Summer Fitzgerald is a communication studies major from Gardner, IL
Hometown: Gardner, IL
Year: Expected graduation: 2023
Major: Communication Studies
What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I received the Scripps Newspaper League Scholarship as awarded by the Department of Communication in the spring of 2020. I received this award due to my portfolio of journalism articles, media writings and photography that I worked on throughout my courses. I have also received several other generous scholarships from NIU due to my financial need and academic status. The financial support at NIU has made my experience so enlightening as I am not stressing over bills and payments that are due.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
When I was younger, I always wanted to be a book author, photographer, scriptwriter, graphic designer or newspaper journalist. I am so thankful that my major, communication studies with an emphasis on media studies, combines all of these aspects into one. My coursework consists of photography/film production as well as the journalistic aspects of writing and research. I was very close to applying to NIU as a photography major, but I did not want to be limited to just that discipline and skillset. Media studies was the perfect umbrella to incorporate everything I loved about the world.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is communication studies with an emphasis on media studies as well as a minor in journalism. I am also getting certificates in digital media production and women's and gender studies. I decided on this path because media studies is a broad discipline that enables me to explore all sorts of skillsets and paths. Whether I want to be a photographer, public relations specialist or journalist, I know I can always rely on my degree in media studies.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
Something I have found pleasantly surprising about my experience at NIU is the ability to truly connect with the community and feel like your own superstar. I am always running into friends, colleagues, peers, etc., throughout campus, and it is so exciting to always be meeting new people and connect with them on a regular basis. Even though NIU is much bigger than my hometown, it still has the small, home-y feeling in that everyone knows each other somehow, and it is beyond empowering. Everyone truly just wants to lift each other up and cheer for each other.
How have you connected with other students virtually to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
Ironically, virtual life has made me the most involved, busy and connected I have ever been as a student. Prior to the pandemic, it was challenging to be able to say "yes" to a lot of the things I strived to get involved in, whether it was scheduling barriers or just plain social anxiety. It's easier to say "just join a club" than it is to commute across campus to a foreign building and wander into a room full of strangers. Nowadays, "joining a club" is just clicking a Zoom link and engaging with the chat! My Greek family and I interact so much with Zoom storytelling, playing with the chat emoticons and having funny backgrounds. Although the physical aspect is not there, the sense of friendship and connection is very much alive in my heart.
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 the vice president of the Women and Gender Advocacy Alliance, which has allowed me to expand my activism and passion for social change into the NIU community. I am an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, a community service fraternity, where I have met so many of my closest friends and been able to expand on several skillsets. I hold a position as a community advisor at Stevenson Towers that has guided me into the great depths of residence life and community building. I serve as a mentor and leader for the students living in the dorms. I also am a member of NIU PINK's Campus Team, an organization dedicated to spreading girl power and positivity around campus. All these extracurriculars have made being a Huskie so much more memorable and meaningful. My schedule is constantly filled with tasks to complete and people to engage with. I cannot imagine my NIU life without my extracurriculars. College is so much more than just attending classes, and NIU has 100% proved that to me!
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
One of my favorite professors so far has been Dr. Laura Vasquez, because she is so insightful and admirable in her work. She provides great advice and is phenomenal at leading discussions. I had her for COMS 457 - The Documentary Tradition.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My favorite spot on campus is the MLK Commons because it has so much architecture and scenic landscaping. It is also really fascinating to see everyone walk through it and hang out throughout the day.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
It's okay to be unsure of things or have nerves. As long as you have a desire to achieve your dreams, you will fit right into where you are supposed to be.
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
I had to learn how to live independently. I no longer had parents to do my dishes, wash my clothes or buy my groceries anymore. I had to learn to fit all those duties into my budget and schedule on my own.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
To recharge myself, I put on some music and tidy up my dorm. I try not to go overboard and deep clean, because that will make me even more stressed out. I do just enough to have a clean, fresh living space to surround myself with.