University announces first Outstanding Master’s Graduate


The first person to earn recognition as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate pursued three specializations in communications.

Chasah West concentrated on public relations, advertising and international communication.

She was one of six graduate students who were finalists for the new Outstanding Master’s Graduate designation, which started with the Spring 2015 Commencement.

Each graduate program nominates one student for the award, based on leadership, scholarship, service, and research. A committee, led by the dean of the University’s Graduate School, selects the top candidates.

A UL Lafayette Alumni Association committee interviews each candidate and chooses one for the overall award. That person is recognized during the Commencement General Assembly as the overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate.

This semester’s Outstanding Master’s Graduates who were finalists for the overall award, in addition to West, are Madeleine Richard, Brenda Proctor, Christian Fontenot, Stinne Sundergaard and MeganTagesen.

Chasah West is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the Department of Communication in the College of Liberal Arts.

The daughter of missionaries, she grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Lusaka, Zambia.

As a member of a team led by Dr. Phil Auter, a professor of communication, West contributed research and writing for two conference papers. One was about Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome; the other focused on combating harmful, social media-born gossip. She presented the papers at the second annual International Conference on Media and Rumors in Abha, Saudi Arabia.

In her thesis, West undertook a study of international students to examine which aspects of their university relationships were valued most across cultures. Her findings provide beneficial information for university student recruitment and retention efforts and communication practitioners in general.

She was a graduate assistant in the University’s Office of Communications and Marketing, as well as at Holbrook Multi Media, a local advertising and production agency.

As a member of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, she led a weekly Bible study, and helped to plan campus events and charity drives. She was a guest speaker at the 2015 Emerging Leaders Summit hosted by UL Lafayette’s Office of Student Engagement and Leadership.

She graduated with a 4.0 GPA.

Madeleine Richard is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the B. I. Moody III College of Business Administration.

She coordinated the University’s Study Abroad Program for undergraduate and graduate students. She also created the Study Abroad Ambassador Program, which enables past participants to help recruitment efforts by sharing their passion for studying abroad.

Richard, who earned a 4.0 GPA, coordinated the International Speaker Series for the B. I. Moody III College of Business Administration.

She was president of the University’s MBA Association, and helped increase membership and attendance at its social, networking and community outreach events.

Richard also served on the Student Advisory Council.

Brenda Proctor is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions.

She earned national certification from the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Society in 2012, which requires completion of extra graduate course work, rigorous nursing rotations, and passage of an exam.

Proctor is working on a research project that examines the implementation of evidence-based practice in wound care, in combination with evidence-based diabetes management, to reduce the number of lower limb amputations in Louisiana.

She also developed the “Lower Extremity Amputation Prevention Community Guide,” an educational tool for medical students.

Proctor is a member of several professional nursing organizations, including the American Nurses Association and the Louisiana State Nurses Association. She had a 3.875 GPA.

Christian Fontenot is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the Department of History, Geography, and Philosophy.

In his thesis, “Mapping the Terrible Beauty: Polar Exploration and the British Empire,” Fontenot provided an intellectual and cultural history of British polar exploration. He presented his thesis research at three national academic conferences.

A digital media artist, Fontenot designed exhibit panels for the “Museum on the Move” project, the conversion of a 1954 Airstream trailer into a mobile museum.

Fontenot, who had a 4.0 GPA, received the Dr. Alexander Sas-Jaworsky Endowed History Scholarship and the Amos E. Simpson Award for Best Graduate Research Paper.

At the National Phi Alpha Conference in Albuquerque, N.M., he presented a research paper titled “Empire, Icemen, and the Great White Horizon: Imagined Geography in Nineteenth Century Polar Exploration.”

He was a member of the UL Lafayette chapter of Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society and the American Historical Association.

Stinne Soendergaard is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the Department of Psychology.

Her thesis examines variables that influence reception of, and attitudes toward, communications related to sexual violence prevention. Soendergaard, who had a 4.0 GPA, made a presentation on the subject at the annual convention of the Southwestern Psychological Association.

She also conducted research about empathy and social inhibition as moderators of response to infant crying in female preschoolers, which she presented at an international conference in Berlin.

A scholar/athlete, Soendergaard has been a member of the UL Lafayette water ski team, and the Danish national water ski team. She has also competed and coached for the Danish Waterski Federation.

She plans to obtain a doctorate in sports psychology.

MeganTagesen is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the School of Architecture and Design.

She was a member of a small team that created a master plan for Habitat for Humanity’s Pinhook Pocket Neighborhood in Lafayette. The team also designed a 1,200-square-foot Habitat home.

She designed a multifunctional space for education, leisure, and public meetings in Pecan Island, La., an unincorporated town in Vermilion Parish.

For her master’s project, Tagesen created a concept for converting a vacant “big box” store and parking lot into a community park, collaborative work environment, and living space in New Orleans.

She worked as a teaching assistant in foundation design courses and helped with graduate student recruitment. 

As a graduate assistant, she contributed research for a comprehensive review of UL Lafayette’s architecture program by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.

In 2014, accreditation for UL Lafayette’s School of Architecture and Design was extended for the full term of eight years.

She earned a 4.0 GPA.


Six grad students who received master’s degrees Friday were finalists for UL Lafayette’s first overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award. Chasah West earned that title. Finalists, from left, were: Megan Tagesen, Brenda Proctor, West, Christian Fontenot, Stinne Soendergaard and Madeleine Richard.