SESP Campus Leaders Reach Out to Others

SESP Campus Leaders Reach Out to Others

From community service to athletics and entrepreneurship, SESP undergraduates demonstrate their leadership in many ways on campus. Meet a few of SESP’s campus leaders: Lauren Ackerman, Kameron Dodge, Aria Fiat, Jessica Holden, Meesoh Kim, Kate Mattax, Levi Mele, Daniel Nissani, Ellyn Pena, Becca Portman, Laura Santamaria and A.J. Tomiak.

Lauren Ackerman

Lauren Ackerman, a learning and organizational change major, plays on the varsity softball team and also heads her own consulting business. “I believe being part of a group or team is a great opportunity to learn and grow as individuals while simultaneously contributing to the community as a whole. By running my own consulting business, I have the opportunity to provide other exceptional Northwestern students with work as well as experience in the consulting world. Being able to provide opportunities for my fellow students to learn and create something of value (while making money!) is the part of my work that I cherish the most.” Ackerman does business development work for technology organizations and consumer products companies, as well as business plans for not-for-profit organizations. 

Kameron Dodge

Kameron Dodge is co-chair of the CATalyst freshman pre-orientation program, a committee co-chair for Dance Marathon, the alumni chair for his fraternity and a campus tour guide. “These activities are important to me because they have shaped the person I have become at Northwestern and the legacy I want to leave when I am gone. CATalyst, as the name implies, is really what started it all off for me when I was a freshman. Throughout my time here, I have seen the program grow and the do for other incoming students what it has done for me. My fraternity (SAE) will be one of the most defining characteristics of my Northwestern experience because the men I have been fortunate enough to be around always challenge me to be the best version of my self and I know that they will be my closest friends for the rest of my life. From NUDM, I will take away the importance of serving others and the understanding the power of a positive attitude in the face of adversity. Finally, being a tour guide has been a privilege because of being trusted with telling the story,” says Dodge, a learning and organizational change major.

Aria Fiat

Aria Fiat is the co-founder of Supplies for Dreams, a nonprofit that provides school supplies and enrichment activities to Chicago schools. Fiat sees the effort as a way to “open doors for students” and give back to the greater Chicago community for the excellent education she has received. She has also been involved in Wildcat Welcome as a peer adviser and is a campus tour guide. “These activities are important to me because I love Northwestern, especially SESP, and as a tour guide and peer adviser, I have the opportunity to "pay it forward" in the sense that I can help open doors for prospective and new students to create meaningful and rewarding experiences for themselves during their college years.” Fiat, a human development and psychological services major, adds, “The common thread among these activities that I have chosen to be involved with throughout college is gratitude, a sense of responsibility, and the belief that education can transform.”

Jessica Holden

Jessica Holden, a learning and organizational change major, is the chapter president and a student representative for the national board of her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta. She is also a member of Northwestern’s Fraternity and Sorority Greek Advisory Board. “Greek life is important to me because it has given me the chance to be a part of something bigger than myself. Being a member of Zeta has forced me to push past my limits, only to realize that I didn't have any in the first place. I am a role model, and have a set of principles to represent at all times, and because of this I have to hold myself to a higher standard, not only for myself, but for the young ladies who are watching, and for the 92 years of history and legacy I carry upon my shoulders each and every day. I never set out to hold so many positions or to be a super Greek,” says Holden.

Meesoh Kim

Meesoh Kim is a co-president of Promote 360, the student group in SESP committed to increasing minority student access to college. “We host a variety of events throughout the year to promote minority empowerment. My favorite type of events is the school visits. We invite elementary, middle, and high school minority students to Northwestern's campus to give them a taste of college. I really love seeing students gradually transform from being apathetic to the idea of attending college to being actively curious about college life. It really makes all the hard work I put into planning these visits very meaningful,” says Kim, a social policy major.

Kate Mattax

Kate Mattax says, “My time at Northwestern has largely been shaped by my campus involvement." She says her most transformative experience has been her involvement with Wildcat Welcome, where she served as a member of the board of directors as the director for the School of Education and Social Policy. Earlier, Mattax served as a SESP peer adviser in 2010 and 2011. "This experience has been so valuable because I have been able to work with a group of incredibly talented, driven, passionate, hardworking individuals, who truly care about Northwestern. Additionally, it has shown me how much you can love an institution and given me the opportunity to impact every single new student, and to grow exponentially as a leader of positive, sustainable change on this campus.” A social policy major, Mattax is also a committee co-chair for Dance Marathon.

Levi Mele

Levi Mele is a varsity wrestler who is currently ranked nationally in the top 10 in his weight class and has earned the Big Ten Distinguished Scholar award. He leads the team in pins, has placed fourth at the Big Ten tournament and qualified for two NCAA tournaments. “I value sports and I am grateful for the athletic talents I was blessed to have especially since they opened the door for me to Northwestern,” says Mele, a social policy major. “As a student-athlete I also became involved in the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as a way to give back to my student-athlete community as well as the NU and Evanston community.” Last year he was SAAC vice president, in charge of the field day, food drive and other events, and this year he is interning in the Athletic Department. In the SESP honors program Mele will be researching education policy relating to access to post-secondary education for individuals from communities dependent upon mining and oil field related work. “Another area of my life I give high value to is religion due to the strong foundation it provides for my life,” he says. Since his sophomore year he has been president of the Latter-Day Saint Student Association, where he organizes weekly classes. A husband and father of two, Mele says, “My family is a great support to me even with the many activities that pull me away from our home.”

Daniel Nissani

Daniel Nissani, a secondary teaching major, is co-president of the Northwestern Quest Scholars Network and a teaching assistant for the Mathematics Department and the Center for Talent Development. "These activities strike the core of my passions in life. I love mathematics and always have, ever since I was a kid. Being able to teach people how to think about a mathematics problem — really any problem — is extremely rewarding. Thus, I wish to become a mathematics teacher or study mathematics education or just study mathematics. Once I go into any of those fields, I will be able to teach students about mathematics and keep learning about the field I love. However, I also know that our country has a huge problem on its hands. Low-income students throughout the country are being failed everyday, whether it be supplies that are necessary for learning to access to the opportunities that could help them succeed. That is why I am proud to be president of the Northwestern Quest Scholars Network. On Northwestern's campus, we try to obtain various opportunities and dispense them to low-income students on our campus. We teach them how to take advantage of the amazing opportunity that is Northwestern.”

Ellyn Pena

Ellyn Pena is secretary of GOLD, an organization focused on the empowerment and involvement of Latino males at Northwestern. “I came into this position because I see a lack of engagement in the men within the Latino population on campus and hope to enact change through my own involvement,” says Pena. He is also the alumni co-chair for the Global Engagement Summit (GES), a social entrepreneurship/social change conference at Northwestern. “I feel particularly tied to GES because it gathers some of the most innovative and socially conscious people at Northwestern and around the world to come together and discuss issues that matter to the world.” In addition, he is the vice president of external programming for NU Nights. “I feel that NU Nights' mission to provide Northwestern students with alternative late night programming resonates within many students here,” notes Pena, a learning and organizational change major.

Becca Portman

Becca Portman coordinates two programs at the Center for Civic Engagement: NU Votes/the UVote Project and the Northwestern University Public Interest Program. “My work with both programs allows me to connect Northwestern students with opportunities to get more involved in their community. Through NUPIP, I love seeing passionate NU alums contribute their expertise and enthusiasm to non-profits and other public interest organizations in Chicago. Through my work at UVote, I make it easier for college students to participate in the political process and have their voice heard in elections. My extracurricular involvement has rounded out my college experience and allowed me to put theories about policy and organizations into practice on an everyday basis,” says Portman, a social policy major.

Laura Santamaria

Laura Santamaria is co-president of Promote 360, a group she has been involved with since freshman year. “I have had the opportunity to help create a positive effect on local students by promoting college access to minority students in the Chicagoland area. In subsequent years, I wanted to continue Promote 360's great work, which is why I have taken various officer positions. I wanted to continue to inspire underrepresented students to go to college and follow their dreams. I have also had the opportunity to be part of a wonderful community within Promote 360 and SESP,” says Santamaria, a social policy student.

A. J. Tomiak

A. J. Tomiak, is vice president of public relations for Interfraternity Council, director of development for A&O Productions and a peer adviser. “The main reason I do any student group on campus is to meet other people in the Northwestern community. Our student body is filled with interesting, dynamic people who are passionate about many things. My involvement in any student group is first and foremost an opportunity to build connections with others in the community. To have the added benefit of working alongside them towards a common goal is truly amazing,” says Tomiak, a learning and organizational change major.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 5/18/13