Jasmine Dufreche grew up in rural Ponchatoula, attended UL, earned her Master's at the University of Texas, and is now back home as a Civil Engineering instructor.

Jasmine Dufreche, Civil Engineering, University of Louisiana

Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Marrero, and grew up in Ponchatoula. I didn't know what engineering was, I had never heard of UL, but I knew I didn't want to go to LSU. I just was kind of turned off by the thought of going to school with all the people I had gone to school with since kindergarten.

But then, my boyfriend— my husband now— went to UL for chemical engineering. So I asked him about engineering, and he started telling me about it. When he told me about civil engineering, designing roads and structures, I thought that was interesting. So I finished Ponchatoula High, and ended up at UL.

I was completely and utterly miserable when I came here. When they dropped me off at my dorm, it was the first time I had been on my own and I cried the whole day.

I hated Lafayette. We lived in rural Ponchatoula back in the woods, in the swamps, and this was 'The Big City' to me. At night I'd hear the ambulances, the police cars, the noise.  I went home every weekend, religiously, two hours one way. I would pack my car with dirty clothes, books, everything, and as soon as class was over I left.

I started making friends when I was a junior. I had been involved in student organizations before that, but I went to school, went to work, worked out, and studied. I had a boring existence. But once you get into your upper level classes, you have the same people in every class. So I hung out with them, and I discovered the better side of Lafayette. I found out there are things to do here, this isn't a bad place.

Here at UL I was in SGA, I was a president or officer in all these organizations, and when I became a senior I knew I wanted to go to grad school. So I decided to go to UT Austin. Then when it was time to leave and go back to Ponchatoula for the summer, it was so heart-wrenching. I was seriously depressed, I didn't want to move, I didn't want to leave my friends. I kept telling myself I was going to come back. One of my hobbies is belly dancing. So before I moved to Austin, I came back here and took classes once a week, just to have a reason to come back.

Everybody here is really friendly, very warm, quick to include you in their family. People embrace you. It was different where I grew up.  My family was from the West Bank, and that's a whole 'nother breed.  But I really began to notice the differences in Lafayette when I went to Austin. Over here people are interested you. In Austin, or at least in the UT graduate school, they are not at all interested in you.  It was cut and dry business.

They're very eclectic over there. In my graduate program, people were from all over, the northeast, California, international students, and they weren't as easy to talk to.  It was forced and awkward; I'd be cutting up, and they didn't seem to get it. I didn't fit in at all.

I was in Austin two years doing my master's and got married to my boyfriend-- Stephen Dufreche, he teaches chemical engineering here-- he had moved to Austin about six months before I graduated. When we finished, we started looking for jobs.

He knew there was a faculty position open here at UL.  I didn't know if I'd get a job, but I was so excited to come back here, with the possibility of a job for me, too. When we moved back in May, we moved on my birthday and I got a RedFlex ticket; welcome back.

I was looking for jobs. I was hoping to work for LUS, I had enjoyed working for them as a student.  And then Dean Zappi told me that he needed instructors, and that UL wanted to start summer classes, so there was the possibility of a 12-month job. I had never thought about teaching, but he convinced me, so I applied. I got the job.

Talk about the UL College of Engineering.

I've seen a lot of changes since I was a student.  We got a face-lift at Madison.  Faculty-wise, there are a lot of new faces, a lot of younger faces, and that's good. There seems to be a lot more energy. 

I think we have a great opportunity here to grow. As I mentioned, we're offering Summer classes for the first time in a while. I'm teaching two of them, and there has been a huge response from the students.  We used to have a problem with students going elsewhere in the Summer.

What do you see for the future?

I'm hoping to eventually get my PhD, and remain on faculty.  I think I want to remain teaching-intensive, I didn't enjoy the research as much as I enjoy the teaching.

It's weird how everything worked out. I love my job, I think it's the best job in the world.  It's fun to work with the students, and get to know them. I may be unique because I teach every student in the College, even the industrial tech students.  So I know the students when I walk around campus.

And it's a really good feeling to wake up in the morning, look forward to going to work, and be happy with that.  It just wasn't like that in Austin when I had to go to the lab, there were mornings I would rather have been drawn & quartered.  Now I'm in a city I love, at my alma mater.  I love it here.

I really love what I do.