Nicole Gevers finds harmony between academics, extensive campus involvement

Nicole Gevers

From PLHCSA president to engineering student advisory board member, Nicole Gevers wears many hats at UMSL. But perhaps her favorite is proud first-generation college student. (Photos by August Jennewein)

In March, Nicole Gevers was left in St. Louis and watching her friends skip off on a spring break road trip.

As a student in the University of Missouri–St. Louis/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program, Gevers would only be able to join the excursion if the academic calendars of both institutions aligned. Unfortunately, they did not, leaving her without a much-needed break.

Gevers was initially disappointed about missing the adventure, but her jovial disposition soon returned following a kind act from Nancy Gleason, associate dean emeritus of the Pierre Laclede Honors College.

After hearing about Gevers’ misfortune, Gleason acted quickly, creating a care package with items the dedicated student might have acquired on the trip.

“I’m sorry you can’t go,” Gleason said at the time with towels, snacks and other beach-themed items in hand, “so we’ll bring the beach to you.”

The thoughtful memento is the kind of hospitality Gevers has come to know during her time at UMSL – particularly as an honors student.

“The honors college is my favorite part about UMSL,” Gevers said. “I’ve definitely made most of my friends there. I’ve had the chance to live with them and take classes, so we’ve become really close. Now that I’ve spent so much time in honors, I’ve also gotten to know the faculty really well. I call the honors college my second family.”

She didn’t always approach the honors community with such confidence, though.

“I was hesitant about honors at first,” Gevers admitted. “As a civil engineering student, I didn’t really see the benefit of taking the reading classes. But as I got further into it, I saw there was a huge benefit. I feel like it kind of sets me apart in the engineering field just because I do have some of those soft skills that other people don’t always have.”

These soft skills paired with Gevers’ natural talents are paying off as she’s acquired three internships in as many years at UMSL.

A rare freshman opportunity with the City of Wentzville kicked off Gevers’ internship experiences, and the resume builders have only grown from there.

“I know from her first internship with Wentzville how impressed they were with her,” said Dan Gerth, interim dean of the honors college. “I would read the reports back, and she was doing things that to me sound like you would have to graduate from college to do. She was just doing them the summer after her freshman year.”

In the years that followed, Gevers interned with engineering consulting firms George Butler Associates and most recently with Burns & McDonnell. The three opportunities have allowed her to explore both public and private sectors while catering to childhood curiosities.

“As a kid, I always enjoyed building,” Gevers said. “I had dolls and Barbies and instead of actually playing with them, I built them houses or built them furniture. I always liked the idea of working on large-scale projects. Every time I would go downtown or to the city, I would look at the buildings and all of the different transportation systems and how it works together to keep the city going. That really interests me.”

Nicole Gevers, Paint-A-Palooza

Nicole Gevers participates in Paint-A-Palooza, a PLHCSA sponsored event, on Aug. 24.

A balancing act

On top of the impressive internships and a demanding course load, Gevers also holds numerous campus leadership roles. To name a few, she’s president of the Pierre Laclede Honors College Student Association, an editor of Brain Stew, a member of the engineering student advisory board and a student mentor for the honors college.

“I’ve learned that it’s really important to invest yourself in the community you’re involved with,” Gevers said. “You could just go to class and not take any stock in UMSL, but I find that doesn’t make your experience as beneficial as it could be. You have the chance to better the community and better those around you. It’s a good chance for me to develop as a person and gain those soft skills and leadership skills that I don’t necessarily get in class.”

While the sheer volume of Gevers’ campus responsibilities is impressive, it is her passion and skillfulness that make her a clear standout.

“I just don’t know how she can manage to be so good at so many things,” Gerth said. “It’s like, ‘Do you ever sleep?’ There’s something about her personality too. She’s just the kind of person that whatever joy she gets from something is really sort of infectious.”

A natural leader, perhaps it seems that Gevers would always step up to these executive roles. But as a prospective student, her future involvement hinged on her scholarship package and ability to live on campus.

A golden opportunity

When applying to attend UMSL, Gevers was a prime candidate for the Opportunity Scholars Program, an all-inclusive, four-year scholarship reserved for St. Louis-area residents. The program focuses on first-generation students or those who are underrepresented in the workforce. Gevers met both criteria, along with the academic requirements.

“Living on campus was never something that even crossed my mind,” Gevers said. “Having those opportunities through the Opportunity Scholars Program, I’ve been able to spend my time on campus getting involved with things and enjoying my time instead of having to worry so much about how I’m going to pay for school. It’s definitely taken a big burden off my family because it’s covered.”

Now in her fourth year living on campus, Gevers’ original outlook on higher education has changed dramatically.

“Being here, I realized there really is a lot more to college than just learning a job or learning a trade,” she said. “You have a chance to make connections and meet new people. College has changed me as a person, and it has changed how I view things.”

The UMSL Experience

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