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northern illinois university honors program


Honors Self

Spring 2017




3 Director’s Note by Todd Anders Gilson 4 The Honors Self by Margaret Miller 5 A Life in the Natural World by Rebekah Ernat 8 Living and Dreaming Out Loud by Miracle Diala 10 Present Tense: Studying, Living Abroad at NIU by Hnin Lin 12 Classroom Labs to Hands-on Experience by Jayson Shiau 13 From Russia, with Drama by Corinne Gahan, Emma Harvey, Leah Harvey 15 Making the Cut in the Real World by Jeff Kamholz 16 Marching to Her Own Beat Lincoln Laureate Rebecca Rasmussen 17 Honors Faculty 18 Faculty Spotlight Sinclair Bell, William McCoy 21 Honors by the Numbers A Year in Pictures 22 Honors Pride: Our Donors


Cover selfies (from top left): Amara Shakir, Lexie Williams, Nellie Barry, Benjamin Thomas, Chantal Hielkema, Rachel Jacob, Andrew Waite, Amanda Sayles, Margaret Miller, John Sauter, Olyvia Rand, Paige Cosgrove, Ye Paye Thu, Katharine Denius, Corinne Gahan, Leah Harvey, Dayne Coveyou, Courtney Tanzillo, Rachel Shapland, Emily Fiala, Randy Lin, Zohra Sattar, Thimoro Cheng, Hnin Lin

Margaret Miller Randy Lin ADVISOR

Elizabeth Denius COVER DESIGN



Marcy Brown Samantha Gaul LUMINARY STAFF

Marilyn Chakkalamuri Isabella Cortez Abby Ferree Steve Uhren Andrew Waite Northern Illinois University is an equal opportunity institution and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, marital status, national origin, disability, status based on the Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) or status as a disabled or Vietnam-era veteran. Further, the Constitution and Bylaws of Northern Illinois University provides for equal treatment regardless of political views or affiliation, and sexual orientation. Inquiries concerning application of Title IX, Section 504, and other statutes and regulations may be referred to the Affirmative Action and Diversity Resources Center, 1515 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, IL 60115, telephone 815-753-1118. Printed by authority of the State of Illinois. 47900 6/17

DIRECTOR’S NOTE Welcome to the new Luminary! Through the excellent work of our current NIU Honors students, we revised the format of this publication going forward to better reach our target audience. Specifically, The Luminary now highlights key events and accomplishments of NIU Honors students, with the goal of continuing to build a bridge between current students and alumni. In addition, The Division of Marketing and Communications designed a new template for The Luminary, enhancing its professional appeal for readers. This year we (as an Honors unit) seized on new opportunities in a variety of areas. As a program, we conducted intense strategic planning sessions to devise how curricular and cocurricular components of a successful Honors Program are integrated. We revitalized Honors game nights/activities to reinforce the sense of community for students. We began a concerted effort to remain connected to alumni through outreach efforts for previous donors and displaying pennants in the office where previous University Honors students continued their studies. We made a greater effort to guide and mentor students toward prestigious national scholarships; and many more that are subsequently highlighted! It is important to note that because of the hard work of the University Honors staff, the ideas and implementation for initiatives such as these can be accomplished, so I am indebted to my colleagues who make Honors what it is every day. Going forward, our efforts will continue to be laser-focused on how to provide an enhanced educational experience for high achieving students. University Honors is a unique vehicle for students as they interact with the world in a way that will prepare them for future opportunities. By cultivating personal development through service and social activities, research and artistry, and global awareness, University Honors students can know that their NIU education has prepared them well for the career they will immediately assume – as well as the one they never saw coming! I hope you enjoy this issue. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions as we look to continue to brand the NIU Honors Program into a premier educational experience! Sincerely,

Todd Anders Gilson, Ph.D., CSCS Director for University Honors

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The Honors Self By Margaret Miller When it comes to Honors, Northern Illinois University has some of the most passionate, hardworking and compelling students. This is a very bold claim, I know, and I am certainly biased, but when you read the stories of a mere handful of our students, I wager you will find yourself equally biased. The students here paint a mosaic of people from all walks of life. Many work multiple jobs to pay for their education. Others juggle caring for children while attending school. Still others have selflessly served their country and returned to finish their education or have left the familiarity of their home countries to pursue their education here. Regardless of background, all of our students have one common trait: they know the value of their education and they work hard to earn it. Our NIU Honors Program is composed of these diverse, diligent and down-to-earth people. It is The Luminary’s honor to tell the story of our program through the stories of students who are in it. It is my privilege to welcome you to this edition of The Luminary: The Honors Self.

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Rebekah Ernat in the field in Madagascar.

A Life in the Natural World By Rebekah Ernat In second grade my favorite thing to do at recess was explore the rainforest. My school didn’t have a playground, so I would wander the blacktop where we played, pretending that I was climbing through the canopy, balanced carefully on branches and vines. Some days I was sailing down the Amazon River. Some days trying exotic fruits in Borneo. And some days tracking gorillas in the Congo. As I grew up, I never lost that sense of curiosity and adventure. In high school, when the time came to decide on a college major, I knew that Biology and Anthropology – the study of life, and the study of humans and nonhuman primates, respectively – would be perfect for me. Northern Illinois University had strong programs

in both of those areas, plus a way to make my childhood dreams come true: a summer field school in Madagascar! The final factor in my decision to attend NIU was a generous scholarship from the Honors Program. In August of 2013, I was excited to embark on my next adventure as an NIU Huskie. My first couple of years passed quickly as I juggled double majors in Biology and Anthropology, a minor in French and involvement in the Honors Program and other organizations around campus. I enjoyed my classes, but I still didn’t have an answer to the question I heard from so many friends and family members: “And what exactly do you want to do with all that?” The summer before my junior year, I decided to take a leap and finally apply for the

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If I can inspire anyone else to dream about exploring the planet – preserving biodiversity, better understanding other cultures and learning how to make the world a better place – then I will consider my education and future career well-spent. Madagascar Field School. I was accepted, and in June 2015 I joined five other NIU students on the 20-hour flight to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Within the first week of our trip, we watched Indri lemurs eat breakfast in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, examined bones and fossils at the University of Antananarivo and toured Lemurs’ Park and the national zoo. From there, we spent a day driving to a remote field site called Tsinjoarivo, a community nestled in the narrow strip of remaining rainforest on the eastern side of the island. Each student chose a research project to work on during our two-week stay at Tsinjoarivo, and I decided to focus on ayeayes, a reclusive nocturnal lemur. After a long day of conducting research – in my case, searching for aye-aye nests and feeding traces – the professors, other students and I spent most evenings in the dining pavilion at our campsite, swapping stories, telling riddles and discussing our projects.

intrigued by the process of reconstructing the lifestyle of an extinct animal – or an entire species – from a few fragments of bone. I was able to continue fueling that newly rekindled passion for paleontology in the fall when I began working in Dr. Karen Samonds’ lab at NIU. Throughout my junior year, I helped prepare fossils from ancient turtles, crocodiles, sharks, fish, rays and sea cows. Several important opportunities fell into place in the spring of 2016. The first was an invitation from Dr. Samonds to return to Madagascar that summer as part of her paleontology team. The second was the preliminary plan for my senior capstone project, which would entail naming and describing a new species of extinct sea cow (i.e., an ancient manateelike creature). It was a third opportunity – being selected as a University Honors Scholar – that made everything come together. Using my Honors Scholar funding, I could accompany Dr. Samonds and her

Every day was an adventure, but one of our last days at Tsinjoarivo stands out as the most memorable. Through Vitamin Angels and Sadabe, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that works in Madagascar to meet the needs of local people and the ecosystem, we distributed vitamins to hundreds of children. Witnessing the poverty, malnutrition and general lack of medical care in this rural area could have been discouraging, but instead the day was full of hope. We were able to make a difference, providing a year’s supply of vitamins to dozens of families. The day ended with an open-air showing of the 2014 film Island of Lemurs for everyone to watch: a celebration of the community and the biodiversity that makes Madagascar so special. The final leg of the field school involved two days at a paleontology site in the Sambaina Basin near the city of Antsirabe. Not only did I have fun getting muddy and pulling fossils out of the ground, but I was also Ernat prepares fossils in Professor Samonds’ lab in Montgomery Hall.

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Ernat with one of her favorite study subjects.

team in Madagascar for a month in order to get more hands-on paleontology field experience. And on my way home, I could stop in Paris in order to take comparative photos and measurements of other sea cow fossils in the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (known as the MNHN, or National Museum of Natural History). Again, I found myself packing my bags and preparing to spend a month in Madagascar. This second trip seemed to pass more quickly than the first, but I still enjoyed camping and hiking at Tsinjoarivo, getting to know the rest of the paleo team and spending an entire week at the Sambaina dig site. My month in the field little prepared me for spending a few days in Paris to study the specimens at the MNHN. As an undergraduate with seven years of French classes but little practical experience under my belt, I found Paris enchanting but slightly daunting. Nevertheless, I had not only survived – but thrived – in Madagascar, so I was determined to make the most of my time in France too. After taking the necessary pictures and measurements at the museum, I found time to see the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame, the Champs-Élysées and a few other famous sites. In keeping with the old cliché, I fell madly in love, with the city, that is. I had fantasized about visiting Paris almost as much as I had imagined exploring the rainforest, and once again, the reality exceeded my wildest dreams. I returned to NIU in the fall with a renewed enthusiasm for learning, for museums and for my capstone project. As Dr. Samonds and I began analyzing the data I had collected in France and compiling it into an academic paper, I also began

applying to graduate schools. Finally, I had an answer to the question I’d been hearing for so long: “What do you want to do with all that?” I want to work at a natural history museum, instilling in others the same sense of wonder and excitement that the natural world has instilled in me. If I can inspire anyone to dream about exploring the planet – preserving biodiversity, better understanding other cultures and learning how to make the world a better place – then I will consider my education and future career well-spent. Such a career is still several years down the road. In the meantime, I’m thrilled to be getting hands-on experience in Dr. Samonds’ lab, at the Pick Museum of Anthropology and at NIU’s Biology Museum during my last few months at NIU. I look forward to wrapping up my capstone project (which will hopefully culminate in a published paper), graduating in May and beginning a masters’ program in the fall. Rebekah Ernat, a senior in biology and anthropology, will enter the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in anthropology.

Witnessing the poverty, malnutrition, and general lack of medical care in this rural area could have been discouraging, but instead the day was full of hope. 2 016–2017 | 7

willing to walk the long, arduous road to become a doctor? Little did I know, however, that pursuing this answer would leave me finding myself growing in unimaginable ways. It’s thanks to forensics and my travels that I can say, if I could look back at my younger self, I’d give an answer unlike any I could have thought of then.

Public speaking is a touchstone for Miracle Diala.

Living and Dreaming Out Loud By Miracle Diala “Just so you know, there’s a two percent chance of failure.” To most people, these sound like the kind of odds that’d make a gambler leap for joy. But when you’re told this by an orthopedic surgeon one month before he is going to realign your spine for eight hours to fix your scoliosis, those odds carry quite a different tone. Every moment leading up to the surgery was filled with apprehension and sadness – apprehension for the biggest surgery of my life, and sadness for what this surgery would cost me – namely contact sports and roller-coaster rides. But as these doors closed October 12, 2010, the days of contemplation, repulsive hospital food and pain so incredible I still recoil when I think of it, opened up another one – the dream of one day becoming a doctor. As I spent the next month recovering at home with only my thoughts to keep me entertained, I realized that if I wanted to open this door, I would have to answer a simple, but difficult question – was I

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With a new mission came a new setting, and my family’s move to Flossmoor, Illinois, along with the resultant school transfer brought me just that. Meek as I was, there was one class that let me be as vocal as I wanted – English II, headed by the mentor I came to know as Ms. Janine Stroemer. For the final project, I was assigned a presentation which, unlike my peers, I saw as no big deal. My presentation however prompted my teacher to recruit me for the speech team, and from then on, speaking became a big deal. As with most novices, my first tournament was a flat-out disaster. In spite of that failure, I had fun talking about my scoliosis, and it was this unlikely combination of fun and failure which drove me to shoot for qualifying for State. After just barely failing at that goal and faced with what I thought was the end of speech for me, I discovered college forensics and decided that I wanted to use Informative Speaking to aid me in talking to my future patients. Thus started the path to Ms. Stroemer’s alma mater – Northern Illinois University, with me burning with determination and boasting about how I’d someday win nationals in Informative Speaking. This path I found out would take me to Judy Santacaterina and Lisa Roth, both of whom contributed to my motley combination in different ways. From Judy I learned that rather than beating myself up, I could use my failures both in speech and real life as a reason to work harder and improve. From Lisa I realized I could capitalize on using enjoying myself as a modus operandi for both speaking to the best of my ability and making life decisions I would ultimately be happy with. These two lessons I took to heart, and when two

That day, I swore I’d use that plot of land to build a clinic.

Diala plans to take a gap year before going to medical school.

years later, my failures and fun brought me to the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament and I stood alone on the stage as the champion in Informative Speaking, I looked to my team, smiled and knew I’d learned them well. It wasn’t until I faced the profound emotions during my family trip to Nigeria the following summer that my naiveté would be exposed. Having not seen my extended family in nearly fifteen years, I was both nervous and excited. Nervous to see everyone, and excited to learn about the country I would have been born in if not for my parents’ hard work in coming to the United States from poverty. When I arrived however, I was greatly astounded by what I saw and heard – dilapidated roads, governmental unrest, and corruption manifesting itself in inequality of wealth, education, and health; the latter being the most heartwrenching as I learned that my own grandmother died due to medical negligence by a “doctor” who had likely paid for his grades and diploma. On top of that, every so often I would see a man abandoned for his mental illness, or a double amputee without a wheelchair begging for food.

Everything came to a head when I saw my youngest cousin – an infant who’d faced maltreatment, malnourishment and misdiagnosis by the so-called hospital where he stayed. It struck me as odd when my frustration and rage summoned the first tears I’d shed in years, but within that dark place resided a piece of hope. Before her death, my grandmother used what little money she had to purchase a small plot of land for my father, the one that would be passed down to me. That day, I swore I’d use that plot of land to build a clinic that could serve the villagers properly and inexpensively a clinic I’ll name after my grandmother: Mercy. So, six years later I stand before the same old door and asking the same old question – am I willing to walk down that long, arduous road to become a humanitarian doctor despite the odds? It’ll take a lot of hard work, it won’t always be fun and I will face failure after seemingly insurmountable failure. However, now that I am willing to embrace every step of the way, my answer is simple – yes. Miracle Diala is a senior in chemistry. He wants to use his gap year before medical school to build the skills and networking necessary to someday begin his own clinic in Nigeria. 2 016–2017 | 9

International student Hnin Lin in her new comfort zone: presenting her research.

Present Tense: Studying, Living Abroad at NIU By Hnin Lin As an international student coming from Myanmar (for those who may not know, it’s in Southeast Asia and is also known as Burma), choosing to study abroad at NIU has been my biggest life-changing and worldaltering decision I’ve ever made. I remember months and months of preparing my luggage, emailing back and forth to the admissions office, saying goodbye to my family and finally getting on the plane to set off on the journey. I was only 17, and I didn’t know it then, but that decision changed the course of my life as I know it. Studying abroad is not just the educational experience. It’s not what happens inside of the classroom that has the greatest impact on a student’s life, but rather, what happens outside of the classroom that really matters. Through this experience, I learn about the world in a completely different way than what people are generally accustomed — by experiencing. Here are the five ways how studying abroad at NIU has changed me. 1. Mature and strong: Pathway to independence Studying abroad is awesome, thrilling and lifechanging, but let’s face it, it’s not a vacation. The

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longer you stay in a foreign place the more obstacles you will face. Back at home, I was always nestled in my parents’ cocoon: warm, cozy and secure. But once I got on that one-way flight, I had only myself to rely on. Independence and maturity must follow eventually because my parents are not just minutes but thousands of miles away from me. When the debit card hits the balance limit, or when you get your first apartment, or clothes became scarce (probably from rotting in the laundry basket), or the only food you can cook is instant ramen, you have no one but yourself to get out of those disasters. And the more I am forced to use my own wisdom and intelligence to solve problems, the more mature I become. Because of this, I realize how strong and independent I am, and that I’m capable of solving my own problems. 2. Getting out of my comfort zone “Comfort zones are most often expanded by discomfort.” This is the quote I always keep in my wallet. During my first year at NIU, my biggest obstacle was to initiate a conversation with strangers. It might be because of my introverted personality or maybe because I always had self-doubts about my English proficiency. But while living in the residence

halls that first year, my floor mates and community advisor encouraged me to talk to them, even for a few minutes a day. From there, I realized that there was a bright new world beyond my fears and my comfort zone, waiting for me to come out. Stepping into a new territory truly is the best way to learn and to grow into the best version of yourself. The more I have pushed myself, the more confident I feel learning to think about issues with a more open mind. Later, I joined the Global Friends Network Program, and I’m currently working as a Northern Ambassador and a tutor, encouraging other students to get involved and step out of their comfort zones as well. I grew and changed in ways I never would have had I stayed in my own little world, making me a more interesting and globally aware person. 3. Defining a direction for future career Since childhood, my goal in life has been to become an engineer and a researcher, working in a space program, building robots, having my own workshop and doing all that cool stuff. Studying abroad at NIU has aided tremendously in this journey. Even though being a woman in a STEM field is not always easy, NIU has given me opportunities to challenge all the doubts, break the boundaries and personally set a direction in my dream career. Joining the Research Rookies Program in my first year was a major jumpstart, as I got a chance to work closely with faculty members, leading me to fully devote myself to my major and strengthen my passion. Maybe one day, you might see me working for a space program with my robot assistants. Who knows? 4. Constant learning, loving and exploring One thing I’ve always been satisfied about studying abroad at NIU is its vibrant and colorful community. It never makes me feel empty as there’s always something to explore, something to learn, something to fall in love with. I fell in love with living in the residence halls. I fell in love with my host families and friends. I fell in love with all the road trips with my international friends. I fell in love with football games. I fell in love with the food. (I got addicted to the Chicago-style hot dog after my first try.) Studying abroad at NIU has made me realize that feeling at home is only a state of mind, and that you can make a home thousands of miles from where you grew up if you’d like. And there comes the bittersweet moment when you get homesick for more than one place.

From there, I realized that there was a bright new world beyond my fears and my comfort zone, waiting for me to come out. Stepping into a new territory truly is the best way to learn and to grow into the best version of yourself. 5. People come and go, but memories stay forever Leo Tolstoy once said, “The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at your side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.” This is true, especially when you’re staying in another place. While studying abroad, I got connected to a lot of people. There are people I had a nice chat with, people I roamed around the streets with and people I stayed with, but when the time comes, we all say goodbye. During this moment between hellos and goodbyes, I learned that the most important time in life is my present, and the most important person is the one with me at that moment. Because of that, I learned to be kind and make good memories with people instead, because memories stay forever, even if people don’t, and time is too short for regrets. Hnin Lin (Scarlet) is a junior in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on mechatronics and robotics and a minor in applied mathematics. She first came to NIU in 2014 as a participant in the Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Program, a U.S. Department of State program administered by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. She began her studies as a SEAYLP Scholar at NIU in January 2015.

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Jayson Shiau, far left front, with his fellow Lee Teng interns at Fermilab.

Classroom Labs to Hands-On Experience By Jayson Shiau

During the summer of 2016, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work as a Lee Teng Fellowship Intern at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. This program supports a cohort of up to 10 students to conduct research in the field of particle accelerators. Five students worked at Argonne and five students worked at Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL) in Batavia, Illinois. I was very excited to learn how research conducted at a national laboratory like Argonne differs from that at NIU. The internship consisted of two parts: attending the U.S. Particle Accelerator School (USPAS) in Colorado and conducting research at Argonne. While I was attending USPAS, I got to meet people from all around the world who work at places like the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, in Switzerland and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in Menlo Park, California. Everyone had various reasons for attending CPAS, and it was interesting learning about the different places they worked and their different cultures. In addition to classes and homework, lab work provided a handson learning experience. We would begin each day at 8 a.m. with breakfast followed by a morning lecture. Following lunch, we would begin the lab section from 1 p.m. until dinner at 6 p.m. After this, we were assigned homework due the next day. With such a tight schedule, we were heavily immersed in the material covering the theory and practical application of particle accelerators. I collaborated with a group composed of people from SLAC and universities in Mexico. They were either in graduate

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school or had already obtained a Ph.D. It was interesting collaborating with people with different levels of education and experiences, and I enjoyed the teamwork required to work through the lab setups. After spending two weeks in Colorado, I came back to Illinois to start work at Argonne National Laboratory in the Advanced Photon Source (APS) for the rest of the summer. The work that I did was in support of the future APS upgrade project. At the time, Argonne was looking to create higher-quality X-ray beams. In order to preserve the pristine qualities of the beam, higher-quality X-ray mirrors needed to be fabricated. I was assigned to conduct research on a system that would fabricate smoother mirrors. This involved an analysis of the mirrors using in-situ X-ray mirror metrology. My work day consisted of getting to work at 8 a.m. and starting the research process of gathering data that could be used to evaluate how the eventual X-ray mirror fabrication system would perform. It was motivating and inspiring to work in an environment like Argonne alongside some of the brightest minds in the world. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience at Argonne. As an engineer, my ultimate goal is to develop solutions to solve real-world problems. This goal matches nicely with places like Argonne that support research intended to address some of the world’s most pressing issues, particularly in clean energy and energy sustainability. Jayson Shiau, a junior in electrical and computer engineering, plans pursue robotics in graduate school.

From left: Emma Harvey, Leah Harvey and Corrine Gahan.

From Russia, with Drama Acting majors and Honors juniors Corinne Gahan, Emma Harvey and Leah Harvey spent three months during fall semester 2016 living and honing their craft in Moscow, Russia, immersed in NIU theatre professor Alexander Gelman’s Theatre and Performance Studies study abroad program at the Moscow Art Theatre. The semester abroad offers students the chance to engage with a theatre company focused on creating drama that reflects and illuminates the human condition, according to the Russian-born and American-trained Gelman, who has taken students to Moscow fourteen times during his tenure at NIU. Corinne, Emma and Leah reflect on their experience.

of czar Nicholas II (still intact and operational!) and a café that just sold different types of pie. Exploring was definitely my favorite.

What was your favorite memory in Russia? Corinne: My favorite memory in Russia was when I went to the Circle of Light Festival. A few of my classmates and I were running to see the end of the show since we were late. The music that was playing added to the excitement as we ran to get a good view. We made it for just the finale, but it was the most amazing fireworks show I had experienced in my life. Disney World can never compete after that!

What was the hardest thing about living in another country? C: There isn’t ranch dressing or spicy foods in Russia. When I asked someone for ranch dressing they had no idea what I was talking about. There was a class mission to find ranch; we all failed.

Emma: I don’t know that I have one specific favorite memory. My favorite times would be when a few of us would go out wandering around the city. We found so many fantastic places by doing that. We found an outdoor sculpture garden, a monastery from the time

Leah: Some of my favorite memories were seeing the different shows in Russia. Theatre is completely different there than here in the United States. The theatres would be sold out on a Tuesday night, with no open seats. Every show was unique too. Russian theatre takes a script, whether classical or new, and expands it into everything it can possibly be. The shows were beautiful, and unlike anything I have ever seen here in the U.S.

E: While we were there, I tried to purchase an SD card so I could properly use my phone (for taking phone calls, navigating, looking up restaurants, etc.). It took two translators from MXAT, three stores and several weeks before my phone would recognize the SD card. The whole process was a headache, and I never was able to access the data. However, essentially being “off-the-grid” for three months was pretty interesting.

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L: At first, it was very difficult to be there because I did not understand the language at all. I hadn’t even learned the alphabet before going there! After a time, I started to pick it up a bit and was able to understand different things and even speak broken sentences. What was the easiest part of living in another country? C: Drinking cups of pure melted chocolate. There are stores that sell this on almost every corner. E: I second that! Finding good quality delicious food to eat was never a challenge. Everything there is very fresh and excellent quality. I miss the pastries, soups, sushi—all of it! L: THE DUMPLINGS! Sure, hot chocolate and pastries were amazing, but Russian eat a lot of dumplings (they are sold in almost every restaurant). They were filled with meat, cheese, spinach or fruit for dessert dumplings. I swear I am struggling to survive without them. What was it like to live with your classmates? C: Besides it being occasionally loud and there being never ending dishes, living with each other wasn’t the worst thing. My class was my family so we were always there for each other. E: As someone who needs their privacy and personal space, the living arrangements were a challenge. Yes,

I had my own room, but our floor was always loud and busy with people running around and chatting. At times it was nice, but there were a few moments I just needed space away from everyone. L: It was a bit of struggle because I have a very different living style than other people. I like to go to sleep earlier than a lot of my classmates and then get up earlier as well. I think all of us had problems making compromises for each other, but we made it work in the end. How is the culture different? C: The arts are very prominent. Everyone goes and sees a show after work even on weeknights. E: There is much more respect and emphasis placed on the arts in general—music, dance, literature, etc. Having such increased access to artistic culture was incredible. There’s also much more emphasis on living in the moment. Spend time with your friends and family now, while you can. Enjoy the arts now, while you can. Dress up and look amazing now, while you can. Russia was very vibrant and in the moment. L: Not only is there an emphasis on art and beauty, but on surviving together. In our Russian Cinema History class, we watched movies that were about the whole country of Russia working together and suffering together. The people there felt like a strong, resilient country that values hard work and perseverance. What part of their culture would you like people in America to experience? C: I would want Americans to experience how loved ones and admirers treat each other there. It was very common to see people embracing each other that didn’t make you feel uncomfortable. The streets were often filled with people carrying flowers for the simplest occasion. Russians are extremely caring and passionate. E: Placing value and importance on people, relationships and quality of life, not the quantity in our bank accounts. L: There was a great respect for teachers and elder citizens there as well as emphasizing people not material items.

Spellbound by the Circle of Lights Festival.

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Alumnus Jeff Kamholz catches his breath as a young professional.

Making the Cut in the Real World By Jeff Kamholz It’s been nearly ten months since I’ve crossed the Rubicon and passed from the world of being a college student to being a young professional working in Washington, D.C. At first, it seemed daunting, undesirable and altogether intimidating. However, taking a step back, I realized that many of my experiences in college prepared me for post-graduate life going forward. I took a job in Washington to work in a year-long training program with Bloomberg BNA. As I approach the end of that year of training, many of the alumni and professionals I had interacted with during my time at NIU had been right: You learn more in the first year of your job than you ever think you will. I am extremely fortunate to have found a company willing to invest in me with many opportunities for growth and advancement so early in my career. During my time at NIU, I was able to interact with many of our successful alumni. Many of these alumni I met through the Honors Program, and have kept in touch. Despite thoroughly enjoying my classes, these alumni were able to give advice that I wasn’t able to gather from textbooks and lectures alone. The learning I experienced through internships and immersed education taught me as much if not more than I ever learned sitting in a classroom.

At times, it seems I can hardly catch my breath. Other times I have more free time to myself than I have had in years. Living in Washington, D.C., I am surrounded by ambitious, motivated individuals. This can be empowering and motivating, but it is necessary to take a step back and take some time for yourself. Already, I have seen how easy it can be to burn out. Having a life outside of work is another area that I highly recommend. While in school, it is easier when many of your friends live within a 3-mile radius. Maintaining a work/life balance is extremely important to be able to have a social life. Keeping up relationships with friends is something I would like to get better at. Your friends often know you better than yourself, and can help you even if you may not realize you need it. Adjusting to the real world wasn’t as difficult as I imagined it would be. I’m going to be honest. Having a little disposable income is nice, and I don’t have to think twice about getting the guacamole at Chipotle once in a while!

Your friends often know you better than yourself. Overall, the transition from sixteen years of school to having a full-time job didn’t happen overnight. I was able to transition into my career, thanks in huge part to the support I received from the faculty, alumni and my fellow students at NIU. I had an incredible experience at NIU, and I would not trade it for anything. That being said, by the time graduation came around, I was ready to move on. For me, college was an amazing four years that prepared me for the next chapter in my life. I can’t wait to see what is yet to come. Jeffrey Kamholz received his bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2016 and was a member of the first cohort of McKearn Fellows in 2013.

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selected annually to receive the Lincoln Academy’s distinguished award, recognizing excellence in both curricular and extracurricular activities. “I have not seen another student who achieves so much here at NIU and at the same time gives so much back to both campus and society,” said Victor Ryzhov, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry who nominated Rasmussen for the Lincoln Laureate. “With all those achievements, Rebecca is the most humble and modest person you will ever meet.”

Lincoln Laureate Rebecca Rasmussen is at home in both science and music.

Marching to Her Own Beat By Tom Parisi | NIU Newsroom If Rebecca Rasmussen, NIU’s newly named Student Lincoln Laureate, marches to her own beat, she certainly keeps a breathless pace. Consider Rasmussen’s rapid accumulation of awards, leadership experiences and remarkable accomplishments: Presidential Scholar, peer mentor, Student Association senator, Habitat for Humanity volunteer, peer-assisted learning tutor, a leader in the Huskie Marching Band, principal flute in the NIU Philharmonic Orchestra, music minister and Bible-study leader at Newman Catholic Student Center. During her time at NIU, the 22-year-old University Honors senior has maintained nearly perfect grades while double-majoring in the demanding areas of music performance and biochemistry, with a minor in biological sciences. Along the way, Rasmussen has received numerous scholarships and awards. Earlier this year, she won the prestigious Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship to the Mayo Clinic, where she spent 10 weeks developing a new method for detecting and researching light-chain amyloidosis, a rare and deadly disease that affects kidney function. With such accomplishments, it is not surprising that Rasmussen was chosen the 2016–17 NIU Student Lincoln Laureate, though she had strong competition from a pool of the university’s most outstanding students. A senior from each of the four-year institutions of higher learning in Illinois is

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The Mayo Clinic experience was certainly among Rasmussen’s career highlights. “It was incredible to be around so many inspirational people and to see how research can actually translate into helping patients,” she said. And the NIU Marching Band was “one of the best parts of my college experience.” But Rasmussen cites neither as her most important takeaway from NIU. “During my time at NIU, I feel that I’ve begun learning how to care more about others than myself,” she said. “To me, that’s a greater accomplishment than any academic award or leadership title.” A Franklin Park native, Rasmussen was an academic standout at East Leyden High School, where she was valedictorian, and had an array of universities to choose from before deciding to come to NIU on scholarship. “NIU offered me so many opportunities— the hardest part was choosing which ones,” she said. That dilemma was apparent from the start, when she decided to pursue both biochemistry and music. (She performs in NIU ensembles on two different instruments—flute and trombone.) Doubling up on a major required a ton of hard work. NIU undergraduates need 120 credit hours to graduate. When Rasmussen recieved her diploma in May, she had amassed more than 220. If music and science seems like an odd pairing, Rasmussen would disagree. “The focus on details, the planning, the creative thinking—those skills cross over both fields,” she said. While music will always play a big role in her life, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry. “I fell in love with biochemical research because of the freedom to creatively solve problems,” Rasmussen said. “I would love someday to be a professor, where I could conduct research and teach, but I’m open to other possibilities.”

HONORS FACULTY The University Honors Program would not exist without the 99 names listed below who teach Honors courses, sections and seminars, lead Honors study abroad courses, and help steer the program as members of the Honors Committee. Those on the Honors Committee are marked with an asterisk. Accountancy Elizabeth Grant Rebecca Shortridge Allied Health and Communicative Disorders Janet Olson Anthropology Emily McKee* Kerry Sagebiel Art Education and Design Richard Siegesmund* Art History Rebecca Houze* Ann Van Dijk* Biology Gabriel Holbrook Bethia King Joel Stafstrom Business Dennis Barsema Christy Cunningham Geoffrey Gordon Joan Petros Barton Sharp* David Wade Chemistry David Ballantine Communication Madelyn Anderson Jeffrey Chown Jennifer Likeum Computer Science Daniel Rogness

Kathryn Jaekel Sarah Johnson-Rodriguez Myoungwhon Jung Stacy Kelly Toni Van Laarhoven Lisa Liberty Angela Miller William Penrod Leslie Sassone John Evar Strid* Engineering Ibrahim Abdel-Motaleb Joseph Bittorf Sachit Butail Kyu taek Cho Brianno Coller Veysil Demir Benedito Fonseca Reza Hashemian Venumadhav Korampally Lichuan Liu Kevin Martin William Mills Reinaldo Moraga Nicholas Pohlman* Suma Rajashankar Federico Sciammarella John Shelton Shun Takai Donald Zinger English Scott Balcerzak David Gorman Timothy Crowley* Family and Child Studies Kelly Champion Scott Sibley

Economics Virginia Wilcox Manjuri Talukdar

Foreign Languages and Literatures Mary Cozad Frances Jaeger Lan-Hui Ryder

Education Ehsan Asoudegi Erika Blood Gregory Conderman Stephanie DeSpain

History Aaron Fogleman Kristine Huffine Eric Jones Emma Kuby

Brianno Coller (Mechanical Engineering).

Philosophy Steven Daskal Mylan Engel Alicia Finch

Barton Sharp (Management), 2017 Honors Great Professor.

Eric Mogren Ismael Montana Kinesiology and Physical Education Anthony Carter Todd Gilson Music Janet Hathaway Nursing Mary Elaine Koren Kathleen Musker Jeanette Rossetti Janice Strom Nutrition and Dietetics Judith Lukaszuk Beth Lulinski Priyanka Ghosh Roy

Physics Omar Chmaissem David Hedin Vishnu Zutshi Political Science April Clark James Pickerill Andrea Radasanu Psychology Mary Anne Britt Amanda Durik Leslie Matuszewich Sociology Michael Ezell Theatre and Dance Alexander Gelman Tracy Nunnally Patricia Skarbinski* University Libraries Sarah McHone-Chase* Leanne VandeCreek*

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FACULTY SPOTLIGHT Sinclair Bell Sinclair Bell, associate professor of art history in the School of Art and Design, received his Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh and began teaching at NIU in 2008. A trained archeologist and art historian, he has been a member of the Honors faculty since 2010. What made you want to work with/teach honors students? I was familiar with Honors programming from my own university as an undergraduate Honors student at Wake Forest University. I was aware of the different settings that one could have in those courses and wanted to see what NIU had to offer along those lines. The format of a seminar in the evening was appealing and allowed me to focus on a particular theme in a more intimate setting. In what ways have you been involved with the program? Other than seminars, I have served on the University Honors Steering Committee for several years. I was also involved in getting the Honors art contest going. I’ve been in various events supporting the program. Experience in the committee was a great opportunity for me to see the role of Honors expanded and thus to see the Honors experience more integrated across campus. What do you think is the greatest strength of the Honors Program? I think it’s greatest strength is bringing together students across disciplines and getting them to talk, debate and think together. Too many students are stuck in their own majors. This program allows students’ experiences to be expanded. They meet new students and faculty across the university. College is one of the few times in life that one can expand one’s mind and experiences in a new way, since life after college can become very set and limited in the opportunities that many have to open up their horizons. What has been your most memorable teaching experience? I taught a seminar on sport, spectacle and society in the ancient world. During that course, I had a mixture of student athletes and regular students. It was fascinating to see the different perspectives that the athletes brought to practice, representation, in competition and antiquity. The seminar on gender and sexuality in the ancient world also succeeded in highlighting what is both radically different and what is remarkably familiar with gender norms then and now.

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William McCoy William McCoy received his doctorate in education from Edgewood College in 2010, after which he joined NIU in the College of Business where he is now director of the BELIEF Program; a business ethics program on campus launched in 2006. He became involved with the Honors Program in 2013. What made you want to work with/teach Honors students? It really was more about a natural connection between ethical leadership and the direction the university wanted to go in. As director of the BELIEF program, I was a natural fit that then-Honors Program Director J.D. Bowers saw as complementing the direction of the Honors Program. I had worked with Honors students at the grade/ middle school level before coming to NIU. I was part of the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth for about five years, including serving as a board member. In what ways have you been involved with the Honors Program? I have mostly been involved with trainings and presentations on leadership and or ethical leadership. I have not yet taught any courses, but will teach one next year entitled “Spiritually-Centered Leadership.” What do you think is the greatest strength of the Honors Program? I would say the program’s academic and cultural enrichment that propels our students to a greater level of professionalism and life readiness. This is a result of the programming being offered and the meeting of the minds between the students and faculty. The faculty provide the academic rigor that challenges students intellectually, and the students rise to the occasion. What has been your most memorable experience with a student? I saw a student all the way from his first year through the completion of his graduate degree here at NIU. When he would fly home, I would always help him get to and from O’Hare every year without fail. I hosted him when the residence halls would close. I helped him learn how to drive after he got his license because he didn’t have any opportunities at home with his family. I wanted this student to develop and I saw him go from this timid young man to a working professional. I am proud knowing that I had a hand in helping him become a successful student.

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top left corner

Anthropology Professor Kendall Thu, center, at Honors first-year retreat. top right corner

First-year retreat at Laredo Taft kicks off the year. top right middle

Trivia Night winners Austin Bernhard, Eugene Ciesla and Jesse Laseman. middle right

Jennifer Burress’s BB-8 pumpkin. middle

First Birthday Boxes party of the year. middle left

Adam Lotitio wins the Honors 5K Fun Run. bottom

2015–2018 McKearn Fellows.

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HONORS BY THE NUMBERS 2016–2017 Where We’re From: Outside Chicago: 926 Chicago: 40 Outside Illinois: 46 Outside U.S.: 7 Who We Are: First-years: 164 Sophomores: 275 Juniors: 317 Seniors: 259 Post-Baccalaureate: 5 Average GPA: 3.66 How We Came In: As First-years: 497 As Transfers: 193 As NIU Students: 325 As Post-Bacc: 5 2017 Graduates: Lower Division Honors: 66 Upper Division Honors: 34 University Honors: 52


December 2016’s graduating Honors seniors.


Sophomore Honors biology major Marilyn Chakkalamuri in the NIU lab where she is studying T-cell lymphoma treatments.

Most Common Fields of Study: Accountancy, Biology, Nursing


Junior Honors political science major and 2017–18 Student Association President Rachel Jacob meets U.S. Senator and NIU alumna Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., during Duckworth’s May 12 campus visit to address ROTC officers.

Least Common Fields of Study: Anthropology, Early Childhood Education, Economics, Meteorology, Operations Management and Information Systems.


One week’s “clothespin vote” on the Honors program’s popular “Would You Rather?” bulletin board.

Outstanding Capstone Projects: Shawna Johnson, Matthew Moorman Outstanding Athlete: Alexandria Isom Enhance Your Education (EYE) Awards: First-years: Justine Ewald Sophomore: Aspen Wheeler Junior: I Younan An Senior: Courtney Crutchfield Honors Scholars: Rebekah Ernat, Megan Haduch Honors Fellows: Miracle Diala, Jessica Gall, Ashley Heins, Joseph Howard, Emily Knetsch, Rachel Lapidus, Olyvia Rand, Rachel Shapland, Jayson Shiau, Ashley Terrell, Courtney VanDreese, Kathryn Voight, Lexie Williams 2016–2017 | 21

HONORS PRIDE: OUR DONORS Keith and Linda Adams Ray and Becky Alden Sarah E. Allard Zach G. Alesandrini Keith and Madelyn Anderson Jason and Bridget Arne-Johnson Phillip and Elizabeth Asbury Michael J. Ashe Sabrina M. Ayala Keith A. Bartholomew and Marcelyn Ritchie Shanna H. Bertram Wayne and Elizabeth Beyer David and Eleasa Bielawa Catherine E. Bishir Scott and Monica S. Boehle-Altergott Kathryn Boehle Vincent and Vicki Boone Jerome Bowers and Kristy Wilson Bowers Rodney and Anitra Boyt Gregory A. Brady Dennis and Mary Ellen Branson Michael D. Bromberek Thomas Brennan and Ms. Anne E. Schedler Terrance and Mrs. Deborah Brown Laura A. Cabay Kelly K. Carey Merrie Carlson Thomas Carlson Jr. and Claire Carlson Michael Carretto Sara E. Lopez Carrillo John and Nancy Castle Philip and Donna Cekal Paul and Donna Chambers Mike and Tammy Chiovari Daihee Cho Lawrence and Debra Clay Steven N. Cook Craig and Kathleen Copper Alex L. Crisafulli John and Patricia Crocker Lenard Dacanay and Penny Dacanay Allyn and Martha Davenport Scott and Alexa Dembek Nancy A. Detig Brandon M. Djonlich Jeffry J. Duckworth and Melinda G. Thomas Charles and Judith Dunbar Cari A. Eggert Garrett V. Eischen Mrs. Kari Elling David and Konnie Erickson John and Arlene Fassola Albert M. Fisher Vasiliki I. Fosses Lance G. Foust Michael and Jane Frey Paul and Melissa Fribert Shay M. Galto Sharon A. Gary David C. Gathercoal Jr.

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Kathleen A. Gavin Susan J. Geske Pamela K. Gillespie Joseph and Diane Gordon Jennifer L. Greene Carol Griffin Guy W. Grimmelbein Ben I. Gross Jeff and Wendy Gross Sharlene M. Hahl-Lee Aaron Hahn and Ms. Jennifer E. Binversie William and Elizabeth Hahn Margaret J. Hall John H. Hall Louis and Linda Halpern Marjorie R. Hancock Sara A. Harant Charles H. Harmening Larry and Cynthia Harvat Laurie J. Helms Troy and Cassandra Hendry Todd and Cheryl Henert Michael and Beth Hildreth Jeffrey and Debra Jay Melody L. Jenkins David and Lucy Jenson Christian De Jeppesen Charles and Lisa Jersild Joy L. Kakta Thomas J. Kane Jr. Matthew J. Kararo Phillip and Linda Keller Rudolph and Darley Kemppainen Megan N. Kerr Karissa Kessen James N. Kessler Tia Kirkling Joseph and Pauletta Klimson John and Arlene Knewitz Herbert and Avis Knight Gretchen G. Korzak Johnathon and Paula Koziol William and Charlene Kubik Andrew J. Kucharski Adam P. Kutryb Desmond and Kathryn Lall Joseph M. Eichberger and Deborah L. La Dolce David and Stephanie La More Edwin Lancaster Susan E. Vermeulen Lancaster Tim and Patricia Landry Barry and Lynn Laskoe Thomas and Lauren Lee Ken and Beverly Leiser Gunther Leprich and Antoinette Lombardi Leprich Tim and Angela Litow Jamie Antonio Lopez Jr. Lisa Loring Lisa Marie Loring Christopher Loudon

James and Mrs. Arlene Lynch Erin Kristine MacDonna Stephen Ge Madalinski Michael and Marianne Malaychuk Gary and Sherry Manning Paul and Kerry Mansour Michael Alan Margraf James G. Martin Porter and Carren Martin Kyla Matheson Joseph and Katherine Matty Jim Phillips and Tracy C. Mays James P. McClanahan Sarah McCormick Timothy and Barbara McGregory Marjorie A. Meanger Gary and Deborah Mechtel Daniel and Sandra Muench Danielle C. Miller Shannon P. Milligan Stephen J Minich Terrence and Alison Moon Timothy and Barbara Morgan Melissa Marie Moyzis John and Noelle Neely John R. Neely Jr. James and Caroline Neumann Clay and Therese Nichols Mary Novack Mike D O’Connor Gregory and Mary Olson Paulette and Taylor O’Malley Cristy A. Pacheco Charlene Ann Paisner Joseph Palmer Diptesh R. Patel Wendy Park Arthur and Beth Pesavento Ross and Karen Pflaumer Charles and Mary Pfingsten George and Elizabeth Phelan Jr. James T. Pierce and Louis Kanolis Susie M. Pigg Michael and Susan Plass William and Lisa Polasky Ronald and Kathleen Pozzi Steve and Toni Pruett Robert and Diane Rader Jr. Richard and Georgeanne Rashilla Thomas and Elizabeth Rasmussen Gary and Barbara Reding Barbara and David Reinert Wade Rice and Carol Harbrecht Rice Robert E. Rickard Richard and Alice Robinson Patrick and Marcelyn Rogers Laura A. Rollinger John and Cynthia Ross Erin C. Rossi John and Patricia Roznovsky

Robert and Lisa Sanborn Michael and Sandra Schabb Peter and Sandra Schaffer Peter M. Scheidler Christian and Barbara Schock Mark and Julie Schoenherr Michael and Melanie Scott Amy Seetoo Andrew C. Shambaugh Peter and Sarah Shanks Mitchell and Karin Shapiro Donald and Linda Shearer Mark Conrad Simonson Lucy O. Smith Michael and Judith Smith Sara Brianne Smith Dave J. Sosnowski Kathleen Spotts Daniel and Jean Staffin Joel and Judy Stafstrom Frank and Teresa Stauersboll Ellen L. Strebar Linda Anne Stone Raymond and Sharon Suggs Kenneth B. Swanson Timothy and Katharine Tammen Hayat Taour Timothy and Sandra Taylor Michael and Jennifer Thomas

Zachary M. Thorne Ian and Linda Tinkler Phillip L. Tranel Jodi R. Trop Daniel and Nicole Turner Adrienne N. Valentino John and Jeanne Volmer Andrew and Deborah Voss Thomas and Carolyn Wallace Teresa Amadis Wann James and Karen Wareham Jason and Sherri Watson Travis and Shay Webb Wallace and Pamela Webber Judith D. Welch Timothy and Mary Werner Ronald Wheeler Paul and Reni Whitcombe Julia R. White Bradley and Denise Whitehall Steven R. Wieczor Anna M. Wilhelmi Jared M. Williams Brian and Michel Williams Shea and Chelsey Wintersteen William and Mary Wood Kenneth Lawrence Worm Bruce and Theresa Yahiro Brian and Sandra Yandle

Steven and Peggy Youngren William Raymond Zaininger Vicki Zimmerman Corporate Sponsors Andersson Architecture & Design Computer Associates Deloite & Touche Foundation HSBC North America Card and Retail Services Hy-Vee IHOP Restaurant Jewel Food Store KPMG LLP Foundation Metlife Foundation Pita Pete’s Petkus Trust Schneider Electric Schnieder Electric North America Foundation Schwab Charitable Fund Sunlit Cove Healthcare Consultants LLC V.I.P. Nails of VT Village Commons Bookstore

Honors Program Administrative Team (from left): Jes Cisneros, Assistant Director; Marcy Joslin-Brown, Office Manager; Jason Goode, Associate Director of Scholarships, Programming and Assessment; Samantha Gaul, Assistant Director of Programming and Communication; Todd Gilson, Director

Find Your Honors Self In 2016-17, the University Honors Program at NIU counted more than 1,000 undergraduate students across campus. Among them were budding scientists, actors, artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers, nurses, philosophers, politicians and majors of every stripe. As an Honors student, you have the opportunity to meet other motivated students, take specialized courses, live in the Honors House, register early, apply for generous scholarships, connect with special programs and internships, develop close relationships with mentoring professors and be welcomed into a community that will help you to broaden your horizons and achieve your goals.

Contact us at: University Honors Office 110 Campus Life Building Northern Illinois University DeKalb, IL 60115-2828 Telephone: 815-753-0694 Email:

Northern Illinois University Honors Program


NIU Honors Luminary magazine 6/17  

The Northern Illinois University Honors program magazine

NIU Honors Luminary magazine 6/17  

The Northern Illinois University Honors program magazine