2019 Spotlight Student

Valparaiso Volunteers interviewed Katherine Nickolaou.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself:

I am majoring in meteorology with a minor in digital media. I have been a VUTV staff member for 4 years, during which I was the News Director for 1 year and the Executive Director for 2 years. I am currently at the end of my tenure as the Executive Director as I am graduating in May. I’m also a member of the Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team  (VUSIT) as well as a member of the Valparaiso University chapter of the NWI AMS/NWA. I’ve also been the V-Rex at the Men’s basketball games for the last 3 years.

2. You were recently featured by the Communications department for your role as the Executive Producer at the Valparaiso University Television Studio. What qualities do you think prepared you for these leadership roles?

My compassion and ability to accept criticism are the biggest qualities that prepared me for this role. When working in television, especially on-air, you are putting yourself out there for people to judge you. Some people like you and others think you are the worst newscaster who’s ever lived. The same applies to being a leader. Some people will follow you and think you are amazing while others will tell you to your face that you are the worst leader on planet earth. You have to be able to take criticism, both constructive and destructive, and find ways to improve both yourself and your organization. I also have a lot of compassion for the people I work with. Running a student organization means that you work with students. You have to understand that things come up, tests get moved up, assignments get piled on, and you have to be able to understand that and show compassion for those trying to juggle school and your org. If they miss a meeting you have to understand. If they need extra help this week because they have 3 exams, you need to understand and work with them. It is all about working with people and making sure everyone comes out of your organization better than when they came in.

3. Who inspires you? Professor or Celebrity?

This list could go on forever. My mom, dad, and brother inspire me the most. We have all been through so much together and they continue to show unconditional love and support for me and everyone they meet. I love them so much. Dr. Bart Wolf of the meteorology department is also a major inspiration for me. He has shown me that being who you are and not hiding your true self is the best way to be. Be fun, be spontaneous, let people see how passionate you are about what you love, even if they don’t entirely understand you. He is one of the people who has helped me the most to feel confident in myself both on-air and in real life. As far as celebrities go, Scott Bakula has to be my main inspiration. I love all of the shows he has done, from Quantum Leap, to Star Trek: Enterprise, to NCIS: New Orleans, all of the characters he portrays are ones that I look up to. He is a genuinely nice person who lives by what he preaches. He helps people when he can, he is kind, caring, and passionate. I really look up to him.

4. How do you foster self growth?

I foster self growth by surrounding myself with people that I want to be like. I have so many mentors, some don’t even know that I think of them as mentors, and I try to find the parts of them that I like the most; the parts that I want to incorporate into myself. By simply being around them I am teaching myself the qualities that I strive to have.

5. Do you have any advice for incoming Freshman or continuing student leaders?

My best advice is that it is okay to fail. Seriously. Don’t spend all of your time and energy trying to dig yourself out of a hole that you cannot possibly escape. Acknowledge defeat and build from it. College is the time to take chances, make mistakes, and learn before heading out into the “real world”. Take this opportunity and make the most of it.

6. What drives you academically, personally and spiritually?

My family, plain and simple. Nothing in this world is more important to me than my family. They make me want to be the best person that I can possibly be. They help me to strive for academic excellence and help me to grow as a person. Personally, I want to be the best person I can be. I want to be the person that people can go to for help. That is both one of my greatest strengths and greatest flaws. I love to help people, but I often forget to help myself. Trying to find a balance between the two is something that I am continuously attempting to accomplish. Spiritually, I believe in God. When you chase tornadoes, you have to pray/believe that God is watching out for you.

7. After graduation where do you see yourself working? What is your dream job?

After graduation I will be going into broadcast meteorology. My dream job would be to become the next Jim Cantore at The Weather Channel. To be able to chase tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards and make money doing it would be the most amazing thing! I would also love to work in Traverse City, Michigan. I’m from Michigan, and to work in the northern Lower Peninsula would be a dream come true.

8. Outside of your career goals, what do you want to accomplish in life?

Outside of my career, I hope to have a husband and children someday. I also want to explore my hobby of television acting. During my time at Valpo, I’ve been an extra on Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago Justice. I really enjoy being on the set of TV shows, and I hope that I’ll be able to continue being an extra throughout my life. I also want to just be a good person. At the end of every day, I want to be able to look back and say, “I made at least one person smile today.”  If I can do that, then I will consider it a great accomplishment.

9. If you change anything to make the world a better place what would it be? 

I would find a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease. Anyone who has been diagnosed with or has had family who has suffered from Alzheimer’s knows that it is a fate worse than death. My dedo (grandfather) died of Alzheimer’s my sophomore year of college. It was almost like I lost him twice; once from him forgetting who I was and once more when he actually passed away. God, if I could change anything in this world it would be to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

10. What’s your favorite animal, comfort food and television show? Why?

My favorite comfort food is zelnick. It is a Greek/Macedonian dish and it is the single greatest thing I have ever eaten. It is layered filo dough with cottage cheese and egg in the center. It is such a simple dish, but it tastes out of this world! I can’t just list one favorite TV show! I’m a massive fan of Star Trek, The Orville, NCIS, Quantum Leap, NCIS: New Orleans, Gravity Falls, and Survivor. I’ve actually applied to be on Survivor on three separate occasions. I haven’t heard anything back but I’m still hoping I’ll get the call one day! Star Trek is my all time favorite television franchise. If I ever feel down, or feel like I’m not the leader I want to be, I just turn on Star Trek and I instantly feel better. I have learned so many life lessons from Star Trek. Overall I just love TV shows that have great action and amazing characters!

11. What’s your motivation to do good?

My motivation to do good comes from the people that I help. Everyone is so grateful and kind and genuine. The best feeling in the world is when someone comes up to you and says thank you for being who you are, for being a good person. Once one person tells you this, you just want to keep doing good. In the end, I want to be able to look back on my life and think of all of the people that I’ve helped, all the good I’ve done. There is a great quote by Captain Jean Luc Picard that I always keep in mind: “What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived.” Material items are fine and all, but it is the good that we have done that will last far beyond our time on this earth.

Thanks Katie! Good luck on your upcoming graduation! ~VV Team!

How does Studying Abroad Impact Students?

Welcome to a special edition of Valparaiso Volunteers. Today we are talking to a representative of the Study Abroad program at Valparaiso University, Olivia Dausch. Last summer Olivia studied abroad in Japan. Now, Olivia works with the University to inform other students about the benefits and opportunities of traveling abroad during college. 

Why do students volunteer at the Study Abroad Fair? 

            The Study Abroad Fair is a big info-session bringing together students interested in going abroad and students who have returned from abroad. The returning students volunteer their time to try to answer any questions interested students might have about the specific programs.

How has volunteering changed your life?

            Volunteering was a thing that was introduced a bit later in my life. My parents tried to convince me not to go out of my way for others. Once I got to high school and joined Key Club, I realized that giving to others was incredibly fun and rewarding.

Do you volunteer anywhere specifically? Why there?

            I don’t volunteer in a specific place. I usually volunteer with my fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. My friend introduced me to the group, and I’ve been with it for about a year now.

How do you think studying abroad changes students? 

            I think that studying abroad lets students see a world outside of themselves. There is a world outside of Valparaiso, outside of Indiana, the Midwest, the United States. There are different places with different cultures and problems of their own. I feel it is very humbling. It’s very easy to see that one’s immediate surroundings is all there is in the world but going across an ocean greatly expands a person’s world view.

Why do you think studying abroad is important?

            I think studying abroad is important because it puts a lot of smaller problems into perspective. Being away from the familiar, even temporarily, is refreshing and can provide great opportunities for self-reflection. Finding out what issues were left behind and what managed to go with can be a great way to figure out the importance of those issues.

Is there anything students should know prior to studying abroad?

            Outside of the general “pack light” and “step out of your comfort zone”, I think other students should know that it’s okay to take a day to just reflect on everything. It never feels like you change, but you are with yourself all the time. Taking some time to look at where you are and where you were before you left can at least partially show how much you’ve grown during your trip.

How should students investigate where they want to study abroad?

            I feel like students should look at their interests. A lot of people who study in Japan start from anime, manga and video games. However, this isn’t enough. There has to be a genuine interest in the culture itself. For example, anime and manga can be a great stepping stone into researching different cultural aspects that inspired the different stories, and how the cultural facets are integrated into the culture itself. It boils down to having an interest in learning about the culture of the places the student is considering.

How does studying abroad change a student’s life? 

            Studying abroad will give students the tools they need to figure out their place in the world. It’s a safe place to take risks and see what the world has in store. There is time to experience the life of a student in another country with the freedom to explore the country in question. There are opportunities to talk to local students and make lifelong friends. Students also have the chance to go to other nearby countries as well. It’s a chance to experience the world safely and with little risk.

When you studied abroad did you personally feel it changed how you view community service or global responsibility? How?

            Absolutely. I was able to see Japan’s more family-oriented culture. There were people who helped me because I was a foreigner, and I saw how easily they were able to do so. They tried to explain things in as much English as they could, and even the effort to help made all the difference. I saw how easy it was for me to do the same and that I always should. Even helping someone in the store could make someone’s day, and that’s what really matters.

Specifically do you think students become stronger or more informed leaders for our community?

            Absolutely. Learning about any culture outside of one’s own is already a step toward being a more informed leader. Actually experiencing a different culture can give students a perspective they never could have received through reading.

What’s your motivation to do good?

            My motivation to do good comes from knowing that there is a lot of bad in the world that everyone experiences. Taking a second to do something to help someone with anything can improve their day even slightly. I feel that’s the most important thing.

“Thank you Olivia for all you do!” The VV Team!