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Meet Our Students: Aggie Hanni

June 24, 2013

A monthly series to help you get to know the students of NLU, where they've come from and the things they've experienced on the journey toward their degree. 

ul 6.24.13 Pursuing Ph.D. in Community Psychology

What brought you to NLU?

I moved to the U.S. from Sokolka, Poland, in 2001. In this challenging transition during my adolescence, I was fortunate enough to meet the most inspiring mentors who guided me through the American educational system and who helped me realize my potential. One of those individuals, Dr. Helga Noice from Elmhurst College, had an especially great impact on my life as she introduced me to the world of research by inviting me to assist her in the work that she has been conducting for many years with older adults. Dr. Noice’s passion and research success have influenced me to continue my education into graduate studies.

After finishing my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Elmhurst College, I began studying lifespan developmental psychology at West Virginia University. While at WVU, I began to feel the need to positively impact the lives of others more directly and readily. I valued the worked that I was involved in as a graduate student and a graduate teaching assistant; however, I also felt a degree of separation from the population that I was interested in benefiting the most due to the demands of a traditional graduate program. After much consideration, I decided to continue my studies at National Louis University as I was introduced to the field of community psychology and the option to use my research interests in cognition and aging more directly to improve the lives of older adults. While at NLU, Dr. Claudia Pitts, professor and program director of the Master of Arts in Psychology, invited me to volunteer with an early-onset Alzheimer’s support group out of the Barrington Area Council on Aging. At the same time, Dr. Gale Stam, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, provided me an exceptional guidance and support through my master’s thesis. Those experiences combined with several similar opportunities enabled me to continue my passion for research and improving the lives of older adults.

What are you currently studying?

I am currently working toward a Ph.D. in Community Psychology. My main research interests are focused on maintaining and improving cognitive functioning susceptible to age-related decline in older adults.

Are you involved in any clubs or off-campus activities in your community?

I am a student member of several professional organizations: APA Div. 20 Adult Development and Aging and Div. 27 Society for Community Research and Action, as well as the American Society on Aging. I also volunteer with a local no-kill animal rescue organization, the American Animal Rescue Society out of Chicago.

How have you grown in your time here?

NLU helped me to reawaken my passion for serving others. This may sound a bit cliché, however, in my experiences, I have encountered numerous situations in which I felt a sense of despair. Many times I thought to myself that someone has to do something to improve the lives of others – especially those whose voices are yet to be heard. After becoming a part of the NLU family, I realized that I am that someone. Even as a single individual, I have the potential to make a difference and to inspire others to do the same.

What do you hope to do after college and how is NLU preparing you for that?

My main goal is to continue to have a positive impact on the well-being of the aging population. Recently, Dr. Suzette Fromm-Reed, professor and co-director of the Ph.D. in Community Psychology, introduced me to another aging researcher out of Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, whose ongoing research projects may give me the opportunity to further professional connections and to hopefully open future opportunities for a career in research or academia. 

What have you liked most about your experience at NLU so far?

I absolutely treasure the level of support and guidance from each and every faculty and staff member at NLU. Through my educational experiences, I came to realize that such consistency in serving and inspiring students is unique to this institution. NLU lives and breathes its mission and values in each and every encounter with students and its general community.

If you know of an NLU student at any level - bachelor's, master's, doctoral - who has an inspiring story to tell, nominate them for our monthly series by emailing Susan Barnett, Director of Communications, at


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