Small Business Development Center at Nicholls Awarded Top Honor

Recently, the Nicholls State University Small Business Development Center was awarded the “2022 Small Business Development Center Service and Innovation Center Award” by the United States Small Business Association Louisiana District Office, according to a news release from the school.

The Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Nicholls State University (LSBDC at Nicholls) is an organization that strives to offer business consulting and entrepreneurial workshops to small businesses in Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes. In winning the “2022 Small Business Development Center Service and Innovation Award,” the LSBDC at Nicholls has received one of the top awards in the state of Louisiana.

The award was accepted by Jimmy Nguyen, the Associate Director for LSBDC at Nicholls, and Suzanne Carlos, a Business Consultant for LSBD at Nicholls. These two accepted the award during the 2022 Louisiana Small Business Awards Ceremony, which was held at the Capitol Park Museum in Baton Rouge during National Small Business Week.

The ceremony, which is held annually, serves as an opportunity for the Louisiana Economic Development (LED) and the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA)  to publicly recognize both business owners and supporters who exemplify the entrepreneurial resilience and diversity of the state of Louisiana.

The “2022 Small Business Development Center Service and Innovation Center Award” was awarded to Nicholls’ Jimmy Nguyen and Suzanne Carlos. Nguyen commented on his receiving the honor by saying, “receiving this award is one of my greatest accomplishments. It’s been a goal of mine since taking on a leadership role in 2018.  couldn’t have been able to achieve this without the support of Nicholls State University, our Bayou Region partners, and my clients. My clients have persevered through the pandemic and Ida which gives me the strength to continue to do my best each day.”

In announcing their awarding this prestigious honor, the Small Business Association (SBA) Louisiana District had highlighted the Nicholls Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for their clearly present and exemplary hard work, innovative ideas, and dedication to the Bayou Region Community. 

Over the past three years alone, the Nicholls SBDC has made a significant impact on the economy in the Bayou Region, especially since 2019 when they began a partnership with Chevron. Since 2019, both Chevron and the Nicholls SBDC have hosted pitch competitions that award funding capital to innovative entrepreneurs and start-up businesses in the Bayou Region for their ideas that best strengthen the local economy.

In 2020, the Nicholls SBDC hosted a Virtual Pitch Competition in a partnership with Chevron and the Nicholls College of Business Administration to assist Bayou Region businesses in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally and more recently, both Chevron and the Nicholls SBDC had partnered together following Hurricane Ida in 2021 to award disaster relief grants to Bayou Region businesses affected by the detrimental storm. Furthermore, the Nicholls SBDC also worked closely with the new Bayou Region Incubator so that they may provide assistance for business owners working with organizations to target coastal erosion.

At the ceremony, LED Secretary Don Pierson announced that in 2021, LED and the LSBDC Network had served 18,408 small businesses and individuals, which resulted in the creation of 1,126 new jobs, the retention of 2,874 jobs, and the launch of 164 new businesses. This represented more than $83 million in capital formation.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards addresses attendees of the ceremony in a virtual address saying, ”sustaining business stability and growth has never been more challenging than in these last few years. On behalf of the state which you so lovingly support, it gives me great pleasure to honor the Small Business Award recipients whose skill, determination, resourcefulness and optimism embody the heart, and soul of our state.”

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Nicholls Farm has New Bridge Allowing Access for More Research

Thanks to a partnership with ConocoPhillips and the Lafourche Parish Government, Nicholls State University recently celebrated the rebuilding of the Nicholls Farm Bridge, a project that will have massive implications for the research conducted on Nicholls Farm. According to this statement from the school, the newly rebuilt bridge will be used to grant Nicholls Biology faculty members access to the land on the opposite side of Bayou Folse for research, ecological, and educational purposes.

The rebuilding of Nichols Farm bridge was a $300,000 project that was deemed “critical” by the University for its impact. Funding for the project was gathered over the past two years with the Lafourche Parish Government donating $200,000 towards the project and ConocoPhillips donating an additional $100,000 to see the project come to fruition.

It was in 1969 that Nicholls first purchased from Harvey Peltier the land that would eventually become Nicholls Farm, an integral part of the school’s plans to become the center for total restoration research in Louisiana. In just the past decade alone, Nicholls Biology has produced over 30,000 black mangroves at Nicholls Farm. These mangroves were eventually planted along coastal areas for the purpose of maintaining our coastal wetlands. A complete master plan for Nicholls Farm outlines plans for a classroom space, additional land, and areas to test coastal restoration projects, so the completion of this bridge is only one component of a much larger vision for the University.

Because of the bridge’s placement, Nicholls Biology faculty will now have access to the other end of Bayou Folse, allowing them to plant and grow several species of trees and coastal plants. These plants and trees will then be transferred to the Louisiana coastline to help defend coastal erosion.

Nicholls Biology department head Dr. Quenton Fontenot commented on his vision for the bridge at Nicholls Farm by saying, “our dream for the Farm is a place that brings people together for coastal restoration initiatives, and so to have the support of partners such as ConocoPhillips and the Lafourche Parish Government means we are going to be able to do that. Without that help the project is likely not finished today.”

As of the time of the university celebrating the completion of the bridge, the Biology Department already had several Louisiana irises ready to plant in the ponds on the other side of the bridge through a collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. One of the objectives for planting the irises is for seed harvest production. This is due to the versatility and essentialness of the plant, as it is native to the Bayou Region and sustainable in coastal habitats. These features make plants such as these native Louisiana irises absolutely vital to maintaining coastal wetlands and barrier islands.

John Harrington, the Coastal Wetlands director for ConocoPhillips, said of the essential need to protect the Louisiana coastlands, “the vast wetlands in southeast Louisiana are ideal for coastal restoration research. We are proud to support key partners like Nicholls State University to drive habitat-enhancement research and promote coastal resiliency and sustainability.”

A vital partner in this project coming to fruition is ConocoPhillips, which is one of the world’s leasing exploration and production companies when concerning production and reserves. They also have a globally diversified asset portfolio, and through their subsidiary The Louisiana Land and Exploration Company, they are the largest private wetlands owner in Louisiana. ConocoPhillips has long been a supporter of Nicholls State University and helps to steward their support of the coastal wetlands through their Houma office.

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BCBS of Louisiana Foundation Awards Nicholls a Disaster Response Grant

Nicholls State University will soon be able to offer need-based scholarships to help students return to campus after having previously left in the wake of Hurricane Ida. According to this news release from the school, a $100,000 disaster response grant will be utilized to create these scholarships, which will be helpful to students wanting to return to their degree plans.

It was announced by the university in May 2022 that a $100,000 disaster response grant was awarded by The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation. It was also announced that the funds would be utilized so that students who had halted their learning due to Hurricane Ida’s detrimental impact on the area would be able to qualify for a needs-based scholarship that would offset the cost of re-enrolling & returning to classes.

Nicholls State University President Dr. Jay Clune commented on BCBSLA’s award by saying, “even though others outside of South Louisiana have long stopped talking about the effects of Hurricane Ida, we are still feeling the impacts every single day. We are grateful for this partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield. I don’t like to think of where we would be without the support of our wonderful industry and community partners.”

In the wake of Hurricane Ida, the destructive Category 4 Atlantic hurricane that made its landfall near Port Fourchon on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it was reported that an estimated 25% of Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish homes were destroyed or declared uninhabitable. Additionally, approximately two-thirds of the Nicholls community reported that their homes were destroyed or uninhabitable. Once the storm passed, the BCBSLA Foundation had committed $5 million in funds to areas affected by Ida, and other communities across the Gulf Coast also stepped up.

Earlier this year, The Courier reported that Nicholls State’s spring enrollment had dropped 10% from the previous year, attributing the decline to Hurricane Ida as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In August of 2021, Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune announced that the school would essentially restructure its retention and recruitment strategies. As a result, the university’s decision to have recruitment and retention efforts managed by the Office of Academic Affairs, specifically being led by Sue Westbrook, provost and president for Academic Affairs, and Renee Hicks, assistant vice president of Institutional Effectiveness, Access, and success.

It was then reported that the university’s fall-to-spring retention rate of first-time freshmen had increased by 7.9 percentage points from the previous year to be listed at 90.5%. This was the first time that this retention rate had surpassed 90% in over a decade, thus signaling that Nicholls’ restructuring was beginning to pay off. Renee Hicks interpreted the data by saying, “when we post retention rates like this, it means our entire campus community has come together to provide extraordinary support for our students during the recovery from a major hurricane on top of a pandemic.”

Dr. Clune commented on the promising data, saying, “in addition to our strong retention rates, we also see applications are up year-to-year. I attribute that to our data-led approach to recruitment and retention by Ms. Hicks and her team. With a new marketing campaign and increased recruitment and retention efforts, we anticipate a return to an upward trend in enrollment.”

Pair this earlier indicator of rising enrollment rates with these new needs-based scholarships established from The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation’s $100,000 disaster response grant, and it’s even clearer to see that not just the campus community of Nicholls is coming together to come out of Hurricane Ida stronger than before, but the surrounding community of Houma, Thibodaux, and the State of Louisiana is banding together as well.

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Dinner of the Century is Back at Chef John Folse Culinary Institute

For the first time in over two years, the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University is inviting members of the community to be a part of their annual “Dinner of the Century” fundraiser, according to this news release from the school.

Director of the Culinary Institute, Chef John Kozar, commented on the return of the traditional fundraiser by saying, “this is the first Dinner of the Century since the pandemic began over two years ago. We are excited to be able to bring this unique culinary experience back to our community.” The theme for this year’s dinner is named “A Joyful Magnificence Celebrating Catherine de Medici.”

This year’s menu is inspired by the Queen of France from 1547-1559, Catherine de Medici, who has influenced much of the way we eat and even think about food today. Having been born in Italy, Catherine de Medici introduced many ingredients, recipes, and culinary culture that she had grown up with to the French, making the rest history. Chef John Kozar commented on the cuisine set to be served by saying, “this historic menu is a mix of modern and antique dishes that include some of Catherine de Medici’s favorite treats, as well as some iconic items from Pascal’s Manale, all of which is created by our student chefs and the Chef John Folse team.”

The last planned “Dinner of the Century” fundraiser event was to be held in April 2020, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic; luckily, this 2022 event aims to pick up the torch and carry the tradition onward. In addition to the culinary celebration of various dishes, the evening will be used as an opportunity to induct the DeFelice Family of Pascal’s Manale Restaurant into the Lafcadio Hearn Hall of honor, an honorary event that was originally slated for the since-canceled 2020 fundraising dinner.

The Lafcadio Hearn Award is one that is bestowed upon culinary professionals who have had a positive, long-term influence on the cuisine and greater culture of Louisiana and throughout the nation. The honor is named after Lafcadio Hearn, an influential figure who penned a series of books and articles introducing New Orleans to the world while helping to document Creole cuisine for future generations. Having passed away in 1904, Hearn’s legacy lives on in how the public interprets Creole cuisine today as well as in the inducting members into the Lafcadio Hearn Hall of Honor. The Defelice Family will join other influential chefs and restaurants in the Hall of honor. This includes Ella Brennan, Frank Brigtsen, Leah Chase, Drago Cvitanovich, Ruth Fertel, and T.J. Moran, among many others.

It’s appropriate that the DeFelice Family of Pascal’s Manale Restaurant fame be inducted into the Hall of Honor, because not only has Pascal’s Manale Restaurant been an influential part of New Orleans cuisine, but since the very beginning, the restaurant has been a family affair. First opened by Frank Manale in 1913, the restaurant was taken over by Manale’s nephew Pascal Radosta in 1937, who took full ownership of the establishment and later added his name to create the infamous culinary institute that we now know today.

The restaurant eventually gained international attention after Pascal’s youngest brother, Jake, created one of the most iconic New Orleans dishes in the 1950s: barbecue shrimp. Later,  Pascal’s youngest daughter, Virginia DeFelice, and her family purchased the restaurant in 1988. The family continued to operate the restaurant until November 2019.

The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University’s “A Joyful Magnificence Celebrating Catherine De Medici” also honoring The DeFelice Family of Pascal’s Manale Restaurant will be held on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at Nicholl’s Cotillion Ballroom in the Bollinger Student Union. A cocktail reception will be held at six o’clock with dinner service starting at seven o’clock. Information to reserve seats and sponsorships can be found here, with all proceeds going toward the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute.

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Nicholls Hosts Awards For Excellence

Recently, the many achievements of Nicholls State University alumni and other members of the Nicholls community were honored by the Nicholls Alumni Federation at the annual Awards for Excellence ceremony, as per the school.

Held on March 23, 2022, in the Bollinger Memorial Student Union’s Cotillion Ballroom, this year’s ceremony served as an opportunity for the Nicholls State University Alumni Federation to bestow its four Awards for Excellence to high-achieving supporters of Nicholls State University, be they graduates or not. In addition to the four winners of this year’s Awards for Excellence, the Federation honored the 2022 Hall of Fame recipients, which were made up of outstanding graduates from each of Nicholls’ colleges.

Preceded by a cocktail reception, the evening’s awards program saw the bestowing of the James Lynn Powell Award, the Harvey Peltier Award, the Corporate Mark of Honor, the Honorary Alumni Award, and several Outstanding Alumni awards to a member of each of Nicholls’ colleges.

Katherine Mabile, the director of Alumni Affairs for the Nicholls Alumni Federation, said of the evening, “we are so blessed as a university to have men and women such as these who have contributed so much to this institution and our community over the years. his university would not be here today without the passion and commitment of our remarkable alumni. It is an honor to recognize them through our awards ceremony.”

The James Lynn Powell Alumni Award is the single highest recognition given to a graduate of Nicholls State University. This year Michael J. Hebert, Jr, a native of Houma, was the recipient of this honor. Hebert is the chief of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as the National Jones Act Division of Enforcement (JADE). Hebert has spent over three decades in federal service, including nine years in the military, and in 2016, CBP charged the 2-time Nicholls Graduate with defining, establishing, and leading the newly-formed JADE division.

Today Hebert is responsible for the CBP’s coastwide trade enforcement strategy,, but he’s never forgotten his collegiate roots. Hebert returned to Nicholls from 2015 to 2018 to serve as an adjunct instructor of Petroleum Engineering and Safety Technology Management and criminal justice. Hebert had also contributed to the development of the criminal justice program’s curriculum.

The Harvey Peltier Award is the highest award given to a non-graduate of Nicholls. Similar to the criteria for receiving the James Lynn Powell Award, the recipient of this honor must be considered to be outstanding in their chosen field, contribute to the university and the community, and cannot be a Nicholls Graduate. This year’s Harvey Peltier Award was given to Mr. and Mrs. Salvador M. Brocato, III, two Nicholls supporters whose support began in 2017 when their son, Dominic Brocato, joined the Nicholls Football team.

Members of both the Nicholls Foundation and the Huddle Up Club, the Brocatos’ support for the university is felt across the campus. Not only were they the first to donate to 2020’s Boucvalt Family Athletic Complex Naming Campaign but they have also made remarkable contributions to the Nicholls Police, the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, and the maritime management program, among many others.

The Corporate Mark of Honor is an award that’s typically awarded to an organization that has proven to be a strong supporter of Nicholls and its mission. This year, Nicholls State University President Dr. Jay Clune awarded the Corporate Mark of Honor to the Giardina Family Foundation, which has given to the Dyslexia Center, Nicholls Foundation, and other organizations across their years of service.

The Honorary Alumni Award is an honor bestowed to a non-graduate of the university who has shown a special interest in the school and who has given their time to Nicholls over the years. This year, Maria B. Cruse, MD., received the Honorary Alumni Award, as she has been highly involved with the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute. Dr. Cruse was named an honorary culinary faculty member in 2011 and had a key role in the creation of the Culinary Guild.

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B&G Restaurateurs Donate to Nicholls State University Athletics

A sizable donation from two Morgan City restaurateurs is set to benefit over 350 student-athletes at Nicholls State University, according to a news release from the school.

Brenda and Gregory Hamer Sr, owners and operators of B&G Food Enterprises, have donated $100,000 to Nicholls State University Athletics. The Hamer family has a history within the Thibodaux and Houma region and with Nicholls State University itself, as their grandson, Garret LeBlanc, is a former Nicholls Football player.

Hillary Charpentier, director of the Colonel Athletic Association, said of the Hammers’ donation, “as the lowest funded school in the Southland Conference, donor dollars allow Nicholls Athletics to compete on the same or higher level than our peer institutions. Support like this has a direct impact on all student-athletes here at Nicholls. Our student-athletes must receive the support they need to compete and succeed at the highest level both on and off the field.”

Previously in 2021, the Hamers had donated $50,000 to the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute so that state-of-the-art kitchen and cooking equipment could be purchased and maintained for Nicholls Students. As a result, the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute’s student lounge and culinary library was named the Gregory and Brenda Hamer Family/Taco Bell Student Lounge and Research Center. Gregory Hamer Jr, the couple’s son, was in the first graduation class of the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute.

Gregory Hamer Sr. remarked to Nicholls press that he and his wife had plenty of reasons to support the university in saying, “we have one grandson who played for the football team, and we have another who plays for them now. We also have businesses in Morgan City, Thibodaux, Houma, and Matthews. It just makes sense for us to support Nicholls. We’ve been proud to support this university for years, and we’re happy to be able to help them with this incredible facility.”

As a sign of their appreciation, Nicholls Athletics has proposed that the Tight Ends Meeting Room be named after the Hamer’s grandson and former Nicholls Football player, Garret LeBlanc, and their business, B&G Enterprises, pending approval from the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors.

The naming within the Boucvalt Family Athletic Complex is a part of a naming campaign that began in 2020 to raise money for current and future needs within Nicholls Athletics. The campaign’s initial goal was to name all areas within the facility, and each may be named after an individual, family, or business as per the guidelines set forth by the state of Louisiana, Nicholls State University, and the Donor Gifts Agreement. Funds accumulated from the naming campaign are used as both an endowment and for upkeep and maintenance within the athletic department.

Nicholls Athletic Director, Jonathan Terrell, commented on the recent donation by saying, “every student-athlete benefits from this. For them to be able to give from the heart is incredible because of how many people it’s going to help. We have this excellent new building, and with these dollars will be able to keep it in the best shape possible.”

B&G Food Enterprises, which was initially created in 1982 by the Hamers when they opened their first Taco Bell location in Morgan City, now operates over 150 Taco Bell locations across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas and is the largest Taco Bell franchise in Louisiana. Gregory Hamer Sr. is a Trustee of the National Restaurant Associationand the past chairman of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. Hamer Sr. also served as the president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association and was elected to the association’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

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