Stories and Testimonials
WNC alumna Nikki Peterson waited until her mid-30's to get serious about college. In fact, it took one of our nation's worst natural disasters to point her toward her career goal. It was Hurricane Katrina that influenced her and led her to study geography at WNC and later at the University of Nevada, Reno. She was fascinated by the way people were affected by the storm and how the hurricane had altered their behavior and lifestyles. Everything from the physical effects and displacement to the political implications and cultural impacts intrigued her. It became her passion and the focus of her graduate study.
Peterson began searching for a place to learn about ethnometeorology, an emerging discipline that explores the relationship between certain groups and the weather. She hit pay dirt at the University of Alabama. Soon after graduating from UNR, Peterson began studying for a master's degree in UA's American Studies program, which focuses on the culture of the United States and the American people, their ideas, values and behavior. She has additionally been awarded a Graduate Council Fellowship that includes full tuition, a graduate teaching assistantship and a monetary award.
Her topic: Study the cultures of the southern United States and the affects of Hurricane Katrina on those populations.
Nikki's journey began at WNC in fall 2006 when she made the decision to return to school as a non-traditional, adult student. She was able to attend full-time and made a commitment to herself to make the most of the opportunity. She participated in student government, supported other students as a peer mentor, and began working in Counseling Services. In 2008, the Board of Regents for the Nevada System of Higher Education selected Peterson as a Regents' Scholar, an honor awarded to students for their academic achievements, leadership ability and service contributions. Peterson earned her Associate of Science degree from Western in 2008.
When graduating with her Bachelor of Science degree in Geography from the University of Nevada, Reno, Peterson was being honored again. She was the recipient of the Westfall Scholar Award, awarded by the UNR College of Science for the highest grade point average in the geography department; and the Scheid Award as the top student within the Mackay School of Earth Sciences & Engineering.
When asked what advice she would offer to current WNC students, Peterson said, "Go for it. Really go for it. There are so many opportunities for all students. It's not just about winning awards. It's about being involved, knowing your professors, building relationships and having ownership over your own performance." She credits her educational start at Western and a lot of motivation for giving her the support and confidence to soar.
Whether her new adventures lead to blue skies or stormy weather, Peterson's goal is to return to Nevada and share her experiences as a professor of geography. "I have a strong attachment to this place and a bond to the people of Nevada," she said.
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