assists with implementing the plans.
Despite his hectic schedule, he found time to travel to China last summer to retrace the route of the ancient Silk Road with six other UL Lafayette faculty members. They were participating in the Fulbright Hayes Program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.
" That was such a fantastic trip! That was the good news. The bad news is that it took five weeks of my summer, which is when I generally get a lot of stuff ready for the fall semester.
" Even though I was ready to come back for the fall semester, I had to work every weekend all the way up to November to catch back up because we had all these projects."
More good news/bad news: He'll teach in Paris for six weeks next summer as part of UL France, a study abroad program.
Sammons takes the workload in stride.
" I don't think we could complete what we have to do without the caliber of students we have. That's a credit to my colleagues and a credit to our student body. I can't say enough about them."
The recipient of the UL Lafayette Foundation's Distinguished Professor Award is energized by his work.
" What I enjoy most is teaching. The rest of the stuff is lagniappe," he said. "As long as I'm having fun and my students are having fun, we're going to be successful with these projects."
Darth Vader? Cajun jokes? Whatever works
DR. JEFF SANDOZ
Dr. Jeff Sandoz
Getting students excited about learning is an important part of successful teaching. Maintaining their attention and enthusiasm is another. Dr. Jeff Sandoz does both well.
He once entered a classroom filled with honor students and began lecturing in full Darth Vader regalia, complete with black mask and red "lightsaber." He tells Cajun jokes, with his best Boudreaux and Thibodeaux accent, to grab student's interest. And, he intertwines pop culture with traditional education topics.
This eclectic teaching style helped him earn the Excellence in Teaching Award presented by the UL Lafayette Foundation.
" I have to compete against jobs, relationships, XBox and everything else to get my students' attention," Sandoz said. "I'm always trying to excite them . . . rev up their engines. You have to, if you want to plant the seed of learning."
The assistant professor in the College of Education draws on his own experience as a college student. "Numerous instructors at various levels shaped my outlook on life and philosophy of teaching. I observed what techniques worked and which ones didn't. I drew from both."
Sandoz wants his students, who are learning to be teachers, to do the same. "I tell them when they hear a joke or story that has an emotional impact, to freeze frame the moment and jot it down in a journal. They can always use it in class to grab the attention of their students or to motivate learning."
Dr. Roslin Growe, head of the Educational Foundations and Leadership Department where Sandoz teaches, believes Sandoz' techniques are helpful to future teachers. "He focuses on helping his students retain the material presented as well as the significance of what they are learning," Growe wrote in a letter nominating him for the Foundation honor.
Sandoz also credits his teaching style to the local Toastmasters Club, which promotes public speaking and hones communication skills. He's been a member since 2000 and has served as the group's leader.
" Soon after I joined Toastmasters, I noticed a change in my classroom," Sandoz said. "I learned how to use pauses to pull my students in. I learned how to vary voice intonation and facial expression along with the dramatic use of hand gestures to make my presentation more effective."
In addition to this teaching award, Sandoz has been recognized as an Outstanding Advisor for UL Lafayette and he earned national recognition with a Certificate of Merit Award from the National Academic Advising Association.