NACOGDOCHES, Texas — When one door closes, another often opens. This is true for Stephen F. Austin State University senior Catherine Lard, who discovered her true calling after changing her major from nursing to orientation and mobility.

A Baytown native, Lard has been a member and now president of the Braille and Cane Club and SFA Adaptive Sports Club. Members in both organizations utilize various events and outreach projects to advocate for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

“I’m so glad I found this major,” Lard said. “One of my biggest fears was to sit in an office all day, and with this degree I’m outside all the time moving.”

Lard’s efforts were recently recognized during SFA’s Annual Leadership and Service Awards hosted by the Office of Student Affairs. Lard was named the Baker Pattillo Student Leader of the Year, an award honoring a student who demonstrates outstanding commitment to his or her academic endeavors and peers as shown through the student's activities and significant contributions to the university and community.

“It is a huge honor to receive this award. I really have worked hard, and it’s an amazing feeling to be recognized,” Lard said. “Being in these clubs has pushed me to do what I never thought I could. It’s been a huge blessing to see the clubs grow and accomplish so much this year.”

DJ Dean, clinical instructor and advisor for the orientation and mobility program, explained Lard is an active participant in all transformational experiences offered through SFA’s orientation and mobility program, such as assisting or leading in the new employee blind mobility training at the Lufkin State Supported Living Center, participating in area events for students with visual impairments, and attending state and regional conferences.

“Catherine is an exceptional student who goes above and beyond inside and outside the classroom,” Dean said.

To learn more about SFA’s orientation and mobility program, visit