University Honors Students Named 2013 Forward, Together Forward Scholars

Forward Together Forward

Four University Honors students were selected as recipients of  the 2012 Forward, Together, Forward Scholarships. As pictured from left to right, they are Caitlin Cavannuagh, Evan Wittke, Taylor Bogan, and Guadalupe Lopez.

 

Five Northern Illinois University students who excel in and out of the classroom have been selected as recipients of the 2013 Forward, Together Forward Scholarships. Impressively, four of these outstanding students are member of the University Honors Program. Taylor Bogan, Caitlin Cavannaugh, Guadalupe Lopez, and Evan Wittke each will receive a one-time scholarship of $4,000 for the 2012-13 academic year.

“As educators, we are accustomed to seeing and experiencing the enormous generosity of spirit among this generation. Our positions here afford us a front row seat to view their ambitions, their selflessness and their drive to make their world a better place for everyone through what they achieve in and out of the NIU classroom,” Provost Ray Alden said.

An initial field of 37 applicants applied for the scholarships. Each wrote short essays on what it means to be an NIU Huskie; on how tragedy shapes character; and about their dreams for the future. They were also asked how they will honor the memories of Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Daniel Parmenter.

Anne Hardy, director of the NIU Scholarship Office, said this year’s winners truly understand the magnitude of these awards.

“They are so humble, so genuine and so determined in their goals. I know they will make a difference in the world,” says Hardy, who calls herself “amazed” by the quintet. “They’re so dedicated to the service that they do. They believe in what they do. They’re not doing it because they think they should. They’re doing it because they love it.”

Funding for the scholarships was provided by an unsolicited outpouring of generosity by friends of the university who wanted to memorialize the fallen students. About 1,800 donors helped build the scholarship fund to more than $700,000.

Here is a closer look at the five Forward, Together Forward Scholarship recipients:

Taylor Bogan

Taylor Bogan understands adversity. More importantly, she understands how to rise above it.

The sophomore from Crete maintains a 3.5 grade point average in the difficult field of biomedical engineering, with an equally challenging minor in applied mathematics. She works as a residence hall community adviser. Away from her studies, she travels across the globe to help less fortunate children.

Bogan does all of this while battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a life-threatening form of cancer.

“Taylor is an amazing individual who has overcome a lot in her short time. She is an example to her residents and others of how dedication, persistence and passion for life can prevail,” says Lauren Teso, coordinator of the Neptune Complex where Bogan works. “She goes the extra mile, helping students find resources on campus, providing academic assistance and always making herself available as a sounding board.”

While her residents know her for small acts of kindness, such as offering tutoring sessions, or even doing laundry for a student whose life was in turmoil, she also knows how to effect change on a larger scale.

As a member of Engineers Without Borders, Bogan spent time in Tanzania last year. There, she and classmates brought running water to a school kitchen, installed a solar water heater, improved solar panels and built a more efficient stove – all so the school could provide three meals a day to the 600 students it serves.

Even as she battles her own health problems, Bogan is planning a career as a biomedical engineer, with dreams of improving health care for others and taking care of her mother. She realizes that doing so will not be easy, but she has come to embrace adversity.

“I know that anything I have to go through is only going to help me as a person in the future,” she says.

Caitlin Cavannuagh

Caitlin Cavannaugh is an artist.

But whether she’s strumming the strings of a harp, writing award-winning plays or performing opera competitively, she doesn’t lose sight of what matters most: sharing her talent for the benefit of others.

When the Willow Springs native was just 12, she began playing the harp for her grandmother’s friends who were ill. By 2008, her passion for playing for the elderly led her to create Healing Harps, a volunteer organization to provide music for people in nursing homes, retirement homes and hospices within her community.

“I never understood the power of music until I started Healing Harps,” the BFA acting major says. “I suppose I caught the community service bug.”

Three years later, while on a church mission in Williamsburg, Ky., she was inspired to found the 4U Benefit Concert, an annual fundraiser for mission centers and homeless shelters.

“Caitlin is an individual of the highest moral integrity,” says Patricia Skarbinski, an instructor in the NIU School of Theatre and Dance. “She has finely attuned her moral compass for ethical and selfless behavior without ever falling into the trap of playing the martyr.”

Although school, charitable efforts, internships and side jobs keep her busy, she has maintained a 4.0 GPA each semester since arriving at NIU in 2010.

Cavannaugh recently spent three months in Russia at the world-renowned Moscow Art Theatre School. She also serves as member of her school’s Faculty-Student Grade Advisory Board and Student Advisory Council.

Although she will pursue her aspiration to become an actress after graduation, her ultimate goal is to work as a theater therapist in an orphanage in Africa for children whose parents died of AIDS.

“I know I will make it to Africa someday,” she says. “Once I get something like that in my head, something that I’m passionate about, I find a way to make it happen.”

Guadalupe Lopez

Ask Guadalupe Lopez about dreams, and the junior will need to clarify the question.

Personal dreams? To teach. She’s an elementary education major.

The DREAM act, proposed federal legislation that would provide qualified undocumented youth a conditional path to citizenship including a college degree or military service?

Lopez is co-coordinator of DREAM Action NIU. “Every day,” she says, “I strive to help this small population of students’ transition to a new life at NIU while still celebrating their unique identities.”

What about the place where these dreams overlap?

“As a young adolescent, I had my whole life planned with countless dreams that I was ready to achieve. However, I discovered that I was an individual who had limited resources,” says the Glendale Heights native.

“Nevertheless, I still hold the same long-term goals of becoming an advocate for our oppressed community that has no voice, and for the students that are in need of a teacher that provides them with quality education.”

Lopez has volunteered at local schools in bilingual classrooms and with the CHICAS program, which prompts young girls to start thinking about college.

She’s vice president of NIU’s new chapter of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, is a peer leader for an NIU Themed Learning Community and serves as a Northern Lights Ambassador.

Meanwhile, as a Huskie Research Rookie, Lopez created a case study on a single Latina mother and her perspective on her child’s special education.

“Lupe has worked hard to not let her undocumented status hold her back from academic opportunities,” says Julia Spears, director of the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. “She has a steadfast commitment to her education and to the education of others like her. I know that she will change the lives of students she works with when she becomes a teacher.”

Evan Wittke

Evan Wittke’s dreams of becoming a research physician were challenged last year when he suffered a devastating personal loss.

His mother died in March from complications after suffering a stroke.

“I was devastated,” Wittke says. “The experience called into question my resolve and passion for medical practice and research.”

Wittke turned to a close friend, who helped him through the crisis.

“I realized that even though I had experienced a terrible loss, I still had a burning passion for helping people in their illnesses and an unmatched curiosity for understanding the world around me,” Wittke says. “The experience gave me a reinvigorated zeal for being the best I can be. I also learned that accepting counsel from a friend is not a sign of weakness, but that of wisdom.”

The junior squeezes every ounce out of the NIU experience. He is pursuing a double major in anthropology and biology, areas that will provide him with a solid foundation for medical school.He joined Research Rookies his freshman year and continues to make substantial contributions to a cancer research team in the laboratory of Biological Sciences Chair Barrie Bode. Wittke’s research has won grant awards, and his work has been presented on- and off-campus. He has won several scholarships, is a member of the NIU Phi Sigma Biological Honors Society, works as a Northern Lights Ambassador, mentors NIU Honors students and holds down a job with NIU Catering.

Professor Bode calls Wittke “a model student in every sense of the word” and “a sterling representative” of his peers.

“Evan challenges himself not only in the classroom, but also in the laboratory, where he has become an integral member of our cancer research team. His knowledge and calm, personable and mature nature have allowed him to now supervise and train other students,” Bode says. “I cannot think of a more deserving student.”

Story courtesy of NIU Today