Henry Tomiser is a psychology major from Saint Louis, MO
Hometown: Saint Louis, MO
Year: Expected graduation: 2024
What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I am honored to be a recipient of an Honors Excellence Award and the Forward, Together Forward Scholarship. I was awarded these scholarships on the basis of academic achievement, character and community service. The financial support I've received from NIU has allowed me to focus on my academics while devoting much of my time to volunteering.
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 started at NIU, I wanted to become a music teacher. However, I now plan to become a speech-language pathologist and speech and language researcher. I still enjoy music, though, and I have found opportunities on campus that combine my interests in music, speech and language, and community service. I volunteer with the NIU Penguin Players, a program that gives adults with disabilities the opportunity to participate in musical theater. I have also volunteered with NIU Music and Memory, a student organization that provides opportunities for nursing home residents with dementia to participate in music and other enriching activities.
What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
I am majoring in psychology and minoring in communicative disorders and cognitive science. I chose these areas of study because I want to understand how the human mind works in order to help people communicate.
Tell us about the research you are doing and why it interests you.
My Research Rookies project, done under the mentorship of Dr. Allison Gladfelter, was about how autistic children understand the meanings of different words. I plan to continue research on the relationship between autism and language. This area of study is important to me because many autistic individuals struggle to communicate. In order for parents, teachers and professionals to better support autistic children's learning, researchers need to understand the ways in which autistic individuals use, develop and understand language differently.
How has conducting research strengthened your education and experience at NIU?
Conducting research has helped me improve in areas of informational literacy, such as evaluating sources for credibility, balancing opposing views and synthesizing information. In addition, after presenting my research at CURE, I am much more comfortable speaking to others about the things I am learning. Conducting undergraduate research also gave me the opportunity to learn about topics outside of my regular coursework.
How will your research experience help you in the future?
Now that I have participated in undergraduate research, I am excited (rather than nervous) to do research at the graduate level, and I feel confident that I have the tools I will need to succeed in research.
Who at NIU has been important to your success doing research and why?
My mentor, Dr. Allison Gladfelter, has been very important to my success in undergraduate research in the field of autism. Dr. Gladfelter is extremely enthusiastic about research and is always eager to offer guidance, support and new ideas to her students. One of the most important things I have learned from Dr. Gladfelter is the importance of being not only an excellent researcher, but also an excellent advocate for autistic people.
What advice would you give to an incoming student as it relates to research at NIU?
One piece of advice I would give a beginning researcher is to talk to everyone around you! The connections you make with other researchers are essential. You never know who will spark you next great idea or become your next mentor or collaborator.
What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
I have been pleasantly surprised with how kind, understanding and supportive the faculty and staff are here at NIU.
How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
I have met many amazing new people by getting involved in student organizations, community service and undergraduate research. In addition, living in the Honors House has allowed me to meet other University Honors students.
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 currently serving as the vice president of NIU's Communicative Disorders Student Association, a group that advocates for the fields of speech-language pathology and audiology, holds community and outreach events, and supports communicative disorders students as many of them prepare to continue their careers at the graduate level. I also volunteer with the NIU Penguin Players, a program that gives adults with disabilities the opportunity to participate in musical theater, and NIU Music and Memory, an organization that provides opportunities for nursing home residents with dementia to participate in music and other enriching activities. In addition, after completing the Research Rookies program myself, I am now serving as an undergraduate research ambassador, a role that involves helping current Research Rookies succeed as first-time researchers and raising awareness about the important benefits of undergraduate research. These extracurriculars have been foundational to my experience as a Huskie; they have given me a wealth of hands-on learning as well as some of the best memories from my college career.
What NIU offices, departments or resources have helped you succeed? And how?
The University Honors Program has provided me with scholarships, workshops and opportunities for developing leadership skills, all of which have been essential to my success in college.
What Honors Program opportunities or support have helped you get closer to your academic or career goals so far?
Some of my favorite opportunities provided by the Honors Program have been their writing workshops and the Dennis Barsema Leadership Bootcamp.
What do you enjoy the most about the Honors Program?
The thing I enjoy most about the Honors Program is the opportunity to take honors classes that are outside my major. For example, I got to take an honors seminar about classical epic poetry taught by Dr. Timothy Crowley. Even though I'm a psychology major, this ended up being one of my favorite classes at NIU.
Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
One of my favorite professors at NIU is Dr. Jamie Mayer. One of her classes, Neuroscience of Communication and Associated Behaviors, was one of my favorite classes I have taken at NIU. The course taught me how different neurological symptoms arise from damage to different parts of the nervous system. Dr. Mayer has a talent for explaining even the most complicated concepts in a simple and understandable way, and she always provides real-world examples that make the content relevant and interesting. Dr. Mayer is also passionate about helping people living with dementia. She serves as the faculty advisor for NIU Music and Memory. Dr. Mayer encouraged me to begin volunteering with Music and Memory, and those experiences have been among my favorite in my time at NIU.
How have you benefited by attending class regularly?
Attending class isn't just about the lecture — it's about the interactions before and after the lecture as well. Attending class regularly has allowed me to meet other students and to learn more about the experiences and perspectives of my professors.
Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
My favorite place on campus is the East Lagoon. It is a great place to go for a walk when you need to recharge.
What advice would you give to a student who is researching colleges to apply to?
Research the extracurricular opportunities that colleges provide. For example, do they provide opportunities to participate in undergraduate research or to study abroad?
Why is a college education important to you?
My college education is important to me because I want to gain the specialized skills I will need to be a speech-language pathologist.
What strategies do you use to manage your time between the responsibilities of school, work, friends and family?
I keep myself motivated to study by studying with friends. Having a supportive group to hold you accountable is a great time-management strategy!
How do you stay informed about events and services that are available on campus?
I read the honors weekly updates! Every week, honors sends out an email full of events and opportunities on campus.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
When I need to destress, I enjoy practicing yoga.
Please tell us about your job and hobbies.
My hobbies include reading and learning new languages.