Various experiences, positions, internships, challenges and successes have led senior Claire Nieshalla to her approaching graduation.
Chosen as this year’s student commencement speaker, Nieshalla — a public relations major and soccer player — has found joy and honor in the speech preparation process and is looking forward to sharing with her fellow seniors.
“I’m a firm believer that the Lord is always preparing us for where we are right now,” Nieshalla said. “So honestly the preparation for this (speech) started way before I was even at Taylor.”
Looking back on her life, Nieshalla can see so many ways in which God was preparing her for this opportunity.
Through her participation in pageants, she began to develop the skill of articulating herself in front of a crowd. Through leading worship at her church, she began to observe the value of sharing and joining together in a community.
As she continued the speech preparation process, Nieshalla found that keeping her eyes and ears open to what was going on around her aided her speech’s development.
“[My speech is] about the present through the phrase, ‘the dash,’” Nieshalla said. “So you have Claire was born in 2001-? (whenever I die), and so the dash represents our life right now and how we are all born to a different time, a different environment. We can't control what environment we're going into, but we can be careful about how we respond to it.”
Nieshalla’s involvement and learning at Taylor have also greatly contributed to her desire and preparedness for this speech.
In addition to her participation within her major and on the soccer field, Nieshalla wrote for The Echo for two years and led worship with a chapel band.
Her major – public relations – deeply impacted her professional growth.
“[The public relations major] has prepared me well for my career, for the professional world and two internships I had during my time here with Compassion International, and most recently, Southwest Airlines,” Nieshalla said. “I attribute that a lot to the public relations major and Dr. Donna Downs does a great job of being really aware of her student's unique gifts and talents and creating a relationship with them and helping us succeed and grow in those areas.”
The many hands-on opportunities within her public relations classes have been growth-filled and valuable to Nieshalla.
She has also felt challenged and rewarded by her involvement and leadership on the soccer team.
Soccer has displayed how transformational college can be as it has pushed her physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally. As a team captain, Nieshalla learned a lot about rising into a leadership role, fostering encouragement and servant leadership and what taking care of healthy team culture looks like.
“Team culture is something that's really important to me whether it be on a sports team or in business,” Nieshalla said.
Practicing and playing soccer on top of completing classwork was not always easy for Nieshalla, but it challenged her in ways that deepened her understanding of time management and of worship.
She found that her time management was better during the soccer season because every minute of her day counted.
“I heard this idea recently that I really tried to form my life around, and that was scheduling your day based upon your values,” Nieshalla said. “I value soccer, I value school, but I value my faith as well, and so having my faith come first and realizing that soccer is an act of worship for me, being in classes is an act of worship for me, chapel, writing for The Echo, relationships — having worship not just be music or time in chapel, but literally how I live my life.”
Throughout her college experience, Nieshalla has experienced growth in becoming less dependent on herself and more dependent on God.
As she prepares to leave Taylor, she looks forward to a future with her fiance, senior Parker Neuman, whom she met through a freshman year pick-a-date.
She also looks forward to being a part of the Orr Fellowship, through which she’lll be working for the Venture Club of Indiana — serving as their executive director, connecting investors with entrepreneurs for economic development in the Indianapolis area.
As she enters the workplace, Nieshalla hopes to utilize and share the learning and support she has received at Taylor.
Each of the ways she has been involved at Taylor has contributed to her overall appreciation and love for the school. Nieshalla appreciates Taylor’s encouragement and empowerment of college students and feels blessed by the foundation of support and wisdom that the school’s faculty exhibits.
“I'm going to miss that invigorating support from both peers and professors (at Taylor),” Nieshalla said. “But I hold on to it because I know we'll carry that with us and pass it on. I believe in the mission of Taylor so firmly and I want to be an ambassador for that in my workplace and in the communities that I live.”