Jonah Parra is a transfer communication studies major from Des Plaines, IL
Hometown: Des Plaines, IL
Year: Expected graduation: 2024
Major: Communication studies, emphasis in advocacy and public communication
Transfer from: William Rainey Harper College
Why did you choose to attend NIU?
I chose to attend NIU because it had such an inclusive feel to it. Plus, the university was affordable; it was just an hour away from my hometown.
What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I’m an Honors Fellow, which helps cover some of my tuition. I was awarded the Margaret L. Wood scholarship in recognition of my accomplishments in the communications department. I’ve also received the Joseph Harry scholarship for my contributions as a queer student. Receiving financial aid has profoundly impacted my experience at NIU. It has alleviated the financial burden associated with pursuing higher education, allowing me to focus more on my studies and less on financial stress. It has been instrumental in my academic journey, allowing me to embrace the full college experience and optimize my learning and personal development 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 always knew I wanted to work with people. I've consistently felt a deep desire to connect with the world around me, to learn from every individual I meet and savor each new experience I encounter. Initially, I wasn't sure if this meant I wanted to travel the world as an anthropologist or delve into the human mind as a psychologist. I believe my chosen major and emphasis (communication studies, advocacy and public communication) truly reflects the aspirations I had growing up. It has afforded me the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and experience a wealth of diverse situations. Through my work in the honors department, I feel I've been able to make meaningful connections with others, aligning with my childhood desire to interact and connect with people.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is communication studies. I was immediately drawn to the advocacy and public communication emphasis because I wanted to understand diverse communities and how they navigate the world around them. I was eager to learn how to be a voice for those who lack the means to communicate. I believe this major has equipped me with the tools necessary to accomplish that.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
One aspect of my experience at NIU that has been pleasantly surprising is the extent to which the professors care about their students. The majority of professors I’ve encountered teach with remarkable passion and attentiveness. I find that my experiences at NIU have fueled my hunger to learn and pursue further education.
How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
As an Honors Fellow, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with a diverse group of honors students from various majors. The honors program has acted as a catalyst for interaction, offering engaged experiences like guest speakers and cultural events. I also serve as the president of Lambda Pi Eta, the Communication Honor Society's Kappa Omega chapter at NIU. This role has enabled me to form academic connections with communication students and professors, facilitating collective learning and mutual growth. My participation in fencing at NIU has been a unique avenue to meet a variety of interesting individuals, each bringing a different perspective, which allows us to learn from one another and form friendships. The sport has provided common ground to connect on a deeper level, fostering camaraderie and mutual respect. Volunteering at the Huskie Food Pantry has also been rewarding. I strongly recommend it to anyone looking to expand their social circle. It’s a venue teeming with wonderful, like-minded volunteers, all connecting over shared values and common goals. Each of these experiences has contributed to my academic and personal growth and allowed me to form a network of diverse and enriching friendships and connections within the NIU community.
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’m the president of Lambda Pi Eta, our Communication Honor Society's chapter. It’s been great for meeting other students and some of our professors in a more relaxed setting. I’m also an Honors Fellow, which means I get to meet a bunch of different students from all different majors. I’m in the Fencing Club. It’s been so much fun, and I’ve made some good friends and learned a lot from everyone. I also spend some time volunteering at the Huskie Food Pantry. It’s been really rewarding, and I’ve met some awesome people who care about giving back just like I do.
What NIU offices, departments or resources have helped you succeed? And how?
The University Honors Program has been instrumental in my success at NIU. It’s fostered a sense of belonging and has made me feel like a valued member of the Huskie community. My interactions within the honors department have been incredibly uplifting and rewarding. It’s reassuring to be surrounded by individuals who share similar aspirations and who genuinely care about the success and well-being of the NIU community.
Are there transfer-specific resources, offices or services that you use to help you succeed at NIU?
Participating in the engaged experiences offered by the honors department has been pivotal in enhancing my involvement within the NIU community. It’s provided me with the opportunity to connect with other transfer students, allowing us to share our unique experiences and perspectives.
What Honors Program opportunities or support have helped you get closer to your academic or career goals so far?
Being an Honors Fellow has instilled in me a sense of responsibility and a desire to set a positive example for my peers and the entire NIU community. Serving as a mentor to incoming freshmen has motivated me to give my best to assist my peers in excelling in their studies and in having a fulfilling and enriching experience as Huskies.
What do you enjoy the most about the Honors Program?
What I really love about the honors program is the strong sense of community it brings. The support I receive from both my advisors and peers is just amazing and makes a huge difference.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
One of my favorite instructors at NIU is Dr. Kate Cady. She’s a part of the communications department and also teaches courses in women's studies. Her passion for her subject matter is evident, and she’s a true fountain of knowledge. I always look forward to her lectures. She has a wonderful way of making all her students feel valued, ensuring every question is addressed and every voice is heard.
How have you benefited by attending class regularly?
Regular class attendance has been beneficial for me as it has enabled the formation of meaningful relationships with both my peers and professors. Each day offers an opportunity to create new connections.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My go-to spot on campus has to be the Patterson complex. It's not just where I get to grab my meals; it’s also where my dorm is located. I love it there — it just feels like home and brings such a comforting vibe.
What advice would you give to a student who is researching colleges to apply to?
Choosing a college is a big decision, so take your time to think about what’s most important to you. Look for schools that offer strong programs in your areas of interest and check out the clubs and organizations to see if they match your hobbies or passions. Visit the campuses if you can. It’ll give you a feel for the environment and help you see if it’s a place where you can be yourself and grow. Don’t forget to consider the practical stuff like tuition, financial aid, location and housing. Remember, it's all about finding a place where you can learn and be happy for the next few years, so trust your instincts!
Why is a college education important to you?
A college education is vital to me because it’s a gateway to opportunities and personal growth. It's not just about earning a degree; it’s about exploring interests, honing skills and building a foundation for a fulfilling career. College provides a structured environment where I can challenge my perspectives, learn from diverse viewpoints, and cultivate critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It opens up a network of connections, enriching my life with relationships that can support my professional and personal journey. It’s an investment in my future, empowering me with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate the complexities of the modern world and contribute meaningfully to society. It's a journey of self-discovery and development, allowing me to understand my passions and purposes more clearly and to strive toward becoming the best version of myself.
What strategies do you use to manage your time between the responsibilities of school, work, friends and family?
Managing school, work, friends and family can be a challenge, but I’ve found that keeping things simple and staying organized really helps! I make a to-do list, focusing on the most important tasks first, and use a calendar to keep track of all my commitments. This way, I know my schedule and can share it with my family, friends and co-workers, so everyone’s on the same page. It’s important for me to set specific times for work, study and relaxation to avoid mix-ups and to take short breaks between tasks to stay focused and fresh. And, when things seem a bit much, I don’t hesitate to reach out for support and advice from my loved ones and mentors.
How do you stay informed about events and services that are available on campus?
To stay informed about the events and services available on campus, I actively engage with various information channels. I regularly check my email for any official updates or announcements from the university. I also follow the university and various campus groups on social media, which keeps me in the loop about upcoming events, activities and any changes in services. Huskie Hub is a go-to resource for me, providing comprehensive information about different events, workshops and services, helping me to stay connected and make the most of my time on campus.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
When I need to relax or recharge, I like to mix things up a bit. Sometimes, I just need some fresh air and a change of scenery, so I go for walks — it really clears my head. Other times, I’m all about catching the latest movie or just watching some TV. And then, of course, playing video games is always a fun way to unwind and take a break from the daily grind.
Please tell us about your job and hobbies.
I volunteer at a non-for-profit children's theater company called Artreach Educational Theatre, located in Palatine, Illinois. In my role there, I serve as an instructor, teaching choreography and stage plays, and I occasionally participate in the musical productions as a performer. It’s a rewarding experience, allowing me to combine my passion for theater with the joy of contributing to a meaningful cause focused on children's development through the arts.