University-sponsored summer camps improve branding and recruitment


Photo by: Caroline Callais

Colonel Campers doing arts and crafts yesterday in the Student Union.

Research shows that summer camps held at Nicholls State University improve brand recognition and recruiting on campus.

The Office of Continuing Education at Nicholls puts on a variety of camps for kindergarten through eighth graders. Their main summer program, Colonel Camper, is half academics and half activities. The Colonel Camper Extreme is all sports activities as well as performing arts. The full summer camp programs are eight weeks long. These programs along with visiting camps give the University recognition.

Jason Eirmann, director of continuing education, said these camps are important because they bring significant income to the University. The attendance for the camps has been growing steadily over the last three years.

“About three years ago we started doing the all-day sports and activities camp. That was a big boost for us,” Eirmann said.

These summer camps hosted at Nicholls are used as a recruitment tool. They give parents and children the opportunity to get to know the community and learn about the campus. Campers have access to all of the facilities on campus. One of the specialty camps at Nicholls is the Junior Chef’s camp that the culinary program puts on. Stephanie Verdin, director of marketing, said Nicholls is the only university offering a four-year degree in Culinary.

“You get to go and cook in their kitchens and have more of a hands on experience, probably something most people don’t get to experience in high school. That’s just one example of how a specific program can almost design a camp to feed into its academic program,” Verdin said.

Nicholls offers several athletic camps, which is an advantage from an athletic standpoint.

Coaches are able to look at recruits early on and can work one-on-one with Nicholls athletes and coaches. This gives them access to the staff and students here at Nicholls.

“If I, as a child, had seen something like our recreation center, it would be something I would look forward to coming here,” Verdin said. “It is something I might not even have known existed here at Nicholls if I hadn’t come to a summer camp. I think it broadens some horizons.”

The most popular camp that gets the most press at Nicholls is the Manning Passing Academy camp. It brings significant advantages to the University. This is an example of a camp that gives the University a publicity boost and has helped bring revenue and facility improvements to the University. Astro-turf donated the football field turf because of the partnership Nicholls has with the Manning family. Nicholls has signed a six-year extension agreement with the Manning Passing Academy camp.

The economic impact study has shown that over the next six years, the camp is estimated to bring in more than $15 million to the local economy. The South Louisiana Economic Council (SLEC) prepared data stating that the Manning Passing Academy’s economic effect in 2015 totaled $4,454,767 in direct tourism, field maintenance spending and entertainment.

While these camps bring recognition to the University, they also play a role in the local community. Parents and their children get to know Thibodaux while they’re here. Summer camps make a difference in local businesses such as hotels, restaurants and hospitals. A hospitality event is held for campers and their families. Local businesses and restaurants are invited are given the opportunity to advertise to these parents who may be looking for a place to eat or somewhere to stay while they are in town. The local tourist commissions and local chambers of commerce give information about swamp tours, plantation tours and other things they can do in the area. Last year, Nicholls started an event held on the Friday of the Manning Passing Academy camp for parents who may have questions about the University.

Nicholls is a compact campus and it is easy for the campers to get around. Thibodaux Regional Hospital located near the campus helps provide for all the athletic trainers and for many of the camps here such as the Manning Camp and offensive-defensive lineman camps.

“It is a big advantage to campers that we’re basically next-door neighbors with a very well respected hospital that’s about to open a sports medicine clinic,” Verdin said. “That helps create some synergy and can help attract some camps here that maybe wouldn’t have considered us otherwise.”

The main goal of the University is to provide accessible and affordable higher education. The summer camp program is a side business, but it is an important one considering the impact it has on Nicholls and the community.