Nicole VanAller

Class Year: 2017

Hometown: Norristown, PA

Area of Study: English major, Political Science minor

Interests: making music, writing, reading, and loving life.


Greetings! The most important thing to know about me is that I’m passionate about everything I do. My activities are all over the place, but I believe in putting my all into anything that I participate in. I study English because I consider communication to be the most important piece of being an active and informed citizen. Literature, as well as any other art form, is part of that human experience, which is why I try to read and write as much as I can, in and out of the classroom.

I’m especially interested in politically active journalism, and I currently express that through my activity with the Women’s Leadership Initiative on St. Joe’s campus. I’m WLI’s official newsletter editor.

Art and theater consume a large chunk of my time. Specifically, I work with Followed by a Bear Student Theater Company, a really great organization that I’m extremely proud of. We put on shows each semester which feature student writers, directors, and actors.

Besides writing, reading, and acting, I spend a lot of my free time composing lyrics and performing music, both on my own and with my friends.



This year, I attended the SJU undergraduate commencement ceremony for the first time. My partner was graduating, so of course I was there to pridefully acknowledge that more personally touching occasion. But, as I tend to, I found myself falling into the role of an observer. The fascinated social scientist, reveling in her detachment from the unfolding scene, clinging to the outsider’s island of perfect non-bias. Congratulating herself on her complete impartiality.


Only after I had made my final calculations, stacked up my data, and sorted my Excel sheet (…kidding…) did I realize the absurdity of my imagined experiment.


Reinventing Feminism…Again

(((((((((((((if you want to skip a lot of introductory rambling and get to the part about feminism, go find the next weird parenthetical thingie!!!))))))))))))



“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

– André Gide, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1947

I saw this quote inside a book called Reinventing Anarchy, Again. It’s an anthology that was published in 1996 that compiled writings from various anarchist thinkers. 


Higher Altitudes and Higher-Order Concerns: A Writing Tutor in Utah

What is a “higher-order concern?” For a writer and a writing tutor like myself, the “HOC” term has become an infamous description of what is considered truly important during a tutoring session – organization, content, and style. On the other hand, grammar, sentence structure, and spelling are grouped together as “lower-order concerns:” things to be dealt with as quickly as possible in order to move on to the really meaty stuff.

But it’s all subjective, right? For many people coming in to the SJU Writing Center, especially for those whose first language is not English,


If Not Me, Then Who? – 10/14 Safe Zone Training

I never want to stop going to school.


Life-long learning, to some, might sound torturous. But school is about being more than just a student. (I am not going to use the word “magis.” Sorry.) Learning is about opening your mind to new experiences, and about developing the ability to evaluate every second of every day in terms of what you can do to make the world a better place. Maybe even a safer place.


Safety has definitely been on my mind the past few days. I know I’m not alone.


Adulthood vs. Fun?

“I feel like such an adult.”

So I said yesterday, while in the process of buying a mouse trap.

At what point did it become an “adult” thing to have to deal with mice in your apartment? Adulthood should be associated with having pro-actively cleaned counters and secured food, not with spending 9 dollars on a reactive solution to a mouse emergency. Adulthood should be associated with taking responsibility for preventing bad situations, not just for responding to them when they pop up.

Undergraduate college students are placed in a strange box between childhood and adulthood.


The music they constantly play, well…it says nothing to me about my life.

When most people think of “DIY,” the first thing that comes to mind is probably something similar to the website Pinterest: a Michael’s or A.C. Moore dreamland of doilies, mason jars, sequins, and stencils. Do-it-yourself, however, means a lot more than hot glue-gunning pieces of processed glass (that you bought in a plastic baggie) to your ($4.69 from Walmart) lampshade.

I’m not criticizing crafty decoration of a home or a dorm. It’s the kind of thing I love, actually. The idea of people bringing unique inspiration and style to their living areas really makes me feel hopeful…People actually caring about their surroundings?


Twitter, Part Three: Being Public and Professional

Summer is a great time to do nothing: but summer is also a great time to be productive. With that in mind, here is the final installment of my Twitter series. Read on to hear my (admittedly, amateur) opinion about being professional on social media, and to think about using some summer break time to work on your own accounts. 

To view my last two reflections about Twitter, click on these links:

From what I’ve learned so far, Twitter is what you want to make out of it. You can use it as a news source –


Why you should go to a play that will make you cry

The 20th century was miserable. I can’t say that from personal experience – my cognitive awareness reached its peak when I turned six in 1999. I also can’t say that the 20th century was more or less miserable than any other century. Every place and time has its own troubles, on both individual and community scales. What I can say, however, is that the (American) 20th century’s particular variety of misery yielded a slew of depressing and gloomy literary works. Among this canon, and, in fact, perched at the very height of melancholy, rests Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.


What the Heck is Twitter, Part Two!

If you missed it, here’s a link to my last post about using Twitter as a news source.

My last venture into Twitter left me feeling a little bit dissatisfied. I really thought that I would delve in and immediately come out as a modern and enlightened citizen of the online world. Instead, I just felt dumb and even more out of the loop. I’m pretty sure that my dad is better at using Twitter than I am.

So, I resorted to the thing that I am good at: academia.


“An Old Lady and the Internet”… Or, “I try to figure out Twitter, Part One.”

I’m pretty far behind when it comes to Internet trends. It took me a while to become active on Facebook, and that’s where my social media interaction stopped. And believe it or not, I’m still rocking the old-school flip phone.

It’s not that I’m bad with technology, or that I’m ideologically opposed to the new age of communication. I just didn’t think it was a big deal. I didn’t think I needed to be connected any more than I was.

The shock came first when I was told that I needed to create a Twitter for my job at the campus writing center (@sjuwrites).


“I can count the people I care about on one hand.”

“I can count the people I care about on one hand.”

This was my catch-phrase in high school. I even wrote a song containing that lyric. Remarkably, five has remained my magic number at St. Joe’s. Discounting my family, there are five people in the world whom I consider to be my true friends. Last week, however, I was reminded that my number is soon to shrink.

College friendships are a tricky thing. My roommate, for example, is in the same grade as I am. We are (except in the event of a tragedy) going to be co-habitating for the rest of our time at Saint Joe’s.