May 24, 2013

LSU's 280th commencement exercises honored seven engineering students with LSU's Distinguished Communicator Award. LSU’s Distinguished Communicator program, the first of its kind in the nation, recognizes students who demonstrate exemplary levels of communication skills during their undergraduate years. Along with these College of Engineering students, 25 additional students representing numerous majors earned the distinction.

Students honored from the College of Engineering include: Ashley Barker, Theresa Garcia, Kalpanee Gunasingha, Kori Lutenbacher, Joe Poynot Jr., Marcus Toussaint and Melvin Triay IV.

Sponsored by Communication across the Curriculum, the award recognizes students who are outstanding writers and speakers with strong visual literacy and technological communication skills. Recipients completed 12 hours of communication-intensive courses, submitted digital portfolios and maintained a 3.0 GPA in their C-I classes. The students’ transcripts have a footnote designating them as Distinguished Communicators.

“You have to work with so many people in engineering that you need to effectively communicate with people in different departments and fields and be able to show your point to them in a way that they can understand,” Gunasingha said.

The seven College of Engineering students earned the DC honor by meeting high standards set by faculty in various colleges and by the CxC program. The students built digital portfolios, displayed as public Web sites that include their communication projects from courses, internships, leadership roles and public service.

"I recently received a job offer almost solely due to my online portfolio," Toussaint said. "Of the many applicants, 12 were selected for interview and only one position was available. The hiring manager personally called me and said that he browsed through my online portfolio and saw the examples of my work. Viewing the examples of my work, he knew that I was more than qualified for the job." 

The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) recently released its report, It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, a major survey of employers that indicates the value of communication skills and the type of classroom experiences that CxC endorses. It showed that nearly all those surveyed (93 percent) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.” More than 75 percent of employers say they want more emphasis on five key areas including critical thinking, complex problem-solving, written and oral communication, and applied knowledge in real-world settings. The survey also showed that an electronic portfolio would be useful to employers in ensuring that job applicants have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in their company or organization.

“It is important for young engineers to be not only technically competent in their chosen fields, but also they need to be able to express their ideas and designs to a variety of stakeholders,” said Summer Dann, a faculty adviser for the Distinguished Communicator program. “The LSU Distinguished Communicator program provides students the opportunity to develop their communication skills through a suite of courses and experiential learning experiences.” 

Ashley Barker received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering. She was a member of the Louisiana Water Environment Association where she served as the LSU vice president in 2012, the National Society of Black Engineers where she served as the LSU financial chairman in 2009 and the Air and Waste Management Association. She was also a mentor for STEM students, and she was involved in several community service activities. She studied abroad in the Republic of Tanzania during the summer 2010. She received several LSU and national scholarships. After graduation, she will assume a position as an environmental engineer with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection in the Bureau of Design and Construction and pursue her master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering. Faculty Adviser: Ron Malone

Theresa Garcia received her Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering. She was a member of the Society of Women Engineers where she served as the vice president (2010-2011) and treasurer (2009-2010), the Institute of Industrial Engineers where she served as the secretary (2010-2011) and Phi Kappa Phi honor society where she served as the student vice president (2011-2012). She was also an LSU Diversity Executive Board Member and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. She has volunteered with organizations including the Sally Ride Festival and the Make a Wish Foundation. She has received the ExxonMobil Award and the Northrop Grumman Award and Scholarship. After graduation, she is traveling to Spain for the summer to study Spanish at an intensive language immersion school. In August, she is moving to Houston, Texas, to work for ExxonMobil as a cost estimator in the project management department. Faculty Adviser: Paige Davis

Kalpanee Gunasingha received her Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, and she graduated with honors. She was a member of the Society of Women Engineers, the Communication across the Curriculum Student Advisory Board, and she was a Diversity Ambassador in the College of Engineering. She served as President of SWE for the 2012-2013 school year. She received several awards including the William E. McFatter Undergraduate Scholarship in Chemical Engineering (2011-2012), the Sophomore Honors Distinction (fall 2011), AIChE Donald F. Othmer Sophomore Academic Excellence Award (LSU recipient, fall 2011) and the BP Award for Achievement. She was on the Chancellor’s Honor Roll from fall 2009 to fall 2012. After graduation, she will attend medical school at Duke University. Faculty Adviser: Michael Benton

Kori Lutenbacher received her Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. She was an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, the Honors College Advocates and the Society of Peer Mentors. She served as the president of ASME in 2012-2013 and as an officer for two years prior. She served as the meeting coordinator in 2012-2013 for SWE. She has volunteered with the East Baton Rouge Animal Shelter and the College of Engineering’s Relay for Life team. She received the LA-STEM Research Scholars Award, as well as the S-STEM Scholarship. After graduation, she will be working in Hannibal, Mo., as a project engineer for BASF’s Professional Development Program. Faculty Adviser: Michael Martin

Joe Poynot Jr. graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He was a member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Tau Beta Pi honor society and the National Engineering Society. He has participated in several service activities through Tau Beta Pi including running booths at high school engineering fairs, participating in Boo at the Zoo at the Baton Rouge Zoo and hosting international students with the Global Immersion Program. After graduation, he will be a design engineer at International Mezzo Technologies, a company in Baton Rouge that designs and manufactures high-performance compact heat exchangers. Faculty Adviser: Michael Martin

Marcus Toussaint received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He was a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, the LA-STEM Research Scholars Program, the Society of Automotive Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Volunteer LSU and Phi Beta Sigma. He has participated in several volunteer activities including Community Bound, MLK Day of Service, Voter Registration Awareness, Boo at the Zoo and Relay for Life. His research in thermoelectrics has been published in the Journal of Material Science and Acta Materialia. After graduation, he will assume a position at Louisiana Valve Source, Inc., and he also plans to further his business, M&M Autos. Faculty Adviser: Su-Seng Pang

Melvin Triay IV received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He was a member of the LSU Chapter of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Tau Beta Pi honor society and the U.S. Green Building Council. He received scholarships from Shell and from the American Petroleum Institute and has been on the Dean’s list for the past five semesters. After graduation, he will work at Cimation, an automation and control systems company. Faculty Adviser: Summer Dann


Article written by Elise Bernard, communications intern. For more information, contact Mimi LaValle, College of Engineering, or (225) 578-5706. 

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