North Central College - Naperville, IL

Megan King

College Scholar

As a College Scholar, Megan majored in accounting and Spanish with a minor in international business. She tied it all together by intentionally selecting her activities and making each experience count toward a well-rounded education full of life-changing experiences.

For example, she worked in the College’s accounting department, interned for three summers, and volunteered to prepare taxes for citizens in need of assistance. Megan also participated in four study abroad programs that helped advance her Spanish-speaking skills, expand her world view, strengthen her sense of independence and further improve her job prospects.

While studying international business in Spain during fall term of her senior year, Megan conducted research, funded by a Richter Grant, for her honors thesis on changes to accounting education in Spain. She went on to present her research results at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, where North Central consistently ranks in the top 5 percent of all colleges and universities in the nation for the number of projects accepted.

Her knowledge of Spanish and honors research experience on her résumé caught the attention of her future employer, Corbett, Duncan & Hubly, and led to an interview and job offer as an auditor. 

David DePino


David is a star in forensics. From the start, he competed on North Central’s speech and debate teams and consistently placed among the top competitors at national, state and regional tournaments.

His junior year alone, he was national champion in Informative Speaking at a national comprehensive tournament, claimed second in Persuasive Speaking at one of the year’s most prestigious national tournaments, and made College history at the 143rd Interstate Oratorical Association National Tournament. Placing in the final round, he was the first North Central student to ever do so and only the second one to qualify for this national competition. North Central’s faculty named him the Outstanding Student in Forensics. On the side as part of his service to the forensic community, David helps coach local high school speech teams. His future plans include graduate studies in either communication or history and coaching speech and debate at the college level.

“I want to help students achieve at the same level my North Central coaches inspired in me to achieve,” he says.

Maria Gommel

National Student Scholarship

During her junior year, Maria earned a Goldwater Scholarship—the highest national undergraduate award for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Her journey to a Goldwater began upon her arrival at North Central with a passion to learn and explore in research. The summer after her sophomore year, Maria conducted mathematical modeling research on epidemiology with Professor of Mathematics Emeritus Linda Gao and two other students. She further demonstrated her commitment to excellence in all areas of study through her participation in our College Scholars Honors Program.

In addition to mentoring Maria through the research process, North Central faculty provided valuable input when it came time to prepare her Goldwater application.

“From advising to writing letters of recommendation to extending offers to assist in research projects, faculty gave me valuable advice and opportunities that no doubt strengthened my Goldwater application,” Maria said.

As a Goldwater Scholar, she garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate programs. After reviewing numerous offers, Maria enrolled in the Ph.D. program in mathematics at the University of Iowa.

“I think the Goldwater award helped me stand out from other people applying to Ph.D. programs and for competitive graduate fellowships,” she said.

Elizabeth Gerhardt

Dispute Resolution

“I thought getting involved in dispute resolution would just be a great addition to my résumé, but I ended up loving it,” says Liz. “The process of mediation is very intricate, yet so simple and effective.”

Liz plans to become a family and marriage therapist and attend graduate school. At North Central, she practices mediation skills and dispute resolution every day in her LEV 230 class. She and her classmates take on cases and work through each role to a conclusion and settlement, applying concepts they’ve learned.

“One of the best skills I’ve learned is active listening and patience … not always giving advice but letting people figure out their own problems and solutions, which is far more effective.”

Her senior year, Liz will conduct research into questions related to her career goals—questions like when marriage counseling stops and mediation begins, and what follows mediation.

Matt Wilke


From the start of his college career, Matt wanted to focus on leadership. He connected with iLead, the Leadership, Ethics & Values (LEV) program for first-year students, and was awarded a scholarship as a Distinguished Leader.

One of his first LEV classes challenged him to find a solution to a problem that troubled him. For Matt, that problem was negative speech and slurs and the people targeted by them. His class project was widely engaged across campus and led to the formation of NCC Thinks, a student group that raises awareness through creative projects.

“LEV gave me opportunities to practice and develop important skills, especially teamwork. I learned that by sharing creativity, effort and abilities, we can make good things happen,” says Matt.

“Stepping up to be a leader gives your life a sense of purpose. I found my calling because of LEV. I want to help others, be a servant leader and be an example for others.”

Nicole LeDonne

Model UN

Nicole’s involvement with Model United Nations (UN) grew out of her study abroad experience. Her new-found interest in international politics and cultures led her to complete coursework in Model UN and its simulations.

“Model UN challenged me to be a global citizen, to think about global issues from a different country’s viewpoint. That required reading and learning about the cultures, history and political systems of countries very different than my own.”

When North Central was assigned to represent Afghanistan for one UN simulation, Nicole and her class partner focused on human rights and trafficking. “We studied these issues from that country’s experience and its position in the global system. We also looked at how those issues impact the wider world, not just one country.”

Model UN is valuable for everyone, says Nicole. It challenges you “to think on your own, find solutions to problems … find ways to get your message across, simply and effectively, and relate it to others who may be very different than you.”

T.J. Simmons


“I was a confident person before, but being successful in forensics has made my confidence soar,” says T.J.

In addition to being on the forensics team and a forward on the soccer team, T.J. works full time as showroom manager of a marketing company at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. He routinely speaks with vendors and vice presidents, using skills he’s developed through forensics. “I know what I want to say, how to present and come across.”

On campus, T.J. enjoys the flexibility North Central offers to pursue both forensics and soccer. During soccer season, he participates in fewer forensic tournaments. During off-season, he expands his forensics involvement, traveling and competing in individual events he enjoys, such as rhetorical criticism and informative, persuasive, prose, after-dinner and public address speeches.

“In forensics, it’s not about not making mistakes. It’s your enthusiasm ... tone, volume, pace, emphasis on specific parts of the speech that make it so intriguing and so very challenging to do.” 

Brandon Sarkauskas

Mock Trial

Before he set foot on campus for classes, Brandon received a Mock Trial scholarship. “Being involved in Mock Trial confirmed my interest in law,” he says. “I’ve learned about the legal profession through people I’ve met and behind-the-scenes things I never would have experienced if not for Mock Trial.”

Of all the roles he plays in Mock Trial, Brandon enjoys serving as lawyer the most. He’s good at it, too. In his first tournament of the season, he won Outstanding Attorney while competing against others from large universities and winning programs.

“I’d encourage anyone interested in Mock Trial to check it out,” he says. “All majors and careers can benefit. The best skills I’ve gained are writing concisely and public speaking—they advance your whole career.”

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