President Vargas Presents Four Southeast Shout-Out Awards


Southeast Missouri State University President Carlos Vargas recently presented four Southeast Shout-Out Awards to University faculty and staff.

Congratulations to Dr. Jayanti Ray, interim chair of the Department of Communication Disorders; Bonnie Gerecke, administrative assistant in the Department of Mass Media; Dr. Larry Bohannon, coordinator of the elementary education undergraduate program; and Dr. Shonta Smith, associate professor of elementary, early and special education.

Southeast Shout-Out Awards celebrate University employees who put forth the extra effort to help, challenge and inspire students, and do whatever it takes to get the job done while encouraging others. To nominate a deserving faculty or staff member who goes above and beyond supporting students, visit To view previous award recipients, visit

President Carlos Vargas and Dr. Jayanti Ray

Ray was nominated by students Emily Fischer and Jacqueline Aultman for her outstanding teaching skills and dedication to students. Emily indicated in her nomination that “Dr. Ray puts excitement in learning. She makes learning fun. She thinks about her students before she would ever think about herself.” The students also mentioned Ray’s engaging class activities and described her as nurturing, comical, knowledgeable and encouraging of constructive feedback.

President Carlos Vargas and Bonnie Gerecke

Gerecke was nominated by student Shane Burke, who extolled Gerecke’s enthusiasm in promoting student success. The nomination noted Gerecke’s open and welcoming personality; her willingness to assist students; her tradition of bringing cookies for students during finals week; and her commitment and dedication to students in the department. Burke said, “Southeast has been made better by her (Gerecke) being a consistent presence in the Department of Mass Media.”

President Carlos Vargas and Dr. Larry Bohannon

Bohannon was nominated by student Savannah Kesselring for his outstanding achievement as a teacher and advisor, and his commitment to students. Kesselring specified Bohannon’s unwavering support as an advisor to the Student Missouri State Teachers Association, commenting that Bohannon is “passionate about not only this University, but also being an educator.”

President Carlos Vargas and Dr. Shonta Smith

Smith was nominated by Dr. Julie Ray, chair of the Department of Elementary, Early and Special Childhood Education, for her innovative approach to reaching students. Smith’s creation of short videos called “When the Professor Speaks, You Should Listen” and posted on social media have become helpful guides that often create lively discussions. Additionally, she has reached out to students, invited them to respectful forums and listened to their views. She is a strong student advocate, mentor and supporter, and  volunteers as sponsor of Southeast’s Holmes Scholars Program.