Staff - NIU - Office of Student Academic Success

About Us



Student Success Specialists

Graduate Assistants

Student Workers

Dana Gautcher

Dana Gautcher, M.Ed.

Academic Advising Center Room 112
(815) 753-5701


Dana Gautcher has worked in both Student and Academic Affairs at Northern Illinois University for over 12 years. She came to NIU as hall director in Douglas Hall where she oversaw the first year residential experience of 500 students. She then served as Scholarship Coordinator and Financial Retention Advocate for over 11 years. During this time, she helped connect students to scholarship resources and worked to improve campus scholarship utilization. She helped to streamline scholarship administration at NIU by creating policies, procedures and audit and tracking practices. Always an advocate of students, she also created a process by which students in financial distress could seek counsel.

In July of 2009, Dana was afforded the opportunity to oversee the newly created Office of Student Academic Success. Along with her staff, Dana oversees MAP-Works; the Early Alert Program; Financial Cents, a campus-wide financial literacy program; the Leaders & Scholars program as well as other initiatives aimed at supporting students as they persist towards graduation.

In addition to her responsibilities within the Office of Student Academic Success, Dana has taught UNIV 101, UNIV 201 and courses on student transition, volunteerism and leadership.

Dana holds a B.A. in history from Winona State University and an M.Ed. from Loyola University Chicago. She lives in Sycamore, Illinois with her husband and two daughters.

Randi Napientek

Randi Napientek, M.S.Ed.

Assistant Director
Academic Advising Center Room 110
(815) 753-0713

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Randi joined the OSAS team in 2009 and oversees the Early Alert and Early Intervention programs including Mapworks, Transcript Tracking, and Enrollment and Encumbrance monitoring. She also oversees all marketing/publications as well as assessment, data, and reporting for the office. In addition, Randi oversees the Financial Literacy program Financial Cents.

Randi has been part of a team that has been awarded 3 Mapworks Excellence Awards and has been recognized as being a best practice institution with regard to training, campus partners, and assessment. In addition, Financial Cents has been recognized as one of the country's premiere Financial Literacy programs. Randi has coordinated Money Smart Week events in DeKalb County since 2012 and has seen a large growth in support for the program. Starting in 2012 with 4 events and 20 participants to 3,450 participants at 114 workshops and events.  

Randi sits on numerous campus, community, and professional organizations and committees including the executive committee for the Athletic Board at NIU and is the chair of the Student-Athlete Wellbeing Committee, the Junior Achievement Western Board of Directors, the Board of Directors for the DeKalb Youth Service Bureau, the Chair of Money Smart Week: DeKalb, the Vice-Chair for Conference Programs and Activities for the Commission for Recreation and Athletics for the American College Personnel Association (ACPA), and is a product trainer for SkyFactor Mapworks. Randi is currently an active instructor for the University Experience course (UNIV 101) and has been teaching the course since 2008, and has been the faculty advisor for the Delta Zeta Sorority since 2008. In addition to ACPA, Randi is also an active member of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and the Illinois Academic Advising Association (ILACADA).  

Randi brings her wide knowledge of the NIU campus to this role having worked in both Academic and Student Affairs as well as Athletics at Northern Illinois University. Previously employed in the Office of Enrollment Services, Randi served as a Research Associate for the Assistant Vice Provost for Enrollment Services assisting with marketing, data analysis and research for the division. While working in Intercollegiate Athletics, Randi worked in both Marketing and Development and was part of a team that earned the Lieutenant Governors Medal for their fundraising efforts in the "Hoops 4 Troops" campaign which raised money for the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund. Randi was also part of a team that produced record breaking numbers in both enrollment and donations to the Huskie Athletic Fund. She also helped finish the fundraising efforts for the state of the art Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center, which is an Academic and Athletic Performance Center.

Randi holds all of her degrees from Northern Illinois University. She completed a B.S. in Marketing with a minor in Family and Child Studies in 2005 and received her M.S.Ed. in Adult and Higher Education in 2007. Randi is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Education with an emphasis in Higher Education and is finishing her dissertation on student-athletes and academic policies and expects to be completed in May of 2016. She lives in DeKalb with her husband Ray and their daughters Kara and Katy.


Brian Berchtold, M.A.

Educational Program Evaluation Coordinator
Academic Advising Center Room 113
(815) 753-5757

Brian joined the OSAS team in March of 2015. He completed his B.S. in Psychology in 2010 and his M.A. in Social and Industrial/Organizational Psychology in 2013 from NIU. As an undergraduate, Brian was involved with the LGBT resource center, and was one of the first mentors in the Q-Connect peer mentoring program. As a graduate student, Brian presented research at numerous conferences. He taught many classes for the Psychology Department, including Intro to Psychology and Personality, was a TA for graduate statistics courses, and was the lab instructor for Social and Personality Laboratory. Brian also served an academic advisor for the Psychology Department. Outside of the department, he provided extra help to the Student Employment Office by assisting them with performance evaluation and job structure changes. He also conducted several workshops aimed at student career success and managing student employees.

Brian is a veteran of the US Navy, having served as active duty for 5 years. He was stationed in San Diego, CA and served under a few different commands. Brian completed a tour to the Persian Gulf, while also providing humanitarian aid to tsunami survivors in SE Asia in late 2004/early 2005.

Brian enjoys boating, swimming, hiking at Starved Rock, country music, and binge watching his favorite TV shows. He is a huge animal lover, and is a pet parent to a German Shepard/Husky mix and 2 Cockatiels.


Jessi Lorang

Office Support Specialist
Academic Advising Center Room 113
(815) 753-HELP (4357)

Jessi joined the OSAS team as an Office Support Specialists in September 2014. Before coming to NIU she attended Waubonsee Community College, Kishwaukee College, and Lee College of Texas where she earned a certificate in Professional Office Administration. While working at NIU Jessi plans to earn her Bachelor in Fine Arts.

Jessi enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, painting, gardening, and seeing live music. She is an animal lover who has two dogs, one is a Maltese - Yorkie mix named Cheese and the other a Puggle named Hooch along with ferret named Molly, and a turtle named Beefy.

Student Success Specialists


Sara Clark, M.A. 

Student Success Specialist
Academic Advising Center Room 116
(815) 753-5725

Prior to joining the OSAS team, Sara returned to Northern in January of 2014 as an Access Consultant at the Disability Resource Center, but her  Huskie roots are much deeper. Sara graduated from Northern with her BA in Communications. Volunteering at a transitional residential program for people with severe mental illness reignited her passion for helping others. This led her to pursue her Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and an internship at the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. After graduation, Sara moved to the east coast worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia for four years where she assisted clients in reach their vocational goals.  

In her free time, Sara enjoys hanging out with friends and family, card-making, boxing, watching movies and snuggling with her cat, Sophie. 

Sara is eager to be a part of the OSAS Team as a Student Success Specialist/Program Advisor and excited at the opportunity to ensure that students have a meaningful experience that paves the way for success after graduation.


Rosanna D'Orazio, M.A.  

Student Success Advisor
Academic Advising Center Room 111
(815) 753-2403 

Rosanna joined the OSAS staff as a Student Success Advisor in August 2015. She holds a joint position in OSAS and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Advising Office. She completed her B.A. and M.A. in English at NIU. She also has graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. While in graduate school, Rosanna taught in the first-year composition program, instructing students enrolled in ENGL 103 and 203. She was also an ACT & SAT teacher for college-bound high school students.

In her free time, Rosanna enjoys reading, playing video games, and traveling. She recently spent a summer in Załęcze Wielkie, Poland, teaching English to students in a summer immersion program.

Missy Lugo

Melissa "Missy" Lugo, M.S.Ed.

Student Success Specialist
Academic Advising Center Room 115
(815) 753-5756

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Missy joined the OSAS staff in September of 2010. She completed her B.A. in English and Psychology in 2006 and her M.S.Ed in 2008 from NIU. As an undergraduate, she worked in NIU Housing and Dining as a Community Advisor, Learning Assistant, and gave tours of the residence halls. Missy was a student mentor for the Mentoring for Academic Success (M.A.S.) program in the Latino Resource Center as well as a Senator for the Student Association. Missy joined NASPA and in 2004 was a Minority Undergraduate Fellow and interned at St. Mary's University, San Antonio. While in graduate school, she was employed as a Graduate Assistant in the Academic Advising Center, was a Peer Instructor for UNIV 101, and taught CAHC 211: Career Planning, to freshmen and sophomore students.

Prior to returning to the NIU community, Missy worked in the Western Suburbs of Chicago completing a counseling internship at Westchester Middle School in Westchester, Illinois and worked as an independent contractor for a company affiliated with DCFS.

Missy is a proud member of Alpha Psi Lambda National, Inc. and currently serves as co-advisor for NIU-Gamma Chapter and sits on multiple committees. She is also an adjunct faculty in the College of Education teaching undergraduate classes and UNIV 101.


Ashleigh Sorenson, M.S.Ed. 

Student Success Specialist
Academic Advising Center Room 114
(815) 753-5755


Ashleigh first arrived at Northern Illinois University in 2007 as an undergraduate student studying Psychology and Sociology. She graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science degree in December 2009. Upon graduation, Ashleigh began substitute teaching for school districts in Northern Illinois. She frequently volunteered in her sister’s third grade classroom, where she facilitated small group instruction focusing on social skills. During this time, Ashleigh also volunteered with the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois in Nachusa. These experiences shaped her passion for the education profession and paved the way for the next chapter of her educational endeavors.

In January 2012, Ashleigh returned to NIU to pursue her M.S.Ed. in Adult and Higher Education with an emphasis in Higher Education/Student Affairs. That same year, she joined the Office of Student Academic Success. She is enthusiastic about students achieving their academic goals and leaving NIU with the tools for success.

Graduate Assistants


James Alford, B.A.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center Room 113
(815) 753-HELP (4357) 


James Alford is a native from Chicago who graduated with his degree in Political Science and a Black Studies minor from NIU in May 2015. James is Currently Perusing his Master’s degree in Adult and Higher Education. James hopes to work with First Generation and low income students to help them adjust and be successful in campus. Before working for the Office of Student Academic success James worked as the Student Manager for the Center for Black Studies and as a Northern Ambassador in the Admissions Department at NIU. With these jobs he was responsible for giving tours to perspective students, and serving as a liaison to various departments and committees within the university.

In his free time James likes to play videos games (2k basketball and Assassins Creed), watching Netflix, and volunteering.  He is a proud member of Phi Rho Eta Fraternity Inc. and serves as the president for the Black Graduate Student Association. While in undergrad James Studied Abroad in Beijing, China where he studied the Leadership, Service and Culture of American and Chinese culture.


Paul Jonff, M.S.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-5759

Paul joined the OSAS team as a graduate assistant in September of     2013. Paul completed his B.S. in Exercise Science from Eastern Illinois University and his M.S. from NIU in 2008. Paul is currently pursuing his Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) at NIU.

Paul previously held a graduate assistant position at the NIU Student Recreation Center where he was responsible for intramural sports and sport clubs. After graduating, Paul worked at Rawlings Sporting Goods for 5 years where he held the position of Brand Marketing Manager. He was responsible for Rawlings' social media and business to consumer advertising. 

Paul loves being active and his hobbies include playing sports, skiing, weightlifting, and spending time with his wife and daughter.


Nick Kostalek, B.A.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center Room 113
(815) 753-HELP (4357) 

Nick joined the Office of Student Academic Success as a Graduate Assistant in June of 2015. Prior to his acceptance to Northern Illinois University, Nick graduated from Huntley High School and obtained an Associate in Arts Degree from McHenry County College. Following his two year completion, he accepted a baseball scholarship to Chicago State University. As a student-athlete at CSU he accumulated various academic and athletic honors including; Presidents List, All-WAC Academic Honors, Scholar-Athlete of the Year and graduated as a Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in History and a minor in Geography.

Currently, he is enrolled at NIU to earn his M.S.Ed in Counseling with a School Counseling Specialization. His selection to be a Huskie resulted in his desire to pursue a program with ‘heightened academic standards, while still being able to communicate with his professors and be actively involved in the student body’.

Nick strongly supports both active members and veterans of the United States military. His devotion comes from his brother and step-brother who are currently enlisted, as well as a long line of family members who have served. While not working or studying, he enjoys sports, traveling and spending time with friends and family. He is an avid Chicago sports fan, taking a particular interest in the Cubs and Blackhawks. He currently coaches a baseball team and hopes that his studies will lead him to a high school counseling job, where he will also be able to continue his desire to actively be involved in student athletics.  


Shalonda Lane, B.A.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center Room 113
(815) 753-HELP (4357)

Shalonda joined the OSAS office in February of 2015. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2012 from NIU and is currently working on her M.S. Ed, in the Adult and Higher Education program with an emphasis in student affairs. In her master’s studies, her interests are learning more about underrepresented students that attend 4-year institutions. Her department goals are to assist students become more aware of campus resources and be academically successful.  Shalonda hopes to one day assist first generation students acclimate to campus life and to gain the most out of their college experience.

Shalonda’s hobbies include traveling, cooking, and spending time with her yorkie mix dog named, Precious. Her favorite part about cooking is experimenting with new recipes. She also enjoys reading and watching anything sci-fi!


Scott Shippert, B.A.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-HELP (4357)

Scott earned his Bachelors of Science in Psychology from NIU in 2010. Since then, he has worked as a counselor for adults with chronic mental illness, helped manage a local pet shop, and recently got married. He is currently enrolled at NIU to earn his M.S.Ed in Adult and Higher Education along the mental health track. He began working as a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Student Academic Success in August of 2014. When not working or studying, Scott enjoys keeping up with the latest movies, video games, and books. He also frequently runs Tough Mudders with his wife in support of the Wounded Warrior Project to aid wounded veterans.


Lauren Swanson, B.A.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-HELP (4357)

Lauren joined the Office of Student Academic Success as a Graduate Assistant in August of 2014. Lauren completed her B.A. in History and Sociology from Northern Illinois University in May of 2014, and is currently working towards her M.S.Ed in Adult and Higher Education at NIU.

Before working in the Office of Student Academic Success, Lauren worked in the Undergraduate Admissions department as a Northern Ambassador for two years. There, she held the position of Senior Ambassador, where she assisted large group tours and events, and enjoyed working with and helping students of all ages. She also worked in Housing & Dining for a year as a RHOp.

Lauren enjoys playing sports, traveling, reading, and cooking. She is an avid Chicago White Sox and Blackhawks fan. Lauren is also an animal lover and has three dogs, a viszla, a black lab, and she just adopted a miniature pincher/beagle mix in March.


Natalie Tarter, B.A.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-HELP (4357)

Natalie joined the Office of Student Academic Success as a Graduate Assistant in June of 2015. Natalie completed her B.G.S from Northern Illinois University in December of 2013, and is currently working towards her M.S.Ed in mental health counseling.

While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Natalie was also a student athlete. She was a member of the track and field team at both the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as Northern Illinois University. She competed in both the hurdles as well as the heptathlon. Natalie has a passion for sports. Her goal is to become a sports counselor at a university someday.

When she is not working or studying, Natalie enjoys being outside, gardening, reading, and watching Netflix. Natalie is also an avid Bulls and Blackhawks fan as well as a Harry Potter fanatic.

Student Workers/Extra Help


Megan Fish

Student Worker
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-HELP (4357)

Megan joined the OSAS team in February of 2014 during her freshmen year at NIU as a student worker. Before coming to NIU, Megan graduated from Normal Community High School in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Megan chose NIU because of the beautiful campus and how much she felt at home.

Before working in the Office of Student Academic Success, Megan enjoyed working at a local coffee shop and being a summer nanny.

Megan is a nursing major and obtained her Certified Nursing Assistant certification her junior year of high school and worked in the Mother-Baby Unit and General Medical Unit during her senior year of high school through a work program at school. Megan's main goal is to be a nurse at St. Jude.

Megan has a large chocolate lab named Odie and also has five adorable pygmy goats (Felix, Faith, Frankie, Febe, and Finn) that she loves to take care of and talk about.