How I love NIU… Let me count the ways!

During the week of February 9th, NIU will be celebrating a whole week of “I ❤ NIU”. I ❤ NIU is sponsored by the Alumni Association, but the Northern Light Ambassadors (NLA’s) will be helping staff the tables during a special event on February 10th. These tables will have materials to make cards and thank you notes to faculty, alumni, staff, and peers. It is our hope, as NLA’s, that we will be able to spread the NIU love and pride. NIU has so much to offer students and this week is in celebration of all the NIU does for it’s students.

Personally, NIU has allowed me the opportunity to grow into a better person, student, and professional. Through The University Honors Program, research opportunities, studying abroad, and my connections with peers and faculty and staff– I have grown so much in my 3 and 1/2 years here. It’s incredible. I have programmed amazingly successful events, I have presented at national conferences, I am on a first name basis with our President, Dr. Doug Baker, (whoa!), I was able to go to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego for free, I have helped other students grow through my passion of outreach, I have meet amazing alumni, I have had the opportunity to work with bright and like-minded students, and most importantly, I have been able to make NIU’s future just a little bit brighter for future students. 

I can definitively say, that without NIU I would not be the well-rounded and accomplished person I am today. 


Safety and Fun… It’s possible!

The DeKalb and NIU community have a lot to offer as far as recreational and fun activities for students. My most favorite to explore is the downtown music scene. Otto’s and the House Cafe bring in awesome and well known artists! Most recently, I saw American English (a Beatles coverband) at Otto’s! They were amazing, and were spot on– it was so real. They dressed up for the different decades and the different styles the Beatles went through, and they preformed amazingly. I also recently saw Minus the Bear, and indie experimental band, at Otto’s. I’ve seen this band in Chicago! How they found their way to DeKalb, I have yet to learn.

Besides the music scene that downtown DeKalb offers, I really enjoy Homecoming at NIU. This years Homecoming was even more awesome because my parents, and my friends parents came up and we had a tailgating spot! The food and company was awesome, but the Huskie Pride was even better! The game was also an easy win for our Mens Huskie Football team. 🙂

During Homecoming, there are so many people in DeKalb and Huskies need to be extra safe. The safety measure I most often suggest and rely on is staying in groups. There are safety in numbers! NIU’s new Police Chief, Tom Phillips, spoke to the other NLA’s and I at our last meeting, and he was an enormous source of information about the crime in DeKalb and NIU, and a great source of information about safety. Phillips informed us about all the initiatives he is taking on to insure student safety, because after all, that should be the top priority for a community– safety facilitates better successes, more happiness, better collaboration, and insures that everyone is in the best environment to be productive beings in society. Phillips taught us that despite the rumors about NIU, that NIU and DeKalb are safe places to be. We have no more crime than any other college campus. Phillips also informed us about the growing collaboration with the DeKalb police, which, I think, is a very important relationship to build. Phillips also informed us that the NIU PD just extended its borders to include Greek Row– where most of the crime that is happening at NIU happens.

It is clear to me that great things are happening for NIU, and I am happy to be a part of it. Phillips reassures me that the safety of students is being addressed efficiently and effectively, and that he wants students to have fun, but to also be safe. Fun and safety do go hand in hand!

Special Opportunity: University Honors Summer Scholar

During the end of my junior year, I was awarded the great opportunity to be a University Honors Summer Scholar. This program is run through NIU’s Honors Program, and provides students with a stipend during the summer to get ahead on their senior capstone project, and to really dig into their research and to create an outstanding thesis. For Summer Scholars, I was able to help frame a topic around a primary interest of mine, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), with the help of my faculty mentor from the department of public health, Dr. Lucy Bilaver. We are primarily looking at the facilitators and barriers to effective services for children with ASD.

Here is some background knowledge on my passion for people with ASD and the disorder in general:

The reason I chose to research within the realm of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is primarily because I grew up with three relatives that are also diagnosed on the spectrum. Growing up with people with a disability like ASD is truly eye opening. You naturally learn to be an advocate and you learn to adapt to the way they think. I have two cousins, Cody and Jarred, who are on the Autism Spectrum, and my little sister, Michelle, is 13 years old and is also on the Autism Spectrum. My relationship with them, especially Michelle, has always guided me towards a career path in the medical field. I hope to be the best kind of professional, a professional who is passionate, diligent, and patient.  I aspire to be an occupational therapist (OT) because it unites all of my interests: ASD, people with disabilities, anatomy and physiology, and research. Not only does OT unite all of my interests, but it will allow me to work with a people that I am passionate about working with. My advocacy for people with disabilities will shine through in my professional work.


People with ASD have difficulty with verbal and nonverbal communication skills, social interactions, and they often adopt repetitive behaviors. ASD is a lifelong disability, it cannot be cured, but there are therapies and services that people with ASD can receive that help them to become an integral and involved part of society. In my research, I focus on these services, such as: occupational therapy, speech therapy, special education, developmental therapy, and behavioral therapy. The increase in the population of children diagnosed with ASD has been increasing rapidly since the 1990’s, and I think it is important to address this issue from a multidisciplinary perspective. My research interests are rooted deep, and I hope to continue to research ASD for the rest of my education and for the majority of my future career.

The beginning of the end!

Finally, it has come… Senior year! The semester has started off more hectic and busy as usual, but I think I am handling it quite well.

My classes are very tough this semester and will require a lot of dedication and studying time. I am taking Cellular Biology and the corresponding lab, General Physics and the corresponding lab, Language Development, and Introduction to Occupational Therapy (which I am really excited about and loving so far!). I am turning my Intro to OT class into my Honors class this semester, and my Honors project is to prepare a presentation on a specific OT technique or on a disability or disorder that is prevalent within the realm of OT. I am very excited to begin my research for this presentation. 

 As far as this semester goes, I am really excited about all the events and opportunities I will have to network with Alumni and Faculty and Staff. Attending events where networking like this occurs, is always so much fun for me. For example, last night, some of the NLA’s and I attended a focus group last night that was brainstorming ideas for an Alumni Mentoring Program. The focus group separated the students and alumni at first in order to get ideas from both parties, and then in the end we collaborated and shared ideas. The focus group was extremely productive, and I left the event feeling accomplished and productive. I think the Alumni Mentoring Program is a great initiative, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. It is events like these that make me excited that I can contribute to the betterment of NIU event as an undergraduate student.

New to the Crew

My name is Lauren Nale and I am a senior pre-occupational therapy major at NIU. I am starting my first year as a Northern Lights Ambassador (NLA). Being a representative of the College of Health and Human Sciences and of Northern Illinois University as a whole is a privilege I am excited to take on. Besides being a NLA, I am extremely involved in the NIU community. I am also a University Honors Fellow for the second year in a row; I am working on my third year of research, this year as a University Honors Scholar; I am the Co-President for the Student Alumni Association for the second year in a row; I am also working at NIU’s Scholarship Office. As you can tell, I have my hands full, but I can truly say it has been worth all the hard work and dedication. My involvements have helped me to develop great skills, and have given me unique experiences. As I am now applying to graduate school for occupational therapy, these opportunities and involvements I have taken part in will surely make me stand out as a more committed and hardworking student.

However, when I have time to breath– I like to cook, read, and craft. I am originally from New Lenox, IL, but have been a resided in DeKalb for the past few years. I also have three sisters, one of which is starting her freshman year as a pre-nursing student at NIU tomorrow! I couldn’t be more excited for her to be a Huskie, and I know she’ll be an engaged and involved student as well.

I chose NIU originally because of the Nursing Program. I wanted to go to a public university in Illinois, and NIU’s Nursing Program was the best. However, before actually coming to NIU, I decided nursing wasn’t for me. After some experiences shadowing, I found occupational therapy. I had already decided on NIU and was falling in love with it, and NIU had an OT emphasis in the Rehabilitation Services Department, so I decided to stay! It is the right distance from home for now, and it is also relatively inexpensive. NIU is also a research based institution, and for a student going into the medical field, like myself, research is almost essential.

After being involved all over campus for 3 years, I decided to apply to become a NLA. I had friends who were NLA’s and I knew the program had to be great because it was based in the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning (OSEEL). I thought that my involvement and experiences on campus could contribute to the NLA purpose of being a student representative. After finding out that I was selected to be in the 2013-2014 cohort of NLA’s, I was definitely most excited about meeting alumni and sharing my experiences to potential students. I was even able to be in the Alumni/Foundation committee, like I hoped to be.

In less than 30 words, my most influential experience at NIU has been joining the University Honors Program. University Honors opens doors of opportunities to students, and I have been able to have unique experiences and have built up essential skills for research and for graduate school.

So excited to be an NLA and to be a senior!

Go Huskies!