Nicholls State Commencement Announcement

Nicholls State University will hold its 104th commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 18th in Stopher Gym. The ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences will be held at 9 a.m., followed by the ceremonies for the College of Business Administration and the College of Nursing at noon. The last ceremonies will be held at 3 p.m. for the College of Education and Behavioral Science and the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute.

The ceremony’s keynote speaker delivering the commencement address will be delivered by Dr. Craig Walker, an internationally-known cardiologist who is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, and interventional cardiology. Dr. Walker is a former resident of Bourg and graduated from South Terrebonne High School and earned an undergraduate degree from Nicholls State University in only two years. In reference to being the keynote speaker for the approaching ceremony, Dr. Walker said, “A college degree represents a true accomplishment, but it is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning. I’m proud to serve as the commencement speaker at my alma mater.”

From his impressive success at Nicholls State University, Dr. Walker advanced to the LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans to earn his doctorate and to Lafayette Charity Hospital to complete his residency. Subsequently, New Orleans’ Ochsner Foundation Hospital and Harvard Medical School both awarded him fellowships.

In 1983, Dr. Walker returned to Terrebonne Parish to open the Houma Heart Clinic. When he first opened the doors to the clinic, he was the sole employee. However, as the years progressed, opportunities to open more facilities arose. Currently, the Cardiovascular Institute of the South has 19 locations that collectively employ 60 physicians.

Along with his extensive expansion of the Cardiovascular Institute of the South, Dr. Walker founded New Cardiovascular Horizons– a well-respected international conference that facilitates discussion on innovations and developments in cardiovascular medicine. Each year, the foundation holds 16 U.S. conferences, 4 international conferences, and consists of more than 5,000 global participants. New Cardiovascular Horizons will hold its 20thannual conference this year.

In 1997, Dr. Walker collaborated with Chef John Folse to construct a cookbook called Something Old & Something New: Louisiana Cooking with a Change of Heart. This cookbook features 200 traditional Cajun and Creole recipes alongside modified versions of the classics to make them healthier. The cookbook also features stories discussing the backgrounds of some of the classic recipes.

Dr. Walker maintains several ties in education. He currently works as Clinical Professor of Medicine at LSU and Tulane Medical Schools. He also holds the position of Clinical Editor of the news bulletin Vascular Disease Management, and holds other editorial positions on journals such as the Journal of Endovascular Therapy, Endovascular Today, and Global Vascular Digest. Additionally, Dr. Walker is a member of the Board of Directors of the Outpatient Endovascular and Interventional Society and has participated as an associate director at numerous medical conferences, both national and international. Nicholls State is honored to have him as this year’s keynote speaker.

Because of his numerous strides made in the medical field, Nicholls State University will award Dr. Walker with an honorary doctorate during the 104th commencement ceremony.

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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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