Southwestern Oregon is great if you want to be near breathtaking coastal views, small town living, and hundreds of acres of preserved forest land.
"The closest institute of higher education is two and a half hours away," said Nicholls, who is 51 and lives in tiny, peninsular North Bend.
Like many other adult students, Nicholls had previously taken a few college courses, some of them at her place of employment of the past 25 years, Southwestern Oregon Community College.
In her job as an executive assistant to the school's president, she was aware of major college decisions, and over time, wanted to learn more about how management works, and how decisions are made.
Southern Oregon University, meanwhile, had developed an articulation with the college, which means an educational agreement between the two institutions that may allow students to study online, but get in-person help or training on the local campus periodically.
As a result, Nicholls was free to transfer credits from classes she had taken locally and at another online school, and apply them to a pilot degree at Southern Oregon University for a bachelor of Applied Science in Business Management.
Thanks to the school partnership, and Get Educated, Nicholls, who is originally from Oregon and a first-generation college student, will get to not just help with, but star in, her favorite annual event: graduation day.
"I just absolutely love it. We're seeing their achievements come to fruition - that culmination of all their hard work and efforts - not just the students, but the faculty and staff, because everyone plays an important part in that student that's walking across the stage."
Learning online was new to her, but Nicholls said the real challenges were not so much technological, but organizational. On-site advisors would drive from up to four hours away for a few visits each term, making it easy to communicate any concerns, and some classes held a few face-to-face learning sessions.
Making the time to study was the real challenge, she said.
"With any online program you have to have the dedication to keep up with your work," said Nicholls. "For me personally, it was interesting to see the different online environments and platforms that different instructors have. This last fall term I was taking classes in three different online programs, Blackboard, Moodle, and one was Angel."
While keeping up-to-date on classwork is a challenge for any online student or campus learner, getting a degree online was the perfect solution for Nicholls.
"Geographically I'm place-bound and, having a good, solid stable job, you hate to give that up if you don't have to," she said. Though getting her degree was motivated more by the desire to have a completed bachelor degree, not by job advancement, she says she's sure it won't hurt professionally.
"I always look for other opportunities to continue to provide for my family, but really want pursue my education as well."