Donovan Nichols


  • Campus Community Development

  • Leadership

  • Students with Disabilites

about Donovan

Donovan Nichols is a passionate educator, optimistic innovator, servant leader, caring speaker, husband, father, and fun seeker! Since 2008, he has inspired thousands of people across the country as an inspirational speaker on topics such as Pay It Forward (servant leadership), leadership development, organizational development, overcoming obstacles, and goal achievement. Donovan received the prestigious 20 Under 40 award which recognizes 20 leaders who have distinguished themselves in the community and serve as a role model for other young leaders. Donovan loves sharing wisdom with new, emerging, and experienced leaders of all ages. This doctoral student utilizes his education and 15+ years of work experience in higher education to help individuals see the world from a different perspective, discover solutions to their challenges, and unlock their potential. 


Donovan learned how to overcome his learning disability and ADHD to achieve his goals. He strives to provide others with the tools needed to successfully overcome their unique challenges. Donovan has developed servant leaders and helped them achieve their personal and professional goals while working at three diverse universities over his career (University of Nevada Las Vegas, University of Georgia, and The University of Toledo). This former assistant dean of students has overseen offices that support student organizations, student activities, fraternities and sororities, major events, commuter services, leadership, and service programs. In addition, Donovan oversaw a four-year leadership development program and taught academic courses on leadership. This self-proclaimed recovering workaholic changed his lifestyle to lead a happier and healthier life that focuses on his six core values: happiness, integrity, love, innovation, fun, and education.


Donovan has a passion for encouraging people to get more involved in altruistic servant leadership. He served in AmeriCorps VISTA, the national program designed to fight poverty in America. Donovan was appointed to the Pay it Forward Foundation Board of Directors and served as International Co-Coordinator for Pay it Forward Day, which is now celebrated in over 80 countries. This former highly involved college student was Student Government President, Student Trustee, and co-founded a secret spirit society called Blue Crew. Donovan is a proud member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and was part of the brotherhood that established the fraternity as the first non-pledging chapter on his campus. He created a UToledo alumni group that won the national Chapter of the Year award four times. Due to his servant leadership, Donovan was awarded the UToledo Alumni Association’s Volunteer of the Year in 2007 and Outstanding Young Alum in 2009. 


Donovan enjoys spending time with his wife Alycia, son Sawyer, and their four dogs (Vegas, Duce, Chloe, and Tate). Donovan also loves playing guitar, singing, taking photos, and solving a Rubik’s Cube. He has an enthusiasm for life. Get ready to laugh, love, and learn as Donovan shares his personal stories and passion for life with you.

Pay it Forward: Creating Positive Change Through Kindness and Civility


One small, selfless act of kindness can create a massive chain reaction of positive change in our world. Will you be that change?


In Donovan Nichols' signature program, he expresses the altruistic concept of Pay It Forward, doing good deeds for others without expecting anything in return. Participants will journey on an emotional rollercoaster and depart the session inspired to spread kindness and civility in their community.

We can all agree the world, and our campus communities, could benefit from a bit more civility. Let Donovan help with:

  • Pay It Forward stories 

  • Original guitar music and singing

  • Activities that get the audience out of their seats

  • Interactive dialog and audience participation

  • Self-reflection

  • Mental health information

Learning Outcomes

Audience members will...
  • Become more aware of opportunities to be altruistic

  • Gain usable ideas of how to Pay It Forward  

  • Be inspired to take action and positively change your campus, community, and the world

Ideal Audiences
  • Student Organizational Development 

  • Residence Life

  • Leadership Development

  • Fraternity and Sorority Life

  • Keynote
  • Workshop (2-3 hours)
  • In-Person or Virtual

Overcome the Impossible: A Creative New Approach to Solving Problems and Achieving Your Goals ​ 


Are you or your team facing a large, complex problem that you don’t know how to solve?


Maybe you don’t even know where to begin.


Then start with this action-packed, interactive signature program where Donovan will help you see seemingly impossible tasks as opportunities to discover your potential, overcome intimidating obstacles standing in your way, and accomplish enormous goals. Solving the Rubik’s Cube is hard, really hard, but not impossible if you learn the secrets to solving the puzzle and overcome the urge for instant gratification. Learn a new approach to strategic thinking that will allow you to creatively solve problems, maximize productivity, and achieve success.


Solve the impossible!

Learning Outcomes

Audience members will...
  • Identify and commit to their top values

  • Discover sacrifices worth making

  • Acquire a technique for achieving “impossible” goals 

  • Gain confidence and belief in themselves

  • Never look at a Rubik’s Cube the same way again

Ideal Audiences
  • New Student Orientation

  • Professional Development

  • Leadership Programming 

  • Keynote
  • Workshop (2-3 hours)
  • Keynote/Workshop Hybrid
  • In-Person or Virtual 

Uncovering the Invisible Disability: Empowering Individuals with Learning Differences 


At least 1 in 10 college students report having some type of disability. However, over half of the students eligible for accommodations do not inform their college that they have an impairment that qualifies them for disability services.


Donovan helps participants discover the invisible disability that hinders individuals from reaching their full potential. Learn how neurodiversities (i.e., variations in human brain functions) can both challenge and motivate individuals. This insightful program highlights the true story of a 37-year-old man who uncovered a secret looming over him for decades. Becoming aware of his reading impairment and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), altered his view of himself and how he engages with the world. Uncover how you can empower yourself or others who have a learning difference.

Learning Outcomes

Audience members will...
  • Define disability identity and different types of learning disabilities.

  • Identify how to help defeat stigmas associated with disabilities.

  • Examine their personal strengths and unique characteristics.

  • Discover tangible ideas for supporting people with hidden disabilities

Ideal Audiences
  • Professional  Devleopment

  • Faculty/Staff/Support Training

  • Keynote
  • in-Person or Virtual
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