Pen Novus is a transfer student, communication studies major from Warren/Apple River, IL
Hometown: Warren/Apple River, IL
Year: Expected graduation: May 2020
Major: Communication Studies
Transfer from: Highland Community College
What is your major, and why did you choose your field of study?
I chose communication studies with an emphasis in advocacy & public communication because I want to be better at communicating the ideas that can increase understanding between different groups and people. There's a lot of implicit misunderstanding in everyday conversations, and I'd like to reduce that.
Part of that is because I'm transgender (specifically nonbinary) and I'm gay, and what often makes it so hard for me to feel understood in those identities are the things left unsaid in so many conversations. If I can improve that for myself and for other people as a result of my studies, then NIU will have given me a really incredible skillset.
How did you learn about NIU, and why did you choose to attend?
I transferred from Highland Community College after finishing my associate's degree in 2017. I was originally planning to transfer to a small liberal arts college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but the cost just wasn't going to work. NIU was originally on my list because state schools are more affordable, but what really sold me was the communication studies program and forensics team.
Do you have any favorite activities or events at NIU? What else do you do for fun in your spare time?
I used to be part of NIU Forensics team, and I am still part of Speakers Bureau through the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, which I absolutely love doing. In my spare time, I like to write (poetry and prose), play games (mostly Pokémon), and listen to podcasts (My Brother, My Brother, and Me; The Adventure Zone; and Critical Role are the most frequent).
What do you like about campus and the DeKalb area?
One of the things I've heard several people say they love about campus is the diversity. I definitely appreciate the diversity, since I grew up in a town of 1,500 people where "homogenous" was almost an understatement. However, I think what I really love most about campus is the sentiment I keep coming across that diversity is a good and worthwhile part of NIU.
DeKalb is a neat place for me to live because it's way bigger than where I grew up, but there's parts of it that really feel like home to me. Also, the DeKalb Public Library is absolutely amazing.
What is up next for you after your time at NIU? Any plans you would like to share?
I'm planning to go to grad school and get my master's, but what I'll get my master's in is still up in the air. I love communication studies, but an older love of mine is libraries. There aren't many library science programs in the country, which makes planning harder, but I know I'd love being a librarian. I'd also like to work with young LGBT people, though whether that's something I do on the side or that's part of my career remains to be seen.
What’s a general piece of advice you’d give to someone starting college?
Your instructors aren't going to be upset if you come to office hours or email them or talk to them before or after class. In fact, they'll probably really appreciate it, and both of you will get something out of it. Also, it's okay to need help. Learning is hard! It takes a lot of work! There's always going to be someone on campus you can talk to about whatever's going on. Resources exist to be used, and somebody is probably going to appreciate it when you do use them.