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When Becca Peterson arrived at Northeastern Illinois University in 2014, the transition to college was a shock.
After all, she had enlisted in the Air Force only one year earlier after graduating from Lane Tech College Prep High School. After an unexpected medical discharge, Peterson found herself planning to spend the next four years on a college campus, not an Air Force base.
“I really had no idea what college I wanted to go to,” Peterson said. “After the Air Force, I felt confused about what to do.”
Peterson chose Northeastern over other universities for its affordable tuition but quickly found there was much more to her new college home. Nearly three years later, Peterson is a star English/Secondary Education major on track to graduate in 2018. She has published poetry in Northeastern’s literary journal, acted in a Stage Center Theatre play and dabbled with the Boxing Club.
“When you’re trying new things, it’s often intimidating,” she said. “If you’re trying out for a sport you’ve never tried, there’s a lot of anxiety and intimidation about that. When I wanted to do acting, I had only a brief experience from one class in high school. Yet despite my lack of experience in acting, Stage Center was open and willing to teach me. That’s not just Stage Center—it seems to be all of Northeastern.”
That spirit of openness to trying new things is one of the attributes that makes Peterson a standout student in the classroom, according to her professors.
“Becca is fearless,” English Professor Christopher Schroeder said. “She will freely admit when she is struggling or confused but has this intellectual courage to step up to each challenge. She knows she is going to understand the material. She knows that if she stays with it long enough that she will be successful.”
Indeed, Peterson has been successful enough to earn a number of scholarship awards.
“I’m confident in the decision that I made to come to Northeastern,” Peterson said. “It’s not just that it’s an affordable education. I’ve also noticed a lot of growth as a person. I’m more able to think critically about literature and the world.”
Peterson has always been drawn to literature—she cites William Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf among her favorite authors—and plans to teach high school English after she graduates.
“The teacher is a translator in a sense,” she said. “It’s not that the student is incapable of reading and understanding the material, but talking about it gives a better understanding. I love talking about it to help students get a better understanding of what literature is about.”
Peterson’s future students will be very lucky to have such a teacher, according to Associate Professor of Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies Eleni Makris. She goes even further to say that Peterson has the qualities not only to teach but to become a strong leader wherever she chooses to work.
“In the College of Education, we often talk about lifelong learning, and Becca is the epitome of that,” Makris said. “She really tries to understand what makes us all similar rather than different. Her ability to see the similarities rather than the differences among people and her unconditional acceptance of others will make her an exceptional educator.”