Bachelor of General Studies Director and Director of Forensics
What year did you start working at NIU? 1982.
Where is your hometown, and where do you live now?
I grew up in River Grove, IL and live in DeKalb.
Where did you attend school? What degree(s) did you earn?
NIU: B.A. and M.A. in Communication Education.
Describe your typical day—what do you do while at work?
Every day is very different. Typically during the regular school year, I spend much of the day working one-on-one with students. I am either advising with current students or talking with new and returning students about the Bachelor of General Studies program. When I am not advising, I am coaching our forensics students. I also visit our regional campuses in the evenings to do advising, and spend weekends traveling with our speech team or hosting tournaments on our campus.
What do you like about working at NIU?
I have been so blessed to have had the honor of working with so many wonderful individuals in my many years here at NIU — administrators, staff, faculty and, of course, students. I am fortunate to work with individuals across the campus. My colleagues in Zulauf and Watson are my second family as are the member of the NIU Forensics team. I also cherish the fact that I still remain close to many of my retired colleagues and former students.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Take advantage of the many resources that are available to you. There are countless individuals who are here to teach you, to assist you, to listen to you, and to help you on this exciting journey. Get involved and embrace all that NIU has to offer; make this place your home.
What is your favorite campus event?
There are so many, but I love orientation. For many years I had the honor of talking to parents of freshmen. I also love Welcome Days and certainly commencement, where I have served as a marshal.
In what ways do you see your colleagues help foster student success?
There is a strong student-centered approach across the campus. My colleagues continue to inspire me with their strong work ethic, their remarkable ability to listen, and their genuine care and compassion.
What is your favorite memory of NIU?
There are so many, it is difficult to limit it to one. I love our summer speech camp with our volunteer alumni staff, traveling with the speech team to national tournaments and coaching national championships. I have wonderful memories of living in Lincoln Hall where I made long-lasting friends. I am a big Huskie fan and the football win against Maryland, the Orange Bowl and Nebraska win were great! And I’ve had so many life-changing moments in a classroom where I not only taught my students, but my students in turn taught me.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I think I knew early on that I wanted to be a teacher; I taught junior high and high school. I started at NIU as an instructor and speech coach and then moved into advising — how blessed I am that I was able to teach, coach and advise. I had strong mentors in Dean Sue Doederlein and Professor Dorothy Bishop. While they are different roles, I believe my advising, coaching and teaching incorporate a lot of the same skills: informing, motivating, listening, encouraging and sharing.
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?
Yes, I am the senior member and first female named to the executive board of the Illinois Intercollegiate Forensics Association, I am a member and former president of the Illinois Communication and Theater Association. Every other year for the last 30 years, NIU has hosted the IIFA state tournament that continues to bring students and coaches from across the state to NIU. Many of the coaches in Illinois are NIU alumni. This has proven to be an excellent recruiting tool for undergraduates and graduate students. My work with ICTA has also provided a strong network for work with area high schools and to promote communication education.
What community organizations are you involved in?
I have been a member of Christ the Teacher Parish since I was a student here. I am a deputy registrar for voter registration. I have worked on political campaigns and tried to promote civic engagement.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I come from a large Italian family, so family and food are very important to me. I think I am a fairly good cook. We play on a summer bocce league in Stone Park with my family, including my 94-year-old dad. I also enjoy spending time with my husband, Matt Swan — who also is in NIU’s Department of Communication — golfing at Buena Vista, going to the theater and challenging each other in Trivia Games.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
NIU has been part of the Santacaterina family for a long time. My two sisters have both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and my nephews were NIU Huskies. I am so grateful to my teachers, my colleagues and my students. You all continue to have a profound impact on me.