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News Release

May 22, 2024

From COC to the University of Cambridge

When Nicole Brooks leafed through the College of the Canyons Fall 2022 class schedule, a British Literature course caught her eye. 

The course sounded like just what the new mom and UK transplant needed to fill her time while her husband was at work.  “I like reading and I wanted some connection,” said the 35-year-old. “I wanted to be around people.”

Little did Brooks know that her search for community would result in two associate degrees in psychology and liberal arts, as well as an acceptance letter from the University of Cambridge.

“I owe it all to COC,” said Brooks, who is graduating on May 31. “It's just full of people who love what they do. I have been so lucky with the support that I got from everybody. It has just been the perfect storm of the right people coming along at the right time.”

It was Ruth Rassool, her British Literature course instructor, who encouraged her to enroll in an American History course so she could better acclimate to her new home. In turn, her political science instructor Phil Gussin suggested she meet with a counselor who could create an academic plan for her.

“I always had someone looking out for me for that next step, which I do think is really unique,” said Brooks. “I don’t think you are going to get that in many other places.”

Eager to make new connections, Brooks became actively involved in student clubs and organizations. She started working at the college’s Basic Needs Center (BaNC) where she created a clothing closet for students. 

She also became president of Psychology Club and Psi Beta Honor Society and volunteered for the American Cancer Society Club and the college’s Golden Z Club. 

Suddenly, Brooks had new friends, a job she loved, and a clear path set before her—albeit not one without some challenges. 

Brooks says it was difficult grappling with the “mom guilt” she felt every time she dropped off her two-year-old daughter at daycare.  

“On some days it has felt selfish, because I made the choice to not be at home with her and instead be in the library writing essays,” said Brooks. “But I think in the long run I made the right decision. I just remembered the feeling I had when I was at home with her and feeling isolated. I thought, ‘I am not going to be the best mom I can be living like this.’  I knew no one was going to come along and give me an opportunity. I needed to be the one to put myself out there and make a change.” 

Patty Robinson, Golden Z Club advisor, says the campus has benefited from Brooks’s perspective and leadership. 

“She has specifically guided our campus and community efforts in addressing important social issues in need of attention, especially topics affecting student belonging and wellbeing,” said Robinson. “Nicole is an incredibly mature, thoughtful, and gifted student whose future academic career is shining brightly upon her.”

Brooks attributes her confidence to the college’s positive environment and to her husband, who has been diagnosed with cancer twice. 

“His outlook on life is very different now and he’s definitely leaked that over to my view on things,” said Brooks. “So, I'm going to grab every opportunity that comes my way and not worry about the what ifs.” 

When the time came to apply to colleges, Brooks took stock of her college resume, which included a 4.0 GPA, and decided to aim high. 

“I just went for it,” said Brooks, who also applied to Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.   “I was like, ‘The worst that can happen is I'm going to get an email that says, ‘Sorry, no.’ So, why not? Never in a million years did I expect to get a yes from Cambridge. But here I am.” 

Brooks still can’t believe she will be continuing her psychology studies at Cambridge in 2025.

“I will not be the cleverest person in that room, but I can say with some confidence that I will probably be the hardest working because that’s all that has got me here,” said Brooks. “I just made sure everything I did was the absolute best I could do. I think sometimes when you do that, it then all builds up to something great. I don’t think I am special, I am not overly amazing. I just worked really hard.”

As excited as she is about the future, Brooks says she is going to miss her COC community. 

“I see myself at COC as being home,” said Brooks. “I love it there and I would love to still be part of it in some capacity going forward.”