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February 8, 2013

Alaskan sisters studying at ULM and following in father’s footsteps

Katherine, Sarah, and Megan Cucullu sit outside the Starbucks at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, enjoying what they consider to be warm weather while others bundle in coats and scarves.

Having grown up in Wasilla, Ala., these three sisters experience winter in Louisiana quite differently than other students.

“I like the warm weather, most of the time,” said Sarah, the middle child of the three sisters and an English education major.

“We like to pretend we’re on vacation while we’re here. If you see any crazy folks in shorts sitting outside of Starbucks on a cold, sunny day, that’s us soaking up all the vitamin D!”

“It is definitely nice to get away from the cold,” said Katie.

Sarah discovered ULM online.

In her junior year of high school, she researched multiple colleges, looking for a single location where she and her older sister Katie could attend.

Katie wanted to study dental hygiene and at the time, Sarah wanted to major in art education.

She needed to find the right programs for both sisters so they could stay together. “I graduated a semester early from high school so I could join Katie here,” she said.

After narrowing the list to only two universities, she showed the choices to her father.

David Cucullu (B.B.A., ‘87) recognized his alma mater on that list and now, three of his daughters follow in his footsteps.

When he attended ULM, David was a member of the Men’s Track Team and excelled at the pole vault.

He majored in accounting and is now one of the owners of Alaska Roteq Corporation, a company which services and repairs rotating equipment for Alaskan oil fields.

ULM classes and organizations have had a significant impact on the Cucullu sisters.

Sarah works for the Department of Recruitment and Admissions, giving campus tours to prospective students as a ULM Hawk Seeker.

Katie, who knew she wanted to be a dentist even as a child, loves the Dental Hygiene Program and “can’t wait to be able to share [her] love for teeth and oral hygiene with others.”

Megan appreciates the opportunity to study subjects outside of her major and credits Associate Professor of Sociology Neil White as her favorite professor.

The sisters have been moving to Monroe progressively since Katie started at ULM in 2009, and they noted several differences between Louisiana and their home state.

“Manners are so much better here, which is pretty cool,” said Sarah. Megan said,

“The biggest difference between Alaska and Louisiana is the weather and the landscape.”

The flat land of Louisiana has all three sisters dreaming of Alaskan terrain.

All agree that they miss the mountains the most after their family.

“The town we live in is Wasilla, and it is nearly surrounded by beautiful snowcapped mountains,” said Megan, adding, “Monroe has its own beauty. The colorful bayou, the big different trees, the green grass, and all the different birds and turtles make it beautiful.”

Katie says she never paid much attention to the mountains until after her first time home for Christmas after a semester in Monroe.

“I felt like a tourist,” she said. “Instantly I was amazed by the majestic mountains in the distance that were once just objects to me.”

“Seeing mountains on the horizon is almost a comfort thing for me,” said Sarah. “Every once in a while, I see a cloud in the corner of my eye and mistake it for a mountain. I think that’s when you know you’ve caught homesickness – complete with delirium.”

Whenever they feel too homesick, however, these sisters take care of each other.

“One day I had a really bad day and was in tears missing home,” said Megan. “My sister Sarah picked me up and made me tea. It was all good.”

“I am a huge family person,” said Katie. “My sisters are my best friends, so when I came down to ULM for my first semester, I had a hard time adjusting to being so far away from them.”

While they have been enjoying their time in Monroe, the sisters also miss their family and their home in Alaska.

They call and video-chat with their parents almost every day but are only able to return home for winter and summer breaks.

Their parents travel to Monroe at least once a year.

Parents can always cure homesickness.

David and Wendy Cucullu visited their daughters this past weekend to support Katie during the Dental Hygiene White Coat Ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 2, and the Cucullu family has been taking advantage of the opportunity to spend more time with one another.

Katie considers the white coat ceremony her “proudest moment” at ULM.

Though they all plan on returning to Alaska after graduation, each sister has enjoyed her time at ULM and discovered something new about herself.

When asked to describe ULM in three words, each of the Cucullus had a different response, but Megan’s final choice seems to summarize the feelings of them all.

Katie said, “Beautiful, bright, helpful.”

Sarah said, “Top-notch, affordable, beautiful.”

Megan said, “Warm, friends, sisters!”

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