Dwayne Malone Picture

Dwayne Malone

Interim Director

A native of Memphis, Tenn., Dwayne is currently in the Dissertation phase of completing a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Trident University. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management and also a Master’s degree in Information Technology from Webster University.  During a 20 year career in the Army he performed several different jobs. Dwayne taught mountain climbing, he was Drill Sergeant, and an Equal Opportunity Advisor. He is an Iraqi Freedom and Gulf War Veteran. He has played a vital role in the success of thousands of student transitioning from High School to College. He also ensured that most of his soldiers in the Army transitioned into adult learners. His versatility is definitely one of his greatest assets. Dwayne has been married for 30 years and has two sons and two daughters. He consistently makes significant contributions to the learning and motivation of several students in Higher Education and at the lower level. He has the ability to motivate people in general and is also very effective at teaching students the importance of reaching their highest potential/goals. He can share things from a Director, a former Off Campus and Non-Traditional Student, and a former Military Student’s perspective. He loves spending time with his family and one of his greatest joys is giving back to the community. Dwayne’s advice to the students at NIU would be to stay smart.  He would tell them that “It’s not how smart they are but, how they are smart”. He would also tell them be smart, and stay the course to finish what they started.  Opportunities look much better leaving than they do coming.

Michael Safarik pictureMichael Safarik

Assistant Director, Educational Benefits

Michael is originally from Hanover Park, Ill., and is currently serving in the role of Assistant Director of Educational Benefits for Military Student Services. Michael originally attended Elgin Community College and transferred to Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. Michael started working in Higher Education in 2005; he was responsible for helping students find funding for school and for processing military benefits and financial aid. Outside of work, Michael enjoys reading many leather bound books, spending time with his family and trying to stay active.

Cheryl Murray pictureCheryl Murray

Office Support Specialist

Cheryl is originally from Chicago. She received her Bachelor's degree in Finance from North Central College in Naperville, Ill.


Christopher Robinson pictureChristopher Robinson

Chris is pursuing a B.S. degree in athletic training with minors in coaching and nutrition. From 2009-13, he served in the United States Marine Corps and then returned home to Yorkville, Ill., to begin school at NIU. He started at Military Student Services in August of 2013 and has continued to increase his knowledge of military benefits ever since. He enjoys pretty much any activity that helps him stay healthy and in shape. Recently he started an internship at Sycamore CrossFit and has really enjoyed gaining the knowledge and experience.

Mark Voelker pictureMark Voelker

Mark is originally from Bloomingdale, Ill. He is currently pursuing a degree in Biological Sciences.  Mark is also on track to attend dental school upon his graduation here at NIU. At the age of 17, Mark enlisted into the Illinois Army National Guard, and is still currently serving. In the National Guard, Mark works on all wheeled-vehicles as a mechanic. Mark’s career in the military has taught him many useful skills that he can now use to better himself and those around him. At Military Student Services, Mark is passionate about giving back to the veteran community by assisting them with educational benefits and any general topics. Outside of work, Mark finds interest in the natural/earth sciences, music, vintage motorcycles, and spending time with his friends and family. 

Melissa Ybarra pictureMelissa Robinson

Melissa is originally from Yorkville, Ill. She was a student-athlete at Aurora University and is now a junior transfer student at NIU in the pursuit of Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences, emphasis in Physical Therapy. After completion, she plans on attending graduate school at NIU in order to receive a doctorate in Physical Therapy. After she completes school, she plans on joining the Navy as a medical officer. In November 2014, Melissa and her husband welcomed a newborn son.

Adam Zobrist picture

Adam Zobrist

Adam is currently progressing towards a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering here at NIU. He started his degree at Bradley University, his wife's alma mater, before being deployed in 2011. Currently, he is serving in the Marine Corps Reserves and has been for the past five years. He has enjoyed his time in the Marine Corps and looks forward to taking that experience on to a future electrical engineering career after receiving his degree. Adam enjoys his time working here at MSS providing service to the those veterans also seeking to further their education and help them transition into the civilian community. In his off time, he likes to spend time with family and being outdoors playing with his two dogs.