PHOTO BY LATEEF OKOLO/MANAGING EDITOR FOR VISUAL AND MULTIMEDIA
In life, you are going to face adversity. When that happens, you have a choice to give up or to persevere. Sophia Nichols is the personification of the latter.
Nichols, a senior communication major with a concentration in Radio and Television, has had her fair share of adversity in her life. Her father, Christopher Stewart (affectionately known as “Fat”), died from a massive heart attack in 2005, a loss that would change her view of life forever. During her time at Alabama State University, she was advised incorrectly, leading to her taking classes that were not mandatory. Due to this error, she was not able to graduate in Dec. of last year. Despite all of these situations, on May 6, Nichols, the second oldest of four siblings, will be walking across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in communication.
During her time at ASU, Nichols has been in a little bit of everything. She has participated in different community service projects around campus, like the breast cancer walk. She has also been a part of Trio, a federal program that works with low-income first-generation college students and people with disabilities.
Growing up, Nichols always had a lively presence in whatever room she was in. In high school, she was involved in theater and different acts. She was a part of her school’s Student Government Association, starting as a parliamentarian as a freshman and becoming president in her senior year. She also had roles in organizations like Future Business Leaders of America (F.B.L.A), and Interact Club, of which she was the president.
After graduating high school with a 3.2 grade-point average, the Birmingham, Alabama, native enrolled in ASU despite having multiple acceptances elsewhere. Nichols’s main reason for choosing ASU was the university slogan, “opportunity is here.” Through her research, she began to understand what she wanted out of her college experience.
“I want to be around people where no matter what your race, culture, or background is, they will provide an opportunity for you to be successful,” Nichols said.
Nichols has met some very influential people in her life at ASU. Some of her influential professors include Ashla Roseboro, Ph.D., Ivon Alcime, Ph.D., and L. Simone Byrd, Ph.D. Each of these professors taught her specific lessons that would guide her throughout her career as a Hornet.
Roseboro was very personable. She and Nichols connected with each other, and it continued to grow as the years went on. Her ability to “understand students as individuals” allowed her and Nichols to become pretty close. Roseboro offered Nichols advice and helped her to understand her “ultimate goals.”
When she was a freshman, Nichols judged a lot of her classes on the experiences of others. When she started taking Alcime’s classes things changed.
“He really helped me along the way in any leadership roles that I took part in and put me in an environment where I could stand out from others,” Nichols said.
Byrd’s message to Nichols was one of accountability. Her phrase “don’t be tardy to the party,” stuck with Nichols. Byrd made sure that she always took accountability for everything she did so when she got out into the real world, she would be ready to do the same thing.
None of these compare to her grandmother, Ophelia Nichols. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, her grandmother has continued to fight the disease and is now a 13-year breast cancer survivor. Nichols and her grandmother have a close relationship and seeing her grandmother fight cancer but also continue employment for 50-plus years, has motivated Nichols tremendously to continue persevering in her own life.
Nichols looks back on her time at ASU fondly, describing the university as “family-oriented.” Throughout her time at the university, she built some strong relationships with others, to the point where she could count on them as her family.
An example of the family aspects of ASU in 2018 was when there was a water issue in C.J. Dunn Tower. Nichols describes it as one of the “funniest and most memorable” things to happen to her at ASU. When the water issue first started, Rakeseha Hines Ph.D., the Director of Housing and Residence Life at the university, personally came, and communicated with the girls about the issue.
“With her taking time out of her day, along with her faculty, to come over and let us know they understand and are doing everything they can to make sure we are accommodated, gave us some reassurance. Even though we did not know what to do, we still interacted as a community in the Tower and addressed our concerns,” Nichols said.
The lack of this type of communication is one of the university’s biggest challenges, according to Nichols. Transparency within a student-professor relationship is important for students to have productive relationships like Nichols has had with her professors. “I feel like it starts with us being the ones that need to be heard and reaching out to our professors,” said Nichols.
She explained how much students benefit from having relationships with their professors when they have issues that need to be addressed. She believes having an openness to form that relationship and accept guidance and advice can “go a long way.”
Nichols also offered some advice to graduating high school students who may be considering coming to ASU. “Be ready, be you, and be focused,” is a motto that Nichols lives by. Being ready is just being prepared for whatever situation you are put in. Being yourself is being true to who you are and your experiences, so much so that people remember you. Being focused means continuing to be adamant about what you want in life.
“It may be things around like parties or getting involved with different groups and things like that, but you have to make sure that your ultimate goal is your focus,” Nichols said.
This type of mentality allowed Nichols to overcome any potential setbacks she has had during her time at ASU. It also allowed her to make the honors’ list all but one semester in her four and a half semesters here, her most rewarding achievement.
As she looks toward her future, she feels confident in her ability to overcome any challenge that comes her way. “I feel like the courses, interactions, and opportunities at ASU prepared me well. It does not matter what I want to do or how I do it, I will get it done,” Nichols said.
Upon her graduation, Nichols plans on fulfilling her dream since she was a little girl of becoming a lawyer. As a lover of the art of communication and understanding others from different aspects, she was naturally drawn to being a lawyer. She plans to continue to pursue her dream as her goal as she enrolls into law school, with Birmingham School of Law in her hometown being at the top of her list.
She also plans to join the nearest alumni chapter after she graduates. One alumnus, Michael Jernigan, has been very excited to add her to the chapter, and tells her that often. Nichols is excited to not only join the chapter, but to give back to the students at ASU as well.
As she enters into the next chapter of her life, she remains confident in her abilities, especially her ability to continue to persevere even when things get tough. “No matter what the day is or what the day looks like, I am going to continue to still forward my dream goals, and that is being a lawyer.