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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Nicholls Sees Decade-High Enrollment Retention

Despite beginning the school year amid a flurry of natural and pandemic-related challenges, the Fall-to-Spring enrollment retention of first-time freshmen at Nicholls State University is holding steady at the highest percentage rate in over a decade, as per this news release from the school.

As it’s true for many post-secondary learning institutions nationwide, the prolonged continuance of the COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting effects has cast a particular shadow on collegiate affairs, enrollments, and retention of students during the transition from the Fall to Spring semesters. In 2021, Nicholls students were facing an even more immediate and devastating disaster in the form of Hurricane Ida, which predictably led to an expected drop in Spring enrollment.

The University’s enrollment data for the Spring 2022 semester showed a 10 percent drop since Spring 2021, dropping from 6,165 to 5,531 students. Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune reported that this result was expected. This expectation is due to the fact that the Nicholls’ community is still attending classes “amid an elongated pandemic” and still actively “recovering from a devastating hurricane.”

Attending school and earning an undergraduate or graduate degree amid a pandemic is quite the feat in and of itself, but Dr. Clune put the experience in perspective saying, “we have juniors here at Nicholls who have only known college through the lens of this pandemic. We understand how difficult that can be. I commend the students who have remained on campus and look forward to better days ahead.”

This past August, the Nicholls President announced that the University would begin restructuring its initial recruitment and ongoing retention strategies. On a whole, the restructuring efforts will be spearheaded by the Nicholls Office of Academic Affairs with Dr. Sue Westbrook, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Renee Hicks, the assistant vice president of Institutional Research Effectiveness and Planning, access, and success leading the charge.

Though only announced at the beginning of the 2022 school year, the positive impact has been immediately evident, as seen with this recent enrollment data. This year’s Fall-to-Spring retention of first-time freshmen at Nicholls was reported as being 90.5 percent, which is a total 7.9 percentage point increase from last year and the first time that the Freshman retention rate has remained above 90 percent in over ten years.

Renee Hicks commented on the positivity emitted from the milestone achievement 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 was also one to attribute the strong retention rates to the efforts put forth by the Office of Academic Affairs. He said, “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.”

Colleges and universities calculate their annual retention rates by comparing the number of enrolled students (as of the 14th day of classes) and subtracting the number of students who have withdrawn or canceled their enrollment. Then this figure will be divided by the total number of enrolled students. This retention rate is then regularly compared to other universities in the area as well as the individual school’s rate across the years. This data is reported annuallyby the university and any fluctuations in data are typically attributed to a wide array of factors, but for Nicholls State University to have seen a milestone increase in freshmen enrollment retention  amid a pandemic and natural disaster is certainly quite the feat of the academic institution.

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Nicholls Receives Donation from Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation

The students of Nicholls State University are still seeing the effects of Hurricane Ida in their lives, but those effects aren’t being ignored by the supportive community around them. According to this news feature from the University itself, over $75,000 has been awarded to Nicholls so that affected students and their families can be supported many months after the storm has passed.  In total, both Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation have awarded Nicholls State University with a $77,760 reward to help with Hurricane Ida recovery efforts.

Colette Hirstius, Shell’s senior vice president for the Gulf of Mexico, had spoken on the long-lasting relationship between the company and the Louisiana community. She said, “The Bayou Region has been home to Shell for over 100 years and it was important to us to be able to help provide a home for Colonels and their families who lost theirs to the devastation of Hurricane Ida. We are grateful and proud to be able to provide safe, stable housing so that these students can stay in school and focus on their futures.”

Nicholls has reported that the funds will be utilized to meet the needs of students and families who have been displaced from their houses by Hurricane Ida. The funds will be used in a variety of ways, with a considerably large portion being used to provide temporary housing, address food insecurity, and give families basic living essentials like clothing, toiletries, medications, school supplies, and so much more. After the funds were awarded, processed, and tallied, it was announced that the money will cover the housing, meals, and living expenses for at least 20 students and their families, thus providing much-needed support in such unsure times.

The executive director of the Bayou Community Foundation, Jennifer Armand, said of the awarded funds, “Nicholls State University responded quickly after Hurricane Ida to provide temporary housing and meals to students, faculty and staff who lost so much during the storm. The Bayou Community Foundation is pleased to partner with Shell to support all of these important relief efforts.”

The Bayou Community Foundation, which was originally created in 2012, is the only community foundation that is specifically designed to solely serve Lafourche Parish, Terrebonne Parish, and Grand Isle, Louisiana. The Foundation was started after local leaders saw the continuing effects on the surrounding community following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. “Local leaders recognized the need for a community foundation to strengthen human services, education/workforce development, and coastal preservation efforts in our area, as well as to serve as “the community bucket” for national and international assistance in the event of a future emergency or natural disaster,” according to bayoudf.com.

As many are aware, Hurricane Ida made its landfall on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in August of 2021, and Ida’s turbulent winds and powerful storm surges had made it so that an estimated 25 percent of homes in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parish were destroyed or deemed uninhabitable. As a result, approximately two-thirds of the Nicholls State University community had reported that their homes had sustained damage from the storm, and one-in-five students reported their homes to be destroyed or uninhabitable.

The above estimates are only a small piece of the massive effects left behind by this storm as they only focus on living conditions. Many members in the Nicholls community saw access to reliable income, transportation, and much, much more disrupted by Ida, which is why this donation of over $75,000 from Shell and the Bayou Community Foundation is appreciated months after the storm.

Dr. Jay Clune, president of Nicholls State University, remarked on the donation with the following words, “many of our students and their families have literally lost the roof over their heads with estimates of weeks, months, and even longer for recovery and rebuilding efforts to truly take shape in the hardest-hit communities. Without the generosity and support of partners such as Shell and BCF, it would be impossible for Nicholls to enact our vision to be the intellectual, economic and cultural heart of the Bayou Region.” To donate towards the efforts of the Bayou Community Foundation’s Hurricane Ida Relief, click here.

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Nicholls Geomatics Program Receives NCEES 2021 Surveying Education Award

Recently, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying recognized the Geomatics program at Nicholls State University with one of its prestigious 2021 Surveying Education Awards, according to this press release from the university.

The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, or NCEES, is a nonprofit organization set on developing, administering, and scoring the surveying licensure tests in the United States of America, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.

Since 2016, the NCEES Surveying Education Award has stood as an honor recognizing university programs that work to advance surveyor licensure in order to safeguard the public’s health, safety, and general welfare. This is the third time that Nicholls has received the honor, which will give the program $15,000 in awarded funds.

Dr. Esra Tekdal Yilmaz, the department head of Applied Sciences at Nicholls, had said the following on receiving the prestigious honor, “Nicholls Geomatics is uniquely designed to provide a well-rounded education on collection, analysis, interpretation and management of spatial data using conventional methods and emerging technologies. The unique nature of the program is clearly evident in every aspect of the curriculum design, instructional research support, advisory board, industry support, the quality of our students, and our faculty expertise.”

The only honor higher than the $15,000 Surveying Education Award that was awarded by the NCEES was the $25,000 NCEES Surveying Education Award grand prize. This prize was awarded to the University of MaineSurveying Engineering Technology program.

In total, Nicholls was one of three total universities selected by the NCEES Surveying Education Award jury to win the $15,000 prize. The other two were the Surveying Engineering program at the Ferris State University’s School of Engineering and Computing Technology and the Geomatics/Surveying Engineering program at New Mexico State University’s Department of Engineering Technology and Surveying Engineering.

The funds will be utilized by Nicholls’ Geomatics program to host a 3-day workshop in which high school STEM teachers can be introduced to the basic concepts and impacts of geomatics, which, according to Oxford, is the “branch of science that deals with the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data relating to the earth’s surface.” Dr. Yilmaz noted that “these sessions will also create a continuous working relationship between our faculty and local high schools.”

The NCEES jury had met to evaluate and determine the 2021 award winners on June 24, 2021, and in total one university was selected to win the grand prize of $25,000, and three universities were selected to win the $15,000 prize and the $10,000 prizes, respectively. Schools awarded with the  $10,000 prize were Florida Atlantic University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and the Oregon Institute of Technology.

The NCEES Surveying Education Award, as per the nonprofit organization’s webpage, “recognizes surveying/geomatics programs that have a broad and robust curriculum and best reflect NCEES’ mission to advance licensure for surveyors in order to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of the public. The award is intended to encourage programs to engage their students with other professionals, introduce them to both historical and new technology, and promote licensure.”

Because the NCEES Surveying Education Award evaluates a university’s performance on national surveying metrics, graduates from the Nicholls Geomatics Program had passed the national exam for the Fundamentals of Surveying at a 95 percent performance rate. This is outstanding once juxtapositioned against the national average of a 54 percent performance rate. This resounding success undoubtedly proves the excellence evident in the Nicholls State University Geomatics Program.

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National Society for Human Resource Management Awards Nicholls Chapter

The National Society for Human Resource Management has recently awarded its Superior Merit Award to Nicholls State University for its excellence and achievement observed over the last academic year, according to an NSU statement.

The Society for Human Resource Management at Nicholls State University (SHRM@NSU) is an industry-acclaimed undergraduate Human Resources chapter that prompted the mutually beneficial interaction between students and Human Resource professionals. Holding this membership gives students the opportunity to add practical knowledge and experience to their classroom training.

In fact, the Nicholls chapter of SHRM is the largest of the SHRM groups in the state of Louisiana, and as of Fall 2021, their competitive team remains undefeated in state case competitions. This most recent recognition from the SHRM Student Chapter Merit Award program is set to encourage the development of effective student chapters of the SHRM and to distinguish outstanding projects and activities occurring within those chapters. Throughout the year, the national organization will recognize the operations, programming, professional development, and support exhibited by individual chapters.

Melanie Boudreax is an assistant professor of management at Nicholls State University, and she is the SHRM@NSU’s faculty advisor. When asked to comment on the recent achievement, she said, “it is a continuously rewarding experience working with these awesome students. They are our future HR professionals, and they work hard and deserve this honor. I just feel so blessed to share in these wins with them.”

The student chapter at Nicholls State University is a part of the larger, national Society for Human Resource Management, which is the biggest and most reliable resource for HR information worldwide with a network of over 250,000 members. SHRM@NSU holds regular biweekly meetings with programming that is designed to help members learn more about HR, its role within the business landscape, and to also network with each other and with HR professionals. These activities allow members to learn more about human resource management while building relationships with local professionals and other students in an enjoyable fashion.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. SHRM-SCP, SHRM president and CEO, said of Nicholls’ success, “the members of our SHRM student chapters represent the next generation of HR leaders, and it’s critical to highlight the instrumental role they play in SHRM’s success. The hard work of Nicholls State University shows the future of the profession is in good hands. I applaud their accomplishments and ability to foster innovative programming, development and interest in HR as we navigate changing workplaces.”

Throughout the school year, SHRM@NSU will host Human Resources guest speakers, attend both local and state HR conferences, compete in state regional case competitions, attend Bayou SHRM meetings, and raise funds for various charities such as the Thibodaux Toy Drive and the Give-N-Day fundraiser.

Nicholls State University’s SHRM also organizes activities that are based on their members’ interests such as their High School Business Workshop Series. In this series, SHRM@NSU aids with the presentation of valuable insight and industry-specific content to high school juniors and seniors interested in business careers. Additionally, the SHRM@NSU also actively performs an essential role during Nicholls’ New Student Orientation wherein members of the organization welcome students to the College of Business Administration and their specific program.

Nationally, SHRM aims to create better workplaces in which employers and employees can thrive together with the organization being the “foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today’s evolving workplaces.” The organization connects with over 300,000 human resource and business executive membersthroughout 165 countries. With this large impact, they influence and in part, impact the lives of over 115 million families and workers worldwide.

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Pelicans Donate to Nicholls for Hurricane Relief

Always a celebrated component of Louisiana athletics, the New Orleans Pelicans recently showed their support for their neighboring communities by donating $100,000 to Nicholls State University for hurricane relief, according to the school.

The large donation, which was announced by the team at an open practice held on Nicholls campus, is set to help members of the larger Nicholls community recover from the devastating Hurricane Ida after a majority of the service region of the university was affected by the August 29th storm. As a result of Ida’s damaging winds and floodwaters, many student-athletes were dispersed across the country to several states where they gathered at host universities to practice for the upcoming athletic season.

Despite the many challenges they faced, these student-athletes kept the competitive spirit of Colonel athletics alive and remained focused in these new settings. One Sports Illustrated article recounted how the coaching staff of the Nicholls State Colonels men’s basketball team secured temporary homes for 16 players and coaches to sleep, eat, and practice amid damages sustained in the parish.

Coach Austin Claunch told Kevin Sweeney of SI, “let’s see if we can get somewhere quickly, and we can make it like a 2–3 week training camp and really benefit from it, almost like a team retreat,” showing the optimism of Nicholls’ coaching staff in the face of disaster.

The $100,000 donated by the New Orleans Pelicans will help to counterbalance some of the unexpected costs that the university had experienced to keep their athletic teams working and practicing together in Ida’s aftermath.

Dr. Jay Clune, President of Nicholls State University, said of the gift from the NBA organization, “we are so grateful for generous partners like the New Orleans Pelicans for coming to our aid in a time of need. This donation will benefit not only student-athletes, but also many of our students who lost homes in this storm. This will help so many students continue to succeed in the face of adversity.”

The announcement of the donation was made public as the New Orleans Pelicans held their annual open practice on Saturday, October 16 at the David R. Stopher Gymnasium, which is located on the campus of Nicholls State University. The open practice offered Pelicans fans a first-hand opportunity to get an inside look at the 2021-2022 team and to show their support for the South Louisiana communities that were directly impacted by Hurricane Ida.

Tickets for the event were primarily limited to schools and organizations located in Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes that were directly affected by Ida with a particular focus on local high school basketball teams, first responders and youth-centered organizations. Tickets were distributed by the Nicholls State University Athletic Department, who distributed available tickets on behalf of the Pelicans.

Pelicans Governor, Gayle Benson, said of the event, “as South Louisiana continues to rebuild after the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida, our organization remains steadfast on providing resources to help these impacted communities recover. Our players, coaches, and staff could not be more excited to show our support for South Louisiana and put on a great show at open practice. I also want to thank Nicholls State University for graciously opening their facilities and hosting this event.”

Specifically, when speaking about the Pelicans’ donation to Nicholls, team governor Gayle Benson said, “it brings thePelicans family great joy to contribute to the Nicholls State University hurricane relief fund. Our partners at Nicholls did a fabulous job of hosting our open practice this past weekend and we are appreciative of the hurricane relief work their team is doing to help support students in the community. We must continue to support those impacted by Hurricane Ida’s destruction.”

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