Sarah M. Nichols is a Biology major at the University of Maine at Augusta. She has distinguished herself as President of the French Club. Through her leadership, she has worked especially hard to engage non-traditional and international students, as well as to develop collaborative events with other clubs and organizations. Additionally, she is one of the earliest members of the Capital Area New Mainers Project (CANMP), which welcomes immigrants and refugees to Central Maine. Ms. Nichols served as a member of one of the first family mentor teams, working closely with the family to help them integrate into the community, helping them make friends, and identifying community resources. A young mother and non-traditional student herself, she is currently working on projects to improve policy and supports for non-traditional students in higher education. She is community-committed and civically minded and has shown an established commitment to supporting students and community members who face barriers to success.
As a young parent and nontraditional student living in a rural state, I see and experience firsthand the difficulties of navigating a traditional university model not designed for people like me. I'm far from alone; rural areas are brimming with those of us facing innumerable challenges in the quest to improve our lives, our children's lives, and the well-being of our small communities. I am passionate about finding an interdisciplinary, policy- and community-based approach to restructuring the system in a manner better supporting nontraditional and low-income students, with a deep understanding of the societal and cultural barriers that interfere. My work as a researcher, club leader, and volunteer for a local refugee resettlement organization, in addition to my own life experience, has given me a particular insight and skill set that I can bring to my work in this area.