For four years Stefan Djordjevic has served students as the academic advisor for the Department of History. Through his experiences, he’s learned that students have histories to teach him, as well.
Briefly describe your responsibilities.
My primary responsibility is to support history students in achieving their academic and career development goals. I work with students to help them identify (and reassess) what they want to accomplish during their time at Illinois and then provide them with the support, direction, and, hopefully, the tools to get the most out of their time here. Each student has a distinct journey that is informed by their personal backgrounds, interests, and skills. I also organize a wide variety of events for students, coordinate our for-credit research apprenticeship and public history internship programs, and more generally advocate for students.
What do you remember of your first visit to campus?
The library stacks! I first visited campus in January 2009. Two of my very good friends went to Illinois for college, and one of the first places they showed me was the Main Library. Even though I was not an Illinois student, we were able to gain permission to visit the stacks. I remember spending hours gleefully taking books off the shelves and skimming through them. It wasn’t just the sheer number of books – which is mind-boggling – but the variety, from histories of the Byzantine Empire written in French, German, and Russian to anatomy textbooks from the turn of the 20th century to reprinted diplomatic correspondence. I’ve always loved books, so my first encounter with the Main Library stacks was pure bliss.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working in history, I am privileged to be surrounded daily by great stories and wonderful storytellers. Narrative is the very quintessence of history, and the students I work with are equally fascinated by stories and driven to craft powerful narratives themselves through their study of the past. I never quite know where a conversation with a student will go. Despite dedicating my academic career to the study of history, I am always learning about new histories from students as they share their research interests. Simply put, everything and everyone has a history, and it’s a pleasure to belong to a community so dedicated to uncovering and sharing those stories.
Do you have a favorite memory from your role with your unit?
It would probably have to be History Trivia Night, our annual welcome back event for new students. In August 2021 we were able to hold the event in-person after more than a year of all-virtual events, and it was honestly exciting to see how energized the students were for the event. Even more importantly, I could see how much it meant for some of them to have a chance to build a community with like-minded students who consumed many of the same YouTube videos, video games, movies, and books as them and who were animated by shared passions. Plus, I am a huge trivia fan, and I was impressed by how cut-throat some of them were as competitors!
But the highlight was right after the event when I talked to two of our majors who both started at Illinois during the pandemic (Fall 2020) and had spent a lot of time together that year in our history club, Phi Alpha Theta, and in multiple classes but had never before seen one another in person and so never had a chance for a handshake or hug. It was evident just how much it meant to both to have this additional physical dimension to their friendship, and I was fortunate to be able to share that moment with them.
What is the best part of your workday?
Admittedly not an everyday occurrence, but on Fridays in Fall 2021 I would work and hold my meetings with students outside on the Main Quad, because I would bring my dog Andy with me. Students definitely looked forward to “puppy advising” meetings, and I know some would schedule meetings specifically for Fridays because they wanted to get in some puppy therapy! It helps that Andy is an incredibly friendly and cuddly (for lack of a better word!) dog, and I have to give him so much credit for putting students at ease and ensuring that the conversations were always so natural and comfortable during those days.
Editor's note: This LAS Staff Spotlight profile is part of a series that features College of LAS staff and the important work they do to support units across the college. Visit here to learn more.