The Dec. 22 episode of Beyond 1984 is our “Year in Review” special, a highlight of some of the many things the Louisiana Tech Family has celebrated, weathered, and accomplished. Here are just a few of Tech’s top stories from a challenging but rewarding 2021 that was filled with success stories.

Rankings continue to recognize Tech excellence

U.S. News & World Report again ranked Tech as a Top Tier National University and second among public universities in Louisiana in its 2022 Best Colleges list. Tech’s ranking of 140 moved the University up 30 spots from last year. Rankings are calculated by reviews from students and alumni, along with analysis of academic, admissions, financial, and student life data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Forever Loyal

The year started off with a financial bang as the Forever Loyal campaign was completed. The goal was $125 million, which was met within a year of the campaign’s opening — and the final amount donated was $171 million.

For the third year in a row, alumni, friends, students, and staff donated more than $1 million on Tech’s annual Giving Day, proof that donors continue to support the vision for the University’s future. This is despite the on-going challenges of the tornado two years ago and the pandemic. Faculty and staff continue to invest in themselves as giving from those two groups is at an all-time high, an encouragement to those now off-campus to remain forever loyal.

Financial Support Helps Build Tech’s 21st Century Campus

The new student housing on Tech Drive is ongoing and more than just a place to study and sleep. Living spaces have been created so the Tech Family can share community, intramural, study, dining, and recreational areas.

The gateways to the University are being improved, but there’s also an ongoing re-invention of the campus interior, illustrated by more accessible walkways, more Noble Trees, lots of breathable green space, and the biggest (and newest) lighted art in Lincoln Parish, Aspire, a sculpture designed to evoke the power and inclusivity of higher education.

A new complex to house LTRI — the Louisiana Tech Research Institute — is nearing completion in Bossier City at the Cyber Park in Bossier City. LTRI’s mission is to provide preeminent interdisciplinary research and integrated education capability to government and industry sponsors to solve complex emerging problems facing our nation. The University is also preparing to begin construction on Tech Pointe II in the Enterprise Campus in the near future.

21st Century Campus Athletic Facilities

One thing the University did with its generated funds was plan and build J.C. Love Field at Pat Patterson Park at the Origin Bank Baseball Complex and both Dr. Billy Bundrick Field and Robert Mack Caruthers Field at the Origin Bank Softball and Soccer Complex Soccer on the north end of campus along Tech Drive. The Diamond Dogs ignited Ruston in late May and early June by hosting both the Conference USA Tournament and the city’s first ever NCAA Ruston Regional, one of the most dramatic and memorable two weeks of fun in a packed ballpark in Tech’s rich athletic history.

Earlier in the year, the Dunkin’ Dogs finished strong with a buzzer-beater victory over Colorado State to finish third in the NIT. Then in the summertime, Bulldog Kenneth Lofton Jr. and Team USA won gold in Latvia in the 2021 FIBA World Cup; in the finals, Junior scored a team-high 16 points to go along with seven rebounds, two assists, and one steal to help Team USA complete an 83-81 come-from-behind victory over France.

Grant-sponsored research

A picture of Tech’s culture of working together, 2021 was another year of successful collaborative interdisciplinary research that brought in lots of grant dollars to the University.

The Newman Lab at Tech, Grambling State, and LSU Health Shreveport (LSUHS) — fueled by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation — teamed with local organizations like GSU’s Foster Johnson Health Center, TechCare, and The Health Hut to provide the opportunity for high quality testing and viral genome sequencing for minority and marginalized communities. Through these collaborative efforts between local researchers and health care providers, along with community participation and engagement, progress is being made in gathering data that allows scientists to better understand how COVID-19 and variants might impact public health.

Dr. Julie Rutledge is another boots-on-the-ground example of how research on the Tech campus impacts health and wellness and improves equity for health outcomes in our area. Rutledge, Associate Professor in Human Ecology, is the director of the Education and Research in Children’s Health (ENRICH) Center, a program that educates young students, especially those in low income areas, on healthy eating so that the children can positively impact the way their families eat.

How do we make materials stronger? To research the answer, 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. Besides Tech, LSU, Southern University, Tulane University, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are involved in the project.

Not only does research at the University break down borders and spread nationwide and worldwide, it also reaches into space. Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Dr. Gergana Nestorova has helped develop 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. In other words, Tech is helping the human race to understand how to grow plants in space.

More opportunities for student engagement

Established through the generosity of alumni, the student-managed investment fund is managed by undergraduate students and involves “real money.” Thanks goodness because the fund not only gives finance students hands-on experience, but also has seen annual gains of 37 percent through the pandemic.

Besides increasing the number of leadership and service organizations, the University has created the Career Closet, a collaborative initiative between the Career Center, Fashion Merchandising and Retail Studies, the School of Human Ecology, the College of Applied and Natural Sciences, the College of Business, and the College of Engineering and Sciences with the goal of providing current students who are preparing for their careers with knowledge of appropriate professional dress and access to professional dress at no monetary charge.

Many Tech students have internship opportunities, but this is a new one. Shelby Gifford is 2021 graduate of the School of Design who served a summer internship with Chip and Joanna Gaines at Magnolia in Waco, Texas. The Gaineses are stars of the “Fixer Upper” TV show.

There’s almost always something new on campus

Louisiana Tech students in all areas of the health sciences began benefitting from yet another unparalleled, collaborative educational experience in the fall with the opening of the Justin and Jeanette Hinckley Virtual Anatomy Lab in Carson-Taylor Hall. The heart of the lab is the Anatomage Table, the most technologically advanced 3D anatomy visualization and virtual dissection tool for anatomy and physiology education yet created. It works on an operating table form and combines radiology software and clinical content to offer students opportunities to learn at every level, from dissection to studying the body at a single-cell level. The table contains digitized versions of actual humans who donated their bodies to science.

Tech also began a Student News Bureau, a partnership between the Office of University Communications (UC) and the School of Communication that has become an experiential learning opportunity for students interested in careers in journalism, public relations, or communication. Through producing stories for the bureau, students who previously produced strong work in their classes will now have opportunities for having their work be visible in print, audio, and TV outlets.

Now, onward — together — to making the dreams of 2022 come true.

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