LU Moment: Commencement: LU brings back tradition | S3 Ep. 17

Shelly Vitanza  0:00 

Welcome to the LSU moment Thank you for listening. I'm Shelly the chamber the Director of Public Affairs at Lamar University. Each week we showcase great events, activities, programs, projects and people at Lamar University. Well congratulations to two l u Rio honors college students Madison Taylor and Annabel Broussard, these young women led the honor student association community service initiative, and have been recognized by the White House and the Americans. The honor student association received the President's Volunteer Service Award and bronze medallion for their dedicated community service. So proud of these young people and the students they lead in community services last year. Lamar University was recently named at disability friendly school, more than 4% of LU student population is registered with the school with disabilities Center, which we call our DRC Disability Resource Center.

It offers a unique, unique accommodation solutions and unifying transition fair for all juniors and seniors in high school. One of the distinctive services LU provides and which went toward being named with disability from a school is a database called aim. It allows students to customize your approved accommodations. Students go instead of a profile log in to see their courses and the approved accommodations for their courses. They can also customize their accommodations directly from the database.

If you're interested in the Disability Resource Center, very easy to find them on the Lamar website at and you just typed in Disability Resource Center in the search engine, or you can email them at Great program, great services, check them out. Next up on the academic and social calendar, I gotta [sic] say it can be very social event this year is our commencement. We're excited about that because, you know, like all other universities in the country, commencement has looked a little bit different during the time of COVID. But we're bringing a lot of that tradition back. And here to talk to us about that is Dr. Dan Brown, and he's the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs. Welcome.

Dan Brown  2:10 
Good to be with you, Shelly. Thank you.

Shelly Vitanza  2:12 
Now you've been with Bill Maher for very long. So let's talk about where you came from, or why you came to Lamar and what you're working on.

Dan Brown  2:19 
Well, eventually, we arrived from Lamar on October 23. Last fall, and I began my new job on November 1, having worked at Texas State University in San Marcos for nine years prior. Quick overview, we moved right into our home here in Beaumont, and Lisa and Michael, my wife and son agree, this has been one of the most remarkable transitions we've ever had really community. We're getting to know people we live in a subdivision where folks are out walking and greeting one another. We couldn't be happier with this transition. And part of that is also how happy I am with my job. I have found coming to the Lamar family to be one of the most enjoyable experiences working with folks who are focusing on students, focusing on success, and focusing on being the leader in higher education that I know they are and can be.

Shelly Vitanza  3:10 
It's so rewarding in my first stint in higher education. But it's been very rewarding to be a part of a team that is transforming young people's lives. I think that in itself makes you feel like your life has purpose.

Dan Brown  3:23 
I as well. I when I interviewed position in one of those unusual Zoom interviews, which I do not recommend. When I interviewed this position, I closed my interview by asking the committee, please describe Lamar University in one or two words. And one of the committee members I don't remember who, told me I consider Lamar to be vital. It's vital to the region. It's vital to the students, families and communities we serve. And, and that's where I want to be a part of the team I want to be with.

Shelly Vitanza  3:49 
Yeah, that's awesome. Well, we're glad to have you. And hope you're, you know, assimilating into our into our culture. It's a fun culture, it's a diverse culture, and not like any other

Dan Brown  4:00 
Well, is. It's wonderful as well to return to Gulf Coast. I began my career in Texas at Texas A&M University kingsville, where I worked for six years. So the climate getting up in the morning and seeing the clouds flying across the sky. It's still more something we enjoy a lot.

Shelly Vitanza  4:16 
That's great. All right. So commencement is something you've been focused on ever since you got here and... could you say what recreating commencement? Because we've learned a lot during the pandemic. It's going to still look a little bit different that we're bringing back from the the pomp and circumstance.

Dan Brown  4:32 
I think what's interesting is last fall in about a two week period, we had to transition from what our original plans were for commencement to bringing our students back face to face with family members present. We were I should know, among the leaders in the nation for bringing commencement back. A lot of schools still have and I don't think that's understood.

Shelly Vitanza  4:51 
Yeah, they're not having commencement. They're not having commitment, which is mind boggling to me.

Dan Brown  4:55 
And so we began last fall inviting every participant who was going to be walking across was the front of the football famous state stage that turns out, thank you bring four family members, I want to share that because we still have institutions in Texas this spring, who are having face to face commencements with no guests.

Shelly Vitanza  5:13 

Dan Brown  5:14 
So, the students can participate, but their family can't be there. And really, I think it's at the heart of what we do in higher education, to have that event that celebration, this remarkable achievement, with both the student who's accomplished so much, and the family members who've been a part of it.

Shelly Vitanza  5:28 
I cannot imagine not being able to see my child walk and receive their diploma. I just, I can't imagine that that is painful thought.

Dan Brown  5:38 
I think where it's especially important note, we serve a large number of first generation brides for more. And on every campus I've been at, I've walked into commencement, as a faculty member of administrator precepting and seeing family members standing, tears running down their faces. This is a moment they never imagined that their family would enjoy. And so I'm with you on that might have to prevent me from climbing a fence or getting into the facility. If they told me I couldn't be there at my sons graduation.

Shelly Vitanza  6:07 
Exactly. Okay. So speaking of you been, you said faculty administration, faculty administration and time commencement during COVID. And we're going to bring that back, right? We are and why is that important?

Dan Brown  6:18 
It's important because that one of the pillars of why the students reached, we know that the family members have sacrificed and provided so much encouragement has done so much to help their students reach this point. But as a faculty member in my life, it was also important to have that moment to reflect and see these now, young adults that you might remember from when they were 18 years old.

Shelly Vitanza  6:40 
And you thought, 'Oh, my gosh, this is not gonna work.'"

Dan Brown  6:45 
They amaze you, with events and accomplishments. So this year, we will in December, literally we because of social distancing requirements, limited to the President and Provost representing the University at commencement. The President Provost will both still be there be very much leading the ceremony, but our vice presidents, our Dean's of the college's department chairs and faculty have been invited. And what's been fun is to get an email out of the blue from a faculty member who said, I hope I can still come. I hope I can still be part of my college commencement, because they know how important it is. And I think in many cases, they've had the same experience, right? They were the first in their family go to college and so it means that much more.

Shelly Vitanza  7:27 
Well. And I think here, especially Lamar, where we really do practice, focus on one student at a time. And we've been through so much together these last couple of years, and hurricanes and plant explosions, and the faculty and the administration has, they've really worked with students and help students, we've had extraordinary circumstances where I think we've gotten a lot closer. So to see these guys graduate is a big deal for all of us.

Dan Brown  7:51 
You know, in some ways, I think marking these points with a moment to reflect a commencement ceremony in this case, is also important for the greater community because everyone looks back at all that they've overcome to reach this point. We've kind of forgotten some way to the year. And one month ago, we were closing our campuses for the covid 19 outbreak. And now as we prepare for commencement this spring, it's truly preparing for the future, we're going to be allowing more guests, as I mentioned moments ago, we look forward to hosting our summer commencement back in the Montane Center, and then the phone hosting face to face classes on campus in the fall.

Shelly Vitanza  8:31 
Okay, so let's talk about this is kind of, like I said, as an academic as well as social event, and this is gonna be a little bit more of an event, is it not?

Dan Brown  8:39 
Well, you know, what I think was one of the funnest moments of the last time that I'm going to tell a story on myself. I was stationed at one of the entrances where the students would come from the Montagne Center, where they check in. And over there and walk down a ramp to football stadium.

My role with my Ph.D. in agriculture, my years of experience as a faculty administrator, was to make sure that we were following the shoe policy. Now, the shoe policy was defined by the fact that we didn't want certain kinds of fields on the football field, knowing we still had our final season in the Southland conference to play in my dad's field. So I got to see the students coming in in a lot of land on the first night of commencement, December, and helping make sure everything was working right and you're ready to go. I think though, from my vantage point, I looked at the field, we don't have a traditional processional.

We're not waiting to walk in together. So students were socially distant, but having moments before the ceremony to run into a friend from their classes, yeah, they had been with their freshman year or simply transferred from a Houston Community College to come to Beaumont. So and many of them had never been to Beaumont before, because they were in one of our online programs. I think that might have been the most enjoyable part of that experience, other than just getting it to happen, to see the students having a moment with other students because what we're learning and what we're applying to Spring, his students are desiring that human connection. And what better place to keep that off at the margin to commencement.

Shelly Vitanza  10:09 
That's great. But a little more, more food and more fun.

Dan Brown  10:16 
You know, it's gonna [sic] be an interesting, we're going to have some things we're trying to do, we'd be able to update some technology. And we're doing quite a bit, sharing more of our wonderful Lamar University videos. From, coming from the outside, I really enjoy the videos that helped me learn so much about Lamar and Beaumont. So we'll have some of those screenings where we can before the summer ceremony begins, we are going to have concessions open. So you can get a snack as if you were at a an event that's very common and very celebrated course in Texas, which is a football game.

Shelly Vitanza  10:48 

Dan Brown  10:48 
So we'll have all those things, we'll have a special surprise at the end of the ceremony. But I won't describe in detail today. But it's going to be a nice event. It's going to be I hope, an event that our families, and our graduates More importantly, remember forever.

Shelly Vitanza  11:01 
Alright, so we're gonna [sic] have commencement on Thursday, May 13...

Dan Brown  11:05 
Thirteenth, 14, and 15. Um, thirteenth is where we will do the multiple, we'll do the college of engineering, business administration in Fine Arts and Communication. Friday is going to be the College of Arts and Sciences and Saturday will be the College of Education. Now we have reserved for those who might be in the region and thinking about attending. We have the subsequent tonight, Sunday and Monday, should inclement weather prevent a compelling one of those truly not? We made it through a fall in December with much worse prediction for whether it's going to be great.

Shelly Vitanza  11:42 
What do you want the community to know and how can we support the advocates? over 2000 graduates?

Dan Brown  11:51 
Over two thousand now.

Shelly Vitanza  11:51 
We should all be wearing red across the Southeast Texas, everybody should Wear Red May 13, 14 and 15. That's what I'm saying.

Dan Brown  11:57 
That's a great point. Because you know, one of the other things I don't think we can talk enough about is last year, in the calendar year 2020, we graduated a record number of students, over 5000 students completed baccalaureate masters who are University in the midst of a pandemic and now we're going to have over 2000 students. And for some of those students who can't be here in person, our standards and a wonderful job preparing that they'll participate in everything just as if they were in the stadium, and then transition to completing their orientation online. So we're gonna [sic] help those folks who are all across the nation and around the world.

Shelly Vitanza  12:33 
I think by the end of summer coming, they've never been to Lamar, like you said, they're in our online programs, they've never been here, they're going to come to the campus and then participate. We're going to wrap up here in about a minute and a half. But you share a little bit of a vision of what comes next with hacking future, it includes the Montagne, maybe going to a big party, I'd love to vision. That's why I mentioned it, because I think it sounds like a lot of fun.

Dan Brown  12:54 
Well, I really believe one of the things that are special about commencement this moment to bring everyone together in a shared experience. And so Historically, Lamar University hosted college specific orientation, it is likely we may go back to those we don't know what our future holds. But trying to think of something where we can have a an opportunity for everyone to come together to hear remark to really understand what it means to be a graduate of Lamar University and how that can impact in the world.

In some kind of events that would happen at work, perhaps outside of the football field. We've proven we can do it. Yeah. Although I will not be asking anyone to consider coming in the football field in the afternoon.

Shelly Vitanza  13:36 
Maybe after hours. I love it. Dan Brown, we appreciate it. We thank you for everything you're doing or commitment. And here. What are you working on?

Dan Brown  13:50 
Well, little bit of everything. I'm kind of other duties as assigned for major focus of my job. But I would just close again by reiterating the fact that we really do appreciate opportune time for the university. And we wish you the very best endeavors.

Shelly Vitanza  14:04 
Thank you. I have enjoyed being part of the LU moment and a part of Lamar University. It's been an honor and a privilege to serve Lamar as the Director of Public Affairs and be a part of higher education. That has been very rewarding to see young people's lives transformed and for them to go out and to be contributors all over the world.

Our students are hearing maybe for the first one was last year, I think it was rewarding because our education builders who had completed their degree completely online became the first responders, helping school districts teachers get up and running during the pandemic. And so that was that was hugely rewarding to see the impact that Lamar University and its graduates have during the pandemic. So, having said all of that, I will be leaving Lamar University. We're a big mission and industry and this is my last moment. I certainly enjoyed it and know that the moment will continue because there are so many great things going on at universities that need to be killed. All right, thank you for listening to the moment until we determined that the director of public affairs at Lamar University, the pride of Southeast Texas.