Recent LSU graduate earns prestigious National Geographic grant

Caroline Gerdes (Photo by Richard Alan Hannon/TheAdvocate)

Caroline Gerdes grew up in Mandeville, but says she feels closely connected to her family’s roots in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

Gerdes graduates this month from the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication. In June she begins a new project with ties to her heritage.

With a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant, she will be collecting oral histories of people who lived in the Ninth Ward any time between 1920 and 1960.

Gerdes’ background as a journalism major with a minor in history and her connections to the New Orleans area inspired her to apply for a prestigious grant from National Geographic to study family histories in a part of New Orleans known for its concentration of communities of different ethnic backgrounds, what Gerdes calls “clusters of immigrant boroughs.”

“A lot of families in America have an immigrant past,” said Gerdes, who in 2011 received an internship at National Geographic in Washington, D.C. Working there in the areas of marketing and social media gave her the opportunity to hear live speakers who were featured in the magazine.