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Finding Love in Plain Sight at Governors State

Maybe you’ve read English novelist Jane Austen in class or maybe you visited the cafeteria during Welcome Week and were delighted by the celebratory spread. From the G-building to the Lakeside Lounge, love rarely feels far away at Governors State University.

For students Lester “Van’’ Moody and Nicole Bennett, cupid was even closer than they had imagined.

Van, a Business Administration major graduating this spring, is a fixture on campus. His leadership roles, mainly his position as Student Trustee on Governor State’s Board of Trustees, requires his almost constant presence to attend business on campus most days of the week.

This was a stark contrast for Nicole, who preferred to be on campus only for her classes. For the Information Technology major, who is set to graduate next year, this was all about to change.

In 2018, Nicole was inspired to start a petition to have fast food in the GSU café. Nicole was advised to speak to the then-president of Student Senate, who at the time was Van. When she saw him, she realized Van was no stranger. He had been her tour guide years before when she came to visit campus before her freshman year.

“I do group tours and I see so many people. I didn’t remember her but I saw her waiting when I was talking to some people in the cafeteria. I figured she must have been waiting for one of them, so when she wanted to talk to me, I was like ‘wow,’” said Van with his trademark laugh.

Over the coming months their friendship circles began to overlap, and the two eventually became best friends. Nicole now jokes about their time as best friends.

“One day, he crossed the line and said, ‘I have a crush on you,’'' Nicole recalled matter-of-factly.

And so last June they crossed another line that marked the date the best friends turned into a couple. Their relationship has transformed their time at GSU and helps them to balance their busy schedules. 

"I have a lot on my plate as a leader, but she helps make sure my plate is clear at the end of the day," said Van.

And Nicole feels the same.

"He's my self-care. When I stress, and I forever stress, he creates a comfort zone for me to relax and unwind in," she said.

 Over Christmas, the two became engaged. The duo now share the GSU spotlight and future goals.

They are involved together in initiatives like the S2S Conference, a student-driven and student-led conference hosted by Kristy Goodwin, Director of the College Pathways Program. The conference is presented by GSU students to an interactive audience of high school students in order to guide them through the college territory.

With graduation looming, they have big plans for the future. From opening a business to creating a foundation, their minds are set on helping their communities and giving back wherever they can.

For Valentine's Day the two are celebrating in true Van and Nicole fashion: they'll be attending a Board of Trustees meeting in the morning and going out for dinner at night. 

"He's on the board, I'm just going to listen,'' Nicole said. 

So maybe it was the scenic lake, maybe it was the art dotted across campus, or maybe love blossomed at Governors State because two people who care deeply about their community, their classmates, and their futures happened to be in the right cafeteria at the right time.