profile: Katrina Nichols

Graduated: 2015
Major: elementary education
Minor: science teaching and environmental education
Hometown: Shakopee, Minnesota

Katrina Nichols says she will always remember her defining collegiate moment—the Everybody Party, held at the start of her freshman year. “It was warm and comfortable and I was barefoot and so alive,” she says. “I closed my eyes and connected with the beat and felt comfortable in my own skin for maybe the first time ever.”

In other words, the air was thick with the promise of adventure and wonder to come.

Katrina says that the promise has been realized. She has become an experienced confident outdoors person who has found her niche in the classroom. She not only has the fire to teach—and is finishing her student teaching at an environmental charter school—but wants to be part of the greening of public education.

“Katrina Nichols is an outstanding graduate,” said Annette Nelson, associate professor of teacher education. “She will soon set classrooms on fire with her intelligence and creativity in bringing the outdoors inside to her pupils.”

The people who make up the Northland community, the tight-knit learning environment of the Superior Connections program, and Lake Superior were the most influential factors in her decision to pursue a career in teaching.

She recalls Alan Brew, associate professor of English, sending her an email during her sophomore year recommending her for the McNair Scholar program.

“I was launched into this swirl of anxiety,” she says. “I was flattered, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.”

Katrina walked down to Lake Superior—the body of freshwater she had come to love— to determine what she really valued in life, what she felt called to do, and to take an honest look at her skill set.

Katrina’s experience being a canoe guide taught her strength and provided her with the courage to follow through with teaching.

She attributes much of her success at Northland College to her experience in Superior Connections, a thematic, year-long academic program focused on the Lake Superior watershed.

“I feel like the rest of my life will be indebted to Superior Connections,” Nichols said. “Without it, I wouldn’t have had the relationships that continue to encourage me to accept the strengths I have and to accept those parts of me I see as weakness.”

Katrina says she is sad to see her time at Northland, and by Lake Superior, end but she is excited for the next adventure.

“I’ve been taught the value of a place-based, community-oriented education—values that will continue to influence my practice. I’m ready to go out and put it to work.”

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