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Learning with Purpose: The LASAL Scholars Program

By Tatum Comeaux

The Louisiana Service and Leadership (LASAL) Scholars program offers select Ogden Honors College students a way to engage with and potentially solve chronic social and environmental challenges facing Louisiana. The LASAL curriculum emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, research applied to real-world challenges, workplace experience and discovery, and a senior Honors Thesis focused on researching and solving a specific long-term problem facing the state.

LASAL Scholars are encouraged to “get close” to the problems they hope to solve by participating in community service and by taking courses in Louisiana history and politics. Their coursework and service teaches them that understanding the history and context of a social problem is essential for solving the problem, especially when one is working in under-resourced communities. “I joined LASAL because I’m passionate about the environment and social justice,” says Emily Clarke, international studies sophomore. “I wanted to become more knowledgeable on how to combat environmental degradation and social injustices in my home state.”

During their freshman and sophomore years, LASAL Scholars learn about coastal wetlands loss and poverty in Louisiana and their historical and cultural foundations.  LASAL Scholars use this foundation—and the questions it raises—to investigate chronic problems in more detail in their final two years at LSU. Their mission is to identify a specific problem they want to analyze and solve, and then to write about that problem in their senior thesis.

Through professional and educational experiences, LASAL inspires students to stay in Louisiana after graduation to continue to address issues and improve the state. “Every part of LASAL is a real world application,” says Amina Meselhe, civil engineering junior. “It's learning what needs of the community must be met and then finding a way to begin to fulfill those needs. It's an incredibly subtle means of increasing retention of young, high-achieving scholars in a state where the first thing they normally do after graduating is flee.”

Students like Meselhe have found value in the connections they have made with their LASAL peers, as they have spent time together both in classes and monthly meetings called Sundays in the Salon. These meetings are filled with food, fellowship, and guest speakers, allowing the students to grow educationally and socially.

The program is excited to welcome the 2020 LASAL Scholars:

Bobby Breedlove

Katie Cass

Eva Counts

Tiffany Dang

Isabella DeMaio

Myrissa Eisworth

Caroline Janecek

Eryn Kennedy

Aaron Marshall

Madalyn Mouton

Christy Nguyen

Nicole Nguyen

Noah Pictor

Ria Salway

Bridget Seghers

Anna Stebbins

Anna Cate Strong

Claire Sullivan

Damla Ustunsoz