Stephen Samuels

Stephen Samuels

#PeopleofNIU Photo by Wade Duerkes/Creative Services

Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Year: Second-Year Law Student

Major: College of Law Degree

Why did you choose NIU?
What brought me to NIU was family. I’m the youngest of four, and all three of my siblings attended NIU. My cousins and uncle also went here, so I have a long history with NIU. It’s almost a family tradition. When my sister was working on her master’s degree here, she started talking to me about college. She showed me the ropes when I moved to DeKalb at 16, and for two years, all our focus was on me getting into NIU. My undergrad is in political science with a minor in black studies, and my emphasis in political science was public law. Then I went straight to grad school for my master’s degree with an emphasis in student affairs, and right after that, I taught here at the Center for Black Studies for a year. Then after a year, I still had the energy and the yearning, so I applied to law school. I started last fall.

What most excites you about your major?
What most excites me about my major, to be honest, is the influence of it. When you have equipped yourself with a law degree, you have a skillset and a knowledge base so you can change things. We hear about change in music, we hear about change in politics, we hear change, change, change is going to come. History has taught me that one of the best places for change to occur -- and to foster some real change -- is in law. I looked in the mirror and said, “You want to make change? How are you going to do it? Where are you going to do it?” Change takes information; it takes time; it takes power. I felt that equipping myself with the best education was the way to do that. Just understanding history, and doing my research, I felt that law is the best way, the legal way, to make things happen, to foster growth and change. One of my favorite people in history in America is Thurgood Marshall, but the other is actually the man who taught Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston. That gentleman sparked an entire movement. He trained people to go out there and make change. That’s what I want to do, equip myself, stack my credentials so I can go out there and make change. People who have done that in history, a lot of them have a law background, whether they practiced specifically in law or not, they had a Ph.D. or a law degree. I said that I’m a Huskie at heart and I really wanted to finish my degree at NIU. Since we do not have a doctoral degree in African American studies, I chose law.

Why should other students come to NIU?
The cost is good, and I like the location. That was something I liked about NIU coming from the city life, NIU is a little quiet, a little slower, but you can focus. You can relax, you can be safe and just think about what your goals are and strive for them. I also tell people to come to NIU because you are going to learn from many different people. I’ve learned about people from Korea to Chicago, and so many different states. NIU has a lot to offer. Speaking with other students and seeing other institutions, they don’t have as much of a hands-on approach as NIU does. It’s big, but it’s not too big to where you can’t get to know your professors. Most classes, the professor will know who you are if you make an effort. I know institutions where it’s just too big, or it’s just too small. I believe NIU is right in the middle, a good fit. NIU is a good place to practice before you get into the real world. NIU has over 300 organizations that are run by students. If you don’t see an organization that fits you, you can create one through the student association. There are not too many schools that have that. I used to work in the student association, and through that experience, I learned about shared governance. Students here have a say, and that’s practice for the real world. You can learn about yourself, and about systems. I wouldn’t trade NIU for anything. There are not too many places I know of that have those options. You can go off to a big school, but you’re not going to have this type of practice, these relationships, the hands-on experience. NIU is a great place.

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