Nicholls Students to Compete in 16th Annual Bayou Sales Challenge

Nicholls released that it will be among several universities to participate in the 16th Bayou Sales Challenge of 2019 which is an amazing opportunity for students in the southern U.S. to show and fine-tune their professional sales skills.  Among the participating schools are Florida State University, Louisiana State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Southern University, University of Louisiana-Lafayette and Xavier University.  44 individual students will compete in high-pressure sales simulations in Nicholls’ state-of-the-art Sales and Interactive Training Lab built in 2003 with a generous donation from Northwestern Mutual.  That Fall, the very first Bayou Sales Challenge was held. ​

Once the top two students of the competition emerge, they will progress and face off head-to-head. There will also be a Team Selling challenge, a career expo and two discussion panels: one from professional salespeople and the other from judges and customers.  

Bayou Sales Challenge News at Nicholls

The Team Selling Challenge is a new addition to the event this year.  Two teammates will enter the room together to sell something to the customer. ​  This round of competition is only 15 minutes long but allows for a lot of creativity. ​​The team who scores the highest total combined points wins.

Some of the skills and attributes that will be evaluated are:

  1. Product Knowledge
  2. Strategic PRospecting Skills
  3. Rapport Building
  4. Buyer/Seller Agreement
  5. Active Listening
  6. Communication
  7. Qualification Questioning
  8. Time Management
  9. Objection Prevention
  10. Demo Skills

“The Bayou Sales Challenge provides students with an experience that instills in them the confidence that they can compete in the marketplace,” said Dr. Laura Valenti, director of the Bayou Sales Challenge and assistant professor of marketing. “The competition also gives students an opportunity to network with top businesses.”

The event is very Shark Tank-esque and is great practice and exposure for future business men and women.  As on the award-winning reality show Shark Tank, the sharks often find weaknesses and faults in an entrepreneur’s concept, product, or business model, yet some of the investors try to soften the impact of rejection.  Unlike the show though, this is a safe place to learn and grow as young business people without the fear of loss of investment or risking business assets.

The Director of the event, Laura Lott Valenti, released the following letter regarding the event:

Dear Students, Coaches, Sponsors, and Volunteers,

Over the last eleven years, I have had the honor of meeting most of the program’s supporters and participants, and I am excited to bring another great coopetition to you in February 2019.

The Bayou Sales Challenge is known for its strong connection to the region because of its ties to supportive, well-regarded sponsors and volunteers.  While preparing students for success in sales or related careers, top-notch coaches bring their star students to compete in our two-day role-play competition.  Celebrating the talent we see each year is something I have always looked forward to because when these major pillars convene the students benefit greatly. I am honored to carry the torch for a wonderful program that enables such a unique opportunity of impact.

The 2019 competition marks the sixteenth annual Bayou Sales Challenge, and once again you will see some subtle changes that should enhance the overall competition.  Whether your role is a sponsor or coach, you can expect to experience a well-run competition with the same great southern charm and comradery.

Students, coaches, and volunteers are the most valuable component to the Bayou Sales Challenge’s success.  I thank each of you for the inherent commitment of making a career in sales one that it worthy of recognition.

Reach out to me should you have any questions, and cheers to this amazing opportunity to make an impact with our students.

Sincerely,

Laura Lott Valenti

Both students and event creators are looking forward to seeing the new young talent and their inspiring methodology and ideas.  


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Nicholls to Screen Documentary on Female Chefs

Nicholls State University recently announced that on March 26th it will screen a new award-winning documentary regarding Female Chefs by Joanna James, “A Fine Line: A Woman’s Place is in the Kitchen.”  Part of a national tour, and screening during National Women’s History Month, the acclaimed documentary highlights female chefs who make up only 7 percent of head chefs and restaurant owners. The film takes a deeper look at why this statistic exists, despite the high number of female culinary students.  “The ironic part about this discussion is that most culinary programs, like the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute, have predominantly women enrollees, yet professionally those numbers don’t match,” said the Nicholls Culinary Department head, chef John Kozar. “That’s what the film is all about. What can we do, all of us together, to create a level playing field?”  Nicholls’ female to male ratio at the John Folse Culinary Institute is more than 65 percent female,” Kozar said.

Chef John Folse Culinary Institute: Female Chefs - Nicholls State University Logo

Hosted by The John Folse Culinary Institute housed at Nicholls University and emceed by Marcelle Bienvenu, culinary instructor and longtime New Orleans journalist, the event will include the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to New Orleans Chef, Author and television host Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole Cuisine and owner of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant.  

After the screening, there will be a discussion amongst a series of expert panelists, including some notable Nicholls alumnae and local chefs.  Among the panelists are: Kristen Essig, chef and owner of Coquette in New Orleans; Katie O’Hara, pastry chef at Mopho and Maypop in New Orleans; Anne Milneck, owner of Red Stick Spice Co. in Baton Rouge; and Samantha Love, assistant executive property chef at Caesars Entertainment Corp. in Baltimore, Maryland.

Kozar stated when interviewed, “We’re excited to be able to host this documentary.  Our enrollment at the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute is more than 65 percent female, so we have made it a priority to showcase the success of our alumni and other women in the workforce. That’s why we started and continue the Empowered Women Chefs Series, which brings in successful female chefs to connect with our students.”

Founded in 1993 in response to the disparity outlined in Joanna James’s documentary, was the nonprofit organization The International Association of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR).  WCR includes membership of thousands of women, from culinary students, line cooks, pastry chefs, and executive chefs to educators, food writers, farmers, media professionals, and more. Their mission is to advance women across the culinary industry through education and connection.  They offer opportunities for professional development and mentorship. Their annual National Conference is held every spring, with the 2019 National Conference scheduled for Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota on April 27-29.

The conference will cover all aspects of the food and hospitality by offering class, speakers, and camaraderie. It celebrates the strength and success of women in the profession and hopes that women leave feeling inspired and revitalized.  If you’d like more information on WCR and/or the April conference, click here.

The Nicholls documentary screening will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Mary and Al Danos Theater. Tickets are $40 for the cocktail reception, the screening and the panel, or $20 for the screening and the panel. To purchase tickets, click here.

The Chef John Folse Culinary Institute is named after famous Louisiana chef John Folse, acclaimed and award-winning Louisiana chef.  It was recently announced that it would be offering a series of Saturday cooking classes to the local community called Cooking With the Colonels.  Each class will include an orientation, cooking lessons, a family meal, and a tour of the Lanny D. Ledet Culinary Arts Building which is the facility that houses the Nicholl’s State on-campus Chef John Folse Culinary Institute.

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Nicholls Offers Scholarship for Veterans

There were around 20.4 million U.S. veterans in 2016, according to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, representing less than 10% of the total U.S. adult population.  Hundreds of thousands of veterans are battling post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. Suicide in the veteran community remains at an epidemic level, 20 per day. Many spouses feel helpless and aren’t sure how to support their loved one. And children are growing up wondering why their mother or father has changed.  Trauma-focused psychotherapies and psychotropic medications may offer symptom relief, but do they address the core issues of disconnection, societal withdrawal, and living without a sense of mission and purpose?

The Nicholls State University Office of Veteran Services and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association are committed to helping combat vets find a new purpose by aiding them in more education and a healthy return to civilian life.  Nicholls recently announced a new scholarship specifically for combat vets.


The January 2017 edition of JAMA Psychiatry stated that “… we have probably come about as far as we can with current dominant clinical approaches. Other strategies are urgently needed to effectively address remaining research and clinical gaps concerning the health care needs of combat veterans”.  Traditional mental health programs focus primarily on symptom reduction and a lot of times miss the opportunity to identify and facilitate personal growth as a result of veterans’ struggles. A new, research-based approach to trauma that has been studied by psychologists for the past three decades called Posttraumatic Growth, or PTG for short, explores how people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can often achieve positive growth afterwards.

This growth can occur in one or more domains: a greater appreciation of life, increased personal strength, openness to new possibilities, improved relationships, and enhanced spiritual or existential awareness. At the core of PTG is restoring a purposeful and meaningful life, learning to respond rather than react, and the construction of new beliefs about the world, one’s self, and the future.  The CVMA, comprised of motorcycle-riding veterans from all branches of the United States Armed Forces, feels it their duty to extend PTG to their fellow vet brothers and sisters, and decided that aiding education would do the trick. With members from all 50 states, their mission is to support and defend veterans who served their country and fought for our freedoms.


The CVMA 6-4 Veteran Scholarship will award $500 to a student once per semester to recipients who were an honorably discharged combat veteran and who is at least a sophomore full-time student with a minimum 2.5 GPA. The scholarship is named for the CVMA South Louisiana Chapter.


“We just want to be able to give back to our veteran community and make sure the guys returning home from combat theater who are trying to make something of themselves are afforded every opportunity possible,” CMVA member and Navy veteran John Bruner said. “Coming back to school can be a make or break opportunity. A lot of guys coming back home have seen things and may have some issues that if compounded by financial burden can lead them down a darker path. We want to do anything we can to divert that in a positive direction.”

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Nicholls Professor Appointed to International Crawfish Board

Nicholls State University recently let the cat out of the bag, or is it the crawfish out of the trap? One of their Astacologists has been appointed to a prestigious Astacology Board.  You may have eaten hundreds of pounds of crawfish in your day, but you still can’t call yourself an Astacologist- someone who studies crawfish, also called crayfish.  Turns out, there is a large group of people all over the world who dedicate their lives to the study of crawfish. Crawfish have not received much-focused attention from the broader scientific community, until just recently. Only now are scientists beginning to focus on discovering aspects of their biology, geographic distributions, and life histories in order to gather data to address the conservation issues that this diverse charismatic fauna face in the wake of current and future human-mediated environmental change.  Conservationists at the state and federal levels have been tasked with thwarting and reducing crayfish decline, but they need information on crayfish life histories, natural history, ecology, and even taxonomy in order to generate conservation strategies and to implement recovery plans. Often, this information is not available, thus further delaying actions that could help stem the tide of crayfish imperilment, ultimately limiting conservation planning for crayfish faunas at the local, regional, national or even global level. Fortunately, this situation is starting to change for the better as more and more scientists and their students become interested in astacology and begin to address this information shortfall.  

The International Association of Astacology, founded in Hinterthal, Austria in 1972 has an important mission:  to encourage the scientific study, conservation and wise utilization of freshwater crayfish.  They are attempting to provide for the dissemination of research findings relating to crayfish and to develop an international forum for the free discussion of problems relevant to crayfish.  Obviously, crawfish are a huge part of Louisiana tourism and economy, and historically the IAA has been paramount in maintaining the crawfish industry despite unpredictable climate, terrible environmental disasters such as oil spills, and coastal erosion that may change natural habitats.  

Recently, Louisiana’s own Nicholls State University biology professor Dr. Chris Bonvillain has been appointed to the executive board for the International Association of Astacology which is made up of people who represent the crawfish farming industry, academia and state and government organizations from more than 40 countries.  The board’s aim is to encourage the scientific study, conservation and wise use of crawfish. They also work to maintain the organization objectives and provide expert comments and opinions on matters pertaining to crawfish worldwide.

“I am honored to serve on the IAA Executive Board and represent the United States and Southern U.S. crawfish,” said Dr. Bonvillain, who is one of only two appointed board members from the U.S.

“This shows that Nicholls biology faculty are involved in research that is important to our state,” said Dr. Quenton Fontenot, Nicholls biological sciences department head. “The fact that Chris is recognized by this international appointment confirms that Nicholls is recognized as a leader in crawfish research.”

The board meets every two years at the International Association of Astacology Symposium, with this year’s meeting having been in Pittsburgh. The next meeting will be in the Czech Republic in 2020.  Any person or institution interested in furthering the study of Astacology is eligible for membership. Services to members include a quarterly newsletter (Crayfish News), membership directory, biennial international symposium and publication of the journal Freshwater Crayfish.


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Local Entrepreneur Benny Cenac Donates To The Oh La La Theater Series to Nicholls State

The “Oh Là Là” theater series will behosted by Nicholls this school yearthanks to private donor and philanthropist Arlen Benny Cenac, Jr.  Cenachas always been a major proponent for the arts and education and jumped at theopportunity to help make that a reality for his community.  

The donations went toward several funds and projects necessary to make the show a reality, including renovations on the Mary and Al Danos Theater totaling upwards of $9.6 Million.  According to Dr. Bruce Murphy, Nicholls President, the name Oh Là Là is an homage to Al Danos, who enjoyed conversing in French. The Danos family, whose parents donated $1 million toward the theater’s renovation, released a statement in support of Nicholls’ upcoming series.  “Mom and Dad would have loved this and attended every show,” The Danos family said. “Oh Là Là is exactly what Dad had in mind when he started raising money for the theater.”

In August the university hosted donors, lifetime alumni members and Nicholls Foundation board members at the newly renovated theater for a special preview and an opportunity to purchase season tickets, and spectators were blown away by its beauty, functionality and charm. Monique Crochet, Nicholls’ acting director of advancement, said the upgrades to the Danos Theater were the cornerstone and missing piece that made the theater series possible. Crochet said the improved theater allows Nicholls to bring high-quality, high-demand shows to Thibodaux, enriching the community by increasing exposure to the arts.  “We noticed other universities were doing it. We thought it would be a great idea to bring this to our local area,” Crochet said. She said revenues from sponsorships and ticket sales will go toward maintenance of the theater and the purchasing of future shows.

The first show featured at “Oh Là Là” was back in September. Touring for over seven years and featuring six vocalists and dancers, the Frankie Valli tribute show “Let’s Hang On!” entails a live band that performs all the hits from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “December,” “Who Loves You” and “My Eyes Adored You,” among others.

In November, a Christmas show by the Dutton Experience, a 15-member family band that has been playing together since 1991, made its debut bringing a variety of genres from bluegrass to classical music to the Danos Theater.  The next act to be featured will be the New Orleans-based Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra on Feb. 15. Formed the very same year as the Dutton Experience, the LPO is the oldest full-time musician-governed and collaboratively-operated professional symphony in the nation. After that in March, the acrobat troupe The Golden Dragon Acrobats will bring their aerial excellence to Thibodaux.  This 50 year old Chinese act is recognized as the premier Chinese acrobatic company in the United States, according to Nicholls’ press release announcing the shows.

“Oh Là Là” finishes by  featuring the timeless songs of the Fab Four. A Grammy-nominated Beatles tribute band featuring four musicians handpicked by George Harrison’s sister will feature vintage instruments and iconic costumes from the Beatles’ collection.  Crochet said she thinks the wide range of music brings a good diversity of performances, and she expects Nicholls to find different acts in the future. She said the university will start working on its booking efforts for the 2018-19 season in January when acts start revealing their schedules. Dr. Murphy attributed “Oh Là Là” as an important step toward successfully reaching the university’s goals.  “Here at Nicholls, our vision is to be the intellectual, economic and cultural heart of the Bayou Region. The diversity of world-renowned acts coming to our campus as part of the Oh Là Là series fits perfectly with what we’re trying to accomplish,” Murphy said.

Season tickets are now available to purchase. To purchase tickets or become a sponsor, call Tammy Toups at (985) 448-4134 or email [email protected]

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Nicholls State Online English Degree Takes Top Rank

Nicholls State University’s online English degree has been ranked one of the most affordable by an online education resource.

Nicholls degree was ranked No. 5 by SR Education Group, who considered the tuition rates of every accredited college offering fully online degrees to determine and rank the most affordable options. The results were published on onlineu.org. The 2019 rankings looked at 861 schools across the nation to find schools committed to providing the most economical options for students. Nicholls was the only school in Louisiana to be ranked in the top 25.

“I think this new ranking indicates that we have an outstanding academic program that is also affordable,” said Dr. Ellen Barker, department of language and literature chair. “We have remained in the top seven, often in first and second place, for affordability in the last few years, so it is rewarding to maintain that ranking in this category.”

Founded in 2004 and headquartered in Washington, SR Education Group provides online resources to help prospective college students find the education that best suits their budget and career aspirations. The group provides over $250,000 annually in scholarships.

Online courses have expanded rapidly and have the potential to extend further the educational opportunities of many students, particularly those least well-served by traditional educational institutions. However, in their current design, online courses are difficult, especially for the students who are least prepared. These students’ learning and persistence outcomes are worse when they take online courses than they would have been had these same students taken in-person courses. Continued improvement of online curricula and instruction can strengthen the quality of these courses and hence the educational opportunities for the most in-need populations.

Online courses offer the promise of access regardless of where students live or what time they can participate, potentially redefining educational opportunities for those least well-served in traditional classrooms. Moreover, online platforms offer the promise, through artificial intelligence, of providing the optimal course pacing and content to fit each student’s needs and thereby improve educational quality and learning. The latest “intelligent” tutoring systems, for example, not only assess students’ current weaknesses, but also diagnose why students make the specific errors. These systems then adjust instructional materials to meet students’ needs.

Yet today these promises are far from fully realized. The vast majority of online courses mirror face-to-face classrooms with professors rather using technology to better differentiate instruction across students. As one new study shows, online courses can improve access, yet they also are challenging, especially for the least well-prepared students. These students consistently perform worse in an online setting than they do in face-to-face classrooms; taking online courses increases their likelihood of dropping out and otherwise impedes progress through college.

Online college courses are rapidly growing. One out of three college students now takes at least one course online during their college career, and that share has increased threefold over the past decade. The potential for cost savings and the ease of scaling fuels ongoing investments in online education by both public and private institutions. Online courses have grown in the K-12 sector as well. Florida, for example, requires each high school student to take at least one online course before graduation and the Florida Virtual School offers over 150 classes to students across the state. An estimated 1.5 million K-12 students participated in some online learning in 2010, and online learning enrollments are projected to grow in future years.

Non-selective and for-profit higher education institutions have expanded online course offerings particularly quickly. These institutions serve a majority of college-aged students, and these students typically have weaker academic preparation and fewer economic resources than students at other more selective colleges and universities. As such, their ability to provide useful course work, engage students, and build the skills necessary for economic success is particularly important. Their use of online coursework is promising to the extent that it can reach the most students in need and serve them well.

While online course-taking is both prevalent and growing, especially in non-selective higher education institutions, relatively little evidence has examined how taking a course online instead of in person affects student success in college. A new study is the first of which to provide evidence on the effects of online courses at-scale at non-selective four-year colleges. It is also the first to assess the effects of online course taking at for-profit institutions. Nearly 2.4 million undergraduate students (full-time equivalent) enrolled at for-profit institutions during the 2011-12 academic year, and the sector granted approximately 18 percent of all associate degrees.

A new study uses data from DeVry University, a large for-profit college with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 100,000 students, 80 percent of whom are seeking a bachelor’s degree. The average DeVry student takes two-thirds of her courses online. The remaining one-third of courses meet in conventional in-person classes held at one of DeVry’s 102 physical campuses. The data include over 230,000 students enrolled in 168,000 sections of more than 750 different courses.

DeVry University’s approach to online education makes it particularly well suited for estimating the effects of taking online courses. Each DeVry course is offered both online and in-person, and each student enrolls in either an online section or an in-person section. Online and in-person sections are identical in most ways: both follow the same syllabus and use the same textbook; class sizes are approximately the same; both use the same assignments, quizzes, tests, and grading rubrics. Many professors teach both online and in-person courses. The contrast between online and in-person sections is primarily the mode of communication. In online sections, all interaction—lecturing, class discussion, group projects—occurs in online discussion boards, and much of the professor’s “lecturing” role is replaced with standardized videos. In online sections, participation is often asynchronous while in-person sections meet on campus at scheduled times. In short, DeVry online classes attempt to replicate traditional in-person classes, except that student-student and student-professor interactions are virtual and asynchronous.

Taking a course online, instead of in person, increases the probability that a student will drop out of school. In the semester after taking an online course, students are about 9 percentage points less likely to remain enrolled. This reduction is relative to an average of 88 percent of students remaining enrolled in the following term. Moreover, taking a course online reduces the number of credits that students who do reenroll take in future semesters. While this setting is quite different, we can compare the effects on online course taking to other estimates of effects of on college persistence. For example, the literature on financial aid often finds that $1000 in financial aid increases persistence rates by about three percentage points and college mentorship increases persistence rates by five percentage points.

The negative effects of online course taking are concentrated in the lowest performing students. As shown in Figure 2, for students with below median prior GPA, the online classes reduce grades by 0.5 points or more, while for students with prior GPA in the top three deciles we estimate the effect as much smaller and, in fact, we cannot tell whether there is negative effect at all for this higher-achieving group. Thus, while online courses may have the potential to differentiate coursework to meet the needs of students with weaker incoming skills, current online courses, in fact, do an even worse job of meeting the needs of these students than do traditional in-person courses.

These analyses provide evidence that students in online courses perform substantially worse than students in traditional in-person courses and that experience in these online courses impact performance in future classes and their likelihood of dropping out of college as well. The negative effects of online course-taking are far stronger for students with lower prior GPA. The results are in line with prior studies of online education in other settings such as community colleges and highly competitive four-year institutions that also show that online courses yield worse average outcomes than in-person courses.

The current negative effect of online course taking relative to in-person course taking should not necessarily lead to the conclusion that online courses should be discouraged. On the contrary, online courses provide access to students who never would have the opportunity or inclination to take classes in-person.[11] As one indication, of the 5.8 million students taking online courses in the fall of 2014, 2.85 million took all of their courses online. Moreover, advances in AI offer hope that future online courses can respond to the needs of students, meeting them where they are in their learning and engaging them in higher education even better than in-person courses are currently able to do.  Nonetheless, the tremendous scale and consistently negative effects of current offerings points to the need to improve these courses, particularly for students most at risk of course failure and college dropout.

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