NU Declassified: Home School: Growing up on Northwestern’s campus

Ilana Arougheti, Dan Hu, and Divitya Vakil

DIVITYA VAKIL: Welcome to NU Declassified, a look into how Wildcats thrive and survive on Northwestern’s campus. I’m Divitya Vakil.

ILANA AROUGHETI: And I’m Ilana Arougheti.

VAKIL: Family Weekend has come and gone, and with it, an opportunity for students to show their parents where they call home. But for some, Northwestern has been their home since childhood. What’s it like growing up on a college campus, and what’s it like studying on the same campus where you grew up?

AROUGHETI: Communication Prof. Melissa Foster lives in Shepard Hall as the dorm’s faculty-in-residence with her daughter Viva Boresi.

MELISSA FOSTER: I’m Melissa Foster. I am a Senior Lecturer. I’m a professor in musical theatre, so I’m in the theatre department in the School of Communication. And you?

VIVIAN BORESI: I’m Viva Boresi.

VAKIL: Vivian, how old are you?

BORESI: I am 8 years old.

VAKIL: So, how long have you guys been living in this residence?

FOSTER: Do you know that answer?

BORESI: Let me see. So, I’ve been at school four years now.

FOSTER: This is our fourth year. She’s right.

VAKIL: Prof. Foster, what prompted you to take this role?

FOSTER: I love connecting with residents. I teach musical theatre, and so I only work with students in musical theatre. I was interested in connecting with residents in a larger scope: wider range, multifaceted interests and majors and different parts of the university. I also went here, and was an RA, and loved residential life. And although this role is very, very different than that, it was coming back to all of the different aspects that enrich the university experience beyond the classroom.

VAKIL: How would you say your role now differs from an RA?

FOSTER: I’m obviously not a peer of my students here. While we both do programming, our programming has sort of a different slant. An example is my Black Panther event. So, when Black Panther came out last year, I had one of the only black comic book shop owners from Chicago. He came up and gave a 45 minute lecture –

BORESI: Oh, I never knew that.

FOSTER: Yeah, you weren’t here. You were out that night- On the history of black superheroes in Marvel. Swore like a sailor, so it wasn’t really a stuffy lecture at all. It was, you know, fun. I had about 50 residents in here and we all ate Hecky’s. And then we all went to opening night of Black Panther. So it was educational, and also multicultural, and also pop culture, and also community-building.

VAKIL: Vivian, what has your experience been like the past 4 years?

BORESI: Well, It’s been really cool and weird at the same time. And sort of scary, because we hear all these noises. The door that the students go out to sounds like they’re in our house. Some students get confused and come in here.

FOSTER: No, they don’t.

BORESI: Yes. And it’s just really cool living in an actual college building.

VAKIL: What’s your morning routine like?

FOSTER: Yeah, what do you do all day?

BORESI: Well I wake up very late so I can annoy my mom. And then I have to get ready really fast, so I get dressed, and I usually just watch TV until my mom comes out of getting ready. And then I eat breakfast and then go to school. I learn stuff and then I either go to an after-school club or my mom picks me up and takes me to dance or swimming.

FOSTER: Do you wanna tell her what it’s like when your friends come over?

BORESI: Oh yeah, they’re always amazed.

FOSTER: Do you guys go out in the lobby?

BORESI: Yeah, we usually scream in there.

VAKIL: And how do students usually react?

BORESI: “What? You’re not a college kid.”

FOSTER: What about your birthday party?

BORESI: Oh, yeah.

FOSTER: Where was it this year?

BORESI: Downstairs.

FOSTER: And what was the theme?

BORESI: Harry Potter.

FOSTER: And did any residents come?

BORESI: Yeah, they sang Happy Birthday to me.

VAKIL: What has your experience been like?

FOSTER: Oh, fantastic. It’s quite immersive. My hours are much different than my friends’ as in, a lot of the events I’m hosting are late at night because that’s when college kids can come. And also, a lot of events are after she goes to sleep, so that I can still spend my time with her and then go.

BORESI: There’s always food.

FOSTER: Yeah, you do miss a lot of the food, don’t you? Sorry. It’s definitely kept me young. I find myself running over to the dining hall in sweats or pajama pants and I’m thinking, “I’m way too old to be doing this,” but you just get used to what’s around you. Also, it’s really nice to have the dining hall, isn’t it?

BORESI: Really nice.

VAKIL: So Vivian, how do you feel about Northwestern, since you’ve been so immersed in the culture, you’re basically a student?

BORESI: I think it’s weird and great at the same time.

FOSTER: How so?

BORESI: It’s a huge place and I just feel like I’m sharing a place with a bunch of people I don’t know.

FOSTER: Do you like your backyard?

BORESI: Oh, yeah.

FOSTER: Tell her about what’s our backyard.

BORESI: It’s just this huge area where students can study. But I would sort of wish for a treehouse.

FOSTER: Do you think the students would mind if we put a treehouse between Allison and Shepard and 1838 Chicago?


FOSTER: What about Tree Top?

BORESI: Oh yeah, Tree Top is a cool event I do where I get to go around in pajamas and sometimes bring stuffed animals and give out treats.

FOSTER: So, where do we give out treats? Where are we?

BORESI: Sometimes we’re upstairs and sometimes we’re at 1838. And the Engagement Center sometimes.

FOSTER: And then how do we give out treats? What do you do?

BORESI: ‘Treats, who wants treats?’

VAKIL: Are most kids happy to see you?


VAKIL: Would you ever let a student babysit for you?

FOSTER: Oh my gosh, they totally do!


She loves them, and when they come over she’s like, “When are you leaving?” to me. They’re like her friends.

BORESI: Because I can go up to their rooms.

FOSTER: Yeah, she loves that, and envisioning, because where do you want to go to school? Where do you want to go to college?

BORESI: Here. So we’re saving up.

VAKIL: While Vivian continues to make Shepard Hall her playground, others are growing up, coming back to campus and establishing a student identity in their childhood home.

AROUGHETI: Here’s NU Declassified’s Dan Hu with Weinberg freshman Sofia Boczkowski. Her father worked as a professor in the Department of Communication Studies for most of her life, and then she applied ED to Northwestern.

SOFIA BOCZKOWSKI: My name is Sofia Boczkowski. I’m 18 and I’m from Evanston.

DAN HU: How many other people do you know have a parent or family member working here?

BOCZKOWSKI: So, coming from Evanston, I went to high school here in the city. I know about 15 people who have parents that work here on campus. Evanston has a really good public high school. If a professor works at Northwestern, it wouldn’t be uncommon for their kids to go to Evanston Township High School. My dad was raised in Argentina. He moved to the United States to go to Cornell University to get his Ph.D. From Cornell, he had different jobs in different places until he secured a job in MIT for about five years. And then from MIT, he was sent here to Northwestern about 12, 13 years ago.

HU: Growing up, did it affect you that your dad was a professor here?

BOCZKOWSKI: It was a huge benefit. I got to use SPAC as a kid to play tennis. The Norris Game Room in the basement was where I had birthday parties. I really appreciate that my dad works here. It gave me a good inside scoop of college life.

HU: Wait, can you tell me about the birthday parties? That sounds so cool.

BOCZKOWSKI: When we were kids, my dad taught us ping pong, as he played ping pong as a kid. And Norris has a ping pong table that’s been there for ages. This game room had opened up not long before my dad had gotten there, and it was a pretty popular thing at the time. As kids, we thought it was the coolest thing ever to have a birthday party at Northwestern. And so me and my sister both had a few birthday parties at Norris which was a bit bizarre, but we loved it.

HU: So you grew up in this environment, fully immersed in it.

BOCZKOWSKI: I did. My mom worked far away. My mom worked in the city when we were kids. And so if ever we were sick, my dad, it wasn’t like he could just take off class. So, often we would have to sit outside and wait while he taught. And, I thought it was so cool. I watched students walk into class. He teaches in Frances Searle. We never sat inside the classrooms, but it was an interesting scene for me.

BOCZKOWSKI: It feels almost too normal to be on campus.

HU: What does that mean?

BOCZKOWSKI: What does that mean? So, I never thought I would go here. Northwestern was never a top choice when I was looking into colleges, in part because I knew Northwestern so well. I attended “Take Your Daughters To Work Day” six years in a row. Allison was my favorite place to go eat food when I was growing up. They took away the soft-serve machine, which made me very sad. I never thought that when I was a kid, I would go here. So now that I’m here, it almost feels like a second home. I have a class in Frances Searle, which is always awkward. I’m entering the building every day, in a building that I entered with my dad every weekend.

HU: [VO] Boczkowski wasn’t even thinking about applying to Northwestern for college at first. She considered distant schools in more urban environments, especially NYU. When senior year actually rolled around, Boczkowski not only reconsidered Northwestern, but applied Early Decision.

BOCZKOWSKI: I wanted to get far away as possible. We visited NYU junior year. I went, and they started to talk about the 11 campuses they had all over the world. And one of them was in the heart of Argentina 10 blocks away from where my family was from. And then I sat with a Northwestern admissions officer to have an interview meeting. And I asked her a trillion questions. We talked for like an hour and a half. And she encouraged me that I could find a global home here. I guess my decision came down to the idea that I loved Northwestern since I was a kid, but I knew that if I wanted to make it my own community and my home that I would do that. And that’s what I did when I got here.

HU: Do you wonder what life would have been like if you went to NYU?

BOCZKOWSKI: Yes. Especially last weekend during parents weekend. It’s parents weekend for me every weekend, if you want to play that game. I don’t even see my parents as much as I thought I would. But I mean, if I ever need them, I just call home and they’ll come if they need to. My parents barely spent time with me during parents weekend. I mean, I had dinner with my dad, and that was about it. You could see that kids were crying when they saw their parents, and parents were super excited and wanting to spend all weekend with them. And so then I started to think about if I lived in New York, parents weekend would have meant so much more to me at the time. So I do think a little bit about how different my life would have been. It would have been less community-oriented. But I would have done something a little bit different if I was in New York.

HU: Can you tell me about how you’ve been able to find your global home here?

BOCZKOWSKI: I live super far south, and my dad works super far north. And so there’s that boundary. I mean, my dorm is amazing. I mean, the dorm itself is horrible, but the people in it are amazing. I have a great group of friends away from anyone I’ve known from home. I guess I’ve been able to make that boundary with meeting new people and getting to know campus from the lenses of someone who’s moved here from Florida or from LA or from Boston. A lot of people come here from different places and love to explore the downtown area. Growing up here, I knew all the restaurants like the back of my hand. I do feel like it would have been cool to be able to explore a bit. It’s a huge perk living here in Evanston. And having that family so close. I was pretty sick in the first and second week of school. Being able to go to a doctor’s appointment with a parent was very convenient, and having my doctor here is very convenient. I knew Northwestern quite well when I got to campus. I had gone into Tech to study when I was in high school. I knew Main Library, I studied in Norbucks when I was a kid. I guess I’m reminiscing a little bit of my childhood when I come here, but I try not to think about it like that.
HU: Okay, I’m going to ask you to try and enter your dad’s point of view for a second. How do you think he feels that you come here now?
BOCZKOWSKI: We’re in such different majors and communities that it doesn’t have that much of an impact. If I did go into the Comm department, it would be a little bit more bizarre in my perspective, and I think for him too. So, I think the fact that we’ve created this boundary, that I’m in Weinberg, and he’s in Comm, I will never overlap in his classes. I mean, we get together once a week.
HU: And how do you think your relationship with this campus will change moving into the future?
BOCZKOWSKI: I think that my childhood will go more in the past. I enjoy having the mix and I joke around with friends, you know. Norris has really changed since I used to go there. MOD Pizza didn’t exist. Patty Squared wasn’t there. There was a Freshii when I was a kid. I mean, Norris has changed tremendously. In that sense I see my childhood there. Then again, I don’t. I think that I will create new memories that don’t suppress the old ones.
VAKIL: A big thanks to Professor Foster, Vivian, and Sofi. This has been Ilana Arougheti, Dan Hu and me, Divitya Vakil. Thanks for listening to NU Declassified. We’ll see you in the next episode.