A native of Sulphur, Dr. Joseph Savoie served in the cabinet of three Louisiana governors — Mike Foster, Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal — before returning to his alma mater in July 2008 to become the sixth president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette). There, Savoie’s economic development initiatives have included a new partnership with global information technology firm CGI.
[EQ] What is the role of UL Lafayette in economic growth — and is that role changing?
[Savoie] Our role in economic development is evolving to focus on public-private partnerships, commercialization of intellectual property and technology transfer. We are also creating new programs and changing our curricula to reflect
industry workforce needs.
[EQ] What impact will the partnership with CGI have on the university’s computer science program?
[Savoie] In the short term, you will see us adding new courses and revamping existing ones to serve the needs of CGI and other technology companies in Louisiana.
Longer term, as we triple the number of graduates in computing and technology-related disciplines, we will position ourselves as a Top 25 school in terms of the number of students earning bachelor’s degrees in those areas. That will help us attract more high-quality students, faculty, researchers and companies, creating even more opportunities for economic development.
[EQ] What ripple effect do you think you’ll see from CGI’s site selection decision?
[Savoie] The ripple effect is that Louisiana has become competitive in attracting the software industry. Its expanding success communicates to the largest corporations in the U.S. and beyond, that universities here rank alongside the best in the nation in their ability to produce a well-qualified talent pool, world-class research and essential software infrastructure.
[EQ] What makes the university’s computer science program and its students compelling economic resources?
[Savoie] The computer science program has a storied past. The nation’s first master’s degree in computer science was offered at this university when it was the University of Southwestern Louisiana. Our Center for Visual and Decision Informatics is the first National Science Foundation Center of Excellence in Louisiana. It is funded mostly by industry and focuses on finding solutions to big data problems identified by industry.
[EQ] Can you tell us about your partnership with Charles River Analytics?
[Savoie] Our work with Charles River Analytics epitomizes our model of public-private partnership. Dr. Arun Lakhotia, a professor in our Center for Advanced Computer Studies, is a prominent researcher in the area of cybersecurity. He has worked with Charles River Analytics on collaborations that are producing commercially viable technologies that increase our ability as a nation to mitigate cyber threats, understand the threat profile and protect ourselves from those who seek to do us harm.
[EQ] What are other notable private partnerships involving the university?
[Savoie] There are multiple examples of partnerships that reflect our commitment to research for a reason. They include biomedical research involving the New Iberia Research Center and major pharmaceutical companies that support drug discovery and delivery. We are also working to develop clean energy through our partnership with the Energy Institute and Cleco, with an $8 million investment in a state-of-the-art facility to support research and collaboration.