UL Lafayette recognizes top scholars as Outstanding Master’s Graduates for Spring 2019


Jacob LeBlanc is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Outstanding Master’s Graduate.

LeBlanc was among five finalists for the award. Each will be recognized during the Spring 2019 Commencement General Assembly. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. on Friday at the Cajundome.

Each graduate program nominates 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.

LeBlanc is this year’s overall honoree. In addition, he represents the Department of Industrial Technology as its Outstanding Master’s Graduate. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA while pursuing a master’s degree in systems technology.

LeBlanc’s thesis examined microbial fuel cells, which use natural bacteria to generate electrical currents. The cells are a potential sustainable energy source.

While pursuing his graduate degree, LeBlanc taught industrial and electronics technology courses at South Louisiana Community College. He’s also enrolled in UL Lafayette’s B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration, and will complete an MBA this summer. 

He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from UL Lafayette in 2017, and was the College of Engineering’s Outstanding Graduate that year.

LeBlanc hopes to continue teaching and may work toward a Ph.D. at a later date. He is the son of Vicki and Chris LeBlanc of Scott, Louisiana. 

Here’s a look at the remaining Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award finalists.

Brennan Brunsvik is the School of Geosciences’ Outstanding Master’s Graduate. He is pursuing a degree in geology and has a 4.0 GPA.

Brunsvik’s thesis research involved relocating hypocenters, underground points where earthquake ruptures begin, to reconstruct the L’Aquila quake. The 2009 tremor occurred in Italy, resulting in more than 300 deaths. This work included collaborations with scientists at Columbia University, and the National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology and the State University of Milan, both in Italy.

He co-authored several peer-reviewed journal articles and presented his research findings at numerous national conferences.

Brunsvik is a 2017 graduate of Southern Utah University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in geology. He is the son of Nichole and Robert Brunsvik of Parowan, Utah, and plans pursue a doctoral degree following his graduation from UL Lafayette.

Eva Lieberman is the Department of Psychology’s Outstanding Master’s Graduate. She has a 4.0 GPA.

Lieberman’s master’s thesis examines intoxication and sexual violence. She has presented her research findings at numerous national conferences, and has co-authored a peer-reviewed journal article on intervention by witnesses to sexual assaults. 

She is a research assistant in the psychology department’s Sexual Violence Research Lab, and was a volunteer intern at Hearts of Hope, a local rape crisis and child advocacy center. She continues to work at the center as a family advocate.

Following graduation, Lieberman hopes to teach undergraduate psychology classes and continue her research. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. at a later date.

Lieberman earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2017 at the University of Alabama. She is the daughter of Harriet Lieberman of Katy, Texas.

Manuel Guillermo Rojas Ahumada is Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the School of Music and Performing Arts. He has a 4.0 GPA and is pursuing a master’s degree in music performance.

A drummer and percussionist, Rojas performs with the University’s wind, jazz, and world music ensembles, and in its symphony orchestra. 

Rojas founded and directs the musical group Latino Pulse, which performed at this year’s Festival International de Louisiane. As a volunteer, he teaches members of and arranges music for Les Étoiles de la Louisiane, a children’s vocal ensemble that performs traditional and modern songs in French. 

He earned a bachelor’s degree in musical performance from Universidad Central in Bogotá, Colombia. Following graduation, Rojas hopes to pursue a doctor of music arts degree. He is the son of Marcela Ahumada and Guillermo Rojas of Bogotá.

Chandler G. Steckbeck is the Department of English’s Outstanding Master’s Graduate. She has a 4.0 GPA.

Her concentration is Renaissance and early modern literature and culture. Steckbeck’s thesis explores themes of nature that appear in William Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” She has presented this research and other scholarly work at University and national conferences.

While pursuing her master’s degree, Steckbeck taught several composition and rhetoric courses, as well as British literature. She also worked in the University’s Writing Center, and served as secretary of the English Graduate Student Association.

Following graduation, Steckbeck plans to pursue a Ph.D. with a concentration in English Renaissance dramas.

Steckbeck earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Northwestern Oklahoma State University in 2017. She is the daughter of Sandra and Richard Steckbeck of Enid, Oklahoma.


Photo caption: UL Lafayette’s Spring 2019 Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award finalists are, from left, Chandler G. Steckbeck, Eva Lieberman, Brennan Brunsvik, Jacob LeBlanc and Manuel Guillermo Rojas Ahumada. LeBlanc is the overall award winner. (Photo credit: Rachel Keyes / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)