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NIU celebrates about 3,100 graduates

Monica Maschak -
Jasmine Davis accepts her diploma during a Northern Illinois University graduation ceremony at the Convocation Center on Saturday, May 10, 2014.
Monica Maschak - Jasmine Davis accepts her diploma during a Northern Illinois University graduation ceremony at the Convocation Center on Saturday, May 10, 2014.

DeKALB - Robots may have led Joshua Ott to Northern Illinois University, but the university is leading him to California.

Ott received his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering Saturday from NIU. Ott has lived in DeKalb since he was 5 years old, and it was a trip to the university at a young age that directed his school choice and future career.

“I went to a robotics competition at NIU with my dad when I was ten,” Ott said. “It was a walking robot competition with the top schools in the country. I thought it was pretty cool. It kind of wowed me, and it led me to where I am today.”

After graduation, he’s going to work for Lockheed Martin in California, working on satellites.

Ott is among 3,100 or so students who graduated this weekend. At the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences graduation Saturday morning, President Doug Baker spoke at his first undergraduate spring commencement as president. He told student success stories, such as those of Lincoln Laureate Sarah Stuebing, and Ashley Palin, who earned her bachelor’s degree Saturday at 19-years-old.

“Our students are smart, hardworking and talented,” Baker said. “They are committed to service, to social justice, to lifelong learning and to each other. Each student has a compelling story about the journey he or she took to get here today.”

For Ott, it meant being interested in building things at a young age, but getting “sidetracked” with working on cars and collision repair. But once he decided to pursue mechanical engineering, NIU gave him the tools he needed to succeed, he said.

“I’ve been a Huskie fan forever,” Ott said. “It has one of the top engineering schools, it’s local and convenient, and it let me be hands-on, which is what I wanted.”

During his time at NIU he worked on robots like the ones that inspired him as a child, including a six-legged walking robot. Other graduates, like David Grochowski, of Elmhurst, gained different experiences. Grochowski majored in both history and political science and will be working toward his master’s in adult and higher education at NIU in the fall.

“Being here helped me grow as a person and gave me confidence,” Grochowski said. "I'm excited to continue."

Tanjiv Azad, of Sycamore, earned his bachelor’s in computer science and said you just have to “study hard, work hard and have fun.”

“This momentous day in your life is the end of one chapter and an exciting beginning to another,” Baker said. “Today, you graduate. You are no longer NIU students, but students of life.”

Kayleigh Grubb, of Mount Carroll, earned her bachelor’s in media studies.  

“It’s definitely been a lot of fun, and I have a lot of people to thank,” Grubb said. “Go Huskies!”

Baker took time to thank the mothers in the audience during Mother’s Day weekend.

“Often, one of the most influential people helping along the way is Mom,” Baker said.

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