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UL Lafayette recognizes top scholars as Outstanding Master’s Graduates

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Jonathan Olivier is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate.

Olivier is among five award finalists who will be recognized Friday and Saturday during Fall 2022 Commencement ceremonies. Individual ceremonies for UL Lafayette’s eight academic colleges will be held at the Cajundome and the Cajundome Convention Center.

Graduate programs nominate one student as their Outstanding Master’s Graduate. Criteria include leadership, scholarship, service and research. The dean of the University’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.

In addition to being the fall semester’s overall honoree, Olivier represents the Department of Modern Languages in the College of Liberal Arts. He is pursuing a master’s degree in French.

His research interests include Louisiana French and Creole linguistic and cultural studies; vernacular medicine and ethnobotany; and the impact of climate change on oral histories, communities, and literature and cultural practices.

Olivier led an independent study that examined new speakers of French in Louisiana. He presented findings of the study at the 89th Southeastern Conference on Linguistics.

Olivier has written extensively, publishing work in magazines, newspapers and journals. His book “Gumbo – Louisiana True Series” will be published by LSU Press.

Olivier founded and manages a community garden that educates the public in French about heritage and regional farming practices. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from LSU, and plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Francophone Studies at UL Lafayette.

Ryan Hood is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist for the School of Geosciences in the Ray P. Authement College of Sciences. He is pursuing a master’s degree in geology.

Hood generated more than 300 stable isotope measurements on wood collected from a pine-savannah ecosystem. The data enabled him to test whether changes in wood chemistry can be used to determine past rainfall amounts in low-permeability, waterlogged soils.

Hood served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, where he successfully led a nine-man section during numerous combat operations. He was awarded the Bronze Star. Hood earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from UL Lafayette in 2019.

He completed his master’s degree while working full-time as a field geoscientist. Hood also volunteered as an inspector for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Protection Program. He belongs to the Lafayette Geological Society and the Student Veterans Organization at the University.

Patricia Mejia is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist for the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts. She is pursuing a master’s degree in psychology.

Mejia was a manager at UL Lafayette’s Health, Emotion, Anxiety, and Trauma Lab and was graduate coordinator of the Psychological Assessment Clinic.

Her research interests include examining the potential cognitive and emotional mechanisms by which psychological and physical health are related, particularly among people with chronic health conditions.

For her thesis, she utilized a randomized experimental design to assess the effect of negative affect and emotion dysregulation on pain. Her study included a negative mood induction task, a multidimensional assessment of emotion dysregulation, and a behavioral pain induction task.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. Mejia plans to pursue a Ph.D. with a goal of becoming a clinical psychologist and researcher.

Briley Rome is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist for the School of Architecture and Design in the College of the Arts. He is pursuing a master’s degree in architecture.

His research interests include alternative education spaces for adaptive learning; design thinking curriculum in elementary schools; sustainable environmental systems; and community empowerment through equitable design.

As a graduate research assistant for the UL Lafayette Office of Sustainability, Rome has contributed architectural expertise for master planning design and implementation proposals.

He also helped with design efforts for the University’s Campus Cupboard and Career Closet building. As part of his studio project titled “The Market,” Rome examined ways architecture can combat racial injustices through design.

He earned the Design Excellence Award and the Design Merit Award from the School of Architecture and Design. Rome holds a bachelor’s degree in architectural studies from the University. He will work for Corgan Architects in Dallas.

Wileesha Stevenson is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist for the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts. She is pursuing a master’s degree in English.

Stevenson has taught technical writing and composition courses. She served as a writing consultant for the UL Lafayette Writing Center and was a member of the UL Lafayette Technical Writing Committee. She has written and designed content for the Department of English’s website.

Stevenson’s community service includes volunteering for the Louisiana Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, or CASA. Her contributions included assistance in drafting policies and procedures in areas such as volunteer management, advocate supervision, and online communication and social media guidelines.

Stevenson will continue to work as a technical writer at Stuller Inc., where her responsibilities include producing training manuals for new employees. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University in 2019.

Learn more about Fall 2022 Commencement.

Photo caption: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Fall 2022 Outstanding Master’s Graduates are, from left: Briley Rome, School of Architecture and Design; Ryan Hood, School of Geosciences; Patricia Mejia, Department of Psychology; Overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate Jonathan Olivier, Department of Modern Languages; and Wileesha Stevenson, Department of English. (Photo credit: Rachel Rafati / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)