A P U B L I C AT I O N F O R A L U M N I , S T U D E N T S A N D F R I E N D S O F T H E U N I V E R S I T Y O F N E W O R L E A N S

                                                                                                                         SPRING 2020

 Chris Dier
is Louisiana
 of the Year
Sand under their feet and a blanket
of blue sky overhead makes for
perfect beach volleyball practice
conditions for the Privateers.
2   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
T A B L E             O F
UNO alumnus David Burnham,
paleontologist at the University of Kansas
Biodiversity Institute and Natural History
Museum in Lawrence, Kansas.

                                                  F E AT U R E S
                                             22   LOUISIANA TEACHER OF THE YEAR
                                                  Chalmette High School history teacher and
                                                  UNO alumnus Chris Dier is the Louisiana
                                                  Teacher of the Year and one of just four
                                                  finalists for the national title.

                                             26   DIGGING UP THE PAST
                                                  Paleontologist David Burnham unearths
                                                  rare finds.

                                             30   OUTSTANDING IN HER FIELD
                                                  Alumna Yelena Rivera, a civil engineer, plots
                                                  a course to success.

                                             32   A FRANCOPHILE IN FRANCE
                                                  Graduate student Kathy Bradshaw always
                                                  had an affinity for all things French. An
                                                  internship in France was a dream come true
                                                  for the self-proclaimed “Francophile.”

                                             34   STRINGS IN HARMONY
                                                  T-Ray the Violinist performs popular hits in
                                                  a fresh way.

                                                  DEPARTMENT S
                                              5   CAMPUS SCENE
                                             10   NEWS AND EVENTS
                                             18   FACULTY FOCUS
                                             36   THE UNO TRAVELER
                                             40   ATHLETICS
                                             44   DONOR SPOTLIGHT
                                             46   ALUM NOTES
                                             52   THEN AND NOW
                                                           SPRING 2020    S I LV E R & B L U E   3
time I am writing this message and you are reading it. Disruption has roiled our campus,
                                                                                                                VOLUME 44                     s   ISSUE 1
our university community and our world, leaving us acutely aware of our vulnerabilities as a
society. The worldwide pandemic has provoked understandable fear and anxiety among our
students and employees; I am sure the same is true for many of you. We’ve been forced to                                EXECUTIVE EDITOR
                                                                                                                           Littice Bacon-Blood
cancel traditional campus events. Students have returned home prematurely to continue their
classes via remote instruction. Faculty and staff are working from home. Sadly, we decided to
                                                                                                                                Adam Norris
postpone spring commencement.
                                                                                                                      DESIGN AND LAYOUT
    In spite of all of these challenges, I thought it important to make sure that this issue of Silver                        Eric Gernhauser
& Blue arrived in your mailbox. The people contained within these pages—UNO students,                              CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
faculty and alumni—are the connective tissue of our university community. These are our fellow                                 Matt Schaefer
Privateers. We are linked through a common affinity for and a pride in our institution. This                                PHOTOGRAPHY
university is more than just a physical place; it is our people and our triumphs. The stories you will                      Shane Banegas
                                                                                                                              Avery Gray
read here can inspire hope and be a salve for the spirit as we endure this collective hardship. As we                   Joshua David Matthews
have been since our inception, the University of New Orleans is a resilient community. It was the                       Tracie Morris Schaefer
first and only university in New Orleans to reopen during the fall 2005 semester after Hurricane
Katrina and the failure of the levees. That resilience has been on full display in recent weeks.
    I offer my gratitude to our faculty and staff who have chosen to put our students first. All                      Send Correspondence to:
                                                                                                                       Silver and Blue Editor
                instructors had to quickly move their courses online and continue to teach remotely.                 University of New Orleans
                  This is a Herculean task. I could not be more appreciative of their dedication,                    Administration Building 103
                                                                                                                        2000 Lakeshore Drive
                  creativity and innovation. Our staff has continued to support our students in a
                                                                                                                       New Orleans, LA 70148
                       variety of ways. The delivery method may be different, but their approach of                     Phone: (504) 280-6832
                            care and concern remains intact. I would like to thank our students for                 Email:
                              their patience and understanding. They are the reason we do what we
                                do. We will help them through these travails together. Finally, I’d like to
                                  acknowledge the steadfast support, encouragement and assistance of
                                   our alumni and friends. I believe the bonds that connect us all will
                                   only strengthen as we persevere through this crisis.
                                         Please allow me to make an appeal on behalf of our students.
                                                                                                               Silver & Blue Magazine is published by
                                Many of our supporters have asked me how they can help. For those              the University of New Orleans. Articles
                               who have the ability, please consider a gift to the UNO First Student          represent the opinions of the authors and
                                                                                                                do not necessarily reflect the views of
                               Support Fund ( Its purpose is to support our students in                  anyone but the authors.
                               their pursuit of a UNO degree. Given the unprecedented circumstances            To inquire about alumni events or to join
                               of the pandemic, those needs have become more critical. I will close                  the UNO Alumni Association,
                                                                                                                   contact: Office of Alumni Affairs,
                                by quoting the insightful words of UNO alumnus and political                          University of New Orleans,
                                                                                                                        New Orleans, LA 70148
                                commentator Clancy DuBos: “Today, as we confront COVID-19,                               Phone: (504) 280-2586
                                plenty of folks who aren’t sick are still suffering. Many are out of work,                Fax: (504) 280-1080
                                 while others, especially health care workers, are pushed beyond
                                                                                                                      © 2020 The University of New Orleans
                                 human limits. So let’s remember the most important lesson of Katrina         This public document was published at a total cost
                                                                                                              of $21,475. Forty-five thousand (45,000) copies of
                                  by doing all we can for one another—friends, family and strangers           this public document were published in this first
                                                                                                              and only printing at a cost of $21,475. There will be
                                   alike. That’s what instills the priceless gift of hope.”                   no reprints, so the total cost of all printings of this
                                                                                                              document is $21,475. This document was published
                                                                                                UNO Proud,    by the University of New Orleans, 200 Lakeshore
                                                                                        John Nicklow          Dr., New Orleans, LA.70148, to promote the purpose
                                                                                                              of the University under authority of 17:3351(A)(12).
                                                                                              PRESIDENT       This material was printed in accordance with the
                                                                                                              standards for printing by state agencies established
                                                               @UNOPresidentJN                @unopresident   pursuant to R.S. 43:31. Printing of this material was
                                                                                                              purchased in accordance with the provisions of
                                                                                                                    Title 43 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes.

4   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020

                       HEADLINES AND HAPPENINGS

                 AT FALL COMMENCEMENT
                     Entrepreneur and former New Orleans Saints
                 star receiver Marques Colston was the principal
                 speaker at the University of New Orleans fall com-
                 mencement on Dec. 13.

                                  SPRING 2020    S I LV E R & B L U E   5
In his address, Marques Colston
urged graduates to set actionable
goals that exceed expectations, to
become a master of their craft and
to work consistently to create posi-
tive habits.
“The harder you work, and the
more you dig in, the more you stack
the odds of success in your favor,”
Colston said.

                                         CAREER FAIR
                                         A career fair sponsored by
                                         the Office of Career Services
                                         in October attracted nation-
                                         al, international and local
                                         companies who recruited for
                                         internships, part-time work
                                         and full-time positions. Em-
                                         ployers represented a range
                                         of industries, including those
                                         from hospitality, retail and
                                         food service to engineering,
                                         financial services, medical
                                         and government agencies.

6   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
Famed jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, an emeritus faculty member, plays at
Jazz at the Sandbar at The Cove on the University of New Orleans’ campus
on Oct. 2. Jazz at the Sandbar is presented each Wednesday night for eight
weeks during the fall and spring semesters and features a different renowned
jazz artist who performs with UNO music students. Marsalis established
the music series in 1990. Sadly Marsalis died in April at the age of 85 from
pneumonia brought on by COVID-19, according to family members.

                                         TRUNK OR TREAT
                                         Snowballs, popcorn, a kid
                                         friendly DJ and a bouncy
                                         slide – along with lots of free
                                         candy – marked the trunk-or-
                                         treat event held in the Human
                                         Performance Center parking
                                         lot on Oct. 28. The event was
                                         sponsored by the Progressive
                                         Black Student Union.

                                       SPRING 2020   S I LV E R & B L U E   7
         The University of New Orleans offers
         the only civil, electrical, mechanical
         and naval architecture and marine
         engineering programs in the metro
         area, making it the ideal host for a
         National Engineer’s Week event. The
         value of engineering was on display
         with dozens of interactive exhibits
         during a daylong event held on cam-
         pus Feb. 19 that drew nearly 2,000
         area middle and high school students.

                                                  It was dirty fun for a
                                                  good cause when teams
                                                  of students, alumni and
                                                  residents battled for the
                                                  golden volleyball trophy
                                                  in the annual mud fest
                                                  known as Swampball.
                                                  The volleyball games,
                                                  played in water-filled pits
                                                  in the quad, raise money
                                                  for student scholarships.
                                                  The event is sponsored by
                                                  the UNO Ambassadors
                                                  each fall.

8   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
Laissez les bons temps rouler! Indeed, the
good times did roll as the Krewe of UNO
made its way through campus on Feb. 18,
celebrating its 2020 theme of “2 Infinity &
Bey0nd!” Parade-goers were bestowed with
plenty of Privateer-flavored throws and
savored free king cake as the parade culmi-
nated at the University Center.

               SPRING 2020   S I LV E R & B L U E   9
University Celebrates Alumni-                                                  President John Nicklow speaks during
                                                                               the celebratory luncheon honoring the
Led Businesses at UNO 25 Event                                                 2020 class of UNO 25.

PRIVATEER PRIDE TOOK                      others. Some serve families
center stage at a celebratory             in their own neighborhoods
luncheon Jan. 16 for the 2020             while others have clients across
class of UNO 25. The event,               the country and around the
held in the silver and blue hued          globe.
Grand Ballroom at the Ritz-                   “To all of our honorees,
Carlton, New Orleans, honored             your university is especially
25 businesses and nonprofit               proud of your accomplish-
organizations led or owned by             ments,” UNO President John
UNO alumni.                               Nicklow said. “Your achieve-
    Honorees represented a                ment is the best form of valida-
variety of industries includ-             tion that your alma mater can
ing engineering, health care,             receive. Your professional status
education, transportation,                confers a level of prestige on the
hospitality, accounting, bank-            University of New Orleans that
ing, construction, technology,            we cannot generate in any other
human resources, marketing                way. We deeply appreciate you
and public relations, among               and your success.”

     The 2020 class of UNO 25 is:
      Baptist Community Ministries, New Orleans                                       Hotard Coaches Inc., New Orleans
      Blue Runner Foods, Mandeville                                                   Infinity Engineering Consultants LLC, Metairie
      Brand Society, New Orleans                                                      M S Benbow & Associates, Metairie
      CommTech Industries, Metairie                                                   Parking Management Services Inc., New Orleans
      Crescent Technology Inc., New Orleans                                           Payroll RX LLC, Metairie
      Davis Davis & Harmon LLC-Sales Tax Experts, Dallas, Texas                       Satsuma Café, New Orleans
      The Dupuy Group, New Orleans                                                    Second Line Brewing, New Orleans
      Edward Hynes Charter School, New Orleans                                        Spears Group, New Orleans
      Electromedical Products International Inc., Mineral Wells, Texas                Stokes & Associates, Metairie
      Eustis Engineering LLC, Metairie                                                TJ’s Carnival & Mardi Gras Supplies, Terrytown
      Fourrier & de Abreu Engineers LLC, Baton Rouge                                  Universal Data Inc., New Orleans
      French and Montessori Education Inc., Audubon Schools, New Orleans              UNO Federal Credit Union, New Orleans
      Gibbs Construction, New Orleans

10   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
Gloria Walker is New Vice President for Business Affairs
GLORIA WALKER, THE NEW                                                                                             house,” says Walker, who grew
vice president for business affairs                                                                                up in Dallas.
and chief financial officer at                                                                                          Walker spent seven years
the University of New Orleans,                                                                                     as the executive vice chancellor
laughingly refers to herself as an                                                                                 for finance and administration
analytical “bean counter” and a                                                                                    and CFO for the 70,000-student
“workaholic.”                                                                                                      Houston Community Col-
     She also considers herself                                                                                    lege where she oversaw a $300
fiercely loyal to her employees                                                                                    million operating budget and a
and a motivator who believes                                                                                       $600 million capital improve-
mentoring is a key to helping the                                                                                  ment budget, among other
University meet its mission of                                                                                     duties.
providing educational excel-                                                                                            “I’m not afraid to make hard
lence.                                                                                                             decisions,” Walker says. “I take
     “I don’t like to get in the                                                                                   a strategic approach to decision
weeds—I have the skill set to do                                                                                   making and understanding what
that—but I really like to men-                                                                                     the issues are. I’m a fact finder.”
tor folks and give my staff as                                                                                          Walker says her role in
much control over their subject                                                                                    keeping the University of New
matter as possible,” says Walker,     Houston Community College.           operations and business services        Orleans successful is ensuring
a certified public accountant by           When Walker arrived at          gleaned from different types of         that resources are available for
trade and a big-city girl by birth.   Texas Southern, the university       institutions. Early in her career,      the institution to execute its
“Critical, I think, to the mission    was on the brink of insolvency.      she worked as a state auditor in        mission.
of the institution, is having         Over a three-year period, she        Texas but quickly realized her               “Just as if you were in a For-
people who are well-versed in         helped develop a financial plan      personality was not suited to the       tune 500 company, you’re trying
their subject matter.”                and created operating policies       often-isolating work.                   to develop the best product,”
     Walker comes to the Uni-         that kept the university finan-           “I’m a people person,” says        Walker says. “The best product
versity with more than 25 years       cially stable.                       Walker. “When I got to higher           is our student, that’s our end
of executive-level leadership         “I, working with the president       education accounting, I was just        results. So, in order to do that
experience in higher education.       and the leadership team there,       flourishing! I really love being        we must have the resources to
She holds a bachelor’s degree in      was able to keep them from be-       around the students. You can see        deliver education in a fashion
accounting from the University        ing insolvent,” Walker says.         the bigger picture of what higher       that students are going to have a
of Houston, an MBA from the                Throughout her tenure in        education does.”                        monetary gain at the end of the
University of St. Thomas in           higher education, Walker has              She left state government          day from being with us; either
Houston and a doctoral degree         been primarily responsible for       for the private sector, working         getting a better job or getting a
in higher education administra-       establishing the finance plan and    as an accountant in the oil and         job or going into research.”
tion from Northeastern Univer-        polices, and financial report-       gas industry for several years.              Walker says higher educa-
sity in Boston.                       ing for the institution. She has     She later became the chief              tion is a business with a budget
     She succeeded Gregg Lassen       developed, implemented and           financial officer and controller        that spans across all areas of the
who retired.                          maintained internal control          for the Harris County-Houston           institution.
     Walker, who arrived on cam-      and financial reporting policies,    Sports Authority where she was               “It’s incumbent on us to
pus Jan. 21, was most recently        standards and procedures that        responsible for construction and        make sure our product is good,”
vice president for finance and        ensure compliance.                   managing the debt on Houston’s          she says. “The business side of
administration at Cowley Col-              “I’m about growing the          professional sport arenas and           that is looking at the resources
lege in Kansas. She was previ-        bottom line. I’m about students      ancillary facilities, including the     and how do we develop those
ously executive vice president        being successful,” says Walker.      construction of Minute Maid             monetary resources and how do
and chief operating officer at        “If students are successful, our     Field for the Houston Astros.           we get the money beyond tuition
Texas Southern University in          bottom line is going to grow. It’s        “I knew they did a lot of          and fees, state appropriation—all
Houston as well as executive          going to attract more students.”     construction and bonding                of those avenues … to make sure
vice chancellor for finance and            Walker has broad knowledge      in Texas so I wanted to learn           the institution is affordable for
administration and CFO at             of all major areas of financial      finances from that side of the          the students we attract.”

                                                                                                                 SPRING 2020   S I LV E R & B L U E   11
Alumni Achievement Celebrated at 2019 Distinguished Alumni Gala
ALUMNI ACHIEVEMENT                        honored their own distinguished             College of Business        the Department of Veterans
was on full display at the 2019           alumni of the year.                  Administration: Timothy J.        Affairs, including serving as
University of New Orleans                     Former Homer Hitt                Adams. Adams is the president     the director of pathology and
Distinguished Alumni Gala at              Alumnus of the Year Clancy           and CEO of Systems Appli-         laboratory medicine at the New
The National WWII Museum.                 DuBos served as the master of        cation & Technologies, Inc.       Orleans VA Medical Center.
The U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The            ceremonies and President John        (SA-TECH) in Maryland.                   Athletics: Randy Bush.
Boeing Center, was a dramatic             Nicklow provided the audience               College of Liberal Arts,   Bush has spent 13 seasons as the
venue for the 500 attendees               with a review of recent university   Education and Human Devel-        assistant to the general manager
celebrating the University and            highlights, including growth in      opment: Jan Aronson. An           of the Chicago Cubs. He was
the profound influence of its             enrollment and an expansion of       accomplished painter, Aronson     the head baseball coach at the
graduates.                                partnerships.                        has exhibited her works both      University of New Orleans from
    Entergy Louisiana president               “I hope that tonight’s event     nationally and internationally    2000-04, and he spent his entire
and CEO Phillip May received              will continue to build shared        over the past four and a half     12-year major league baseball
the 2019 Homer L. Hitt Distin-            pride and reinforce the value        decades.                          career playing for the Minnesota
guished Alumni Award, while               of our beloved university,”                 College of Engineering:    Twins.
Roxanna Rodriguez-Torres,                 Nicklow said. “As I say to nearly    Riley Parker. Parker is the
the National Security Council’s           every group I speak to: New          discipline lead and technical
                                                                                                                 Honorees Roxanna Rodriguez-
director for Transnational                Orleans doesn’t work without the     authority for instrumentation     Torres and Phillip May in
Organized Crime, accepted the             University of New Orleans.”          and controls engineering for      photograph on the left. Honorees
2019 Homer Hitt Young Alumna                  In addition to May and           Shell in the Gulf of Mexico.      seated from left, Timothy Adams,
of the Year Award. Additionally,          Rodriguez-Torres, the following             College of Sciences:       Riley Parker, Jan Aronson, Dr.
the University’s four academic            UNO alumni were also recog-          Dr. Fred H. Rodriguez Jr. Dr.     Fred Rodriguez, Randy Bush,
colleges and Privateer Athletics          nized:                               Rodriguez spent 35 years with     Rodriguez-Torres and May.

12   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
news in brief
                                                                                                        UNO’s Green Initiatives
                                                                                                           As University of New
                                                                                                        Orleans officials plan for the
                                                                                                        evolution of the campus,
                                                                                                        sustainability efforts are criti-
                                                                                                        cal elements in determining
                                                                                                        the future of the institution’s
                                                                                                        physical space, President
                                                                                                        John Nicklow says.
                                                                                                           The University’s Sustain-
                                                                                                        ability Circle, made up of
                                                                                                        faculty, staff and students, has
                                                                                                        implemented several initiatives around campus, such as the new bicycle
                                                                                                        fix-it station located between the University Center and the Recreation and
                                                                                                        Fitness Center.
                                                                                                           Two of the university’s visible green initiatives are a new recycling
                                                                                                        team and the installation of thousands of energy efficient bulbs around
                                                                                                        campus that not only saves money but also brightens the campus and
                                                                                                        improves safety.
                                                                                                           The University also has finalized plans with Entergy New Orleans (ENO)
                                                                                                        for a solar panel project on top of two buildings on campus that will add
                                                                                                        600-Kilowatts of clean energy to the New Orleans grid. This partnership with
                                                                                                        UNO is an important step for ENO’s commercial rooftop solar program, and
                                                                                                        the community, according to company and university officials.

                                                                                                        Career Services Opens ‘Suited for Success Career Closet’
                                                                                                          The University of New Orleans Office of Career Services has opened a
                                                                                                        career closet that contains business attire for students to use for interviews,
                                                                                                        career fairs or other professional networking events.
                                                                                                          The clothing is free and students get to keep the items, career services
                                                                                                        director Celyn Boykin says.
                                                                                                          The career closet, which is located in Room 250 in the University Center,
                                                                                                        has men and women clothing and shoes. Students can make an appoint-
                                                                                                        ment to shop at the closet through the career services Handshake app.

                                                                                                        Le Kèr Creole Exhibit Unveiled At The Cabildo
                                                                                                          The Louisiana State Museum, in partnership with the Neighborhood Story
                                                                                                        Project at the University of New Orleans and L’Union Creole, has unveiled
                                                                                                        “Le Kèr Creole (The Creole Heart): Runaway Slaves, Music, and Memory in
                                                                                                        Louisiana” at the Cabildo in New Orleans.
                                                                                                          The exhibition explores the legacy of the Louisiana Creole language
                                                                                                        through the historical memory of Juan San Malo, the leader of a com-
                                  Jazz Studies Professor Steve Masakowski Receives                      munity founded by former enslaved people in the 1780s and contemporary
                                  Lifetime Achievement Award in Music Education                         Creole music.
                                                                                                          Rachel Breunlin, University of New Orleans assistant professor of
                                    University of New Orleans jazz studies professor Steve Masa-
                                                                                                        anthropology and co-founder of the Neighborhood Story Project, curated
                                  kowski was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Music
                                                                                                        the multimedia exhibit along with artists Bruce Sunpie Barnes and
                                  Education by OffBeat Magazine, a publication dedicated to New
                                                                                                        Francis X. Pavy.
                                  Orleans music and culture.
                                    Masakowski arrived at UNO in 1992 and holds the Coca-Cola
                                  Endowed Chair of Jazz Studies, a title first held by his teacher and   Bayer, Spicer awarded Computer Science Scholarship
                                  mentor, Ellis Marsalis. He has released numerous CDs and has been     Founded By Google Engineer
                                  an active member and composer for the award winning New Orleans

                                                                                                           University of New Orleans students Ashley Bayer and Veronica Spicer
                                  jazz group, Astral Project.
                                                                                                        are the recipients of the 2019 Women in Computer Science scholarship
                                    Masakowski has published lessons in Guitar Player magazine,
                                                                                                        founded by University of New Orleans alumna Sabrina Farmer, who is vice
                                  authored a book on jazz ear training for Mel Bay, and also performs
                                                                                                        president of engineering site reliability at Google.
                                  and records with his children, bassist Martin and vocalist Sasha, a
                                                                                                           Bayer and Spicer each received a $6,000 scholarship to offset the cost
                                  graduate of UNO.
                                                                                                        of tuition, books and living expenses for the fall 2019-2020 academic year.
                                    He received the lifetime achievement award at the OffBeat Best of
                                                                                                        They also receive mentoring from Farmer who earned a bachelor’s degree
                                  the Beat Business Awards on Jan.16.
                                                                                                        in computer science from the University in 1995.

                                                                                                                  To read more about these stories, visit
                                                                                                                                          SPRING 2020      S I LV E R & B L U E   13
The Privateer Pledge: A Promise to Orleans Parish Students
STARTING IN THE FALL                      order to qualify, students must     fall 2020 semester.                  education and ensure there is
2020 semester, the University of          be admitted as a freshman to             “A University of New Or-        one less obstacle in a student’s
New Orleans will begin offering           the University of New Orleans       leans education can transform        pursuit of a UNO degree.”
the Privateer Pledge, a promise           and must have filed the Free        a student’s life,” says President         In order to maintain the
that the University will fill the         Application for Federal Student     John Nicklow. “The Privateer         award, students must remain
unmet financial need for tuition          Aid (FAFSA). They must also         Pledge is our promise to eligible    enrolled full-time (minimum
and fees of eligible New Orleans          be eligible for a Pell Grant and    Orleans Parish students that we      of 12 hours) and keep a GPA of
students.                                 their annual family income          will marshal all of the federal,     2.0 or higher.
    The pledge applies to Or-             cannot exceed $60,000. The first    state and institutional aid neces-        The Privateer Pledge covers
leans Parish residents who grad-          group of Privateer Pledge fresh-    sary to fill any financial gap       four years of unmet need for
uate from a public or private             man students will need to enroll    for tuition and fees. This will      tuition and fees or until gradua-
Orleans Parish high school. In            full-time by July 1, 2020 for the   support greater access to higher     tion, whichever happens first.

14   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
Raphael Cassimere Jr.,
                                                                                                                       University of New Orleans
                                                                                                                       professor emeritus of
                                                                                                                       history, (right) talks about
                                                                                                                       his experiences in the civil
                                                                                                                       rights movement.

Civil Rights Activist and UNO Historian Raphael Cassimere Jr.
‘I Was Able to Change Minds’
R A P HA E L C A S S I M E R E J R . ,   ring to the targeted violence         lead a successful boycott and              “When I walked into the
University of New Orleans pro-           directed at members of the            picketing campaign of local           class and announced that I
fessor emeritus of history, who          civil rights organization as they     businesses on Canal Street that       would be teaching the class, two
made his mark on the politi-             campaigned against discrimina-        had refused to hire African           whites walked out and demand-
cal landscape of New Orleans             tory practices locally and across     American workers in capacities        ed that they be given a transfer
by helping lead boycotts as              the U.S.                              other than janitors and cooks.        to another class ‘for obvious rea-
president of the NAACP Youth                  It was 1960, a tumultuous        The businesses also refused to        sons,’’’ Cassimere recalled. “The
Council during the civil rights          time for race relations, particu-     serve black people in the restau-     department chair kind of knew
movement in the early 60s and            larly in the South.                   rants and lunch counters.             what the obvious reasons were
70s, did not set out to make                  Cassimere, a student at               Cassimere still savors the       and he told them ‘for obvious
history.                                 what was then LSUNO, said he          victory because their actions         reasons’ he would not!”
     In fact, he hadn’t even             reluctantly followed a friend         help to make positive changes.             Cassimere would remain in
planned to major in history,             to an NAACP meeting in New                 “It was very successful,” he     the history department for more
he told an audience at UNO in            Orleans and “got caught up.”          said. “It was something that I        than 35 years, rising to rank of
February.                                     Cassimere quickly be-            feel very good about.”                professor. He retired in 2007.
     Cassimere, who received his         came actively involved in the              In 1967, Cassimere became             Cassimere said he learned
bachelor’s and master’s degrees          organization’s mission to end         the first African American            to navigate the prejudices inside
in history from UNO, shared his          prejudicial practices and racial      teaching assistant at UNO and         and outside his classroom by
experiences as the first African         discrimination. It led him to         in 1969, he was the first African     learning how to live with others
American instructor hired at             change his college major.             American instructor hired at the      who were different and by teach-
UNO and as a leader in the civil              “I was a pre-med major for       University.                           ing his students to be willing to
rights movement.                         2 ½ years,” Cassimere said. “This          It was a difficult time, he      listen to other people’s opinions.
     “Bad things happened to             was almost like a revolution. I got   said. Some students balked at              “That’s one thing I learned
people who belonged to the               so caught up in the movement.”        having him as their history           as a teacher, I was able to change
NAACP,” Cassimere said, refer-                In 1962, Cassimere help to       teacher, Cassimere said.              minds,” Cassimere said.

                                                                                                                   SPRING 2020   S I LV E R & B L U E   15
InnovateUNO Symposium
Showcases Students Scholarly
Research and Creative Designs
THE UNIVERSIT Y OF NEW                    from every discipline and area      and room moderators staffed        ning and urban studies graduate
Orleans’ eighth annual In-                high school students engaged        the event.                         student, was one of two present-
novateUNO wrapped up Nov.                 with UNO programs.                      “The impact UNO has on its     ers awarded a $500 travel grant.
21 with an awards ceremony                     “This was our biggest Inno-    undergraduate students through          Moore is creating a pub-
recognizing the winners of the            vateUNO, with a 30% increase        engagement in research, scholar-   licly accessible GIS map and a
research and creative sympo-              in presentations compared to        ship and creative activities was   calendar that lists government
sium. The first and fourth floor          last year,” said Matthew Tarr,      more evident than ever,” Tarr      meetings that involve decisions
of the Earl K. Long Library was           vice president for research and     said. “UNO’s impact on the         on coastal issues. The public
the center for the showcase in            economic development. “We           regional, national and interna-    will be able to add events to the
which students presented their            saw participation from across       tional communities was also        calendar and upload their own
independent research, schol-              disciplines and effectively in-     clearly demonstrated.”             pictures and maps to help docu-
arly or creative activities to the        volved our entire campus com-           This year, Louisiana Sea       ment changes along the state’s
campus community.                         munity as well as high school       Grant also hosted a Coastal        coastline, Moore said.
    Over the course of the                students, alumni and business       Connections Competition open            The best-ranked presenta-
three-day event, 415 presenters,          partners.”                          to graduate students from UNO      tions were awarded a total of
co-presenters, and collaborators               The presentations were         and Tulane University. Eleven      $3,800 by the Office of Research
delivered 237 oral, poster, art,          evaluated by 63 judges including    students from a broad range of     and the Oscar J. Tolmas Chari-
theater, music, and film pre-             UNO faculty, staff, graduate stu-   disciplines presented on coastal   table Trust. Both undergradu-
sentations. Presenters included           dents, alumni and business part-    issues.                            ate and graduate students were
UNO students, faculty and staff           ners. More than 20 volunteers           Alahna Moore, a UNO plan-      awarded prizes.

                                                                                                                            The University of New
                                                                                                                            Orleans’ eighth annual
                                                                                                                            InnovateUNO, held
                                                                                                                            Nov. 19-21, showcased
                                                                                                                            outstanding research,
                                                                                                                            scholarly activity and
                                                                                                                            creative work.

16   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
A panel of mental
                                                                                                                           health professionals
                                                                                                                           discuss “Mental
                                                                                                                           Health in the Black
                                                                                                                           Community” during a
                                                                                                                           forum at the University
                                                                                                                           of New Orleans.

Mental Health Panelists: ‘Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help’
MANY PEOPLE FIND THE                     “As a group we have a ten-     excited that these young men           emotional struggles, include
topic of mental illness difficult   dency to not necessarily identify   chose this topic because I believe     severe changes in eating or
to discuss, in part because of      mental health as an issue,” said    it shows somewhat of a shift in        sleeping habits, being constantly
the negative stereotypes as-        Watson, who is African Ameri-       overall thinking. I think people       angry or worried, said Al White,
sociated with it, according to      can. “It wasn’t something that      are open to having more of these       owner and director at Self-En-
mental health professionals.        we discussed. It was something      conversations.”                        hancement Center, Inc.
However, an alarmingly steady       mostly to hide.”                         The panelists discussed the             A constant theme from the
rise in the number of suicides           The need to bulldoze that      need to be “self-aware” about          panelists: Don’t be afraid to ask
among young people, particu-        uncommunicative wall led to the     your mental health, and to know        for help.
larly among people of color,        Nov. 20 panel discussion “Mental    when to ask for help.                        “Everybody in here is men-
means society has to remove         Health in the Black Community.”          “As a practitioner I tell my      tally ill. If you’ve grown up in the
the fear of labels when it comes         The organization is an aca-    clients all the time that there        United States, you’ve got issues,”
to mental health and seeking        demic and social support pro-       is no ideal state of mental            Watson said.” You have baggage.
professional help.                  gram established to address the     functioning,” said Danielle            I have issues. I’m in constant
     Suicide is the leading cause   needs and challenges faced by       Burton, a doctoral student in          recovery. The only question is
of death for African Ameri-         African American male students      UNO’s counselor education and          how far does the impact go and
cans aged 15 to 24, said Zarus      at the University. The program’s    supervision program. “What             are you aware?”
Watson, University of New           16 members chose the topic of       you can do is define for yourself            Ryan O’Pry, assistant direc-
Orleans associate professor of      mental health for its fall panel    who you are, what your values          tor and coordinator of clinical
counseling.                         discussion, said Taryn Chevis,      are and what your baselines are        training of UNO’s Counseling
     Watson said the suicide        manager of academic adminis-        in terms of what you’re able to        Services, gives this reminder: “I
rate for African Americans was      tration and a co-director of the    accomplish … So, a mentally            always think that it’s important
a “trace” number in the early       program.                            healthy person does recognize          for me and clients and anyone to
1970s and climbed over 250               “A few lighter topics were     those limitations and a mentally       just remember that our mental
percent by 1995. He thinks part     thrown out for us to choose         unhealthy person is usually just       health is not our whole iden-
of the reason is because mental     from, however, the guys             unaware.”                              tity,” he said. “It’s part of us, just
illness was “swept under the        overwhelmingly chose men-                Possible signs that someone       like our physical health or our
rug” for so many years.             tal health,” Chevis said. “I was    may need help or is having some        spirituality.”

                                                                                                             SPRING 2020    S I LV E R & B L U E   17
2019 Medallion Award
Winners Named
THREE UNIVERSITY OF                       who spent 33 years at UNO as a
New Orleans employees were                professor, dean, vice chancellor,
recognized for their outstand-            the founding president of the
ing contributions and presented           UNO Research & Technology
with University medallions by             Park and co-founder of The Na-
President John Nicklow during             tional World War II Museum. It
his State of the University ad-           is awarded to an individual who
dress in October.                         has provided significant leader-
     The recipients of the three          ship toward the international-
annual awards are:                        ization of the University.
       Parviz Rastgoufard, pro-               Davidson, who was in
fessor of electrical engineering,         Austria and was unable to
was awarded the Cooper R.                 attend the ceremony, has
Mackin Medallion. The Mackin              worked for 30 years to enhance
Medallion was established to              the internationalization of
honor the third chancellor of             the University, Nicklow said.
the University of New Orleans             “Colleagues cite Dr. Davidson
and was first presented in 1998.          for her passion, ingenuity and
It is awarded to a faculty or             tenacity,” he said.
staff member who has made                         Karen Thomas, associate
outstanding contributions in              dean for STEM recruitment,
support of the University’s               retention and outreach in the
mission.                                  College of Sciences; received
     “Dr. Rastgoufard is an               the Presidential Staff Medal-
eminent scholar, researcher and           lion. It is awarded to the staff
teacher,” Nicklow said. “He has           member who has demonstrated
served as a principal investiga-          outstanding service to the Uni-
tor on more than 50 research              versity community.
projects and his mentorship of                “Dr. Thomas is an outstand-
junior faculty members ensures            ing communicator who works
his legacy is a lasting one.”             closely with academic advisers
        Margaret Davidson,                to improve student success,”        TOP: President John Nicklow (far right) with
resident director and faculty             Nicklow said. “She supports         two of the three recipients of the University’s
member of the UNO Innsbruck               undergraduate students groups       annual awards, (l-r)Parviz Rastgoufard
Academic Year Abroad pro-                 with a special focus on women       and Karen Thomas. ABOVE: President John
gram, was awarded the Gordon              in STEM. And she plays a key        Nicklow presents a University medallion to
H. “Nick” Mueller International           role in bringing young people       Margaret Davidson.
Leadership Medallion. The                 and community organizations
medallion is named for Mueller,           to campus for events.”

18   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
University of New Orleans
Researchers Teach Coastal
Environment in Ghana
T WO UNIVERSIT Y OF NEW             research by teaching about
Orleans researchers spent time      wetlands and coastal ecosys-
in West Africa last summer as       tems and leading a laboratory
part of the Coastal Ocean En-       exercise on plastic transport in
vironment Summer School in          the ocean.
Ghana (COESSING). Ebenezer               The 2019 summer school
Nyadjro and Madeline Foster-        was held Aug. 5-10 at Regional       on a range of subjects in the         University of New Orleans
Martinez lectured, conducted        Maritime University in Accra,        morning, including wetlands,          researchers Ebenezer Nyadjro and
hands-on labs and led project       Ghana and attracted 350 appli-       satellite oceanography, plastic       Madeline Foster-Martinez spent
teams for the school, which         cants for the 120 available spots.   transports in the ocean and           a week along the Gulf of Guinea
serves undergraduates, gradu-       The participants at the school,      Gulf of Guinea oceanography.          teaching coastal environmental
                                                                                                               concepts to graduate and
ate and faculty participants        which is free, are mainly from       In the afternoon, hands-on
                                                                                                               undergraduate students in Ghana.
from across that country.           Ghana and Nigeria, but others        laboratory exercises were
    Since 2015, a group of          are from Benin, Liberia, Côte        conducted on those subjects
ocean experts from the U.S.,        d’Ivoire and Cameroon.               and participants were taught          raphy or ocean modeling. For
Italy and France has teamed              Ghana’s location on the         where and how to obtain data          others, it may be their first time
up with colleagues in Ghana         Gulf of Guinea in West Africa        for their research work, as well      programming for data analysis,
to run the weeklong intensive       gives it access to resources such    as how to process and analyze         using oceanographic instru-
summer school that is designed      as fisheries, tourism, and oil       the data.                             ments or going on a boat.
to increase interest and build      and gas, but bordering an ocean           The school, which receives           “The school also provides
knowledge capacity in coastal       and having a coastline also          funding from the National             the opportunity to network and
and oceanography research.          brings challenges, Nyadjro says,     Science Foundation, the               build future collaborations.”
    Nyadjro, an assistant profes-   such as coastal erosion, pollu-      University of Michigan, and               Nyadjro and Foster-Marti-
sor of research in the physics      tion and piracy.                     The International Centre for          nez said the summer school has
department at UNO and a                  “There has been limited         Theoretical Physics in Italy, was     been a success because it has
native of Ghana, has taught         formal research to understand        started by University of Michi-       helped many budding scientists
satellite oceanography since the    how people co-exist with, and        gan professor Brian Arbic.            in the sub-region to develop
school’s inception.                 sustainably use these resources           “COESSING is important           their research skills in coastal
    Foster-Martinez, a post-        in West Africa,” Nyadjro says.       because it provides an oppor-         processes and oceanography.
doctoral research associate in      “COESSING was established            tunity for new experiences,”              After the summer session,
the Pontchartrain Institute for     to help expand the interest and      Foster-Martinez says. “For            the facilitators keep in touch with
Environmental Sciences, has         expertise in coastal and ocean       some participants, it is their        the participants, and help them
spent three summers in Ghana        research.”                           first time studying topics like       acquire and analyze data for their
pursuing her interest in coastal         The school offered lectures     satellite oceanography, hydrog-       studies and dissertations.

                                                                                                             SPRING 2020   S I LV E R & B L U E   19
Center Austria Director Guenter Bischof
Receives ‘Scholar of the Year Award’
UNIVERSIT Y OF NEW                            Founded in 1997, Cen-           Innsbruck to UNO—
Orleans history professor                 ter Austria is a research and       1,000 or so since 1998—
and Center Austria director               discourse hub for Austrian and      is much appreciated in
Guenter Bischof was honored               European studies at UNO and         Austria and not taken
by his home state of Vorarlberg,          in New Orleans. The center          for granted,” Bischof
Austria with the “Scholar of the          advances understanding of           says.
Year Award.”                              Austrian and Central European           Bischof, who
    Bischof grew up in the                culture through scholarly and       received his master’s de-
Alpine village of Mellau on the           artistic activities, and academic   gree in history from the
Swiss border. From skiing and             partnerships.                       University of New Or-
playing soccer as a youngster,                The award was bestowed by       leans, enjoys teaching at UNO’s     Center Austria director Guenter
Bischof says he has graduated             Vorarlberg governor Markus          international summer schools in     Bischof (center) received the
to swimming and hiking in his             Wallner during a November           Innsbruck and Prague.               “Scholar of the Year Award” from
beloved Alps.                             ceremony at the state capitol in        He has been a visiting          the Austrian state of Vorarlberg
    The award is in recognition           Bregenz, Austria.                   professor at the Universities of    with Markus Wallner (right),
for Bischof ’s work in Austria                “To me this award indicates     Munich, Innsbruck, Salzburg,        governor of Vorarlberg, and Lt.
and for his work bringing                 that my work on Austrian-           Vienna, the Economics Uni-          Gov. Barbara Schoebi-Fink.
students from the University of           American relations and our          versity in Prague and the State
Innsbruck to UNO on a regular             Center Austria work to bring        University for the Humanities in
basis through Center Austria.             students from the University of     Moscow.

Researcher Awarded NSF Grant To Study
Marriage Attitudes in the 21st Century
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF                       graduate-level courses in           feel about marriage and family
marriage in American society is           social psychology, gender and       and why? We also want to ask
seen in the myriad ways that it           sexualities, research methods       questions about divorce and
binds individuals legally, social-        and social statistics, has been     involvement with the State.”
ly, politically and symbolically.         awarded a $261,666 grant from            Compton says the research
Marriage entails not only social          the National Science Founda-        is important because many of
and emotional attachments, but            tion to research attitudes toward   those questions have not been
also legal obligations and access         marriage among heterosexual         asked to a national sample and
to privileges, says University of         and same-sex couples.               the responses can be compared
New Orleans sociology profes-                 Compton is conducting the       across sexual orientations.
sor D’Lane Compton.                       research in collaboration with      There is very little nationally     D’Lane Compton
     Historically, marriage has           Gayle Kaufman, a sociology          representative data on topics re-
meant heterosexual mar-                   professor at Davidson College in    lated to the LGBT community,        feel the same toward marriage as
riage and has been studied                North Carolina.                     Compton says.                       the heterosexual community?”
overwhelmingly as such, says                  “We have seen some signifi-          “For example, we know that          The three-year study will
Compton. She wants to under-              cant changes in behavior—more       some of the LGBT community          include a national survey con-
stand what marriage attitudes             folks are opting out of marriage,   is very pro-marriage and we also    ducted by AmeriSpeak and will
are in the 21st century, par-             and are waiting longer to get       know there are people that are      include follow-up interviews
ticularly in the wake of the 2015         married,” Compton says. “Same       very against marriage. But we       with LGBT adults in diverse
U.S. Supreme Court ruling in              with regards to having children.    have no rate. We also have no       regional locations around the
which same-sex marriages were             We also are seeing new types of     way of comparing LGBT indi-         country, Compton says, who ex-
deemed legal.                             family structures and chosen        vidual’s attitudes toward mar-      pects to complete a book based
     Compton, who currently               family formations.                  riage with non-LGBT individu-       on the findings within the next
teaches undergraduate and                     “We want to know how folks      als. Does the LGBT community        several years.

20   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
Chemistry Researchers Are Going Green
UNIVERSIT Y OF NEW                  very mild “green” conditions,              These characteris-
Orleans chemistry researchers       Trudell says.                         tics are all extremely
have developed a new, environ-           Making such connections          important to highly
mentally friendly material for      between molecules, called             desirable clean, envi-
the production of important         Suzuki-Miyaura cross-coupling,        ronmentally friendly
molecules that are used in          is significant for the production     green chemistry,
pharmaceuticals and agro-           of important molecules used in        Trudell says.
chemicals, such as herbicides       pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals             “This catalyst will
and insecticides.                   and other fine chemical prod-         allow chemists to
    The research appeared in a      ucts, he says.                        make a large variety of
recent edition of the prestigious        What is especially exciting      important molecules,
American Chemical Society           about this discovery, Trudell         impacting all areas
Journal “Organic Letters,” and      says, is that, unlike previous        of synthetic organic
chemistry department chair          systems, which required high          chemistry,” he says.
Mark Trudell is currently seek-     reaction temperatures and                  The catalyst consists of                The research team, led by
ing both U.S. and international     expensive, environmentally            a naturally occurring clay               Trudell, also includes chemistry
patents on the invention.           unfriendly solvents, this new         nanoscale tubular mate-                  doctoral student Alexis Blanco,
    Jumanah Hamdi, a chemis-        catalytic material works at           rial, halloysite, with palladium         undergraduate Brooke Diehl
try doctoral student in Trudell’s   room temperature, in water,           nanoparticles inside. Nanoscale          and John Wiley, chemistry
group, developed the new            and can be used repeatedly            materials are about one ten              professor and director of UNO’s
catalyst that allows molecules      without significant loss in activ-    thousandth the width of a hu-            Advanced Materials Research
to form chemical bonds under        ity or leaching of the metal.         man hair, Trudell says.                  Institute.

Researchers To Study Community Resilience
as Part of $5.5 Million Grant
RESEARCHERS IN THE                  group of scientists from 10           the Gulf region to improve the           and other short- and long-term
University of New Orleans           universities, including Tulane        dissemination of information             stressors while maintaining the
Center for Hazards Assess-          University.                           about potential hazards to resi-         integrity of its community and
ment, Response and Technology            The University’s portion of      dential housing that can change          culture.
(UNO-CHART) will study ways         the grants is just over $290,000,     overtime.                                     The United Houma Nation is
to enhance the resiliency of Gulf   according to Monica Farris,                The ultimate goal of the            a Louisiana state-recognized tribe
Coast communities as part of        director of UNO-CHART.                project is to identify practices         primarily based in southeastern
two grants totaling more than            A project titled “The New        most likely to result in residents       Louisiana that is striving to main-
$5.5 million from the National      First Line of Defense: Building       taking actions to reduce risk and        tain its unique culture amidst
Academies of Sciences, Engineer-    Community Resilience through          increase resilience.                     dramatic climatic, environmental
ing and Medicine’s Gulf Research    Residential Risk Disclosure,” was          The second project, titled          and socioeconomic change.
Program.                            awarded a $3.4 million grant.         “Climate, Culture, Movement:                  The project team will col-
    UNO researchers will work            Led by the University of Cen-    Navigating Decision-Making               laborate with the United Houma
on the two projects in collabora-   tral Florida, researchers will work   in a Shifting Landscape for a            Nation to examine existing and
tion with an interdisciplinary      with communities throughout           Resilient United Houma Nation,”          emerging stressors, identify
                                                                                          was awarded $2.1         resilience strategies and produce
                                                                                          million.                 actionable information, tools and
                                                                                               Led by Tulane       interventions that can be used
                                                                                          University, the goal     by the tribe to navigate these
                                                                                          of this project is       challenges.
                                                                                          to determine how              Researchers say the project’s
                                                                                          the United Houma         findings will be useful to other
                                                                                          Nation can adapt         Gulf Coast communities facing
                                                                                          to climate-related       similar issues.

                                                                                                                 SPRING 2020   S I LV E R & B L U E   21
22   S I LV E R & B L U E   FALL 2019

        of the


            FALL 2019   S I LV E R & B L U E   23
CHRIS DIER, THE 2020 LOUISIANA TEACHER OF THE YEAR                            That class, Room 215, is loaded with memorabilia acquired
and a finalist for the national title, once considered becoming an       during summer travels abroad. Inspirational quotes from Caesar
attorney. However, during his senior year in college, frustrated by      Chavez, Marcus Garvey, Helen Keller, Mark Twain and others adorn
a constitutional law course, he accepted his mother’s invitation to      the walls, along with student-drawn pictures of Dier. One drawing
observe her teaching class at Chalmette High School.                     has a conversation bubble written in Spanish that says “Tenga un
    As he watched his mother, a veteran educator of more than 30         buen dia!” (Have a nice day). Around the room an eclectic offering
years, Dier saw an entirely new world—and a different career path        of books—classic and contemporary fare—spill from shelves.
for himself.                                                                  Traveling, particularly to foreign countries, challenges him and
    “I was immediately taken aback by the atmosphere in her              offers new perspectives, Dier says. He wants to bring a similar sense
classroom. Students were learning, discussing, asking questions and      of exploration to his students, he says.
developing a sense of self in real time,” says Dier, who teaches world        “It might not be appealing for students to just hear me talk about
history and AP human geography at Chalmette High School. “It was         Peruvian culture, but what if I passed around a tapestry hand-woven
the first time I watched a class from the teacher’s perspective. After   by an indigenous Q’eros family for them to feel?” Dier says. “Simi-
that day, I decided to give teaching a go.”                              larly, I also bring stories of other cultures to my students. In Vietnam,
    Dier, who grew up in St. Bernard Parish and evacuated to Texas       I explored how they study the Vietnam War, or as they call it—the
after Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters inundated his community in         American War, and share those perspectives with my students.”
2005, returned to Louisiana after completing a bachelor’s degree in           While studying the Holocaust, Dier held class in a grassy
history at East Texas Baptist University.                                courtyard outside. He assigned students to explore what the Jewish
    He applied for teaching positions and enrolled at the University     people faced while being held at the German concentration camp in
of New Orleans where he earned master’s degrees in teaching and          Auschwitz using photos and text excerpts left at designated stations.
educational leadership.                                                       The assignment was intended to allow students to discuss the
    “I was drawn to the University of New Orleans because it pro-        traumatic events from the Jews first arrival, to their daily work
vided a sense of community while providing an opportunity to get         assignments and ultimately the deadly gas chambers disguised as
a high-quality education,” Dier says. “UNO is a staple in the New        showers.
Orleans community. My first program there was such a success that I           “What didn’t you know?” Dier asks one group.
went back to get another degree.”                                             “About the different types of tests they did,” student Derek
    Dier followed his mother’s lead and has become a history teacher     Hutchinson says.
who attempts to contextualize the subject by bringing real-world              “Right, there were a lot of different experiments conducted on
examples and an infusion of empathy and diverse viewpoints into          the Jews,” Dier says.
the class.                                                                    A picture of a mother leading her child on what history has
                                                                                                          revealed was a death march, stood out
                                                                                                          to Jenna Riess.
                                                                                                               “She didn’t know,” Riess says.
                                                                                                               Dier agrees. “Looking at that
                                                                                                          picture now we know, and it’s an eerie
                                                                                                          feeling. It gives us chills.”
                                                                                                               Courtney Assavedo and Logan
                                                                                                          Dusang, both seniors at Chalmette
                                                                                                          High School, say they enjoy Dier’s class
                                                                                                          because he’s passionate about what he
                                                                                                          teaches and makes it interesting.
                                                                                                               “He puts it into perspective to us
                                                                                                          now, like everything he teaches he
                                                                                                          relates it back to us and how it has af-
                                                                                                          fected us,” Assavedo says. “It makes it
                                                                                                          easier to learn.”
                                                                                                               For example, during a study of
                                                                                                          world wars, Dier created a skit and
                                                                                                          assigned students different countries to
                                                                                                          represent their interest in the conflicts,
                                                                                                          Assavedo recalled.
                                                                                                               “He doesn’t just teach us about it
                                                                                                          from one perspective,” Dusang says.
                                                                                                          “He teaches about other countries’
                                                                                                          perspectives as well.”
                                                                                                               An accurate study of history offers
                                                                                                          valuable lessons for the future and al-
 Traveling, particularly to foreign countries, challenges him and                                         lows students to gain a greater under-
                                                                                                          standing of other cultures, values and
 offers new perspectives, Dier says. He wants to bring a similar                                          beliefs, Dier says.
                                                                                                               “This understanding fosters
              sense of exploration to his students.                                                       empathy for others as it centers on

24   S I LV E R & B L U E   SPRING 2020
human connection. So many societal issues are due to
misunderstandings; an accurate study of history is the first
step toward addressing misunderstanding,” Dier says. “I
                                                                  “Since Katrina, our district has become more diverse as
work to create an environment of understanding each day
in my classroom because our students deserve communities          we have immigrants from Latin America, the Middle East
where that is also true.”

                                                                  and Southeast Asia. These waves of immigration provide
     Dier has taught school for 10 years and was selected as
St. Bernard’s Teacher of the Year to represent the parish in        plenty of opportunities to incorporate other cultures
the state competition last year. It was the second time he’d
earned the honor of the parish’s top teacher.
     On July 19, 2019, following months of interviews and
                                                                              and histories into my classroom.”
making the list of nine finalists that were culled from more
than 200 applicants, Dier was named the 2020 Louisiana                     pleted an Advanced Placement Summer Institute course at Fordham
State Teacher of the Year at the state’s 13th annual Cecil J. Picard       University and currently participates in professional development
Educator Awards Gala held in Baton Rouge, La.                              programs at Harvard Business School that focus on case method
     “I was in a state of disbelief and shock. I almost thought they       teaching.
made an error because I did not think it would’ve been me,” says               “I believe students flourish when they see themselves reflected
Dier.                                                                      in the classroom, and we have a lot of culture in our state,” says Dier
     Dier says the biggest highlight was seeing his mother’s face when     who points out the current demographics of St. Bernard are radically
the announcement was made.                                                 different from the homogenized parish that he grew up in prior to
     “She just burst out in tears,” he says. “She is still a teacher and   Hurricane Katrina.
first inspired me to become a teacher, so I think it’s more than just a        “Since Katrina, our district has become more diverse as we have
moment of being proud of a son for an accomplishment.”                     immigrants from Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast
     In addition to representing Louisiana in the national competi-        Asia. These waves of immigration provide plenty of opportunities to
tion, Dier also has a state and national platform from which he gets       incorporate other cultures and histories into my classroom.”
to tout his education initiatives on student equity and inclusion.             Incorporating student diversity into the classroom also brings a
     Dier says he wants to collaborate with other educators to develop     certain level of learning “ownership,” Dier says.
culturally responsive teaching practices across the state, “from Cajun         “If we make their identity a part of their education, then students
country to north Louisiana.”                                               take ownership over their own learning and become autonomous
     In 2016, he was selected as a Hollyhock Fellow at Stanford Uni-       learners,” he says. “By spotlighting identity and culture, we teach to
versity, a program that brings educators together to work collectively     students’ strengths and experiences, thus empowering students to
toward creating classrooms that are more inclusive. In 2018, he com-       succeed while supporting their emotional well-being.”

                                                                                                              SPRING 2020   S I LV E R & B L U E   25
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