December 2006 College Student of the Month: Tina Nimz

“Tina is an inspiration to her fellow students and instructors.”

– Melissa Stone, Assistant Professor in the Art Department

School: Minnesota State University, Mankato
Degree: BFA, Graphic Design
Hometown: Blue Earth
Year: Senior

Minnesota State University, Mankato student Tina Nimz doesn’t have the usual dorm life, late-night fire drills, or intramural sports distracting her. She doesn’t have college parties, pep rallies or school-related extracurriculars pulling her away from homework. No, Tina doesn’t have any of that. Instead, she has a husband and three children—and all the incessant activities that follow—to add to the madness and demands of earning her second upper-level degree.

“Tina already has a degree in nursing, but had the personal awareness and bravery to go back to school to fulfill her passion as an artist and designer,” says Melissa Stone, assistant professor in MNSU’s art department.

Admittedly, Tina’s road to this fulfillment was less direct than the typical just of out high school, off to college nineteen-year-old. Early in her working career—which Tina recalls with a chuckle, saying, “it was a long, long, long time ago”— she used a Nursing degree from Iowa Lakes Community College to work in nutritional counseling for five years. Even then, she knew her education wasn’t finished. Tina would go back to school; it was just a matter of when.

That time came when her youngest (a now eight-year-old, Jack) went to kindergarten.

“I knew that I did not want to get back into the nursing field and I had always had an interest in art. So I decided that now is the time if I want to pursue a degree—I was not getting any younger!”

With an interest in photography and an inclination to pick up a graphic design class as well, Tina began school for her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts at MSU, the closest University to her home in Blue Earth. Feeling an immediate confirmation and confidence in her decision, Tina remembers thinking, “This is it. I know where I am at.”

Going part-time the first year, she soon cranked it up to full-time the following three.

“At times it’s challenging, but I have very supportive family and friends that have made going to school full-time a lot easier,” Tina says. Her husband, 17-year-old son Drake, 12-year-old daughter Abby and son Jack lead this support system.

Not long into her time at MSU, Tina was introduced to graphic design and quickly chose it as her concentration. A new hurtle soon faced her with this decision.

“One of the hardest things for me was working on the computer. All of my classmates had grown up using computers, but not me.” That didn’t stop her though, thanks in large part to the helpful students and professors Tina credits with sticking with her. “I feel very fortunate to be around such a great group of people every day.”

Many parts of MSU’s design program have reiterated this feeling. Take, for example, the regular in-class critiques requiring student feedback and discussion. It’s a time when age differences among the students might appear most prevalent, but in fact, it isn’t a problem at all for Tina, who greatly enjoys these times.

“I’m 40. The next oldest is maybe 25. But I’ve never felt like I stick out like a sore thumb. It’s a great group of people, which made it easy for me.”

Tina seems to make it easy for them, too.

“She is a very positive, hard-working individual,” Stone says. “The other students look to her for advice and critique. With everything that she does for her family, she sets a really good example for her peers with her extraordinary work ethic.”

This dedication reared its head most notably in a three-semester-long project in typography, where Tina had to research a type designer, write a paper about that person and his influences on the design world and then design and write a 30-plus page brochure with the information.

Her professor, Stone, recalls how extensive Tina’s research was and how diligently she investigated design and type options.

“She has designed and redesigned. Her dedication to learning more about layout, design, typography and the technology that designers work with is very impressive.”

What’s also remarkable is Tina’s ability to meet family commitments while still consciously choosing to disprove the mature student stereotype, where they only go to school and go home, without interacting with other, mostly younger, students. Tina does the opposite.

“I have enjoyed it so much. It’s been a very positive experience. It’s the people. I really enjoy my classmates.”

The feeling is mutual.

“Tina is an inspiration to her fellow students and instructors. She is never satisfied with her work until she knows that she has done the research and investigation to intelligently inform her design decisions,” Stone says.

Tina hopes to be an inspiration to her children as well.

“I think it’s a good experience for my kids to see me go back to school. It shows them that it doesn’t matter how old you are to achieve your goals.”

This spring, Tina will graduate with her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts and like the other graduating students at MSU, Mankato, she’ll be looking for work. Typography, one of her favorite classes, comes to mind as a potential avenue, but Tina’s not closing any doors.

“I’m one of those people who is open to anything, although I realize that will be a challenge for me.”

Challenges, though, don’t seem to slow her down.