NEIU Magazine Winter 2015

Page 1

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Alumni in the spotlight



Alumni Association scrapbook




Northeastern puts Earth firs

A message from the

PRESIDENT Greetings Northeastern alumni and friends, Welcome to the winter edition of In Common. This issue’s cover story is about our Amundsen High School partnership, which is midway through its fourth year, to help the school’s teachers develop curriculum and improve instructional effectiveness. Northeastern has always felt a strong kinship with high schools in the Midwest because of our common mission to serve the area’s students. This commitment to learning, teaching, research and student success is also clear in the other features you’ll find in this magazine: You’ll read about how one former student’s research about mass shootings got published and won national attention, and how current students are taking advantage of Northeastern Illinois University Foundation scholarship funds to travel the country and world to attend conferences and present their research. Sharing these stories with you is always gratifying for me because it’s a way Northeastern can show you how our faculty, staff and administration live up to our promise to create extraordinary learning environments, make a positive impact on our community, and prepare students for the real world. In many ways this magazine is a celebration of those achievements. So, I hope you will enjoy this magazine and celebrate with us.

Best wishes,

Sharon K. Hahs, President Northeastern Illinois University














More than three years after the College of Education

Maryam Khan is now a Ph.D. student at Arizona State

formed a partnership with struggling Amundsen High

University, but it was her research while she was a

School, the results are nothing short of extraordinary

Northeastern student that made international headlines.

for both schools.



From the beach to the bleachers, the Alumni Association

was everywhere in 2015. Take a look back at the year in










With the help of travel awards, students are presenting their

research in some far-flung locales. How donor dollars are

changing student lives.

MAGAZINE STAFF Editorial Board: Mike Dizon, Liesl Downey, Mike Hines, Damaris Tapia Art Director/Designer: J. Matt Byerly and Lauren Jordan Photographer: Joe L. Davis Contributors: Anna Cannova, Sylvia Daniels, Mike Hines, Jessica Mueller, Toula Wellbrook, Brenda Young In Common is published by the University for graduates, donors, and friends. Please send your comments, suggestions, and news items by email to or to the NEIU Alumni Association, Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 North St. Louis Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60625-4699.

HOW TO CONTACT US Northeastern Illinois University: (773) 583-4050

A message from the ALUMNI ASSOCIATION Greetings fellow alumni, The holidays are here, and the New Year is right around the corner. Time for your New Year’s resolution: re-engage with Northeastern in 2016! In the spirit of Northeastern Illinois University pride, I invite you to reconnect with all that Northeastern has to offer! Take full advantage of a variety of academic, performing arts and social events. There is a cultural array of wonderful programs at Northeastern for you to choose from, including the Jewel Box Series, Stage Center Theatre, lecture series, film screenings and more. In addition, the Alumni Association continually hosts events on campus and throughout Chicago during the year.

Alumni Relations: (773) 442-4205 Development: (773) 442-4210 Public Relations: (773) 442-4240 Transcripts: (773) 442-4032

Here’s what to look for in 2016: We’re meeting alumni where they are, hosting events at local alumni-owned businesses. Do you own a restaurant, run a dance studio or teach basket weaving to stressed-out physicians? Tell us now! We can plan an event around your passions, and highlight your work in our alumni publications.

UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATION Sharon K. Hahs President Richard J. Helldobler Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Pierick Vice President for Finance and Administration Melissa Reardon Henry Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel Liesl Downey Acting Vice President for Institutional Advancement

BOARD OF TRUSTEES Carlos Azcoitia, Chair of the Board Jin Lee, Vice Chair Omar Duque, Secretary Pedro Nungaray, Student Trustee Robert Biggins Barbara Fumo Marvin Garcia Darlene Ruscitti Jonathan J. Stein

We now feature inspiring alumni in our new NEIU Alumni: All Access program, which you can read more about on Page 4. The program is geared toward inspiring students by showcasing the interesting accomplishments of alumni like you. Whether we know it or not, we invigorate the next generation of career-minded Northeastern alumni. 2015 was a great year for engaging with alumni all over Chicago. Check out Pages 16-17 to see photos of some of the fun alumni events. And 2016 will be even better!

Now that we have our Northeastern resolution for 2016, here are some steps we can take to achieve it: 1. Join the Alumni Association and connect with our 80,000 alumni.

4. Mentor students through events and provide job/internship opportunities.

2. Attend Northeastern events—and bring a friend!

5. Donate your time, talent and treasure back to Northeastern.

3. Get social! Engage with us on Facebook (@neiualumni), Twitter (@neiualumni) and LinkedIn.

UNIVERSITY FOUNDATION Thomas R. Gramins, CPA, President Lawrence P. Frank, Vice President Neal Fenwick, Treasurer Mark Van Ausdal, Secretary Kenn Ashley

2016 will be great! I’m looking forward to seeing you.

Best to you always,

Cathy Krawitz Jacqueline Krump Marcellus H. Moore Jr. J. Todd Phillips William Pollakov Thomas F. Power Jr. John F. Roskopf Salme Harju Steinberg Liesl Downey, Acting Executive Director


Chuck Good Alumni Association Advisory Board President


news & notes about your university community

Making History Record-setting scholarship changes Gale Woods’ life By Brenda Young The interest in obtaining her bachelor’s degree was always there. The means to pay for classes, however, wasn’t. That all changed—in a big way—for Northeastern Illinois University student Gale Woods, who in May was awarded the first Internet Essentials Gold Medal Achievement Award from Comcast. The media and technology company awarded Woods, a mother of three, a $25,000 scholarship over the summer to complete her final two years of college. It is the largest private philanthropic gift ever given to a Northeastern student. “It’s been really fun being a student at Northeastern,” said Woods, who is pursuing a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Inner City Careers. “This scholarship helps keep me on track to get a college education.” Even better: The scholarship came as a complete surprise. Woods was invited to tell her story at a Women in Cable Telecommunications event. With Northeastern President Emerita Salme Harju Steinberg by her side, Woods was shocked to be presented with a $25,000 scholarship check. “I didn’t even notice the huge piece of cardboard when they called me on stage,” said Woods, a Chicago native. “When they turned it around


and I saw my name on it, I stood there astonished.” The journey toward a college degree has been long but rewarding for Woods. She was inspired to go back to college after she moved to the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side—not too far from Northeastern’s Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS). “When I moved to Bronzeville, I got this great place. From my balcony, I could see the south campus of Northeastern Illinois University,” Woods said. “It has the big ‘N’ on there and it would light up at night. CCICS became a place that enchanted me. Then I thought to myself, ‘I need to go and get my college education.’ ” Woods said receiving the scholarship has addressed previous financial issues, and she is better prepared to deal with travel and work conflicts. Woods hopes to complete her degree by December 2016, and her goal is to start a school or form an organization that provides resources in communities and throughout the world. “I want to make a difference in the world,” Woods said. “I want to reach anybody and everybody.”




news & notes about your university community

M HE ET A T V L YE By Mike Hines

When Northeastern Illinois University launched its NEIU Alumni: All Access series, it did so with a bang. Or to be more accurate, with a high-decibel shred of Michael Angelo Batio’s guitar. The internationally renowned guitarist, inventor and Northeastern alumnus returned to his alma mater in September to deliver a lecture and demonstration that covered his musical success, life lessons and, of course, his famous Double-Guitar. “After I graduated from Northeastern, I left Chicago to go to California,” said Batio, who earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Northeastern in 1979. “When I got there, I didn’t have a goal of, ‘I think I’m going to be in a band, man.’ Instead, I had one specific goal. I was going to get signed to a major label. ... It took a year, but I did it. I signed with Atlantic Records.”

“I want to thank Northeastern, because if it wasn’t for this university, I wouldn’t be here today.” MICHAEL ANGELO BATIO Batio’s rapid-fire speech and virtuoso performance was quite literally a rocking start to the NEIU Alumni: All Access series, which is designed to demonstrate the lifelong value of a Northeastern degree from the perspective of some of the University’s most successful and inspirational alumni. Batio certainly fits the bill. One of his Dean Double-Guitars called the “Jet” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 and is on permanent display, and he was named one of the greatest metal guitarists of all time by Guitar World magazine. Batio’s motivational talk stressed the value of education and the ability to keep learning, and it was punctuated by several guitar performances that illustrated just why Batio’s talent has taken him on tour to more than 50 countries—and now back to Northeastern—over the course of his career.

See the series Video of Michael Angelo Batio’s full lecture and demonstration is posted on Northeastern’s YouTube channel at

“I want to thank Northeastern, because if it wasn’t for this university, I wouldn’t be here today,” Batio said to end his appearance on the Auditorium stage. “Thank you so very much.” 4



Here comes

HOUSING! Northeastern Illinois University broke ground on the first residence hall in University history in May, and the structure is rising fast on the Main Campus. The residence hall, called The Nest, will house 440 students when it opens in fall 2016. It will contain typical amenities such as student lounges, game rooms and a fitness center. Every apartment will come furnished with a full kitchen, and every floor will have laundry facilities and private study rooms.

near and far to join our special university,” President Sharon Hahs said. “Student housing complements our excellent academic programs, fosters a greater sense of community for our students, and strengthens our transformative educational experience for all.”

“This marks a milestone in our commitment to student life and to student success, inviting both our current students and additional students from

Take a virtual video tour, find the application for housing and read about the rates, plans and amenities at

The sun rises over student housing construction in summer 2015.



Former Chicago Blackhawks great and Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Hull was the celebrity guest this year as the NEIU Foundation’s annual Chuck Kane Scholarship Golf Event raised $37,000 for student scholarships, the best fundraising result in the 43 years of the tournament.

Two Northeastern Illinois University faculty members have received Fulbright Scholars Awards for academic year 2015-2016. Brandon Bisbey, an assistant professor of Spanish, was awarded a Fulbright-García Robles grant to undertake research and teaching at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico. Kristen Over, associate professor of English, was awarded a 10-month teaching and research grant at the University of Bergen in Norway.

In total, seven scholarships are funded by the Chuck Kane Scholarship Golf Event, which has now raised more than $252,000 to benefit scholarships for more than 135 students.

PEDROSO CENTER EXPANSION With the ceremonial snip of a ribbon, Northeastern Illinois University unveiled the expansion of the Angelina Pedroso Center for Diversity and Intercultural Affairs in November. The expansion has brought the Women’s Resource Center and LGBTQA Resource Center, which had been housed in separate offices, under the same roof as the other resource centers. The project also created additional programming space for students, a gender-inclusive restroom and a lactation room.



That is where Northeastern ranked out of 71 colleges and universities in the Chicago area for student applications to participate as election judges in three elections from October 2014 to May 2015, according to the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. NORTHEASTERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY I magazine


a r t t i x d E Cre ER H C TEA OOL S A S CH E S V ER HIGH S ON SEN I T A D C N U U D s F E AT AM e O n i E H e EG DENT k L i L M TU CO y S B AND



When Anna Pavichevich took over as principal of Amundsen High School in July of 2012, the school had been on probation for 11 years. Families were choosing to put their children on city buses to attend high schools with better reputations rather than the one in their own Lincoln Square neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago. And the students who did attend Amundsen were struggling with their academics and attendance. While Pavichevich knew what she was getting with Amundsen, she didn’t know what she was about to get. That summer, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel challenged the city’s colleges of education to help improve the high schools in the beleaguered Chicago Public Schools school district. Two miles west of Amundsen—a straight shot down Foster Avenue— that call to action was answered by Northeastern Illinois University. “Amundsen had a new principal coming in who had supported the College of Education when she was at her previous schools,” recalled Maureen Gillette, dean of the College of Education. “I called Anna to see if she would be interested in working together.” The answer was a resounding yes—though Pavichevich tells the story a little more colorfully. Pavichevich and Assistant Principal Kristi Eilers had been at Amundsen for less than two weeks when Gillette called. “We didn’t even know where the bathrooms were yet,” she said. “When the dean called, the clouds parted and rays of sunshine beamed down from the heavens. Before our teachers walked through the door to start classes in the fall, Northeastern already was influencing the future of instruction.” Indeed, by virtually every measure, the partnership has been a success. Amundsen was off probation within a year. And three and a half years since Pavichevich answered Gillette’s phone call, enrollment and attendance are up, more students are on track to graduate on time, the number of high-achieving students has grown, standardized test scores have improved, and students, faculty, staff and community members are once again talking about pride in Amundsen High School and what they call The Viking Way: “Accountable.

Honorable. Scholarly. All day. Every day.” It would be misleading to attribute Amundsen’s improvements solely to the partnership with Northeastern, or to say that Amundsen is the only beneficiary in the relationship. While Amundsen has gained a partner institution that commits faculty and financial resources to its success, Northeastern in return receives opportunities for its faculty members to get hands-on interaction in an urban high school, preferred placement for its student teachers and a golden opportunity to fulfill the University’s stated value to be an active and engaged member of the community. “Northeastern has always been recognized as an educational institution that one could say specializes in helping to mold great teachers for our city and surrounding area,” said Alderman Patrick O’Connor, whose ward includes Amundsen High School. He pointed directly to the student teacher program, adding, “Northeastern’s involvement with Amundsen helps our high school students through the exposure to motivated college students who are well-prepared to present the lessons of the day.”



Northeastern’s partnership with Amundsen began with three primary goals: increase the effectiveness of classroom instruction through professional development, support collaborative school management, and engage local community groups to ensure student success. If those goals sound broad, that is by design. “This partnership is not a nicely wrapped package with a bow,” Pavichevich said. “It has so much fluidity to it. It’s whatever we need and whatever you need.” Gillette remains heavily involved and attends events sponsored by Friends of Amundsen, the high school’s community support group that was created the spring before Pavichevich’s arrival. The nonprofit group promotes the school’s visibility and relevance in the community, and even helped secure a donation from the Chicago Cubs to improve the school’s weight room. “It’s been so exciting to see the positive effects of these efforts around Amundsen High School,” Gillette said. “We have meshed exceptionally well in our commitment to support high-quality teaching and learning for both Amundsen and Northeastern faculty and students.” Several Northeastern faculty members have been involved in the partnership over the years in roles both big and small, and as many as seven Northeastern students have been student teachers at Amundsen in any given semester.


The Secondary Education faculty selected Tim Duggan, associate professor of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies, to be the faculty member in residence at Amundsen. Duggan has helped foster partnerships for teachers in English, the sciences and the arts, conducted research that has led to improvements in instruction, and offered constructive criticism and guidance to teachers who might be intimidated to hear such feedback from school administrators. Duggan’s affinity for the high school was cemented that first summer when he was caught in a torrential downpour on his way to a professional development meeting for Amundsen teachers. Upon seeing her new partner arrive on time but completely soaked, Pavichevich immediately supplied Duggan with the best dry clothes she could find. “I sat through the whole meeting wearing full Amundsen gear,” Duggan said. “I’m a Viking now. I love the place.” Duggan walks through the school’s freshly painted halls like he’s been there his whole career. He knows the faculty members, some of whom were his students at Northeastern. He also helped create a writing center and a popular monthly open mic event for students, all of whom now have been there since Pavichevich and Northeastern arrived. The open mic series culminates with a year-end showcase at a nearby café. One area where Pavichevich felt Amundsen could immediately improve was in encouraging student participation in the classroom. In cooperation with Gillette—whom Pavichevich described as an instruction expert and “thought partner”—




Amundsen moved away from the traditional approach of seating its students in rows. “You can’t take away the impact of students having authentic learning experiences where they can talk and learn from one another,” Pavichevich said. “The focus is now on learning rather than teaching.” Naturally, none of this could have been possible without the support of a staff that was ready, willing and able to collaborate


t on best instructional practices with the new ua ad row s r administration. g G o he wh the teac , h , lez g Duggan has followed up by collecting data around za hrou gram n t Go rn pro what is happening in the classrooms and even shadowed e s o av st er Br thea ach students to observe their complete high school experience. As ra or Te . ay an academic with experience in research, he is able to synthesize M m N wn sen fro ur O und the data and turn it into action steps for Amundsen that have led to Yo Am at

A new path to becoming principal By Mike Hines

With a unique new partnership, Northeastern Illinois University has joined the Chicago Leadership Collaborative (CLC) to help develop principals for Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Under the agreement, Northeastern is one of 10 institutions that will assist in the recruitment and training of future principals and assistant principals.

improvements in classroom performance. Preliminary numbers indicate

“The College of Education is proud of our Educational Leadership faculty and of our outstanding program,” College of Education Dean

Amundsen students’ ACT scores are up almost a point and a half in the past year

Maureen Gillette said. “We are thrilled to be able

alone, and daily attendance has surpassed 90 percent for the past three years in a row. Two years ago, Northeastern and Amundsen initiated a focus on student literacy and something called “close reading,” in which students would concentrate on the careful interpretation of a brief passage. This school year, Northeastern will make its faculty available to work with Amundsen’s course teams, or groups of teachers who are teaching the same course. “It’s all about effectiveness,” Duggan said. “It’s about increasing the level of rigor in the classroom.” In the spring of 2016, Eman Sarhan will bring her students to their fourth consecutive Student Research and Creative Activities Symposium at Northeastern. In the past, her students have created projects around catapults, robots and the physics of sound waves, and this year they are pondering a project based on 3-D modeling. “Through the science projects, students started developing their conceptual understanding by experiencing scientific phenomena, designing, building, testing and revising scientific models, and interpreting the related

to partner with CPS in the CLC as we have a long history of preparing excellent school leaders for CPS. The CLC represents another venue for the sharing of expertise between Northeastern, CPS and the other members of the collaborative.” The CLC provides the school district with unprecedented capacity to develop, attract and retain high-performing principals from internal and external sources, making Chicago a “destination of choice” for aspiring urban school leaders. The CLC is one of the recommended routes to becoming a principal in the district, and prepares participants to lead a school after a rigorous oneyear internship as a leader in a school serving CPS students.

concepts,” said Huseyin Colak, an associate professor of Secondary Science Education in the Department of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies who has worked with Sarhan since 2012. “I think it was a great opportunity for them to think seriously about attending college.” Faculty members at Amundsen agree that students are thinking more seriously about attending college—and one in particular. “I hear our students talking about Northeastern,” said Amundsen English teacher Niki Moylan, whose course team worked closely with Assistant Professor of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies Alison Dover. “With the opportunities Northeastern has made available, I hear ‘I’m going to Northeastern’ more often. That’s awesome because Northeastern is a great school right in our backyard.” And Northeastern could say the same thing about Amundsen. Colleges of education can sometimes find themselves the targets of criticism from teachers who find academics to be out of touch with what’s really happening in schools. “This partnership puts our faculty




on the ground in classrooms,” Duggan said. “That critique can’t be leveled at us. Our students are going out there well-prepared, and part of that is that our faculty are in the schools. It’s not theoretical; we’ve been there.” Kyle Learn, an Amundsen teacher in Social Science, knows that better than anyone. One of a handful of Amundsen teachers who earned his degree from Northeastern, Learn was a student teacher at Amundsen in the fall of 2012 before graduating that December. In 2014, he served as a long-term substitute teacher at Amundsen before being hired fulltime in 2015. “Everything that Northeastern prepared me for, I’ve seen it here,” he said. There is no sign that this partnership built on respect and mutual admiration will slow down any time soon. “Parents in the neighborhood are starting to say, ‘Yeah we do want to send our children to Amundsen,’” Duggan said. “There is a buzz about the school now.” Pavichevich feels it too. “We are going to be a school that reflects the values and expectations of our community,” she said. “The people in this community want to be able to send their children to the best colleges and universities. This partnership with Northeastern Illinois University has helped make Amundsen a competitive option. My colleagues talk about their partnerships with the University of Chicago and Northwestern. I’m always sure to tell them all about Northeastern.”


Master’s program for community and teacher leaders By Toula Wellbrook

Beginning in fall 2016, Northeastern Illinois University will offer a new Master of Arts in Community and Teacher Leaders program. The advanced degree has been developed for those seeking to improve their leadership skills as they serve within community-based organizations and educational systems. The program is designed to develop knowledge, dispositions and skills to foster reflective, collaborative and transformative leaders in both community and school settings— hallmarks of the conceptual framework of Northeastern’s College of Education. “We see our program as unique. The co-teaching model of some classes with community-based organizers and Northeastern faculty serves to bridge the work of community leaders, community activists, and



school teachers and staff in a more proactive, productive and purposeful way,” said the program’s facilitator, Durene Wheeler, associate professor of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies. Students in this program will take a set of core courses in a cohort model, and will customize their studies by selecting electives across Northeastern’s colleges that best meet their interests and professional development. The program will offer three options, all of which will develop instructional strategies, including research, inquiry, analysis and evaluation, as well as digital literacy and technology skills. Community-based Leader: providing knowledge and skills that foster leadership in ethical and culturally sensitive public

engagement; acknowledgement and consideration of the complexities of local and global communities; and leveraging community assets to promote social justice. School-based Teacher Leader: providing knowledge and skills related to leadership, mentoring and professional development; promoting school culture that focuses on student learning; using data to improve educational outcomes; and building collaborative relationships with stakeholders. Teacher Leader Endorsement: an endorsement-only option that builds upon classroom experience, knowledge and skills to further develop leadership and mentoring capacity that may be used in school or district-wide.


She means

business Alicia Mendoza puts the ‘leader’ in ‘student leader’ By Brenda Young In the advertising world, no television ad is as prestigious as a Super Bowl commercial. Northeastern Illinois University student Alicia Mendoza is passionate about having a hand in creating such an ad—and you’d be wise not to bet against her. “I would love to work on a Super Bowl commercial at some point in my career,” she said. “In the advertising and marketing world, that is one of the most important projects you can be asked to work on, and I love the creative work that goes into preparing for such an important event.” To reach her dream job, Mendoza is thriving as a senior Marketing major at Northeastern, where she has become a student leader and academic all-star. She was elected to serve as the first president of Northeastern’s National Society of Hispanic MBAs undergraduate chapter. She is also involved in the Student Advisory Council of the College of Business and Management, serves as president of the American Marketing Association student chapter and has worked with the annual, studentrun International Business Conference. Mendoza’s success as a student hasn’t come without challenges. She is an undocumented student, and she found Northeastern to be a welcoming environment with a long history of serving undocumented students. Mendoza, who graduated with a 4.0 GPA from Oakton Community College in Skokie, was accepted to Northeastern’s Honors Program and offered a full Phi Theta Kappa scholarship.

I am extremely humbled and honored to be considered a student leader. It is not a title that I take lightly. ALICIA MENDOZA


“Northeastern was the only school at that time willing to make such an offer because of my immigration status, so I am very grateful to the University for such an amazing opportunity,” Mendoza said. Her hard work has not gone unnoticed by Michael Bedell, dean of the College of Business and Management. “Alicia is a model student,” he said. “The sky is the limit for Alicia, and I am eager to see what she accomplishes after she graduates from Northeastern.” For now, Mendoza said she enjoys being a student leader at Northeastern and plans to pursue an M.B.A. “I am extremely humbled and honored to be considered a student leader,” she said. “It is not a title that I take lightly, and I feel that I have a great responsibility to give back to the community.”



now? Where are they

From the beach to the biology lab, we catch up with some of Northeastern

Illinois University’s most successful recent graduates. Keep your eye on these Golden Eagles in the coming years!

Did you know? In 2013, Northeastern Illinois University launched its Graduates of the Last Decade Alumni Program that offers exclusive events to alumni who graduated in the past 10 years. Members can participate in professional development opportunities, social engagements, community service initiatives and much more.

Find out more at

Maryam Khan B.A. ’13 Mathematics



Photo by Deanna Dent/Arizona State University


Maryam Khan’s research goes international By Mike Hines


ass shootings are contagious. That was the headline-grabbing conclusion of a research project that Maryam Khan began working on when she was a senior at Northeastern Illinois University.

Almost as soon as the paper was published by PLoS ONE journal in July 2015, lead researcher Sherry Towers’ phone began to ring with calls from news outlets such as NBC, NPR

of 2013. “That experience really encouraged me to go on and apply for grad school,” Khan said.

and The Washington Post. “It was really exciting to hear how

That’s not to say Khan wasn’t a motivated student before the conference. She was a math tutor and vice president of the Actuary Club. She also was a volunteer in Northeastern’s Mathematics Enrichment Workshop Program and was involved in the Mathematical and Statistical Modeling of Complex Systems Workshops series, which is where she met Towers. Khan co-authored her first paper with Towers and Mubayi— about climate change and influenza—in January 2013. For good measure, Khan performed a summer research internship in 2014—just before starting her studies at Arizona State—at Argonne National Laboratory that concentrated on California droughts and their effects on future hydroelectric power

widely spread this paper was receiving attention,” said Khan, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics in 2013 and now is enrolled in Arizona State University’s Ph.D. program for Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences. “At the same time, I realized this paper is talking about media attention for mass shootings, and I found that ironic.” The research team discovered that mass killings—events with four or more deaths—and school shootings create a period of contagion that lasts an average of 13 days. “This issue of looking at guns and who can buy these firearms is very important,” Khan said. “That should be looked at more seriously because a lot of these incidences are happening

Towers, a statistician, modeler and Arizona State research professor, was joined on the project by fellow Arizona State faculty members Carlos Castillo-Chavez and Anuj Mubayi (a former Northeastern assistant professor), and Arizona State graduate student Andres Gomez-Lievano.

“ There is much interesting work to do on the topic, and she has a bright future ahead of her .”

Khan was the only undergraduate student involved in the research project, and Towers sees that as an indication of her potential. “Maryam continues to work on applying novel mathematical models to social issues like crime,” Towers said. “There is much interesting work to do on the topic, and she has

“We are so proud of Maryam,” Northeastern Department of Mathematics Chair Lidia Filus said. “She serves as a great example of the opportunities for growth, research, networking and professional development Northeastern creates for its

because of firearms.”

a bright future ahead of her.” Khan says her evolution from Niles North High School student in Skokie, Illinois, into internationally recognized researcher is “still sinking in.” When she transferred into Northeastern from Oakton Community College, Khan planned to become a math teacher. After one semester, she switched to a Mathematics major and in fact was not sure she wanted to pursue graduate school until Northeastern’s Student Center for Science Engagement paved the way for her to conduct summer research and be a presenter at the Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science National Conference in the summer



SHERRY TOWERS, Arizona State research professor

students.” Khan’s next project brings her back to her Chicago roots: She plans to look at how socioeconomic factors play a role in narcotic incidences in the city. Additionally, she wants to determine if there exists a self-excitation process on gang-related violent crimes, which is significant in predicting when and where another event, such as retaliation, is likely to occur. “It’s stressful, but I really enjoy what I do, so it’s worth it,” Khan said. “It makes my work more meaningful to know that in some way my research is making an impact on society.”



now? Raffe Paulis Where are they

B.S. ’09 Finance

His office is the beach By Brenda Young

On a balmy August afternoon in Chicago, Raffe Paulis mingles among a crowd of professional volleyball players at North Avenue Beach. In about 20 minutes, Paulis and his playing partner will compete in their first match of the AVP Chicago Open. Calm and cool behind a pair of sunglasses, Paulis prepares for the grueling day ahead by stretching and dousing himself in sunscreen. When the whistle blows, Paulis sheds his calm demeanor and enters full attack mode, flowing in rhythm with his partner. Paulis, who is long and lean at 6-foot-2, soars for spikes and dives for digs. In less than an hour, the match is won. Paulis and his playing partner, Spencer McLachlin, move on to the next round of the professional beach volleyball tournament. This is not just another stop on the tour for the athlete—it’s in his home city, and only a few miles from where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Finance at Northeastern Illinois University in 2009. Three years after earning his degree, Paulis moved to California to pursue his beach volleyball dreams. “The college degree is the base for everything,” said Paulis, who plans to become a financial analyst after his volleyball career is over—whether that’s next year or in 10 years. “If volleyball doesn’t work out I have a base, and Northeastern provided me with that base.” While Northeastern doesn’t have an athletics program, Paulis still found ways to feed his desire for competition. “I loved the flexibility that I had with my class schedule at Northeastern,” said Paulis, who transferred to Northeastern after two years at Oakton Community College. “I would take one of the hardest classes—like a financial management class—and then I would follow that up with a class like basketball just to keep me levelheaded and not stressing too much.”

“The college degree is the base for everything .” RAFFE PAULIS

Slowed down early in his career with injuries, Paulis is now making great strides. During the 2015 season, he competed in a career-high seven AVP events and had a career-best ninth-place finish at the AVP Pro Beach Tour New York, earning $1,250. In Chicago, Paulis and McLachlin finished 17th out of 60 teams. His next stop: international destinations. “I have not played internationally at all, but I am going to try to pursue that in the upcoming years,” he said. “It’s fun. I like interacting with the fans and competing.” Especially in Chicago. “It’s my hometown,” Paulis said. “The tournament makes seven stops, and this is the one that I won’t miss.” 14



Breakout star in biology By Anna Cannova

Phu Duong’s career in biology is well underway. After successfully defending his master’s thesis at Northeastern Illinois University over the summer, he has begun a Ph.D. program in Cell and Molecular Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, he hopes to become involved in the field of epigenetics, which is the study of changes in gene activity that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Translation: The guy is smart.

“He was so calm and incredibly well prepared.” EMINA STOJKOVIĆ, Northeastern associate professor of Biology

Duong’s research is about understanding the structure of photoreceptor proteins and how the structure provides the protein itself the ability to absorb and transmit light. Or, as Duong explained in the closest thing he could find to layman’s terms: “The photoreceptor is suddenly able to absorb light when you put a bunch of amino acids together, sort of like how human consciousness is formed when you put a bunch of neurons together.” Perhaps not surprisingly, Northeastern Associate Professor of Biology Emina Stojković remembers Duong as a hard-working, independent student. “My favorite memory of Phu is of him giving his talk at his master’s thesis defense,” Stojković said. “He was so calm and incredibly well prepared. Everyone was impressed by him. This was the first oral defense by a deaf student in my department, and he did a magnificent job.” Indeed, Duong is deaf, and yet that’s only a footnote in any conversation about his accomplishments in Northeastern’s master’s program in Biology. “In lab life, it is not really that bad,” Duong said. “There, I tend to have oneon-one conversations with people. I actually can communicate verbally but it takes people a bit of time to get used to how I talk and listen.”

Duong said his long-term goal is to work in a research-intensive university. “There are universities that prioritize teaching, but it would be cool if I could

now? Phu Duong Where are they

M.S. ’15 Biology


Photo by Jeff Miller/University of Wisconsin-Madison

see my research make an impact on healthcare somehow,” he said. Stojković has little doubt he will make that impact. “In his pursuit of an academic career and entering a Ph.D. program, Phu is taking on a serious challenge,” she said. “In my lifetime, I have not met a single deaf scientist who holds a Ph.D. in my area of expertise. In general, there are very few scientists with disabilities. We have to change that. If anyone can do that, Phu can.”



2015 alumni scrapbook

Wow! 2015 was a wonderful year for the Northeastern Illinois University Alumni Association. From a Lake Michigan beach cleanup that removed more than 36 pounds of garbage to the annual blowout reunion in October, the Alumni Association was as busy as it has ever been. Let’s take a look back at some of our favorite memories from the year—and look forward to more in 2016!

Beach Cle






Athletic Alumni reunio



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eat s Gr



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A world of

OPP OR TUN ITY By Brenda Young



Terrie Albano loves journalism and literature. She loves them so much, in fact, that she won four awards from the National Federation of Press Women for her writing and editing. But with the honors also came a problem: Albano, an Interdisciplinary Studies undergraduate student who is concentrating on English, couldn’t afford to go the annual conference in Anchorage, Alaska, to receive her awards and present her work. At Northeastern Illinois University, that barrier is not always as high as it seems. When English Instructor Ryan Poll heard about Albano’s problem, he told her about the NEIU Foundation Student Travel Awards, which pay up to $600 or $1,000—depending on whether the conference is domestic or international—for a student to present his or her work. The awards are made possible by private donations to the NEIU Foundation’s Leader Fund. Albano submitted her application and won $600 to cover her flight, conference registration and hotel expenses at the September conference. “While I do work, my salary is modest,” said the 52-year-old Albano, who is an editor and writer at People’s World, a website that reports on topics ranging from jobs to the environment. “I wouldn’t have been able to go to the conference without the help of the NEIU Foundation.” Two of Albano’s awards were first-place finishes for her reporting from Ferguson, Missouri, during the protests over Mike Brown’s death in 2014. At the conference, Albano discussed her work and its relationship to social activism and public interest at various workshops and panels. “The experience provided me with the opportunity of a lifetime,” Albano said. “I was able to meet other women and men in the profession, and I also learned about another part of the country in a real organic way. You can’t do that unless you are up close and personal.” Almost $78,000 has been awarded since the program began in 2001. In the past five years alone, 89 students have won travel awards. “The Foundation is delighted to offer Student Travel Awards through the Leader Fund,” NEIU Foundation Acting Executive Director Liesl Downey said. “These awards open the world for our remarkable students as they travel near and far to showcase their academic work.”


Postcards from the road We asked six students who earned travel awards from the NEIU Foundation this year about their experiences, lessons and adventures away from Chicago. Here are their stories.

American Name Society Annual Meeting, January 2015, Portland, Oregon James Major, graduate Linguistics student What was your travel award? It was to present at the Linguistic Society of America conference in Portland, Oregon. My focus was on naming conventions in fantasy literature, film and games.

What would you say to someone who is looking at trying to present his or her papers? Submit your papers to as many sources as possible, since you never know which may pay off. It’s an excellent way to travel and advance your studies at the same time.

What was it like to present your paper? It was a bit stressful. I’ve traveled all over the world before, but this was the farthest I had traveled for a presentation. The crowd was quite a bit older than I was expecting, which made it tricky to discuss “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones.”

Describe your Northeastern experience in one word. Community.

The American Society of Parasitologists Annual Meeting June 2015, Omaha, Nebraska Jennifer Kawaguchi, undergraduate Biology student

Olivia Choi, graduate Biology student

How was your experience at the conference? The best thing about being able to go was meeting graduate students and gaining their perspective of life and work with parasite research. I also met many professionals in the field, and they were welcoming and wise. I am happy to have these connections and look forward to keeping this new part of my network for the rest of my scientific career.

Why did you choose to pursue this conference? I think parasites and disease ecology are awesome! My adviser, Dr. Sarah Orlofske, is a disease ecologist who uses parasites, so it was a great fit for my interests. What have you done since presenting your paper? We are collecting more data so that we can have a finished product. We are hoping to have a publishable paper by the end of this project. Having that publication will help improve my application for a Ph.D. program.

What did you do for fun during your trip? In Omaha, we went to the Henry Doorly Zoo. It was beautiful and What impact do you hope your work From left: Jennifer Kawaguchi, Assistant Professor of had a diverse number of species will have in the world? Biology Sarah Orlofske and Olivia Choi that rivals our local Lincoln Park I hope my research will help answer Zoo. We also visited the downtown questions about disease ecology and area, walked along their manmade maybe identify patterns that will help river and saw many of the sculptures that decorate Omaha. scientists to better treat diseases and address outbreaks. I also hope to be able to present my work in a way that people who aren’t scientists will be How helpful was your student travel award? able to know and understand the importance of the work. As an undergraduate who works two jobs and still goes to school, it was a huge help to have some funding behind me. Describe your Northeastern experience in one word. Diversity. Describe your Northeastern experience in one word. Uplifting.




International Youth Leadership Conference, March 2015, Dubai, United Arab Emirates Klaudia Lewonczyk, M.B.A. student

Sara Rewienska, M.B.A. student

Why did you choose to pursue this conference? My interest focuses on business, entrepreneurship and leadership. One of the main areas I am especially passionate about is entrepreneurship in Arab countries.

Why did you decide to pursue your M.B.A. at Northeastern? I did a one-year exchange program at Northeastern while I was a student at the University of Warsaw in Poland. After I completed my bachelor’s degree, I decided to come back for a master’s degree. What was the best thing about earning your student travel award? The best thing about the travel award was that my dream came true always wanted to see Dubai and acquire professional experience from there. Without Northeastern’s help, I wouldn’t have accomplished it.

Why did you choose to study at Northeastern? I came to Northeastern as an exchange student from the University of Warsaw in Poland. One of my dreams was always to finish my master’s degree in the United States.

What impact do you hope your work will have in the world? I hope my story will inspire other students to come study at Northeastern. I want to represent the idea that through hard work, persistence and staying positive, people can accomplish big things in their life.

What was your experience at the conference? If two years ago someone asked me to speak in public, I probably would have run away, but this kind of fear motivated me even more to do my best. What did you do for fun during your trip? We went to watch the sunset from the top of Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world! I don’t need to say how amazing it was.

What did you do for fun during your trip? I took a safari trip with some amazing people from around the world.

Describe your Northeastern experience in one word. Diversity.

National Federation of Press Women Communications Conference, September 2015, Anchorage, Alaska Terrie Albano, undergraduate Independent Studies student Why did you decide to study at Northeastern? Three years ago, I decided to return to school to finally get my bachelor’s degree. Northeastern appealed to me for its nontraditional degree programs, its racial, ethnic and generational diversity, quality academic courses and terrific faculty. What impact do you hope your work will have in the world? I hope my writing could show that ordinary people do extraordinary things, including creating a society based on human and environmental needs and not maximizing corporate profit.



What did you do for fun during your trip? Being in Alaska, a state called the Last Frontier, getting outdoors was a must for me. I biked about 20 miles on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, which ran along the mud flats and ocean waters of Cook Inlet. The weather did not cooperate, pouring rain, but still was a blast and I saw a moose. Describe your Northeastern experience in one word. Transformative.


Northeastern Legacy

THE LUNA FAMILY Maria Luna-Duarte is the interim director of Northeastern Illinois University’s El Centro location in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago. And who better to hold that


position than a woman who earned not one but two degrees from Northeastern?

current student studying Sociology

Luna-Duarte came to the University as a timid undocumented student but quickly found her stride in the Honors Program and serving in the Student Government Association. “This university changed my life,” Luna-Duarte said. “So, because of my own education and how it changed my life, I wanted to change lives as well.” LunaDuarte not only earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Northeastern, she also paved the way for her sisters, Claudia Luna and Jennifer Luna. Visit to read more about the Lunas and other Northeastern legacy families.

MARIA LUNA-DUARTE B.A. ’02 Sociology and Political Science M.A. ’05 Educational Leadership: Higher Education

CLAUDIA LUNA B.A. ’12 Spanish and Social Work





Office of the President 5500 N. St. Louis Avenue Chicago, IL 60625

Transform. Northeastern Illinois University Foundation The Leader Fund is Northeastern’s annual fund. It goes to work immediately to directly affect the lives and people of NEIU. This year, the Leader Fund has supported: • Student and faculty travel to nationwide and international academic conferences • Scholarships and emergency financial aid • Student and faculty collaborative research projects

Support your Northeastern today! • (773) 442-4200