Nicholls Professor Awarded Grant to Improve Science Education

Students in the Bayou Region will soon be able to learn first-hand about DNA and molecular structures thanks to a grant awarded to a Nicholls professor, according to a press release from the school.

The Louisiana Board of Regents, the state agency that coordinates all public higher learning institutions in the state, has recently awarded Nicholls assistant professor of teacher education, Dr. Aimee Hollander, $69,056 for a project that will serve to educate local students and faculty about molecular structures through the creation and displaying of models.

In addition to being a Nicholls assistant professor, Dr. Hollander serves as the program director for the Center for Teaching Excellence and science secondary education, making her the perfect liaison to bring this valuable resource to Nicholls’ campus for both university and high school students and faculty to benefit from.

Now that it’s funded, the project aims to house an impressive collection of magnetic 3D molecular models at Nicholls’ Ellender Memorial Library so that it can be used by local biology and chemistry faculty for their courses. The models will be available for checkout to faculty at Nicholls as well as local schools, potentially impacting thousands of students. In addition to the models, the grant is also set to fund professional development for faculty so that the models can be used as effectively as possible.

The professional development will ensure that teachers know the full functionality and set of uses for the models, with the development being aligned to the Louisiana Science Standards. The State Standards require Louisiana educators to incorporate “the developing and use of models” to teach matter structure, chemical reactions, and information processing, so not only will the models available at Nicholls be useful but the professional development will be as well.

When it comes to certain subject matter in Chemistry, many students struggle with imagining abstract subject matter like DNA, due to its minuscule size. The conceptualization can often be a roadblock or a deal-breaker for students majoring in the sciences or those simply taking science courses as part of a general education degree plan. This can often lead to students seeking out videos of digital molecular models on Youtube, which can be helpful for some, but students that identify as tactile learners will have a lot more success with the physical 3D magnetic molecular models soon to be found at Ellender Memorial Library.

Housing the 3D models in the University library follows the long-standing collegiate tradition of the library being the centerpiece of all facets of research, information gathering, and in more recent years: educational resources. The internet is widely known to be a source of information, but with Youtube offering resources as well as uncertified curricula on its platform, many science majors might be tempted to take the “easy way out” and learn about Chemistry concepts from a content creator instead of their professor, which can have systemic problems and detrimental consequences down the line.

Ellender Memorial Library offers a maker space that will be able to be used in conjunction with the models to advance learning and modeling, which might lead to future 3D modeling competitions being brought to the Bayou Region some years in the future. These events are a unique blend of hybrid education and competitive spirit that students with interests in both the sciences and engineering can benefit from.

When asked about the impact of this grant in the coming years, Nicholls professor, Dr. Hollander said, “I have always wanted to provide my students with a more hands-on experience when learning biology and chemistry. These models will be accessible to regional teachers for use anytime during the semester and provide an experience that cannot be provided otherwise.”

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Four Nicholls Online Programs Received National Recognition

This past year has brought a large wave of Academic acclaim for the online degree programs offered by Nicholls State University, according to various press releases from the school. Just throughout the month of April alone, the school has received top national and state-wide rankings for its online programs for Health Sciences, History,Sociology, and English.

The national recognition for each online program comes from various academic outlets, and the awards and rankings serve as a testament to not only the strength of the Thibodeaux University’s notorious online degree infrastructure and program but also the University’s successful pivoting and refocusing on online learning in the past year due to the state’s stay-at-home measures.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences

The University’s online Bachelor’s Degree program for Health Sciences received critical acclaim and a top ranking in the state from, which ranked the school’s Allied Health Sciences program number 1 in both “Most Popular Online Bachelor’s Degree Trade Schools in Louisiana” and “Most Popular Online Trade Schools in Louisiana.”

Claire Bourgeois, the program coordinator for Nicholls’ Health Sciences program reacted to the acclaim by saying, “It is an honor to be recognized as the Most Popular Online Degree. This would not be possible without the hard work and commitment of our faculty members and students. The faculty always goes above and beyond to provide a quality education to a diverse group of students.” Nicholls’ Health Sciences Program offers students two concentrations for its online Bachelors degree program: Pre-Professional and Health & Wellness. More information about Nicholls’ Health Sciences program can be found here.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in History

Nicholls’ History online Bachelor’s Degree program for History received a Top 40 ranking from, with the site naming the program No. 35 in the nation and highlighting the school as having the best focus on modern history.

Dr. Paul Wilson, the department head for Nicholls History and Geography said of the program, “although we’re a small program, we do emphasize the importance of modern history to give students a greater understanding of the world around them.” also ranked the university’s in-person History program as No. 17 in the nation back in March 2021, particularly highlighting the graduate school’s preparation as one of the best in the nation. More information about Nicholls’ History program can be found here.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in English

Nicholls University’s online Bachelor’s Degree program in English was named one of the best undergraduate English and writing programs in the United States by College Cliffs.

Dr. Robert Alexander, Nicholls’ English, Modern Languages, and Cultural Studies department head credited the program’s success to the “faculty’s commitment to offering a variety of excellent courses in a timely manner so that students can progress efficiently toward their academic and professional goals.” compiled its Top 15 list by including online degree programs from the “most prestigious” schools across the nation, with Nicholls being one of only two Louisiana schools making appearances on the list.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology

The university’s online Bachelor’s Degree program for Sociology was recently named as the No. 18 online sociology degree program in the country from, with the school being one of only two Louisiana universities on the list.

Tina Granger, an instructor and Sociology program coordinator for the university attributed the program’s acclaim to the structure of the curriculum by saying, “we have uniquely structured our degree to provide individuals with real-world knowledge of the social forces, facts and global issues that shape our daily lives.” More information about Nicholls’ Sociology program can be found here.

While the University is no stranger to receiving various awards, critical acclaim, and national recognition in the springtime, it cannot be undervalued or understated that this awarding of four separate online degree programs from four separate outlets in the same month is a credit to not only the school’s academic achievement, but also it’s long-standing commitment to its student body, as evidenced by their flexibility in how to earn its highly-valued degrees- be it in person or online.

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Nicholls Partners with U.S. BOEM to Develop Database of Coastal Research

It was recently announced that Nicholls State University is partnering with the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to develop a database for coastal research conducted on the Bayou Region and Gulf Coast, according to a press release from the school.

It was outlined that the $400,000 project would take place over a four year period, wherein a database and repository would be created for scholars, agency officials, and members of the community to contribute to and benefit from. The project is titled, “Digital Curation: Streamlining Access to Research Across Gulf of Mexico Communities.” Aptly named, the project’s title also stands as a concise mission statement for the goals set forth by the partnership.

Nicholls’ dean of the College of Sciences and Technology and director of coastal research initiatives, Dr. John Doucet remarked on this momentous collaborating, saying: “The Digital Curation Project will improve how levels of government from federal to local find key resources for environmental impact statements and other reports related to the Louisiana Gulf Coast, The Digital Curation Project will improve how levels of government from federal to local find key resources for environmental impact statements and other reports related to the Louisiana Gulf Coast.”

Dr. Doucet went on to say, ““The project is an important addition to our growing portfolio of coastal services at Nicholls as the Louisiana university ‘Closest to the Coast.’ It shows our continuing commitment to coastal communities.” He will oversee the project alongside Dr. Gary LaFleur, R.E. Miller Endowed Professor of Honors Studies and executive director of the Center for Bayou Studies.

Overseeing the day-to-day project operations and student training as project manager will be Dr. Shana Walton, Nicholls associate professor of English, modern language and cultural studies. Walton remarked to Nicholls press that the Center for Bayou Studies is notable in that it alone is uniquely qualified to develop the database because much of the research is composed of qualitative reports based on structured interviews, surveys, oral histories, field notes, and observations. Because of this variety of qualitative reporting, the accurate coding of coastal research reports requires a deep knowledge of the surrounding region and its culture.

The project initially started its work back in October by conducting studies that had been commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other agencies. In addition to the studies, the work involved archival material and projects, such as regional oral histories and information gathered, analyzed, and collected from local historical groups.

Dr. LaFleur remarked on the project’s meaning, saying: “this project represents a history of hard work laid down by Dr. Walton through her past BOEM projects, and Nicholls researchers taking the innovative step to work together within the Center for Bayou Studies.”

Not only will the project fund graduate fellows to help construct the database itself, but it will also allow for the professional utilization of that information. Additionally, opportunities will emerge for Nicholls faculty to develop their own research initiatives, allowing for undergraduates to take part in class-based projects.

This project opens the doors for accomplished faculty, graduate fellows, and inquisitive undergraduates to combine their eagerness for research and respect for their surrounding region. This pursuit of information, data, methods, and knowledge undertaken by the university and the U.S. Bureau stands tall as a perfect encapsulation of higher education at its best. The Center for Bayou Studies is housed at Nicholls State University, and it’s a multidisciplinary faculty collaborative focusing on the cultural and natural resources of the Bayou Region and its famed wetlands.

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Nicholls Bayou-Side Redevelopment Project Breaks Ground

A ground-breaking ceremony was recently hosted by Friends of Bayou Lafourche in honor of Phase 1 of the Nicholls Bayou-Side Redevelopment Project beginning, as reported by HoumaToday. The improvements will be taking place on the Nicholls batture property, which is located near the La. 1 and Bowie Road intersection.

The park will have many public amenities, including an off-street parking lot, paddle-powered boat loading and unloading areas, a custom kayak boat slide, a pavilion, boardwalk, floating dock, a link to the current walking trail, seating, bicycle racks, and more.

The park’s initial design started back in 2017, and it was a collaboration of Nicholls, the Friends of Bayou Lafourche, the Bayou Lafourche Freshwater District, Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, the City of Thibodaux and Duplantis Design Group. The park itself is set to occupy 7.5 acres, located between Audubon Avenue and Nanny Price Lane.

The project’s master plan was released in 2018, and it included designs for an outdoor classroom, an amphitheater,sculpture pads, a boathouse, a boat launch intended for special use, covered seating and a multi-use building. It is estimated that the overall production would cost $8.1 million.

The master plan, which was designed by the Duplantis Design Group, caused much excitement for Nicholls State University and the Friends of Bayou Lafourche. Among those parties providing input into the plan were various members of Nicholls administration, faculty, staff, and student leaders.

Other stakeholders participating in providing input were  Representatives of the City of Thibodaux, Lafourche Parish Government, Bayou Lafourche Fresh Water District, Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou, Thibodaux Regional Medical Center, Bayou Rowing Association.

All permitting and construction bidding for the project was completed in late 2020, with Foret Contracting Group being chosen as the project’s construction contractor and T. Baker Smith

being hired to complete design work, conduct topographic surveys, geotechnical studies, and other monumental tasks of engineering.

The Director of Friends of the Bayou Lafourche, Ryan M. Perque recently shared his excitement for the ground-breaking in a recent news release. Perque said that the entire project, “required the trust of many individuals and organizations to bring this new facility to fruition, and I am incredibly grateful to those that had faith in Friends of Bayou Lafourche to get this project done. While this is a milestone for our organization, our work to revitalize Bayou Lafourche into a scenic waterway with recreational attractions is just beginning with several other brick and mortar projects slated for construction in the next two to three years.”

Another Stakeholder in the project, Nicholls State University President Jay Clune also took part in the Nicholls Bayou-Side project ground-breaking, saying, “friends of Bayou Lafourche is a wonderful partner of Nicholls State University, restoring the bayou that defines this institution,” Clune said. “The Bayou-Side Redevelopment will create a beautiful front yard for Nicholls and provide access for our campus community. I can certainly see this being a strong selling point when we tour students and their families around campus.”

With so much anticipation and excitement surrounding the project, it’s obvious to see that residents of the Houma-Thibodaux area as well as  staff and students of Nicholls State University are particularly enthusiastic at the growth and development of their unique environment. And with such enthusiasm, residents cannot help but be encouraged at not only what the future may hold in terms of facility development but also moments of relaxation and community building that will assuredly come as a result of the park’s opening. Phase 1 of the project began on February 1st, and it is estimated that the park will be ready for public use in May of 2021.

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Nicholls Professor’s Book Poses Societal Questions About Life Outside Earth

A professor from Nicholls State University is looking to the stars and answering large social questions in a new book, so reports a press release from the university.   Dr. James Gilley, a political science assistant professor from Nicholls wrote and recently published the book, Space Civilization: An Inquiry into the Social Questions for Humans Living in Space. The book focuses on furthering the conversation on social ramifications of life in space, as the international advancement of various space exploration programs moves forward.

All across the globe, several countries have launched various projects that take a serious, research-based look at settling Mars, due to the planet’s proximity and similarities to our own, and while many qualified experts are focusing on the technology involved in the transportation to the planet and the technology involved in sustaining life, the Nicholls professor’s book poses questions on the human component. Space Civilization poses questions on topics such as identity, conflict, and governance, as the societal impact of colonization is set to be just as important as sustaining out-of-orbit life.

Dr. Gilley believes that his book will appeal to social scientists, though he wrote the book with a broader audience in mind, with him believing that Space Civilization will appeal to anyone interested in just how human society would function in different ways in space, off-world, and just outside Earth. Many are interested in continuing that conversation, and he hopes that his book can satisfy that curiosity.

“While a few answers are explored, this book is meant to kickstart a larger conversation about what social and human questions we will face as we attempt to become a multi-planetary species,” Dr. Gilley explained.  “Until now, most of that discussion has focused on the nuts and bolts engineering and technical questions. But the fact that we are talking about having human beings live and work in space and on other celestial bodies makes this a much more interesting question. Humans are much less predictable, and that makes the human questions much more difficult to answer.”

The question of humans becoming Martians, or at least Mars-bound, isn’t necessarily a question of “if?” for many experts, but “when?” Dr. Gilley estimates that the possibility of Mars colonization could take place in as little time as 15 years, depending on how human society invests in the project. So, with such a quickly-approaching possibility advancing on us, questions such as governance and societal ramifications of off-Earth living demand complex answers.

Nicholls Professor, Dr. James Gilley’s Space Civilization: An Inquiry into the Social Questions for Humans Living in Space proves that smaller institutions like Nicholls can be at the forefront of such cutting edge topics. Speaking on the impact of such institutions, Gilley stated, “At four-year universities like Nicholls, the social sciences are often relegated to the role of simply teaching students. While I deeply believe that that is the core mission of any educational institution, we have more to offer. Nicholls can be at the forefront of big human discussion, and the political science department can attract high-quality students and faculty willing to research and discuss the big questions about humanity’s future.”

The Nicholl’s professor’s book was published in the fall of 2020 by Lexington Books, and is available via bookseller outlets like Amazon, as it focuses on the questions of social sciences that must be answered in the likely event that humanity begins to earnestly move towards becoming a multi-planetary civilization. SpaceCivilization highlights the most pressing economic, political, and societal questions of space civilization.

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Nicholls Professor to Present at NCTE Conference

This month a professor from Nicholls State University will be presenting during the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention, as reported by a Nicholls press release.

The Nicholls Professor, Dr. Anthony Kunkel, will be speaking on the power of poetry during the national educator’s conference by way of a roundtable discussion when the annual convention meets in Baltimore in late November. The discussion is titled, “The Power of Poetry to Enhance Inquiry in the ELA Classroom.”

When speaking to the Nicholls press, the Nicholls Professor stated that “students today process their world at a fast pace. Sometimes phrasing can get lost in text-speak and memes,” Dr. Kunkel said. “Kids appreciate poetry and lyrics even more today. But they are often ignored as a means to help students write to express themselves. With all the tech available today, we want to give future teachers a way to engage students on a very creative and relevant level.”

Dr. Kunkel is no stranger to the NCTE, as he presented on utilizing the medium of “visual poetry” in the classroom at the previous year’s gathering. His discussion touched on outlining the benefits of visual poetry, which challenges students to use phrasing, visual effects, and technology in addition to the traditional poetic forms. This informative talk invited other interested parties as the English Language Arts Teacher Educators organization invited him to join their talk.

Dr. Anthony Kunkel is a professor at Nicholls State University in the Nicholls College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, a college that produces approximately 80 percent of the teachers for the Bayou Region, which is made up of cities like Thibodeaux, Houma, and Morgan City. Many alumni from the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences are award-winners in the educational field, holding such titles as teachers, principals, administrators, and legislators.

In addition to producing impressive graduates and faculty, the college also oversees some of Nicholls State’s most impactful campus programs, including but not limited to their pre-K program, the Louisiana Center for Dyslexia and Related Learning Disorders, Little Colonels Academy, and the Bridge to Independence Program. The later is a transformative program for students with autism and other intellectual disabilities to engage in the full college experience while also gaining valuable leadership and social skills needed for independent living and future employment.

When Nicholls Professor, Dr. Kunkel presents at the roundtable discussion, it will be at the first virtual NCTE Annual Convention. Each year the convention hosts thousands of educators to come together to collaborate and discuss a wide variety of learning strategies, curriculum planning, and research that informs their teaching, and despite being held virtually, the convention’s remote location allows for the organizers to offer approximately 400 sessions for attendees to engage in, and all attendees will have access to the sessions for up to 60 days following the convention.

For the past century, the National Council of Teachers of English has been seen as a great friend to educators, as the organization offers and provides teachers with in-class materials to support their professional success as well as publishing journals and other publications to advance the voices of educators nationwide at both the local and federal levels.

Their mission statement, which was adopted in 1990, perfectly encapsulates their supportive goal-orientated, objective which is stated as: “promot[ing] the development of literacy, the use of language to construct personal and public worlds and to achieve full participation in society, through the learning and teaching of English and the related arts and sciences of language.”

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