When she enrolled at the University of the Pacific, Modesto native Nicolle Matthews declared biology as her major, in preparation for a career as an orthodontist.
But after taking a general education English class, she had a change of heart.
"I was doing well in biology, but in that class, I was really enjoying myself," said the 23-year-old redhead, a Modesto High School graduate. "I completely loved writing and decided to change my major. I thought, what's more important, a big pay check or being interested in what you're doing?"
She went from biology to a double major of English and film studies, combining her interests of reading, writing and film.
Recently, the UOP senior was selected to speak at two upcoming undergraduate literature conferences. This week, she will attend the National Undergraduate Literature Conference at Weber State University in Utah to present a paper on femininity and gender in American author William Faulkner's books "Sanctuary" and "The Wild Palms."
"Both of the female characters in the novels are artists," said Matthews. "I discuss how Faulkner uses their positions as artists to construct his idea of the female body."
The next week, she'll head to Salisbury University in Maryland where she will present a second paper on selected works of director Martin Scorsese at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research.
In addition to her studies at UOP, Matthews is an intern at 209vibe, a local online publication, enjoys cooking, art and fashion. She's also a writer and copy editor The Pacifican, UOP's campus newspaper and Web site.
Question: When did your love of literature begin?
Answer: I have a twin sister and my mom always read to us. I always loved reading. In high school, I loved writing. I was one of the few people who enjoyed going to English class.
Q: How do you feel about being asked to speak at two prestigious undergraduate conferences?
A: I did one last year and it was such a great experience, I tried to enter as many as I could this year. I felt privileged to be speaking. Last year, the conference I attended was in the Bay Area. Both of these are out of state. It makes it feel like I'm doing something important.
Q: One of your presentations is on three of director Martin Scorsese's films. What prompted you to write about that topic?
A: When "The Departed" came out in 2007, I fell in love with the movie. I saw it five times. A professor suggested that I do an independent study course on his work as a whole. For my paper, I focused on one of the things he's known for: gangster movies. This paper talks about males and cognitive male bonding.
Q: Are you interested in making films?
A: "I would love to make film but it's really competitive for women. For me, it's satisfying to just be able to look at films and talk about them. My friends and I have a movie club. We go and see films and then discuss them. The last one we saw was "There Will be Blood."
Q: What's the best thing about living in Modesto?
A: Being close to my family and my dog, Tater Tot, a Pomeranian. I actually wrote my statement to get into college about Tater Tot.
Q: Did the movie "Napoleon Dynamite" have anything to do with your dog's name?
A: No. (Tater Tot) is 8 years old. He came to us before the movie.
Q: What's the worst thing about living in Modesto?
A: This time of year. It's pretty and all, but (the pollen) wreaks havoc on my allergies.
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