Rhode Taken

From Despair to Dedication

Nicolle Potvin ’17

Nicolle Potvin entered URI in fall 2015, anorexic and desperately seeking support. She found it here, and with it, she made her way up from rock bottom. Now she’s found her place providing critical support for others.

“URI not only saved my life, but put me on a path that was meant for me,” Potvin says.

The Rhode Island native’s initial attempt at college out of state was marred by weight loss and a sense of isolation. She returned home to be treated for anorexia, then transferred to URI to be closer to home–and because URI friends assured her this was a supportive community.

Her first fall at URI passed and Potvin grew stronger. During Winter J-Term, she took a psychology course on eating disorders taught by Lindsey Anderson, director of URI’s Psychological Consultation Center.

As she learned more about her own disease, she spread the word. She helped organize the University’s first National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk. She participated in the Body Project, a national initiative helping young people confront unrealistic beauty ideals. Her URI career ended on a high note when she was selected to be student speaker for the College of Health Sciences’ inaugural commencement. In her speech, she implored her peers to help others in times of need. And she notes that the college’s merging of disciplines–from nutrition to kinesiology–permits better inquiry into complex issues like anorexia.

Two years later, she has a master’s degree in counseling from Northeastern and is a clinician for Rhode Island’s Key Program, where she helps young adults in state care prepare to live independently. In addition, she gave back to URI by assembling a list of University resources for students being treated at URI’s Counseling Center.

“To make and sustain mental health progress, you need a whole team,” Potvin says, pointing out that her tight-knit college taught her this lesson through an internship at a local school district.

Today, she brings that message to URI classes and sports teams as a guest speaker. President David M. Dooley appointed her–along with some of her former professors–to a committee tasked with supporting student well-being and mental health.

Beyond URI, she persuaded the Rhode Island Senate to pass a resolution recognizing National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

“Let me stay at URI forever,” Potvin said during a recent visit to campus. “URI led me to the most incredible parts of my life.” •

– Chris Barrett ’08

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