NMU Alumna Talks Overcoming Feelings of Self-Doubt
Written by Sarah Santiago, Class of 2012 Alumna and Owner and Licensed Mental Health TherapistRead now
There were so many resources on campus that introduced me to, and allowed me to connect with my mentors. It started with getting involved in my house and hall along with getting an on-campus job. I received support from my professors and my academic advisor who eventually encouraged me to apply to become an RA and an Orientation Staff Assistant. The CSE helped me to get involved in many student organizations, SLFP, and Superior Edge; all of which introduced me to more campus leaders who had a lasting impact on me.
I also felt the support from various campus resources. Offices such as The Dean of Students, Career Services, The NMU Police Department, and Financial Aid are staffed with caring professionals who provided me with guidance and support throughout my journey as a student. Since my graduation, NMU has continued to expand its support for students by adding resources such as the NMU Food Pantry, and services for first-generation Wildcats.
As many as 82% of adults report feeling undeserving of their accomplishments in life and feel like frauds. How can we overcome these thoughts to focus on our goals?
From my own experience of learning to push through feelings of self-doubt, I became very interested in helping others do the same. In my work as a licensed mental health therapist, I became familiar with a common experience known as impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is the term utilized to describe the feeling that we are unworthy of our accomplishments and that in only a matter of time we will be exposed as a fraud who “got lucky” or continued to “sneak by” in life. This feeling causes fear, shame, stress, worry, perfectionistic behaviors, and may even prevent some of us from taking necessary steps toward our goals.
Many of us who experience impostor syndrome convince ourselves that if we just learn a little more or accomplish one more thing, we will finally feel like “enough” and no longer be a fraud. However, impostor syndrome will continue to discredit our accomplishments and follow us throughout life. Each time we approach a new opportunity or a new goal, impostor syndrome can pop up again, trying to convince us that we still aren't enough despite all we have accomplished.
Here are a few steps to work through our impostor syndrome:
Take time to familiarize yourself with its characteristics: The first step to working through our impostor syndrome is to take the time to familiarize ourselves with the characteristics of this syndrome before it is able to convince us of its lies. Our impostor syndrome will repeat the same messages throughout our lives, so by identifying what our impostor syndrome thoughts are, we can recognize them for what they are and implement tools to help us push beyond those negative thoughts.
Write down what our impostor syndrome is telling us: Impostor syndrome thoughts are irrational and often hold no factual evidence to support their claims. By taking some time to write down what our impostor syndrome is telling us, we can, then, identify evidence to disprove its claims. For example, a common impostor syndrome thought is that we are not intelligent. Evidence on our list to disprove this claim might include such things as graduating from high school, earning a GED, passing a recent test or exam, finishing a book, learning a new skill or hobby, getting positive feedback on an assignment, helping someone else think through a problem, passing a class, etc.
Admit and share the fear and thoughts to members of our support system: The feeling that we are a fraud can lead us to feel like we need to work endlessly harder to ensure that we don’t get exposed as that fraud. This fear can cause us to feel isolated and ashamed. Admitting this fear and these thoughts to members of our support system is another powerful way to work through this syndrome. Our mentors will be able to help us identify evidence to disprove our impostor syndrome thoughts, and it is very possible that our friends and colleagues may reveal that they, too, experience similar thoughts about themselves. This shared experience may then help decrease our feelings of isolation and foster a sense of connectedness. An additional benefit of sharing our thoughts of being a fraud is that it will decrease the looming feeling that we are about to be “exposed,” since we are already exposing ourselves! It’s a wonderful way to regain our power over those thoughts.
Recognize that we worry the most about things that really matter to us: When impostor syndrome shows up in our lives, we should remember that whatever is causing these thoughts is something important to us. Impostor syndrome is, in fact, a sign that we are on the right track toward accomplishing our goals in life. So, let’s remember that whatever our impostor syndrome tries to tell us, we ARE worthy of chasing our dreams and achieving our goals, and the amazing mentors and resources at NMU are ready to help you on your journey!
Transferring to NMU: My Journey to Find Where I Belong
Written by Jessica-Ann Woodard, Public Relations major from Croswell, MichiganRead now
I had no real idea of what I wanted to do when I grew up. I knew I wanted to go to college, but where? What would I study and would I be able to get a job with my degree? My path from high school to Northern Michigan University was not a straight line. I tried community college, I tried another university, and I finally ended up at the place where I truly feel a sense of belonging.
Hi, I'm Jessica-Ann Woodard (but I usually go by Jess.) Like many students, I transferred to Northern in the fall of 2021. But before that, I went to two different colleges - St. Clair County Community College and Michigan Technological University (MTU).
As a first-generation college student, I went to a community college after graduating high school. During my two years there, I earned my associate’s degree in marketing and I truly enjoyed my classes and my professors. The best part was that it was close to my hometown so I still got to see my family every weekend. My experience and coursework there solidified my passion for marketing and creativity. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic ruined my graduation ceremony, I knew I wasn’t done with college. I didn’t feel like I had learned enough to become a real-world working adult yet. I wanted to transfer to earn my bachelor’s degree but in what discipline? Where would I go? Where could I afford to go? And when I was finally able to narrow it down, was campus life going to be engaging or boring? How far away from home was I willing to go? All of these questions ran through my head all summer long.
Nearing the end of my associate degree program, I applied to a bunch of different colleges in Michigan and I finally chose to go 9 hours away from home - Michigan Tech - where I would study business management... probably not what you thought I was going to say, right? Well, I thought, “Hey, I can become a marketing manager someday, that’ll be fun!” Well, as it turns out, Tech is a STEM-centered school and I am not a STEM girl. Not at all! I am much more of a liberal arts and creative girl.
My professors at Michigan Tech were wonderful but I just didn’t feel like I fit in there. MTU just wasn’t where I was meant to be.
After a year of online classes at MTU, I found myself constantly looking at NMU’s Instagram account and looking at what others were posting about Northern. I was so envious of the student experiences, activities, and I was jealous that these students actually got to live in the beautiful town of Marquette. I remember thinking to myself, “I need to be there and I need to do that.” So I re-applied and was accepted again! Social media isn’t always what it seems but for NMU, their photos are just as good as it is in-person. The views are breathtaking and the atmosphere here is always positive.
I decided to transfer here with just one month until the start of the fall 2021 semester. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to experience NMU for myself. I knew since my high school yearbook class that I wanted to go into the business field but I wanted to do something creative with it. Initially, I thought I would continue my bachelor’s degree in business management until one day I found the public relations (PR) program and did some research on it. The coursework and job opportunities that come with a PR degree combine business with creativity, which was exactly what I was looking for. With the help of my amazing advisor, Miranda McShane, I was able to use most of the courses from my previous two colleges and apply them toward my PR major and general education credits. I had a belly full of butterflies and the typical first-day jitters but after sitting through Dr. Jes Thompson and Dr. Derek Hall’s lectures, I instantly felt at home and safe here.
This is where I belong. It took me a while to get here but without having gone to St.Clair Community College and Michigan Tech, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Literally, sitting in the Marketing and Communications office in Cohodas Hall, writing my personal story for the NMU Blog!
I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get to where you're going or achieve your goals, it just matters that you get there and achieve them. For me, my goal is to be able to get a degree and work in a career field that I will be happy in. NMU is helping me achieve those goals. Every day my goals are evolving and I am thankful to have taken a leap of faith and transferred to NMU. During my short time here so far, I have taken advantage of the job opportunities that have presented themselves to me and I have made amazing network connections both in-person and online.
Switching Your Major: It's Not As Scary As You Think
Written by Mia Hickey, Public Relations major from Milwaukee, WisconsinRead now
Coming into NMU as a freshman, I thought I knew what I wanted to study. But what happens when you start to question if what you are studying is right for you? Switching my major was the best decision I have made, and I am a much happier and involved student because of it.
Hello! My name is Mia Hickey, and I am a junior here at NMU. I am studying Public Relations and minoring in Environmental Studies. However, that was not always the case. Here is my personal experience with changing my major, and how it’s not as scary as you think.
From my freshman year to the start of my sophomore year, I was an Environmental Science major. I have always had a passion for the environment, and the outdoors, as most NMU students do. So, I thought it would be a good idea to major in it. First semester of my sophomore year, I was getting into the nitty-gritty of my science courses. I was taking BI112 and CH111, along with a math course as well. Not only did I soon realize these classes were difficult, but I also realized I just was not as passionate about studying them as I thought. I was in a BI112 group chat where everyone was geeking out about what we were studying, but I soon realized I just did not have the passion to become a scientist. While I was doing pretty well in my courses, difficult classes can be hard to succeed in when you don’t absolutely love what you are learning.
I worried that if I made a change in my major, people would think I was changing because I “wasn’t smart enough” to be in science. And frankly, I was proud to be a girl in a STEM field.
Unfortunately, I was exposed to COVID-19 during my first week of sophomore year, and had to quarantine in Spalding Hall for 14 days. While as many can imagine, that was not the best way to start out my year. But, it definitely gave me quite a bit of time to think about my academic career and interests. After a crying session or two, and a phone call with my parents, I realized it was time to switch my major. I had to leave behind what others would think of me, and focus on what I thought was best for myself. And I honestly felt relieved- which was a good sign. I do want to add that the Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences (EEGS) program at NMU is extremely loving and supportive, and changing my major had nothing to do with the program itself, just my interests lying elsewhere. So, I knew what I DID NOT want to do, but now I had to figure out what I DID want to do.
This is when I thought about all of the things in my life that did interest me, and I realized I was involved in a lot that had nothing to do with science! In high school I had a YouTube channel, spoke and sang in front of my church, and volunteered. At NMU, I had done a Snapchat takeover, and had just started a new job at the NMU Campus Visit Office. I love NMU, and was really intrigued with ways I could show off my school. Many of my coworkers there are Public Relations majors, and talking with them about my interests helped me realize I could be interested in it as well. So, I set up a meeting with Jes Thompson, a professor in the program, and she was extremely helpful. She helped me realize that my interest in promoting the University, and talking to others, were all PR related. One of my coworkers also invited me to an NMU Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) meeting on campus. After talking with Jes Thompson, going to that meeting, and evaluating my interests, I knew PR was the right field for me.
One year later, I am more involved than I ever have been. And that is because I have found something I am truly passionate about. I am the VP of Public Relations and Social Media for PRSSA, the Social Media Coordinator for NMU Mind Your Health, and I still work as a Campus Visit Assistant in the Admissions Office. I have also just started the Student Leader Fellowship Program. I have a Social Media and Marketing internship this semester at Superior Healing Initiative, a local nonprofit started by an NMU graduate.
While I realized science was not my main passion, I do still care deeply about the environment and what we can do to protect it. I hope my career in the future can involve environmental PR. This still will allow me to use my voice for environmental protection, in a way that fits me best.
My biggest piece of advice is to follow your gut. If something about your college experience does not feel right to you, then change it! Whether that’s your major, your part-time job, or the people you surround yourself with, it's better to make the change now than to wonder “what if?” NMU has a wonderful Academic and Career Advisement Center as well who can help you aid in that transition.
The Question I Got Asked At Every Job Interview
By Dr. Fabiana Sofia Perera, NMU Alumna '05 from Caracas, VenezuelaRead now
I have four degrees from three different schools, one of which grants me the right and privilege to be addressed as “Dr. Perera”, yet every time I have ever interviewed for a job the first question I get asked is “Northern Michigan University, huh?” or sometimes the more elegant “what drew you to Northern Michigan University?” with a heavy emphasis on “Northern.” I smile every time at the memory of landing in Marquette just after midnight on a January night.
I transferred to NMU from Caracas, Venezuela. At the time of application, I had lived almost my entire life in the South American country. I didn’t have SAT scores and didn’t need a student visa because I’m a U.S. citizen. My application was not typical, but at NMU Mr. John Weting, then Director of International Student Services, for some reason took an interest in me. He saw my application through and met me at the airport when I arrived that very cold night. I also applied to Michigan State University and am still waiting to find out if I was accepted.
Marquette, Michigan does not resemble Caracas, Venezuela in any way whatsoever. For starters, in Venezuela there is no winter. I stood out against the snowy campus and was constantly fielding questions about where I had come from while listening patiently as people pointed to their hand to explain where they’re from. Negaunee. Sault Ste. Marie (Zoo Saint Marie?). Traverse City. Outside of Detroit. Sometimes Detroit. Illinois. Wisconsin. All these places were as foreign to me as Caracas was to them.
Over the two years I spent at NMU I learned where all those places are. I also learned how to adapt to limited daylight, how to dress for cold weather, how to snowshoe, what a power play means in hockey, and that the Upper Peninsula is better than the Lower Peninsula, no question. I also learned how to adapt to and succeed in new environments. By the end of my time at NMU had worked in the residence halls, written for The North Wind, served on ASNMU, traveled to Arizona and Washington, D.C., and interned in upstate New York.
Years after I graduated I visited campus on Homecoming Weekend and saw some posters that appeared geared at attracting new faculty. It showed an adult against a snowy backdrop and underneath it said “Fearless in the Face of Adversity.” I think about that poster all the time because that’s what NMU taught me about myself: I am fearless in the face of a new place, a new language, and some of the harshest weather in the country. I am fearless in the face of adversity. This is what my NMU degree says about me when I apply to jobs: not that I have an undergraduate degree in Public Relations or a minor in History (trust me, that never comes up) but that I am fearless.
I talk to high school and college students all the time because I enjoy mentoring and feel that I have much to give back. Without fail I urge them to consider NMU, and (so far also without fail) they balk. “It’s so far.” “It’s so cold.” Both are true, but it is also true that it’s an affordable place to get a good education, and the remoteness and harsh weather will be a great conversation starter for years to come. If you’re already at NMU- good for you! Get out. Find opportunities to study abroad or to intern out of state. Having experience working and collaborating with people from different backgrounds is critical to be successful in many fields today.
The first week I was at NMU I walked to the Wildcat Den to buy dinner because the other places were closed. On my way back to Hunt Hall I got lost because while I had looked at campus pictures and maps for hours, few of them depicted the campus in its natural state- covered in snow. One person approached me and told me I was walking in the middle of the road. I explained that I was lost. “Where did you come from?” he asked because Midwesterners are nothing if not nice. “Venezuela,” I said. “Hmmm… no, I mean now?” “Oh. Hunt Hall.” With the help of someone I just met (and never saw again) I made it back and then through hard work, the unconditional support of my parents and family, and of John Weting I made it through NMU and earned my undergraduate degree. I also earned the right to look down on people that complain about the cold when it’s over 32F outside. The end.
3 Questions To Ask Your Campus Tour Guide
By Brianna Sartin, Marketing major from Marlette, MichiganRead now
Visiting a college campus is one of the best indicators to help you find your home away from home. Here are three simple questions you can ask during your visit to ensure you’ve truly found the college for you.
Hey, I’m Bri! I am a current student and Campus Visit Assistant here at Northern Michigan University. My job is to show prospective students around campus and field any questions they may have along the way. I’m here to make your college search experience just a little bit easier!
Growing up, college was not a topic of conversation at my house. As a first-generation student, I truly fumbled through the college admissions process. One of my biggest regrets was never taking a formal tour of Northern Michigan University. Flash forward to 2021 and I have now taken thousands of students on tours of NMU’s beautiful campus and I’d like to think that I know the in’s and the out’s of the institution. Campus tour guides are truly a resource, and if you ask the right questions you too can learn the in’s and out’s of NMU!
The first thing you need to know about taking a campus tour is that you should introduce yourself. It might seem silly but I promise you, the more information your tour guide knows about you, the better the outcome. Some information you might convey to your guide is your name, hometown, expected area of study, what you like to do in your free time, and any other important information about what makes you, you. If I were to go back in time and take a tour of NMU, this is what I would say:
“Hi, my name is Brianna and I’m from Marlette, Michigan. Marlette is a tiny town in the Lower Peninsula with more cows than people! My hope is to major in Marketing and minor in Communication Studies. I’m truly a busy body and I hope to get involved on campus as soon as I get my bearings. Outside of class, my favorite thing to do is spend time outside or hang out with friends.”
Once your guide knows a little more about you, they will be sure to point out specific buildings, student organizations, staff offices, or any other pivotal information that might apply to you.
Now, the most important part of a campus tour is to remember to ask questions. During a standard campus visit, guides should answer textbook questions like class size, how to find a roommate, parking passes, on-campus resources, and much more. However, 9 times out of 10, that information is already available on the website, so how do you get to know the parts of campus that can’t be easily described through a statistic? That’s what I’m here to tell you!
Question #1: What is one thing you wish you would’ve known about college before you came here?
This is a great way to learn all of the pro-tips of the university that you're touring. If you have a great tour guide they might tell you that you do not need that Keurig K-Cafe, the dining hall has free coffee that is just as good! They might also tell you that joining an on-campus organization that interests you is the fastest way to make like-minded friends. Or, they might tell you that the basketball games are the most fun games to be at and that you won’t want to miss out on them! If I was posed this question on tour, I would be sure to tell my students this:
“NMU is absolutely teeming with opportunity. If you are a student with drive and a vested interest in a specific subject, speak up about it. Because we are a relatively small campus, opportunities for students to lead, explore, and gain a greater understanding of what interests them are abundant and you will meet so many amazing people along the way.”
Question #2: What do you do when you are not in class?
This question is very telling, so pay attention! If your tour guide laughs at this question, that probably means that there is so much to do on and off campus that they are struggling to pick just a few activities to share. However, if your guide is grappling at this question, it might be time to start investigating the campus a little bit more. Some great follow up questions to this would include:
Do things change once you move off-campus?
Where do I find out what events are happening on campus?
Do most students go home on the weekends?
What percentage of students live on-campus?
If you have a phenomenal tour guide, these questions might even be answered by their response to the initial question. However, if you feel like you still don’t have a great understanding of student-life on campus, feel free to follow up with your guide about areas that are still unclear to you.
Question #3: What kind of programs are in place to ensure student success at this university?
Let’s not forget why college is SUCH an important decision, for the education! Guides can rattle off student-to-faculty ratios, after-graduation placement rates, average class size and so on but the easiest way to find out what programs are going to benefit you in your individual journey, is to ask for the specifics. For example:
Does this university have tutors for a wide range of majors?
How accessible are these tutors? Is this service free?
How do office hours work for the university?
When I get this question on tour I am sure to let me student know these key bits of information:
NMU offers free tutoring for all students, full-time or part-time, in the Learning Resource Center (LRC) which is located on the bottom floor of Harden Hall. In the LRC you will find both the writing and tutoring center where there are tutors for a wide range of subjects. My favorite part about the LRC is that the students that work there have gotten a B+ or higher in the class that they are tutoring for and they have also received professor recommendations. This is a great service because those students have sat in the same class as you! They know the frustrations you may be having and they are typically just a bit more relatable than your professor may be. Additionally, the Student Success Center (located in The Woods Residence Halls) also provides academic support within the comfort of your own residence hall.
Office hours are also readily available if you have more broad or overarching questions about the course you’re taking or the class structure itself. Your professor's office hours procedures will be outlined in their syllabus which will be distributed during the first week of class. Additionally, if you need help with success outside of the classroom, Career Services is located in the C.B. Hedgecock Building. Career Services can help you find a job that works for you, edit your resume and cover letter, and they even offer the ‘Career Closet’ which provides a business formal outfit of your choosing for when you land that interview!
At the end of the day, student success should be at the forefront of everyone at the University’s mind, so this is truly a loaded question.
Touring colleges can be intimidating and overwhelming so it’s important to remember why you are there. Find the aspects of college that are most important to you and then seek them out! Remember, your guide is a resource so ask questions no matter how big or small. There really is a home away from home out there for everybody, so whatever institution you end up choosing, I hope this helps!
Learning From My Successes and Stumbles At NMU
By Brady C. Rudh, Fisheries and Wildlife Management major from Cottage Grove, MinnesotaRead now
Ever since elementary school, I had been looking forward to going to college. The freedom to study what one desires, the ability to learn essentially anything, and the independence created by living away from what was familiar were all wonderful aspirations for me. Despite this early focus, I still found myself making many blunders upon my arrival to campus. However, occasionally I have found successes from unexpected sources.
Join me for the next few moments as we take a brief dive into those successes and failures. While you personally may not ever find yourself in some of these situations, perhaps you can either find some solace in the knowledge that you never tried to ride a moped through a hailstorm, or some inspiration in events that transitioned from dismay to delight.
Before I attended NMU, I was actually fully set on going to a different school. After visiting NMU during the Presidential Scholarship Competition (which I highly recommend for incoming students), I suddenly changed my mind as I realized that NMU was a better fit for me. As I continued through the college preparation process I came to realize that having tunnel vision, while useful for staying focused on goals, can be detrimental in the long run as one becomes blinded to other possibilities. Generally, I was extremely thankful that I pushed myself quite hard in high school because it made the transition to college that much easier, yet I regret not taking as much time as I could have for recreation.
Upon my arrival on campus, I was determined to leverage those lessons learned in high school. I attended Fall Fest and browsed about on the NMU website for clubs of interest. To my welcome surprise, I found more interesting clubs than time would allow. I eventually settled on temporarily joining Campus Cinema, the NMU Conservation Crew, NMU College Democrats, Rollerblading Club, and the NMU Fisheries and Wildlife Association. Over time, I determined the groups in which I desired to become more active, and dropped others accordingly. Later that semester, I became an officer for the NMU Conservation Crew, which is a position that I still hold today (definitely check out our website, Instagram, and page on The Hub. We are a really cool group of people!). Lastly, I was awarded a Freshman Fellowship during this semester in which I was paired with Dr. Gerig. His interests align closely with mine regarding fisheries science, so I ended up securing a position in his lab following my initial work with him as a freshman.
Before my first winter semester at NMU started, I spent much of my winter break applying for summer internships. I discovered that many, specifically those related to ecology, become available in late November and require a significant time commitment in the application process. As a result, I found myself writing quite a bit during the holiday season. The biggest struggle that I had during this winter semester was related to my transportation. In the fall semester, I brought a hybrid bicycle as my main method of transport. While this was fantastic during the fall, I found that it didn’t work so well in winter (much to my surprise, studded tires could not compete with Marquette's snowfall). So I began to look for other ways to enjoy the outdoors in winter. Through NMU, I was able to rent cross-country skis and enjoy all that the Noquemanon Trail Network had to offer in winter.
If you have also grown up in the Midwest, you likely are familiar with the fact that spring isn’t real. Winter simply ceases to exist one day as the temperatures warm to 80°F. The snow melts, and summer begins. So it was in 2020 when, as the school year was drawing to a close, I had generally been receiving only denials for the REU (Research Opportunity for Undergraduates) summer programs for which I had applied. Later, I found that this was an expected result as they are extremely selective internships. Not letting that get me down, I reached out to an ecologist at the Minnesotan engineering and consulting firm WSB who I had been in contact with for a few months. He offered me a position and I gladly accepted. Overall, I am grateful that I was driven to continue searching for jobs in the wake of multiple rejections.
Remembering my transportation issues from the previous year, I decided to purchase a vehicle before school started in August. Once again playing it cheap, but also because it sounded fun, I decided to purchase a moped (much to my mom’s chagrin). For most of the fall semester, I thoroughly enjoyed having this vehicle on campus because it gave me access to more recreation than I had previously without the costs of owning a car. However, as the semester went on I began to notice two major downsides with the moped. Firstly, I was completely exposed to the elements. I did not think of that as a significant problem until I found myself caught in a hailstorm, which bombarded my exposed knees (thankfully I always rode with a helmet!). Secondly, in October I found myself in a fantastic relationship with someone I met on the night of the hailstorm incident. While we enjoyed riding on the moped together, the limited space on the moped meant that we were quite restricted in what we could bring when we went about adventuring. Still, I did not let that dampen my spirits and we thoroughly enjoyed the moped for the remainder of the semester.
This semester was not so tranquil. I took far more difficult classes, and often was flooded in homework as a result. As with the previous year, I spent much of winter break constructing applications for summer job opportunities. Looking back, my biggest struggle this semester was not related to classes or Covid-19, but once again to my eagerness to cheaply transport myself. The moped simply did not function properly in the cold. It was a true obstacle to get the engine running, and once (perhaps the word “if” would be more applicable) the engine was started, it would often die in places such as roundabouts. As I am transcribing those events from memory, I now consider myself quite lucky to be alive. Despite my issues with transportation, public transit does exist in Marquette and is a viable alternative to a car for many people. In particular, I would recommend it for first year students as I wish that I would have taken advantage of that option. In fact, the only reason that I didn’t was that it was poorly advertised. All in all, this semester was difficult, chaotic, and frightening on occasion, but that’s how life in general goes sometimes. I’m grateful that I also had some amazing moments that provided uncountable opportunities for growth and enlightenment.
We now have caught up to the present. My summer work is a continuation of the work that I began with Dr. Gerig as a Freshman Fellow. I am studying a method of identification of coaster brook trout and hoping to construct a scientific paper from the results. I thoroughly enjoy this work because, although field work is exciting, the reality is that the majority of my life will be writing and reading for research purposes. As I have had relatively little experience in that arena, I am thankful for the opportunity to develop those skills outside of the conventional school year. I also have the possibility of participating in field work when the occasion arises. Additionally, I have had time to practice developing laboratory procedures; another ability that will certainly be useful throughout my career. As the pandemic begins to wind down following the vaccination distribution, I look forward to the opportunities and prepare for the challenges that the next semester will bring.
Ambition generally has a negative connotation. While in some cases this is undeniably justified, I believe that in other instances ambition can be quite positive. Ambition and passion for my field of interest have driven me for many years to be the best person that I can while allowing me to stay on track to achieve my goals. If I continue striving to propel myself forward, I succeed. However, when this drive to complete tasks interferes with other aspects of my life such as family and mental health, then ambition begins to embody the ideas behind its negative connotations. Learning to balance the urge for achievement with time for convalescence is absolutely necessary to keep one on the path to balanced success. Allow ambition in the positive sense to guide you.
It's OK Not To Know - Thinking Beyond Your Major
By Alicia McCauley, '08 Alumna and current Press Secretary at the NYC Commission on Human Rights from Marinette, WIRead now
Entering college undeclared - or, let's be honest, entering junior year undeclared - can be stressful, but it is also an opportunity to find your calling. I hope to assure you, whether you're a current, undeclared, graduated, or otherwise questioning student, that your education will take you farther than what your major says, in so many ways.
I'm Alicia McCauley, an NMU Class of 2008 graduate turned Press Secretary at the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and this is my story on how my time at Northern helped shape my career path.
Some students enter college knowing exactly what they want to do and enroll in a major that will train them in how to do it. Others, like me, dip their toes into a lot of different things and don't declare their majors until, say, the second semester of junior year. I graduated from Northern 13 years ago maxed out on credits and facing the Great Recession, unsure of where my place was in the big wide world. Just like with my major, I dipped my toes into several careers: politics, nonprofits, filmmaking, and advertising. Today, I am the Press Secretary at the New York City Commission on Human Rights, working with top national and international journalists to advance human rights for New Yorkers and beyond.
When I first matriculated to NMU, the pantheon of courses available to me was overwhelming – I wanted to take them all! I had option paralysis, and, having no idea what I wanted from life at the tender age of 18, choosing a major felt too constrictive for me. I joined NMU as a member of the Honors Program which provided me a light framework of courses I had to take to graduate with full honors, yet still allowed me to try out different areas of study. Keeping things general let me take courses in all sorts of fields that piqued my interest.
I learned that I loved learning, and ventured to learn as much as I could about everything I could, including Astronomy, Karate, Portuguese, Communications, Philosophy of Religion, and about 20 other very disparate courses. I studied abroad in Argentina. I presented undergraduate research at an international language conference. I joined a burlesque troupe. At one point I received a letter from the college asking me to please graduate, as I was nearing my maximum amount of credits.
Thankfully at that point, I assessed the whole of what I studied and found that I could, with a few final credits, leave NMU with a double major in International Studies and Spanish. One more course and I could have achieved a minor in Philosophy, but that would have required an additional semester (and would probably have made me insufferable at dinner parties). During the years I studied undeclared I learned that establishing relationships with your professors is key – whether looking for career guidance or finding unique opportunities at school – and to lean on those relationships for support as you experience self-discovery through learning. I am still in touch with many of my professors today and consider them trusted mentors.
Were it not for my complete unwillingness to choose a major before I was ready, I may not have had the opportunity to meet my incredible mentors, to study things that changed the way I perceived the world, or to uncover passions I didn’t know I had (looking at you Astronomy).
Unwittingly, or perhaps subconsciously, I take a similar approach to my career. My majors gave me a wide berth to try a lot of different career paths, each having its pros and cons, but each sharpening and strengthening another skill. Just like trying out different studies in school, I take the learnings from one industry and put them to use in another. My position in communications now has utilized experience from every past job I ever had.
The takeaway is that college is a time to figure out who you are, and how to be that person out in the world. Whether that means a nursing degree with a minor in hospitality management, or biology and theater double major, or a cybersecurity and literature degree, you have the rest of your life to determine how to shape your career. You will face external pressures to choose a major and a career from family, social groups, and others, but they don’t have to live your life, you do. Of course, there are very real economic factors to consider once you are on your own, but remaining open to opportunity and following your heart will lead you to your passions. That, above all, will help you find career success, and most importantly, peace of mind.
3 Ways Career Services Gives You An Extreme Advantage
By Grant Langdon, '10 Alumnus and current Asst. Director of Career Services from Edgar, WisconsinRead now
It took me six years to graduate and I didn’t get any job I applied for when I was graduating. Looking back, there is one free service that could have helped me graduate earlier, grow my confidence, and dramatically improve the likelihood of getting the job I applied for at graduation.
This is a human story of loss, failure, and luck. My name is Grant Langdon and I came to NMU feeling pressured to choose a major because being undeclared felt like a failure. I didn’t know at the time being undeclared notifies NMU that you need help finding the correct major for you. I also didn’t realize that there was a whole department specifically designed to help me figure out what I wanted to do with my life! Instead, I wasted the first two years of my college career taking classes, doing poorly and eventually changing my major.
After another year in two different majors, I still hadn’t found what felt right for me. I considered being a teacher because I have always loved sharing my passions, but there was a GPA requirement to enter the education program and I, unfortunately, had poor grades. I started to feel discouraged. I was realizing that by wasting time in majors I didn’t feel passionate about, and thus not putting forth my full effort, I had ruined my chances to pursue my passion for teaching. It got worse. My poor GPA and degree progression also disqualified me from government loans, so I turned to my local bank and had to borrow at a higher interest rate, piling on my student loan debt.
Thankfully, I had made friends while living on campus. Living in Magers Hall treated me well. The staff were incredibly friendly and asked me to join in on conversations about making the community better. As I became involved in the hall, working on creating a community where everyone could belong, I started to feel the passion that teaching had always given me. I could make a difference in the world through these interactions. I had found purpose and hope again.
One late night, I was talking to my coworker at the Magers/Meyland front desk. She was in the Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management program. She shared what she had been learning in her leadership development and pedagogy/teaching classes. Something lit up inside of me, I knew these classes were what I needed. I switched my major the next day and started down a path that fit me better than anything. I was learning how to help people and make a difference through recreation.
My luck was changing. The leadership concepts I learned in class were directly applicable to my favorite student job, resident adviser (RA). That job (really more of a lifestyle) was the single most important contributor to the rest of my life. I attribute everything I have to NMU’s Housing and Residence Life program.
As I was preparing to graduate, I knew I wanted to continue making a difference in people’s lives. I applied to various universities’ Housing and Residence Life departments and interviewed with many. I even got a couple of second interviews over the phone during my final semester. I felt hopeful, but unfortunately, there was no job for me as I was finishing my last semester at NMU. Looking back, I wish I had known about the practice interviews that Career Services provides. Maybe I could have had a better chance at landing any of the jobs I had applied for.
It was all for the best, however, because the next steps of my college experience set me up for everything that I am grateful for in my life now. First, I needed to complete a 400-hour internship for my Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management major. I asked the Housing and Residence Life office if they needed any help for the summer and luckily, they did. During that internship, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and work with everyone in the department on various projects and it really opened my eyes to the depth of study that exists around universities and higher education - what I would later be getting my master's degree in.
As the internship was coming to a close, I was becoming nervous. I still had no job, and crushing student loan debt waited for me, patiently building up interest. Fortunately, the internship birthed an unexpected opportunity. A last-minute job in Housing and Residence Life opened up and I was lucky enough to be there, ready for it. Internships man, they can change your life. The job I got from my internship allowed me to pay my debt while making a difference.
It was mostly luck that landed me that job, but luck can also be defined as an opportunity met with hard work and good relationships. I wouldn’t have gotten my job opportunity if it hadn’t been for my network. This network included creating a good relationship with the Assistant Director of Housing when I was a RA, which made me feel emboldened to ask for my internship in the first place. Networking sometimes gets a bad rep for being disingenuous. The truth is, you never know who will become a helpful person in your life or how you can be helpful to them. By being a good and hardworking person who takes the time to get to know and be curious of those around you, people will want to help you and opportunities will follow.
I got lucky and eventually landed my post-baccalaureate job, but there could have been a clearer path for me if I had known the resources that Career Services offered and still offers. The following are all services Career Services offers that could have given me an extreme advantage when I was in my undergrad.
CliftonStrengths Coaching - This is not just a personality test - CliftonStrengths is backed by decades of research and is saturated with applicability in looking for a major, a job, or improving your relationships and network along the way. If I had this knowledge my first or second year in college, it would have likely saved me at least a year of schooling (and student loan debt) because I would have had the confidence and self-awareness to know when I was not in the right major. Make an appointment with Career Services for CliftonStrengths Coaching now to get a clearer vision of your path forward.
Finding an Internship - Internships are only required by some majors but they are applicable for every degree. Internships have the ability to change your life for the better by helping you create a bigger network, giving you industry experience, and, quite frequently, a job after graduation. If your major doesn’t require an internship but you’re interested in giving yourself all these opportunities, Career Services staff can help you find an internship and will teach you how to write a resume and cover letter that will slay the competition! The templates you find on the internet will lead you astray, trust me. After a resume review with us, you will have a bomb resume perfectly tailored to you.
Connecting to Alumni - The best way to know what opportunities are available is by seeking out the people offering them. Join Switchboard to ask the tons of NMU alumni who are happy to offer all kinds of help. Additionally, talk to someone in Career Services and they can hook you up with an alumni mentor. That’s right, a successful NMU alumnus can teach you how they transitioned from your major to a career in the field and what it was like. This alone could have helped me cut a year off my undergraduate degree or could have connected me to an otherwise unknown opportunity.
Moral of the story? Don’t be like me. Just go to Career Services early in your time at NMU and get involved in your community while living on campus. If I would have done those two things right away my first semester, I could have saved tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, giving me the financial freedom to do whatever I wanted after graduation. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for my journey because it has made me realize how important Career Services is and now I get to live my dream of teaching others how to succeed, making a difference in students’ lives one meeting at a time. Hope to see you in the office soon. Thank you.
The Truth About Having A Roommate In College
By Megan Van Camp, Public Relations major from De Pere, WisconsinRead now
If you're anything like me and came to a school where you didn't know anyone, finding a roommate was a challenge... to say the least. One thing was for certain though, I knew once I found my roommate I would instantly have a best friend to do everything with (and that eased my mind.) But what I didn't expect to happen from this new friendship left me with a few regrets during my first few years at NMU.
I'm Megan and this is my truth about having a roommate in college.
When I was a freshman, I was beyond excited to finally meet new people outside of high school, and I was even more excited that my roommate (and suitemates) and I could possibly be lifelong friends. I was told by numerous counselors and other students that creating a close bond with the person you live with will make your years on campus so much fun. I was stoked at the thought of having an immediate friend!
For the few months before the semester began, I made sure to communicate with my roommate and suitemates frequently (via text, Snapchat, or pretty much whatever) so that we could learn about each other in advance of moving in. Eventually, my whole quad got together over the summer so that we could walk through what we needed and it gave us the chance to meet each other in person and get a sneak peek at all of our unique personalities. It was like we knew each other for years. We couldn’t wait to start this new college experience together, already thinking we were the best of friends.
When it was finally time to move into what we would call home for the next year, I absolutely couldn’t wait. I thought I had found exactly the most perfect person to room with and great suitemates on top of that.
Once on campus, we did everything together (just as we expected and had hoped to.) From eating every meal together to hiking and lounging, going to hockey games and doing nothing at all and everything in-between. While that sounds like a great idea and a wonderful way to build upon the relationships we had started prior to school, doing all of those things together prevented us from meeting other new people. We eventually got sick of each other. Sharing a room was losing its "fun" and it could definitely be awkward at times. We needed a break from each other but had a hard time getting one because we didn’t know anyone else. My point in sharing this is that we relied too much on each other. We didn’t spend enough time making other friends. We didn’t spend enough time doing things without each other.
If I'm being honest, I hated my freshman year because I never took the chance to meet anyone. I didn’t think I needed to because I had my roommate and suitemates. However, I soon realized that I needed to break out of my shyness shell a little bit more (and a little bit earlier.) I strongly encourage everyone to do the same and I promise you will have a much better and more enjoyable year because of it.
So, what can you learn from me? Step out of your comfort zone. No matter how hard it may seem, make the effort to talk to people other than your roommate/suitemates... people on your floor, in classes, in the laundry room, in the dining hall, in the Starbucks line. Join a group. Go to sporting events. Put yourself out there. The campus is literally full of people just like you who want to find and develop friendships! On a college campus filled with thousands of people, don’t feel obligated to do EVERYTHING with your roommate or suitemates. Take time to better yourself and explore the world of what a campus community is all about!
From Intimidated To Involved: How I Revolutionized My College Experience
By Mackenzie Meyer, Secondary Education major from Grand Rapids, MichiganRead now
My name is Mackenzie Meyer and I would like to think that I am well versed in the whole “getting involved” thing. I say this not because my road to being in several student organizations was easy, but because I trusted the process. I believed in the age-old idea that getting involved on campus will maximize your college experience and change your life. I write this blog, not to preach to you about personal involvement like the adults in my life did, but to give you evidence that sometimes parental proverbs can be right. This is my story on how I went from being afraid to put myself out there, to holding leadership roles in on-campus organizations.
Three years ago, I moved to Northern on a whim. I went to Wildcat Weekends and became enamored with the idea of living in Marquette. However, high school me shoved the idea of moving away from everything I had ever known to the back of her mind. My hometown, Grand Rapids, is six and a half hours away. I knew maybe five people on the entire campus when I arrived, one of which I happened to be suitemates with. Regardless of my close proximity to a childhood friend, I vowed to make my own connections, or at least try to. Initially, I turned to Housing and Residence Life to build a group of friends from, honestly, the ground up. Although I was successful in creating strong relationships in the residence halls, some of which turned out to be lifelong, I still felt isolated socially as I saw more and more people join various student organizations.
The idea of joining a student organization seemed unnecessarily daunting to my freshman self. The idea of being “new” to something was a foreign concept to a girl who had never been the “new kid” at any of her previous schools. I grew up with almost all of the classmates I graduated with and attending a meeting run by complete strangers scared me. I was scared of hypotheticals like, "What if they don’t like me?" Despite all the things I manifested to worry about, I entertained the idea of trying out for the club volleyball team after talking to my sociology lecture partner. Knowing that I had played volleyball since middle school, she kept telling me that I should just try out; there was seemingly nothing to lose except a $5 tryout fee. Within a few class periods, she convinced me to go to tryouts even though I figured I would get cut. Regardless of my apprehension, I showed up and had a good time. I even made the team.
Initially, I was timid around my teammates; I stood quietly on the sidelines of drills and avoided confrontation. My entire first semester on the team consisted of me becoming accustomed to a few big changes: a new team, teammates as coaches, and a different sense of a “home court.” As I adjusted, I was cautious around upperclassmen; seniors seemed so much older to me back when I first joined. In spite of my anxieties towards being on a coachless team of strangers, I grew to love my teammates. Weeks passed and I made one friend, and then two, then three. Before I realized it, I began looking forward to practice. Fast forward three years later, practices are now my favorite time of the week. Initially the shy freshman on the team, I soon became vice president and ultimately, the current president. I followed my passions and I know sometimes that can be intimidating, but, trust me, it’s worth the ride.
Over the course of the last year (2020) I saw a different side of Northern that, unfortunately, the underclassmen have only come to know. Pre-Covid at Northern was different. Jamrich Hall was filled with students, student organizations were bustling, Club Sports tryouts were filled with incoming freshmen, and the Berry Events Center was at capacity for almost every home hockey game. Covid lessened involvement for good reason, as the pandemic was a scary time for us all. However, as restrictions lessen, I want students to remember Northern’s roots. Utilize your resources (sometimes that can be the person you sit next to in sociology). Fortunately, Northern makes it easy to physically get involved on campus… even during a global pandemic. If you’re passionate about something, I’m sure you can find your tribe within one of the university’s current 214 student organizations. If NMU doesn’t have quite what you’re looking for, the Center for Student Enrichment makes it easy to make your own club instead.
A place like The Hub is a great place to start when looking for clubs to join. All 214 on-campus student organizations along with their contact information, mission statements, and website links are all found in one place. Not only does The Hub have information for all campus organizations, but it also provides a calendar of upcoming events. All campus-wide events can be found on this site including Homecoming events, academic colloquiums, keynote speakers, etc. Here you can register to attend an event as well as obtain descriptions, times, and dates of chosen events. Not only is The Hub an excellent resource to use for getting involved on campus, but I also recommend joining Superior Edge as well. During my exploratory freshman year, I joined Superior Edge without knowing much about it. Now, having completed all of the edges, I can tell you that it helped incentivize me to get involved. This program is nationally recognized, and at first I simply thought of it as a resume booster. Although Superior Edge successfully does that by listing all of your accomplishments in one place as well as categorizing them, it helps push you to do more independently. Through Superior Edge, I was able to slowly climb out of my comfort zone and felt supported while doing so. Getting involved doesn’t have to be incredibly strenuous. Sometimes all the resources you need to succeed are right under your nose, you just have to know how to use them.
I can say full-heartedly, Marquette has been an amazing place to grow as a person, athlete, friend, and leader. I know that the initial idea of getting involved on campus can prove to be unsettling as well as uncomfortable, but that’s also a part of life. All of the anxieties that I had before joining student organizations and trying out for the club volleyball team seem minuscule now. Currently approaching my senior year, I thank myself for my willingness to try new things. I thank myself especially for my willingness to step into the Vandament Arena three years ago for a tryout that I almost talked myself out of attending.
I paved my college experience as uniquely as you can pave your own. My story is similar to that of my peers because Northern has a curious way of supporting its students. If you want something, I firmly believe that NMU will stop at nothing to help you achieve whatever that something may be.
In conclusion, I’m thankful for the choices my freshman self made to get involved. I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the past three years, yet one of the biggest is that being welcoming goes a long way, at this university and in life. Sometimes I forget my freshman self, she seems like a stranger to me now. However, I was the embodiment of a shy girl who uprooted her life to come here. Getting involved may not be psychologically easy to do for some, and being apprehensive to switch up a routine is valid. Regardless of apprehension, involvement starts with the older generation of Wildcats. Involvement starts with people like my sociology partner. Don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow students, classmates, and neighbors; they might be your teammate one day. To all of my fellow Wildcats, I hope my story encourages you to try something new. I hope my story shows you that it’s okay to be scared, but breaking boundaries may be worth it in the long run. Your college experience is uniquely yours. Follow your passions and run into the unknown with fervor. Go ‘Cats!
Staying In Marquette For College Changed My Life
By Lauren Rotundo, BS in Public Relations '21 Alumna from Marquette, MichiganRead now
Hey, I'm Lauren! I’m originally from Marquette and decided to stay in my hometown to attend college. This is my story on how I got out of my comfort zone, got involved with the NMU community (not just with my high school friends), and ended up having a college experience I will never forget. Spoiler! Take all the opportunities given to you and make all of the connections that you can.
Growing up in Marquette, I knew it was really likely that I would go to Northern for college. From a cost of attendance and academic program offering perspective, it really just made sense for me. What made me most nervous about this was the idea of not expanding my social group or getting out of my comfort zone; so I got involved. Putting myself out there was scary, especially when I could so easily fall back on my high school friends, but making a point to do it made my college experience much more than going to classes and getting good grades. It made it fun, social, valuable, and unique to my interests.
In my freshman year, I put out feelers. I decided to major in public relations and minor in art and design after going into college undecided. My advisor, Dr. Tom Isaacson, suggested I join the NMU chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), and with that began my four-year involvement within the club. As a freshman in this organization, I was able to meet upperclassmen who had the same interests as me and could give me advice about the major I was about to enter into. I went through the Superior Edge orientation and started logging my volunteer hours for that program. My parents also encouraged me to live on campus as a way to more easily meet new people and have more of an authentic college experience. Besides these things, my freshman year was pretty mild with involvement - I was feeling my way through college and figuring out how to live on my own for the first time.
The summer after my freshman year, I studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland. I was there for eight weeks and I took one course and was an intern at a public relations firm called Cullen Communications.
I got some wonderful educational and life experiences through this and will carry those memories with me forever.
In my sophomore year, I became a part of the Student Leader Fellowship Program (SLFP) as a member of the Sun Block. This two-year program ran throughout my sophomore and junior years and introduced me to a fantastic group of motivated people. As a part of my first year, I was enrolled in a leadership class and went on a fall retreat to Bay Cliff with my Block and the Block above us. I also became the secretary of PRSSA.
For a job, I was a resident advisor in Odyssey House of Magers Hall. As a resident advisor, I went through a two-week training program and spent the year trying to give students the best experience possible. My house had a lot of ROTC students in it, so I was able to learn more about that program while making connections with my residents. As a part of this, I became secretary of a housing student organization called Primetime Productions where we would help organize and put on events like bringing comedians to campus or hosting a talent show.
As an RA, I was also able to work up to six hours a week at another job, so I started my first job that gave me direct experience towards my major as a Sports Information Intern in the Sports Information office on campus. This job gave me experience in technical writing, social media engagement, and was overall a lot of fun.
My junior year was when I really started to feel comfortable in my college involvement. I had found some really wonderful new friends through the different organizations I was a part of, I was deep into my major and our cohort was really small so we got to know each other well. For my second year of SLFP, I was doing a Community Service Internship with the Study Abroad office, trying to help other students get the unique experience of studying abroad that I was able to have. I got a job as a Student Marketing Assistant in the Marketing and Communications department; this has given me professional experiences working on a large platform which could be hard to find in a small town like Marquette. Finally, I was the Vice President of the Treasury for PRSSA. This put me in charge of collecting member dues and working with the Dean of the College of Business to secure funding for our annual international conference.
Finally, my senior year was really an extension of my junior year in terms of involvement. I continued my job at Marketing and Communications, moving from the “newbie” to more of a mentor for our newer employees. I became Vice President of PRSSA, working closely with the president and one of my best friends. I helped out at the annual SLFP fall retreat as an SLFP alumna. For all of my involvement, I was awarded Outstanding Student of Any Class by the Board of Trustees, which I consider a great honor and a reflection of the work I put in to stay involved.
I really focused my last semester on spending as much time as possible with my friends who were also graduating in May. The bittersweet part about getting involved and meeting so many wonderful people is that I’ll now have these friends and connections for life, but we won’t always be in the same city or just one call away. On the bright side, I’ll always have a place to stay in many different parts of the U.S.!
My takeaway: Being from Marquette and attending college in your hometown doesn’t mean you’re settling for less. In fact, as I found out, it means there is an opportunity for so much more. The first step is the hardest. Put yourself out there. Step out of your comfort zone. Get involved. Meet people. The few moments of being uncomfortable are worth it for the endless memories, connections, and experiences.
How Do I Know I'm Making The "Right" College Choice?
By Alyssa Lambert, Multimedia Journalism '17 Alumna and current NMU Admissions Counselor from Winthrop Harbor, IllinoisRead now
I’m Alyssa Lambert, an NMU Admissions Counselor, NMU alumna, and self-described over-thinker, and I’m here to help you prioritize yourself in your college search.
Not completely sure how you’re supposed to narrow it down to one college? Have you spent hours scouring the internet for information, worrying that you’ll never find the “perfect” college? That was me.
I visited nearly 30 colleges during my high school years in search of the “perfect” college. Unfortunately, that’s not an exaggeration. With a few years of college admissions experience under my belt, I don’t recommend that anyone (and I mean ANYONE) visit that many colleges. Sure, if you’re interested in one day working in admissions, it’s something to put on a cover letter to grab the attention of a search committee, but, in all honesty, I would’ve been just fine visiting only five or six. So many of the colleges eventually blended together, even with my mother’s diligent note-taking and excellent eye for detail.
If you’re anything like me, you might be wondering “There are just too many options! How can I feel confident in my college search, and ultimately, my decision?” You might also be saying to yourself “That sounds like torture. What can I do to avoid going on 30 college visits?” which is completely valid. The search process can be quite overwhelming, even to the most organized individuals. The good news? You can figure out what to prioritize in your search without stepping foot on a college campus.
No matter whether you’re in the early stages of your college search, or you’re deciding between two great schools to attend this fall, do yourself a favor and ask “What are things that my ideal college would have?”
The answer can be literally anything - two to three programs of interest, abundant research or internship opportunities, a student organization dedicated to tree climbing, decent food options, etc. It’s okay to have more than one or two things that are important to you - eventually, you’ll be able to identify three to five things that are super important to you - but for now, I challenge you to narrow it down to one, maybe two if you’re really indecisive. This is your “must-have.”
My "must-have" was that I had to feel comfortable wearing sweatpants to class. While it seems a bit silly, this actually reveals something that was key in my college search. I wanted a relaxed, easygoing campus. I wanted to feel like students would actually be lounging on a grassy area in the middle of campus or tossing around a frisbee, not just posing because someone with a camera told them to. Once I realized how important this was to me, I was amazed at how many colleges I could comfortably eliminate, several of which I had already visited (sorry Mom).
Your "must-have" takes priority - all of the colleges that you even entertain the idea of attending absolutely have to meet this single requirement. Those other three to five factors that I mentioned earlier can be considered "non-negotiables," too, but this is where your perfect college recipe calls for a handful of realism. What if there is not a single college that has all of your "non-negotiables" AND your "must-have?" Then, you’re discouraged and even more overwhelmed, and you may even come to the conclusion that the “perfect” college doesn’t exist. I’m not here to crush your dreams of finding the “perfect” college (after all, there is a reason that there are SO. MANY. COLLEGES. to choose from), but you do have control over your expectations of the college search process.
The best way to manage expectations is to separate “wish list” items from your “necessities.” All of these factors are definitely important, but do all of them have to be "non-negotiables?" Can you sacrifice distance from home if a college feels perfect for you in every other aspect? Or, say another college is the best fit from a program and research standpoint, but can you really pull off those school colors? (The answer to that question, should always be yes - you are a student first, but also, you can rock any color you want to wear). Your parents, friends or trusted school counselor/college representative can help you figure out what you would do in similar hypothetical scenarios.
An easy way to verify that your wants and needs will be satisfied at a certain college is to peruse the college’s website and social media accounts. Seeing students proudly tag their college on Instagram or scrolling through the college’s Tik Tok account will not only help you search for your must-have, but it will give you an idea of what student life is like at that college. Based on what you find, you may want to visit even more, or you could eliminate that college from your “must visit” list. This research, your "must-have," and your wish list should also be used to come up with great questions to ask during your campus visit.
Once you find a college that you could see yourself at for four (or more) years, double (or triple) check to make sure the college aligns with your "must-haves," and that it has most of your wants, if not all of them. If you are confident in your wish list and your "must-have," but you still have some hesitation about your decision, then maybe there is a college that is a better fit for you. As long as you’re going in with reasonable expectations, the college you attend should fit your needs, not the other way around. You should feel empowered to decide what is best for you. And, if you get a bit lost on your journey, just remember that the most educated choice begins and ends with a single question - “What are things that my ideal college would have?”
There are so many choices because colleges are not one-size-fits-all - that’s why there are more than 5,000 colleges in the United States alone. My advice is to start with your college wish list, identify your necessities, and then rank that list from most important to least important. Then you can begin searching for places that align with your list. And remember – it is okay not to know, or to take small steps at first so you can figure things out along the way. You are in charge, and your task is to make the best decision for you!
College Wasn't For Me... Then I Got A Master's Degree
By Brooke Burlingame, BS in Public Relations '17; MA in Higher Ed and Student Affairs '20 Alumna from Davenport, IowaRead now
My name is Brooke Burlingame, and I am a two-time NMU graduate and a first-generation student. "First-gen" means that I am the first one in my family to pursue a 4-year degree and, let me tell you, this definitely came with its challenges.
Since I was a first-generation student, I never thought going to college would be an option for me. My parents never pushed me towards it and they allowed me the flexibility to choose my own path. My first plan as a senior in high school was to pursue cosmetology school. However, I had two art teachers who kept encouraging me to go to college and pursue an arts degree. This was when I decided I would at least try community college. At this point, I was graduated from high school and had only a couple of summer months to put my community college plan in motion.
This was when I started asking all the questions: How do I pay for this? Are classes difficult? How do I choose classes? What kinds of things will I learn? How long will it take me to graduate? Wait, I only take 3-4 classes per semester? I understood nothing... and, unfortunately, community college didn’t give me a lot of support or answers to these questions.
During my first semester at community college, I visited a couple of friends who went to NMU. To say I fell in love with the university and Marquette would be an understatement. My visit was in September of 2014 and by the end of January 2015, I had moved into Van Antwerp Hall and started my NMU journey.
I had an amazing transfer admissions counselor who went above and beyond and made sure that I had all the knowledge I needed, and everything set so I could transfer mid-year. He answered all of my questions and even put me in touch with other offices that could answer some specific questions I had. I still didn’t know much about college though. I didn’t realize how much freedom I would have, and with that, how much responsibility I would have. I ended up changing my major two times in my first semester.
I landed on Public Relations as my major and in the fall I took an 'Intro to Marketing' course. I was excited because my professor recommended me for a student marketing position in the University Marketing and Communications office. Being able to work in that office was when I really began to figure out what I wanted to use my degree for - higher education marketing.
Throughout my undergraduate degree, I received a lot of encouragement from professors, staff, and even my peers. It was such a collaborative community and it focused not just on academics, but also on personal growth. A lot of that encouragement included recommendations to go to graduate school. (To be honest, I didn’t even know what graduate school would look like!)
After graduating early from my undergrad, I took a semester off to plan for my future. I was offered a graduate assistantship in the University Marketing and Communications office where I could work and earn my master’s degree simultaneously. I decided to pursue a Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs. If I wanted to continue working in higher education, I needed to learn and better understand everything that went into a student’s higher education experience.
During my master’s degree, I again saw encouragement and support from my professors, staff, and peers. Without their help, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. I was even able to reconnect with some of my undergraduate teachers who were always available to help me make decisions about my capstone research and graduate school in general. I couldn’t imagine getting to experience all of this at any other school.
If you are a first-generation student, or even just someone who isn't sure that college is for them, please do not be scared by the college process. Ask as many questions as you need to (I promise - there are no silly questions!) Change your major a couple of times until you find what you like. Really understand the financial aid process - you go through it each year and it does gets easier. Get connected with the campus community and check out all of the first-generation resources offered. You've got this!
10 Things To Know (And To Think About) From A Faculty Member's Perspective
By Dr. Gary Brunswick, '81 & '84 Alumnus and current Professor of Business at NMU from Iron River, MichiganRead now
To summarize what I'm going to be talking about, having been involved (both as a student, and now as a faculty member) in higher education over the past 40+ years, what should students be focused on when starting (and working towards completion of) their degree program. Here are 10 things to know, and to think about. So let's get started.
What should a college student know (or at least be thinking about) as they start their degree program (and are working towards completion of that degree)? As I've said, I have been a full-time faculty member here at NMU for 30 years, and prior to that earned a couple of undergraduate degrees from NMU (Associates Degree in Retailing and Sales in 1981, and a Bachelor of Science in Marketing in 1984), after which I earned my MBA from Marquette University (1986) and my Ph.D. in Business Administration (majoring in Marketing) from Arizona State University (1992). Having gone through all of these educational experiences (as a student), and now serving as a full-time faculty member at NMU for 30 years, here are some suggestions and things to think about as you start (and complete) your degree program.
1. Get off to a good start.
Having a strong start academically (in your first 1-2 semesters) is very important in laying the groundwork for a successful degree program. Over the years I’ve seen a number of students struggle in their first and/or second semester(s), and as a result, additional problems occur (such as having to repeat courses, losing financial aid, academic probation, etc.). If you are having difficulties in your courses, recognize it early, and seek help from the professors, your academic advisor, All Campus Tutoring, and perhaps fellow students and your parents. Get off to the best start that you can.
2. Think 10+ years down the road or more.
Picking a major is very important, and one way to do this is to “think backwards”. What I mean by this it to imagine your life 10 or 15 years into the future – 15 years from now, if you could ultimately determine your future, what would your job title be, who would you work for, where would you live, etc. and then work backwards from that future point in time. Ask yourself how can you get there, starting with picking the right major. Talk with your faculty/academic advisor, professors in the majors you are interested in, parents, professionals working the field you are interested in. The goal is to try and figure out what the key elements are in order to achieve a successful career path, all in an effort to get you to where you want to be in the decades to come.
3. Meet regularly with your academic advisor, especially the advisor in your major.
At NMU faculty do a considerable amount of academic and career advising, but not all students take full advantage of this opportunity. So, I would suggest that it is very important to meet regularly (at least once a semester) with your academic advisor to discuss course planning for the upcoming semester, possible internships, your professional goals and aspirations, involvement with professional organizations, and other issues related to your career. If you would prefer to work with another faculty member as your academic advisor, ask them if they would be willing to work with you (i.e., students can request to change their faculty or academic advisors). Develop a strong working relationship with your faculty advisor; this could extend even beyond your graduation from NMU (note: I hear from a wide range of my former students each year, and in turn I keep in touch with some of my own (past) faculty mentors from decades ago).
4. Keep a calendar and think about time management.
Whether it is in digital form, or a traditional paper version, keep a calendar for the academic semester and maybe even the next semester. This will force you to think days, weeks, and months ahead in terms of class requirements, when classes meet, when exams will happen, when short assignments are due, course projects, etc. Be diligent in keeping your calendar current (update your calendar daily), and include other items related to various meetings, other events, etc.; by keeping a calendar, you will force yourself to think ahead and plan your time wisely. For example, each Sunday, look at your calendar and examine what will happen, and will need to happen, over the next week. On the first of each month, look ahead to see what will be happening during that calendar month.
5. Completing a degree program is a marathon, not a sprint, and goals are important.
An undergraduate degree program typically requires 8 semesters of full-time work, sometimes more, and mentally you need to think like a marathon runner, pacing yourself for the long haul. Not doing as well as you would’ve liked in a particular course is not the end of the race, just one small part of it. Examine what went wrong, make corrections, and move forward, striving to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Also set goals for yourself; what do you want to accomplish during your undergraduate program, and set ambitious goals (BHAG – Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) for yourself. Do this for your degree program, and also in your career. Even if you only achieve 75% of a BHAG, that is an above-average accomplishment. Thinking about goals and envisioning the achievement of those goals is an important part of being successful in your degree program, and in professional career and life in general.
6. Go beyond your coursework.
Successful students go well-beyond their coursework (assuming they are already maximizing their GPA), and think about doing an internship(s), perhaps get involved with a student organization related to their major, perhaps a study abroad program, among other types of meaningful and impactful experiences. Strive to achieve a well-rounded degree program, filled with experiences that are meaningful; this will, in turn, provide many good discussion points on your resume and provide you with the opportunity to showcase your accomplishments, skills and talents.
7. Keep up with your profession.
Regardless of what your major field of study is, strive to keep current with what is happening within that professional area. For example, if you are majoring in Business, read publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek, and others on a regular (daily) basis. This will help you in your classes, and will prepare you for the job interview process towards the end your academic career. It will also allow you to make more and more connections between what you are learning in your classes and what is happening in the real world.
8. Think about your weaknesses.
Although it may be counter intuitive, think about the areas where you need further improvements. For example, if math is an area where you are not strong, address this over time by taking additional courses in math or doing some form(s) of additional study. Math, quantitative skills, data analysis, all of these are increasingly important across a broad range of careers, and this trend will likely increase into the future. It will take some motivation, initiative and perhaps a bit of courage, but think about what areas you would like to work on and improve. Public speaking is another good example; many people do not like to do presentations, make speeches, etc., so if that is the case, volunteer to do various types of presentations and other forms of public speaking. Over time, you will become more comfortable speaking in front of others, and will become good at it (i.e., another skill that will serve you well in your career and life).
9. Work hard, be good, have fun.
My wife (Kimberly) and I have 3 children, and ever since they started kindergarten many years ago, I have said these 6 words to each of them each day as they leave the house for school. To me these are simple but profound words. Working hard pays many dividends, sometimes immediately, but then again sometimes it takes months or years for hard work to pay off. Hard work pays off in the end. And people notice it when you work hard, and are known as a hard worker. Being good is just common sense to me; strive to be a good person, to do good and to contribute to society in good (positive) ways. Finally, have some fun; life is not all work, and it is very important to have some appropriate balance in life. After working hard, it seems to me that time spent having fun is even more meaningful and impactful. The “having fun” part of my advice reminds me of a quote I saw while in Berlin, Germany (with my family) years ago, which was “Keep Berlin Weird”. NMU, Marquette, and the U.P. are all fantastic because of some of the great (sometimes a bit weird) aspects of living and working here (i.e., think of the Trenary Outhouse Races – I competed in the Trenary Outhouse Races way back in the 1990’s during the 2nd year of these annual races, and my teammate (Todd Bolander, a former student of mine) and I came in 3rd in our division!).
10. Understand the importance of your intellectual curiosity.
How is it that we think the way that we do? What influences our thinking? All of us have a different view of the world, ultimately being shaped by a wide range of life experiences, relationships with family members and others, etc.. Think about ways to expand your intellectual curiosity during your degree program; this can be accomplished in many different ways, such as by getting involved with a student organization on campus, learn a new language, do an internship(s), complete a study abroad program, take a course in an area you are curious about, work on a research project with a faculty member, start a small business, learn a new skill, etc. Keep this in mind: there is something to be gained by just about any life experience. Over the years I have engaged in a very wide range of types of activities, and I am mindful of how each of these contributes to my thinking and my perspective. Strive to constantly stoke your intellectual curiosity, even on a daily basis.
So lastly, what kind of takeaway can I suggest from these comments?
These 10 things to think about are intended to get you think about what you should be doing during your degree program, both short term and long term. I hope you have a successful degree program and a successful career, and end up “where you want to be” in the future. Thank you.
An Introvert's Guide To Making Friends In College
By Dallas St. Onge, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences major from Clawson, MichiganRead now
I have always found solitude in having time to myself. When I decided to attend NMU, I wanted to “put myself out there” in terms of making friends. In this trek, I have done *almost* everything to find true meaningful friendships. When I came to Northern in August of 2018, I knew no one. I was one of three students from my high school who decided to move 441 miles away from home. With this, I entered NMU with the knowledge that I was starting entirely over. I had the chance and desire to find my place and leave my mark.
I'm Dallas St. Onge, a self-proclaimed introvert, and this is my story on how I made friends in college. I hope for you to use it as an example rather than a template for how you can find your place at NMU and meet amazing people.
When you enter college, people always warn you that you will change your major and that you should prepare for that. I am the odd folk out because I never changed my major while attending NMU. Technically, when I applied to NMU, I was going to major in Special Education, but in my last couple weeks of high school, I switched to Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences (SLHS), and I have remained there ever since. With this, I was given an amazing opportunity to experience a niche major. SLHS is currently a major of about 45 people, allowing you to easily meet people with similar interests. I have always been grateful for how small my major is because it has allowed me to make life-changing friendships. As a freshman, I dove into the studies of my major and became involved in our chapter of the National Student Speech-Language and Hearing Sciences Association (NSSLHA). Through this, I was able to learn about NMU through the members of the older cohorts. Oddly enough, in my very early involvement in NSSLHA, I was offered the opportunity to have a leadership role where I would be managing the finances for our yearly attendance of a conference that focuses on the scopes of practices of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Fast forward to today, and I am the Vice President of our NSSLHA chapter.
The NSSLHA and the SLHS major was my first stepping stone into the realm of involvement, which led to me making amazing, life-long friends. Through NSSLHA and my major, I became involved in the following organizations: Club Cross Country, Superior Edge, the Student Leader Fellowship Program, and Mortar Board. I joined Club Cross Country my first few weeks at NMU, and quickly, I found what has turned into my closest friends. Superior Edge is an amazing organization that emphasizes volunteering in the four areas of Citizenship, Real World, Diversity, and Leadership. Superior Edge gives you recognition for the volunteering and community involvement you are already partaking in. As a National Honor Society Member since the fifth grade, I am no stranger to volunteering. Superior Edge walked me through the door that NSSLHA opened for me and allowed me to have countless experiences and meet so many amazing people that I never would have encountered. My involvement and admiration of Superior Edge led me to my job as a Superior Edge/Volunteer Center Coordinator at the Center for Student Enrichment. During my time at my job, I have made the most remarkable and supportive friends.
My involvement in Superior Edge led me to apply for the Student Leader Fellowship Program (SLFP), a two-year leadership program designed to aid students in developing community-centered leadership skills. I heard about SLFP from the older members in NSSLHA and I decided to go for it. I was accepted the second semester of my freshman year and began the program sophomore year. I would not trade my time in SLFP for anything due to the friends I made. Like my major, SLFP is a niche, tight-knit community. We proved how tight-knit we are during the pandemic where even though we were meeting over Zoom, we still were supporting one another through the struggles of completing our Community Service Internships during a pandemic. My time as a Student Fellow leads to my last listed, and most recent, involvement on campus where I have met great people: Mortar Board, a senior honor society. This organization is composed of individuals like myself, who strive for achievement in scholarship, leadership, and service.
My first year at Northern was difficult in ways that I did not envision it to be. I struggled to find my place outside of my major, and my involvement in the aforementioned student organizations was infantile. Sure, I had Club Cross Country, but we mainly practiced during the fall semesters. I knew I had to find more ways to be involved to make friends. I tried *everything* to find my place. I tried out for club sports that I never would have imagined playing. I joined organizations that put me far out of my comfort zone and later discovered they were not beneficial for me.
My journey to making friends through my involvement in various student organizations can all be traced back to my early involvement in the SLHS major. I view my major as a tree and all of my student organizations are the branches, to which the friends I have made are the leaves.
College is a learning process, in terms of your educational and social development: while you are advancing your education, you also are fighting to find your place in an environment that, for many of us, is extremely different from home. Making myself get involved was very hard at the beginning because I did not know where to start. The best advice I can offer for making friends while in college is to find something you love or are interested in and invest yourself in it. Start there and follow the branches to other organizations and social crowds.