Danica Billingsly

Clinical Assistant Professor in Audiology

Danica Billingsly

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
I grew up in Nebraska, but consider my hometown to be Macomb, Illinois. I live in Cortland with my partner, three kids, a dog and a cat.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I have a bachelor's degree in communication sciences and disorders with a minor in Spanish and a master's in audiology from Western Illinois University. I completed a Doctor of Audiology degree from Salus University and am currently a Ph.D. candidate in instructional technology here at NIU.

In which department(s) do you teach?
I am a clinical assistant professor in audiology, part of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders (AHCD).

Were you a first-generation college student?
I was not a first-generation college student but am a second-generation student. My mother completed a master's degree in college student personnel while I was in high school, showing me that formal education doesn't have to happen on anyone else's timeline, and my father has shown me that a passion for learning isn't limited to the classroom.

What do you like about working at NIU?
When I was choosing my own graduate programs, I decided to stick with a smaller program instead of a bigger name, because I wanted a close relationship with my faculty and opportunities for independent learning and growth. Our Doctor of Audiology program at NIU is exactly that, both for our students and for me as a faculty member. The combination of teaching, clinical contact and administrative responsibilities is the best of all possible roles to me. Engagement with the larger university—particularly the wonderful social justice education team—has expanded my understanding of the world and deepened my connection to the people I meet.

In audiology, we forge relationships with our patients that can be long-lasting and personal. At NIU, we are also able to connect closely with our students, whose personal and professional growth is beautiful to watch and engage with across the years in the program and long after.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
You might never again have the opportunity to stretch your experiences like you can at NIU. Visit the cultural centers on campus and take an elective that is out of your comfort zone. Make use of every resource for academic support: make a study plan and stick to it, do your readings, go to office hours, talk to your professors (we like to get to know our students), attend study groups, visit the University Writing Center. But also make use of resources for you as a person: stay physically active, make use of mental health protection and care, and try to build into your schedule a few habits that keep you feeling grounded.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
One of my doctoral students is currently working on a capstone project investigating the relationship between and experience of members of Deaf culture and the profession of audiology. This is an important question, and I'm looking forward to learning from our participants.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
Aside from the basic competencies required for our profession, I hope that my students take away from my work with them a vision of professionalism grounded on trust and empathy, a dedication to person-centered care and evidence-based practice, and the understanding that every experience we have is an opportunity for us to grow and change.

What is your favorite campus event?
Within our department, it's absolutely Audiology Day, where our students present their research findings and we say goodbye to those leaving for their externships. Outside audiology, it's Kite Fest! I absolutely love sitting out in the beautiful September weather with my family watching the amazing kites and enjoying the community camaraderie.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
Though probably not a popular opinion, I really love the NIU geese. They stand on top of our building and survey the grounds like royalty. When Pokemon Go was first released, I spent several hours with my (younger) children on a walking tour of the main campus. While we learned about the historical buildings and sculptures on campus, we also discovered smaller landmarks and stories, like the memorial to William the Goose.

Who has influenced your professional path?
When I first started at NIU, the team I interacted with was made up of Anne Davidson, Karen Munoz, Heidi Kluga and Diane ScheckLong. Over the course of those first few years, and across the years and changes since, all four of these wonderful people influenced the way I saw clinical work, patient care, administrative flow, professionalism and student contact. In the last five years, the NIU Social Justice Education team's work has given me an opportunity to grow and to see the world from wider perspectives. And most importantly, I learn and grow from every student I meet.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I was positive I was going to be an English teacher in a high school. I'm definitely not doing that! But what I valued about that intended path—helping people find their voice—is still the core of what I'm doing, both as a clinician and as a professor.

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am and have been a member of several professional organizations in audiology and have served on the boards of my state academies. One of the most interesting roles I hold currently is as a peer reviewer for manuscripts in my areas of interest, because maintaining a high standard in our professional literature is absolutely critical for the success of future audiologists.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I have learned (or at least, am learning) to schedule time for myself despite a busy life. For me, that means a combination of devouring books; hiking/camping with whatever kids I can convince to join me during those few lovely, warm-enough/cool-enough/few-mosquito nights; and gaming (board, video, etc.). 

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
There is a barrister bookcase in my office here at the Wellness and Literacy Center that has followed audiology from its early days in Adams Hall. 

I first came to NIU as a clinical supervisor and adjunct instructor in 2007 when the clinic was where the campus police office is now, which meant that I was on campus on February 14, 2008. The sound of helicopters will always make me think of the student who sheltered-in-booth with me that day, and the phrase "Forward, Together Forward" still puts a lump in my throat. Though in 2010 I left the university for private practice for several years, NIU stayed in my heart, and I was thrilled to return as a clinical assistant professor in 2014.

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