Northern Illinois University

Northern Today

Amy Ozier
Amy Ozier

Laura Vazquez
Laura Vazquez


Academic Convocation to showcase
movie internships, community nutrition

August 13, 2007

For two proud members of NIU’s faculty, the opportunity to showcase the accomplishments of their students in front of thousands of people has proven irresistible.

During NIU’s annual Academic Convocation ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 24, professors Laura Vazquez and Amy D. Ozier will share the real-world learning experiences of two outstanding student project groups in their respective disciplines of communication studies and nutrition.

Academic Convocation long has served as NIU’s official welcoming ceremony to thousands of new freshmen and transfer students. For the past three years, however, faculty members have competed for the chance to present faculty-student projects at the annual event.

Because of the huge crowds that are now a regular occurrence at Academic Convocation, the ceremony is held in NIU’s Convocation Center.

“We have several objectives in showcasing these projects at Academic Convocation,” said Denise L. Rode, director of Orientation and First-Year Experience and co-chair of this year’s Academic Convocation planning committee.

“Not only do we want to publicly honor the accomplishments of Northern’s faculty and students, but we also want to demonstrate to our new students that NIU is an institution that offers them the chance to work closely with teaching faculty on projects that impact the world beyond the classroom,” Rode said. “When students make a commitment to academic excellence, amazing opportunities can unfold for them.” 

Students in Ozier’s FCNS 410 (Community Nutrition) class certainly represent this excellence.

Thanks to collaborative partnerships Ozier established with several community agencies, students were able to apply the best practices of community nutrition in settings as varied as an elementary school, a retirement center and the Women, Infants, and Children program. Students conducted needs assessments and focus groups, developed original materials for use with specific client populations and even found that some of their materials were adopted for use by WIC programs in other parts of Illinois.

Ozier said that the community nutrition students applied behavioral theory to address the sensitive issues of overweight in families and to combat the “all or nothing” thinking that often prevents families and individuals from making smaller dietary changes that can add up to big differences in nutritional health.

To see the impact that Vazquez’s students have made, be sure to check out “Slipstream,” a film directed by Anthony Hopkins scheduled for release this winter.

Vazquez led a group of six undergraduate and graduate communications majors to Los Angeles in the summer of 2006, where they served as movie production interns. While working on “Slipstream,”the interns impressed Hollywood with the characteristics employers love about NIU students: skill, perseverance, a tremendous work ethic, flexibility and a positive attitude.

Academic Convocation guests will have the chance to see “behind the scenes” movie footage as well as the interns’ handiwork, as clips from the movie’s wrap party video (which was edited entirely by NIU students) will be shown.

This internship also demonstrates the strong relationships that NIU faculty maintain with alumni: It was through Vazquez’s partnership with Hollywood producer and NIU alumnus Robert Katz that the “Slipstream” internships were made possible.

Ozier and Vazquez participated in a competitive selection process in which nominations from a number of disciplines were evaluated for the opportunity to present these projects at Academic Convocation. Faculty project submissions are reviewed by the Academic Convocation planning committee.

Committee co-chairs Brandi Hephner LaBanc, assistant to the vice president for Student Affairs, and Rode led their committee of faculty members and Supportive Professional Staff through the difficult process of selecting two projects to represent NIU at Academic Convocation.

“We were thrilled with the quality of the projects that were submitted this year; our committee had some challenging decisions to make,” LaBanc said. “We can’t wait to see the actual project presentations at Academic Convocation, and hope that increasing numbers of faculty and students will decide to submit their projects for consideration next year.”

For information about how to nominate faculty-student projects for showcasing in the 2008 Academic Convocation, contact Rode at or LaBanc at

Academic Convocation is a program of the Division of Student Affairs, which invites all interested faculty, staff and students to attend this important event. Although the deadline to order rental regalia for marching in Academic Convocation has passed, faculty or staff members with master’s or doctoral degrees who possess their own regalia are welcome to join the processional. To participate, contact Clare Andres at (815) 753-1573 or via e-mail at