Dig Baton Rouge

14 for ’14

By DIG Staff

Fall is upon us, and with it comes tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff flocking to campus for another semester at LSU.

Many walking through the shade of LSU’s stately oaks and tall magnolias will go on to bright futures – doctors, social workers, teachers, and legislators will one day look back on this semester in Baton Rouge with fond memories. Likewise, there are many professors on campus working away at late hours on complex projects that rarely land headlines but generate genuine, positive change in the world.

Selecting standouts among those many thousands is no easy task, but DIG has undertaken it, regardless. What follows is a list – by no means exhaustive – of 14 Tigers to watch in 2014. Alphabetized for organization’s sake, our list includes students, faculty, and staff who either have already made – or will certainly make – an impact in our community.

And, yes, we know, we left off some really awesome folks. So do us a favor and head to Twitter; use #TellDIG to let us know which Tigers we’ve overlooked, and we’ll get the word out. Until then, here’s our 14 for 14.

Jamal Adams, Football

There has been a lot of fan fare surrounding the arrivals of freshmen Brandon Harris and Leonard Fournette – and rightfully so. But while not as heralded as those two, freshman safety Jamal Adams has just as good of a chance to get on the field for LSU’s upcoming opener against Wisconsin. “He’s prepared to play,” defensive coordinator John Chavis said of Adams. “He’s mature beyond his age both physically and mentally.”

Courtney Brandabur, Girl Warrior

A winner of the 2014 TEDxLSU student speaker competition, Brandabur, a psychology senior, is the founder of Girl Warrior, which she calls “a community of love dedicated to empowering women.” After suffering – first alone, then with friends – with body image issues as a young girl – and getting only “easy advice” – Brandabur started Girl Warrior to foster body-positivity and self-confidence for girls. In her free time, Brandabur co-runs a community support group and is working toward certification as an LSU Distinguished Communicator. “I will be a servant for women,” she said, “until the day that I die.”

Deandra De Napoli, Miss LSU

De Napoli – a self-described “Texan by birth, Tiger by choice” – took home the crown in her first ever pageant, earning the title of Miss LSU last April ahead of 20 other outstanding contestants. An aspiring media and entertainment attorney with a powerful voice – she once opened for a Jonas Brothers concernt – De Napoli has spent her time at Miss LSU active in the community, recently serving as a celebrity waiter at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Baton Rouge’s Celebrity Waiters’ Event & Silent Auction in July. She’ll compete in the Miss Louisiana pageant on Oct. 24 in Lafayette.

Leonard Fournette, Football

Comparisons to Michael Jordan and Adrian Peterson don’t come lightly. They also carry with them a weight of expectation most normal 18-year-olds couldn’t fathom. Fournette, however, is anything but normal. The No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2014 takes to campus this fall with a chance to go down as an all-time great in LSU football history – and he’s yet to even take a snap in college football. Be patient, fans: there’s a stable of backs in LSU’s backfield this season, including seniors Terrence Magee (who is wearing the No. 18 jersey this season) and Kenny Hilliard, once a freshman phenom himself. But Fournette…well, just keep an eye on him – if your eyes can move that fast.

Josh Gray, Basketball

After leading the nation in scoring in junior college last season, Josh Gray comes to Baton Rouge at a time when the men’s basketball team is on the verge of a national breakthrough. He won’t be the tallest of the bunch – in fact, at 6-foot-1, he’ll look quite short next to the likes of 6-foot-10 Jarell Martin, 6-foot-8 Jordan Mickey, and 7-foot-1 freshman Elbert Robinson – but Gray flat out gets buckets. Could he be the second coming of sharpshooter Chris Jackson? More likely, he’ll be the first coming of Josh Gray, the key to LSU’s next step up in the collegiate basketball ranks.

Lloimincia Hall, Gymnastics

There were not many LSU athletes that garnered media attention last year like gymnast Lloimincia Hall. After the video of her perfect score floor routine against Alabama went viral on YouTube, Hall made an appearance on ABC’s morning television show, Good Morning America. But make no mistake, Hall’s list of credentials are more than a national TV spot. As a junior last season, she captured her third straight SEC championship and set the LSU record for most career perfect scores with five. She’s looking to add to that number as a senior.

Love Purple, Live Mold

One little girl who wandered into the Studio Arts Building at LSU said it looked like “the zombie apocalypse.” The building has received some upgrades over the summer, thanks to the protests of students and faculty, but a gander at the protestor’s Facebook page indicates there’s still plenty of work left to do on the building, which was built in 1929 when lead and asbestos were still acceptable building materials. Investment in the building – or lack thereof – points to a bigger problem facing LSU and universities as a whole. Will we take the time to invest in the arts? They may or may not be profitable programs, but money is only one indicator of value – and not always a significant one.

LSU CCT/ Digital Media Center

It’s hard to pick just one person LSU’s Center for Computation and Technology, so we’re keeping an eye on the whole thing, symbolized by the $29 million Digital Media Center. Take a look inside, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported 100 years into the future. The DMC brings together CCT’s various branches of research, from experimental music and art to cutting edge video game and animation technology. The center houses EA Sports on its top floor and has helped attract the international New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) conference in 2015, previously held in London and Seoul. Some names to watch include Dr. Ram Ramanujam (Director of CCT), Dr. Jesse Allison (Assistant Professor of Experimental Music & Digital Media), Dr. Stephen David Beck (Director, School of Music), Dr. Marc Aubanel (Director of Digital Media Arts & Engineering Program), and Ph. D students William Conlin and Nick Hwang, whose 2013 TEDxLSU talk – equal parts technological breakthrough, musical composition, and verbal presentation – is a must-see.

The MIDDAS Project

This group of six students with the Geology and Planetary Science Departments are competing with students from across the globe for a chance to leave their mark on history. David Susko (Geology), Taylor Judice (Geology), Ryan Denoux (Mechanical Engineering), Robert Sparkman (Computer Science), Haggai Davis (Physics) and Nicole Button (PhD candidate in Planetary Science) are working together to develop a module that will be used to detect ice beneath the surface of Mars for the 2018 Mars One Lander.

Shelby Rase, Dancer

Rase begins her first year at LSU on the heals of a strong performance on season 11 FOX’s  “So You Think You Can Dance.” If the show’s title is a question, Rase’s performance answered a resounding, “Hell yeah!” Her audition has gone viral online and has been called “show stopping.” Fittingly, Rase will wear the purple and gold this year as an LSU Tiger Girl. And don’t be surprised if she makes it even farther in season 12.

Clay Tufts, Student Government President

Last semester, Tufts was elected Student Body President of Louisiana State University.  Tufts, along with his Vice President Taylor Lambert, will now work with the Senate and College Council in order to serve LSU’s student body. Among his initiatives are: developing a testing center app for students; creating a fund to renovate and modernize Middleton Library; revamping the line system for students in Tiger Stadium; and establishing a “State of the University Address” where the chancellor, provost, and student government president hear from students, faculty, and staff and update them on LSU’s progress.

Josh Turner, President of College Democrats

Turner has distinguished himself amongst his peers as a strong political up-and-comer.  To date, Josh has spent time as a Clerk and as a Session Page in the Louisiana House of Representatives, as well as interned at the United States Senate.  Recently, he was appointed President of College Democrats of LSU by the Louisiana Democratic Party.

Parks Vincent, KLSU DJ/Entrepreneur

This savvy young entrepreneur is the co-founder of Masque Management, which represents Baton Rouge’s own producer phenom, Suicideyear, as well as another up and coming producer by the name of Shalou.  In addition, Vincent is the Creative Director of Albatross Entertainment Group, and has interned at Huka Entertainment in New Orleans, as well as Ninja Tune Records and Dublab Radio in Los Angeles.

Dr. Sue Weinstein

Armed with a “cattoo” – that’s short for extremely adorable cat tattoo – Sue Weinstein, PhD is likely where your favorite teacher got their swag. An associate professor in the English department who prepares young teachers for the classroom, Weinstein teaches a poetry class utilizing the fundamentals of hip-hop, where she connects her students with the Baton Rouge’s artist community, including Marcel P. Black and Luke St. John. She sits on the board of directors for Forward Arts, Inc. where an excellence in service award is named after her, and she also is working on curriculum for Baton Rouge Youth Coalition.

Did we miss someone? Probably. Let us know who we’ve overlooked by going to Twitter and #TellDIG who we should’ve included. We’ll print our best answers – and maybe write a few stories, too. 


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