Eight UL Lafayette students recognized as Spring 2024 Outstanding Graduates


Karius Joseph is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s overall Outstanding Graduate.

Joseph is among eight award finalists who will be recognized Friday and Saturday during Spring 2024 Commencement ceremonies. Individual ceremonies for UL Lafayette’s eight academic colleges will be held at the Cajundome and the Cajundome Convention Center.

Each spring and fall semester, deans from the University’s academic colleges nominate a student as Outstanding Graduate. 

Nominations are based on leadership, scholarship and service. An Alumni Association committee interviews candidates and selects one to receive the overall award.

In addition to being the spring semester’s overall honoree, Joseph is the Outstanding Graduate Finalist for the College of Engineering. A chemical engineering major, he has a 3.97 GPA.

His research interests and expertise include lithium-ion batteries and freestanding electrodes. Joseph co-authored a conference paper that detailed research to advance the development of composite electrodes and the potential for developing high energy density batteries using 3-D printing.

Joseph earned a Supervised Undergraduate Research grant. SURE grants are awarded by the Louisiana Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, which is supported by the National Science Foundation. He also earned two LEAF Awards from the University, which recognize undergraduate student research, creativity and scholarship.

Joseph established the Karius Kares Foundation, a nonprofit that assists local churches, charities, homeless shelters, food pantries and disadvantaged families. He will work for ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge, La. Joseph is the son of Mona Gordon and Kevin Joseph of Breaux Bridge, La.

Here’s a look at the remaining Spring 2024 Outstanding Graduates.

Gloria Church is the Outstanding Graduate Finalist for the College of Liberal Arts. She is an anthropology major with a 3.8 GPA.

Church served as co-president of the campus chapter of the Anthropology Society and was vice president for the Acadiana chapter of the Louisiana Archaeological Society. She is a member of the Society for American Archaeology.

Her honor’s thesis centers on cultural features related to an archaeological site in the Kisatchie National Forest. Church’s other research has focused on the history of the Ile Copal-LeRosen site, and mortar and brick analysis of archaeological remains from Evergreen Plantation. Her research in campus laboratories includes analyzing and cataloguing artifacts.

Church is considering graduate schools, with plans to study anthropology. Her eventual goal is a career in academia or government. She is the daughter of Jessica and Jason Church of Natchitoches, La.  

Lily Maria Guidry is the Outstanding Graduate Finalist for the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences. She is majoring in chemistry. Guidry has a 4.0 GPA.

Her chemistry research has been included in articles that have been or will be published in six peer-reviewed journals. Guidry was lead author for an article that examined unimolecular decay dynamics. It was published in the journal Photochem.

She has presented research at a variety of local, state and national scientific conferences, including at the American Chemical Society national conference in San Francisco. Guidry served as president of the UL Chemistry Academic Mentoring Matters Program.

She plans to earn a master’s degree in industrial chemistry before attending medical school, with aspirations of becoming a family practice physician. Her parents are Sonia Guidry and Troy Guidry of Broussard, La.

Chloe Hardin is the Outstanding Graduate Finalist for the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration. She is double majoring in accounting and finance. Hardin has a 3.71 GPA. 

She earned a LEAF Award for her project titled “The Integration of Artificial Intelligence in Accounting and Finance.” The University’s Student Center for Research, Creativity and Scholarship coordinates the awards.

Hardin has organized tutoring sessions for accounting and finance courses. She served as president and vice president of the campus chapters of Beta Alpha Psi and the Financial Management Association International. 

Her widespread community service includes paper drives for Faith House and a supply drive for The Hub. Hardin will work for an accounting firm. She also plans to pursue an MBA from the University. Her parents are David and Felecity Hardin of Abbeville, La.

Emily B. LeBlanc is the Outstanding Graduate Finalist for the College of the Arts. She is an architectural studies major. Her GPA is 3.97.

LeBlanc was a two-year member of the Pride of Acadiana Color Guard, and served as public relations officer for the campus chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students. She earned a LEAF Award and the College of the Arts’ Rising Star Award. LeBlanc presented her research project titled “Greg Guirard: Capturing Life inside the Atchafalaya Basin” during the University’s Undergraduate Research Conference.

LeBlanc will pursue a master’s degree in architecture at UL Lafayette, then earn her license to practice in Louisiana. Her eventual plans are to own an architectural firm, and focus on issues such as coastal preservation. She is the daughter of Alvin LeBlanc and Misty LeBlanc of Houma, La. 

Roxie Jackson is the Outstanding Graduate Finalist for University College. She is a general studies major. Jackson has a 3.84 GPA.

She is a first-generation college student who has received the University’s Honors Convocation and Academic Excellence Award. Her widespread community service includes reading to visually impaired students and to autistic students. She also mentored middle school and high school students, providing guidance in areas such as managing social pressures.

Following graduation, she will pursue a master’s degree in education, with a focus on curriculum and instructional studies. Her career plans include working in roles that enable her to influence educational policies and practices and foster engaging learning environments.

Her husband is James Butler III. She is the mother of Ryder Jackson and Jamerson Butler. Her mother is Ursula Jackson of New Iberia, La.

Gabrielle Marceaux McCleary is the Outstanding Graduate Finalist for the College of Education & Human Development. She is an early childhood education major with a 3.97 GPA.

McCleary served as vice president of the Educators Rising campus organization. Her poem titled “Men of Today and My Men of Another Day” earned second place as part of the UNIV 100 Showcase. McCleary is a youth minister at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church. She has coached youth softball teams and volunteered at local youth track and field meets.

She plans to teach, and pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership at the University. Her goal is to work in administration at an elementary school. McCleary is married to Ethan Michael McCleary. Her parents are Gabe and Richelle Marceaux of Kaplan, La.

Symone Pierre is the Outstanding Graduate Finalist for the College of Nursing & Health Sciences. A nursing major, she has a 3.22 GPA.

Pierre represented the college as its Student Government Association president, and served on the University’s Campus Planning Committee. She earned three Black Student Leadership Awards, which are bestowed by the Black Faculty and Staff Association.

Pierre belongs to the National Black Nurses Association and the Acadiana Black Nurses Association, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Her community service includes with Gentle Teaching of Acadiana and the Second Harvest Food Bank.

She will work in the medical/surgical unit of a hospital. Pierre also intends to earn a master’s degree in nursing in advance of working as an acute care nurse practitioner. She is the daughter of Ericka Pierre and Lionel Pierre of Bossier City, La.

Learn more about Spring 2024 Commencement.

Photo caption: UL Lafayette's Spring 2024 Outstanding Graduates, shown holding their awards, are, from left: Roxie Jackson, University College; Gabrielle Marceaux McCleary, College of Education & Human Development; Gloria Church, College of Liberal Arts; Overall Outstanding Graduate Karius Joseph, College of Engineering; Lily Maria Guidry, Ray P. Authement College of Sciences; Emily B. LeBlanc, College of the Arts; Symone Pierre, College of Nursing & Health Sciences; and Chloe Hardin, B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration. Also pictured are Mark Mouton, UL Lafayette Alumni Association executive board president, far left, and Dr. Joseph Savoie, University president, far right. Photo credit: Paul Kieu / University of Louisiana at Lafayette