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Eleanor Nolan
More Than I Imagined Seniors reflect on accomplishments and look ahead

​Eleanor Nolan

Graduation year: 2016

Majors: Women’s and gender studies (WGS), sociology

Minor: Public health

Activities: UNYK Multicultural Dance Troupe, Sigma Kappa Tau sorority, Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Kappa Delta (international sociology honor society)

Internship: Quad City Botanical Center during the summer of 2015

Post-grad plans: I’ll be moving to the Bay Area in California to work for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund through Lutheran Volunteer Corps.

Why Augustana?

It was a good distance from home and had tons of opportunities for activities to join and opportunities to try. I could see a million different potential paths for me at Augie, and I loved that. Plus, it was a small school that had a semi-urban environment, which allowed me to find cool things to do on and off campus.

Are you where you thought you'd be four years ago?

No! First off, I never thought I would actually have a post-college plan before I graduated. I also was convinced I would be on my way to becoming a therapist, but college has shown me that there are a lot of ways to help people (which is why I wanted to do therapy) that will let me follow my passions and talents a lot better.

Who helped you?

My family, especially my parents. They’ve never faltered in their support for me, whether I was becoming a women’s and gender studies major, asking to spend six weeks in an isolated mountain village or traveling halfway across the world to a country they knew nothing about. They’re also the people who taught me empathy, effective communication and the importance of taking care of yourself.

My friends. They have been there to talk through anything and challenged me to be a better version of myself, especially Ryan and Ginny, who I've been lucky enough to call my best friends for all four years of college.

My professors. They've all been amazing mentors and helped me grow in the way I think about the world while also helping me recognize the capabilities I didn’t realize I had—especially Dr. Simonsen, Dr. Croll, Dr. Nodulman, Dr. Varallo, Dr. Calder, Dr. Umme, Dr. Popple, and Dr. Hartman and Professor Bertram (who both no longer work here).

A peak experience?

Both my study away experiences (Holden Term 2014 and Cambodia Term 2016) were incredible. Holden let me live in a winter-mountain-wonderland and learn how to critically look at the way I live my life and think about different issues in society. I also gained so many special, close friendships that continue to be strong two years later. Cambodia pushed me to remember that the world is a complex place, and you can’t have simple ideas about it. Plus, I spontaneously got to be a part of someone’s wedding party while there—I don’t think I’ll get that chance ever again!

I was also able to attend the National Conference for Women Student Leaders, which was funded through the Rock Island-Moline branch of AAUW and the WGS department, the summer between my junior and senior year. Not only did the conference work to bring people of all genders, races, socioeconomic backgrounds, abilities, etc., together, but it successfully fostered an environment where all of those voices were heard and validated. The conference allowed me to take a step back and just listen to other people, which helped open my eyes to so many perspectives. It also proved to me that it’s totally possible and not just an idealistic dream to create spaces that are safe for all types of people, which helped me continue to push myself to fight for human rights and social justice.

What did you learn about yourself that has surprised you?

I’m way more outspoken and opinionated that I thought I was. I never thought I would actually publicly say how strongly I felt about certain issues. But I’ve learned that I can be that way, and it’s actually a really cool thing—publicly advocating for social change is really important, even though it’s sometimes difficult or nerve-wracking to take a strong stance on it.

How did you use Augie Choice?

I used it to help fund my study abroad trip to Cambodia!

What will you miss the most?

Spending hours choreographing, learning and perfecting dances in Westerlin’s basement and Centennial Hall for UNYK. Hearing Old Main’s bells. Walks and bike rides along the Mississippi and the Slough. Ellipses House. Quad City Coffee and Pancake House. Rozz-Tox and Milltown. Radicle Effect Mondays, RibCo Thursdays, and Legends Fridays at 4 p.m.

Advice for the Class of 2020?

Don’t compare your journey to others—even though everyone only posts the happy, fun parts of life, we all have moments that are difficult, boring or just not photo-worthy. And remember it takes more than a few weeks for college to feel like home! Also, don’t try to roller-blade down the Slough path unless you’re completely confident in your rollerblading abilities.

“Since her arrival at Augie, Eleanor has energized countless projects and places with her enthusiasm and dedication. She has worked on sexual violence prevention campaigns in a communications class, almost single-handedly coordinated a Day of Self-Care, was part of a team putting together the Clothesline Project, has taken coursework to become a victim’s advocate, and is currently working on a project to propose a campus resource center for healthy relationships. Eleanor also knows when to slow down, whether contemplating the mountains at Holden Village or providing a shoulder for friends to lean on. The world needs more Eleanors.”

— Dr. Jane Simonsen, associate professor, history and women’s and gender studies