Finding the Right Fit for Fellow Alums


By Andrea O'Neill '06

Barbara (Jones) Nichols '84 enrolled at Lock Haven to teach special education but realized after a single semester that the role was not for her.   Although she changed her major to psychology, Nichols didn't have a clear career path until she found her niche in higher education through her campus job as an admissions tour guide. 

"The people I was working with suggested a career in higher education administration," recalled Nichols. "That launched me into a career that included student admissions, career services, and staff recruitment."

In a career that has taken her to three states, Nichols has served as Director of Staff Recruiting at Milton Hershey School for the last 18 years, where she continues to help people find professional opportunities in which they can thrive. She says there is a natural desire to help today's Commonwealth University students find opportunities that suit them in the same way others helped her as an undergrad. 

"I have found a passion for working with youth," explained Nichols. "I've found it very fulfilling to be a resource for students navigating the complexities of today's world. Sometimes a simple conversation or word of encouragement can make a difference."

In fact, Nichols recalls hiring a fellow Lock Haven grad after reading about him in the university magazine.  She says it is a rewarding experience to work with grads from the three locations of the now Commonwealth University and finds that they share similar attributes such as determination, a strong work ethic, and humility. Most recently, she and her team visited several career expos at the Lock Haven, Mansfield, and Bloomsburg locations. 

"They are eager for opportunities to launch their careers," explained Nichols. "Many Commonwealth students are unassuming and open to learning, and that's an attractive feature. "

Along with personal traits associated with Commonwealth grads, Nichols also stresses the importance of professional and career experiences while on campus, such as study abroad and work-study. These experiences, she says, were instrumental in preparing her for post-college life and providing a network from which to find additional opportunities. Nichols still remembers the people at Lock Haven who took the time to invest in her professional growth which was key to her career success.  She now encourages current students to be just as receptive and open to opportunities.

"In addition to forming lifelong personal and professional relationships with fellow students, I greatly benefitted from faculty and staff who took the time to invest in me, guide me, encourage me, and provide opportunities," recalled Nichols. "Maintaining connections matters. These are valuable opportunities [so] wherever you are, take advantage of your CU network."


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