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Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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Louisiana Public Square
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Panelist Bio


Alison Neustrom, Ph.D.
Research Director, Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR)

Alison Neustrom, Ph.D. is the Research Director for the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR). PAR is a private nonprofit research organization offering solutions to critical public issues in Louisiana through accurate, objective research and focusing public attention on those solutions. Dr. Neustrom joined PAR after serving as the Vice-President for Public Policy at the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations where she was responsible for monitoring legislation and informing public policy for the benefit of Louisiana’s nonprofit sector and the people it serves. Prior to that, she served as Assistant Secretary of the Office of Family Support at the Department of Social Services, which administers the SNAP program, TANF, Child Support Enforcement, Child Care, Child Care Licensing and Disability Determinations.

Dr. Neustrom served four years as Director of Policy and Planning at the Department of Social Services, during which she led state and federal public policy development while administering hurricane recovery projects. She also worked as a Research Associate at the Administrative Offices of the Courts at the California Judicial Council in the Center for Families, Children and the Courts.

Dr. Neustrom holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and a master’s in Social Work and Ph.D. in Sociology from Louisiana State University. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkley School of Social Welfare.

Current Topic


     08/18 - The Power of Reading

How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?
The ability to read sets the foundation of who we are and what we can be. Through reading we expand our world, learn new things and increase our base of knowledge. In fact, a parent’s reading level is the greatest factor in a child’s academic success. Children who can’t read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

In Louisiana, 20 percent of adults are illiterate – five points higher than the national rate. How is Louisiana combatting its illiteracy problem across generational lines? How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?

Louisiana Public Square: The Power of Reading looks for answers and explores the value of lifelong reading through the lens of the PBS series The Great American Read Wednesday, August 22 at 7pm on LPB and in New Orleans on WLAE. (Recorded Tuesday, August 14 in the Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion at Baton Rouge Community College.)

Our panelists are:
- Linda-Marie Barrett, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)
- Rebecca Hamilton, MLIS; Louisiana State Librarian
- Danny Heitman; Journalist and Louisiana author
- Miranda Restovic, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH).
- Gary Robertson; Adult Literacy Advocates

The program features interviews with John Cavalier, owner of Cavalier House Books; Gary Robertson, Executive Director of Adult Literacy Advocates; representatives from the LEH PRIME TIME intergenerational reading program, and Superintendent John White with the Louisiana Department of Education.

LPB CEO Beth Courtney and Robyn Merrick, Southern University VP of External Affairs, host the show.

Louisiana Public Square can also be heard on public radio stations WRKF in Baton Rouge; Red River Radio in Shreveport and Monroe; and WWNO in New Orleans. Check their station websites for schedule.

This episode of Louisiana Public Square is underwritten by Community Coffee’s Cash for Schools Program, the Louisiana Forestry Association, LSU Press and the Southern Independent Booksellers’ Authors Round the South.

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Special Presentation


     05/16 - Louisiana Veterans Coming Home

What challenges do our returning veterans face?

Coming Soon!


     09/18 - Revisiting Reform

Are the criminal justice reforms working as intended?

Recent Topics


     07/18 - Preventing Suicide

How is Louisiana addressing its suicide problem?

     06/18 - Louisiana: Sportsman’s Paradise or Problem?  (ENCORE)

Is Louisiana a Sportsman’s Paradise or Problem?

     05/18 - News About the News

How can viewers distinguish between fact and fake news and is social media blurring the difference?

     04/18 - Balancing Eldercare

How much does Louisiana spend on nursing homes versus home and community-based care?
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