Marcia Nichols, PhD Achieves Tenure
A first-generation college graduate and one of few people in her family to graduate high school, Marcia Nichols, PhD has become a passionate teacher and avid researcher.
Dr. Nichols has a PhD in Literature from the University of South Carolina and came to teach at the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) soon thereafter. Her area of expertise includes early American and British literature in addition to medical history, which she believes fits perfectly with what she teaches at UMR.
“I think that the humanities classroom is an ideal space to encourage students to be curious about their world and its values and assumptions,” says Nichols. “By giving students the tools to interrogate the images and words that surround them, they can become thinking agents and not simply passive recipients of ideas.”
Nichols’ desire to become a professor started at an early age with her love for reading and analyzing books. As she grew older and pondered possible career pathways, she discovered that she could turn her love for reading and analyzing books into a career and do what she loves for a living.
“I’ve always been fascinated by books,” Nichols says, “I also like talking and sharing ideas. I truly feel like teaching is the thing I’m called to do.” At UMR, she is responsible for delivering the literature portions of the Humanities component of the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree, namely Introduction to Literature. She also teaches classes on gender and sexuality studies.
UMR tenure-track faculty can receive tenure in their eighth year at UMR. Tenure-track (and tenured) faculty have responsibilities in three areas: teaching, research and service. Each year while on the track to tenure, faculty receive an annual review with feedback regarding whether they are making progress on each of these three areas of responsibility. The faculty member’s file is reviewed by multiple committees and individuals, including external reviewers, the University of Minnesota Provost and the Board of Regents.
“Dr. Nichols’ commitment to ensuring historical context for the literature she teaches has enriched her students' learning,” says Dr. Lori Carrell, UMR’s Chancellor. “Her research and writing add a distinctive focus to the body of research being produced by UMR faculty.”
Some of Nichols’ favorite moments while teaching include those when she can see light bulbs go off for her students. In class, Nichols strives to teach her students to think about structures and ideologies and she hopes that her students take that knowledge and extend it beyond the classroom. She hopes her students continue to be active, thoughtful, empathetic and compassionate citizens of their communities, in every level.
“I believe that teaching should strive to inculcate critical thinking skills that enable students to learn beyond the classroom,” says Nichols. “True learning is not the mastery of a set of facts or texts; it is the ability to generate new ideas, to perceive new connections.”
Nichols works to accomplish this in her classroom. Her goal is to create self-aware, self-reliant thinkers who apply what they learn in the classroom to the world around them.