Rima Househ of Carol Stream and Mark Littlefield Jr. of Bartlett are the 2019 Outstanding Graduates at College of DuPage.
Househ is earning her Associate in Arts degree and plans to transfer to Columbia College, where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree in Arts Management. Her goal is to work internationally, especially in countries where arts are an emerging part of the culture. Littlefield is earning his Associate in Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity and Defense. He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree and a career as a penetration tester.
The Outstanding Graduate finalists are Asma Parveen Abdul Majeeth (Aurora), Sara Acosta (Elmhurst), Veronica Breguta (Darien), Marianne Duran (Aurora), Matthew Fardoux (Downers Grove), Bayan Jarad (Burr Ridge), Stephanie Lemm (Wheaton), Rachel Matug (Bensenville) and Bansari Upadhyay (Carol Stream).
Househ comes from a long line of College of DuPage graduates – great uncles, an uncle and aunt, her mother and her older sister.
“COD is such an amazing place that has become a part of us,” she said. “For a number of my family members, they said COD was a place that made them feel like they belonged, that the teachers and students understood them.”
Born and raised in Carol Stream, Househ was 8 years old when her father’s career took her family to Qatar and then Kuwait for five years. Although difficult at first, she embraced the experience, including the opportunity to learn both Arabic and French.
“It was a life-changing experience,” she said. “It was an opportunity to discover our roots as a family. I was also able to travel to many countries. By discovering the archaeology in Greece, witnessing the architecture in Italy and exploring the realms of ancient and modern Turkey, I realized the value of art. I want to take what I have seen and learned and put it into my future career.”
Househ followed family tradition and enrolled at College of DuPage after she, her mother and her sisters returned to DuPage County. The move separated them from her father, who stayed in Kuwait for his job.
At COD, she found a welcoming environment, especially at the McAninch Arts Center.
“To see my name on the cast list after auditioning for my first college production, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank,’ is a moment I will never forget,” she said. “This was a small part but it was so big in my heart. It was a personal achievement that changed and shaped the rest of my time attending COD.”
She also was part of the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble’s shadow program, through which she was able to work closely with a professional actor. Also providing a positive impact were her professors, especially Peter Kanetis, Instructor of Philosophy; Connie Canaday Howard, Professor of Theater; and Shannon Toler, Professor of Business.
Because of her background and language skills, Househ would love to work internationally, possibly in Europe or the Middle East. As for COD, it is like a member of the family.
“You feel like you belong because of the love and inclusion for all students,” she said. “At COD, you feel like you can be who you are, and that’s what I love about the school.”
When Littlefield was in elementary school, his father, who served in the military, was involved with technical surveillance counter-measures. This sparked Littlefield’s interest in computers, which continued to grow as his family moved around the country, from Maryland to Hawaii. He also played sports and joined student government, becoming treasurer in fifth grade and president in sixth.
When his dad retired from the Army, Littlefield and his family moved to Chicago. He started high school, where he loved reading computer coding books, but he was never comfortable.
“It was a different culture and I felt alienated. I started having problems that led to a breakdown,” he said.
Littlefield ended up in a residential program and therapeutic day school. By the time he returned to high school, he had fallen too far behind and dropped out. He instead earned his GED on the first try.
Knowing his life needed a change, he went to college with high expectations but was lost when it came to a major. He eventually attended three different colleges, achieving good grades but for various reasons not enjoying the experience.
His mom recommended COD, so Littlefield switched schools once again and found the Computer and Information Technology (CIT) program.
“One of my first professors was Brock Stout. He was very understanding and very empathetic, and when I wasn’t getting something, he always helped out. Then I had Tony Chen and Justin Wagner, who were the same,” he said. “It was during these first classes, when I was quickly doing the work and picking up new concepts easily, that I realized how far I had come. I actually began dreading breaks because I just wanted to keep learning.”
When the idea for the Cyber Defense Club came up, Littlefield helped form it and was elected its first president. He coordinated club activities, led many of the club’s Tuesday Teaching days, and was part of the College’s cyber defense team that competed nationally against four-year schools. He also participated in meetings for such organizations as the Information Systems Security Association.
His entire experience at COD could not have been better.
“I would wholeheartedly tell someone to attend,” he said. “I never felt like a number. I met other people who were like-minded, and the program had a community feel to it with professors who always helped. COD is where I found my career path and where I felt I truly belonged.”