Niki Spencer was 8 years old when she became interested in radiography.
“An X-ray of my brother's esophagus was brought into my home, and we played pretend hospital for weeks, with me imagining taking the image,” she said. “I’ve been fascinated ever since.”
Spencer, who originally attended College of DuPage in the late 1990s, went in another direction with her career. However, when COVID-19 hit, she questioned whether to stay on her current path or revisit her earlier passion.
Helping her ease the financial burden is several scholarships through the COD Foundation: the COD Succeeds Scholarship, the Glenn Hansen Leadership Scholarship, and the Naperville Rotary Charities and Rotary Club of Naperville Award.
“With the cost of books, fees, transportation and tuition all increasing, and the student loan crisis reaching a boiling point, having access to scholarships is an incredible stress reliever when it comes to paying for school,” she said.
This allowed her to focus on her academics. Spencer was excited by the opportunity to take honors courses, and she presented a project during the annual Honors Council of the Illinois Region (HCIR) Student Symposium.
As a returning adult student, I never thought I would fit in as much as I do. But I am welcomed in all aspects of campus life, both educational and extra-curricular.
“The selective and competitive nature of COD's Radiography program meant that I not only had to take an aggressive course load this year, but I also had to achieve a high level of success in doing so,” she said. “The small class sizes along with the passionate instructors made taking honors courses—and excelling in them—a joy. Being able to present a project I am passionate about, equitable access to education, in a forum such as the HCIR symposium was an experience that I never imagined I would be able to participate in. It was amazing to have people interested and inquisitive about the topic.”
After earning her Associate in Applied Science degree in Radiography, Spencer plans to pursue the MRI Advanced certificate and the Mammography certificate, both offered at COD.
“If I could stay in school and learn forever, I would. COD has so many interesting programs to study and I have so many educational interests,” she said. “Realistically, my goals are to excel in a radiology department and maximize my technical skills within it, in order to help as many people as possible.”
“The program accepts a fraction of applicants each year, and earning excellent grades is an integral step in getting there,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No matter how hard it seems, there is always someone at COD to help you overcome difficulties and reach your goals. Librarians and Learning Commons staff are always here to help any step of the way, from narrowing down a topic to the most efficient way to collect information, or to polishing up a stellar presentation. The breadth of support and the personal investment the staff have in seeing students be successful allow me to believe everything is possible with hard work and effort.
“Most of all, don't give up on yourself! At the end of the day, you are 100 percent in control of your success. At a time when post-secondary education is becoming more expensive, having COD as a resource in our own backyards is a blessing—not only for young people with dreams of earning a bachelor’s, who can take core curriculum for a fraction of the price in state-of-the-art facilities, but also for adults who are ready to take the next steps to a more fulfilling career. It seems like there is a program for everyone and a campus full of people to help you find the one that calls to you. As a returning adult student, I never thought I would fit in as much as I do. But I am welcomed in all aspects of campus life, both educational and extra-curricular.”