Donor Spotlight: Krista Krepp '14
By Tony Scott

bob rothkopf
Krista Krepp '14

Scholarships helped attorney Krista Krepp, ’14, stay in school and earn two bachelor’s degrees from NIU – one in history and another in political science. 

Now, Krepp has included NIU in her estate plans to help future generations of Huskies, establishing the Krista Krepp Powerful Voices Scholarship for Mock Trial participants. 

After graduating from NIU, Krepp earned her J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology in May 2018 with a certificate in criminal litigation. 

She is currently an attorney specializing in commercial litigation at the Chicago firm of Walker Wilcox Matousek, LLP. She is licensed to practice law in both Illinois and Wisconsin and is also admitted to the general bar in the Northern District of Illinois Federal Court.

“I was determined to graduate with two bachelor’s degrees in two and a half years because I knew it would make me competitive to law schools – and it did,” she said. “The scholarships I got while at NIU made this possible, which is why it was a dream of mine to give back in the way that I received. I believe in service and giving back to the world. I believe in kindness and expressing and living a life of gratitude.”

Krepp grew up in the Chicago suburb of Clarendon Hills. Her dad was a machinist, and her mom worked a variety of jobs to help pay the bills. She has two older brothers who enlisted in the military right after high school, and she was the first in her family to attend college. 

“I did not grow up well off, and we financially struggled in many aspects despite living in a good school district,” she said. “We ate a lot of food from the dollar store and canned food. It is amazing that I was both a first gen college student and a first gen law student - typically there are generations between those firsts, but I am the first person in the entirety of my family with a graduate degree or doctorate.”

Krepp said she received tuition waivers and scholarships to get her through two years at NIU, and she was determined to get her bachelor’s degrees within that time frame because neither she nor her parents had the money to afford school beyond that. 

“I graduated high school a semester early, went to a community college for the last semester of my high school year and the summer before entering into NIU,” she said. “So I entered into NIU with 32 credit hours between my AP conversions and the community college credits. I was essentially starting my freshman year at NIU as a sophomore and some change.”

Krepp worked hard during those years to complete her degrees.

“I took anywhere from 18-21 credit hours each semester, and maxed out the credits I could take each summer,” she said. “I also worked two or three jobs, depending on the semester or time of year, to pay for my living expenses while my tuition was being taken care of by NIU. But I also applied for several small scholarships - like the one I created - to help me cover the tuition that wasn't paid for when I extended my stay at NIU the extra semester. Those scholarships made my career and entrance into law school possible.”

While at NIU, she also volunteered and participated in a variety of organizations and activities, including Alpha Phi Omega coed service fraternity, Mortar Board, the Pre-Law Honors Society, and Mock Trial. 

“The memories I hold so dearly in my heart relate to Mock Trial,” she said. “Our team was one of the first that NIU had after Professor Mitch Pickerill brought the program to the school. In 2013-2015, our team bonded so much and worked so hard. We competed as winners on the regional level and competed and qualified on the national level too. I remember the fun and goofy nights that we stayed up practicing and laughing and perfecting our arguments and characters that we got to play through the program. In the 2014-2015 year, at some point each and every one of our team members had won awards for how amazing we did.”

Krepp said her trajectory of earning her two bachelor’s degrees in two and a half years at NIU was so impressive that Chicago-Kent gave her a half tuition waiver while she was there. Her experience in Mock Trial at NIU also helped her in law school.

“Because of my Mock Trial experience, I began my path towards being a litigator,” she said. “A litigator is someone who speaks and argues to a judge, rather than someone who works in drafting contracts, etc. - it is all public speaking and persuasive writing. I took all litigation courses while in law school - at the time they only offered a criminal litigation certification which I obtained - and I also joined the trial advocacy team at Kent which was ranked fourth in the nation during my tenure. I competed in AAJ (American Association for Justice) which is a prestigious law school competition.”

During her last year of law school, she was able to practice under supervision at the Cook County Public Defender’s Office Felony Trial Division, working on four jury trials and six bench (judge-only) trials. 

“I was able to do opening and closing arguments and to cross-examine and direct witnesses,” she said. “The first jury trial I worked on, we got a not guilty for a young man who had been sitting in jail for five years because he couldn't afford bail on a murder, which he did not commit, and the jury was able to see the evidence and agreed to free him! It was so beautiful. He went in at 17 and came out at 22, all because of racial profiling and high bond. That job was incredibly rewarding.”

Krepp is now a commercial litigation attorney with a wide variety of experience.

“I have an eclectic background that always circles back to speaking in court,” she said. “If it involves a judge and a courtroom, I've done that type of law. So again, without NIU Mock Trial, I just wouldn't have the skill set or courage to build that skill set to what it is today.”

Krepp credited Pickerill, whom she calls “Pick,” with being a strong influence on her as a student who wanted to be a litigator.

“Without Pick, I would have been afraid of public speaking, and I wouldn't be the litigator I am today; I literally speak for a living,” she said. “He taught me so much, and encouraged me and others on the team to be the best and not be scared. He is a true leader. I cannot express how much his coaching and his teaching impacted me and my life trajectory. I went from being scared and anxiety ridden to being confident in standing up in front of a room and killing it in front of the judges.”

The Mock Trial program and Pickerill left such an impact on Krepp that they inspired the creation of the scholarship.

“I wouldn't have had the confidence to litigate without Mock Trial and Pick,” she said. “I just wouldn't be where I am today without that experience. It broke me out of my shell and gave me confidence in my voice. That's why I named the scholarship Powerful Voices.”

She continued, “This scholarship is meant to help those who otherwise would not be able to financially participate in something like Mock Trial. It is meant for those who have always wanted to speak, but maybe never had the opportunity to. It is meant for those with powerful voices, just waiting to be unleashed.”

Krepp encourages other alumni to give back to NIU.

“Giving back is so rewarding, and amazing,” she said. “We all benefitted in some way from donors, and I know that the Mock Trial program impacted so many of my fellow classmates. Many of them are lawyers like me. Giving back to NIU helps students - the same students we once were - and this should be high on our radars. Let's make sure that NIU, and these students, continue to have opportunities that we had.”