Growing up near Naperville in the western suburbs, Brittany Wereminski set her sights on becoming an English teacher in secondary schools.
But the first-generation college student – her father is a pipefitter, her mother a hairdresser – needed some external assistance in navigating her journey to an NIU degree.
“My parents were very supportive of my going to school, and going to NIU was an affordable option for us,” Wereminski says. “I remember that I didn’t know what questions to ask. I didn’t even know there was an Admissions office. My mom and I just drove around NIU, and I was like, ‘I’ll go here.’ ”
Something clicked when she became a Huskie, however, something that would alter her life’s direction.
“I was very involved as a student leader at NIU, and also worked on campus, and that kind of led me to want to work in higher education, so I changed my career path and graduated with an English Studies degree,” she says.
“I really feel like I found my path at NIU and people to help me,” she adds. “When I didn’t know the answers to questions, I leaned on the support of mentors of my advisor at NIU. I felt inspired by the people around me who helped me be a successful college student, which in turn made me want to do the same thing and help others.”
Wereminski’s first-generation pedigree, mindset and talent is now benefiting the College of Education.
Hired last fall as the college’s coordinator of recruitment following her two-year stint with NIU Admissions as a freshman counselor, she is trying new ideas, expanding outreach activities, maximizing partnerships with her former teammates and encouraging student involvement in enrollment initiatives.
New concepts include the recent Graduate Program Fair, a Future Educators Day event planned April 3 with the colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Visual and Performing Arts and a pair of upcoming “phonecasts” to promote licensure programs, kinesiology and sport management.
She’s spending long days in strategically chosen high schools, talking up the NIU College of Education differentiator provided by amazing engaged learning experiences. She’s relating her own story by asking a question to prospective students: “Do you really know what you want to do when you’re 18?”
She’s attending the P.E. Leadership Summits to connect with potential future Huskies. She’s visiting community colleges to advocate transfer opportunities.
And she’s not afraid to fail – if that opens the door to better solutions.
“There’s no magic formula for recruitment or for enrolling students,” Wereminski says.
“I’m making sure that we’re taking advantage of all the opportunities that the university offers to think outside the box in terms of recruitment efforts and connecting with prospective students,” she adds. “I’m not afraid to try new things, and taking those ideas, growing them and seeing what improvements we can make through assessing them.”
David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs, likes what he sees in Wereminski’s work.
“Under Brittany’s leadership and systematic initiatives, we are building new relationships, as well as maintaining existing connections, with numerous high schools and community colleges in the northern Illinois region, which has helped immensely to expand our degree program opportunities and offerings,” Walker says.
Looking at the last two semesters of enrollment data, he adds, “recruitment efforts and planning have been associated with improved undergraduate student enrollments in the College of Education for fall 2019 and spring 2020 by an increase of 3.31% and 6.01%, respectively, which is very impressive in a challenging recruitment market in Illinois.”
For her part, Wereminski is loving the new job that matches her energetic “personality of being up and about and moving around.”
“I was looking for an opportunity to be a bit more creative, and to have more of that outlet to try different ideas. I thrive in creative settings, and feeling like I have a voice and an impact, and I saw that opportunity here,” she says.
“Our students definitely excite me. They’re very driven and passionate,” she adds, “and this is a good environment to be a part of with a culture of team spirit and collaboration. That support goes a long way when someone like me is trying to come up new ideas or get people on board for things. That buy-in is huge.”
Her career began in 2013 as a collegiate development consultant for the national headquarters of the Delta Gamma sorority.
She “lived out of a suitcase” for a year on the road, visiting about 25 colleges and universities to provide leadership development training and liaison services to those chapters.
During her subsequent graduate program in College Student Personnel Administration at Illinois State University, she worked with students on academic probation and with Preview, the two-day summer orientation for new students.
After earning her master’s degree, she worked in medical school admissions at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, Ill.
When the opportunity arose to return to NIU in the fall of 2017, and to engage with an undergraduate population again, Wereminski eagerly grabbed it.
“The college decision process is a really important path that students take, and I think parents and family members are just as included in that path, especially at a school like NIU, where we serve so many first-generation students like myself,” she says. “I love working with new students and helping them see their potential at NIU and what this school can do for them.”