Gina Fiorenza

Gina Fiorenza

Gina Fiorenza is a political science major from Rockford, IL

Hometown: Rockford, IL

Year: Expected graduation: 2026

Major: political science

Minors: History and social change leadership

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 had a lot of interests. I often switched my career path depending on the day. I wanted to be a fashion designer, then a professional soccer player, then an actress and a teacher. I have always been creative and interested in helping others. Now, I am pursuing a major in political science and hope to go to law school so that I can be an activist and protect people's constitutional rights.

What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is political science. I am also pursuing a minor in history and a minor in social change leadership. I only got really into politics during my junior year of high school after starting to follow the news and taking AP United States History. I loved my AP United States and Government class senior year of high school, and it only solidified my desire to major in political science. I wanted to minor in history to learn more about past social injustices. I minored in social change leadership so I could learn more about how to become a better leader in my community and later in my career.

What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
I have been surprised by how many opportunities there are at NIU. When applying to NIU, I didn't have extensive knowledge about all of the different minors and honors programs offered in connection with my major and career interests. I love how NIU is relatively close to home. Not only have I been able to pursue my undergraduate degree at NIU with ease, but I have also been able to keep my job back home and work while in school.

How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
I have connected with other students through various clubs and through the Honors Program.

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?

I am involved in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, where I serve as vice president, and the Pre-law Honors Society. These student organizations have given me the resources I need to succeed both now and later after undergrad.

What NIU offices, departments or resources have helped you succeed? And how?

I contribute a lot of my success to the political science department, the Honors Program and my advisors. The political science department has many different programs available, including departmental honors. Even within my major, I am given the resources to explore my interests and push myself to succeed both academically and in the NIU community. The Honors Program has pushed me to  be a better student and a better person. With opportunities to mentor students, serve on committees and attend workshops, I'm able to build my resume and be prepared for graduate school. My advisors have been extremely helpful in taking the stress off of planning for each semester. Not only do they make sure I have all of my graduation requirements, but they also give me the ability to explore my interests and enhance my undergraduate experience through additional minors and honors programs.

What Honors Program opportunities or support have helped you get closer to your academic or career goals so far?

The CODE workshops I attended last spring inspired me to take on a minor in social change leadership. I really enjoyed learning more about myself and how to become a better ally and advocate for social justice. My minor in social change leadership will allow me to learn how to become a better leader, and I’ll use what I learn in my future profession as a lawyer.

What do you enjoy the most about the Honors Program?

I like how flexible the Honors Program is and the many opportunities they have available for students. I am able to find workshops and events that will better me (like the CODE workshops in the fall and spring semesters) and help me later in my undergraduate experience. Because of the Honors Program, I am better prepared for research and internship opportunities that will make me stand out among other candidates when applying to graduate school.

Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?

My favorite professor has been Professor Alesha Porisky. She taught POLS 260 (Introduction to Comparative Politics) fall of my freshman year and has been my favorite professor since. I have since taken POLS 368 (Politics of Africa) and POLS 373 (Women in Politics). She is extremely engaging and only wants what is best for her students. Her classes are simple yet complex. She gives students the freedom to explore some of their own interests through research papers and policy briefs. She is also very accommodating regarding extensions and clarification on topics, too.

How have you benefited by attending class regularly?

By attending class regularly, I am better prepared to pass the class. I am able to better understand course content and stay on top of my work. I have also been able to better build relationships with my professors, which will be of great use when I need letters of recommendation in the future!

Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?

My favorite spot on campus is the library. Because of the environment, I feel like I'm able to focus a lot better on my schoolwork. And I get a nice view of campus! I love to go to Einstein's to grab a coffee and a bite to eat before I tackle a paper or attend a study session.

What advice would you give to a student who is researching colleges to apply to?

Look at everything! From the residence halls to the available majors, minors and certificates. Consider the honors programs, cost, scholarships and the distance from home. The college you choose will be your home for the next four years. You want to be sure you are confident that you will succeed and make the most out of your college experience.

Why is a college education important to you?

A college education is important to me because it is what sets me up for success in my career. I can learn how to juggle classwork, extracurriculars, a job and a social life while also pursuing a degree I love. A college education is essential to me because it will prepare me for graduate school and my future career.

What strategies do you use to manage your time between the responsibilities of school, work, friends and family?

I really try and get my schoolwork done the day it is assigned. By getting assignments done earlier, I can devote more time to working and spending time with friends and family. Self-care is also important! There is no shame in taking time for yourself so that you can better succeed in school. I also like to plan out my week by using a calendar journal. This way, I know exactly what I need to do for each class and can take each assignment day by day.

How do you stay informed about events and services that are available on campus?

I stay informed about events and services that are available on campus through the weekly announcements emailed by the university and the Honors Program. My email is my lifeline for anything!

What do you do to relax or recharge?

To relax and recharge, I like to stay in and watch a movie or one of my favorite shows. Taking a break from my schoolwork is a must, especially right after midterms or finals week.

Please tell us about your job and hobbies.

I currently work at a roller rink called Skateland in Rockford. I also am a campaign staffer for my state representative and work to collect signatures to get him on the ballot. In my free time, I like to spend time with friends and family.

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