Nicholls Invites You on Musical Journey Featuring Classic Greats

THIBODAUX, La. —  Nicholls’ Mary and Al Danos Theater will set the stage next weekend for a journey through classical opera music.

At 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 3, and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 4, “Finding Your Somewhere: A Transformation Through Opera” will feature various works from composers including Richard Wagner, Leonard Bernstein and Gioachino Rossini. The $10 tickets will support future productions and other student activities at Nicholls and will be available at the door for purchase.

“This performance shows love to the next operatic generation, and embraces them into a community full of love,” said Nicholls graduate Jiaxuan Zhu (BA ‘18). “Everyone in the production fills their love into it and passes it to the audience. This is a beautiful scene to be seen.”

The opera workshop is a community affair. Its founder, music instructor Dr. Valerie Francis, invites Nicholls alumni, K-12 students and community members to perform. Graduate Roland Bennett (BA ‘15) pays the program forward by bringing his students from Morgan City high and middle schools.

“The Nicholls Opera Workshop was created to give young singers the opportunity to study and perform one of history’s greatest art forms, the opera,” he said. “Opera can provide a window into conversations such as how to deal with grief, the beauty of falling in love and even political tensions of the past and present.”

The workshop also features soprano Jessica Victoria, last years finalists in the Joy in Singing International Art Song Competition and also the 2017 finalist in Concurso Internazionale Di Canto Lírico. In addition, she has taught as a guest artist at The University of New Mexico, lectured at the New England Conservatory, the Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Notre Dame and has delivered presentations on music and philosophy in Rome.

“If you have never been to an opera, come and I promise you will be a fan before you leave. If you already love opera, it’s important to support local opera productions. Without the work of educating and involving the public at a local level, we would watch opera die, even at a professional level,” said Bennett. “Generations would go without hearing some of the best works by composers such as Mozart, Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi, and that would be a tragedy.”



CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator,

985.448.4141 or

Nicholls Honors Outstanding Alumni, Community Members

THIBODAUX, La. — The Nicholls Alumni Federation celebrated the achievements of Nicholls alumni and supporters during the annual Awards for Excellence reception on Wednesday.
Thibodaux attorney Leslie Clement Jr. received the James Lynn Powell Award, restaurateur Neal Swanner the Harvey Peltier Award, the Mary and Al Danos Foundation received the Corporate Mark of Honor and Andrea Bollinger the Honorary Alumni Award.
“It is an honor for me to be able to recognize the people who contributed so much to this institution, which means so much to our community,” said Katherine Mabile, director of Alumni Affairs. “Nicholls is growing as an institution and the passion and commitment from each of these men and women has played a part in that. I can’t thank them enough.”
Clement (B.A. ‘70) is a former Student Government Association president, Mr. Nicholls and business manager for The Nicholls Worth. The James Lynn Powell Outstanding Alumni Award is the highest recognition given to a Nicholls graduate. Elected into the Nicholls Hall of Fame in 1970, Clement is a season ticket holder for multiple sports and has served on the Alumni Federation Board, Nicholls Foundation Board and the Colonel Athletic Association Board. He has operated his law office since 1978.
Owner and operator of Bubba’s II Po-boys and Seafood, Swanner has long supported Nicholls individually and through the Norman Swanner Foundation, which honors the memory of his brother and former Thibodaux city councilman. A scholarship has been set up in his brother’s name and the Nicholls softball team plays on Swanner field after he donated a significant amount of money to renovate the complex. The Harvey Peltier Award is given annually to an outstanding supporter of the university. It is the highest honor a non-graduate can receive from Nicholls.
Mary and Al Danos were longtime supporters of the arts at Nicholls, and the foundation that shares their name has continued their legacy. Operated by the Danos children, the foundation has given more than $1 million in support of the Mary and Al Danos Theater in Talbot Hall and to the success of music and theater programs on campus. It’s that support that led Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune to select them to receive the Corporate Mark of Honor.
Though she didn’t graduate from Nicholls, Bollinger is a passionate supporter of the university. She served as a member of the Mary and Al Danos Theater Design and Funding Committee, and has recently donated time and money to Women’s Night Out and Give-N-Day. She and her siblings, Boysie and Charlotte, donated the first $1 million endowment in Nicholls history, and last year she joined her sister in raising money to renovate the Cotillion Ballroom in the Student Union.



CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator,
985.448.4141 or

Nicholls Business Students Finalist for Flourish Prize

THIBODAUX, La. — Four Nicholls students and a professor have been named a finalist for an award for their work to highlight a business innovator.

Dr. Christopher Castille and students Samantha Hollingsworth, a senior accounting major from Raceland; Alexis Guzman, a senior marketing major from Houma; Donald August, a senior management major from La Place; and Geri Orgeron, a senior management major from Houma, were named finalists for the 2019 Flourish Prize by the global educational initiative AIM2Flourish.

“For me, having students acknowledged as finalists for this award means a lot,” said Dr. Castille. “I introduced this project to help students see how business can be a force for good in the world and not simply the cause of many problems that we face in our world, for example, climate change. Here, we have a clear case of that, even if the team ultimately does not receive an award.”

AIM2Flourish facilitates student interviews with business leaders about a recent, positive and profitable business innovations that advance the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) established by the United Nations.

Under the direction of Dr. Castille, Hollingsworth, Guzman, August and Orgeron interviewed T. Baker Smith Public Relations Coordinator Jennifer Smith and Project Manager Craig Guidry about the rigid pipe boom, which was a solution to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The students’ story “A Solution to Manmade Disaster: The Rigid Pipe Boom” was recognized for UN Global Goals “Clean Water and Sanitation,” “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure,” “Life Below Water” and “Life on Land.”

The students are a team from Dr. Castille’s human relations and interpersonal skills course.

The 76 finalists for the 2019 Flourish Prizes represent more than 800 stories published in 2018, spanning the globe and showcasing business innovations for each of the 17 UN Global Goals. Finalists are from 30 universities in 16 countries under the guidance of 35 professors. The businesses profiled come from 27 countries and more than 19 industries.

The prize-winning businesses, professors, universities and students will be honored during the 2019 Flourish Prizes virtual celebration, taking place online the week of May 6–10.

AIM2Flourish is the world’s first higher-education curriculum, story platform and prize for the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and business’ role in achieving them.




CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator,
985.448.4141 or

Students to Compete in 16th Annual Bayou Sales Challenge

THIBODAUX, La. — Seven universities will send 44 students to test their salesmanship at the 16th annual Bayou Sales Challenge on Feb. 27 to March 1 at Nicholls State University.
Joining Nicholls in the competition are Florida State University, Louisiana State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Southern University, University of Louisiana-Lafayette and Xavier University.
Team and individual students will compete in high-pressure sales simulations in Nicholls’ state-of-the-art Sales and Interactive Training Lab, with the top two students facing off head-to-head. New this year will be a Team Selling challenge, which will give team members serving as alternate salespeople an expanded role in the competition. The event will also include a career expo and two discussion panels, one from the perspective of professional salespeople and the other from judges and customers.
“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.”
This year’s premier sponsors are Northwestern Mutual of Louisiana, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, Regions Bank, Republic Finance and UniFirst. Additional sponsors include A.J. Gallagher, First American Bank, Meyer Financial and Synergy Bank.
Several of the sponsors will also participate in the career expo, along with Postlethwaite & Netterville, Edward Jones, Pearson Education, Nicholls MBA, Gartner, Louisiana CAT and Lofton Staffing Services.


CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator, 985.448.4141 or

Record-high retention rates lead to continued enrollment growth

THIBODAUX, La. — Record-high retention rates are key to a fourth consecutive Spring enrollment growth at Nicholls State University. Overall enrollment, including undergraduate and graduate students, is 5,896, up 58 from Spring 2018, according to 14th class day statistics. “This is a testament to our entire campus to see continued enrollment growth during these trying times for higher education in Louisiana,” said Alex Arceneaux, executive vice president for enrollment and external affairs. “Students recognize that our programs are first class and relevant in today’s workforce.”

While Fall enrollment is often representative of new students, Spring semester enrollment is a reflection of retention. This Spring, Nicholls fall-to-spring retention rate is 89.4 percent, breaking the previous high of 88.3 percent in Spring 2016, and continuing a run of retention rates of 87 to 86 percent or higher over the last four years.

A number of initiatives have been implemented to address student advising and mentoring. In the Fall, Nicholls announced the creation of its Colonels Retention of Winners Network to help retain freshmen, black males. Fall-to-spring retention for freshman black males increased by 12.4 percent compared to the previous spring.

“Here at Nicholls State University, we are committed to changing lives,” said Dr. Jay Clune, Nicholls President. “The CROWN program is having a profound impact on our campus.”



CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator,
985.448.4141 or

Nicholls Biology Students to Hunt for Viruses in New Research Program

THIBODAUX, La. — Beginning this Fall, Nicholls State University biology and chemistry students will spend the next year digging through the dirt looking for viruses after the university was selected to participate in a national undergraduate research program.

Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science, or SEA-PHAGES, is a national, two-semester, discovery-based undergraduate research course that begins with digging in the soil to find new viruses, then progresses through a variety of microbiology techniques and eventually to complex genome annotation and bioinformatic analyses. A phage is a virus that preys on and feeds off bacteria. They are found, among other places, in the soil.

“Offering this research-based course provides us with the opportunity to revolutionize the way we teach biology at Nicholls,” says Christie Landry, assistant professor of biological sciences. “Our students will have the opportunity to collaborate and publish their work alongside scientists and peers from all over the country.”

Eligible students must be at least a sophomore by Fall 2019 and have completed the biology foundation courses. Informational sessions will be held later in the semester.

The program aims to increase undergraduate interest and retention in biological sciences through immersion in authentic, valuable, yet accessible research.

The course was first offered in 2008, and since that time SEA-PHAGES students have isolated and archived more than 4,000 mycobacteriophages, sequenced more than 460 complete genomes and submitted over 180 annotations to GenBank. Seventeen peer-reviewed publications have come out of the program, at least six of which have included undergraduate authors.

SEA-PHAGES is jointly administered by Graham Hatfull’s group at the University of Pittsburgh and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science Education division and is supported by HHMI.


CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator,

985.448.4141 or

Nicholls professor appointed to international crawfish board

Dr. Chris Bonvillain
(Photo by Misty Leigh McElroy/Nicholls State University)

THIBODAUX, La. — Nicholls State University biology professor Dr. Chris Bonvillain has been appointed to the executive board for the International Association of Astacology.

The astacology — the study of crawfish — executive board is made up of people who represent the crawfish farming industry, academia and state and government organizations from more than 40 countries.

“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 aim of the IAA is to encourage the scientific study, conservation and wise use of crawfish. The board works to maintain the organization objectives and provide expert comments and opinions on matters pertaining to crawfish worldwide. The board consists of four elected positions and seven members who are appointed by the board’s president.

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.



CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator, 985.448.4141 or

Nicholls to perform “The Entertainer,” “Star Wars” at 10th annual Monster Piano Concert

Monster Piano Concert 2016
(Photo by Misty Leigh McElroy/Nicholls State University)

THIBODAUX, La. — The Nicholls State University Department of Music is proud to announce its 10th annual Monster Piano Concert at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept 18, at the Mary and Al Danos Theater.

Music for the concert, featuring more than 35 faculty, students, alumni, community members and high school pianists, include “The Entertainer,” “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” Danse Macabre” and selections from “Star Wars,” along with compositions featuring the Nicholls percussion studio and the Nicholls Camerata.

A piece based on the Nicholls Alma Mater will also be performed. The rendition was composed by former faculty member Stuart Folse for the first edition of the series.

Nicholls is the only public music school in the state to have earned the designation of being an All-Steinway School and exclusively uses Steinway pianos for performances and music education.

Guests will be treated to hors d’oeuvres and an open bar before the show with coffee and dessert served during intermission.

Doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $45 for general admission and $22 for students with a valid ID. To purchase a ticket online, visit and search for the Tenth Annual Monster Piano Concert or scan the following QRcode. Proceeds will benefit the music scholarships.

For assistance, call 985.448.4600 or 985.448.4270.


CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator, 985.448.4141 or

Nicholls to create endowment for Honors study abroad

From left, Nicholls Foundation Executive Director Jeremy Becker, Nicholls President Dr. Jay Clune, Honors Program students Madalyn Beyer of Houma, Olivia Dicharry of Gonzales and Felicia Hebert of Thibodaux, R.E. “Bob” Miller and Honors Program Director Dr. John Doucet. (Misty Leigh McElroy/Nicholls State University)

THIBODAUX, La. — Many future Nicholls State University Honors Program students looking to study abroad are set to benefit from a new endowment created by the donations of Nicholls alum R.E. “Bob” Miller.

The University Honors Program was created in 1998 and the program began enabling its students to study abroad in 2000. Destinations have been to the United Kingdom’s University of Plymouth and several locations in Costa Rica.

“Through the generosity of Bob Miller and others. we are able to send students overseas to study with Nicholls professors in England and Costa Rica, at our expense,” said Dr. John P. Doucet, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the University Honors Program. “Many of our students are first generation college students, and to provide such extraordinary opportunities like international study and travel is, as the students tell us, life-changing.”

Miller, who was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce from Nicholls, is the founder and owner of Major Equipment and Remediation Services, Inc., in Morgan City.

“I fell in love with the program when those students came back,” Miller said. “You can look in their eyes and tell how much they have changed and appreciate the experience. They come back as wide-awake adults. I think it is the best thing in the world.”

The Nicholls Foundation is using $115,000 previously donated by Miller to create an endowment, so that the interest can be used to send students to study abroad indefinitely.

If someone is interested in contributing to this endowment, or in creating their own endowment, please contact Jeremy Becker with the Nicholls Foundation at 985-448-4005.



CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator,

985.448.4141 or

Five Nicholls student chefs to learn from top French culinary institute

The five Chef John Folse Culinary Institute students chosen for this summer’s Institut Paul Bocuse. From left, seniors Meifung Liu of Columbus, Ohio, Austin Babineaux of Lafayette, Kyong Han of Gretna, Logan Boudreaux of Lockport and Ashlé Turnipseed of Baton Rouge. (Misty Leigh McElroy/Nicholls State University)

THIBODAUX, La. — Five Chef John Folse Culinary Institute students will receive a once in a lifetime opportunity this summer to travel to France and learn from the culinary minds at Institut Paul Bocuse.

Seniors Meifung Liu of Columbus, Ohio, Austin Babineaux of Lafayette, Kyong Han of Gretna, Logan Boudreaux of Lockport and Ashlé Turnipseed of Baton Rouge will travel to Écully, France from May to August.

The Institut Paul Bocuse Worldwide Alliance, founded by the celebrated French chef, unites 14 universities from across the world in the pursuit of top-notch culinary education. Nicholls’ Chef John Folse Culinary Institute is the only school in the United States involved in this partnership and sends its top students to an intensive four-month training at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Écully, France each year.

Liu said she was thankful her professors selected her to represent the school in France. Liu is the Student Culinary Association vice president, has represented Nicholls at the Augusta Masters Golf Tournament, staged at Dakota’s of Covington and interned at Quaker Ridge Golf Club.

“It is very rare and I feel myself very thankful to have the opportunity because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to actually step anywhere around the Institut Paul Bocuse,” Liu said.

Babineaux said going to France and representing not only himself but also his professors and family, means a lot to him. Babineaux supervised the breakfast buffet, assisted with expediting dinner service at the 2016 Masters Tournament, received the Baton Rouge Epicurean Scholarship and has been a line cook at Restaurant August and Ruffino’s on the River.

“I am looking forward to a once in a lifetime experience — coming from where I am coming from and going to Europe,” he said. “Not only that but learning French cuisine from actual French chefs is an astounding experience for me.”

Han said he was looking forward to learning the classical techniques from where American cuisine grew. Han has served as the president of the Student Culinary Association, worked in the butcher and smokehouse departments at Rouses, staged at Kingfish, Johnny Sanchez and August, interned at Southern Hills Country Club and was a cook at Cafe Boloud.

“I get to see a new aspect of cooking,” Han said. “I get to learn from one of the top people in the industry and get to meet a lot more people and connect with other people from other regions in the world. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m happy for it.”

Boudreaux said he is looking forward to experiencing the cuisine and learning from some of the best French chefs from all over the world. Boudreaux won the 2015 Bayou Cook-off Competition, interned at John Besh’s Luke and is now executive co-chef at Cinclare.

“I have definitely been working really hard to get to get in this position for the last five years and now it has come to fruition and speaking for all of us, we are really ecstatic,” Boudreaux said. “We are going to learn cuisine that is completely out of our comfort zone. You really get to experience the best of the best and top-notch cuisine.”

Turnipseed said she has been working toward this trip to France since she was a freshman and is both excited and overwhelmed to see that hard work come together. Turnipseed has worked at Fleming’s Steakhouse and Winebar, the Baton Rouge Country Club, Le Bistro, interned at the Tuxedo Club and represented Nicholls at the Masters Tournament.

“I think the biggest thing I am looking forward to is really pastry because I didn’t really get the chance to explore that while I was here,” Turnipseed said. “And that is kind of where pastries are really big and booming.”


CONTACT: Jacob Batte, Media Relations and Publications Coordinator, 985.448.4141 or