Ringing in the Fourth Year of the Nichols Honors Academy

Last week I had a look at the educational future.

Nichols hosted a group of 50 seniors and freshmen from Bartlett High School in neighboring Webster. They are part of the Nichols Honors Academy, which is now entering its fourth year, and through which our college is offering those students a connection to their futures in college and beyond.

2017 9 15 NHA Photo 2 Through this program, high school juniors and seniors are able to take college courses on the Nichols campus, while freshmen and sophomores visit four times during the school year to get coaching in college readiness as well as simulating a full college day. The students are selected for the program based on their academic achievement and college ambitions.

At a ceremony near the end of their four-hour visit to campus, the freshman were inducted into the Honors Academy and received Chrome laptops to help them on their way.

The superintendent of the Webster Public Schools, the Bartlett principal, and longtime Nichols benefactor and trustee Gerald Fels—who with his wife Marilyn is sponsoring the Honors Academy—joined me in acknowledging the progress of the 12th graders.

2017 9 15 NHA Photo 1I called these students the “pioneers” of the program and reminded them that their success last year in taking the Nichols courses International Business and Principles of Marketing proves that they can do college-level work. They’ll be taking a political science course on the Nichols campus this fall.

These bright students have benefited from their time at Nichols—from the college courses to workshops stressing time management, college choices, and the application and essay writing process.

What’s just as heartening is the eager collaboration between the Nichols administration and faculty and their counterparts in Webster. A number of Bartlett teachers, counselors, and administrators were at the event, and their ongoing support of the Honors Academy has been invaluable.

Together, we’re helping shape a bright future for a next generation of college students.

Commencement Reflections

On Saturday, May 6th, I presided over my sixth Nichols commencement. These occasions never get old. They certainly do get a lot larger—an estimated 3,800 guests attended this year celebrating more than 480 graduates.

2017 5 6 Commencement Photo 2But the great thing about Nichols commencements is not quantity but quality of our graduates. The senior who had to attend his classes this year from home because of serious illness but who excelled nevertheless. Another who was the first in his family to earn a college degree and for whom 42 relatives drove from Ohio to see him cross the stage. This class produced not one, but two valedictorians, each with a perfect 4.0 average.

On the lighter side, one new graduate—a “triple Bison” who was receiving his third Nichols degree—lived up to his billing with a tattoo on his arm…of three Bison.

We heard from alumnus and honorary doctoral degree recipient Marty Allen ‘75, who achieved an amazing career leading high profile national retail chains. The lives of the new graduates would be determined 100% by the actions they take, he promised.

2017 5 6 Commencement Photo 1For my part, I raised a few eyebrows by telling the Class of 2017 not to follow their dreams. “Dreams are aspirational, and you need that. But those aspirations are useless without the planning and perspiration to transform those dreams to reality,” I explained, adding that their Nichols education had provided them the tools to become more than a dreamer.

There was plenty of hooting and hollering during the ceremonies, most noticeably when we asked different groups of new graduates to stand. We recognized the large number of students who were the first in their families to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree. We praised the many who worked at jobs for more than 20 hours a week while pursuing their degrees fulltime. And we saluted more than a dozen Nichols sons and daughters who attended the College on their veteran’s benefits after serving their country.

All in all, it was an amazing day.

My Experience as “President for a Day”

Written by Emily Barden

My day as President was one of the best days I have had at Nichols. The opportunity to learn more about the operations and inner workings of our school as well as to learn more about President Engelkemeyer and her position, was one that I could not pass up. I am thankful for applying and will encourage anyone to apply in the subsequent years.

Emily PCI began the day presenting to the President’s Council on the changes I would like to implement that would benefit current students, staff/faculty, future students, and alum. That was a great experience on its own. I presented to a group of very remarkable and vital members of our institution and it was very rewarding hearing their input as well as the questions they had for me.

Emily VPAA_1From there, I had various meetings where I learned about and discussed enrollment, marketing, fundraising within our capital campaign, the honors program, and other plans Nichols has in store. I even had the opportunity to call various alum who have recently created their own endowment scholarship and thank them for their contribution. The conversations I had with the alumni I spoke to, were very interesting and it was great to hear that they have all given back to Nichols because they are so thankful for their time on The Hill.

My day was amazing, to say the least. I loved learning about the various responsibilities President Engelkemeyer has, the different departments she works with, and how valuable her role is. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to switch places with the President and hope many others decide to apply next year.

My Day as a Student

susan classOn April 4, I traded places with Junior Emily Barden who was selected to be “President for a Day.” I wanted to live the day as Emily does, so that included taking on her schedule while she assumed mine.

Emily’s Tuesday schedule includes two required business core classes. My first class of the day was Operations Management with Professor Duhaime. I taught operations management for 14 years at Babson College, so it brought back fond memories of discussing supply chain and inventory management issues and methods. I had fun giving a brief presentation on operations in the news with classmates Isabella, Daisy, and Alexandra.

My second class was Business, Government, and Regulations with Professor Lambert. The preparation for this class involved reading and watching an eye-opening video on supplements. The lack of regulation and quality control for these products is startling. No trips to the supplement stores for me anytime soon! Both classes were interesting and great learning experiences.

My afternoon included working in Student Life, and getting in trouble with Dean Boggio for emailing on my phone while I was working. While there, I enjoyed chatting with Kathy, Carmen, DJ and Andrew, and seeing students come through for their interviews for Orientation Leader.

But the highlight of my day was a scheduled workout in the weight room with women’s ice hockey. The team was very welcoming and took their workout quite seriously. Not wanting to look like someone my age, I was determined to keep up. It felt good at the time, but I had to nearly crawl up the stairs to bed Tuesday night, and my thighs were still killing me the next day. One lesson I’ve learned is that age 20 was so very long ago. It also reminded me why I chose equestrian sports as a young person – the horse does all the hard work!

Looking 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 next year!

Empowering Women in Business

We’ve done a good job at Nichols keeping our promise to promote women’s leadership. The latest installment was evident on March 23rd at our annual Empowering Women in Business (EWIB) conference. This event regularly draws more than a hundred female leaders—and aspiring leaders—to the Nichols campus to hear a distinguished speaker and to participate in a range of breakout seminars.

This year’s keynote speaker—Olympic women’s soccer gold medalist Angela Hucles, the chief empowerment officer of Empowerment Through Sport, certainly made an impression on the audience—and me.

Angela’s story about how she almost retired from soccer the year before the 2008 Olympics was very powerful. She was not getting much playing time on the vaunted U.S. women’s team, but she decided to return because she felt she still had something to contribute. She was expected to play a backup role in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but an injury to soccer icon Abby Wambach forced Hucles into a starting position. She responded by scoring four goals, including two against Japan in the semi-finals. Her efforts helped the United States to the gold medal and she finished second in goals scored. The importance of passion.

March was a busy month for the Nichols Institute of Women’s Leadership (IWL), which hosted the conference. The IWL also released its biennial index of women in leadership positions throughout Massachusetts, including CEOs, executive directors, mayors, college presidents, and schools superintendents.

The index has since gotten plenty of attention, including from Boston National Public Radio affiliate WBUR. Credit goes to IWL faculty director Jean Beaupre, who was interviewed for the piece.

Based on the percentage of leadership positions occupied by women, the state’s total score came in at 39 out of 100—a three-point rise over the first IWL index results three years ago, but a wake-up call that we need to do a lot more. Programs like the EWIB, the efforts of the IWL, and the teaching of leadership skills to all of our undergraduates can be part of the solution.