2024 Graduate Blog

With an Individualized Major, a Creative Visionary Navigates Interdisciplinary Frontiers

At the intersection of art and storytelling, senior Will Nichols overcame adversity to craft a powerful combination that encompassed his numerous passions.

By Jordan J. Phelan '19
Senior Will Nichols poses for a photo outside the School of Law.

BRISTOL, R.I. – In a sunlit studio nestled within Roger Williams University's Visual Arts Department, senior Will Nichols wields his camera like a painter with a brush, capturing moments that turn the ordinary into extraordinary. It is here that the Milford, N.H., native has spent the majority of his academic tenure navigating the worlds of film, photography, and journalism with finesse through his own individualized major: Intermedia Art.

Nichols' path to this moment has been anything but conventional. Initially drawn to the depths of Marine Biology, with a desire to champion conservation causes, he found himself pulled toward the artistry of filmmaking. As a lifelong artist, Nichols yearned to fuse his passion for storytelling with the power of visual mediums. Guided by his advisor, Paola Prado, Chair of the Department of Media + Design  + Communication, he carved out his own academic niche, crafting an individualized major that spoke to his soul.

“The flexibility RWU offered allowed me to stay in this community where I had already established friendships and spared me from completely uprooting and restarting everything somewhere else,” Nichols said. “The change in my academic success is visible just looking at my grades and the fact that I’ve made the Dean's List every semester since then. It made a big, big difference for me, and I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful if it wasn’t for that flexibility.”

A passionate advocate for interdisciplinary education, Nichols aspires to inspire other students with his innovative approach. His artist statement embodies a commitment to proposing solutions, a philosophy stemming from his core concentration in Sustainability Studies, and it’s his hope that his newly created major can be replicated by future students who share his combination of interests.

Nichols was faced with another challenge during his sophomore year when a sudden hospitalization due to an autoimmune disease rattled his world, casting a shadow over his academic journey. Forced to confront the daunting prospect of continuing his education while battling his health, Nichols said he found himself at a crossroads. Yet, buoyed by an unwavering network of colleagues and faculty, he persevered.

"It was a huge personal journey for me, deciding whether to stay in school and not knowing what the future held. But with the support of my network, I pushed on and won an academic excellence award that semester, which made it all feel worth it and was some much-needed validation to keep me doing what I was doing,” he said. “Battling an autoimmune disease while in college has built up my work ethic and resilience, and developing this major for myself has made me more equipped to tackle things in the future. The support I received from my professors and Allison Chase Padula at the Center for Student Academic Success, who recognized that I was academically dedicated, all helped me stay on track. Without that support, I would not have been able to finish that semester successfully.”

Nichols also had support from the Visual Arts Department, which he called a haven of cooperation and camaraderie. Mentors like Professor of Art Murray McMillan and Adjunct Professor of Art Anabel Vázquez Rodríguez have been guiding lights, fostering an environment where creativity knows no bounds, he said. Nichols' most creative works have blossomed in their classes, shaping the portfolio he used for his graduate school applications that now stands as a testament to his growth as a budding professional.

“The Visual Arts Department’s sense of community is something that differentiates itself from other majors. It’s a tight-knit group that is non-judgmental and very collaborative. We are always willing to help and support each other, and it speaks to the amazing faculty who I'm super grateful to have worked with.”

Beyond the classroom, Nichols was co-director of the Communities of Hope environmental podcast and interned at newportFILM where he was involved in event production as well as audio and visual engineering.

With a fervent love for digital storytelling that focuses on the intersectionality of education and art, Nichols stands ready to make his mark on the world as he heads to the Savannah College of Art and Design to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Photography and Design.

2024 Graduate Blog