Skip to main content

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.

Jillian Berry

Jillian Berry

Neuroscience, Class of 2018

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: Everyone is struggling living on their own and being on a college campus by themselves for the first time. And classes are challenging for everyone.

My biggest academic challenge: Procrastination.

Favorite thing about Northwestern: The inclusive community, the helpful faculty, and the amazing talent on campus.

Fun Fact: I am a dancer and a choreographer on Refresh Dance Crew (a hip hop dance group on campus)

Samantha "Sam" Buresch

Samantha "Sam" Buresch

Learning and Organizational Change and Psychology , Class of 2019

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: Northwestern has some pretty amazing resources – from academic advising to CAPS to SES to the fellowship office. There is a plethora of wonderful people willing and wanting to help you on your college journey! 

My biggest academic challenge: Finding the courage to go to office hours for the first time. In high school, I rarely had to ask for academic help. Freshman econ hit me by surprise, and I desperately needed my professor’s help. I eventually found the grit to go to my professor’s office hours and the one-on-one help helped tremendously. Office hours are also great in getting to know a professor. 

Favorite place to study on campus: SESP Student Affairs Office in Annenberg

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received: Life is too short to not do what you love. 

Zer Keen Chia

Zer Keen Chia

Chemistry, Class of 2018

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: Taking practice exams seriously is one of the most effective study habits you can develop.

My biggest academic challenge: Setting realistic goals for myself and deciding what assignments to prioritize.

Favorite thing about Northwestern: People are always willing to help you out, so just ask!

Favorite restaurant in Evanston: The Cellar

Sarah Dynia

Sarah Dynia

Neuroscience, Class of 2019

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: That it’s totally okay to struggle and ask for help. Everyone around you may look like they are doing amazing without stressing at all, but no one is stress-free.

My biggest academic challenge: Keeping myself on a timeline to complete things in a timely manner.

Fun fact about me: I have been on a billboard before!

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received: It’s not about how well you succeeded, but how you were able to bounce back after failures.

Klaudia Konieczny

Klaudia Konieczny

Psychology, Class of 2020

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: I wish that I had been more aware of all the tutoring options that Northwestern provides its students.

My biggest academic challenge: So far, my biggest challenge has been changing my studying habits that I had developed during high school to meet the demands of coursework in college.

Favorite thing about NU: My favorite thing about NU is the diverse students that go to this school. There's a wide range of personalities that makes it easy for you to find friends that will remain by your side.

Favorite restaurant in Evanston: Joy Yee’s

Bijan Moazezi

Bijan Moazezi

Economics, Class of 2020

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: The importance of time-management skills. Keeping up with classes is difficult, especially if not planned correctly. Cramming for multiple midterms at once is nearly impossible and cannot be an option.

My biggest academic challenge: Balancing my academics with extracurricular activities. I wanted to be involved in many organizations, but it is important to prioritize academics rather than spread oneself too thin.

Fun Fact: My name is hard to pronounce because it is Persian! Both of my parents immigrated here from Iran decades ago.

Favorite TV series right now: The Office

Andrea Guerrero

Andrea Guerrero

Chemical Engineering, Class of 2018

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: I wish I had known that asking for help is critical to success. There are so many resources on campus to help you through a tough class.

My biggest academic challenge: I have very bad exam anxiety. I can study for days before an exam but end up panicking while taking it. I’ve learned that my mindset makes all the difference.

Favorite TV series right now: Game of Thrones

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received: Grades aren’t everything. Always remember to take care of yourself and pay attention to your mental health.

Yesenia Craig

Yesenia Craig

Human Development and Psychological Services, Class of 2018

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: I wish I had known more about interlibrary loan, because that's how you can get free books from the library -- but I was buying books up until spring quarter.

My biggest academic challenge: Chemistry was probably one of the biggest challenges I faced freshmen year. I came in pre-med but quickly realized chemistry wasn't for me. So, overcoming my lifelong dream of becoming a pediatrician was rough, but after reaching out to people, I was able to find my home in SESP!

Favorite thing about NU: NU Nights and other free events are probably my favorite part of NU because I love the free swag and food!

Favorite restaurant in Evanston: I honestly love Cheesie's, although their sandwiches can be pretty greasy.

Colin Lynch

Colin Lynch

Integrated Science Program & Chemistry, Class of 2018

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: It's OK to spend less time focused on academics in order to get involved in student organizations on campus.

My biggest academic challenge: I struggle with time management, and find it difficult to start larger projects and papers well in advance of the deadline.

Fun Fact: I am also a layout designer for The Daily Northwestern.

Favorite TV series right now: Insecure

Whitney Plumery

Whitney Plumery

Communication Studies and Sociology, Class of 2018

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: I wish that I had taken advantage of the free services, both academic and personal, on campus -- like Interlibrary Loan, etc., because it would have made my first year at NU a lot less stressful.

My biggest academic challenge: My biggest academic challenge was learning time management and sticking to it, because I love to procrastinate.

Fun Fact: I am a cat and a dog person, so I’m winning at life!

Favorite thing about NU: The people I’ve met -- because NU would be boring and stressful without them.

Sofia Salgado

Sofia Salgado

Psychology, Class of 2020

What I wish I’d known as a first-year: How to make the best use of my time, especially summer.

My biggest academic challenge: My greatest academic challenge was getting through German 101-103 during Summer Quarter 2017. I got into this intensive summer course a week and a half into the class, and many thought I would not manage to get through the first part of the course. However, thanks to determination and help from my professors, I got through.

Favorite place to study on campus: I love studying at Kresge! It is such a beautiful building.

Favorite TV series right now: I love watching Shadowhunters, Stitchers, and Game of Thrones.

Yi Qiao

Yi Qiao

Computer Science, Class of 2020

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: For tests, do all the offered practice exams. It really saves lives.

My biggest academic challenge: Laziness and prioritizing, especially when it comes to reading and long homework assignments. I always put things off if they’re not due or quizzed on the next day, and before you know it everything piles up into one giant unmanageable ball of stress. Gradually I’ve been forcing myself to practice good time-management habits so that even if I’m feeling unmotivated, I will automatically start working out of habit.

Favorite place to study on campus: In the lounge area of my dorm or in my room

Favorite restaurant in Evanston: Tapas Barcelona or Mt. Everest

Caroline Spikner

Caroline Spikner

Radio/Television/Film, Class of 2018

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: There's a good portion of your class that is just as overwhelmed, confused, or behind on the reading as you are. If you ask somebody to study with you, chances are they'll be just as relieved to have a study buddy as you are!

My biggest academic challenge: Staying engaged in giant lecture classes.

Fun fact about me: My elbows don't straighten.

Nguyen (Johnny) Trinh

Nguyen (Johnny) Trinh

Economics and History, Class of 2020

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: Be open to change and new ideas.

My biggest academic challenge: Being able to work uninterrupted and focus

Favorite place to study on campus: Main library core, second floor, with the view of the lake

Favorite sweet treat: Large Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino, No Whip Cream, Extra Caramel Drizzle

Kandace Webb

Kandace Webb

Cognitive Science/Psychology, Class of 2018

What I wish I'd known as a first-year student: I wish I had known to just relax and never fear failure.

My biggest academic challenge: I’m a perfectionist, and sometimes I have a hard time dealing with an assignment or exam that doesn't go as well as I would like. I’ve learned to just relax and take things in stride!

Favorite TV series right now: I’m a big fan of Law and Order: SVU and How to Get Away with Murder.

Favorite place to study on campus: I mostly study in my room, but there are a few comfy red chairs in Deering’s music library.