Community Engagement and Collaborations

Dr. Burckel believed that developing partnerships, collaborations, and connections between McNeese and the Southwest Louisiana community would lead to renewed appreciation for the value the University brings to the region and provide opportunities to share the McNeese vision “To Be First Choice” and commitment to the mission of “Changing Lives Through Excellence With a Personal Touch.” It was also important for McNeese students, faculty, and staff to be connected to, and involved in, the community.

“As a regional university, we must be stewards of the community we serve. Our partnerships with regional stakeholders, including the city, parish, area educational partners, convention and visitor’s bureau, chamber, legislative delegation, and the citizens of Southwest Louisiana strengthen McNeese and our region.”

Collaborations with the city of Lake Charles and the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau led to initiatives designed to encourage McNeese students, faculty and staff, and community members to get more involved in local and campus events.

Holding Pokes in the Oaks, Rouge et Blanc downtown, and tailgate celebrations at various businesses, hosting the Lake Charles Symphony performances in Tritico Theatre, co-sponsoring a WWII exhibit and panel discussion, participating in the Mayor’s Roundtable for High School Students, lighting the President’s Home to commemorative McNeese Homecoming, Christmas, Mardi Gras, and Autism Awareness Month, and the highly popular Friday Night Block Parties during football season were among the many projects to encourage engagement and connection to Southwest Louisiana.

A partnership with Bayou Teche, one of Louisiana’s most established and highly successful craft breweries, and long-time McNeese supporter Southwest Beverage Company launched the first McNeese-branded craft beer, Joli Blon. The beer was first distributed at football games and then made available through local retailers.

Yellowfin Distillery, established by McNeese engineering graduate Jamison Trouth, developed “Geaux Pokes,” a single estate vodka distilled by Yellowfin. The branded vodka was distributed to retailers in the area with a portion of every purchase going directly to McNeese.

In September 2022, Dr. Burckel invited external stakeholders including elected officials, representatives from public and private K-12 education, business, healthcare and industry, and community members to join faculty, staff, and students at the Focus on the Future Conference led by facilitator Billy Bennett. The group worked together with one goal in mind-to ensure the future of McNeese would be strong, on sound footing, and sustainable for years to come. The Guiding Vision for the Future is a blueprint with purpose and intent that includes Six Vision Themes that will be used for decision-making and planning for the next five years.

The College of Agricultural Sciences and Second Harvest Food Bank partnered to make a meaningful difference in the fight against hunger in Southwest Louisiana. The collaboration transformed a Gayle Hall Annex Building into a community kitchen for Second Harvest staff to prepare thousands of hot, nutritious meals for families, children, and seniors each week. The kitchen also serves as a teaching and learning lab for undergraduate and graduate students in the Nutrition and Dietetics Program providing opportunities for observation and experiential learning in a large scale, live, functioning food service operation.

The city of Lake Charles and Visit Lake Charles celebrated the opening of the 2023 fall semester by rolling out the blue carpet to welcome students back. The Civic Center, Millennium Park, and other downtown buildings glowed in blue and gold lights each evening, downtown restaurants offered McNeese specials, and businesses promoted McNeese gear and gifts. Many downtown businesses featured McNeese-themed window art and light displays. Videos, photos, posts, and blogs were shared on social media channels to showcase the McNeese spirit and community pride for McNeese.

During the fall of 2023 and spring of 2024, the McNeese Works Here Campaign showcased the thousands of McNeese graduates living and working in Southwest Louisiana. Local businesses, corporations, industry, and health organizations shared photographs of their McNeese alumni or current student employees with the graphic McNeese Works Here. The images were widely shared on digital billboards and through social media.

The Harold and Pearl Dripps School of Agricultural Sciences, the LSU Agricultural Center, the Calcasieu-Cameron Rice Growers Association, and the Jefferson Davis Rice Growers Association joined forces to research varieties of rice that grow well in Southwest Louisiana. Research conducted at the McNeese Farm will focus on fertility, disease management, and insect control.

Construction of the $13 million, 24,000 square-foot McNeese LNG Center of Excellence located on Sale Road near Ryan Street will provide space for training, research, and education for the local and national liquified natural gas industry and McNeese students. Funding from a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Economic Development, commitments from private partnerships with the LNG industry, the city of Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, and Port of Lake Charles are funding the project.

A partnership between the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, city of Lake Charles, and Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office provides McNeese Radio KBYS with access to a new broadcast tower built by the city of Lake Charles. McNeese Radio KBYS is now the official radio station for broadcasting emergency information to the public, and staff will work closely with the Office of Homeland Security to provide timely updates during emergencies.

McNeese is a partner in Just Imagine SWLA, a 50-year resilience master plan for Calcasieu and Cameron parishes created after Hurricanes Laura and Delta, as well as other federally declared disasters, impacted Southwest Louisiana between August 27, 2020, and May 17, 2021.

Two of the 10 original catalytic projects in the master plan, the McNeese Resilience District and Bayou Greenbelt, directly relate to the University. McNeese is making significant infrastructure investments that will impact Southwest Louisiana and create opportunities for new retail and business ventures. The McNeese Contraband Bayou Project is the centerpiece of Bayou Greenbelt, a 23-mile recreation loop around the city of Lake Charles selected by the National Park Service as a project for its Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.

McNeese has a significant impact on the economic, social, and cultural infrastructure of Southwest Louisiana. McNeese alumni work in nearly every sector of the Southwest Louisiana economy. Lightcast, a global leader in labor market analytics, conducted an economic impact analysis that measures how an educational institution affects the local economy. McNeese contributed $614 million in total income to our region in 2021 through operations, construction, visitor and student spending, and the income and spending of McNeese employees and alumni.