Higher Education: NSU innovates in wake of pandemic challenges

Northwestern State University has served this region of Louisiana since 1884, and it is not likely that any of those 136 years were more challenging than 2020.

It is a tribute to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and supporters of the university that Northwestern has been able to adapt so effectively to the difficult circumstances created by this year’s sea change in our society.

Academic excellence, outstanding student services and a commitment to an enhanced quality of life in Louisiana and the communities we serve remain at the forefront of the university’s endeavors even during this pandemic.

The spirit of innovation and creativity that has become so deeply embedded in the fabric of  the university through the decades allowed Northwestern to immediately establish last spring a revised academic structure of in-person, online and hybrid classes.

This has enabled students to stay on track in pursuing their degrees while studying in a safe and healthy environment.  The success of the university’s efforts in modifying academic offerings and other activities to meet the changing needs of students is reflected in the largest enrollment in NSU history this fall and record numbers of graduates. 

Those graduates will immediately bolster the workforce of businesses and industries in Northwest Louisiana and beyond, and increased enrollment will expand the university’s positive impact on the region’s economy for years to come.

It is important to emphasize that partnerships with private enterprise and other public entities in the Shreveport-Bossier area and the generosity and philanthropic contributions  of alumni and other individuals and organizations have long been a major factor in the university’s success.

This support for our students and the institution has been more meaningful than ever this year as the global crisis has taken a heavy toll on our state economy and the financial stability of so many people and families associated with the university.

Numerous contributions poured in for emergency relief funds this year to assist students affected by the coronavirus, continuing a growing culture of private support for the school.

Northwestern has received $6 million in recent years from the trust of a graduate for scholarships in business, math and education; $1.5 million from the family of another alumnus for students in creative and performing arts; $1.5 million from a major North Louisiana industry for scholarships and professorships in nursing and allied health, and the list goes on.  Millions of dollars from other individuals, companies and organizations helped create endowed faculty chairs and professorships in virtually every academic program at the university.

These private funds that supplement state allocations assist Northwestern in recruiting and retaining outstanding students, enhancing facilities, maintaining a world class faculty, expanding diversity and producing highly qualified graduates for the state workforce.

So alumni, friends, organizations, businesses and industries that support Northwestern and other area colleges and universities should be applauded not just for their support of higher education but also for their substantial impact on the economy and quality of life in Northwest Louisiana.   

Dr. Chris Maggio | President Northwestern State University