News Detail

The Nicole McNichols and her Human Sexuality class is featured in the latest issue of Perspectives, the UW College of Arts & Sciences newsletter.



Nicole McNichols’ mastery of sex education began with an injury.

McNichols, now an associate teaching professor in the UW Department of Psychology, was a new hire when the professor teaching a course on human sexuality suffered a leg injury. It was just weeks before the start of a new quarter, and McNichols was asked to fill in.

“I’ve always been able to talk easily about things that other people find embarrassing,” says Nicole McNichols. “My goal is to put students at ease and make them relax.” 

“I had a PhD in social psychology and had been a teaching assistant for the course for several years as a graduate student. I was also pregnant at the time, so I think they figured I at least had rudimentary knowledge,” McNichols jokes. “Still, I suffered daily from imposter syndrome the first time I taught the class.”

The night before each lecture, McNichols spent hours talking with Professor Lois McDermott — who had taught the course for decades — to prepare. “Without her shoulders to stand on I wouldn’t be where I am today,” says McNichols.  When McDermott retired the following year, McNichols officially inherited the class, PSYCH 210: The Diversity of Human Sexuality — and grew it into the largest course in the University’s history.


In McNichols’ first few years teaching PSYCH 210, enrollment nearly doubled until the course regularly filled the University’s largest lecture hall, 720-seat Roethke Auditorium in Kane Hall. Then UW courses went online in spring 2020 due to COVID-19, and McNichols decided to expand the enrollment to 900 students. It filled almost immediately, so she upped the enrollment to 1,000. When it quickly filled again, she set a final limit of 1,200 students. When the course opened for fall quarter enrollment, the 1,200 seats again went fast.

Read the entire article here.