UL has chosen the Outstanding Graduates for Fall 2009. Read the rest of the article to find out who they are.

University of Louisiana Outstanding Graduates Fa 2009Lafayette, LA – Michelle Abadie always wanted to attend the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Even Hurricane Katrina couldn’t stop her from pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher.

Shawntel Smith knew from the time she was a child that she would become a nurse. A childhood illness sent her to Oschner’s Hospital for a lengthy stay. She credits this time to cementing her passion to become a nurse and helping those fighting cancer.

Both of these women are among eight others who are this semester’s Outstanding Graduates. They are part of an eclectic mix – a football player, a pole vaulter, a mother of three and a U.S. veteran among others.

The students were chosen as Outstanding Graduates by their respective deans. The award is based on leadership, scholarship and service. An overall Outstanding Graduate will be named during graduation ceremonies on Dec. 19.

Here are their stories.

Justin Hernandez

Visual arts major and Outstanding Graduate for the College of the Arts Justin Hernandez is a five-year U.S. Navy veteran who has served two wartime tours. His wife is Fawn Hernandez of Lafayette and his parents are Danny and Peggy Hernandez of Carencro.

Hernandez is the recipient of two Navy Achievement Medals for wartime service and also received the National Humanitarian Medal for his role in the relief operations following the tsunami in Indonesia, which killed more than 300,000 people.

Since he began at UL Lafayette, Hernandez’s name has appeared on the Dean’s List every semester. He has been awarded the GI Bill scholarship for the maximum three years, and TOPS for four years.

Hernandez has a long list of volunteer service for his country, community, and the university. He’s completed over 900 hours of community service with UL Lafayette’s AmeriCorps and National Direct AmeriCorps. He received the Eli Segal Educational Award for his volunteer service and in 2007, he was honored with the UL Lafayette AmeriCorps Team Service award.

He helped build 12 homes in Lafayette and Vermilion parishes and helped rebuild homes in St. Bernard Parish. Hernandez has worked with the Bayou Vermillion District and Acadiana CARES to remodel facilities and clean up local waterways. He was a volunteer in the effort to collect recyclable material at the Festival International in 2007 and 2008.

Presently Hernandez is the construction field manager at Lafayette Habitat for Humanity. He plans to get a master’s degree in fine arts in painting or sculpture.

Brittany Taylor

Brittany Michelle Taylor, daughter of Wendell and Kayla Taylor of Arnaudville, is a pole vaulter with the UL Lafayette Track and Field team. She is a marketing major and is the Outstanding Graduate in the B. I. Moody III College of Business Administration.

Taylor has upheld a 3.82 GPA, has been on the Dean’s list since 2006 and is a member of Pi Kappa Pi.

She’s received the Academic Excellence Honors Award, the UL Lafayette Centennial Scholarship, TOPS Performance Award, Kenneth W. Hall Memorial Scholarship, Willis and Mildred Pellerin Foundation Scholarship, Wilson Rawls Scholarship and the Section 705 Federal Credit Union Scholarship.

Taylor has volunteered as a coach for softball and pole vaulting. She has worked with the United Way’s READ UNITED, St. Francis Regis Church and has participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Tour LaFitte supporting the Special Olympics, Opelousas Rotary and A Ride to Remember supporting the Alzheimer’s Association.

Taylor has worked at Red Lerille’s Health and Raquet Club in Lafayette, gaining public relations and managerial experience. She has also worked with baseball Coach Tony Robichaux and other marketing students to organize “Jimmy Buffet Night at The Tigue” during the 2008 baseball season.

Taylor plans to enroll in UL Lafayette’s MBA program. Her future plans include gaining experience in the national and global aspects of marketing. Taylor plans to return to Acadiana to start her own business and raise a family.

Michelle Abadie

Michelle Abadie, daughter of Brian Abadie of Chalmette and Marianne Abadie of Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., is a Katrina evacuee that pursued her dream to become a teacher. She is the Outstanding Graduate for the College of Education and is an elementary education major.

Being a model student, she holds the title of most outstanding senior in the College of Education for the 2008-2009 school year and has been on the Dean’s List every semester since 2006.

Abadie has received the TOPS Honors Award, UL Lafayette COE Avec Souci Endowed Scholarship, UL Lafayette Centennial Scholarship and the Alexander Haig Endowed Scholarship. She has maintained a 3.948 GPA throughout her college career, and has still found time to contribute to the community and university.

A tireless worker, Abadie has participated in professional development workshops sponsored by A+PEL (Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana) and Kappa Delta Pi. She has served the university as a member and officer in organizations such as the Delta Iota Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, UL Lafayette Chapter of Sigma Alpha Lambda National Leadership and Honors Organization, the UL Lafayette Chapter of A+PEL.

After Hurricane Katrina, she worked to rebuild houses in her home parish of St. Bernard and worked with children who were affected by the disaster. She has contributed to the Lafayette community as a volunteer at the Special Olympics, Walk for Hope and Autism Awareness, Woodvale Elementary Math Day and the college’s team at Relay for Life.

After graduating, Abadie plans to teach at Joseph Davies Elementary School, where she completed her student teaching experience. Her future plans include enrolling in the master’s and then doctoral programs in Educational Leadership. She is considering the possibility of becoming a principal.

Lauren Delcambre

Lauren Delcambre is the Outstanding Graduate for the College of Engineering this semester. The daughter of Robbie and Carla Delcambre of Erath, Delcambre has been an excellent student in electrical engineering. While maintaining a 3.795 GPA she has participated as a member and officer in Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and Eta Kappa Nu electrical engineering honor society.

She is a recipient of the Hiram Russel Memorial Scholarship, the Daniel G. Egan Grant Scholarship, TOPS Honors Scholarship and the UL Lafayette Academic Scholarship. She has been on the Dean’s List for several semesters. While in school, she completed the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, which is required for her to become a registered professional engineer (P.E.).

Delcambre has shown her dedication to volunteer work through her participation in several service groups. She has worked with the UL Lafayette Student Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to help out with Engineering and Technology Day at the university. She has promoted engineering by volunteering in outreach activities at Acadiana High School.

She is team leader of the Sand Sensor Design Team for Design I and Design II, which is supervised by Dr. Mohammed Madani. Her future plans involve seeking employment in the electrical engineering field here in Lafayette.

Mary Ann James

Mary Ann James has been recognized by the College of General Studies as the Outstanding Graduate for this semester. James is not only a student, she is a wife to Burnett James and a mother to Darnell, Daquincy and Ramonn James all of St. Martinville. She has maintained a 3.546 GPA during her college career and has been on the Dean’s List each semester since 2006.

While attending UL Lafayette James has held a full-time job and has balanced her role as a student and mother. Maintaining family, school and work commitments was a challenge, but James found ways to succeed. She is a member of the Gamma Gamma Honor Society and the National Honor Society.

A religious education teacher for two years and an aide for one year, James recognizes the value of educating young minds. She wants to become a certified teacher through the alternative certification program at UL Lafayette. Her goal is to teach middle school in St. Martinville Parish.

Phillip Nevels

Phillip Nevels is the Outstanding Graduate in the College of Liberal Arts. The son of Lester and Cynthia Nevels of Dallas, Texas, Nevels is an anthropology major and co-captain of Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajun® football team.

His success as a student is evident in his 3.82 GPA and in being selected for the Ronald McNair Scholar Research Program and the Black Student Caucus Academic Award. He is a member of several honors societies: Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Beta Delta, and he is president of Chi Alpha Sigma.

As an athlete, Nevels has been chosen for the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner’s List and the 2009 NCAA Leadership Conference. He has been involved in many student-athlete support and service programs.

Nevels’ college career highlights his dedication to excellence and service within the university and community. He has participated in the Success Bound Mentoring Program, Student Athletic Advising Committee, the Student Government and Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship.

As a volunteer, he has organized student-athlete visits to a children’s shelter and Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Nevels has taught at the Gold Gloves Baseball camp, and he has organized student-athlete reading programs at several elementary schools. He has received the Community Leaders of America Award for his service.

Nevels has participated in UL Lafayette’s Study Abroad Program in Florence, Italy. He was a Rhodes scholarship applicant. His future plans include pursuing his master’s degree in public administration and comparative social policy.

Shawntel Smith

Shawntel Smith is the Outstanding Graduate for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions. She is the daughter of James and Carleen Smith of New Iberia. Smith has held a 3.35 cumulative GPA and has been on the Dean’s List for several semesters. She is a member of Sigma Lambda National Honor Society, UL Lafayette Honors Program and Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

Smith knew she wanted to be a nurse since she was a child. A childhood illness that landed her in Oschner’s Hospital for a lengthy time cemented her decision to pursue a nursing career.

Throughout her collegiate career Smith has received numerous academic scholarships and awards, such as TOPS Opportunity Scholarship, Kiwanis Service Organization Scholarship, UL Lafayette Centennial Scholarship, Student Government Association Scholarship, Iberia Medical Center Auxiliary Scholarship, International Drilling Contractors Association Scholarship and several College of Nursing and Allied Health Professionals scholarships.

Being involved in many community and university groups is a large part of Smith’s life. She has been a member of the Student Government Association, the Pre Professional Society for Medical Field Students and the Dean’s Advisory Council. She was also on the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board from 2002-2005.

Smith coordinates activities to benefit the community such as the Suicide Prevention Program for New Iberia teens and the Drunk Driving Awareness Program for New Iberia teens.

Her service includes volunteering at the Children’s Clinic and Iberia Medical Center Emergency Room, Camp Cajun for handicapped children and the Up ‘Til Dawn event. She has received the St. Jude Children’s Hospital Record-Breaking Award for fundraising.

After graduation Smith will be employed as a registered nurse at the Iberia Medical Center. Smith plans to pursue her master’s degree in nursing and become a family nurse practitioner at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Michelle Noel

Dual-degree candidate Michelle Noel is the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences Outstanding Graduate for Fall 2009. Noel, the daughter of Hilton Noel Jr. of Breaux Bridge, has a 3.987 GPA and is majoring in both biology and Spanish.

Scholarships awarded to Noel include a Centennial Valedictorian Scholarship, the Ben and Claire Roy Thibodeaux Endowed Scholarship and the TOPS Honors Award. She was named Gates Millennium Scholar and the outstanding female student from the College of Sciences at the Black Caucus Awards. She is a former all-state saxophonist, and was the editor-in-chief of the Spanish anthology by UL Lafayette students, Jornada Sentimental.

In addition to her achievements in school, Noel has found the time to become an officer of the Spanish Club, the La Dolce Vita Club (Italian club), and she is a member in the Pre-Professional Society. She has contributed to the community through volunteer work with the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, the Miles Perret Cancer Center of Acadiana, Saint Joseph’s Diner and Chi Alpha. Noel is a tutor in biology, chemistry and Spanish at the UL Lafayette Athlete Academic Center.

Noel has done research on sea anemones under the supervision of Dr. Glen Watson. She plans on pursuing a graduate degree and continuing on to medical school. Her ultimate goal is to become a reconstructive surgeon.

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