While students were on spring break, most faculty and staff at Northwestern State University were busy preparing for a new normal when classes resume March 30. Many have been working remotely in accordance with government mandates to stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” said NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio. “Northwestern is meeting these new challenges through the resourcefulness and resiliency of our faculty, staff and students.”
All of NSU’s academic programs will continue with online and other alternate delivery of classes. Administrators continue to iron out details about academic guidelines in a shifting environment. Students have access to the library, counseling, technical support and other services required for quality learning. Information technology personnel worked around the clock to provide assistance to faculty and staff and maintain current information on university websites. Offices that provide essential assistance to the university community and the public remain open with modified operations.
NSU’s residential students were strongly encouraged to return home, but for the few who could not, staff was available to assist them. Dining staff prepared take-out lunches and dinners, housing managers were on call to answer questions about credit balances for students moving home and University Police, counselors, nurses in Health Services and staff in student services and financial aid were available to assist students with questions and concerns.
Staff from NSU Child and Family Network partnered with Willis-Knighton Health System to provide childcare and activities for their employees who were fighting the coronavirus on the front lines.
The NSU Food Pantry remains open, manned by volunteers. Hours are 10 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday through April 3.
“We’ve had many donations from individuals, local groups, churches and Greek organizations,” said Scott Burrell, interim director of the School of Creative and Performing Arts who works volunteer shifts at the pantry. “We’ve had about 50-60 students access the pantry. All were quite happy to have such a wide range of items to choose. Not only food, but toiletries and cleaning supplies. We also keep the outside bin filled with ‘to-go’ bags that have pantry items in them like soup, ramen, cereal bars, mac and cheese and peanut butter. I would guess 40-50 bags have been picked up.
Current pantry needs include cleaning supplies, disinfectants, toilet paper, sodas, vegetable oil, jelly, and comfort foods like snacks, desserts, cake and cookie mixes.
“Big thanks to those students, faculty and staff who came to assist when the campus closed by volunteering keep the pantry open,” Burrell said.
Beginning March 30, nurses with Health Services will be available to see students at the clinic from 8 a.m.-noon and will be available by phone from noon-4 p.m. Students can call (318) 663-9263 with questions and concerns or to schedule a visit for the following day.
The Northwestern State University Foundation created an emergency fund to assist those in the NSU community who need assistance dealing with changes in operations due to COVID-19. The fund can be used to address housing and storage insecurity, travel expenses related to returning home, technology needs to ensure students can access virtual learning, loss of wages and other unforeseen financial challenges.
To apply, requests should be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the NSU Foundation, 535 University Parkway, Natchitoches, LA. 71497 Attn: Coronavirus Assistance Fund. Applications should include a short bio of how applicants are associated with NSU, description of hardship with specific costs and details, including receipts if available, and the amount of the request. All requests will be granted based on committee recommendations and need as funds are available. To make a donation to support the coronavirus assistance fund, visit
An important component of preparing for the remainder of the semester has been to address the psychological impact of COVID-19 and the significant disruption it caused. Rebecca Boone, director of Counseling and Career Services, spent spring break earning certification in telemental counseling and will be taking appointments for counseling services via WebEx and FaceTime, which are secure and HIPPA compliant.
“It has been a fast-paced learning curve, but we want our students to be confident that we will continue to provide quality counseling services to them,” she said.
“NSU has been a trailblazer in creative educational concepts, including online learning,” Maggio said. “Our leadership in online education is serving us well now. Cutting edge education is one of the many important traditions that have evolved in Northwestern’s 136-year history. The traditions that we value most are exceptional quality and effectiveness of faculty and staff and our compassion for students and commitment to their wellbeing and overall success.”
Updated information will posted at http://www.nsula.edu and through the university’s social media channels.