Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Lamar Johnson: “It has been a beautiful experience working with and learning from Nicole. She has taken multiple courses with me, and I’ve been impressed by her diligence. For over three years, I’ve had the pleasure to witness Nicole expand in her thinking about racial justice theories and pedagogies. Nicole takes onus of her learning and is possessed with the alacrity to grow socially, emotionally, academically, and professionally. Her love for humanity and passion for education is what makes her a transformative educator. Continue to soar, Nicole—this is only the beginning.”
Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Emery Petchauer: “Nicole stands out for her openness to feedback and critique, especially on how to expand her racial consciousness. It’s common for people to shrink – even turn inward upon themselves — when given the opportunity to grow in this area. Not Nicole. She is open, receptive, and gracious. These admirable qualities will equip her for both leading and following in schools, classrooms, and whatever sector of society she chooses to apply her education.”
Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Tamara Butler: “As an emerging critical educator, Nicole is constantly forging connections across the English Education curriculum (which I appreciate). I admire her creativity and enthusiasm that she brings to the class. Recently, she and a classmate create a dope collage that fused the work of Bansky and Basquiat to highlight art as tools, critique and dialogue.”
How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?
My time as an English major at MSU has shaped how I critically engage with the world around me and all of the content and experiences that we are all constantly taking in. It has given me the opportunity to meet and learn from many amazingly insightful peers and professors. English classes provided me with a space to participate in lively discussions on literature that ranged from the ‘classics’ to current tweets often revolving around their relevance to our world today and how we can impact it. They are the spaces that I have encountered some of the most thoughtful and passionate people, and many of those people have become supportive friends who continue to expand how I read the world.”
Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?
The experiences that impacted me the most were actually requirements for the English Education program. I ended up taking three English classes with Dr. Lamar Johnson, and these have been some of the classes in which I have felt myself grow the most as a person and as a future teacher. All of the classes I took with him centered around social justice in the English classroom, how to read the world critically, and how to have critical conversations with our own future students. What stood out to me the most was how rooted these classes were in reality, action, compassion, and love. We did real, relevant work in these classes which I think really prepared me to carry those same values into my own classroom.
What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?
My advice to future English or Film Studies majors would be to take the classes around topics you know you are passionate about and excite you at first glance, but also take classes that focus on topics or genres you know nothing about. I loved the classes that I went into knowing that I would connect to the content, but the classes that I went into with uncomfortably limited background knowledge expanded my interests and perspective so much more. You may find you never liked certain genres because you’ve never read them, or you may find readings and authors you know you’ll never want to read again. You’ll probably find both.
What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?
This year, my capstone course was ENG 413 with Dr. Tamara Butler which focused on critical composition also centered around English Education. What interests me about the work we’ve been doing in this capstone is the understanding we have constructed about different ways to create an impact through composition. I was always eager to participate in this capstone because it is and feels meaningful. It’s exciting when writing transitions from one individual trying to say something that may be heard to a conversation in the context of community trying to actually do something.
What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?
Post-graduation, I have one more step before I will be fully certified in English and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. While I have no real idea where I’ll end up, after a year of student teaching, my dream job would be to teach Emergent Bilinguals in middle or high school. I would love to teach in as many diverse settings as possible, and once I get a few years of experience, the big hope is to teach abroad someday.
Please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during this moment of local and global crisis. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?
While graduating during the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying chaos has been anything but ideal, it has also been unique, memorable, and a bit disorienting to say the least. Zoom, GroupMe, and FaceTime have become invaluable resources for connection. What I will remember the most about graduating during this time though, is the heightened sense of community and compassion that has come out of this situation. Professors and peers are intentionally checking in with each other. More people are actually thinking about each other, and while most did connect well before this time, now, we are all accommodating needs, having “social zoom meetings”, and showing that we care about the well-being of those that we communicate with the most as well those that we may not even know. I can’t say that I prefer this experience of graduating as a replacement for what we all pictured in our heads as motivation to write yet another paper, but it has definitely made me appreciate the time that I have spent with great people at MSU even more and made me less likely to take time spent in class, with friends, in schools, or at work for granted in the future.