My three cups of tea with Dean Nichols

Megan Schiferl

Megan SchiferlJuice Editor

All of our lives we are told to have a game plan or an idea for the future. This is all well and good but when life throws you the proverbial curve ball, you have to be ready to swing. I might even argue that having a plan is secondary to having the ability to be flexible. This is especially true when it comes to deciding our futures in the college setting.

My three cups of tea this past week was with Tim Nichols, dean of the Honors College. Nichols is also the husband of academic provost, Laurie Nichols. Needless to say, he has quite the plethora of experience, not only with university-level academics but student advising as well.

Dean Nichols’ path to his current position was anything but typical. He began his secondary education with an undergraduate degree in agriculture from Washington State University. That degree led to a position within the academic world of recruiting and advising of agricultural students for the university.

Initially even Dean Nichols was unsure if education past the undergraduate level was for him.

“I had no idea what graduate school was at first. My best guess was that you went to learn about graduation,” Nichols said.

After deciding there was more to graduate school than learning how to graduate, Nichols received a Masters in Education from Washington State University before taking a position at SDSU. Once again, he was faced with the idea of continuing his education.

“As I worked in the academic world I realized this is what I loved, so I had better get a Ph.D.,” Nichols said.

Although Nichols had not planned on working within academia when he began his path there, he would not change anything now.

“I’ve always loved the jobs I’ve had,” Nichols said. “The jobs have been at places where there is room to grow and the freedom to try new stuff. With a little creativity for new sources of money, there is nothing holding you back.”

Though he loves his jobs now, Nichols realizes that he could have ended up in a much different place had he not be so open-minded.

“The key is to see where life takes you. You have to be adaptable,” Nichols said. “If the road forks, and you decide to do something else, you have to be OK with that.”

Nichols cites Diane Rickerl, the Associate Dean of the Graduate School, as an example of flexibility in action. Rickerl has a bachelor’s degree in art, masters in chemistry and earned his doctorate in soils, yet she was able to become an associate dean in an unrelated field.

Nichols thinks the key to being open minded is trying new things and challenging yourself. When I asked for his advice on spending a semester abroad, his advice was, “Do it.”

“There are a million reasons not to do something like that. Be it money, time, whatever. But you have to just suck it up and do it,” Nichols said.

So as I look towards my academic future, I have to remind myself to take Nichols advice. There will in fact be a million reasons to avoid something new and challenging. I know I will have to fight with my Mid-Western instincts of leaving well enough alone and challenge myself to stretch my comfort zone and step out of the “normal box.” I think we could all learn quite a bit about ourselves if we did in fact just, “Do it.”