Nicole Braden '12 of Gronau, in Hessen, Germany, started out at MCLA as an English major. But she decided to add a second major in philosophy because of the "fascinating" courses the College offers.
"English and philosophy both try to examine the human condition and human experiences. I think that's the most interesting thing in the world," she said.
A Commonwealth Scholar, Braden recently defended her thesis, "Beyond Belletrism: The Philosophical Core of Literature."
"The way I see it, all great literature is philosophical in content," she explained. "It's actually a more debated topic than I had anticipated. I wasn't aware of how much work it would entail to participate, but I'm glad I did. It has prepared me in many ways for graduate school, including making me become more independent and self-driven about getting things done."
In addition to her thesis, Braden includes her participation in Yorrick - the theater club on campus - among the "high-impact" activities she's been involved in. She's also been active in a group that plays volleyball with other students, faculty and staff. Last year, she served as a residence assistant in Berkshire Towers, and she's worked as a teaching assistant for two classes.
"You grow when you push yourself. Each activity is a new challenge in its own way," Braden said. "Being an RA was a lot of work and a major commitment. But now I am much more organized and have developed leadership skills that will help me later in life."
Braden decided to attend MCLA because of its location and size.
"This area is so beautiful and also progressive. I mean, there's a reason Herman Melville was partially inspired by Greylock Mountain to write Moby Dick," she explained. "The small college gives you the opportunity to become part of a community. You get to know everyone-if not by name, at least you know all the faces. I graduated from a small high school and wanted to keep that. I felt like in a larger college, I would have disappeared in the masses."
While some might expect college to be an extension of high school, Braden soon learned she needed to approach her studies at MCLA differently.
"Certainly you can treat it that way and even get by with Cs and Ds. But you won't learn much that way and you're just wasting time and money," she explained. "No one's going to force you to work harder than you want, so you have to be self-motivated in that way. However, once you do put in the work to be a better than average student, teachers will encourage you and help you succeed."
At MCLA, "I've become an adult. I am self-sufficient, I am capable of critical thinking, and I'm more of a leader now," Braden said.
This spring semester, she'll take a graduate course. While she waits to hear about a graduate program in English, she is working as a substitute teacher for elementary school students, as well. One day, she plans to be a college professor of literature.
"I think being a professor must be the best job on earth. You get to read the books you want and sit around talking about them, learning through them, and writing about them," Braden said.
What's the best part about being an MCLA student? According to Braden, it's "definitely the tight-knit community."
She added, "The professors and administration have always treated me like a person and not a number. The small classroom sizes are such a bonus. You get to know all the people in each course. You can have these amazing conversations with people and learn so much more than in a larger class."