McNeese State University is a public university located in Lake Charles, Louisiana. As a member of the University of Louisiana System and a selective admissions institution, McNeese offers programs through the department of general and basic studies and six academic colleges: Business, Education, Engineering and Engineering Technology, Liberal Arts, Nursing, and Science. McNeese’s student body is comprised of students from throughout Louisiana, the United States, and approximately 50 countries.
The main campus is comprised of 68 buildings across 121 acres, all of which is lined with oak trees in the heart of south Lake Charles. The physical plant also includes the 503-acre McNeese Farm, a 65-acre Athletic plant, Burton Coliseum, the Louisiana Environmental Research Center, and an additional 1,600 acres of donated farm property used for research, farming, and ranching. The McNeese Recreation Complex includes two weight rooms, basketball courts, tennis courts, an indoor track, and an Olympic-size swimming pool.
McNeese State has been recognized for it’s academic excellence. Some examples include:
McNeese State sports teams participate in NCAA Division I (Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) for football) in the Southland Conference. The football team plays at Louis Bonnette Field at Cowboy Stadium, also known as “The Hole,” and it seats 17,000 fans.
Lake Charles is the fifth-largest incorporated city in Louisiana, located on Lake Charles, Prien Lake, and the Calcasieu River. Founded in 1861 in Calcasieu Parish, it is a major industrial, cultural, and educational center in the southwest region of the state, and one of the most important in Acadiana. As of the 2010 census, the population was 71,993.
Lake Charles has a strong Cajun culture because of its location in south Louisiana. The city has its own symphony orchestra, the Lake Charles Symphony. It was founded in 1938 and hosts concerts at the Rosa Hart Theatre, which has a capacity of over 2,000.
Lake Charles is home to a number of museums and art galleries. The largest, Imperial Calcasieu Museum, features a permanent historic exhibit with artifacts and an art gallery. Its grounds are home to the Sallier oak tree, which is around 400 years old.The Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center is used as exhibition space; moving art exhibits are displayed at this public art gallery each month. It also hosts the Charlestown Farmers’ Market, which provides a venue for local farmers and merchants to sell goods. The USS Orleck Naval Museum, a naval destroyer from 1945, is open for public tours as a veterans memorial and museum.
The Central School Arts and Humanities Center, located in the historic Charpentier District, is owned by the city. Charpentier is French for carpenter, a reference to the carpenter-architects who built the Victorian-style homes. Central School features the Black Heritage Art Gallery, which is on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail as well as the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu, which features extravagant costumes and an interactive float. It has the largest collection of Mardi Gras memorabilia in the South.Other studios and cultural activities include the Art Associates Gallery, Studio 347 Gallery, the Lake Charles Symphony, and the Lake Charles Community Band.
Many festivals are held at the Civic Center. The most popular, Contraband Days, is hosted on the Civic Center grounds and lakefront. Contraband Days is a twelve-day annual festival held during the first two weeks of May. The celebrations are filled with savory Cajun food, family fun, and live entertainment, including several national acts. The festival is regularly attended by more than 200,000 people, making it one of the largest celebrations in Louisiana. In a reference to the legends of piracy on the lake and Contraband Bayou, the festival begins when the pirate Jean Lafitte and his crew capture the city and force the mayor to walk the plank.
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