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University recognizes top scholars as Spring 2023 Outstanding Master’s Graduates

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Adam Ortego is the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate.
Ortego is among seven award finalists who will be recognized Friday and Saturday during Spring 2023 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, Ortego represents the School of Architecture and Design in the College of the Arts. He is pursuing a master’s degree in architecture.

Ortego earned a Design Excellence Award for his “Towards a Collective Consciousness” project. It created space with no boundaries or biases and revealed a shared desire for health, safety and opportunity.

He made a virtual presentation based on his master’s thesis project at Queer Atmosphere in Public Spaces, an online international symposium. Ortego’s thesis – “Queer Built: Reflections on the Act of Making Place” – addresses inclusivity in the public realm.

As a graduate assistant, Ortego has conducted research and taught in the school’s design studios. He worked as an intern at Remson Haley Herpin Architects, contributing to numerous projects including at University Terrace Elementary School and Prairieville High School. Ortego plans to work in architectural design in a metropolitan area.

Here’s a look at the remaining Spring 2023 Outstanding Graduates.

Léa Fougerolle is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist for the Department of Modern Languages in the College of Liberal Arts. She is pursuing a master’s degree in French.

Fougerolle earned a bachelor’s degree in cultural studies from the Université de Lorraine in Nancy, France; she also holds a master’s degree in social sciences from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

Among her research interests are sensory experiences and the arts; French and Belgian poetry from the 20th and 21st centuries; ecocriticism; small presses, publishing and archives; and translation studies.

Fougerolle has served as editorial assistant for “Études Francophones,” the Department of Modern Languages’ scholarly journal devoted to the study of Francophone literatures and cultures. She plans to teach French literature. Fougerolle is also working on a magazine project to translate contemporary French poets into American English, and American poets into French.

Kevin Hilbun is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist for the School of Music & Performing Arts in the College of the Arts. He is pursuing a master’s degree in music.

Hilbun is a widely published composer and editor of compositions for other musicians. He sings and plays a range of instruments, including trombone, electric bass, bass drum, string bass and guitar. Hilbun performs regularly with a variety of musicians at events such as Festival International and Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.

He held many leadership roles in the School of Music and Performing Arts, including its Low Brass Studio, Symphony Orchestra, Brass Ensemble and Wind Ensemble. Hilbun has also served as a graduate teaching assistant in undergraduate music theory courses.

He plans to teach public school students in the Acadiana region. Hilbun will also continue to write music, edit the work of other composers and perform.

Oakley Montgomery 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.

Montgomery completed her degree requirements while working as a full-time English teacher at St. Thomas More High School. Her focus is British and American literature. She also teaches those subjects to high school students taking college-level courses as part of dual enrollment programs at UL Lafayette.

Montgomery has published two books. “The Ceiling Winked” is a collection of stories about life’s quirks and mishaps. “Blame it on the Moon” is a book of poetry divided into three chapters. She contributed to a collaborative essay about the work of the writer Randall Kenan that will be published by the “North Carolina Literary Review.”

Montgomery will continue to teach high school and also plans to earn a Ph.D. in creative writing.

Brianna Sadighian 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.

Sadighian conducted research in the department’s Data Science Application in Social and Community Psychology lab. She examined social, community and cross-cultural psychology using innovative research methods and computational analytic techniques.  

As part of her thesis study, Sadighian examined whether generation status, cultural values and stigma predicted mental health help-seeking behaviors among Asian Americans. She contributed significantly to a chapter that will be included in the book “Strategic Social Media as Activism: Repression, Resistance, Rebellion, Reform.” It will be published by Routledge, a global publisher of academic texts.

Sadighian has presented research at many national and regional conferences. She assisted with assessments and evaluations in the department’s Psychological Assessment Clinic. Sadighian plans to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology.

Emily Walker is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist for the School of Kinesiology in the College of Education & Human Development. She is pursuing a master’s degree in athletic training.

Walker served as president of the school’s Sports Medicine Association. Her widely published research includes a study that examined impaired anabolic response that led to decreased muscle synthesis in mice with colon cancer. Her capstone project focused on heat illness education.

Walker served as a student athletic trainer for the University’s baseball and track and field teams. She managed rehabilitative care for lumbar disc herniations and lower back muscular injuries. Walker also learned various forms of instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization treatment.

She will work as an athletic trainer in collegiate track and field and pursue a doctorate. Her eventual goal is to teach at a college or university.

Joshua Wilson is an Outstanding Master’s Graduate Finalist for the Department of Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering. He is pursuing a master’s degree in chemical engineering.

Wilson participated in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship Program. He spent several months at the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, Wyoming, researching chemical looping combustion.

Wilson has conducted extensive research at the University on solid oxide fuel cells, including in in areas such as operation, cell fabrication and test methods. He relied on his expertise to build an initial thermodynamic model that was validated with input and guidance from industry professionals at NASA, Boeing and Nexceris.

Wilson authored a technical paper on model construction and initial output data that was published in “Energies,” a peer-reviewed, open-access journal. He will work for a chemical company as an engineer and business development manager.

Learn more about Spring 2023 Commencement.

Photo caption: The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Spring 2023 Outstanding Master’s Graduates, shown from left with Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president, are: Oakley Montgomery, Department of English; Kevin Hilbun, School of Music & Performing Arts; Joshua Wilson, Department of Chemical Engineering; Emily Walker, School of Kinesiology; Overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate Adam Ortego, School of Architecture and Design; and, Brianna Sadighian, Department of Psychology. Not pictured is Léa Fougerolle, Department of Modern Languages. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette