June 6, 2017
Hailing from the Bronx, Shinel Nicholas ’19 was initially charmed by the backdrop upon which the College at Rindge campus of Franklin Pierce University is set.
“When I visited Pierce for the first time, I was amazed by the scenery,” she said. But it was her interactions with Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Jim Earle at an accepted students’ luncheon in Connecticut that really made Shinel feel like there was a place for her at Pierce.
“He met my older brother John at the luncheon, and when I met Jim again during orientation weekend, he remembered me and my brother, and even asked how John was doing with his college work. That one interaction of friendliness just made me feel welcomed, especially considering the fact that I was coming to a school that is at least four hours away from my home.”
Upon arriving at Pierce, Shinel dug right in, figuratively and literally.
Shinel is an Anthropology major with a love for archaeology, specifically Irish archaeology. She is double minoring in Public History and History, focusing on European and Asian history. She is also working toward a Global Citizenship Certificate.
It a robust path of study, as Shinel intends to graduate early, but landing on the major that felt right took the guidance of a Franklin Pierce faculty member, specifically an associate professor in the department of anthropology and the director of the Honors Program.
“[A] glorious man by the name of Dr. Robert Goodby came along and sparked an amazing interest in archaeology into my heart, and he's been stuck with me ever since, as an advisor but also as my mentor. I knew that I loved archaeology the first time that I found an artifact. It was an arrow point/tip (tip broken), and I remember how excited I was,” Shinel recalled.
“Shinel is one of the most outgoing, engaged students I've met at Pierce,” Dr. Goodby said. “You can expect to see her working at almost every big campus event, from club fairs to open house events and SGA meetings. She is also a talented archaeological fieldworker; in her first archaeological field school, her excavation was so neat and precise that she came in for some good-natured teasing, and the next fall I recruited her to be a field assistant, sharing her skills with first-year students.”
Naturally, Shinel is in the Anthropology Club, but she has also served on the Global Citizens Club as the Club Senator, on the Executive Board of the Pierce Activities Council (PAC), and as a Community Assistant during her time at Pierce. But perhaps her biggest extracurricular commitment is the A.L.A.NA. Club.
A.L.A.NA., which stands for African-American, Latino/a, Asian-American, Native American, is a diversity initiative that provides support services and programs that empower A.L.A.NA. students to take ownership of their education and encourages them to take advantage of leadership opportunities.
“A.L.A.NA. brings actual diversity to Pierce and being a part of A.L.A.NA. means spreading the message that whether you are of a different race, religion, ethnicity, gender, social standing, etc., we are all human beings and we all technically want the same things: to be successful in life, to find acceptance in one's self, to be happy and to just enjoy life,” Shinel said.
Students don’t have to be a member of A.L.A.NA. to be a part of the group, Shinel added. “Showing up proves that you are an ally, you are a friend, someone that can be trusted. It proves that you are supporting your fellow A.L.A.NA. students by saying, ‘I see your struggle, and I want to better understand what it feels like to be in your shoes.’”
Shinel’s personal commitment not only to A.L.A.NA. and Pierce Perspective—its student discussion group—but to social justice has twice earned her the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Award. This honor recognizes students who have demonstrated a commitment to service and community building, and recognizes individuals as they work to fulfill the dream and message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“When I received the A.L.A.NA. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Award the first time, I felt that it was a huge honor,” reminisced Shinel. “But the second time, I felt that I really deserved and had actually earned it because my commitment to social justice had become much stronger, and to see that be acknowledged was just a humbling feeling.”
“Shinel’s passion for justice has challenged her peers to think about issues in a deeper way,” said Associate Director of Student Involvement and Director of the ALANA Program Derek Scalia. “Her commitment to Pierce runs deep, through her involvement in clubs, leadership programs, and university initiatives. Through her humor and compassion, she fosters a sense of community where all are welcome and seen.”
Derek has been Shinel’s biggest influence on campus. “He is that ear that will always be open whenever you want to talk or go on a rant. He is passionate about social justice and racial issues, and I feel that he is one of the main reasons why I chose to stay at Pierce,” Shinel said.
Derek encourages her to take action, Shinel continued, saying, “Derek [pushes me to] keep fighting the good fight because if [I] don't light the torch, how is someone else supposed to take it from [me] and pass it on? He challenges me to fight back and educate those that show their ignorance. I can assure you that I am that person that will educate you and tell you to check your privilege at the door, because in order for us to be an actual modern society, we have to learn what our privilege is, and whether or not we abuse it or take it for granted.”
These kinds of discussions are just what Pierce Perspective is about, and to Shinel, the group is about community, safety, friendship, and acceptance.
“The atmosphere is just really amazing and welcoming. The young ladies and gents that joined the club this year from the class of 2020 also make me enjoy the club, because they all have their own personalities, and they have their own opinions, and I just love seeing how passionate they get when we talk about certain subjects. Don't ever get me started on slavery or genocide because I will talk your ear off,” she said.
Shinel’s passion, and that of her counterparts in the Pierce Perspective, is representative of one of the University’s greatest strengths and with a student population that is 24% non-Caucasian, these kinds of conversation are integral to the growth and support of Pierce’s student population.
With such heart, humor and hard work, what will life after graduation look like for Shinel? Her goal is to be an anthropologist based in Ireland, but Shinel needs to “know that I earned it because of my skill, not because of the color of my skin. If I get the career that I am working hard towards, I want it to be because that employer actually saw something in me that he/she did not see in anyone else, I want it to be because I have actually honed that skills that Dr. Goodby has taught me, and others are able to see that.”
The Pierce community has every faith that Shinel will absolutely reach that goal.