Emma Bourgeois was practicing for Songfest when news broke that the NBA suspended its season after two of its players tested positive for COVID-19. She didn’t know it at the time, but that would be her last event on campus.

“I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I had my last class ever at Nicholls, that I won’t even be able to experience my last Crawfish Day,” says the senior health sciences major from Thibodaux. “I didn’t savor my last events because I didn’t know they were my last ones. That has been so hard.”

Since that afternoon, the reality of the Nicholls State University campus has changed. All classes and labs are online. Employees are working from home. As Student Government Association President, Bourgeois was involved in most of those discussions.

“[My role] is changing every day, and more people are reaching out to me than before,” Bourgeois says. “Students are really more interested in this than other things the SGA has done in the past and everyone is expecting answers. We’re doing the best we can to help spread the message of what we hear from the administration and the University of Louisiana System.”

The SGA uses Zoom to hold committee meetings and for their full senate meeting. Each meeting is open to the public.

“Whatever gets thrown your way, you just have to roll with the punches,” says Tyler Legnon, SGA vice president

A senior health sciences major from Gibson, Legnon manages the SGA Senate. But since the shift to a virtual campus, he’s taken on a larger role as a communicator. Now, he searches social media, looking for ways to answer questions.

“We are a liaison between the students and the administration. We are taking questions and relaying that information to them,” he says. “I spend more time on Twitter and Facebook, monitoring what questions our community is putting out in the atmosphere so I can try to pass on that information or correct any misconceptions.”

I'm still coming to terms with the fact that I had my last class ever at Nicholls. – Former SGA President Emma Bourgeois

Legnon says he can sense anxiety from his peers, especially his international friends. They don’t know if they’ll be able to return in the Fall.

“I think they’re in a state of shock,” he says. “Things are changing day-by-day and we don’t know where they are going to end up. We’re rolling with the punches and letting them know that the university is trying their best to make decisions that benefit our students in the best way.”

Students and leaders are still processing that we are even in this situation.

“It was a heady time,” says Arrington Blanchard, president of the Black Student Union. “People are just moving off of campus and then you read about people who are dying. It’s tough.”

The senior psychology major from Zachary considers communication one of his strengths. That’s imperative as the leader of an influential campus organization. While he is organizing video meetings to determine the BSU’s direction, the new reality is making that difficult.

“It’s a little harder because we can’t meet. My role as a communicator hasn’t changed, but it’s getting our people together,” he says.
Campus leaders also must deal with the transition to online classes. Bourgeois had her study spot on campus and has had to find a new one at home. Legnon and Blanchard are struggling with time management after their routines were upended.

Everyone is maintaining their sanity in their own way. Legnon has been vigilant in communicating with the student body. Bourgeois stays connected with friends and spends time outside. Blanchard is doing a lot of reading, listening to music and checking in with his siblings.

“All of this is going to be alright, as long as we do what we’re supposed to do.” Blanchard says. “We’re going to be okay.” – Jacob Batte