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Sociology professor Andrea Nichols Teacher of the Year

Andrea Nichols, Forest Park's Teacher of the Year

Andrea Nichols, Forest Park’s Teacher of the Year, said she was inspired as a young girl by the iconic World War II image of Rosie the Riveter: “We can do it!” Today, she uses Rosie to inspire a new generation, encouraging her students that they can do anything they set their minds on, in the spirit of “anything’s possible.”

Nichols, an associate professor of sociology, has been teaching at Forest Park since 2003. She has a photo of Rosie the Riveter hanging in her office, and she carries one around with her to classes.

Nichols said both students and colleagues motivate her. “I very much have a social justice perspective, and many of our students have experienced unequal opportunity in their K-12 education. The community college offers opportunities to overcome such inequities. I see the community college as an agent of social justice that I am committed and proud to be a part of,” she explained.

“I have a wonderful group of colleagues in the social sciences,” she noted. “Forest Park is also a place where people will smile at you and say hello even when they don’t even know you. I like all the diversity – it really adds to the classroom discussions. I’ve taught at several other institutions, and this is my favorite place to be.”

She will earn a Ph.D. when she defends her dissertation in July at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, “The Community-Based Response to Domestic Violence: An Examination of Collaborative Networks.” Her doctoral pursuit was aided by a prestigious national scholarship in 2010 from the American Association of Women in Community Colleges.

Nichols is Forest Park’s local expert on domestic violence and victimization. She has published numerous articles and spoken at several national conferences on the topic.

“Domestic violence has long-lasting effects on an individual’s physical and emotional well-being. We know this, but what we don’t often talk about it how this impacts someone’s life chances,” she said.

“Some of our students are going to STLCC to get an education and career that will enable them to leave their abusive partners. Some of our students’ abusers are trying to prevent them from being educated, to control them and their life-chances,” she explained.

“We have a family resource center on our campus directed by Madeline Long-Gill, and our Police Chief Richard Banahan also supports anti-domestic violence endeavors. I would like to help faculty and staff better identify domestic violence, to refer students to our existing campus resources,” she said.

Nichols plans to continue research efforts in domestic violence victim advocacy, and fund-raising activities that benefit LAAW (Legal Advocates for Abused Women) and AWARE (Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies).

 She also encourages her students to become involved through service learning projects. She started the Sociology Club in 2003 and they’ve sponsored: Cell phone recycling, with proceeds aiding domestic violence victim services; a used eyeglass collection for distribution in low-income communities and countries; and a campaign for kindness, where they collected gift bags of necessities for domestic violence victims.

She is the Forest Park campus Achieving the Dream chair and liaison to the district ATD team, passionate about the year-old program.

“The whole point of teaching and education in general is student success – academic, personal, economic and otherwise. Achieving the Dream is an initiative that facilitates such success through data-driven targeted organizational change,” she said.

President Cindy Hess lauded Nichols at various award ceremonies in May. “We have worked closely together on the Achieving the Dream initiative and I’ve become one of her biggest fans. I have been tremendously impressed with her work ethic and commitment to Forest Park students.”

Nichols is a faculty mentor for online classes and a participant in the new faculty evaluation pilot program. She teaches “Introduction to Sociology,” “Criminology and Deviance,” “Social Problems,” “Gender and Crime,” “Marriage and the Family,” and interdisciplinary studies.

The Teacher of the Year award is the most prestigious recognition for our faculty. Every year, the three academic divisions nominate a candidate for Teacher of the Year, who is then selected by a committee of peers. Nichols received a $500 monetary award for the honor.

Nichols lives in St. Louis with her two children, two hamsters and three cats. She grew up “all over the place – my parents were nomads.”

By: Lynn Venhaus