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October 1, 2009

Documentary highlighting Louisiana's “Brain Drain” premiers at ULM Oct. 14

Brady Middleton, a Mangham resident and graduate of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, recently struggled with a dilemma similar to that faced by other Louisiana college graduates: whether to stay, or whether to go.

That struggle, and Middleton’s final decision, is at the heart of a documentary about the economic future of Louisiana called, “Stay Brady Stay." Area residents are invited to join the ULM campus family for the film’s Monroe premier at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 14, in Brown Auditorium. Discussion of the film will follow, and copies of the 26-minute documentary will be available for purchase at a later date.

Hundreds of viewers have already caught the film’s trailer on YouTube, which leaves no doubt about the internal debate transpiring in Middleton’s head as he contemplates life after graduation.

“Inside I’m battling,” he says. “Here is home; here you have a feeling of community.”

However, as Middleton notes, “here” is also a place that many of Louisiana’s “best and brightest are leaving and not coming home.”

A service-learning grant from the University of Louisiana System financed the film, which tells of the potential consequences of Louisiana’s "brain drain.” Professor John W. Sutherlin, the film’s writer and director, said when Louisiana loses its college-educated residents to states that address quality of life issues, it loses residents equipped with the skills necessary for global competitiveness and a tax base that boosts further economic development.

Most economists and leading experts on metropolitan economic development support his position.

Professor Joseph McGahan, co-director of the SSRL and co-producer of the film, said revitalization of any metro area starts with community partnerships, where teams identify and prioritize cultural issues that can influence quality of life and economic development.

Students from the Social Science Research Lab had a role to play in every aspect of the documentary: narration, editing, music, photography, filming, research and production. Sutherlin and his student crew obtained footage of many revitalized downtown areas outside Louisiana for their film, especially college towns that have made significant strides in attracting college-educated youth to their region.

“Fort Collins, where Colorado State University is located, is an excellent example of a college town that grasps the vital relationship between economic growth and cultural development,” noted Sutherlin, upon completion of the film.

Sutherlin, who has several directing credits under his belt, said he will show “Stay, Brady, Stay” at as many film festivals as possible, including a showing in San Francisco in early October. The SSRL has also purchased space on Second Life, a virtual world where users can socialize and use the Internet site as an entertainment medium.

“The so-called brain drain means we're at risk for losing some of our strongest students to other states that offer better job opportunities,” said McGahan.

“Since universities are in the business of research and scholarship, as well as teaching, it stands to reason that if we developed more of a research-based economy, one that compliments Louisiana Tech's research park initiative, we might be able to offer meaningful and lucrative employment opportunities to our students, thereby mitigating the brain drain,” he continued. “The implications of this for our community culture should be obvious.”

The mission of the Social Science Research Lab is to use interdisciplinary research to promote the economy of northeast Louisiana with the goal statewide expansion; to provide internship opportunities for students; to demonstrate the meaningful career opportunities in research and development that are available and to combine the talents of faculty, students and ULM alumni to provide services to the region, while enabling students to experience real-life opportunities in their chosen field of study.

For more information, and to view the film’s trailer, visit the ULM Social Science Research Lab Web site at

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