Nicole Smalley is a human development and family sciences graduate student from Pingree Grove, IL
Hometown: Pingree Grove, IL
Year: Anticipated graduation year: 2022
Major: Human development and family sciences
Transfer from: Elgin Community College
What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I have a graduate assistant tuition waiver. It has helped me take a part of the weight off from being in college.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
I wanted to be a doctor growing up and in fact pursued that until I transferred to NIU. Before coming here for undergraduate studies, I switched majors to human development and family sciences with an emphasis in family social services. Since graduating with my bachelor's, I have gone on to start my master's degree in marriage and family therapy. I could not be happier with what I do, and I look forward to what the rest of my time at NIU brings and what this will mean for my future.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
I'm pursuing my master's degree in applied human development and family sciences with a specialization in marriage and family therapy. I have always wanted to work with children and their families. Having my own experiences in life made me want to help others. I am extremely passionate about finding where we can do better to best support families and children.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
I have found that NIU has been a wonderful place to become more connected with the community and others in the field across the country.
How have you connected with other students virtually to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
Throughout the pandemic, it has been hard to connect with people, and in a way it's distanced us. However, it has brought us together in a lot of ways. Building relationships at NIU through virtual classes hasn't been hard because we are all struggling together. Being there for each other through it all has really been the glue to hold us together.
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 was involved in the NIU Student Council on Family Relations, which helped me become more connected with the community and my peers.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
All of my instructors and professors have been truly amazing. I feel that I connected most with Dr. Lindsey Hawkins. I have been her graduate assistant (GA) and her student in HDFS 693: Addiction and Substance Abuse in Marriage and Family Therapy. Dr. Hawkins has been a support in the classroom, as a GA supervisor and as a colleague. Through my entire time in grad school, she has continued to be a rock for me and my cohort. It is her pure lack of hesitancy to help any and everyone and to put her all into her students and any person in the community.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My favorite spot on campus has been Wirtz Hall because although it's a boring building, it has been home to me for the past two years. All of my undergraduate and graduate time has been there.
What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
Don't get hung up on how fancy the school is or how hard it is to get into. Look for what experience you want to gain and what institution can best support that and take you beyond your dreams.
Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
Learning how to adjust to college during a pandemic.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I enjoy knitting, art activities, snacking and binge-watching TV. Sometimes, self-care looks like doing nothing all day and that's okay!
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