#PeopleofNIU Photo by Institutional Communications
Hometown: Dixon, IL
Major: Nonprofit and NGO Studies
Are you attending NIU on any scholarships? Which one(s)?
I received a merit scholarship from NIU.
What is your major, and why did you choose your field of study?
I chose a Nonprofit and NGO Studies major for many reasons. One of the most important factors is having the tools necessary to make a difference in my community.
How did you learn about NIU, and why did you choose to attend?
I grew up and live about 30 minutes north of NIU in a small town called Genoa, so I have known about NIU for a lot of my life. I chose to attend because it is so close to home, and it was important to me that I stay closer to home so that I don’t miss out on watching my little brother grow up. He just turned 7.
Are you involved in any activities at NIU? What else do you do for fun/hobbies in your spare time?
I am an NNGO ambassador and I am a part of the University Choir on campus. In my spare time, I am usually with my family. I also volunteer on my local United Way Board of Directors and in my church band. I am the social media and marketing intern at CASA DeKalb County, and I recently took a position in the children’s ministry at my church.
What has been your favorite event at NIU, and why?
So far, my favorite events at NIU have been the football games. I love spending time with friends and family at Huskie Stadium. It’s also the closest place to home that I can get Dippin Dots.
What do you like about our campus and community?
I feel that because I grew up close to NIU, I have been able to see the countless times that our community has come together to help those in need. I also love that our campus has a lot of trees that you wouldn’t typically see elsewhere around DeKalb.
What has your experience inside the classroom been like at NIU?
I love that most of my classes have been very small, so it is easy to get one-on-one time with the professors and build relationships that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do if the class sizes were larger.
What is something you have experienced at NIU that you will be able to take with you into future endeavors in your field?
I have learned to stay true to what I believe in at NIU. Many of my classes involved discussion, and in order to participate in these discussions confidently, I feel that it is important to stand by your beliefs and understand that others will probably have a different opinion or belief than you.
Would you recommend NIU to others and why? What’s a general piece of advice you’d give to someone starting college?
I definitely would recommend NIU to others, especially if they were interested in Nonprofit and NGO Studies. This program is very unique to NIU because there are not many universities that have a program that studies nonprofits. I would advise someone who is just starting college to take your first semester to get settled and then start getting involved after you feel more comfortable. For me, my grades have always come first, and it made more sense to wait to get involved on campus until I figured out how to study and do homework, because it is a lot different than how I studied and did homework in high school.
What is up next for you after your time at NIU? Any career aspirations you would like to share?
I recently took a position at my church working in the children’s ministry. I am planning to be hired full-time as the director of the children’s ministry upon graduation.
Any family or other loved ones you would like to mention?
I would like to mention my mom and “residential father,” Heather and Scott Shepard, and my dad and step-mother, Joe and Conni Villella, as they have continually supported me with all of my decisions, encouraged me when I needed encouragement and loved me unconditionally. I also want to mention my sister Grace, brother Jensen and boyfriend Jake for always keeping my life fun and exciting.
Emma Villella, a May 2019 graduate, was a 2018 Lincoln Laureate nominee.