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Grad student is NIU’s third NASPA Rising Star in a row

October 25, 2021

For the third consecutive year, a Huskie graduate assistant from Northern Illinois University’s Higher Education and Student Affairs program has been named a Graduate Student Rising Star by the NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA).

Ashlyn Straka has been named a Graduate Student Rising Star by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).

Second-year M.S. Ed. student Ashlyn Straka was selected from a pool of institutional nominations representing NASPA’s Region IV-East, which includes seven states in the United States’ Upper Midwest along with Ontario, Canada.

“I could have never, never imagined in a million years that I would be the recipient of this award, especially something from NASPA — that feels like a really high honor,” said Straka.

“Every person I’ve interacted and worked with at NIU has been integral to my growth and success. I wouldn’t be where I am today or receiving this award if it wasn’t for them and their guidance, and that goes for both my colleagues and faculty mentors. I’m thankful that they are there to help me grow as a person and professional getting ready to go into my career in student affairs.”

Straka has served as a Graduate Residence Hall Director for NIU’s Department of Housing and Residential Services since arriving at NIU in the summer of 2020. After starting at Neptune Hall, she now manages Community Advisors for Gilbert Hall. Heavily involved on campus, she also co-advises NIU’s National Residence Hall Honorary, a student organization for student leaders.

Ashlyn is an extraordinary student and an absolute delight to have in class,” wrote nominator Carrie A. Kortegast, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Program Coordinator for HESA, adding: “In addition to her passion in her coursework, Ashlyn has shown dedication, passion, and advocacy in her assistantship in Residential Life.”

“Ashlyn takes an identity-conscious approach to her work and listens to the experiences of her students to understand how to better provide support. She is not afraid to have tough conversations and seeks to create spaces that provide a sense of belonging to students,” Lauren Teso-Warner, NIU’s Senior Associate Director of Residential Life, wrote in her nomination letter. “While this has been no easy task during a global pandemic, Ashlyn invested her time and energy to create a community of success and acceptance.”

Straka, who grew up in Reedsburg, Wis., says she didn’t foresee her future of completing a master’s degree and pondering a doctorate when she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point in 2016. She earned her B.S. in human development and family studies and a minor in Spanish language and literature last year, and plans to graduate from NIU in May.

“I am a first-generation student and would have never thought entering college that I was going to go to graduate school,” Straka said. It’s honestly the best experience I’ve had in my life.”