Gusties Get More: Meet Nikki Rom ’15What can Gustavus grads do with their degree? Just about anything.
Posted on February 23rd, 2024 by

“Gusties Get More” is a continuing series of profiles examining the many paths Gustavus alums have taken since graduation.

Q: Gustavus graduation year/hometown/current location/profession

  • Class of 2015
  • Psychological Science major/Theatre minor
  • Hometown: Littlefork, MN
  • Current Location: Norfolk, VA

Profession: Surface Warfare Officer, United States Navy (For more information, this is a really good explanation of what I do.) So far, I have served aboard USS Normandy (CG60) from 2016-2019 in Norfolk; on the USS America (LHA6) in Sasebo, Japan; and I am currently a shiphandling instructor at “Mariner Skills Training Center, Atlantic” in Norfolk.

Q: How did you choose your major(s)?

This is the longer story, but it’s the real reason. My 2nd cousin, Kayan Lewis ‘96, is a Gustie alum. She was a professor of psychology in Texas at the time I was looking into college. I always admired her life while I was growing up. When I took my Meyers-Briggs test, I got INFJ and saw that “counselor” was a common career for that personality type. That, paired with my admiration of my cousin, led me to not only apply to Gustavus, but also pursue psychology as a major.

Q: How has your major(s) influenced/assisted your career so far?

It’s been strange to see how it’s applied. My day-to-day work requires that I lead anywhere from 10-to-50 junior sailors at a time. Psychology has helped me be flexible in the methods with which I communicate and motivate. My understanding of the physiological impact of stress has helped me help myself, and my sailors, while we’re deployed for months at a time. My experience with Gustavus Ambassadors has helped me in the many events when we have hosted foreign ambassadors, dignitaries, elected officials, military leadership, etc.

More unexpected was the impact of my experience in theatre. Every single day I find myself leaning on the improvisation, leadership, room-reading, organizational, and performance techniques I learned working in the Theatre Department. This job expects a lot of me in areas where I may not have a lot of prior experience. So, I just lean into whatever the new role is, and I find myself exceeding my own expectations constantly.

Q: How did Gustavus (and the liberal arts) prepare you to “make your life count” and get where you want to go, personally and professionally?

Along with all of the above, Gustavus prepared me for the military as it is right now. In previous decades, our sailors were expected to just accept their orders. Now, our newer members are far more empowered, self-aware, socially conscious, and want to know why they are doing something. Gustavus and its broad spectrum of educational topics, teaching methods, and opportunities to be exposed to all walks of life and culture—always with an undertone of steadfast respect—has prepared me to effectively lead my newest sailors while helping older generations transition to what some refer to as “the new Navy.” There is more of an emphasis now on the well-being of the individual, and I am so grateful to have had the training to contribute to that conversation, especially in regards to race, gender, socioeconomic status, and cultural inclusion.

Q: Was there anyone specific at Gustavus, in or out of the classroom, who influenced you?

I know I will forget some of them, but the people who come to mind immediately:

  • Lauren Hecht
  • Henry MacCarthy
  • Amy Seham
  • Michele Rusinko (My deepest condolences here. I was heartbroken to learn of her recent passing.)
  • Richard Leitch

Q: What jobs did you have after graduation but before this one?

I was filling a gap while waiting to attend my commissioning source, Officer Candidate School, so from 2015-‘16 I worked as a hotel banquet server and team captain in Grand Rapids MN.

Q: Where do you see your career progressing from here?

As of right now, I see myself serving 20 years in this role. I have agreed to continue to be a Department Head, meaning I will be going back out to sea in 2025, until about 2029. Being a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) allows for some incredible opportunities, many of which I’m not really certain of yet. The most typical path is to take command of a warship or work in the Pentagon. Former SWOs have served as the Secretary of the Navy, and the Chief of Naval Operations (Admiral Lisa Franchetti, the first ever female CNO). So, my future is unknown, but also limitless and exciting.

Q: Is there anything you miss or remember fondly about Gustavus?

I simply miss Gustavus. I miss singing with G-Choir and feeling that wall of sound. I miss Christmas in Christ Chapel. I miss the Adirondack chairs in the spring. I miss going to the J-Term musical or just sitting in the Caf after a long day. I always knew that world was special, but I didn’t know how special it was until I met people who had far different experiences in college.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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