Nicole Toth had no idea that she would jump straight into her communications career when she stepped onto the Grace College campus. From day one, she was surprised by the opportunities she was offered, the encouragement she received, and the professors she had which paved the way for her success as she pursued a bachelor’s degree in English.
Winner of the Presidential Scholarship, editor-in-chief of the Sounding Board, and a proud student mentor, Toth has found her place on campus and discovered the value of a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and English at Grace College. Toth enthusiastically shared her experience and the lessons she has learned through her time at Grace.
What drew you to a bachelor’s degree in English?
I love books. As a kid, I used to sit and read for hours upon hours. Because reading, writing, and communications has always been a big part of my life, a bachelor’s degree in English fits well. I love being able to tell a story to people and I think this is a good avenue for it.
Pretty much my entire life I’ve liked to write, but it’s mostly been creative writing. My junior year of high school, I took a dual credit composition class and did a lot of research-based, technical writing that I absolutely loved. I realized I could see myself writing for my career and that caused me to ask the question, “Is journalism a good major for me?” My teacher at the time was so supportive of the idea and started directing me toward different opportunities. So I decided to double major in journalism and English.
How did you discover Grace College?
I had never heard of Grace. But a friend I had grown up with, Natalie, was a year ahead of me and attending Grace. I stayed with her when I visited Grace in my senior year of high school, and now she’s my roommate. I went to a growth group and experienced life in the dorms and just fell in love with Grace.
My tour guide and my admissions counselor were both so kind. There’s something about the way they interacted with me that told me they really wanted me at Grace and that I was already a part of the community to them. They saw me as an equal and were so helpful during my visits. Also, the campus is beautiful, everyone on the hall I stayed on was so nice, and the students really loved Jesus. I just felt consistently encouraged over and over again in every interaction I had. It felt like home right away.
How did you know you wanted to come to Grace?
During my college search, my mom said something to me that stood out to me: “A lot of schools kind of seemed like a college where students are Christians, but Grace is a Christian college.” I really like how Grace puts your spiritual walk with God first. That stands out to me, because in a lot of other places I visited, I felt like one of the masses. But at Grace, it’s personal and small.
I get to develop relationships with my professors, and I can ask them questions about anything. They are so invested in me. I picked up on that as soon as I visited after having a meeting with Dr. Loebs and Dr. Sauders. Instead of telling me about the academics and classes, they started telling me about how they were going to help me in my career. They answered my questions like “What can you do with a communications degree?” and “Is journalism a good major?” I wasn’t even a part of the program, and yet, they were investing in me.
What was your experience with the Presidential Scholarship Day like?
It was so fun! I met my best friend that weekend. We were both nervous for the competition, but it ended up being a much easier experience than I was imagining. The dinner was fun, the late-night show was hilarious, and the competition itself went really well. I was really invested in the essay; I felt like the prompt was made for me.
I had already decided to come to Grace before the competition, but receiving the Presidential Scholarship was a big assurance that it was where God wanted me. Being able to get a scholarship that boosted me financially was a big blessing.
How was your first year at Grace?
It was absolutely amazing. At the beginning of the year, I went to almost all of the campus events. Grace does a really good job of integrating the freshmen and transfers into student life quickly. I did a lot of team bonding with my basketball team, I loved my first classes and professors, and I really enjoyed being with the other students working toward a bachelor’s degree in English. I also loved dorm life and still do. It’s so much better than I imagined it to be.
The best thing about my first year at Grace was getting published right away. A lot of colleges focus on general education courses for the first year or two, but at Grace, I had a jumpstart into what I want to do for my career within my first semester. I had articles published for the Winona Lake newsletter, the student newspaper, and a variety of other publications, including Clubhouse Magazine. It’s so exciting to see my work published!
What was your experience with the student newspaper, the Sounding Board?
I started writing for the Sounding Board in my first semester, which I loved because I got to experience interviewing and writing newspaper articles. After the first semester, Dr. Sauders approached me because one of her editors was stepping down and she wanted me to take her place. So I became an editor in my second semester, which was a different experience because I was suddenly looking at other people’s work. But my classes at the time taught me a lot about how to edit and now, I’m the editor-in-chief! As the editor, I manage the writers and all the content, which is a really good experience for someone pursuing a double major in English and Journalism. It’s been going really well so far and I’m excited to see where we can go in the future.
What other opportunities have you had at Grace?
One day during my first year at Grace, my faculty mentor asked me what I wanted to do with my writing skills. I told her I was involved in the Sounding Board and she asked if I was interested in being the first-ever writer for ROOTS magazine, Grace’s alternative yearbook publication. She created a paid position for me, which was very encouraging! I met the editor, received my assignments, and did a ton of interviews.
The other opportunity I’ve had is being a student mentor this year. I love investing in people and being a welcoming face to newcomers. My first-year students and I are a little family. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had!
In your eyes, what is the value of a bachelor’s degree in English? And from your experience, is journalism a good major to pair with it?
Absolutely! Every single company needs people who can communicate well. It’s one of the vital parts of every organization. You can have a great idea, but if you can’t communicate it well, it’s not going to work. Writing and speaking skills are extremely beneficial to companies and to you as an individual.
Who has been a mentor for you?
Dr. Sauders is my academic advisor, and she’s done a lot for me. She’s been very encouraging and she’s helped me figure out how to take steps in my career. Kearstin Criswell has also invested in me a lot by helping me get one of my first jobs. She really wants to help me succeed.
What is unique about the bachelor’s degree in English at Grace?
It’s unique to me because I’m involved in journalism, English, and public speaking. I have the opportunity to be well-rounded in a lot of different areas in the fields of communications and English. At Grace, they throw you right into everything. No one expects you to be perfect, but you are expected to learn from your mistakes. I love that the Department of Humanities immediately helps you integrate career skills into your academic experience. – from grace.edu