2020 was defined by crisis and opportunity at Louisiana Tech University. Through the pandemic, social unrest, and statewide storms, the Tech Family came together and enters 2021 stronger than ever.
We’ve listed here just a few of Louisiana Tech’s top stories for this past year.
University responds to COVID-19 pandemic
Just as the Spring Quarter started, Louisiana Tech was forced to move all classes online in response to the growing threat of COVID-19. The move required innovation in all areas of the University, and our students, faculty, and staff responded. While some courses were simpler to move to an online format, lab-based classes like physics and chemistry required a different approach. As the federal government made funds available for higher education through the CARES Act, Tech awarded more than $1.6 million to approximately 3,000 students during the first two months of the CARES Act grant program.
Student-led Black Lives Matter march rallies community
Students and community members from Louisiana Tech, Ruston, and Grambling converged in the heart of Tech’s campus to march for racial justice and equality following the death of George Floyd that sparked a nationwide movement. Joined by Louisiana Tech President Dr. Les Guice and Grambling State President Dr. Rick Gallot, the marchers began their trek outside of the Student Center, making their way through campus and downtown Ruston, finally rallying together at Ruston City Hall. Once gathered in the front of City Hall, the crowd knelt on the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds—the same amount of time George Floyd endured a knee on his neck prior to his death. The march was peaceful but full of emotion. Signs, chants, speeches, and tears were in abundance as people from all walks of life came together to declare Black Lives Matter.
Construction begins on new athletics facilities, continues through campus
In March, the State of Louisiana authorized construction to begin on Louisiana Tech University’s baseball facility and soccer and softball complex, replacing those that were destroyed during the storm that tore through Ruston in April 2019. The projects have progressed simultaneously, and the University expects completion in February 2021. With the demolition of Harris and Harper halls and a portion of College Street, the University prepared for more greenspace through campus. In addition, nearly 1,000 new parking spaces were added throughout campus and construction began on the first of three new residence halls along Tech Drive.
New members join the Tech Family
In 2020, Louisiana Tech welcomed several new members to its leadership team. Tom Hoover joined Louisiana Tech as the University’s Chief Information Officer in January and soon began orchestrating the University’s technological response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Devonia Love-Vaughn was appointed Dean of Inclusive Initiatives and Student Success, a newly created position designed to ensure that every student on campus feels at home within the Tech Family, in March. Five decades after the first African American student stepped onto campus, Love-Vaughn becomes the University’s first African American female dean.
Then in late October, Louisiana Tech President Dr. Les Guice introduced Dr. Eric A. Wood as a Vice President and the Director of Athletics. Wood is the first African American Vice President in Louisiana Tech history as well as the first minority Director of Athletics in the University’s history.
Rankings continue to recognize Tech excellence
Throughout 2020, Louisiana Tech earned and maintained rankings for a number of programs and the University as a whole. U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) has ranked Louisiana Tech University as one of the best National Universities for the 10th straight year, according to its 2021 Best Colleges list. Louisiana Tech was ranked second among public universities in the State of Louisiana. For the second year in a row, Louisiana Tech was the only university in the State of Louisiana named to the Times Higher Education (THE) 2020 University Impact Rankings released in April. In addition, Tech was named a Military Friendly School, earning the 2020-21 Military Friendly® designation from Victory Media. Visit our Rankings news page for more Louisiana Tech honors.
Donors continue to support vision for Louisiana Tech’s future
The Tech Family and Friends gave more than $1 million for Louisiana Tech University’s second annual Giving Day, held April 27. More than 1,400 gifts contributed to the day’s total, and donors included students, faculty, staff members, alumni, and corporate partners. Nearly $40,000 was directly given to benefit students financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Individual supporters continued to support initiatives that were close to their hearts, as when a Tech graduate donated nearly 100 years’ worth of materials documenting the history of music or when donors supported renovations at the IDEA Place.
Academic and research success continues
- Despite the challenges Louisiana Tech’s students, faculty, and staff encountered in 2020, our campus community continued to excel in the classrooms, labs, and studios. In April, the Winter 2020 issue of the Regional Economic Analysis of Louisiana (REAL) Report was published by undergraduate economics majors in the College of Business.
- In May, it was announced that Louisiana Tech will receive $3.517 million of a five-year, $20 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to establish the Louisiana Materials Design Alliance (LAMDA) and transform research and education in advanced manufacturing and materials throughout the state.
- Louisiana Tech University became one of 19 universities to join a three-year institutional change effort to develop inclusive faculty recruitment, hiring, and retention practices. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) co-leads the effort, known as Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive & Diverse STEM Faculty.
- Dr. Teresa Murray, associate professor in Biomedical Engineering and the Center for Biomedical Engineering and Rehabilitation Sciences at Louisiana Tech University, is collaborating with former Louisiana Tech doctoral student Dr. Chelsea Pernici and professors at the University of Arizona to develop a treatment that could prevent memory and emotional problems in patients suffering from axonal injury caused by traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
- Louisiana Tech students in the new Center for Health and Medical Communication were tasked with creating educational information, not only on COVID-19, but also on other infectious diseases, such as the flu.
- Tech and Grambling State University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that provides GSU accounting undergraduates accelerated entry into Louisiana Tech’s Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program.
- Four Louisiana Tech students were among the 198 students from 45 higher education institutions in 14 countries who were named University Innovation Fellows. Biology major Abigail Hildenbrand, Jatavion Jackson (sociology), Kayley Kraig (supply chain management), and Courtney Wessels (industrial engineering) are University Innovation Fellows, a program of Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design that empowers students to become agents of change at their schools.
- Dr. Gergana Nestorova, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, in collaboration with payload developer Dr. Niel Crews, Senior Engineer at nou Systems, Inc., has developed a one-step gene sampling tool that integrates with the existing Cepheid PCR instrument on the International Space Station to provide a faster and more efficient method for genetic screening of biological specimens.