Every spring and fall semester, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Alumni Association honors outstanding gradu
Five graduate students have been selected as finalists for the Outstanding Master’s Graduate designation, which started with the Spring 2015 Commencement.
Each graduate program can nominate one student for the award, based on leadership, scholarship, service, and research. A committee, led by the dean of the University’s Graduate School, selects the top candidates.
A UL Lafayette Alumni Association committee interviews each candidate and chooses one for the overall award. That person is recognized during the Commencement General Assembly as the overall Outstanding Master’s Graduate.
Here’s a look at the honorees.
Nathan Abbott is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the College of the Arts.
He majored in music performance with a 4.0 GPA.
A baritone, Abbott earned a full fellowship to the International Performing Arts Institute in Germany in the summer of 2015. He won first place at the summer festival Aria Competition, an accomplishment rarely achieved by an American vocalist.
Earlier, Abbott studied the Italian bel canto singing style and entered several competitions. He was a prizewinner at contests held by the Southern Tri-State National Association of Teachers of Singing and its Louisiana division. He then was invited to participate in the prestigious
Madame Rose Palmai-Tenser Scholarship Competition, where he was awarded second prize.
As a graduate assistant at the School of Music, Abbott helped teach and coach undergraduate voice students. He was a music theory assistant and taught music appreciation classes.
Abbott has performed leading roles in numerous UL Opera Theater productions.
He is the son of Neil Abbott of Raceland, La.
Nadine Bayard is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration.
She has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is graduating summa cum laude with a Master’s of Business Administration.
Bayard was a market research intern with Enersciences Holdings LLC, which develops products and services for the energy industry. She conducted research and produced a comprehensive report on energy sources, providers, and exploration and production costs in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Bayard, whose hometown is Panama City, Panama, was a graduate assistant in the University’s Office of International Affairs, where she developed programs to enrich international students’ experiences at UL Lafayette and the City of Lafayette.
As a graduate assistant and team leader in UL Lafayette’s Information Systems and Multimedia Labs, Bayard codesigned a business plan for a campuswide digital signage project.
As a student leader for Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, she led a team of volunteers who fed over 150 students weekly for one year.
She was named Outstanding Graduate in 2013 when she received her Bachelor of Science in business administration from UL Lafayette. Bayard is the daughter of Nadina and Gustavo Bayard of Panama City, Panama.
Zheng Zhang is Outstanding Master's Graduate for the College of Engineering.
He is a petroleum engineering major, with a 3.83 GPA.
His research paper “An Experimental Test of the Critical Flowback Velocity in Hydraulic-Fracturing Shale Gas Wells" was featured during the 2015 LAGCOE graduate student paper competition.
He holds a Bachelor of Science in applied petroleum engineering from China University of Petroleum in Qingdao, China.
Zhang’s paper has also been submitted to the “Hydraulic Fracturing Journal.”
He has been active in student chapters of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, American Association of Drilling Engineers, American Petroleum Institute, and Chinese Students and Scholars Association.
His parents are Xingya Zhang and Shan Wu, of Changchun, Ji Lin Province, China.
James Blankenship is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the College of Nursing and Allied Health Profession.
A registered nurse enrolled in the family nurse practitioner concentration, he has a 4.0 GPA .
Since 2010, Blankenship has worked as a charge nurse for Regional Medical Center of Acadiana’s Emergency Department. From 2005 to 2010, he was an emergency room technician at Lafayette General Medical Center.
He recently developed a presentation to inform patients of colorectal cancer screening options, with the objective of increasing the number of patients who get tested. It was adopted by a large primary care practice in southern Louisiana as an educational supplement for patients.
Blankenship is a member of the Delta Eta Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing, and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. He is an instructor for Sudden Impact, a driver safety program; a member of the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Team; and a cadet commander of the Lafayette Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.
Blankenship is the son of Kelley and Joyce Blankenship of New Iberia, La. He is married to Ashley Blankenship and is the father of Charlotte Blankenship.
Benjamin Magallon is the Outstanding Master’s Graduate for the School of Architecture and Design.
He maintained a 4.0 GPA, while participating in projects such as the Lafayette Strong Camellia Gridshell. The open-air, dome-shaped structure was designed by architecture students, and built with input from engineers at an art park along Camellia Boulevard.
As an intern in UL Lafayette’s Office of Sustainability, Magallon worked on campus sustainability policies, research, and reporting.
For his master's project, Magallon designed an orphanage in his hometown of Puebla City, Mexico. It features “child-centric” spaces intended to foster a sense of well-being.
He was active with AmeriCorps, a national community service program.
Prior to enrolling at UL Lafayette, he earned a Bachelor of Science in history and anthropology from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa.
He is married to Kristine Loewer Magallon, and the father of son Emerson David Magallon. His parents are Phil and Beth Dorcas of Fort Worth, Tex.