Women Leading Education for a Greater New Orleans

As the Junior League of New Orleans inspires the next generation of women leaders, “Women Leading for a Greater New Orleans” has been adopted as the new slogan for JLNO.  To illustrate this ongoing tradition of empowering women leaders, Lagniappe looks forward to highlighting female changemakers making an impact across industries, throughout Greater New Orleans. As we celebrate our 95th Anniversary, the following testimonies from women educators within the JLNO network provide powerful insights into the strength of our League leaders, as well as the ripple effect these women have in our community.



Jennifer Couvillon

pictured above

RN-BC, PhD, CNE President, Chamberlain University College of Nursing at Ochsner Health System


How I’ve Gotten Where I Am Today
I started my career as critical care nurse at Georgetown University Hospital, which led to an opportunity to train as a Family Nurse Practitioner and enabled me to pursue a PhD in Nursing Education and Technology. I served as an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, and I joined the Ochsner Nursing leaders to help build a professional development program and support regulatory education. I’m fortunate to be able to blend my teaching experience with my knowledge of nursing administration and operations. This allows me to ensure the Chamberlain University College of Nursing at Ochsner is a fully-blended program where students can experience clinical training while caring for patients. My goal is for those interested in nursing to be fully welcomed and integrated into the Ochsner Health System during their Bachelor of Science in Nursing training.  The key to a seamless transition is the institution’s commitment to care. Chamberlain Care leads to the Ochsner culture of care, and our campus supports professional development along the way.

Chamberlain Care is more than a concept; it is a culture. When an individual listens to their heart and realizes that caring for others is their gift, looking for a nursing school that can enhance that passion and spark a desire for lifelong learning is their goal. Chamberlain does just that. The campus is made up of colleagues who care for themselves and one another so that we have capacity to care for our students, who care for our patients. Caring is not limited to an act of kindness: to truly care means to help another in their darkest times, and to be present physically and emotionally when the student or patient may not even understand that they need support. Caring is not always easy, but it is the premise of the program and the profession — it is ultimately in the soul of the individuals who chose Chamberlain University and Chamberlain Care for their educational experience.


My Best Advice for My Peers
My best advice is to follow your passion. You will find ways to serve that offer a career and bring you joy on a daily basis. Serving others has always been my passion. Recently, I was appointed to serve the State of Louisiana and represent nurses to ensure the wellbeing of our community, which is a true honor. I am hopeful I can carry on the hard work of those that served before me and those that will continue to serve in this capacity long after me.

We are always learning as nurses, and I plan to share with our nursing students that our responsibility to serve others is not limited to the bedside environment. We also have a responsibility to be professionally engaged so we advance our profession while serving our community. I truly believe if we say “Yes!” to opportunity and share the talents God has graced us with day by day, we are successful.


JLNO’s Impact on My Success
I benefitted from my time with the Junior League of New Orleans because I was exposed to and trained in servant leadership by Junior League leaders. The foundation of servant leadership cemented my commitment to lifelong learning and hence influenced my career.

Nurses care for the human body, which is part science, part art. Therefore, no experience is ever identical. Our best asset is our ability to think critically as our patient’s environment and wellbeing changes. We are always following the nursing process, which is a series of organized steps designed for nurses to provide excellent care. By virtue of these tasks, we are lifelong learners. It is a natural paradigm and should be celebrated as such. Nurses don’t return to school; they are always in school — even after the diploma is earned or the official nursing board licensing exam is complete.

To be a health care provider is to be a lifelong student of the ever-changing human body and mind. To be a Junior League member — whether Provisional, Active or Sustainer — is to be a lifelong volunteer, and the synergy is caring for others.



Women Leading Education for a Greater New Orleans

Melissa Eversmyer

Learning Specialist, Louise S. McGehee Lower School


How I’ve Gotten Where I Am Today
When I was just starting out as a Speech Pathologist in Metro Nashville Public Schools, I was overwhelmed with a large caseload of students with a wide range of learning styles, differences and disabilities. Although I felt like I was completely in over my head, I was lucky enough to have a highly experienced Speech Language Pathologist, Renee Booth, and Occupational Therapist, Cindy Wood, to learn from. I learned that it’s okay not to know everything right away. Asking these women for help improved my skills as a Speech Pathologist, which most importantly improved the academic life of my students. Focusing my energy on ensuring my students’ success rather than on my own perceived shortcomings has led to a more successful career as an educator. Using my mother, a school librarian, as an inspiration, I make sure my students feel loved. When students feel loved and successful, they are inspired to take risks, which leads to future success.


My Best Advice for My Peers
Throughout my career, I’ve sought out women whose skills and strengths I admire, then made a point to reach out to them for advice and mentorship. There’s a saying in yoga: “Don’t compare your beginning to another’s middle.” Rather than focusing on your limitations, get inspired by those you admire. Ask questions. Ask for help. Focus on your work’s greater purpose, and seek out others to help you achieve your goals. In turn, help others who are just starting out in your field, and inspire them to reach for their fullest potential.


JLNO’s Impact on My Success
I wouldn’t be where I am today without the people I have met and the skills I have gained during my years in JLNO. “Advancing Women’s Wellbeing” certainly rings true when I think of the inspiring leaders who shepherd our efforts for a greater New Orleans, volunteer opportunities that focus on community impact and training opportunities that provide the skills to be better women for JLNO, our community, our families and our careers. The three JLNO core competencies I’ve used most as a Learning Specialist at Louise S. McGehee School include leadership, communication and teamwork. I strive to motivate and energize my students to work through a challenging skill or concept, then enjoy the success of mastering that skill. I also collaborate with classroom teachers, counselors, administration and parents to enhance the academic success of our students, while relying on our individual strengths. Since JLNO and McGehee both focus on training and lifelong learning, I’m aware that I need to grow in some skills, including Patience and Flexibility. I’m okay with being a work in progress!



Women Leading Education for a Greater New Orleans

Mollye M. Demosthenidy

Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management, Tulane University


How I’ve Gotten Where I Am Today
I think I’ve been helped by saying yes — to projects, positions, volunteering or whatever interesting opportunities presented themselves. I originally trained as an attorney and I practiced law locally for almost five years. At the same time, I was teaching as an adjunct professor at Tulane. I hadn’t envisioned myself in an academic setting, but I realized I was at my best when I was in the classroom. When a full-time position opened up, I pursued it. I realized that, when I was in my early 20s, I hadn’t known to even envision this career. But by saying yes to opportunities, even when I was nervous, I was prepared when this path appeared, and I was ready to seize the moment when the right set of circumstances developed.


My Best Advice for My Peers
Be yourself. We are all at our best when we find a position that aligns our personal strengths with the purpose and value of the organization we’re working with. You can only find the right fit if you share your authentic self with others. When you find the right fit, you’re giving yourself the best chance for success; however, you can’t do that if you’re not truly yourself in the lead up.


JLNO’s Impact on My Success
Through JLNO, I met a network of women from different backgrounds and with different perspectives but who all shared fundamental values and a commitment to our community. Working with these women taught me so much. Listen first. Be a team player. Contribute your talents in whatever way you can. Don’t be afraid to question. And, above all, be mission-driven and goal-oriented.



Women Leading Education for a Greater New Orleans

Kiki Baker Barnes, PhD

President/CEO, Kiki Baker Barnes, LLC


How I’ve Gotten Where I Am Today
My journey has been filled with many twists and turns. When I graduated from the University of New Orleans (UNO) in 1997, I had hopes of landing a job in the television industry, but my participation in college athletics made it difficult to intern due to my hectic practice and travel schedules. As a result, I did not have the experience to get hired by a news station.

Since I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, I decided to enroll in graduate school at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I was offered a graduate assistant (GA) basketball coaching position, and I was able to learn all aspects of running an athletics program. This was just the preparation and foundation I would need to eventually build a women’s basketball program during my first year as Head Coach at Southern University at Shreveport.

This opportunity was not without its challenges. A caveat of the position was that I not only served as Head Coach of the basketball team, but also led the cheer and dance teams. Little did I know that just like the GA position, this would prepare me for the opportunity of a lifetime six years later.

Managing three of the four teams at the university was the first time I had considered becoming an Athletic Director (AD). I realized there were not very many women ADs and even fewer women of color. I knew that to compete, I would need to further my education by enrolling in a doctoral program. After experiencing a #metoo incident, I decided to resign from my position as Head Coach and focus on transitioning to athletic administration.

I moved back to New Orleans and was accepted into the UNO educational and leadership doctoral program. During that time, Dillard University hired their first African-American female AD, Dr. Robin Martin. Dr. Martin hired me as her assistant, and I was grateful for the opportunity to learn from a phenomenal woman like her. Unfortunately, our time was cut short in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated our city. All athletic staff with the exception of Dr. Martin were laid off.

In August of 2006, Dr. Martin left Dillard for another opportunity, and I was then hired as the Athletic Director and Head Women’s Basketball Coach at the age of 31. The University had decided to only retain three sports as they continued to deliberate on next steps to restoring the campus. While I had not been an AD, I had the experience from my time at Southern University at Shreveport. During my interview with the hiring manager, I was able to share the steps that I took to build and manage those programs and how I would use the knowledge gained from that experience as a blueprint to rebuild Dillard University athletics.

I attribute the successful rebuilding of Dillard University athletics to being positioned on purpose for a purpose. When I reflect on my experiences, I realize that I was uniquely prepared and positioned for an opportunity like this. I had learned the importance of developing strong relationships internally and externally. I learned to be an ambassador for the University. I learned to identify talented individuals. I learned success doesn’t happen right away, but  rather through consistent and strategic actions driven by a strong mission statement, goals and objectives. These experiences enhanced my leadership ability, leading my peers to acknowledge me as a top leader in the industry.


My Best Advice for My Peers
Operate with a spirit of excellence and accountability. Be passionate, focus on the job at hand, and pursue actions with purpose that will lead to a positive outcome. Be a problem solver and not a finger pointer.


JLNO’s Impact on My Success  
I was already an Athletic Director when I joined the Junior League; however, the connections I’ve made have helped me grow my business, Kiki Baker Barnes, LLC, a great deal. The networking and training opportunities are informative, insightful and impactful. I have been amazed at the willingness of League members to connect me to others who can help me advance my career and business.



Lagniappe looks forward to highlighting the female community leaders making impact across a range of industries as we celebrate 95 years.  Stay tuned for more “Women Leading” testimonies in future editions!



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