Southeastern student garners book deal, numerous awards
Contact: Rene Abadie
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HAMMOND -- There aren’t many undergraduate students who have a documentary to their credit, much less a confirmed book deal in the offing.
But those are among some of the latest developments in the college career of Southeastern Louisiana University honors student Samantha Perez, who graduates Saturday (May 15) with an enviable list of accomplishments, including a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
A double major in history and honors English language and literature with minors in creative writing and gender studies, Perez was recently cited by the national honor society Phi Kappa Phi with a $5,000 fellowship, one of 60 in the nation. In addition, she was named the organization’s Hohenstein Fellow from the South Central Region, which carries another post-graduate fellowship.
The Violet (St. Bernard Parish) native earned other academic awards this spring as the Outstanding Graduating Senior in English, while also receiving the Martina Buck Award for Outstanding Graduating Senior in History.
The book deal developed when a publisher of local history books discovered Perez on the Internet. A Southeastern web page cover story highlighted a documentary she and her fiancé Josh Robin developed as part of an independent studies project in history and communication, Robin’s major. The 50-minute video, entitled “Louisiana’s Lost Treasure: The Islenos,” focuses on the cultural identity of the Islenos people, who migrated from Spain to the Canary Islands and later to southeast Louisiana in the late 1700s.
“It’s the heritage we both share,” said Perez. “We’re very proud of it. It’s our way of helping to preserve that culture while there are still people around who know the history and traditions of the Islenos people.”
The video premiered at Southeastern’s 2009 Fanfare, an annual fall festival of the arts, humanities and social sciences. It has also been shown at other venues, including a special presentation to the people of St. Bernard Parish.
“I was petrified showing this to people who really know and understand their culture,” Perez said. “That was the real test, but everyone seemed to love it.”
The book, which she will try to complete this summer, will focus on the Islenos people of St. Bernard Parish and preserve the research in a printed form.
“I guess I was in the right place at the right time,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be published; I grew up with books, and as a kid would tell my mother ‘I want to write books too.’”
In the fall, Perez will start graduate studies in history at Tulane University, attending the institution on a fully paid scholarship to work on a doctorate degree in late medieval and early modern Europe, a period that fascinates her because it represents a major transition point in western history.
“Considering her enormous natural abilities, incredible work ethic, intense dedication to scholarship and her boundless love for her community, Samantha is the most impressive undergraduate I have encountered in my 27 years at Southeastern,” said William Robison, professor and head of the Department of History and Political Science. “Her future potential as a graduate student and a professional historian is limitless. I am extraordinarily proud of her and feel extremely privileged to have had her as a student.”
Samantha’s long-term goal? She says it’s to return one day to Southeastern as a member of the faculty.
“I love this school,” says Perez, who attended Southeastern on a full scholarship. “I looked at other universities initially, but I had taken courses here as a high school student and really like the environment. I love the professors here who know me personally. Eventually I would love to return as an instructor. I want to give back everything that was given to me.”