12th annual Louisiana Studies Conference, Losing Louisiana, held virtually


By Dr. Shane Rasmussen

NATCHITOCHES — The 12th Annual Louisiana Studies Conference was held on September 19 at NSU. Due to the ongoing pandemic the conference was held virtually on Microsoft Teams. Dr. Lisa Abney, Faculty Facilitator for Academic Research and Community College Outreach and Professor of English, Jason Church, Chief of Technical Services at the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, Dr. Charles Pellegrin, Director of the Southern Studies Institute and Professor of History, Dr. Shane Rasmussen, Director of the Louisiana Folklife Center and Professor of English, and Sharon Wolff, Assistant Archivist in the Cammie G. Henry Research Center served as conference co-chairs. Church and Rasmussen also served as the Conference Planning Selection Committee and as Conference programmers, with Church serving as chair of Conference programming. Matt DeFord, Coordinator of Art and Professor of Sculpture and Ceramics, designed the Conference program cover and poster.

The staff of the Louisiana Folklife Center, administrative coordinator Ashley Smith and student workers Armani Heckard, Aaron Malone, Matt Phillips, Nathaniel Rachal, Olivia Sipes as well as graduate assistant Dylan Trahan, prepped the event and kept the Conference running smoothly. Daniel Gordy, instructor in the departments of Criminal Justice, History, and Social Sciences and in English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies served as Conference technical liaison.

This year’s conference theme was “Losing Louisiana.” The Saturday morning keynote address, “Fragile Grounds: Documenting Louisiana’s Endangered Cemeteries,” was given by historian and author Jessica Schexnayder. Church introduced the keynote speaker.

The daylong conference was a great success. After a warm welcome by Dr. Chris Maggio, 21 scholars, creative writers, and cultural authorities participated in 6 separate panels. Conference participants came from Mississippi, New York, and Texas, and as well as from throughout Louisiana. Several of the presenters were NSU faculty and alumni.

Each of the presentation panels was chaired by a moderator. Panels chairs included Church, Dr. Jim Mischler (English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies), Dr. Sarah E. McFarland (English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies), Rasmussen, and Dr. Sarah Wright (Computer Information Systems).

The following individuals made scholarly presentations at the Conference:

Jason Church (National Center for Preservation Technology and Training) presented his paper “Where is Uncle Tom’s Cabin?”

Steven Gruesbeck (Psychology) and Dr. Sarah Wright (Computer Information Systems) presented their paper “Delivering High Quality, No-Cost STEAM Educational Programming to Louisiana Youth, Remotely: A Case Study Involving a Week-Long, Virtual Summer Camp for Youth in Sabine Parish.”

Watson Memorial Library faculty members Debbie Huntington, Anna MacDonald, and Michael E. Matthews presented their paper “Libraries in the Time of Disease: COVID-19 and Before.”

Dr. Sarah E. McFarland (English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies) presented her paper “Systems of Precarity.”

Dr. Jim Mischler (English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies) presented his paper “Losing Language: Louisiana Dialects, Bidialectalism, and the Teaching of Language and Grammar.”

Debbie Smith (National Center for Preservation Technology and Training) presented her paper “Old Normal: A Disappearing Landscape.”

Aron Stephens, Louisiana Scholars’ College alumnus, presented his paper “Timber! The Importance of the Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) to the Preservation of Louisiana’s Endangered Species.”

Sharon Wolff (Cammie G. Henry Research Center) presented her paper “The Slippery Slope of Scrapbooks and How to Save Them.”

The awards ceremony for the 12th Annual NSU Louisiana High School Essay Contest was also held on Saturday morning at the Conference. Van Erikson, Director of Recruiting, led the ceremony, assisted by Rasmussen. Conference attendees heard essays by 1st place winner LaKin Ogilvie of Simpson High School, 2nd place winner Julia Kapusta of Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans, and Honorable Mention winners Bailee Creasey of C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, Valerie Perilloux of St. Charles Catholic High School in LaPlace, and Dominic Ross of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. Unable to join was 3rd place winner Abbie Butler of Pineville High School. Abney, Church, Davis, Rasmussen, and Wolff served as the Contest selection committee.

The Conference is co-sponsored by the Department of English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies, the Louisiana Folklife Center, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the NSU Center for Inclusion and Diversity, the NSU College of Arts and Sciences, the NSU Department of Fine + Graphic Arts, the NSU Office of Recruiting, the NSU Writing Project, and the NSU Office of the President.

The 13th annual Louisiana Studies Conference will be held in September 2021. The 2021 Conference theme will be “Heroes, Saints, and Outlaws.” For more information contact Dr. Shane Rasmussen at rasmussens@nsula.edu or (318) 357-4332.