By Matt Vines
Dr. Julie Lessiter remembers her days in the Brownies troop of Girl Scouts.
So when the Girl Scouts of Louisiana – Pines to the Gulf wanted to recognize her as part of this year’s class of Women of Distinction, the honor meant even more.
The Girl Scouts descended on the LSUS campus Thursday to honor eight local community leaders for being exemplary role models to young girls.
“This means the world to me. I’m such a supporter of empowering females and am thrilled to be recognized as a female who inspires young women to be able to aspire to do great things,” said Lessiter, the vice chancellor for strategic initiatives at LSUS. “The Girl Scouts experience was different back then than it is today.
“We’ve been involved with Girl Scouts in areas like STEM and Cyber. The skills and attributes that scouts are teaching these young ladies is impressive, and they are gaining so many valuable life lessons that are both practical and help them emotionally excel.”
Lessiter, who’s spent 13 years in various leadership positions at LSUS, joined other honorees Carolyn Henderson (Shreveport Deputy Fire Chief), Dr. Jayda Spillers (Northwest Louisiana Technical Community College Chancellor), Jeannette Sibley (Keller Williams Realty CEO), Lynn Stevens (Director of Workforce Development at Goodwill Industries of North Louisiana), Dr. Markey Pierre (Vice Chancellor for External Affairs and Chief of Staff at LSU Health Sciences Center), Erica McCain (Community Development Liasion at ANECA Federal Credit Union) and Jeremy Burge (Chief Operations Officer at Louisiana Truck Stop and Gaming Administration, LLC). Burge is the 2023 Man Enough to be a Girl Scout honoree.
Lessiter played a key role in the formation and growth of LSUS’s online graduate programs, which enroll more than 6,000 students.
She’s also been a force in the on-campus renovations, including the Cyber Collaboratory and Pilots Pointe Apartments among others.
Allison Doucet, manager of development at GSLPG, said the Girl Scouts take great pleasure in showcasing local women who exemplify the Girl Scout mission.
“We can pull up a ton of examples of Girl Scouts who went on to be astronauts or state senators or actresses or leaders who seem out of reach, but what we are doing at this event is creating a platform for young girls to see how you can make a difference and be an inspiration to someone in your same community,” Doucet said. “We have this unique opportunity to show young girls this incredibly diverse group of honorees knowing that the stories they tell will relate to every single girl in some way.”
Lessiter, who has held leadership roles in athletics and academics in her career, will begin a new role as vice president for Texas State University’s campus in Round Rock, Texas. The position is the highest on-campus role at Texas State Round Rock under the direction of the Texas State system president Dr. Kelly Damphousse.
“We’ve all heard the phrase about a glass ceiling, but fortunately, women today have had many trailblazers to thank for the opportunities we now experience,” Lessiter said. “I’ve had younger females that I know who have said they’ve felt like they couldn’t move or do something different with their life if they hadn’t seen someone else in their community do it, and that I’d inspired them to be brave and take a risk and move for a career.
“It’s not easy to uproot everyone and start in a new town and in a new job, and it does take courage and is uncomfortable. But I’m proud that I can show others that it is possible.”