Class of spring 2020 graduate profile: Olivia Portnov

Olivia Portnov
Degree earned: B.S., Communicative Disorders, minors in Deafness Rehabilitation and Art
Hometown/High School: Arlington Heights, Illinois, Buffalo Grove High School

What are some of your best memories of your time at NIU?
I joined Sigma Lambda Sigma service sorority my freshman year, and they provided me with a lot of great memories. My favorite memories circle around volunteering with my sorority sisters. I love the feeling of going out into the community and helping out where I can. My favorite event to volunteer for is NIU’s STEM Fest that occurs in the fall. I love the energy at this event, and it is so cool to inspire the next generation of scientists. Some other memories I cherish greatly are all the times I ran into Mission and Mini Mish. Those dogs are the backbone of morale at NIU, and NIU would crumble without them. Also, the lady that handles Mission is the nicest women to ever exist.

What’s next for you?
I am continuing my education at UW-Madison. I was accepted into their M.S. Speech-Language Pathology program.

What is one piece of advice or something you learned that you know you’ll be leaning on as you start the next phase of your career or education?
Take every opportunity that you can. Hold yourself responsible for your actions and put yourself out of your comfort zone. Rejection/embarrassment happens all the time, and it does not mean you are a failure as a person.

How was your experience at NIU different than what you expected when you started?
When I started, I barely left my dorm room. I was miserable. I wanted to transfer. I realized NIU was not the problem, it was me. I started to join clubs and get involved. I soon found my support system that helped me to stay at NIU. Friends do not just fall into your lap. You need to be a good friend to have a friend.

If you could thank someone (or more than one person) that you didn’t get a chance to thank before you left, who would it be, and what would you say?
I would have liked to thank Judy Santacaterina. She has been an incredible support system for me at NIU. She is an extremely dedicated educator and mentor who changes the lives of those who interact with her at NIU. She pours her whole heart into everything she does, and she is one of the most valuable staff members at NIU. Thank you Judy for everything you do!

What is something you’d like to come back to do one more time?
I want to get out of my 10 a.m. class and head straight to the library for a Caribou coffee I do not deserve and most certainly do not have the money for. Their caramel cold presses just hit different. Also, the workers at Einstien’s/Caribou are so nice. I miss them so much.

What are some of the things you are most proud of from your time at NIU?
I am most proud of the growth of Women and Gender Advocacy Alliance (WGAA). WGAA (like  most clubs at NIU) was struggling to retain membership. When I took over as president, I started creating fun and appealing events that I would have liked to go to as a new member. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing social justice issues with the new members, and I wish I could have finished all the fun meetings I had planned for Spring 2020. Even though I could not see WGAA’s growth fully through, I am optimistic for WGAA’s future because I know it is in excellent hands.

If you could give some advice to the high school class of 2020 who will be starting at NIU in the fall, what would it be?
Do not go home every weekend. Family is great and all, but you are shelling out a lot of money at NIU to just drive home every Thursday-Sunday. College is a time to grow alone and find out who you are separate from your family. NIU’s campus would benefit greatly from a consistent amount of students who actually treated NIU like their new home. If you want to be home with your family, go to community college.





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