Jessica Montgomery had never visited Purdue University Northwest before beginning her freshman year at the Northwest Indiana institution in August of 2013.
Having grown up in the small town of Gosport, Ind.—population 806 and located 195 miles south of Hammond—before moving to Freedom, Ind. as a high schooler, she based her college choice on a combination of geography, opportunity and economics.
“I thought I wanted to live in Chicago after I graduated from college, and (PNW) was the closest in-state school to Chicago where I could receive in-state grants,” she said. “I’m kind of a ‘go with the flow’ person; I like to wing it and assume it’ll all work out.”
Indeed, it did. What’s more, last weekend (May 5), the 24-year-old psychology student became the first member of her family to earn a baccalaureate degree. She now looks forward to starting a master’s degree program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling this fall at Johns Hopkins University.
Friendships & opportunities
As for her sight-unseen arrival at PNW, no worries. She soon struck up a friendship with one of her University Village student housing suitemates who happened to be a Chicago native.
“We got to be good friends, and I got to know Chicago pretty well,” Montgomery said. She also got involved working in the campus child center and then the university’s International Affairs Office, mentoring foreign students in the English Language Program (ELP).
Additionally, she partook in a study abroad trip to Nicaragua, where she cared for children in a trying environment that not only lacked running water but produced an earthquake during her visit.
“Johns Hopkins accepted me because of my diverse experiences relating to people of many different backgrounds,” Montgomery said.
She aspires eventually to become a psychiatrist, an interest triggered by an older sister who suffers from mental illness.
“I want to be able to understand better the struggles she and others have gone through and be able to help,” Montgomery said.
Sense of community
And her Purdue Northwest undergraduate experience was good preparation.
“I enjoyed my instructors and the fact they wanted me to succeed,” she said. “Plus, I learned so much—how to write, math I never thought at the time I would need to use. The variety of classes opened my eyes. I enjoyed everything (at PNW); the sense of community was wonderful.”
According to Assistant Professor of Psychology Robert Hallock, “Jessica truly applied herself in course projects, immersed herself in the assignments and wasn’t afraid to step out of her comfort zone. This was all coupled with her willingness to volunteer for the department where needed.”
Asked what advice she would provide the next class of incoming undergraduate students, she said without hesitation, “Don’t underestimate yourself; shoot as high as you can.”
Purdue University Northwest
Purdue University Northwest (PNW), a comprehensive regional university within the Purdue University system, has two Northwest Indiana campuses in Hammond and Westville. With more than 15,000 students and nearly 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, Purdue Northwest is Indiana’s fifth largest public university.