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University recognizes top scholars as Outstanding Master’s Graduates

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Olivia LaHaye is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Outstanding Master’s Graduate.

LaHaye was among four finalists for the award. Each will be recognized Friday and Saturday during Spring 2020 Commencement activities. Honorees will be applauded during virtual ceremonies held for their respective colleges on Friday; those ceremonies will be accessible on the Spring 2020 Commencement website starting at 10 a.m.

On Saturday, Lafayette’s four television network affiliates will air a commencement celebration resembling the traditional, in-person General Assembly. Broadcast times are 4:30 p.m. on KATC, and 6:30 p.m. on KADN, KLAF and KLFY.

Each graduate program nominates a student for the award. Criteria include leadership, scholarship, service and research.

The dean of UL Lafayette’s Graduate School leads a panel that selects the top candidates. An Alumni Association committee interviews the finalists and chooses an overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate.

LaHaye is the overall honoree for the Spring 2020 semester. In addition, she represents the Department of Civil Engineering as its Outstanding Master’s Graduate. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA while pursuing a master’s degree in civil engineering.

LaHaye’s master’s thesis investigated sustainable water management strategies. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Louisiana Sea Grant program funded the research.

While pursuing her master’s degree, LaHaye advised a team of undergraduates working to design a sustainable doghouse using bamboo harvested from Avery Island, La.

She also collaborated with UL Lafayette’s Office of Sustainability to design a stormwater management plan for campus. The effort helped the University secure first place in the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2019 Campus RainWorks Challenge.

Following graduation, LaHaye will join the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority as a leading design engineer.

LaHaye earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UL Lafayette in 2018.  She is the daughter of Dessa and Jay LaHaye of Mamou, La.

Here’s a look at the remaining Outstanding Master’s Graduate Award finalists.

Tyler Martinez is the Department of English’s Outstanding Master’s Graduate. He is pursuing a master’s degree in English with a concentration in rhetoric and composition. Martinez has a 4.0 GPA.

He is assistant director of the University’s Writing Center, where he also works as a tutor, graduate student instructor and social media manager.

The Writing Center’s operations were the subject of Martinez’s master’s thesis, and papers derived from his research were accepted for conference presentations.

Martinez was social media manager for Rougarou, a literary journal published by students and faculty in the Department of English. He volunteered at the Global Souths Conference, an interdisciplinary conference the University hosts.

Following graduation, he hopes to continue teaching English in a higher education setting and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in rhetoric and composition.

Martinez earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in linguistics from UL Lafayette in 2013. He is the son of Melanie and Joseph Martinez of Thibodaux, La.

Abby Pratt is the Department of Biology’s Outstanding Master’s Graduate. She has a 4.0 GPA and is pursuing a master’s degree in biology.

Her master’s thesis research used deep-sea video and museum specimens to examine incirrate octopods. She developed a model to predict their population distributions in the western central Atlantic Ocean.

Pratt presented her research at national and international conferences and co-authored a scholarly article that’s awaiting publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

As a graduate assistant, she instructed undergraduate lab courses in cell and molecular biology, and human anatomy and physiology.

Following graduation, Pratt will attend Southern Illinois University to pursue a Ph.D. in zoology.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, in 2018. As an undergraduate, Pratt was an intern at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

She is the daughter of Colleen and Jerald Pratt of Poway, California.

Meldy Tanako is Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the School of Music. She has a 4.0 GPA and is pursuing a master’s degree in piano performance.

Tanako took part in numerous piano competitions. She placed second in the 2019 Frank Hanley Competition at UL Lafayette; secured bronze in the 2019 World Piano Association International Piano Competition; and won the Young Artist Piano Performance Category in the 2018 Louisiana Music Teacher Association State Competition.

In addition to solo concerts and recitals, Tanako has performed with UL Lafayette’s Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Concert Band.

She served as the School of Music’s representative to the Graduate Student Organization. As a graduate assistant, she taught undergraduate piano courses.

Tanako plans to pursue a doctoral degree in piano performance and pedagogy at the University of Oklahoma.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in classical music from UCSI University in Malaysia in 2017. Tanako is the daughter of Fuandy Susanto and Melis Suroso of Medan, Indonesia.

Watch the presentation of Outstanding Graduates below.

Photo caption: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Spring 2020 Outstanding Master’s Graduates are, from left: Overall Outstanding Master's Graduate Olivia LaHaye, Department of Civil Engineering; Tyler Martinez, Department of English; Abby Pratt, Department of Biology and Meldy Tanako, School of Music. (Photo credit: Rachel Keyes / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)

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