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Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism

Any tourism initiative must be based on the unique qualities of an area as well as the availability of resources to market a viable and attractive "experience" for those who visit. The process of creating and sustaining a dynamic cultural and eco-tourism is a synergistic effort involving natural resources, cultural raw material, individual talent, and institutional commitment. Acadiana, geographically defined by the Louisiana Legislature and culturally identified by its cuisine, music, famous sons and daughters, and general joie de vivre, is vitalized by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, its premier institution of higher learning. The University has historically demonstrated its capability to extract and to promote excellence from a unique regional culture that has assumed international dimensions. Cajun and Zydeco are now in the world's vocabulary. Alumni Michael Doucet, of the band Beausoleil, and Greg Guirard, poet and photographer of the Atchafalaya Basin (and UL Lafayette faculty member), are tourist icons for Louisiana Cajun culture. Cajun and Creole music, literature, folklore, food, art, crafts, and lifestyles are ubiquitous. From movies to soap operas to international performances to new industries promoting them, the parochial culture infant has become a tourism giant in a state that sees over 20 million tourists a year resulting in its second largest industry income, topping $5.2 billion annually. UL Lafayette plays a central role in shaping Louisiana's Acadian identity through the efforts of its faculty and students and through its promotion of the unique human and material "products" of the region.

Ernest J. Gaines, writer-in-residence at the University and winner of the MacArthur Award, attracts students from all over the country and also contributes to the artistic reputation of Louisiana with a concomitant economic impact from his books and their movie adaptations. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Lesson Before Dying (chosen as one of Oprah Winfrey's recommended books) bring fame and attract tourists to a culture that served as their foundation. Other famous alumni and faculty include best-selling author, James Lee Burke and the late John Kennedy Toole, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, A Confederacy of Dunces. The Center for Louisiana Studies houses the largest collection of Louisiana folklore archives in the State and attracts scholars from Harvard to Stanford. The College of the Arts has the Bachelor of Science in Architecture and the accredited Master of Architecture degree with a Community Design Workshop that provides planning assistance for communities in Acadiana and the State. Also, with its twin city of St. Etienne, it has a program for international exchange students. The College counts among its alumni famous architect and regionalist A. Hays Town. Its School of Music produced alumni Brian Schexnayder, Metropolitan Opera singer; and its Performing Arts Department produced Marc Breaux, choreographer of the stage and film versions of The Sound of Music as well as the film Mary Poppins.

Tourism as a program of study of the College of Applied Life Sciences at the University boasts a Hospitality Management program that uses the culture and environment of the region as a basis for hotel, restaurant, and tourism management. Paul Prudhomme and numerous world-renowned chefs, including the Culinary Olympic Team of the United States, have been featured guest lecturers. The University's hotel and convention center being built to support the activities of the Research Park and Cajundome will draw many tourists to the area and will serve as a superior facility for student training. The College is also developing the Cade Farm Discovery Trail as both a tourist attraction and a training ground for students preparing for careers in environmental science and eco-tourism. The program provides training for those who serve as nature guides for tourists and as technical advisors for the film industry in the Atchafalaya Basin. Among its distinguished faculty, Dr. Jay Huner is recognized worldwide for his research on crawfish, which directly benefits one of Louisiana's major "native" industries. The recent art exhibit, Where Land Meets Sky, by the internationally recognized painter, Elemore Morgan, Jr. resonates with the region's awareness of its natural splendor as presented by a native son who has been a long-time teacher and advisor of the University's most talented students.

Festivals showcase the culture of the region and create tourist meccas ranging from the popular Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge to Festival de Musique Acadienne (now Festival Acadiennes) and Festival Internationale de Louisiane in Lafayette. Business and leisure activities work in a symbiotic relationship to make the University of Louisiana at Lafayette a center of excellence in cultural and eco-tourism development in Louisiana.