Carolyn Law

Thesis/dissertation advisor, Graduate School

Carolyn Law

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?

Where did you attend school? What degree(s) did you earn?
Missouri State University (formerly Southwest Missouri State), B.S. in education
Emporia State University (Kansas), M.A.
University of Minnesota (I was in the English Ph.D. program, but left without the degree to become an editor.)

If you attended college, were you a first-generation student? If so, what advice would you offer to current first generation students?
Yes, I was a first-gen student. My advice is to interact with faculty. Go to office hours. Demonstrate an interest in their course and subject. Ask questions and don't assume you are the only one who doesn't know what's going on.

Describe your typical day—what do you do while at work?
I start very early, usually before 6 a.m. I log in to see if any papers have been submitted for review. I communicate with students by email about their submissions and answer general questions from faculty and students that come in through email. I process and record submissions in the Graduate School records system. Then I read. I review each paper for compliance with the Graduate School guidelines for theses/dissertations at NIU.

What do you like about working at NIU?
I am retiring at the end of December. I have been the thesis/dissertation advisor for more than 27 years, and I have had a truly remarkable career at NIU. I sincerely value the role I've played in assisting faculty, department staff and students to produce theses and dissertations that all of us can be proud of. My co-workers in the Graduate School have been the best group of colleagues I could ever have dreamed of. My supervisors over the years have respected my expertise and experience and allowed me great latitude to change and improve the thesis office when and as needed. I am proud of being part of the Graduate School at NIU.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Take advantage of all the opportunities available to you, both socially and academically, to make your NIU years rich and meaningful while you are here. Make your NIU experience more than career preparation alone.

What is important for students to know about the office/department that you work in? What student services does your office provide?
My office is very student focused, but students rarely contact me before they have to. Students should know that my resources and expertise are available from the very beginning of their thesis/dissertation path. My office is a one-stop shop for all things related to the thesis/dissertation requirements. I think students are afraid of me, but I'm very nice, actually.

In what ways do you see your colleagues help student success?
The Graduate School staff are extraordinary student service providers. We work hard to create a welcoming culture of support, and all of us share in a commitment to that support from first inquiry and application to graduation. All of us work late, work early and go beyond when we are needed.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
I received the SPS Presidential Award for Excellence in 2021. We were all still virtual then, and so the dean of the Graduate School at the time, Brad Bond, called an all-hands Zoom meeting. So, we are all gathering, and in popped President Freeman. Everyone but me knew that the meeting was really called for her to announce my award.

What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?
Transitioning the Graduate School from paper theses/dissertations to electronic documents (ETDs) in 2008.

What fulfills you personally and professionally?
Students who write me notes or contact me directly to say they appreciate my work and attention to their document. Graduation is the first time I see most of the students I work with, and it is always extremely fulfilling!

Which of NIU’s core values align with your own?
Curiosity and creativity: We commit our resources to supporting students, faculty and staff in their research, artistry and professional development. Service and stewardship: We make accessible the knowledge and resources we create.

Have you contributed to any NIU Foundation fundraising campaigns such as the Day of Giving or Huskies United? If yes, why did you decided to support NIU?
I have contributed to the TJ Lusher Memorial Fund in Huskies United 2023. TJ was an extraordinary librarian and friend who did so much to move NIU's library forward in technology and innovation.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I wanted to be an English teacher. I did that but discovered pretty early on that I'm much more temperamentally suited to being an editor. I was in a Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota and edited a book (Temple University Press) just before I started my dissertation. I decided that helping others' scholarship to publication was much more fulfilling than teaching or my own research.

Are you participating in or have you participated in any NIU shared governance or professional development groups? If so, how has your participation enhanced your experience as an employee?
Many years ago, I was on the first Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation (I think that's what it was called in the 1990s). We worked very hard for equity and inclusion at a time when sexual orientation and gender identity were not protected in the non-discrimination policy on campus or in the state.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I play ukulele with the Wild Blue Ukulele Orchestra.

Do you have any hobbies or interesting personal pursuits you're involved with in your spare time?
I have started my own personal property appraisal business and hope to build that up for my second career. I specialize in sterling silver and enjoy researching and writing about antiques and collectibles.

Back to top