Laboratory manager, Department of Biological Sciences
What year did you start working at NIU?
1995, as an undergraduate researcher in the biology department in the lab of Dr. W.E. Briles.
Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is Chicago and I currently live in Hampshire, Illinois.
Where did you attend school? What degree(s) did you earn?
I attended NIU and earned my B.S. in May 1997 and my M.S. in biological sciences in May 2004.
If you attended college, were you a first-generation student?
I am a first-generation college student. I chose NIU because of its good reputation, its proximity to Chicago and because it was one of the more affordable colleges. I worked and took out student loans to pay for college, so a good value for my education was very important.
Do you have a college age or college-bound student?
Yes, I have two children in college. My 20-year-old son, Kane, attends Elgin Community College and is working toward a degree in civil engineering. My daughter, Kayla, just graduated and will be attending UW-Platteville in the fall, majoring in psychology.
Describe your typical day—what do you do while at work?
My typical day at work is very busy, full of variety and working with many people on campus. Students, staff and faculty members come to the biology storeroom for items they need for their research. I order supplies, do deliveries and coordinate maintenance on our scientific equipment. As facilities manager, I work with many awesome Physical Plant and Building Services workers to keep the Department of Biological Sciences running. My involvement with shared governance is very rewarding and enriching. I am the treasurer of the Operating Staff Council (OSC) and the chair of the Workplace Guidance Committee and the newly established Civil Service Emergency Fund. We are very excited to be able to assist civil service employees who are experiencing financial difficulties.
What do you like about working at NIU?
I like the opportunity to network and collaborate with others. NIU really is a community and offers many opportunities for personal growth. My happiness at NIU continues to increase as I become more involved and give back. I was inspired to join shared governance after attending Dr. Freeman's investiture ceremony and saw all these strong women leaders on stage and the election of NIU's first female president. I have worked at NIU for about 22 years and have transitioned from a student to researcher to manager. I believe we have the best leadership now. I was elected to OSC and have met so many people throughout the NIU community and have learned so much from them. I enjoy my involvement in shared governance to be an advocate for my peers. I especially feel at home in the biology department and love being part of all the interesting research going on. I try to attend as many seminars and graduate student defenses as possible and have made long-lasting friends. Plus, I would be remiss if I did not mention that I met my fiancé here in the biology department. So, for many reasons, I am extremely grateful to NIU.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
The advice that I can really recommend to biology students in particular is the importance of doing research in labs. I was a pre-med student who became involved in research in an immunogenetics laboratory, and it completely changed my life. My mentor was amazing, and I loved my research. I did that for 20 years, and now I manage the research labs and the biology facilities. I also would tell students that it's important to do what you love. The advice I give my children who are in college is that there is always help and resources. Please speak up and ask your professors or the staff for help. The most rewarding part of my job is helping the students.
What is your favorite campus event?
One of my favorite campus events is the Wellness Fair. I like that NIU is committed to programs for employee and student well-being and is constantly looking for ways to improve.
In what ways do you see your colleagues help foster student success?
I think that the biology department faculty and staff go above and beyond to mentor students and ensure their success and growth. Becoming involved in biology research changed my life, and I see it happen to students all the time. Getting involved in research labs as an undergraduate has inspired many students to stay at NIU for graduate degrees. Many of the biology professors continue research partnerships with their students after they leave NIU and become professors at other universities. Dr. Rich King comes to mind when I think of past students who have moved on. The biology department has really matriculated very successful researchers.
What is your favorite memory of NIU?
My favorite memory of NIU was watching my fiancé get hooded for his Ph.D. This was a very emotional and impressive feat, and I knew first-hand how hard he worked to get there - all those long nights in the lab performing research. Having both our families together for the ceremony in the Convocation Center to celebrate this accomplishment was very special.
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 a medical doctor since I was very young. I came to NIU as a biology student when I was 17 years old and become involved in research, which diverted my path to medical school. I enjoyed the research so much that I stayed in the lab to get my master's degree. While my path to medical school changed, I am a biologist and get to do what I have passion for. After 20 years as a biology research associate, I have been a laboratory manager for the past two-and-a-half years. I feel fortunate that I continued my career in the biology department here at NIU.
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 very involved and passionate about NIU shared governance. I am the treasurer of the Operating Staff Council and chair of the Workplace Guidance Committee and Civil Service Emergency Fund.
What community organizations are you involved in?
I was on the Citizens Environmental Commission in DeKalb when I was a resident. I helped draft the Master Sustainability Plan for DeKalb and worked with some very impressive community activists such as Dan Kenney, founder of DeKalb Community Gardens. I am a regular blood donor and have donated over 10 gallons in my lifetime.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
My daily routine to unwind after work every day is watching "Jeopardy!" with my son and fiancé. I've enjoyed a very stimulating book club with intelligent ladies for over a decade. I am in the City of Rockford Pipe Band, a Scottish bagpipe band. I play the tenor drummer. My fiancé is a snare drummer and convinced me to join. We go to many highland competitions and play in parades and other events. We practice weekly, and I enjoy the band's company so much. They are a very fun group.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
I mentioned this before, but I am so grateful for the long-lasting friendships I have made at NIU over the past 22 years, and most importantly for finding the best partner ever.