After several years as an elementary school teacher and in college transition roles, Nicholas Hainesworth draws on his past experiences to help guide students to success as an academic advisor for the Academic Success Center (ASC). Inspired by his mother’s role as an early childhood educator, Hainesworth earned his undergraduate degree in elementary education from Bowie State University in Maryland followed by a master’s degree in higher education with a concentration in leadership for student success from Walden University.
Before joining the ASC, he worked in UNLV's TRIO Educational Talent Search Program to assist students at Canyon Springs High School with their transition into college. He's also held positions as a first-year experience facilitator at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, and as a math and science teacher in Maryland and at Marion E. Cahlan Elementary School in North Las Vegas.
What drew you to UNLV?
When I saw the position open for an ASC advisor, I definitely wanted to apply because I felt like the ASC was similar to the first-year experience department that I worked in at Central Piedmont Community College. In both the facilitator and advisor roles, we can be a first point of contact for many of the students we meet at new student orientation. We give them information about the department as well as the university itself and we help them with course registration. I feel it's imperative for advisors to build those positive relationships with students and for them to have a positive interaction with us right away because we can directly impact their success and retention.
Is being an advisor what you thought you would do when you grew up?
That's a funny question. It's not necessarily what I thought I wanted to be. Growing up, my mom was a daycare provider out of our household. So, I was always around kids and I saw her pour herself into children, and I knew I wanted to work with children in some way, shape, or form, based on the influence of my mother.
When I got to high school, I developed the desire to become a teacher because I watched the day-to-day duties of my teachers. I asked them, “Hey, how do you like being a teacher? What did you do to get here?” I could see myself becoming a teacher. I also took a Myers-Briggs personality test and a teacher was one of the professions on my test results.
Once I started college, I thought teaching was it. It wasn't until undergrad that I really thought seriously about possibly doing something different. Through my relationships and interactions with my advisors and the College of Education at Bowie State, I thought about possibly becoming an advisor because I could still work with students, do something that I would find enjoyable, and could make a significant impact. I would say during my second year teaching, I had the realization that I didn't want to be a K-12 educator forever, so I began working on my master's degree. I did that with the intent to become an academic advisor at the higher education level.
What is your most important piece of advice for Exploring majors?
I actually have two pieces of advice that I feel are very important for Exploring students. The first is that it's OK to be unaware of what you ultimately want to do with your life. I know a lot of students come into college and they're unsure of what they plan to study. They might be still finding themselves as a person and just trying to figure out this thing that we call life, so I would just say it's okay to not be aware of what you want to do. That's why we're here as advisors. We provide students with guidance, resources, connect them with other departments and services that can help them figure out and gain a sense of direction in both their education and their lives. Even with students selecting a major coming in, they may ultimately decide that that's not what they want to do. So, I would just say if students aren't aware of what they want to do, I don't think they should feel bad. They should just understand that it's normal and that they're going to go through a process where they will figure out what they want to do and have support while doing so.
The second piece of advice that I would give Exploring students is that completing their degree isn't necessarily a race, so they shouldn't be comparing themselves to what anyone else is doing. For me, I finished my bachelor's degree eight years after graduating from high school. One of the big reasons why I wanted to work in higher education was to help students figure out their degree plan and navigate a path to completion a lot sooner than I did.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what would that be?
The biggest piece of advice that I would give myself is to just do the absolute best that I could in high school because high school really prepares you for college. If I did well in high school, I would have been able to get more scholarship opportunities for college and I would have had more options as far as attending college. If I was a better student in high school, I would have been better prepared for college-level work. I would tell my younger self to establish better study skills and develop a better work ethic that would have carried over into college.
What is your biggest surprise about working here?
The biggest surprise about working at UNLV, but more specifically with the ASC, is how welcoming everyone's been since I started. I've had a bunch of people while I've been on campus come up to me and introduce themselves. I've had people who've walked to my office to introduce themselves because they knew that I was a new employee. A few people approached me saying, “Hey, I recognize you from your interview. I just wanted to introduce myself.”
I have been encouraged to reach out to the people that I have met, if I happen to need anything or have any questions. I just feel a great deal of support with the ASC, and I feel like my presence matters.
Since you’ve started working as an advisor remotely, how would you describe that experience?
To be 100 percent transparent, the experience of working remotely is starting to feel like the norm for me. When everyone shifted from working on campus to working remotely back in March of 2020, I was working at Central Piedmont and we transitioned to working remotely as well. It's pretty much been the norm to be able to wake up, open your computer, and do everything from home. With advising, we have been conducting a lot of our appointments using Webex, which is the same platform I used at Central Piedmont. I was facilitating orientations using Webex as well and communicating with students by phone to assist them with enrollment.
What is something most people would be surprised to learn about you?
I'm a twin. I have a fraternal twin sister. She lives back home in Maryland, so if a conversation doesn't come up about family, then I often don't mention that I'm a twin. Sometimes, I may have known someone or been talking to someone and after a couple of months or so they may say, “You didn't tell me you had a twin. Wow, that's surprising! Why didn't you mention that?” I always respond with, “It didn't really come up.”
Anytime I’m asked the question, “How do you like being a twin”, I tell people it's just normal for me. My twin and I don't have any twin connection where I feel something she feels or anything like that. It just feels like having another sibling.
What was the last book you couldn’t put down, show you binge-watched, or band you kept on replay?
I'm a huge movie person, so I watch a lot of Netflix. That's how I like to wind down after a long day or how I like to escape from reality. The last show that I binge watched was called Behind Her Eyes, which is a mini-series on Netflix. It's definitely a show that I highly recommend for anyone who's interested in psychological thrillers. I love watching things that keep my mind racing and keep me on the edge of my seat.