Major: English – Creative Writing
A Providence native who came up through the Providence Public Schools, Neilson will be the first in her family to graduate college.
Balancing her degree while working full-time as a certified nursing assistant, Neilson is also raising her two children.
After stints at both URI and CCRI, Neilson came to RIC in a sort of Goldilocks moment: “URI was a good experience, but the student-teacher ratio was overwhelming. CCRI was a wonderful atmosphere with great teachers and small class setting, but I felt like I needed to be in a four-year program to achieve my education goals,” she said. RIC proved to be just right: “Close to home and my children, student-teacher ratios that were similar to CCRI (I learn better in smaller class settings) and great program choices,” she said.
Choosing to follow her passion for writing was not an easy decision for Neilson. “I’ve thought about quitting a number of times, but RIC’s faculty and my advisor always helped me through these moments. I struggled with deciding to do what I love versus what society, my parents and my urban neighborhood’s ‘consensus’ thought I should do,” she said. (They wanted her to work in the medical field for the “excellent pay.”)
Last year, Neilson won the poetry contest for Shoreline, RIC’s literary and arts magazine.
She is also the winner of the 2017 Garrigue Award, the English Department’s most prestigious creative writing award, given to a graduating senior based on a portfolio of work that is independently judged. This year’s judge was novelist Nick White, a professor at Ohio State University.
Currently working on a novel, Neilson intends to “write, write, write” after graduation. She hopes to eventually go on to complete M.F.A. and Ph.D. programs and teach.