Staff - NIU - Office of Student Academic Success

About Us



Student Success Specialists

Graduate Assistants

Student Workers/Extra Help

Dana Gautcher

Dana Gautcher, M.Ed.

Academic Advising Center Room 112
(815) 753-5701


Dana Gautcher has worked in both Student and Academic Affairs at Northern Illinois University for over 12 years. She came to NIU as hall director in Douglas Hall where she oversaw the first year residential experience of 500 students. She then served as Scholarship Coordinator and Financial Retention Advocate for over 11 years. During this time, she helped connect students to scholarship resources and worked to improve campus scholarship utilization. She helped to streamline scholarship administration at NIU by creating policies, procedures and audit and tracking practices. Always an advocate of students, she also created a process by which students in financial distress could seek counsel.

In July of 2009, Dana was afforded the opportunity to oversee the newly created Office of Student Academic Success. Along with her staff, Dana oversees MAP-Works; the Early Alert Program; Financial Cents, a campus-wide financial literacy program; the Leaders & Scholars program as well as other initiatives aimed at supporting students as they persist towards graduation.

In addition to her responsibilities within the Office of Student Academic Success, Dana has taught UNIV 101, UNIV 201 and courses on student transition, volunteerism and leadership.

Dana holds a B.A. in history from Winona State University and an M.Ed. from Loyola University Chicago. She lives in Sycamore, Illinois with her husband and two daughters.

Randi Napientek

Randi Napientek, M.S.Ed.

Assistant Director
Academic Advising Center Room 110
(815) 753-0713

Ally MilitarySupport

Randi has worked in both Academic and Student Affairs as well as Athletics at Northern Illinois University. Previously employed in the Office of Enrollment Services, Randi served as a Research Associate for the Assistant Vice Provost for Enrollment Services assisting with marketing, data analysis and research for the division. Randi worked as part of a team that created projects such as the Financial Literacy program Financial Cents, the Leaders and Scholars Program and the MidSemester Check Program. She also represented the Office of Enrollment Services by sitting on numerous committees helping to promote student success.

While working in Intercollegiate Athletics, Randi worked in both Marketing and Development. She worked her way up through Internships, Graduate Assistantships and eventually became a Development Assistant before leaving to work on the Academic side of the university. While in athletics, Randi was part of a team that earned the Lieutenant Governors Medal for their fundraising efforts in the "Hoops 4 Troops" campaign which raised money for the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund. Randi was also part of a team that produced record breaking numbers in both enrollment and donations to the Huskie Athletic Scholarship Fund. She also helped finish the fundraising efforts for the state of the art Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center, which is an Academic and Athletic Performance Center.

Randi joined the Office of Student Academic Success in November of 2009 and brings her strong knowledge of all sides of the university to this position. By helping to create and implement beneficial programs, she is excited to have a direct impact on the success of all NIU students. Randi is currently an active instructor for the University Experience course, UNIV 101 and the faculty advisor for the Delta Zeta Sorority. 

Randi holds all of her degrees from Northern Illinois University. She completed a B.S. in Marketing with a minor in Family and Child Studies and received her M.S.Ed. in Adult and Higher Education. Randi is currently working towards her Doctorate in Education with an emphasis in Higher Education. She lives in DeKalb with her husband Ray and their daughters Kara and Katy.


Brian Berchtold, M.A.

Educational Program Evaluation Coordinator
Academic Advising Center Room 113
(815) 753-5757

Brian joined the OSAS team in March of 2015. He completed his B.S. in Psychology in 2010 and his M.A. in Social and Industrial/Organizational Psychology in 2013 from NIU. As an undergraduate, Brian was involved with the LGBT resource center, and was one of the first mentors in the Q-Connect peer mentoring program. As a graduate student, Brian presented research at numerous conferences. He taught many classes for the Psychology Department, including Intro to Psychology and Personality, was a TA for graduate statistics courses, and was the lab instructor for Social and Personality Laboratory. Brian also served an academic advisor for the Psychology Department. Outside of the department, he provided extra help to the Student Employment Office by assisting them with performance evaluation and job structure changes. He also conducted several workshops aimed at student career success and managing student employees.

Brian is a veteran of the US Navy, having served as active duty for 5 years. He was stationed in San Diego, CA and served under a few different commands. Brian completed a tour to the Persian Gulf, while also providing humanitarian aid to tsunami survivors in SE Asia in late 2004/early 2005.

Brian enjoys boating, swimming, hiking at Starved Rock, country music, and binge watching his favorite TV shows. He is a huge animal lover, and is a pet parent to a German Shepard/Husky mix and 2 Cockatiels.

Jessi Lorang

Office Support Specialist
Academic Advising Center Room 113
(815) 753-5721

Bio coming soon!

Student Success Specialists

Missy Lugo

Melissa "Missy" Lugo, M.S.Ed.

Student Success Specialist
Academic Advising Center Room 115
(815) 753-5756

Ally MilitarySupport

Missy joined the OSAS staff in September of 2010. She completed her B.A. in English and Psychology in 2006 and her M.S.Ed in 2008 from NIU. As an undergraduate, she worked in NIU Housing and Dining as a Community Advisor, Learning Assistant, and gave tours of the residence halls. Missy was a student mentor for the Mentoring for Academic Success (M.A.S.) program in the Latino Resource Center as well as a Senator for the Student Association. Missy joined NASPA and in 2004 was a Minority Undergraduate Fellow and interned at St. Mary's University, San Antonio. While in graduate school, she was employed as a Graduate Assistant in the Academic Advising Center, was a Peer Instructor for UNIV 101, and taught CAHC 211: Career Planning, to freshmen and sophomore students.

Prior to returning to the NIU community, Missy worked in the Western Suburbs of Chicago completing a counseling internship at Westchester Middle School in Westchester, Illinois and worked as an independent contractor for a company affiliated with DCFS.

Missy is a proud member of Alpha Psi Lambda National, Inc. and currently serves as co-advisor for NIU-Gamma Chapter and sits on multiple committees. She is also an adjunct faculty in the College of Education teaching undergraduate classes and UNIV 101.

Deb Miller

Debra Miller, M.A. 

Student Success Specialist
Academic Advising Center Room 111
(815) 753-2403


Deb became a Student Success Specialist with the Office of Student Academic Success in the fall of 2011. She works closely with faculty, staff and students in the College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Prior to coming to NIU, Deb worked for the Maine Township High Schools in Des Plaines and Park Ridge where she was the Vocational Evaluator in Special Education for the district. This followed a decade of service at Anixter Center in Chicago, which is one of the largest not-for-profit agencies in the state serving individuals with disabilities. She brought her experience in teaching and counseling to Student Support Services at NIU beginning in January of 2009 as the Program Coordinator before transferring to her current position as the Student Success Specialist.

Deb is active on two NIU Presidential Commissions and was a member of SPS Council for several years. She currently services on the International Student Services committee, is a Dialogue on Diversity facilitator and teaches UNIV 101. She also serves as adjunct faculty in the College of Health and Human Sciences.

A Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Deb earned her M.A. degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in Special Education and Elementary Education from Michigan State University. She is currently pursuing studies at NIU in the Adult and Higher Education doctoral program. 

Deb is a Certified Personal Chef and enjoys entertaining, playing racquetball, gardening, home remodeling and traveling.


Ashleigh Sorenson, M.S.Ed. 

Student Success Specialist
Academic Advising Center Room 114
(815) 753-5755



Ashleigh first arrived at Northern Illinois University in 2007 as an undergraduate student studying Psychology and Sociology. She graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science degree in December 2009. Upon graduation, Ashleigh began substitute teaching for school districts in Northern Illinois. She frequently volunteered in her sister’s third grade classroom, where she facilitated small group instruction focusing on social skills. During this time, Ashleigh also volunteered with the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois in Nachusa. These experiences shaped her passion for the education profession and paved the way for the next chapter of her educational endeavors.

In January 2012, Ashleigh returned to NIU to pursue her M.S.Ed. in Adult and Higher Education with an emphasis in Higher Education/Student Affairs. That same year, she joined the Office of Student Academic Success. She is enthusiastic about students achieving their academic goals and leaving NIU with the tools for success.

Graduate Assistants


Paul Jonff, M.S.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-5759

Paul joined the OSAS team as a graduate assistant in September of     2013. Paul completed his B.S. in Exercise Science from Eastern Illinois University and his M.S. from NIU in 2008. Paul is currently pursuing his Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) at NIU.

Paul previously held a graduate assistant position at the NIU Student Recreation Center where he was responsible for intramural sports and sport clubs. After graduating, Paul worked at Rawlings Sporting Goods for 5 years where he held the position of Brand Marketing Manager. He was responsible for Rawlings' social media and business to consumer advertising. 

Paul loves being active and his hobbies include playing sports, skiing, weightlifting, and spending time with his wife and daughter.


Shalonda Lane, B.A.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center Room 113
(815) 753-5721

Shalonda joined the OSAS office in February of 2015. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2012 from NIU and is currently working on her M.S. Ed, in the Adult and Higher Education program with an emphasis in student affairs. In her master’s studies, her interests are learning more about underrepresented students that attend 4-year institutions. Her department goals are to assist students become more aware of campus resources and be academically successful.  Shalonda hopes to one day assist first generation students acclimate to campus life and to gain the most out of their college experience.

Shalonda’s hobbies include traveling, cooking, and spending time with her yorkie mix dog named, Precious. Her favorite part about cooking is experimenting with new recipes. She also enjoys reading and watching anything sci-fi!


Alicyn McCully, B.S.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center Room 113
(815) 753-5721



Alicyn joined the OSAS team in February of 2015. She is currently completing her last semester in the Adult and Higher Education, Master’s program with an emphasis in Student Affairs at NIU. She earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Special Education from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2013. Before transferring to UWW, she started her college experience at Iowa Central Community College which has residence halls. She was a Student Ambassador, an Admissions Assistant, and was on the swim team for two years while completing her general education courses at Iowa Central.

Alicyn previously held a graduate assistantship position in the Office of Precollegiate Programs at NIU in the fall of 2014, assisting high school students in the towns of Rockford and Aurora in preparation of college specifically for first generation, minority, low-income, and students with disabilities. She has had an internship in the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct at NIU which was during the summer of 2014. Currently, Alicyn has an internship at Rock Valley College in Rockford, IL, in the First Year Experience and Academic Advising departments. Prior to NIU, Alicyn gained experience working with adults and children with a wide range of disabilities, at the Belvidere Park District. She also coached the Special Olympics Swim Team while employed with the park district.

When Alicyn isn’t studying or working, she enjoys spending time with her family and with her four-legged son, Quy, who is a red and black German Shepherd. Also, in the summer, she loves to spend most of her time in Shell Lake, WI, cruising around the lake boating and watching her favorite animals flying in the sky, bald eagles!


Scott Shippert, B.A.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-4412

Scott earned his Bachelors of Science in Psychology from NIU in 2010. Since then, he has worked as a counselor for adults with chronic mental illness, helped manage a local pet shop, and recently got married. He is currently enrolled at NIU to earn his M.S.Ed in Adult and Higher Education along the mental health track. He began working as a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Student Academic Success in August of 2014. When not working or studying, Scott enjoys keeping up with the latest movies, video games, and books. He also frequently runs Tough Mudders with his wife in support of the Wounded Warrior Project to aid wounded veterans.


Lauren Swanson, B.A.

Graduate Assistant
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-5002

Lauren joined the Office of Student Academic Success as a Graduate Assistant in August of 2014. Lauren completed her B.A. in History and Sociology from Northern Illinois University in May of 2014, and is currently working towards her M.S.Ed in Adult and Higher Education at NIU.

Before working in the Office of Student Academic Success, Lauren worked in the Undergraduate Admissions department as a Northern Ambassador for two years. There, she held the position of Senior Ambassador, where she assisted large group tours and events, and enjoyed working with and helping students of all ages. She also worked in Housing & Dining for a year as a RHOp.

Lauren enjoys playing sports, traveling, reading, and cooking. She is an avid Chicago White Sox and Blackhawks fan. Lauren is also an animal lover and has three dogs, a viszla, a black lab, and she just adopted a miniature pincher/beagle mix in March.

Student Workers/Extra Help


Tyler Banas

Extra Help
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-5721

Tyler Joined the OSAS team in February of 2015. He completed his B.A. in Physics at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. During this time he also worked in the field of Town/Gown Relations. Some of his projects included organizing two International Walk to School Day events for the local school district, assisting with the management of a grant distribution program, and studying space utilization of shared campus and city resources at various college towns throughout the Midwest. In the near future, Tyler hopes to attend graduate school in physics.

Tyler’s hobbies include juggling, backpacking, soccer, ultimate frisbee, cross-country skiing, and baking bread. He also enjoys tossing discs to his dog, an energetic and obedient blue heeler/border collie mix.


Megan Fish

Student Worker
Academic Advising Center 113
(815) 753-5721

Megan joined the OSAS team in February of 2014 during her freshmen year at NIU as a student worker. Before coming to NIU, Megan graduated from Normal Community High School in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Megan chose NIU because of the beautiful campus and how much she felt at home.

Before working in the Office of Student Academic Success, Megan enjoyed working at a local coffee shop and being a summer nanny.

Megan is a nursing major and obtained her Certified Nursing Assistant certification her junior year of high school and worked in the Mother-Baby Unit and General Medical Unit during her senior year of high school through a work program at school. Megan's main goal is to be a nurse at St. Jude.

Megan has a large chocolate lab named Odie and also has five adorable pygmy goats (Felix, Faith, Frankie, Febe, and Finn) that she loves to take care of and talk about.