Nicole Tilley carries a large workload—and she loves it.
A 2007 graduate of Corona del Sol, Tilley has managed to become not a key member of the Northwestern University fencing team but a great scholar, as well. Having graduated early this year, Tilley worked her way up to team captain of the fencing team and to honors as a Big Ten Conference distinguished scholar.
If she has excelled both academically and athletically, there’s no secret to her method.
“You need to be determined. You have to set goals for yourself and work to accomplish them,” she said. “You have to have fun and enjoy what you’re doing because it’s too hard if you don’t.”
Tilley began fencing when she was a freshman in high school. Her friends were interested and she decided to join them.
Her first time not only provided excitement but motivation to continue. It was competitive, strategic, she said, and she loved every minute of it.
“After the first time I tried it, I really liked it,” she said. “So I decided to keep doing it.
“It’s individual. It kind of came down to what you could do or what you couldn’t do. It was fun to be competitive with yourself and see how good you could get. And when you win, all the fun of winning is directly related to how hard you have worked.”
Tilley dedicated herself to the sport. She started with the Phoenix Falcons and was coached by Skip Shurtz, a 1956 Olympian who helped her to become a competitor at fencing and in the classroom.
She said he stressed academics as well as athletics.
“He has helped me so much. He’s taught me everything from the beginning,” Tilley said. “He’s a role model I could look up to.”
Over time, Tilley said she continued to improve in fencing. She worked hard at her craft, and it began to pay off.
“I would go fence three times a week for a few hours and do competitions on the weekend. There’s a national circuit of competitions to compete in,” she said.
Tilley had success and soon caught the eye of the Northwest fencing team coaching staff. She was offered a scholarship and soon found herself fencing at the collegiate level.
Over time, Tilley said, fencing has defined her life and helped her improve as a person.
“It’s definitely given me much more self-confidence. You really have to rely on what you can do personally,” she said. “I think I’ve gotten much better at working in teams and working with people, and also with time management.”
Tilley said fencing helped her become structured and transform herself into a leader. Being the team captain this season added to her determination.
“That definitely helped me with leadership skills,” she said.
Now, Tilley plans to take the skills she has acquired and apply them to her new career in marketing. She will begin an internship in Chicago and hopes to move on to New York soon.
Now Tilley plans to take the skills she has acquired and apply them to her new career in marketing. She said she is excited about her future and looking forward to her next challenge. She is confident the skills she has acquired along the way will help her succeed.