Originally born in Johnson City,  and then growing up in Manchester, Tennessee, Anna Nickels made her way back to the Tri-Cities to attend college at ETSU. She has always possessed a love for the mountains and valleys of East Tennessee.

“We started hiking as soon as we could walk in my family,” Nickels said. “The outdoors have always been my outlet in the midst of whatever else is going on; I can always count on it to be there.”

Nickels has attributed part of her love of nature to the way her family raised her, always with an appreciation for the natural world and a little fresh air.

“We always had a river behind our house, my brothers and I would go out in the backyard and just play there,” Nickels said. “My parents took us to Old Stone Fort to hike a lot. We were definitely a family that did things differently in Manchester. We are a rare family for East Tennessee.”

She comes from a close-knit family with two brothers — one younger and one older.

With a mom who is a veterinarian and a father with an artistic background, she says home was always filled with excitement. Although her father is now an insurance agent, he still remains a passionate artist.

“My dad has done all sorts of abstract and contemporary art pieces,” Nickels said. “He’s actually the one that painted the portrait ‘View from West Poplar Street to Gilmore Park’ that hangs in the ETSU Culp Center near the lower level of the SORC center.”

The creativity gene seemed to reach Anna and her two brothers.

Her younger brother Cooper has made pursuits in the performing arts by acting in plays, while her older brother Will has a passion for making clay pottery. As for Anna, her passion lies in writing.

“It’s such an important thing in my life, it’s just always worked for me,” Nickels said. “I got myself a journal in 7th grade, and I just started writing. It’s kind of like a life project. I have so many memories written down, and then I can go back and reflect on them.”

Anna says that she came to ETSU partially due to her family ties here, but also simply because she wanted to learn more. While she hasn’t declared her major yet, she has further developed her interest in history.

“I came here just simply wanting to acquire more knowledge,” Nickels said. “I will probably end up majoring in history. I take pride in my history notes, and I always sit front row in all of my classes. One of my goals is to eventually write a book, and I believe that my experience here at ETSU can help me achieve that.”