Diana Alvarez is a health sciences major from Wheeling, IL
Hometown: Wheeling, IL
Year: Expected graduation: 2025
Major: Health sciences
Minor: Computer science
What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I am a recipient of the Presidential Scholarship. I received this scholarship based on my academic achievements and co-curricular involvement in high school. Before receiving this scholarship, I was very worried about how I would be paying for school, especially since I am a first-generation student. This scholarship has been nothing short of a blessing since it not only allows me to attend NIU, but also to better focus on my academics. I am beyond grateful for the endless opportunities this scholarship has given me and will continue to give me during my time at NIU.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor. Although I am no longer pursuing pre-med, I have not lost my passion for health care. I am currently a nursing major and minoring in computer science, but when I applied to the school, I was a psychology major on the pre-med track. I chose to take a different path because I wanted a more flexible job that includes both health care and technology, so both my interests are combined.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
Currently, I am a health sciences major and minoring in computer science. I am also on the nursing path and will also be applying to the nursing school this upcoming fall. I have chosen this course of study because I have always been drawn to learning about anatomy and the human body. I have also always had a fascination with learning about medications and how they work in the body to help treat illnesses. Besides the medical aspects, I also have a deep passion for helping others, which is why I dream of becoming a nurse. Although unconventional with my major, my minor in computer science comes from my love of solving puzzles. Coding can involve a lot of trial and error, which can sometimes lead to roadblocks. I find it very fun and engaging to try to work through these roadblocks to get your code to run smoothly. It is almost like a game, which makes the classes fun.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
I found the school spirit pleasantly surprising at NIU. The school does a fantastic job of creating a united atmosphere where everyone can feel included and can feel pride in being a Huskie. I especially like the enthusiasm that goes along with tailgates, football games and events that constantly go on around campus.
How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
I have found being involved in extracurriculars and student organizations is a great way to meet friends. As you get involved around campus, you get to meet students who have similar interests as you. Going to school events such as WOW week activities and sporting events are also ways I have been able to connect with other students. The best method I have seen students use to make study groups for their classes is by just asking students in their classes for their contact info. Although this can be intimidating to many students, most students are open to meeting others outside of school and helping not only themselves, but also their fellow Huskies succeed.
Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
Last year I was involved in a research project through Research Rookies. My research project involved studying the effects that two different parenting groups had on the language skills of children ages 0 to 3. Currently, I am president of Bread for the World, a McKearn Fellow, a research ambassador, a rising scholar and am in the Honors Program. Participating in these experiences has allowed me to meet new people who have taught me many things and given me new perspectives. I have also found that being involved in extracurricular activities has been a great way to not only supplement the information I have learned in class, but also to gain knowledge that you simply cannot get from a classroom alone.
What NIU offices, departments or resources have helped you succeed? And how?
I have found office hours to be the most helpful for me. Sometimes in big lectures, it can be hard or intimidating to ask a question. Office hours with your TAs or professors allows you to get extra personalized help and gives you the chance to ask questions you may not have gotten the chance to ask before. Office hours can also be especially beneficial if you are having trouble in the class, falling behind or have an exam coming up.
What Honors Program opportunities or support have helped you get closer to your academic or career goals so far?
I have enjoyed participating in the honors events. These have been very helpful because they go over important topics and are a great way to meet new people. My favorite one was the grad school seminar event because I am interested in grad school but was unfamiliar with the process. This seminar event helped me a lot. These events cover a variety of topics that are incredibly helpful for students of any age and major. These events also help cover Honors Program requirements.
What do you enjoy the most about the Honors Program?
What I enjoy the most about the Honors Program is the tight-knit community feeling that is formed. When you are in the Honors Program, you are part of a community of students who are dedicated to their studies and are interested in similar things as you. You see these students in your small honors classes, on honors trips and you might even get to live with them in the Honors House. This is great because over time you develop not only great friendships, but also a great support system that keeps you focused on achieving your goals and dreams.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
One of my favorite instructors has been Madelyn Anderson. I had the pleasure of taking her honors COMS 100 course. She has been one of my favorite instructors because of her genuine interest in her students. She is the only instructor I have seen who cares so deeply for her students that she applauds student achievement not only in the classroom, but also out of the classroom. Besides being an excellent teacher in the classroom, she could also be seen at students' extracurricular events. She was a great teacher all around and I highly recommend her.
How have you benefited by attending class regularly?
I have benefited from attending classes regularly because it helps prevent me from missing crucial class information. Although many teachers post the slideshows that are presented in class on Blackboard, it is not the same as getting the opportunity to listen to the professor explain them in person. Also, some teachers like to reward students who attend class with exclusive information about the tests, study guide questions or even extra credit points. Besides the academic aspects of attending classes regularly, it also helps build connections. Building these important connections can make an incredible difference when it comes to creating study groups, finding research opportunities or even just finding lifelong friends.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My favorite spot on campus is the Holmes Student Center. It is a great place that combines both study time and social time. If a student wants to grab a bite to eat and hang out with friends, they can easily do that on the first floor. If a student wants a quiet place to study, they can do so on the second floor. It is the perfect place to balance both sides of a college student's busy lifestyle. The Holmes Student Center is also home to many fun school-spirit activities that are available to all students.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
Some advice I would give future students applying to colleges is to apply early and to keep an open mind. Applying early allows the student to get their decisions back earlier, which allows them more time to decide on where they want to commit. Applying early also gives the student a higher chance of getting accepted not only to the school, but also to scholarships the school may offer. It is also a good idea for the student to apply to a wide range of schools and to keep an open mind because the school you thought was your first pick might not be the school for you after all.
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
I think the main thing I had to learn to do differently was to live completely independent. At home, you usually have somebody guiding you in your personal life and academic life. Your parents and teachers are there to support you and keep you on track. In college, your professors may teach so many students that they might not even know your name. Of course, if you reach out you will be able to get assistance, but they are not guiding you the way they did in high school. It is very important to learn to be independent by developing the skills of time management, self-advocacy and resilience, which may be new skills for brand-new college students.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
In my free time, I enjoy spending time outside. I am an avid runner and find it helps with stress and brings my mood up when school gets difficult. I also value spending time with friends and family.