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Seeking the "Why"

New Honors College advisers pay it forward

Over the summer, the LSU Honors College welcomed not one but two new academic advisors—both of whom are Honors College alumni. Taylor Baudry, our new Lower Division Advisor, graduated from LSU in May 2013 with a degree in Mathematics. Michael Legendre, our new Upper Division & Thesis Advisor, graduated from LSU in December 2009 with a degree in Spanish and went on to get his Masters in Latin American Studies from Tulane. We recently sat down with Taylor and Michael and got the scoop on why they were so excited to come back to the Honors College. But we would encourage you to get to know them personally by making an appointment, or by stopping by our advising offices on the second floor of the French House at any time. An Honors College adviser is also available in 1213B West Laville (just inside the front doors) Monday through Friday, from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM.

Give us a little bit of information on your backgrounds.

Taylor: I’m originally from Atlanta but I was born and raised a Tiger. Both my parents are from southern Louisiana. They met here and graduated from LSU. It’s in my blood! After I graduated, I spent the summer extending my undergraduate research in biomathematics, and worked as a tutor and did temp work. Then I heard about this job, applied, and did everything I could to get it.

Michael: I’m from Covington, Louisiana. After I graduated from LSU I began teaching Spanish at a high school—St. Paul’s, in Covington. I did that for a year and then decided I wanted to apply to the MA program in Latin American Studies at Tulane. Around that time I got engaged, and my then-fiancé, now my wife, is in vet school here, so I thought it was high time to move back to Baton Rouge. I ended up teaching Spanish again at a local high school, and I wasn’t unhappy, but I was still kind of looking for something else—something in the higher education realm. I interviewed at the Honors College, and I was very excited when they offered me a position.

What attracted you to an advisor position with LSU Honors?

Taylor: I graduated from the Honors College, and in my four years here, I realized that I got more out of my advising at the Honors College—talking to Michael Blandino, Jeremy Joiner, and [former Upper Division advisor] Marybeth Smith—than I did with some of the advising I found elsewhere on campus. I think it’s because Honors students are a smaller group. The chance of the advisors remembering your name and what you talked about last time go up. I love the idea of being able to pay that forward and advise future students.

Michael: I just liked the thought of working on a university campus—at this university in particular. I loved my time here, I loved being on the campus. I did like being a teacher, and the main reason was my interaction with students. I think I’ll really enjoy working with students in the broader university setting, with students who are more ready to maybe move onto that next step, and having this sort of one-on-one interaction and personal conversation with students.

What do you think it is that makes Honors advising unique?

Taylor: With Honors advising, we’re taking the students as a whole person. We sit down and take the time to get to know you—it’s just not an in-and-out process, unless of course the student needs it to be, they’re just stopping by for a quick question on the way to class or something. But we’re not rushing you out the door.  We’ll talk about—what are your goals, what’s the workload you can handle, what are the extracurriculars you want to do. And how we’ll time all of that so you can finish the Honors Thesis, you can study abroad, you can get these graduation distinctions you want, without feeling too anxious or harried about it. 

Michael: I think it’s the overriding concern with the “why?” and not just the “what?” Since we operate outside of one single discipline, we get to view all majors equally and provide more of a big picture view to students when they arrive with a pressing question. We certainly help with the details or requirements a student may need know, but Honors advising is more about the individual student’s path and finding out what drives them. We are trying to help students find a passion, or expand on a passion they’ve already discovered. We try to connect those interests with a relevant thesis project, research opportunity, or extracurricular. We’re trying to guide the student toward not just an impressive academic record but toward becoming a complete person, with real-world experience.

What was your experience like as an Honors College student?

Taylor: Moving to Louisiana, being in a new place and not knowing anyone, was definitely a big step. I’ve always been a bit introverted. I really enjoyed HNRS 2000. It became a way for me to get to know other Honors College students in a smaller setting. I reached out, and participated more in class. I had an excellent professor—she was phenomenal in getting everyone involved, and she would always give me little pep talks.

Michael: We have a lot of students who have these really specific paths—they want to complete a thesis in this specific major for this exact purpose—and that is so great, but I was not that kind of student. I think when I started college I just wanted to play music. I was very naïve, and I kind of figured—a very erroneous notion—that I just had to get a degree and things would work themselves out. Eventually they did, but I didn’t take a direct path through my undergraduate years—it was kind of all over the map.

What did you learn from your Honors College experience that will help you advise current Honors students? What advice would you go back and give yourself as an undergraduate?

Taylor: I was on my way to writing an Honors Thesis, but then someone from another university published before I did. So I had to change my research at the last minute. My advice would be: don’t be afraid of taking an extra year—to finish research, to complete a thesis. It won’t kill you. It will actually be very beneficial, and you’ll really enjoy it. I would tell today’s students that I was lucky; I kind of stumbled into research with my professor by going to office hours. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors. Look up what they do when they’re not teaching—what their research is, and if it interests you. Asking people for help, asking what they do: that’s how you’re going to get started, and the earlier the better. It’s okay to get into something you think you like but later change your mind. There’s nothing wrong with change.

Michael: I want to be able to tell students about my experience. I want to show them the value in what they’re taking part in here. I eventually found out the value of a thesis, of graduate-level research—it just took me a little longer to figure that part out! Doing an Honors Thesis is something that has value in itself, just concerning the work that’s involved. So I get to offer that perspective through thesis advising, and say, look, doing a thesis is very important and very helpful. Let’s take where you are now in your academic career, and let’s try to mold a path for you, and let me help you figure out why that might be important for your life. This is something you’re going to be proud of forever, in addition to the knowledge and credentials doing a thesis provides. 

Switching gears entirely: what hobbies and interests do you have?

Taylor: I love to swim. I really like walking the lakes and going on nature walks. I like taking new adventures. And any chance I get, I normally have a book in my hand. I’m big into reading. And movies. Collecting DVDs is kind of my thing.

Michael: I mentioned I was a musician. That’s my main—can you call it a hobby? A secondary career? I’m certainly not making any money from it, but I do perform fairly regularly. Guitarist, bassist, singer—music has always been a major part of my life. I’m also a big LSU sports fan—football, basketball, baseball. I’m a big soccer fan. I enjoy writing in my free time. And I love spending time with my wife, and with my dog, Huckleberry. My wife will be done with vet school next May. We’re really excited about that. Vet school is a tough thing.

 

Make an appointment to meet with any one of our four Honors College advisers today: http://www.honors.lsu.edu/student-support/appointment-request

For more information about the wide variety of student support and advising resources available at LSU Honors, visit: http://www.honors.lsu.edu/student-support

Article by Jacqueline DeRobertis and Clara Bausa, LSU Honors College