Commencement Reflection

Another academic year has come and gone, and on Saturday, May 5, I presided over my 7th commencement exercises. It has been truly rewarding to watch students grow and develop in their years with us, and I always tell them that they are leaving us at their best… for now. Many undergraduates are heading to new and exciting positions, others are just starting their job search, and 30 will be with us another year to complete a graduate degree. Of the 501 graduates this year (394 who attended commencement), there were 87 double bison, 19 triple bison, and 1 quadruple bison!

2018 5 30 CommencementMy advice to them this year was to “waste no time in carving out those moments to do the things that make you truly happy,” for it’s those moments that provide the strength to weather the ups and downs that inevitably come our way. Our speaker this year was Louis (Lou) Stroller ’63 – an assistant director, production manager, and producer on more than 40 films including Scarface, The Rock, Carlito’s Way, The Bone Collector, and Carrie. Lou shared one of his favorite sayings with the graduates – “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” He reminded the graduates that they have the strengths to knock down the fear that they allow to take control. He told them to let that quote serve as a reminder to chase whatever dreams they have because you never know when and where an opportunity will present itself. We also awarded honorary doctorates to Marilyn Fels, an individual that is a household name in the local community for her unwavering philanthropic support, and Marcus Moran ’66, former CEO of Aubuchon Hardware.

2018 5 30 Commencement aI always close my remarks with “no matter how far our bison roam, they will always be welcomed home on the hill.” My voice always wavers with those words because it is a bittersweet day to say goodbye. Yet with all those goodbyes, we are preparing for new hellos. In a few weeks campus will be alive again as we welcome the Class of 2022 for first-year orientation. These sometimes shy and apprehensive new students will be the confident graduates crossing the stage in four short years, and I’m sure I’ll choke up again.

Accepted Students Reception

On Sunday, April 22nd, Nichols held this year’s second and final Accepted Student Reception—an event at which we welcomed a host of next year’s freshmen and their families and others not yet committed to coming here next fall.

Almost 140 students attended, and all received information on what to expect of academics and life at Nichols. Over the course of the morning and three back-to-back sessions, they explored academic majors, extracurricular activities, and our signature professional development and leadership programs.

I told our future freshman—future Bison, I called them—that we need them to make us stronger as a college tomorrow, just as the current student body represents our strength today. I asked those still finalizing their college choices to use their heads and hearts in making a consequential life decision.

It was significant to me that some of the students attending were looking to transfer from Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts, which will close its doors later this spring because of financial difficulties. That recent and surprising decision has been sobering to the many small, private colleges around Massachusetts.

I was asked by both parents and students how they could be sure we’re not the next Mount Ida. I discussed financials and offered to share audited financial statements. One of the students who posed this question had transferred to Mount Ida last year only to find himself seeking a new academic home for his senior year.

I also pointed to the bright careers awaiting our graduates, in particular those of an award-winning movie producer and a former CEO of the retail chain Aubuchon Hardware. Both received honorary doctorate degrees at the Nichols commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 5.

Then it will be on to preparing for the Class of 2021.

My Day as President

Written by Tamyia King ’18

I don’t even know where to begin! I finally applied to be President for the Day, and it happened. I have to say, I was so surprised, but I was so excited to walk in the shoes of President Susan Engelkemeyer for the day. I didn’t know what my day was going to look like, but I knew April 4th would be one for the books.

2018 4 17 TK PC 1My day started at 8:30am and went until 4:30pm. At 9:00am, I presented my top three priorities of the College to President’s Council (PC). The first being our women to men ratio, second was the retention rate, and lastly was overall awareness. The best part was the Kahoot (a game-based learning platform) I created which brought out their competitive side.

2018 4 17 TK BB 1Throughout the day, there were meetings scheduled with PC members that focused on Enrollment/Retention, Alumni/ Advancement, Finance, and Graduate & Professional Studies. What a dynamic set of individuals! It was amazing to learn about all the hard work that is done on our campus day in and day out. I must say, Mike Stanton, Executive Vice President for Administration, is the funniest person I know on campus. Why haven’t I met him sooner?

After an informative morning, I called several alumni and thanked them for their generous donations to the College. I had lunch with five of my friends and ended the day with office hours and a conference call with Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees, Tom Hall. We recapped my day and talked about my three top priorities and the meetings and phone calls that had taken place.

In the end, I can say I am truly humbled and honored for being given this opportunity. I learned so much about Nichols, met some amazing individuals, and created relationships that will carry on after my time is up on the Hill.

While I was exhausted at the end of the day; this experience was one that will forever be cherished!

Student for a Day 2018

On April 4, I traded places with senior Tamyia King who was selected to be “President for a Day.” I had a great deal of fun in the classes and was excited to learn new information, although I am embarrassed to admit that I was up until 1:00 am preparing for class! I had the best intentions of preparing well in advance, but my job and life seemed to get in the way. I wonder if that sounds familiar to students.

It was fun walking across campus in jeans and sneakers with a backpack and fondly remembering my days as an undergraduate student decades ago. Since my first class wasn’t until 2:15, I spent the morning in the library, sitting by the old clock, chatting with students passing through on their way to pick up a document they printed for class or tucking themselves in a quiet corner to do the same as me – finish class prep.

2018 4 17 SWE BLaw 1My first class of the day was Business Law with Professor Barnes. Legal details and cases can be dense and difficult to understand, but Professor Barnes takes incredibly complex concepts and makes them understandable through examples. One of the examples of contract law was demonstrated with a hypothetical concert that would include well-known artists – Neil Diamond for me and Kanye West for other students. Professor Barnes made an hour and fifteen minutes fly by through interactive discussions, terrific examples, and mini lectures.

My second class was World Court which is team taught by Professors Kim Charbonneau and Allison McDowell-Smith. This 2.5 hour class flew by with me wishing there was more time. Our homework assignment was to watch a movie in preparation for the class. We spent time in small groups reviewing questions related to the movie and then had a full class discussion that addressed a very difficult time in world history – the Nazi regime’s horrendous treatment of Jews and the horrific conditions in concentration camps. Time was also dedicated to planning for an upcoming class presentation and discussion of a May trip the class will be taking to the Netherlands.

Both classes were dynamic, interesting, and great learning experiences. They reminded me of why I always hear from alumni – whether they graduated 5 or 50 years ago – that our faculty made their experience at Nichols both valuable and memorable.

My evening included time in the Call Center. Tamyia was also there and I observed while she made calls to accepted female students. She is one talented and articulate caller! Richard Vazquez was in front of us making calls to prospective students, and at one point he was on a call with a mother that was having difficulty communicating in English, so he slipped into Spanish without a beat! Tamyia and Richard are two of many great examples of the talented students we are so fortunate to have working with the College in calls to alumni and prospective students.

2018 4 17 SWE TK 1Looking back on the experience, I am excited about the lessons I learned and the students I met and am already looking forward to the experience to the next year! And I’m really wishing there will be a Neil Diamond/Kanye West concert pairing. Also, I sure wish I was heading to the Netherlands in May.

Women Who Mean Business

On March 22nd, Nichols held its annual Empowering Women in Business (EWIB) conference, a gathering that’s become well known around central Massachusetts and has developed into a magnet attracting hundreds of female business leaders, entrepreneurs, and attendees looking to follow in those paths.

At Nichols, we are all about women in business on multiple fronts, including our state of the art business curriculum and our unique leadership program for all students beginning in their first year. Our increasingly famous Institute for Women’s Leadership, meanwhile, continues to make a significant impact—from mentoring our students on the issues and challenges facing women in business to serving as an authoritative voice on the state of women’s leadership.

With this kind of commitment and these kinds of resources, it’s always exciting every year to invite members of the outside community to partake of an inspirational message and professional development in their chosen field.

2018 4 13 EWIB Photo 3aThis year, they heard from mother-and-daughter entrepreneurs Tracey Noonan and Dani Vilagie, who founded the sweet company Wicked Good Cupcakes. Their story of starting in their home kitchen, appearing on the wildly successful CNBC show Shark Tank, and growing into the largest shipper of cupcakes in the United States gave our audience plenty of food for thought.

When I welcomed the audience, I brought up the story of this year’s U.S. Women’s Hockey Team, which won gold at the Winter Olympics against long odds. I also pointed to a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review, which found that women who attended a women’s leadership conference:

·2018 4 13 EWIB Photo 2a Doubled the likelihood of a promotion at work and tripled the likelihood of a substantial raise within a year

· Felt more optimistic about the future and more connected with others.

And I dispensed some marching orders. “Go out there today and learn, question, connect, and network your way to better outcomes for you, your peers, those you are mentoring, and especially for your daughters and at least in my case, daughters and granddaughters.”