LSU Geaux BIG Baton Rouge Volunteers to Serve Across Community; LSU Chapter of Phi Eta Sigma Serves BIG

phi eta sigma

Phi Eta Sigma Team Leaders pictured with Walter and Edrina Howard, who's home was impacted by flooding in August 2016. Photo: LSU University College

BATON ROUGE – The fifth annual Geaux BIG Baton Rouge was held Saturday, April 1, beginning with an opening ceremony on the LSU Natatorium Field. Geaux BIG Baton Rouge is an LSU student organization that plans and implements the largest day service event at LSU that unites the university community and Baton Rouge residents through service in order to express appreciation for the community's support. 

Approximately 1,690 LSU student, faculty and staff volunteers organized in teams impacting approximately 75 work sites. LSU Chapter of Phi Eta Sigma members demonstrated leadership in service, strength, and community outreach as they created a Geaux BIG Baton Rouge team. The Phi Eta Sigma team served in rehabilitating Walter and Edrina Howard’s home in North Baton Rouge, La.

“This is the second year I have had the privilege of leading Phi Eta Sigma’s team for Geaux Big Baton Rouge. Being a team leader not only has allowed me to give back to my community, but has also allowed me to grow closer to my fellow Phi Eta Sigma members,” said Anna C. Sightler, a native of Franklinton, La., junior majoring in accounting, and president of LSU’s Chapter of Phi Eta Sigma.

Mr. Howard is a retired truck driver and postal worker; Mrs. Howard was a teacher prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Howards are originally from New Orleans, but moved to Baton Rouge after their home was flooded with Hurricane Katrina. In August 2016, their home flooded again with more than 16 inches of water. While residing with their daughter, they have spent the last four months rebuilding their home. Mrs. Howard requested Geaux BIG Baton Rouge to assist the couple in catching up with exterior maintenance and yard work.

“This is a tremendous help. Words cannot express how grateful we are for the assistance,” said Mr. Howard.

LSU Chapter of Phi Eta Sigma team leaders included:

  • Kayla Berniard, native of Baton Rouge, La., sophomore majoring in biological sciences
  • Andrew Evangelisti, native of Memphis, Tn., junior majoring in coast & environment
  • Elise Loisel, native of LaPlace, La., senior majoring in kinesiology, human body movement
  • Collette Pitre, native of Metairie, La., sophomore
  • Anna Sightler, native of Franklinton, La., junior majoring in accounting
  • Mon Christian Tapalla, native of Denham Springs, La., junior majoring in electrical engineering
  • Caroline Welker, native of New Orleans, La., sophomore majoring in mass communications
Phi eta sigma

Kayla Berniard, sophomore majoring in biological sciences, works during GEAUX BIG 2017.Photo: LSU University College

For some Phi Eta Sigma team leaders, this is their 2nd year leading Geaux BIG Baton Rouge. Those members are Andrew Evangelisti, Anna Sightler and Mon Christian Tapalla. 

“Knowing that the team enthusiastically gave their time to participate in doing goodwill within the community creates a bond between us all as members, and contributes to Phi Eta Sigma’s lifelong fellowship between scholars. Leading this team for the betterment of our Baton Rouge community was the best way to close out my time as chapter president, and reminded me of what organizations like Phi Eta Sigma are for – fellowship between scholars and service within the community,” said Sightler.

LSU President F. King Alexander, Vice President of Student Life & Enrollment Kurt Keppler, Associate Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg presented the kickoff ceremony.

Homeowners and nonprofits across East Baton Rouge Parish submitted requests for help completing a variety of jobs in fall 2016. Geaux BIG Baton Rouge organizers assessed each site to develop working plans and to mitigate safety concerns, and volunteers were divided into teams suited to each site’s needs. According to the Independent Sector’s 2016 data, this single day of service will provide a benefit to the local economy equivalent to more than $115,000.

“Our Geaux BIG Baton Rouge day was wonderfully successful. The day celebrated Phi Eta Sigma’s commitment to service, leadership, and strength in integrity,” said Caroline Welker. “To witness our teams’ work ethic and the impacts made into the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Howard was emotionally moving. Our service was needed, was important, and added value onto others. I’m looking forward to next year to continue to sow seeds of impact.”

LSU University College
Since 1933, LSU University College has served as the portal of entry for students enrolled at LSU. Academic and personal success is the hallmark of a well-rounded student, and University College provides a foundation of support services for students beginning their academic careers at LSU. University College has two enrollment divisions: The Center for Freshman Year and The Center for Advising and Counseling. Additionally, University College offers retention-specific programs: Student Support Services, Ronald E. McNair Research Scholars and Summer Scholars, and hosts Phi Eta Sigma, a national honor society rewarding first-collegiate-year scholarship. These academic support programs focus on particular student populations and are a significant part of the role and mission of University College.

LSU Chapter of Phi Eta Sigma
Phi Eta Sigma is a national honor society rewarding first-collegiate-year scholarship. Since 1928, the LSU Chapter of Phi Eta Sigma has inducted more than 10,828 students. The goal of the society is to encourage and reward academic excellence among full-time, freshmen students in institutions of higher learning, who have a minimum 3.5 cumulative grade point average.  Inductees receive national recognition, membership, and undergraduate and graduate scholarship opportunities of over $300,000.

“Phi Eta Sigma is a well-respected honor society of which I am pleased to be the advisor for the LSU Chapter,” said R. Paul Ivey, executive director of LSU University College. “Our LSU chapter is one of several programs that University College integrates into our retention efforts as a means to recognize the academic excellence of our freshmen students.”

For more information on LSU University College, visit or follow the conversation at




Contact Jacquelyn Craddock
LSU University College