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Wild Hope Fellow Nick Etzell ‘23 helps peers with vocational discernment

Wild Hope Fellow Nick Etzell ‘23 helps peers with vocational discernment

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Nick Etzell leans against a wall in Xavier Hall with the sign for the Department of Psychology behind him. He's smiling broadly and wearing a blue button up dressshirt.

Image: Nick Etzell ‘23 is a double major in psychology and environmental studies from Coupeville, Washington. (photo by John Froschauer/PLU)

April 13, 2022
By Isabella Daltoso ’23
PLU Marketing and Communications

Nick Etzell ‘23 is a double major in psychology and environmental studies at Pacific Lutheran University, with minors in philosophy, business, and innovation studies. In his time at PLU, he has been involved with the Wild Hope Center for Vocation as both a vocation intern and Wild Hope Fellow. He has found ways to use his interest and expertise in vocation and philosophy to inspire his peers through his vocation drop-in hours, which he hosts every Monday from 5:30-7:30 pm.

Etzell became involved in Wild Hope during his junior year after being recommended for the Wild Hope Fellows Program. He applied out of curiosity, and learned quickly that the Fellowship is for people who value reflection, curiosity, and wonder. 

“We work together to learn more about what we can do for the world and what the world needs from us,” says Etzell.

After a year in the fellowship program, Etzell became the Vocation Program Intern for the Wild Hope Center. On Monday nights, Etzell can be found in AUC 201, serving as a resource for his peers. 

“I hang out there with questions, videos and poems, and when folks show up we spend time working through those questions together,” he says. It is a fun and relaxed space where people can come and wrestle with questions they otherwise wouldn’t ask.” 

Etzell defines “vocation” as “creating a life which balances monetary needs, service to the world, and outlets for joy. Sometimes all of those can be the same thing.” 

Etzell thinks it is especially important for college students to participate in vocational discernment. 

“We are in a period of growth and change,” he says. “There is a lot of value in examining our relationship with others and our relationship to the career we want. We can root ourselves in a sense of purpose and learn why we are doing the things we are doing.” 

This is why he created the Monday night sessions. He believes young people should have a space to have rich discussions about big topics.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Sergia Hay has come to know Etzell through his interests in philosophy, environmental studies, and vocation.

“Not only is Nick a smart and invested student, he also has a compelling and compassionate personality which draws others to him,” says Hay. “When you’re with Nick, don’t expect small talk. He will ask you big and provocative questions that make you think, learn more about yourself, and want to keep the conversation going.” 

Etzell says his involvement in Wild Hope has taught him to embrace the joy of learning as a college student. “Prior to joining Wild Hope, I didn’t know if I wanted to continue in my academic journey, and now I am more excited than ever.” 

As Etzell nears the end of his time at PLU, he names his goals for the future. 

“Lean into vulnerability, stay curious, challenge and allow myself to be challenged, start with gratitude, inspire, and be inspired,” he says. “I believe if I strive to benefit and inspire my community, I will have lived a wonderful life.”

Nick Etzell leads his peers in a discussion at one of his Monday night vocation drop-ins.