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First-gen student took the path through college seriously


Melinda Nicholson

Melinda Nicholson.

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December 16, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

When an unexpected injury changed the course of Melinda Nicholson's career, she knew she had to dedicate herself solely to finding a new one.

"It was just about financial survival," she said. "I've got to now rely on my brain. So I basically just immediately enrolled in community college."

Thus began her search for what was next. Since transferring to ASU, her focus has been on completing her degree and finding her career of choice. Nicholson tried several programs and disciplines before finding her niche with a Bachelor of Science in innovation in society. 

"I like solving puzzles. I just like the idea of being able to predict the future and I like finding things and putting the pieces together."

The program was the right fit, and even while working her way through school, Nicholson maintained grades to earn a summa cum laude distinction as she graduates this semester.

Nicholson is grateful for the skills and lessons she has learned — critical skills like deductive reasoning and seeking broader perspectives to not fall prey to "fake news." 

"I know where knowledge comes from, I know what science does and I just feel like I'm more anchored in reality, you know? Able to make informed decisions and (be) just an overall smarter thinker."

Question: What's the best piece of advice you'd give to those still in school?

Answer: Honestly, I just really would not want anybody to quit or not to try. I get that students want to cut corners and have fun. Personally, I read every cool thing that they told me to read and I learned so much. So try not to cut corners. That would be my advice.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I was always in the tutoring center. I love the one that's in West Pavilion, the Starbucks there. I spent a lot of time there. Also, in between classes when I had to get work done, I went to the Student Services Building. It was kind of quiet. They had comfy chairs and I used to hide out there. That's another good spot.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: In the innovation in society degree, I learned about data analytics and what a huge growing job field that is going to be. Then I found the applied business data analytics certificate from W. P. Carey. So I will be back and enrolled in that in the spring. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: College education for every single human being. I think it's important that everybody be knowledgeable because I think that would solve a lot of the other problems. The more you know, the more competent the workforce is, and you have better results for everything.

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