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by Ernie Ballard

"LSU in Your Backyard" Showcases LSU's Impact throughout the State

LSU is Louisiana's flagship university. While its physical campus is located in Baton Rouge, the research, economic development efforts and educational mission of LSU pays dividends for the entire state.

Recently, LSU went on the road to three cities – Lake Charles, New Orleans and Shreveport – with the "LSU in Your Backyard" models of civic engagement tour. The tour went beyond economic statistics, and showed how the state's Flagship University is reaching all areas of the state.

The "LSU in Your Backyard" tour stops featured presentations by LSU administrators, LSU AgCenter representatives, LSU faculty members working in the different areas of the state and students from the region.

"Despite the fact that our campus may primarily be in Baton Rouge, we really do view ourselves as a statewide university," said LSU Chancellor Michael Martin at the New Orleans stop. "We want to remind ourselves that the real question isn't what's best for LSU or the AgCenter, it's really what's best for the people we serve and how can we better know how to better serve you."

Each stop was held in partnership with the LSU AgCenter and took place at local LSU AgCenter Extension Offices.

"One of the responsibilities of extension is certainly to take university programs to the people," Martin said. "The other responsibility of extension is to listen to the people and inform those of us who have the research and education programs about what we ought to have in mind as we create new program opportunities. So that's a good reason to be here in an extension office: to listen, to do the intelligence and to help us plan to be better than we've been in the past – though we've been very good – so that we can help shape a better future."

The first tour stop took place on May 5 at the LSU AgCenter Calcasieu Parish Extension Office in Lake Charles. Speakers included LSU Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost John Maxwell Hamilton; LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson; LSU students from the area, including Sulphur native Sha'Neal Jourdan, mass communication junior, and Lake Charles native Aaron Lin, chemistry sophomore; and LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture Professor Bruce Sharky, who presented "Recreation Fishing & Boating to Enhance Economic Development." Sharky and his team of graduate and undergraduate students developed plans for sport/recreation boat launches and nature walks using remnant tracts of property in Cameron Parish that have been idle since recent hurricanes.

"The state is the campus," Richardson said. "We all work together to make sure we get the message out to get students educated, to do the research we need both in agriculture and all the other aspects of LSU and the extension service and the wonderful job it does throughout this state."

On May 10, the "LSU in Your Backyard" tour made a stop in the New Orleans area at the LSU AgCenter Jefferson Parish Extension Office located in Jefferson, La. Speakers included Martin; Richardson; LSU student and Algiers native Andrew Schwehm, English and psychology senior; LSU AgCenter/Louisiana Sea Grant's Albert "Rusty" Gaude, who discussed efforts in the area following last year's oil spill; and LSU Department of Anthropology Professor Joyce Jackson, whose students have been working at MLK Charter School & George Washington Carver in the Ninth Ward.

"Many students stay in state to go to LSU for a reason. It's affordable, it's close to home and you get an excellent education," Schwehm said. "I often hear people say, 'LSU is top notch for what you're paying for. It's one of the best value schools in the nation.' No, it's top notch, period. LSU has afforded me the opportunity to do everything that I could have ever dreamed of, both academically and personally."

Schwehm, who graduated in May, said that when he first heard of LSU's new Love Purple Live Gold campaign, he wasn't sure what it meant. But after some contemplation, he got a better idea of what the saying conveys.

"I love this university because of what it has done, is doing and will do for me in the future," he said. "It has provided me with an education that is top notch with every possible resource to succeed, and I know the connections that I have made through this university will help me as I aim to get my doctorate five years down the line and move forward in my career. That's why I love purple.

"I live gold through what I do by representing this university in the best way possible and this university returns everything that I do for it. When I head off to graduate school in a few months, I know that I'm going to be well prepared for anything that I encounter because of the education I have received while at LSU."

The "LSU in Your Backyard" tour ended May 17 at the LSU AgCenter Caddo Parish Extension Office in Shreveport. Speakers included Martin; LSU student and Shreveport native Annisia Osborne, elementary education senior; Pat Colyer, LSU AgCenter's Northwest Region director; and LSU School of Architecture Professional in Residence and Director of the Office of Community Design and Development Marsha Cuddeback, whose class partnered with preservationists in redesigning a historic main street district in Minden, La.

The LSU in Your Backyard tour was put together by the LSU Committee on Civic Engagement in partnership with the LSU Office of the Chancellor; LSU Office of Academic Affairs; LSU Office of Communications & University Relations; LSU AgCenter Office of the Chancellor; and the LSU AgCenter Calcasieu Parish, Jefferson Parish and Caddo Parish Extension Offices.

The tour was able to bring a small sample of LSU to three regions of the state, but as Schwehm pointed out, people don't have to look very far to see LSU in their backyards already.

"You can see LSU in your backyard everyday in the purple and gold that adorns people's yards, their cars, their clothing, and I plan to one day have my backyard filled with purple and gold here in this city and this state because I love new Orleans, and I love LSU," Schwehm said during the New Orleans tour stop. "I want to use all the great things the university has taught me one day for the benefit of this state and for our region to make the university and the state more attractive than it already is. That's how I love purple, and that's how I live gold."