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Meet the Mentors

Our UPAL peer mentors are undergrads who understand the Northwestern academic landscape and are committed to helping other students navigate it successfully. Meet the team below.

Haley Handelman

Haley Handelman

Psychology, Class of 2024(she/her)

What Haley brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "I went through hiccups and road bumps adjusting to college, and I want to help create a warm and supportive atmosphere for other students who are in that same boat. I love working with others and I'm excited to meet new people."

What you wish you'd known as a first-year student: How genuinely supportive most professors are. They want you to go to their office hours!

Best advice you've received: Comparison is the thief of joy.

Favorite thing about Northwestern: The wonderful friends I have met.

Brennan Jackson

Brennan Jackson

Mathematics, Class of 2024(he/him)

What Brennan brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "I have had the opportunity to experience many things and hear about others' experiences, especially as a senior who has been a UPAL mentor for two years. I always try to draw from this knowledge during my sessions."

What you wish you'd known as a first-year student: How difficult college can be. But also how willing people are to help you.

Favorite place to study on campus: Periodicals in Main Library.

Favorite thing about Northwestern:  Of course, my friends. But also my professors.

Lauren Lee

Lauren Lee

Psychology, Class of 2025(she/her)

What Lauren brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "I run a free weekly tutoring program in my hometown library [which] has given me insight towards the various struggles students may face in academic environments, and as a peer leader I hope to help students overcome these struggles. The transition from high school to college can be difficult, so I want to help other students navigate this process as smoothly as possible. I want to create a supportive atmosphere where everyone feels welcomed and valued."

What you wish you'd known as a first-year student:  Maintaining a healthy work/life balance is key! Although studying is important, setting aside time to develop friendships and practice self-care is crucial.

Favorite Evanston restaurant(s):  Hokkaido and Shinsen

Fun fact: I have perfect pitch!

Duke (Po-Ting) Lin

Duke (Po-Ting) Lin

Economics & Mathematics, Class of 2024(he/him)

What Duke brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "I believe working together is the best way to deal with the academic and mental challenges that will inevitably arise throughout our college years. As someone who regularly consulted with my professors, advisors, and peers for advice, I am eager to act as a mentor and share my own experiences. I was set on doing premed before coming to college and never expected that I would change my major into a completely different field.  As someone who was once confused and unsure of what I was doing, I can provide guidance to students who are navigating their academic interests and goals."

What you wish you'd known as a first-year student:  I wish I knew that premed was not what I wanted. 

Best advice you've received: Don't do premed just because all of your friends are doing it. Don't do econ just because half of the Northwestern population are doing it. Do something that you actually enjoy, please!

Fun fact: Hire me if you need a chef!

Caleb Mistir

Caleb Mistir

Learning & Organizational Change, Class of 2024(he/him)

What Caleb brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "I want to work with other students through ASLA because I feel that collaboration and helping others are both important for growth.  As someone who is outgoing and empathetic, I feel that mentoring in this program can really impact NU students!"

What you wish you'd known as a first-year student:  I wish I had know that going to office hours is extremely beneficial in understanding how a course is structured and the class material. 

Favorite Evanston restaurant: 10Q Chicken

Fun fact: I am Ethiopian, and because a lot of my family lives in Ethiopia, I enjoy visiting them there!

Sophia Moreno

Sophia Moreno

Neuroscience & Global Health, Class of 2024(she/her)

What Sophia brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "As a first generation Latina, I bring the experience of a student of color who has the experience of being raised with two cultures and languages which has contributed to my identity. When I was having a hard time in school, UPAL helped me connect with other students who were experiencing similar struggles and it made me feel seen."

What you wish you'd known as a first year:  As a first year, I wish I would have known how much getting involved in clubs that interested me would add to my social life and connect me with so many people.

Favorite thing about Northwestern:  My favorite thing about NU would be hammocking on the lake fill or dancing with Dale Duro!

Best advice you've received:  If it won't matter in five years, don't worry about it too much!

Samantha Olson

Samantha Olson

Learning & Organizational Change and Psychology, Class of 2024(she/her)

What Samantha brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "As an incoming senior, I've had my fair share of both good and bad NU experiences. I love sharing the lessons I've learned over my time at NU, and hope they will help students who are in a similar position. I'm originally from a very small, rural town, so coming to NU was a major change for me, an experience I know many students share. I value community, kindness, and respect, so I try to embed these into my UPAL sessions. "

What you wish you'd known as a first-year student:  Use your resources! They are there for a reason- don't be afraid to reach out or try something new.

Favorite Evanston restaurant:  Sea Ranch (so yummy and a great price)

Favorite thing about Northwestern:  The people! I've met so many amazing people during my time here.

Johana Ortiz

Johana Ortiz

Neuroscience major, Global Health minor, Class of 2025 (she/her)

What Johana brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "Being a FGLI student with Mexican heritage, I recognize the significance of embracing our unique identities and backgrounds. Doing so is vital for fostering self-confidence and acceptance to pursue our goals. I was also born and raised in a populous and diverse city near Chicago, which has helped me develop a profound admiration for all cultures. Thus, I believe that engaging with individuals from diverse backgrounds can expand our horizons, enrich our college experiences, and cultivate a deeper sense of empathy and inclusivity in society."

What you wish you'd known as a first-year student:  When you find yourself in need, don't hesitate to seek assistance. As a first-generation college student, I understand the tendency to feel compelled to handle everything independently. Yet, reaching out to professors, academic advisors, or fellow students can ease your burdens and provide valuable perspectives. Always remember, asking for help demonstrates strength, not weakness.

Favorite place to study on campus: Deering Library

Best advice you've received:  You can never lose by doing "your best" because you will either succeed the first time or realize what you need to get there. 

Elise Pakiela

Elise Pakiela

Theater, Class of 2024(she/her)

What Elise brings to mentoring UPAL groups:  "I've had to learn how to balance my academic commitments with the rigorous schedule that comes with my work in the arts. I appreciate when I can help my peers do the same with their lives outside of the classroom. I enjoy working with other students through ASLA to create spaces where we can support each other and provide resources for success in the academic and overall student experiences."

What you wish you'd known as a first year:  Academic drive and a well-rounded college experience can co-exist.

Favorite place to study on campus:  Main Library

Favorite thing about Northwestern:  The flexibility of the curriculum.

Inka Rzezinowska

Inka Rzezinowska

Computer Science (WCAS), Class of 2024(she/her)

What Inka brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "ASLA helped me so much when I was struggling, and it helped open my eyes to the way other students were feeling. I want to do the same, and help in any way to prevent a student from feeling the way I did or help them in the way that they need it. "

What you wish you'd known as a first year:  I wish I had known that my goals won't be the same as other people's, and that it's perfectly OK. It doesn't mean I'm worth less or that I don't deserve to be here, but just that I am my own person.

Favorite place to study on campus:  Pancoe Auditorium or an empty classroom.

Best advice you've received: Excellence is not perfection.

Wilma Tay

Wilma Tay

Economics & Psychology major, Data Science minor, Class of 2024(she/her)

What Wilma brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "My mentoring is enriched by my distinctive background as a first-generation black female international student. Through my journey, I have gained valuable insights into the academic obstacles that students encounter, particularly those stemming from their socioeconomic circumstances. ASLA and many other resources and peer mentors have been instrumental in helping me adjust to college life and succeed, and I want to help others to do the same! "

What you wish you'd known as a first year:  I wish I had known that I should not be so afraid or hesitant to ask for help. No one expects me to know everything or have it all figured out, and everyone loves to help.

Favorite place to study on campus:  Tech

Favorite thing about Northwestern: The campus is gorgeous and every day, I meet extremely amazing and intelligent individuals!

Ana Paula Velazquez Castro

Ana Paula Velazquez Castro

Psychology & International Studies, Class of 2024(she/her)

What Ana brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "I've moved around a bit, including from Mexico to the US when I was younger and two study abroad experiences, so I'm very used to being in new environments and having to make friends. I'm Latina and Catholic so I can relate to minority and religious identities. I'm constantly learning more about myself and what works best for me at school. ASLA helps me do that while also allowing me to share my knowledge with students who might be facing problems similar to those I've experienced in the past. "

What you wish you'd known as a first year: Friendships will change and develop throughout every year. Don't stress if you don't find your people immediately!

Favorite Evanston restaurant:  Pono Ono for poke and Happy Lemon for boba!

Fun fact: I just got back from a semester in Sydney, Australia, and yes it is my whole personality now, so ask me anything :)

Binhao Wu

Binhao Wu

Social Policy & Psychology, Class of 2025(he/him)

What Binhao brings to mentoring UPAL groups: "I wanted to connect with my peers whom I would never otherwise meet, to share what I have learned about Northwestern and the academic journey since I entered college, and to learn from my peers and grow as a person. "

What you wish you'd known as a first year: The declaration of a major does not constrict you to the resources within that major or even that one school. People (from peers to faculty to staff) at Northwestern are happy to help out in whatever they can.

Favorite thing about Northwestern:  The Lakefill

Favorite Evanston restaurant: Tapas Barcelona