Just as there’s no one like you, there’s no one University of Illinois experience.
Whether you’re just starting at UIUC or you’ve been here for a while, we want to hear your story. We want to celebrate students, staff, faculty, and alumni. Tell us about your unique journey.
Stories will be used in promotional materials. By submitting your story, you give Student Affairs permission to use your words, name, and likeness.
Listen to Stories
Hear the voices of graduate students and alumni who share personal experiences and insights into their lives and careers.
Theatre doctoral student Vincent Carlson performs “You and Your Work,” a poem he wrote inspired by boundary setting and conflicting ideas about work ethic.
Training for an actual half marathon, he contemplates how grad school is a marathon and that you have to pace yourself. There is also a tasty discussion about the importance of treats!
Listen to The Fine Art of Balance.
The Grad College also sat down with Landscape Designer Saloni Chawla (MLA ’18) to learn how she landed her dream job at STIMSON an urban and rural landscape architecture studio with a working farm and a plant nursery, and why she considers it a perfect match with her interests in cultural landscapes and people. Hear why Your Portfolio Will Never Be Perfect or Done.
Listen to more stories from The Grad College.
“As a senior in high school, I never thought I would end up at UIUC. However, after only one campus tour, I knew that Champaign-Urbana would provide me with the tools I needed to be at the top of my field post-graduation. Being an Illini has been the most unexpected and incredible experience of my life.”
Junior Majoring in Social Work
“My first day on campus I knew that I wanted to make in impacted on my life and those around me. Through the experiences and support here at Illinois I can confidently say that has been the case. As I head into my last semester here I’m excited to use all the resources I’ve gained as I head into graduation and post-graduate endeavors.”
Senior majoring in Middle Grades Education w/ Math & ESL
“Following in my mom’s footsteps, I always knew I wanted to be an Illini. I have grown up loving Illinois and bleeding orange and blue. This University has everything I was looking for: innovation, diversity, academics, tradition. Being an Illini has easily been the best decision of my life that has led to the most remarkable journey.”
Junior Majoring in Ag Accounting
“I’m originally from Champaign and one of my first memories of campus was coming to a homecoming football game when I was young. Ever since that point, I knew I wanted to go to the U of I because it was a school I had grown up around and had grown to love far before I even became a student.”
Senior Majoring in Psychology and Political Science
“Growing up around campus, I was unsure about Illinois because it was familiar. However, it’s been the perfect balance of challenge and comfort for me. The large campus and opportunities allow me to push myself out of my comfort zone daily, but I’m also able to make it feel like a tight-knit community and home because of the people around me and the atmosphere on campus.”
Sophomore majoring in Communications
“The University has been extremely integral in my personal growth and development. Coming all the way from Southern California was undoubtedly a scary experience at first. But I attribute my growing comfort and love for this community to athletics, the Gies family, and the RSOs her on campus. As a student-athlete on the Women’s Golf Team, I have been able to converse with alumni, current and prospective students to share my story and gratitude for the University and community. With all the Illini support, it has been my pleasure to help give back to organizations around the community. I have had the opportunity to help host events for the CU Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Tom Jones Challenger League, Chambana Moms, and Daily Bread Soup Kitchen. I have also participated in our annual Student-Athlete Talent Show that has raised over $11,000 every year for local charities and other organizations that athletes hold close to their hearts. Not knowing many people as a freshman, the Philippine Student Association welcomed me with open arms. I was able to find a family within the organization and build relationships that will last a lifetime. I was also able to learn so much about my culture and grow my love for performing arts by participating in our annual Filipino-Americans Coming Together Conference and cultural night.
In addition, my participation with the Illinois Sports Business Conference has allowed me to share my passion for sports and showcase the incredible opportunities that a career in sports can provide for our students. ISBC has allowed me to grow professionally and develop my leadership skills immensely. It has been a privilege to serve as an ambassador for the university not only through my positions on the Women’s Golf Team and various RSOs, but also more recently as a member of the 2020 Homecoming Court. Go Illini!”
International Business Management
“Almost four years ago, I got the news that I was going to be an Illini. I received the email of the good news that I had to check immediately, so I remember pulling over to the side of the interstate to safely check this email, and literally screamed for joy with excitement. You see, attending the University of Illinois is a family affair for me. I am here today following in the steps of my brother, parents, and grandpa, making me a third-generation Illini, something that I am very proud of. I quickly made my decision and found myself moving to this campus. Upon my arrival, I knew that I had made the best decision for myself for my education and social life. It did not take long for me to make friends, get involved, and find my place on this large campus. Some of my favorite memories on campus include watching the Illini beat Wisconsin in 2019 and storming the field after the game, studying abroad in southern France, and just being a student in various classes along the way. Wrapping up my senior year in the spring, I am excited about what the future will bring but sad to know my time here is coming to an end. These four years have been so much fun whether it be cheering the Illini on to victory, doing schoolwork with friends, participating in registered student organizations, or more. I am honored to wrap up my senior year by being on the homecoming court to know that the university has also seen all of my accomplishments.”
Agricultural Science Education
“As a freshman, the prospect of making my mark on such a massive university seemed impossible. But I didn’t let this stop me from trying. I quickly got involved in as many campus activities as possible in effort to explore all that Illinois had to offer. My first year here, I took private drum lessons in Allen Hall, learned about sustainable gardening in HORT 106, and even tried out for the women’s club rowing team. Later on, I served as an intern for The Autism Program, studied abroad in South Africa, and worked as a Personal Assistant at Beckwith. Over the years, what ended up sticking is my involvement in the Volunteer Illini Projects (VIP), Dr. Brian Ogolsky’s Healthy Experiences Across Relationship Transitions Research Lab, and the Human Development and Family Studies Ambassadors. Through these organizations, I’ve been able to learn a great deal leadership, professionalism, and myself. But more importantly, I’ve helped create lasting change in my department and community – I found a way to make my mark.”
Human Development & Family Studies
“As a senior looking back on my time at U of I, I’m so glad that I pursued not only my professional interests but also my academic passions. I think it’s really easy to get caught up in “the path.” Don’t get me wrong: join those clubs, enroll in those classes, go for those internships. But, along the way say yes to the opportunities that pop-up even if they aren’t in the plan. Enroll in the gen-ed that sounds interesting even if it won’t be an easy-A, go to the volunteering event, and take time to get to know the community you spend four years living in. These are the experiences that have made my time at UIUC that much richer. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to pursue all of my interdisciplinary interests, give back meaningfully to groups and organizations I’ve been able to call home, and build long-lasting relationships with those around me. It’s been an amazing four years.”
“Over the past four years, I have been gifted with many opportunities to contribute to University and College of Engineering. I have served as an Engineering Ambassador for nearly three years and work in the undergraduate outreach program to bring STEM learning to middle school and grade school students in the communities around Urbana-Champaign. Our mission is to change the conversation about STEM by giving students an exposure to science and engineering through presentations and activities they would never experience in traditional classrooms. We also strive to inspire students who are classically underrepresented and underserved in engineering and to break down barriers which classically prevent them from achieving greater success in STEM. The work we do as engineering ambassadors positively transforms students’ lives and has influenced a number of them to strongly consider science as a career path later in life. Two years ago, I also established “Brain Matters”, the first undergraduate neuroscience journal at the University of Illinois. The journal has created a significant opportunity for students to write about a variety of neuropsychological topics and publish their work for posterity and has fueled student interest in the development of a neuroscience major on campus. Last, I serve as the Vice Chair of Academic Affairs in the Illinois Student Government and work to develop meaningful dialogue with university administration to better support student academic achievement and success. The university has taught me the meaning of dedication and service to your peers and community through these experiences and has inspired to continue to serve and support others by pursuing a law degree after I graduate in the Spring.”
Bioengineering & Psychology
“Over these last four years at UIUC, I have formed lasting relationships with incredible faculty, peers, and mentors through countless opportunities. Even before becoming an undergraduate student at UIUC, I participated in outreach events here which inspired me to pursue engineering and become a role model for younger students. Through various organizations like the Biomedical Engineering Society and Engineering Ambassadors, I have had the opportunity to explore my passion for outreach and engage in monthly outreach events with students in the community. As a senior this year, I am proud to serve as Vice President for both of these organizations, helping realize their mission. Being in clubs like the Society of Women Engineers has introduced me to a wonderful group of powerful and intellectual women who have inspired me to continue encouraging and improving women’s representation in STEM. One of the highlights of my undergraduate career has been conducting impactful research. Studying at a top research institution has helped me move towards my personal goals of earning a PhD and having a research career in bioengineering. Since high school, I have been in three university research labs and have developed invaluable skills through these experiences. These last few years, I have been involved in a research project studying the role of cholesterol in breast cancer metastasis and it has been inspiring to work in such a cutting-edge area of research. I am incredibly grateful to attend the University of Illinois and be a part of such a great community which has contributed immensely to my personal growth and development.”
“I was born in Melbourne, Australia and enjoyed playing a sport called Australian Rules Football. I took a keen interest into American Football and developed a dream of playing college football and receiving a world-class education. So at age 18, I decided to move from Australia to Champaign, Illinois to pursue this dream. Before coming to the US, I had never seen or played a game of American Football. In 2017, I started as a true freshman at punter against Ball State University and played in my first college football game. Since then I have had the great opportunity to meet so many different people from all walks of life and visit different areas of the US. On top of the sporting scene, I have had the great pleasure of being educated by some of the brightest professors in the country. The U of I faculty have flooded me with support along my journey and provided great help in my transition being an international student. As there are in anyone’s journey, there have been struggles along the way. Although one thing I will cherish is the second family I have developed from the people I have met along the way. These people have made my experience far greater than I could ever imagine.”
“Whether she’s in State Farm Center cheering on the Fighting Illini in the Orange Krush, working in the College of ACES Deans Office, or hanging out with her sisters from 4-H House Cooperative Sorority, Katelyn Eathington has truly embraced the Illini spirit during her time on campus. Her passion for being involved, mixed with her orange and blue family history have allowed Katelyn the opportunity to make countless memories during her time as an Illini.”
Agribusiness Markets and Management
“For me, its always been Illinois. Being an Illinois resident for the overwhelming majority of my life, I’ve grown up seeing the Block ‘I’ every I go – ranging from random billboards to every mall I have been to. So when the choice came as to which educational institution I wanted to attend, I picked the University of Illinois without any hesitation. My high school experience left a lot to be desired, I played sports and I did well academically, but I went through the motions. When I first came to the University of Illinois, I promised myself that I would make the absolute most of every opportunity that I got. Instead of taking things as they came to me, I actively sought out opportunities that would help me grow as a person, student, and professional. None of it, however, would have been possible without the people I met at UIUC and the opportunities I have been provided. If it were not for mentors that I have had and opportunities available at UIUC, I would never have thought to seek an elected position representing the entire student body and being a part of the University’s decision making process. Being an Illinois student has pushed me to strive to do my best work in everything I do.”
“Growing up on a hog and grain operation in rural Illinois, I always knew I wanted to be involved in agriculture. Wanting a quality education from a highly revered school in the industry, it was easy to choose Illinois among competing schools across the state. Since coming to Illinois I know I made the right decision on my education through the caring staff, interesting classes, and variety of opportunities presented to me. Upon arriving on campus I have been involved in FarmHouse Fraternity, Alpha Zeta Morrow Honors Fraternity, Explore ACES Steering Committee, the College of ACES Student Advancement Committee, ACE Ambassadors, SORF Board, and Collegiate Farm Bureau. Outside of the registered student organizations, I am involved in I have also spent time studying abroad in The Netherlands at Wageningen University. I’ve also had the honor of being named a part of the 2020 Homecoming Court, a Johnathon Baldwin Turner Scholar, and a finalist for the Harrison Junior Leadership Award. The experiences I have had on campus have prepared me to start a career as a Marketing Rep for John Deere after graduation. It has been an honor to be a part of the Illinois family these last four years and I will be proud to call myself an alumnus of this institution in May.”
Agricultural and Consumer Economics
“I am Michael Mitchell, a senior and Chancellor’s Scholar double majoring in Supply Chain Management and Marketing in the Gies College of Business. I am fortunate to come from an amazing family where my parents taught my siblings and me the values of hard work, personal responsibility, academic excellence, and treat others how you want to be treated. My family values laid the foundation for the success that I have had at Illinois. Our family has been committed to Illinois for many years. My older brother, who was a Stamps Scholar, recently graduated, and
I was fortunate enough to spend three years with him at Illinois. He is my best friend, and I am incredibly proud of the shining example he sets for our sister and me. She is also a Stamps Scholar and current freshman at Illinois! A hallmark of my educational experience was being selected for the prestigious United Kingdom Fulbright Summer Institute in London. As one of only 60 students in the United States to be accepted into this program, I was incredibly humbled and honored to represent Illinois. In just three years, my Illinois experience afforded me the opportunity to visit and study on three continents and in eleven countries. These extraordinary study abroad experiences have created some of my most indelible memories as a student at the University of Illinois. Some of my most cherished leadership opportunities have included serving as President of the Gies Scholars Program, Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee in Phi Gamma Nu Professional Business Fraternity, and Senior Consultant in Illinois Business Consulting. I am also a member of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board, served as a student mentor in the National Association of Black Accountants, and was most recently selected as a member of the distinguished 2020 Homecoming Court. The University of Illinois has given me so much. I have received a world-class education, made life-long friendships, and laid the foundation for a future that is limitless. Throughout this journey, I have gained and been inspired by mentors, utilized a vast array of resources, and developed critical skills to achieve my personal and professional goals. Post-graduation I will be working for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Technology Consulting and pursuing my master’s degree. My college experience has been truly rewarding and amazing. I am forever grateful to all those who played a part and were instrumental in my development and success. Go Illini!”
Double majoring in Supply Chain Management and Marketing
“My mother and uncle both graduated from the College of Engineering years ago, inspiring me to one day attend UIUC, where both my little brother and I are future engineers in the new Grainger College of Engineering. From studying abroad, to being involved with Women in Engineering, my time at Illinois has been one that I will never forget. And just as my mother says to this day, my very best memories were made on this campus. As I am gearing up to graduate next semester I am finalizing realizing the impact UIUC had on me. I am finally understanding that I am a Student now, but this journey will follow me for the rest of my life, and I am an Illini Forever.”
“My past three years at the U of I have been nothing short of incredible. My time here has led me to a deeper understanding of myself, gently guiding me towards my purpose in life. As president
of the Dance at Illinois Student Board and the registered student organization Fine and Applied Arts Black, my experience in these leadership positions has deepened my love for the arts and serving my community. I’m blessed to have been given opportunities to immerse myself in almost all aspects of campus life; from performing on the Krannert stage, to learning the basics of accounting at the Gies College of Business, or from hosting a table at Quad Day to pursuing certifications in Yoga and Leadership Studies — I’m proud to say that I have taken advantage of what the University has to offer. As I approach my last semester, I am so honored to have been recognized by the University as a member of the 2020 Homecoming Court. It brings me joy to reminisce about all the great times and the amazing people I’ve met during my journey here. Although it saddens me that my experience as a student is coming to an end, I find peace knowing that my Illini pride will remain forever.”
“Over the past four years, I have discovered my passions inside and outside the classroom while building life-long friendships, facing victory and failure, and learning why staying true to myself and my core values is more important than winning. In the classroom, I strive for academic excellence, and am blessed to have professors and administrators mentor me throughout my journey. I am lucky to have participated in diverse and unique courses including a study abroad in Buenos Aires where I explored Argentine history, politics, cultural norms, and learned about the human rights violations that took place years ago. Additionally, as a member of the Illinois in Washington Program in the Summer of 2019, I interned full-time for Rising for Justice, a non-profit litigation clinic representing low-income residents facing eviction in the District of Columbia. This opportunity opened my eyes to the injustice and biases that permeate our legal system, the interconnectedness between race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and disability, and how these factors linked to privilege and inequality are perpetrated by national institutions claiming to represent marginalized groups. On campus, I have championed civic engagement by expanding voter education and constructing partnerships that unify student organizations, administrators, community groups, local government, and political candidates to mobilize student voters. Coalition-building to unite people of differing backgrounds is an incredibly rewarding experience, and an essential part of my purpose. I feel energized when bringing people together and organizing bi-partisan activities such as political fairs, debates, panels, and dialogue series for student leaders to share their perspectives together. I believe voting is how we systematically impact institutional change. By placing our trust in decision-makers who will champion our interests and values, we are rewiring impartial institutions from the inside. In addition to my studies, my worldviews, methods and tools to create change, sense of agency, and my unbreakable support system are things I will cherish forever, and carry with me into the future as a proud Illinois graduate.”
Political Science and Psychology
“As a third-generation Illini, I grew up loving the University and dreaming of the day when I would get to attend. Now, as my senior year comes to a close, my love for the University has taken on a whole new meaning. UIUC has brought me some of my closest friends, best memories, and transformative opportunities. I am forever grateful for my time at the University and all the people that believed in me and helped me along the way. While I am not excited to leave, I know my time as an Illini is far from over. I might be a student now, but I will be a proud Illini Alumnus forever. ILL!”
“With some of my earliest memories being attending University of Illinois sporting events and having grown up just minutes away from our campus, I knew I’d always bleed Orange and Blue even if my college experience didn’t lead me here. All throughout high school I had dreamed of moving away from home for school and experiencing a whole new world, little did I know that dream of mine would still allow me to move away from home, but only 15 minutes away. The moment I opened my acceptance letter from Illinois, I knew this is where I’d call home for the next 4 years. With tears in her eyes as I told my mom the news, it was clear to me that I would bleed Orange and Blue for the rest of my life. The University of Illinois has given me the chance to grow in leadership, cheer on my favorite team as a member of the Orange Krush, find my best friends, and explore new opportunities. I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world around me in my time here and I cannot wait to continue this incredible adventure. Choosing to be an Illini is the best decision I’ve ever made!”
“I’m a resident advisor, Golden Apple Scholar, and future educator. I’m following in my father’s footsteps to become an advocate for the next generation. I’m from Bellwood, which is near Chicago and O’Hare Airport. I’m currently studying middle grades education with a literacy concentration and hope to get an ESL [English as Second Language] endorsement when I graduate. I’m also currently a Senior Resident Advisor in PAR. Why did I choose education? I used to want to be a teacher when I was like 6, but you know, 6-year-olds change their mind every single day. When my dad passed, I realized maybe I want to be what he was to my family and community. He was a mentor, somebody everybody could always go to. And I’m like, ‘What can I do with that inspiration? And where in the field can I be?’ I can count on one hand—and not even use all my fingers—and account for all of the Black teachers I had that looked like me. I only had three, so I was like, ‘Yeah, we need more of those. Maybe I could do something with that.’ So that’s why I chose education.
I feel my experiences as an RA will help me on my path to becoming an educator because, you have to learn how to build a community, you have to know your resources. So basically being a mentor, being able to be a person to come to for advice, is mainly what an RA is. It’s just knowing how to support people that may not look like you, but they all have their different struggles. Doesn’t mean that your struggle is invalid, because then you have that whole imbalance and then that’s not fair to yourself and that’s not fair to the other person. Being an RA and having that educator background is very beneficial because you’re going to have to do this in your own classroom; you’re going to have to be able to seek out ableism and you’re going to have to help them be an advocate and be an ally. That way, you can learn something but also gain something, like learn how to self-care and learn about compassion fatigue. Learning about yourself to make yourself a better person is what an RA is trying to help you do.”
“My name is Chantelle Thompson. I am currently the director of marketing and communications for Student Affairs. I am also a student here at UIUC, seeking my master’s in Education, Policy & Leadership with a concentration in Human Resources Development. I plan to graduate in spring 2021. My journey at this great university has been nothing short of AMAZING! I have worked in the corporate world and in higher education. Higher ed is where my heart is. Why? The opportunities offered by colleges and universities empower people to image and realize possibilities for their personal and professional selves. The power of that possibility abounds! I personally know this is true as I am a first-generation college student who never thought I’d attend college, let alone be in the position where I’m readying to graduate with a master’s degree from a BIG10 university! I also feel so blessed to work at UIUC. The possibilities for growth professionally and personally have been tremendous. I cannot wait to see what my future possibilities look like at UIUC. I am deeply committed to our university. There is no where else I’d rather be! I-L-L!”