Westminster student Nicole Tyler uses her passion for slam poetry to challenge the
by Lexie Banks (’12, MACL ’15)
Nicole Tyler (’18) isn’t your typical sophomore. In just two years at Westminster, she has taken great strides in making campus a more inclusive, diverse, and accepting place. As the LGBTQPA+ program planner, a member of the college’s Diversity Council, a resident advisor, and a slam poet, Nicole Tyler takes every opportunity to serve as an advocate and challenge the status quo.
As a high school student in Logan, Nicole didn’t see herself coming to Westminster. But after a breakup and discovery of her real priorities in pursuing an education, she found she liked the idea of a small campus. But her experience at Westminster has not always been easy, as Nicole describes her struggle of “being a student of color on a predominantly white campus.”
“Nine times out of 10, people on campus are inclusive and accepting, and I feel safe,” Nicole says. “It’s a challenge to find spaces where you have support and can be your authentic self.”
In an effort to advocate for greater inclusivity and more safe spaces on campus, Nicole and several of her peers demonstrated at a faculty meeting in Fall 2015. “We have a policy about global consciousness and social responsibility,” she says. “As a student, it feels like we’re failing.”
The difference, she says, is between diversity and Diversity. Academic diversity—having a myriad of majors, students from out of state, etc.—only addresses a small component and does not create the diverse and inclusive campus many people seek.
Demographic Diversity—having students of different races, religions, sexual identities, etc.—contributes much more to the overall goal of global consciousness and social responsibility.
Through her position as a resident advisor and the LGBTQPA+ program planner, Nicole has started important conversations around privilege, inclusivity, and the creation of safe spaces. In her first year, she championed a project to map gender-neutral bathrooms across campus.
Not only is she advocating for change through her on-campus positions, she is spreading the message in her chosen form of activism: spoken-word poetry. She has been writing and performing poetry since high school, when she turned in an 11-page book of poems for a final portfolio. “I turned it in and was like, ‘This is it. I’m either going to pass this class, or my teacher is going to think I need help,’” she explains. “And she loved it.”
Since then, Nicole has gone back to teach poetry to the teacher’s students. She also helped students in a juvenile detention facility perform poetry from their literary magazine. “Slam poetry is validating,” she says. “It’s like saying, ‘Here is my heart and soul; I hope you think it’s worth something.’” In the future, Nicole is excited to see more emphasis on demographic Diversity, a larger role for student activism, and a call for the administration to tackle issues of diversity and inclusion. No doubt she will have a role in the forefront of this movement.
Favorite poems (by someone else): “Paw” by Bill Moran—I have a tattoo that says, “You are not what you eat, you are not your sadness.” “Thighs” by Desireé Dallagiacomo
Favorite self-authored poem: It’s a tie between “March,” my signature poem performed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and “After Party,” my one-minute piece.
Number of original poems performed: 20
Number of states (or cities) performed in: 15
Number of competitions competed in: Five competitions, 30+ slams
Longest poem: 750 words (four minutes), entitled “One Side of
an Ongoing Dialogue with Rachael, My Therapist, after Desirée Dallagiacomo”
Longest poem title: 18 words—“More Appropriate News Headlines than ‘Breaking: Grand Jury Fails to Indict (Insert name of black victim here’s) Death’”
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster College’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.