Two Worlds

Year in School: Junior
Major: Music Education
Hometown: Plainfield, IL

Coming to NIU was the best thing that could have happened to me; not only did I meet people from different types of backgrounds, but I got to learn and grow from hearing their stories. The stories are inspiring, and some even life changing. I want to share my favorite professor and how her story relit my passion for education. My Swahili teacher, Professor Mary Okeyo, also known as, Mama Edward, is a woman who has inspired me to continue on to grad school!


I started taking Swahili last semester (to fill the language requirement for NIU) and as many know learning a new language is not easy!! After a few weeks into the semester I set up weekly tutoring sessions with Mama Edward. During my session we would go over what we were doing in class and she would share stories of her childhood and her travels around the world. To an American in my generation, college education is easy to obtain, but to her, and many Tanzanian farm children, it is a blessing if you get a high school education. She was born in Geita from the Luo Tribe, Swahili is her second language, and English is her third. Growing up she saw the need for great women leaders to help women strive for success. She has been an activist for women ever since. Her focus is on helping women reach their full potential in the education system and encouraging them to not let society determine or put a cap on their success.

Although it has taken her years filled with trials and hardship, Mama Edward is going to graduate with her Masters in Higher Education from Northern Illinois University. She came to America having no experience with Blackboard or even a computer! She adjusted to American slang, the style in which American college functions and even received straight A’s last semester! She was able to pick herself up from the lows and push forward to be successful.

Mama Edward has inspired me to fight for my dreams and to not let anyone tell me that I can’t. Because people will tell you an idea is crazy or that your dreams are unobtainable. She has enlightened me on how to be a powerful African-American woman in this world…So thank you Mary for pushing through your struggles instead of giving up. Thank you for leaving your home and family to come all the way to NIU to teach. You are a strong woman who will help many young ladies follow their dreams.

Asanti sana rafiki wangu! (Thank you my friend)

Monique Lincoln

Written by Monique Lincoln

I transferred here after two years at a private school, I was ready for a bigger school to get to know more people. I visited NIU as a chance to skip a class and after seeing the school and meeting the music program staff I feel in love. NIU has it all sports, Greek life, and a chance to find yourself academically and socially. It was like I was home. NIU has exceeded my expectations! After a few weeks into my first year at NIU one of my professors asked me to meet up just to get to know me more. He set up a meeting with the Dean of Education, Dr. Neal. After meeting one time she asked to be my mentor and ever since she has been helping me discover my academic identity, challenge my thinking, and find who I am in this world. It was the first time an African American Women with such high power was helping me (other than my mother). I went to a women's leadership conference and it inspired me to push myself in ways I never thought I could. That was part of the reason I applied for the NLA program. I wanted to become a Northern Light Ambassador because I want to put my mark on NIU in ways that have not been done before. I am excited to be a part of great change and continue to make this school grow as a community. Advice I would give to an incoming Huskies or even a current Huskies is try something new. College is the opportunity to explore who your are and reach out of your confront zone.