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Gaudet receives Woman of the Year Award

Photography by William Colgin //

Dr. Cyndi Huff Gaudet is a woman of many significant accomplishments and outstanding contributions in the education sector. Her achievements in the classroom, dedication to community, and commitment to living a life of gratitude has earned Gaudet the recognition as the 2015 Karen Sock Woman of the Year Award.

“One key to living a happy and successful life is cultivating an attitude of gratitude,” says Gaudet, winner in the Education Category.

“Make the effort to focus on what you have, not what you don’t have, what you CAN do, rather than what you cannot do.”

The award, presented by Lighthouse Business & Professional Women, was renamed after Sock this year in recognition of her career achievements, community leadership and mentorship of women on the Coast. The highly touted award recognizes a single woman each year for career experiences, personal achievements, education and community contributions. The selection committee is anonymous.

As a professor and chair of the Department of Human Capital Development at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, Gaudet’s passion is developing people through academic programs of excellence that prepare HRD professionals for the workplace.

However, long before making her mark in the classroom, Gaudet’s path toward education was already laid out for her.

“My family knew I was destined to be a teacher,” Gaudet says. “As a child, ‘playing school’ was my favorite pastime, complete with cumulative academic records I made for my dolls and stuffed animals.”

Gaudet followed her heart and received a bachelors and masters in business education from USM. She then pursued academia at the highest level and in 1991, she received a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in vocational education with an emphasis on human resource education.

After obtaining her Ph.D., she spent seven years as a College of Business faculty member at USL (now University of Louisiana-Lafayette) teaching undergraduate business administration majors and launched the Training and Development Certificate Program.

This achievement at USL caught the attention of Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, and in 1997, Gaudet was recruited by the university to establish training and development degree programs that teach how to build more effective and efficient organizations. Since implementation, 500-plus people have completed the certificate program and 135-plus students have graduated with either a master’s degree or Ph.D.

Since being at Southern Miss, she has had the privilege to serve as faculty member, program coordinator, professor and current chair of the Department of Human Capital Development. In 2004, she was successful in lobbying to move the department’s degree programs to the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach because as Gaudet says, “The Gulf Coast represents a more robust business community to support the things we teach in human capital development.”

Gaudet has garnered a long list of honors and awards during her tenure and accomplishments at the university are extensive, including managing more than $5 million in research projects that integrate return-on-investment methodology as accountability framework. She also conducted a cutting-edge competency model research recognized with awards from NASA, Southern Growth Policies Board, and the American Society for Training and Development.

Gaudet is a volunteer for the Hancock County Habitat for Humanity, United Way leader for the USM Gulf Park campus, serves on the grant committee at First Baptist Church Long Beach post-Katrina, and if the founding board member and past president for the Gulf Coast Chapter of the American Society for Training & Development.

The academic success Gaudet has achieved over the years is tremendously impressive, and as far as she is concerned, it starts with the foundational principle of gratitude.

“Being grateful is an intentional, daily choice — the choice to look around and acknowledge the many good things in my life,” she says. “I am indeed blessed beyond measure!”

And it just doesn’t stop there. In a most fantastic, teacher-like fashion, Gaudet developed a G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L acronym that encompasses everything she is most thankful for in her life. The order of her methodology is simple: God, family, profession.


God’s unconditional love, undeserved grace and tender mercies that carry me through each day.

Raising happy, productive children, my most treasured personal accomplishment I share with my husband of 38 years. I consider it a privilege for the opportunity to be a parent and a grandparent.

Amazing role models and mentors who have made a difference for me throughout my career. I appreciate being able to partner and collaborate with smart and generous leaders whose integrity and progressive vision for THE BEST Mississippi possible continue to shape and influence my work and inspire me to pay it forward.

Teaching as a calling and a profession. My parents taught us the value of education as vitally important to the quality of life for the individual and community. I appreciate the experience as a volunteer teacher at church and enjoying a career teaching at the high school and college level. My passion is creating educational pathways for students, teaching them how to improve performance in organizations through people.

Expressions. In my family we have lots of phrases and colloquial sayings we refer to as “Huffisms” — expressions learned from our parents and grandparents and just from living in the South. It makes for a happy home and workplace.

Family, friends, freedom and FUN! Glad to enjoy each of these “golden” threads in this tapestry called life.

Unscheduled nights and weekends. I love having evenings or weekends with no plans, just being able to hang out at home or being spontaneous to just pick up and go do something unexpected or fun!

Living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with LOTS of laughter, love and learning in my everyday life.

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