With 2015 now in the record books, a look back shows just how busy and…
Last week, more than 2,500 students graduated from Northern Illinois University and began writing the next, exciting chapter of their already accomplished lives.
The NIU fall graduating class of 2015 includes a working dad, an Iraq war veteran, a cancer researcher, and a cancer survivor. It includes one headed to the U.S. Marines, another to law school, and one to a honors nursing residency. NIU President Doug Baker shared the stories of these select students during commencement addresses Dec. 12 and 13, as examples of student success among this graduating class.
“One of the great privileges of being a university president is the opportunity to address a group like the one assembled here today,” Baker told the graduates and their friends and family. “People on the cusp of doing great things. People who will become the leaders of tomorrow. People who will help their families, communities and organizations thrive as they work to make the world a better place.”
To further celebrate the NIU Class of 2015, we share these graduate profiles.
Learning English and complex chemistry
Eyrusalam Bedasso came to the United States from Ethiopia because, as she said, “if you work hard and have the determination you can accomplish anything here.”
She has done just that. Since arriving in Chicago in 2004 as a high school sophomore, she has learned a new language, culture, and secured her bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Here at NIU she studied nano structures for boron neutron capture therapy and contributed to identifying new compounds that could advance cancer treatment. Saturday she earned her Ph.D. in chemistry. Read more about Eyrusalam.
A global future
Taylor Bogan’s path to graduation included her own battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and helping her mom fight stage 4 throat cancer. It also included a trip with Engineers Without Borders to Tanzania where she renovated a school’s kitchen, internships at ComEd, and a job in one of NIU’s residence halls.
After Bogan comes home from a second trip to Tanzania, she will take a full-time job in Chicago and make plans for graduate school. Read more about Taylor.
Research goals achieved
If you find yourself searching for a job in the future, you might come across advice based on the research of Christopher Budnick.
Budnick, who just earned his master’s in industrial organization and social psychology, has researched goal-setting techniques for the unemployed as they search for new work. He was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
Budnick knows about goal setting and motivation. He has served in the U.S. Army Infantry, as well worked his way through his undergraduate degree by holding down odd jobs – from a night audit clerk in a hotel to pollinating corn.
The 36-year-old father of two plans to achieve his own goal of earning his Ph.D. by spring 2017. Read more about Christopher.
A chance well taken
Isabel Contreras had good high school grades, but she wasn’t sure if it was enough to attend to NIU. She was accepted through the CHANCE program.
She was determined to pursue a nursing degree and worked hard to get accepted into the program. She became involved with Research Rookies and set out on a big project: breastfeeding education for new moms. She helped develop a program to dispel myths and negative attitudes about breastfeeding for the DeKalb County Health Department.
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Contreras was driven to pursue her education and make life better for her parents.
Contreras earned her bachelor’s in nursing and has plans to enter the honors nursing residence program at a north suburban hospital. Read more about Isabel.
Marching with honor
Karl Haack’s first experience at NIU was through a summer marching band camp. He liked what he saw and heard, so he brought his trombone to campus to pursue his degree here. He played in the Huskie Marching Band.
While at NIU, Haack earned a spot as an instrumental technician for the brass section with the award-winning Naperville Central HS Band. There he taught students fundamentals and techniques, helping them achieve a successful marching band season.
After earning his bachelor’s in music last week, after only three and a half years here, he heads to U.S. Marine Corps where he has earned a spot playing trombone in prestigious corps band. Read more about Karl.
Down but never out
Doug Koehler survived a deployment to Iraq with the National Guard only to get seriously injured in a car accident stateside. After his long road to recovery he decided he wanted to become a special education teacher.
Before he set foot on NIU’s campus, he had to undergo a hip replacement and earn his associate’s degree. He persevered, and in 2012, seven years after returning from Iraq, Koehler embarked on pursuing his special education degree.
His student teaching assignment was set to begin this past September. But while riding on his motorcycle home from work July 4, he was run over by a drunk driver. His pelvis was fractured in three places. Koehler thought there was no way he’d be able to student teach in less than two months. But he was determined to try.
He began walking just three days before he stood in front of his first class. He walked across the stage Sunday to collect his bachelor’s in special education. Read more about Doug.
The business of life
By the time Adrian Mascote returned to NIU in 2014 he already had a healthy taste of the real world. He was working full-time at a DeKalb warehouse and he and his wife were raising three daughters, all younger than 5.
But he realized career opportunities were passing him by so he returned to the NIU he had left in 2010 after the birth of his first child. He enrolled full-time, focusing on business classes, all while keeping his full-time job.
He became a class leader. He and his fellow students in management professor Mahesh Subramony’s consulting class worked with Caterpillar to develop an executive on-boarding program. Part of that program is being used by Caterpillar today.
Burning desire to serve
An injury Jason Perkiser suffered while battling a house fire in 2011 forced an unexpected end to his decades-long career as a firefighter.
A self-described terrible student in high school, he says he was lucky to find the fire service — a career he was passionate about. Not many in his family had college degrees; however, he was inspired by his mother who put herself though college to earn her bachelor’s degree. So, at age 41, he headed to NIU.
Always drawn to the struggles of the working class, he took part in a project with history professor Rosemary Feurer to create an interactive map tracking the history of labor strife throughout Illinois’ coal mines.
The work struck a chord within him, and Jason plans to continue taking up the causes of labor and union issues. He graduated with a bachelor of science in history and he has been accepted to law school. Read more about Jason.