Katie Gagliano
Journalist
LSU
Graduate student studies mental health treatment issues within  black community Katie Gagliano  March 2, 2016 
Kimberlye Dean, a clinical psychology graduate student, wants to change the conversation surrounding mental health in the black student community. Dean is entering the second month of her 10-month master’s thesis project, which is surveying black undergraduates in southern Louisiana. The survey focuses on issues of mental health and socio-cultural factors that may impact a student’s willingness to seek treatment from mental health professionals, Dean said. The thesis’ main focus is the connection between intolerance of uncertainty, defined as a fear of uncertain situations, and willingness to seek treatment. Intolerance of uncertainty is a transdiagnostic risk factor, a variable that affects students with depression, social anxiety and panic disorders, among others. While intolerance of uncertainty affects many people, Dean noticed black communities are especially wary of seeking medical and psychological treatment. This may stem from stigmas surrounding mental illness and the discussion of mental illness in black communities, she said. Black individuals may also seek treatment from alternative sources, including clergymen, family and friends, she said. This reflects the desire to keep taboo topics within the community and the fear of stepping outside the community to address mental health concerns, she said. Associate psychology professor Julia Buckner said individuals who fear the mental health system may have experienced discrimination in other areas and fear similar discrimination from mental health specialists. Making inroads can be difficult because little psychological data exists specifically for black communities, she said. “Most psychological research has been done predominantly with whites,” Buckner said. “We still don’t understand mental health and mental health related problems among black individuals as well as we do white individuals.” Dean’s survey could be a good first step for incorporating the black community into mental health outreach efforts, Dean said. The University does a good job of promoting its mental health services, but more needs to be done to address the needs and improve retention rates among black students, she said. Mental health concerns and mental illnesses are important considerations in a student’s performance, she said. “If this is a problem a lot of students are dealing with, it can definitely impact their schooling, their well-being and their quality of life overall,” Dean said. Leaving anxiety and depression symptoms untreated can interfere with a student’s confidence in class and negatively affect performance. Mental health concerns have led students to fail classes and have contributed to students’ decisions to drop out of school, Buckner said. If the survey results confirm Dean’s hypothesis, she and Buckner plan to use the information to improve mental health services on campus and extend outreach to black students. Ensuring students are aware of the services the University provides and feel safe utilizing those services is important, Dean said. Another component is limiting feelings of discrimination that may contribute to anxiety or distrust of the mental health care system, Buckner said. “We want to better educate students about the fact that mental health professionals strive to minimize discrimination,” she said. “One of our goals is cultural confidence and creating an environment that’s welcoming for individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or background.”
 Professor works to preserve memories of military members Katie Gagliano  February 23, 2016 
Edward Benoit III, assistant professor of archival studies, is combining a passion for his family’s military background with his archival training to preserve the memories of modern military men and women. In December, Benoit launched the first phase of his multi-year endeavor, the Virtual Footlocker Project, an application free to veterans and active-duty service members. The application will function similarly to a physical footlocker, encapsulating the digital memories of military men and women, Benoit said. The fleeting nature of digital communications lead Benoit to realize a developing critical gap in the records of service members from 2005 to 2015. Personal records and accounts previously held in letters, journals and photographs are being lost in the digital space, he said. “We really have a problem now,” Benoit said. “Yes, there are still letters being written, and yes there are still photographs being taken, but we’ve moved into such a digital world now. That on one hand is amazing. But they’re relying on these third-party companies to maintain their materials.” Key information can be lost when these third-party companies are consolidated or go out of business. Archivists and historians refer to this possible gap in information as the digital dark ages, Benoit said. Benoit’s cross-platform, open-source online application will provide soldiers and veterans the tools for maintaining personal records and histories in a centralized location. Before the application is developed, Benoit has to research the most effective methods for preserving these memories, he said. Benoit is using a Qualtrics survey to collect data on the materials and outlets service members are accessing to preserve documentation and communicate. The final application will be modeled after the data that best meets the veterans’ and active duty members’ needs, he said. The survey collects both qualitative and quantitative data through free answer sections and multiple choice questions. Each survey includes as many as 150 questions to provide the most robust feedback possible, Benoit said. Benoit is promoting the project through a personal website and heavy social media presence. He is also reaching out to Student Veterans of America and national veterans service organizations to assist in distributing the survey, he said. Preserving these memories is important to provide nuance and depth to the description of history, Benoit said. Carol Barry, interim director for the School of Library and Information Science, said having diverse information to reference is key to understanding history. “When we look back and try to understand our past, we obviously need something to base that understanding on,” Barry said. “I think it’s important to include not only the kind of official reporting of what happened at that time, but the perspectives of the individuals, like the soldier who was dealing with that situation. I think we need multiple points of view.” Benoit has collected about 10 percent of the project’s necessary data, he said. The goal is to receive 1,000 survey responses to provide the most accurate feedback and draw from a credible sample pool. The current feedback has already impacted Benoit’s view of the project, he said. “Having discussions with current active-duty military members and hearing what’s important to them has really started to change my perspective,” Benoit said. “I know that I’m onto something that can really benefit. Just to have the sense that what you’re doing is helping people, is something that a lot of archivists, and academics, don’t get to see immediately. To be able to see something that may have a more immediate impact is so fulfilling.” 9000        
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Chemistry professor John Pojman is trying to change how art is created. For years, Pojman studied the process of frontal polymerization and self-propagating reactions, in which reactions spread after being triggered by an outside energy source. He said the process inspired him to create a product for wood adhesives and construction that would take the self-propagating process to the marketplace. His involvement in the art world occurred by chance. Four years ago he gave a presentation to the LSU’s College of Art and Design where Shelby Prindaville, a then-fine arts graduate student, approached him about improving the product for use in sculpture. “Chemically it’s very similar to what is used in dental fillings, except those are light activated and this is heat activated,” Pojman said. The polymer cures by heating a portion of the material to 100 degrees Celsius with a heat gun. As the section begins to harden, the reaction spreads across the sculpture and the entire piece hardens within minutes, Pojman said. Unlike other polymer clays, Pojman said this material never dries out. It can also withstand 6,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, making it five times stronger than other polymer clays. This semester, the material is being used in an experimental sculpture class in the College of Art and Design. Students manipulate the material to determine its strengths and weaknesses, test its uses in conjunction with other materials and provide suggestions to improve the product. Mike Stumbras, a ceramic arts graduate student and the course instructor, developed the class in conjunction with Pojman. Stumbras said the course is a departure for himself as well as his students, and the learning process has been exciting for all involved. So far, response to the product has been positive. “The feedback, not only from my students in this class but from other people who are interested in what we’ve got going on here, has been really positive,” Stumbras said. “I think this material has tons of potential and in a short amount of time I can imagine that we’ll see it in a lot of places.” Re-entry ceramics student Edward Facundus-Botero said using the material allows him to combine his backgrounds in art and science to experiment with the material’s uses. The clay has many potential applications that are just being explored, he said. Graphic design junior Allison Bellingham said the experimental course caught her attention when she was scheduling her arts credit. Working with the clay is incredible, she said. “I’ve worked with other clay and so far I prefer this 100 percent,” Bellingham said. “There’s outside variables that you can add to the clay to make it better, which is unlike anything I’ve ever used or heard of. It’s so versatile.” Having Pojman participate in the class has also been a highlight for Stumbras and the students. “He’s excited to see what people have done with his material, and he’s interested to see what will come of it,” Bellingham said. “He’s not just trying to be a boss, he’s trying to be a student as well.” Pojman said he’s learned a lot from the class — not just about his product but about the intersection of art and science and the passion members of both branches share. “I really have a lot more respect for artists — how hard it is to do it well and how it’s not appreciated in society,” Pojman said. “A chemist can do it and they’re guaranteed a comfortable living, but that’s usually not true for artists. They’re going to have to do it just because they love it. I like people who are passionate about what they’re doing, whatever it is.”
According to Richard White, political biographer and dean of the E.J. Ourso College of Business, there’s no one quite like Huey P. Long.   The larger-than-life politician is the subject of White’s 2006 biography, “Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long.” East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s “One Book, One Community” program is featuring the book as its 2016 shared read.   The biography chronicles Long’s dramatic life, drawing the reader into a plot that seems almost too outrageous to be realistic, White said.   “Fact is much crazier than fiction, especially in Louisiana,” he said. White used third person correspondence from the archives in Hill Memorial Library and Long’s own words to allow the story to unfold organically. The color and drama of Long’s life required little embellishment, he said.   From fist fights in the Hotel Monteleone to systematically seizing control of the state, Long executed everything with a signature flair and ruthlessness, White said, and his ambition and desire for power knew no bounds. On multiple occasions, Long told trusted associates he intended to divide the Democratic Party’s vote in the 1936 presidential election. The division would extend the effects of the Great Depression and pave the way for his presidency in 1940, he said.   “He only had one thought in mind, and that was power,” White said. “Power came before money, or food or sex or anything. I’ve never found a person in history who got power like he did in a democracy without ever making a compromise.” Long’s heavy-handed approach led to divisiveness between pro-Long and anti-Long factions across the state. The division became so heated, residents of Cajun French towns in south Louisiana pronounced surnames differently if an individual was a Long supporter or adversary, he said.   The lasting impression Long’s leadership left on the state and its people led many to approach White with family anecdotes of the senator, he said.   White said he was especially struck by the story of Carl Weiss, Long’s alleged assassin. Shortly after the book’s release, White was approached by a man whose grandfather was Weiss’ neighbor and professional associate, he said.   The man explained that the day before Long’s assassination, Weiss was building a crib for his newborn son in his grandfather’s woodworking shop. He said he’d be back the next week to finish the piece, but Weiss was killed immediately after Long’s assassination and was never able to complete the crib, he said. Long’s legacy created one of the most divided political landscapes in U.S. history, White said. Now, his story is uniting readers through the “One Book,One Community” program. East Baton Rouge Parish Library assistant library director Mary Stein said the program began in 2007 in an effort to mend community schisms produced by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The program’s goal is to provide a forum for civil conversations about important and difficult topics, she said.   Much like strangers connect over Super Bowl advertisements in the grocery store check-out line, “One Book/One Community” provides residents from across East Baton Rouge Parish with a shared experience, she said. “With ‘One Book, One Community,’ whether you’re black or white, rich or poor, you can meet together over the pages of a book,” Stein said. Stein said feedback for the biography has been positive and participants are excited to read about the state. Discussing the state’s history and recognizing Louisiana’s unique attributes is important for the state’s future, White said. “People in Louisiana take for granted their state,” he said. “We don’t realize how good a place it is to live. Even with problems of politics and poverty, it’s still an absolutely wonderful place to live, and we can make it better.”
Rebecka Sheffield is good at reading between the lines. Sheffield, the executive director and archives manager of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, visited the University last week as part of a broader mission to shed light on the hidden histories of LGBT individuals. Her work aligns with the social justice imperative of the organization, which acts as a catalyst for improving the lives of LGBT people, Sheffield said. By preserving the histories of LGBT individuals and sharing their stories with the public, the organization achieves this goal. From meeting minutes and court documents to matchbook covers and 70s era shirts, Sheffield’s archives include a variety of items. The non-traditional materials result from the scant evidence of gay and lesbian lives from the time period, Sheffield said. Many LGBT lives were hidden, and as a result, lesbian, gay and transgender individuals collected any items possessing traces of their culture. Finding evidence of these communities’ existence often requires “reading through the lines,” Sheffield said. “When you talk about scant evidence, sometimes you’re talking about documentation kept by oppressors and suppressors as opposed to queer people themselves,” Sheffield said. “You look to police files, you look to surveillance documentation, you look to court files about who was going to prison and who wasn’t going to prison. You really have to read through the lines.” A story from New Orleans especially struck Sheffield while researching the gay and lesbian history of Louisiana. On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the UpStairs Lounge, an LGBT bar in the French Quarter at the time, and killed 32 people in the largest killing of gay people in recorded U.S. history. Few people know the fire’s full history, Sheffield said. Though widely reported in the national media, the bar was seldom identified as a gay bar, except to say several bodies could not be identified due to a lack of identification. Many homosexuals didn’t carry ID in the event of police capture, she said. In the face of these hidden histories, gay and lesbian archives provide evidence of a shared heritage, Sheffield said. “For any of us to really feel a sense of understanding our own histories, we need to have the evidence to tell those stories,” Sheffield said. “It really is a symbolic value in that it shows you that you are not alone, that you’ve never been alone, that you exist and that you have always existed. There is a sense of belonging in having a sense of shared heritage.” The archives are also key for the advancement of LGBT studies, such as the University’s LGBT minor. Universities across the world are seeing an increased interest in LGBT history and studies, Sheffield said. The goal is for LGBT history to be integrated into traditional history courses as one study, she said. Edward Benoit III, assistant professor of archival studies, organized Sheffield’s visit in an effort to bring a timely and diverse voice to campus. The LGBT community has been growing in prominence in south Louisiana in recent years, Benoit said. In addition to the launch of the University’s LGBT minor and the activity of student groups such as Spectrum, there has been discussion about the creation of an LGBT archive in Baton Rouge. Sheffield’s visit couldn’t have come at a better time, Benoit said. Engaging in different perspectives is key to the college experience, he said. “In general, it’s an extremely important conversation to have in contemporary society,” Benoit said. “An LSU graduate cannot live in a world without understanding diverse perspectives, LGBT perspectives and the importance of various issues.”
Last week, the Louisiana Board of Regents named the School of the Coast and Environment the University’s newest college. The change comes in recognition of the program’s achievements in research and education, according to a press release from the LSU Media Center. The College of the Coast and Environment has grown steadily since its founding in 2001. The program grew from three undergraduates and 83 graduate students in fall 2008 to 85 undergraduates and 121 graduate students in fall 2015, according to data from the Office of Budget and Planning. Christopher D’Elia, professor and dean of the College of the Coast and Environment, said the transition has been in the works since he came to the University in 2009. The new distinction confirms the college’s place among other University programs. “It’s an affirmation that LSU values what we do and that they have high expectations for us,” D’Elia said. The University’s expectations mirror D’Elia’s own expectations for the program’s performance. He is proud of both the college’s perseverance in the face of recent years’ budget cuts and the program’s ability to continue delivering high-quality work. The college managed to prevent a loss of faculty despite a continuously decreasing budget. Maintaining faculty is important due to the program’s small size, he added. The college’s faculty provides students with the interdisciplinary education necessary to tackle today’s toughest ecological problems. He said the interplay of a broad range of sciences with economic, legal and social science principles is a hallmark of the program. “The most important thing we do is educate the next generation,” D’Elia said. “We help educate the people that will be hired by state and federal agencies, by industry, by nonprofits, as they seek to deal with the environmental problems that Louisiana has.” Issues impacting Louisiana also have implications around the world. At the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans, the college interacted heavily with a delegation from China experiencing similar ecological issues in its river deltas, D’Elia said. He said the program’s international presence and focus on global issues is an important aspect of the college and a key factor in ecological study. The program’s new distinction as a college provides parity among similar institutional organizations and helps establish the program’s prominence in the global academic community, D’Elia said. “I think we stack up very well and people come here to seek us out because they know that we’re very good and we’re proud of that,” D’Elia said.
          Chemistry professor develops new kind of clay, takes sculpture class Katie Gagliano  February 23, 2016 
          Business dean’s Huey P. Long biography featured by East Baton Rouge Public Library Katie Gagliano  February 25, 2016 
          Expert visits University to share histories of LGBT individuals Katie Gagliano  March 1, 2016 
          School of Coast and Environment named the University newest college Katie Gagliano March 2, 2016