Lamar College Tour Cast Hits the Red Carpet
By Kim Bent, Beaumont Enterprise I April 24, 2023
Lamar students who comprised the cast of the university’s upcoming episode on Alex Boylan’s The College Tour reality television series got the star treatment during a preview party Thursday night at the Price Auditorium.
Two rental cars brought nine of the 10 cast members to the venue, where LU and Big Red, family, friends, administrators and others gathered to welcome their entry upon a red carpet laid outside the Henry Iles Building, with members of Lamar’s band heralding their arrival.
Freshman Emily Smith’s family held bouquets of flowers and signs with her photo in their hands as they joined the line of guests applauding the cast’s entry.
President Jaime Taylor was first in line on one side of the red carpet greeting, shaking each student’s hand as they arrived.
“This is such an exciting day for us,” said Taylor, who applauds the university’s marketing department for its creativity in getting Lamar University on a stage that reaches well beyond the predominantly Southeast Texan student population.
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That was a sentiment shared by nearly all of the student cast members, who discussed why they tried out for a spot on the show and how it has impacted them during a panel discussion that followed the episode preview.
The discussion was led by 2007 Lamar University communications graduate Joshua Yawn, owner of Joshua Productions. Yawn got his broadcast start at LUTV in college and is currently the corporate host for Nissan.
It’s a path to success that was forged through his academic and experiential opportunities at Lamar, “and these students are on the same path,” he told the crowd.
“Several months ago, these ten talented students got together. They went through a whole lot to get here and they worked very, very hard” to produce what would become Lamar’s statement to the world of college seeking students, Yawn said.
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They wrote their own scripts, chose their own wardrobes, filmed three-minute segments that ultimately took far more than three minutes to shoot.
Jacob Murphy said he thought he would “roll in, do my three minutes then be back home taking a nap or eating pizza.”
As a member of Lamar’s Soul of the South marching band and other campus groups, he was no stranger to being in front of a camera or in front of a crowd.
“But when that camera rolled, I forgot my entire script. We had to take a 10-minute break so I could remember what my name was,” Murphy recounted.
There were also interruptions by passing traffic and Beaumont’s endless trains.
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Over an hour later, his segment with the film crew, which included director Daren Woolsey, a lighting technician and two additional film crew members, wrapped up.
Murphy wasn’t the only one to grapple with a moment of sudden “stage fright” when the cameras started rolling.
Zaid Mohammed had a similar experience, but “they were really willing to work with us and make it comfortable,” he said.
The cast member who had the easiest go of the filming side was senior Alexis Miller, who is a broadcast major and has been part of LUTV and other campus media.
“My filming experience was a breeze, because I do this all the time,” she said.
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Being part of the show added a layer to Miller’s broadcast experience that will benefit her as she moves on in the workforce after graduating this May, and definitely helped in landing a spot on a Lamar University commercial that aired during the Super Bowl in February.
Fellow senior Hannah Norwood said her experience with the show helped as she faced interviews at potential medical schools – schools she’d researched in part by watching their episodes on the College Tour.
Norwood said she learned so much about professionalism and marketing through her exposure to Lamar’s communications department.
Her first medical school interviews were “intimidating, but later in the process after I did this, the College Tour was a huge conversation point,” she said.
Not only was she more confident in her communication skills, but being part of the show made her stand out from the crowd.
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It also created more interest for Lamar among those school administrators.
“At the end (of the interview), they’d say, ‘send more Cards, because this was wonderful,’” Norwood said.
Landon Richard, who is pursuing his master’s degree in business with a focus on leadership, got a similar boost in his future through doing the show.
“I’m beyond prepped for the future. I’m already employed and in a leadership role at my two jobs while pursuing my MBA,” he said.
The show still helped him with his communication skills, which are especially vital to those in leadership roles. The skills helped him land an internship at ExxonMobil working in public and government affairs.
However, being part of the College Tour cast means more than a chance to be in the spotlight or get a leg up for the future. It’s also a chance to highlight the school that has put each of the students on their respective paths for the future.
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As Boylan said in the episode opening, “Lamar University has a story (people) want to hear.”
It’s a story that Mohammed didn’t fully appreciate until becoming part of the cast. As an engineering major, he was impressed with the labs and research opportunities available as early as his freshman year, but his experience with other parts of the university were limited.
“Doing this, I saw so much of other departments and students, and I realized how well-rounded this school is,” Mohammed said. “We’re not so well known beyond here, but at the end of the day, medical, law and business schools know Lamar because of the students and alumni. We can tell people now to check out the episode and learn more.”
The diversity and campus opportunities were highlighted by each of the cast members, whose segments focused on a range of topics, including the school and city’s history, dormitories and campus life, financial aid and support systems like Lamar’s Stars Program and multicultural groups.
Cast member Stephanie Barron founded the Lamar Hispanic Society, which she highlighted in her spot, as well as her involvement with the Reaud Honors College.
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The diversity and campus organizations like Barron’s, along with collegiate scholarships for low income students and counseling for first-generation college students, was a major help to freshman Antonio Maldonado.
He’s not only a first-generation college student, but also a first-generation high school graduate within his family, who emigrated from Mexico 10 years ago. He spoke about being inclusive on campus, stressing that “being involved on campus has to be a big part of college experience.”
Barron agreed, saying that “getting involved is key to doing good here.”
And through their experience with the show, the 10 cast members have gotten involved on a level none even considered when first setting foot on campus.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, (and I’m a senior, so) why not go out with a bang?” Miller said. “I can’t wait until Lamar is huge and I can say I was a part of that.”
Melancon also believes the show will help Lamar’s student population grow.
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As a campus tour guide, she was used to showcasing Lamar to visiting students and parents. Yet, the show will reach those who aren’t already setting foot on campus.
“We’re a hidden gem. Many people don’t know what we have to offer, and now they will,” Richard said. “This was an amazing experience, and I’m honored to be a part of the voice of the university.”
As proud as the cast members are of Lamar, the university is equally proud of them, Taylor said.
“You were chosen because you’re the top students at this university – the kind of students we want to represent us. You are the pride of the university,” he told the cast. “I hope this will attract more students like you.”