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UL Lafayette recognizes top scholars as Outstanding Master’s Graduates

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Tina Billberry is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Outstanding Master’s Graduate.

She is among six finalists for the award. Each will be recognized during Fall 2019 Commencement General Assembly. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. on Friday at the Cajundome.

Each spring and fall semester, individual graduate programs nominate a student for the award. Criteria include leadership, scholarship, service and research.

The dean of UL Lafayette’s Graduate School leads a panel that selects the top candidates. An Alumni Association committee interviews the finalists and chooses an overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate.

Here’s a look at the award finalists.

David Behringer is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate in the Department of Biology. He has a 3.76 GPA.

Behringer’s master’s research focused on redfish. By identifying their movements and dietary habits, he demonstrated the importance of saltmarsh habitats to the survival of juvenile redfish. This is critical to stabilizing redfish populations along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.

He collaborated with biologists at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during his research, which resulted in two peer-reviewed publications and several conference presentations. 

He is employed as a project coordinator at JESCO Environmental Consulting in Jennings, La. There, he works with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Geological Survey to use telemetry to monitor sturgeon movements near two naval shipyards.

Behringer earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies in 2014 from Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. He is the son of Sue Behringer of Severna Park, Maryland.

Tina Billberry is the fall semester’s overall honoree. In addition, she represents the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions as its Outstanding Master’s Graduate, and has a 4.0 GPA.

Billberry examined the use of electronic cigarettes in adolescents and developed a video presentation based on her findings. Her other research projects focused on reducing death rates from sepsis in patients transferred from rural hospitals, and on improved screenings for breast and lung cancers.

She plans to work in a primary care or an urgent care facility following graduation.

Billberry earned an associate degree in nursing in 1996 from LSU Alexandria, and a bachelor’s degree in nursing from UL Lafayette in 2015.

She is the daughter of Karen Baber of Alexandria, La., and the late John Baber. She is married to Milton “Joey” Billberry. The couple has three children, Katelyn, Courtney and Morgan, and live in Alexandria.

Raven Douglas is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate in the Department of Psychology. She has a 3.8 GPA.

Her master’s thesis research explored how anxiety affected risk recognition among victims of sexual assault.

Douglas earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at UL Lafayette in 2017. As an undergraduate and graduate student, she worked in the psychology department’s Sexual Violence Research Lab. There, she helped develop a focus group that studied sexual anxiety, sexual communication and safe-sex behaviors.

She was a graduate assistant and taught introductory undergraduate psychology classes.

Douglas is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She volunteered with Grow Girls, a character development program for adolescents sponsored by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. She also works as assistant executive director of the YMCA of Acadiana. 

Following graduation, Douglas plans to pursue a doctoral degree in applied social psychology. She is the daughter of Dakenya and Keith Douglas of Baton Rouge. 

James Guillory III is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate in the Department of Industrial Technology. He will graduate with a master’s degree in systems technology. Guillory has a 4.0 GPA. 

He conducted his master’s research in the University’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Center. There, Guillory focused on solar-powered charging stations. He also helped create wireless monitoring networks for solar and wind hybrid energy generation systems.

As a graduate assistant, Guillory taught undergraduate courses in analog and digital electronics, and in data acquisition and advanced instrumentation.

His extracurricular activities include leadership of YoungLife, a campus Christian organization. He volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and was captain of the University’s powerlifting team.

Guillory earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology in 2018 from UL Lafayette. He is the son of Danielle Boudreaux and James “Curt” Guillory II of Youngsville, La. 

Following graduation, he plans to work as an associate business consultant with Perficient Inc. in Lafayette.

Jessica Wojtkiewicz is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She has a 4.0 GPA.

Wojtkiewicz’s research focused on improving the performance of short-term solar irradiance forecasting techniques. This is often a challenge for solar plant operators because of the variability and uncertainty of weather conditions.

For another project, she partnered with Schumacher Clinical Partners in Lafayette to develop statistical models to better forecast the number of patients who may visit emergency rooms on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The research was conducted at UL Lafayette’s Center for Visual & Decision Informatics.

Wojtkiewicz authored two peer-reviewed journal publications, and has presented research findings at several national and international conferences.

Following graduation, Wojtkiewicz plans to work as a data scientist.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 2015 from LSU in Baton Rouge. She is the daughter of Donna and Dr. Patrick Wojtkiewicz of Bossier City, La.

Alyssa Zeringue is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate in the School of Kinesiology. She has a 4.0 GPA.

Working alongside a faculty researcher, Zeringue examined the use and effects of exercise supplements. Her research skills led to an appointment as a graduate student researcher at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. There, she worked in the Skeletal Muscle Physiology Department.

She has a pending peer-reviewed publication she co-authored based on her work at Pennington.

At UL Lafayette, she served as the School of Kinesiology’s representative on the Graduate Student Organization; she was also GSO secretary.

Zeringue earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in 2018 from UL Lafayette. She was an undergraduate student researcher in the School of Kinesiology.

Since 2014, she has worked as a deputy sheriff in St. Landry Parish. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a doctoral degree in physical therapy.

She is the granddaughter of Shirley Zeringue of Opelousas, La.

Photo caption: The Fall 2019 Outstanding Master’s Graduates are, from left: Raven Douglas, Department of Psychology; Tina Billberry, College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions; James Guillory III, Department of Industrial Technology; Alyssa Zeringue, School of Kinesiology; and Jessica Wojtkiewicz, Department of Mechanical Engineering. David Behringer, Department of Biology, is not pictured. (Photo credit: Rachel Keyes / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)