Six MSU professors recognized for student initiatives

Six McNeese State University faculty members received 2018 Pinnacle Excellence Awards on Wednesday at the McNeese Stream Alumni Center. Each winner received a $5,000 stipend to be used as a salary supplement and/or for the enhancement of instruction and student achievement.

Pinnacle Entertainment, parent company of L’Auberge Casino Resort, has been in partnership with the university since 2003.

“We believe in being a part of the community,” said Michael K. Pendergast, L’Auberge vice president and general manager. “As contributions for the program near $400,000, we continue to be impressed by the remarkable ideas and passionate leadership of those recognized with a Pinnacle Excellence Award.”

McNeese president Daryl Burckel said the awardwinning ideas all focused on initiatives to improve student retention at each of the university’s colleges.

Each professor presented a unique research proposal or project implementation that would help make McNeese a premiere university in the state and the “first choice” for students seeking higher education locally, Burckel said.

Md Al-Emran, assistant marketing professor, submitted a proposal called “3-Pathways for Improving Student Retention.” It defines ways to prevent early dropouts and strategies for improving retention in the College of Business. Al-Emran said it is his “moral duty” to not only teach and research for McNeese, but also to diagnose the “disease” of chronic dropout rates.

A proposal by Nidal Daou, assistant professor of psychology, seeks to help graduate students publish scholarly research in the field of applied behavior analysis. Because finding reputable research in ABA studies can be difficult, she said she wants to make McNeese a premiere publishing institution focused on educating practitioners and “improving the quality of life” of families impacted by autism and other behavioral disorders.

Catherine Anderson, assistant professor of computer science, plans to use an artificial intelligence-based software to identify and predict which students are at risk of dropping out.

Philippe Girad, history professor, will produce a professional quality history series for YouTube and other online providers to expand McNeese’s content offering for online students.

Jennifer Barrow, assistant professor of nursing, said her project will focus on retaining nursing students through a required one-credit introduction course before they are accepted into clinicals.

“Utilizing a Hands-on Experience to Recruit K-12 Students to McNeese State University” is a proposal by Derek D. Bussan, assistant professor of chemistry. It outlines how visits to K-12 schools in Southwest Louisiana can spark an interest in chemistry and ultimately lead to a fulfilling career at many of the region’s industrial labs.

Each winner received a $5,000 stipend to be used as a salary supplement and/ or for the enhancement of instruction and student achievement.


Six McNeese State University faculty members are recipients of the 2018 Pinnacle Excellence Awards established by Pinnacle Entertainment Inc. From left: L’Auberge Casino Resort Vice President and General Manager Michael K. Pendergast; Nidal Daou, Burton College of Education; Derek D. Bussan, College of Science and Agriculture; Jennifer Barrow, College of Nursing and Health Professions; Catherine Anderson, College of Engineering and Computer Science; Md Al-Emran, College of Business; Philippe Girard, College of Liberal Arts; and McNeese President Daryl Burckel.

Special to the American Press