Katie Mulligan is a senior studying communication at the University of Illinois.
When I think of college, I can’t help but smile at the thought of zooming through the aisles at Target, cart piled full of shower shoes, mattress pads, and notebooks. The only thing offsetting the astronomical costs of dorm supplies is the bright-eyed look of an 18-year-old, bursting with a nervous excitement for the opportunity of independence. When I think of college, the memory brought to mind is one of a stereotype, or rather, a fantasy. I was a transfer student to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and will be graduating a year ahead of schedule. The past year that I have spent as a UIUC student has been defined by the obvious...as well as the obscure.
My first (and second) 4.0
At UIUC, I was exposed to the greatest professors and lectures I had ever experienced. They made communication topics—like the rhetorical situation and visual media effects—seem genuinely interesting, to the point where I actually looked forward to completing the class readings every night.
At the end of the Fall 2019 semester, I was nervously checking and re-checking the self-service portal to see my final grades, and when I was finally able to see them, I knew I had achieved a substantial milestone. During my first semester at UIUC, I achieved my first 4.0 GPA ever. (Spoiler alert: I got another one during the following semester!) Credit to my amazing professors for keeping the material interesting and inspiring me to do my best.
Being unanimously voted to my sorority executive board
In addition to achieving academic success at UIUC, I had the goal of becoming more involved on campus and exercising my leadership skills in whatever way possible. In an interesting twist of events, the opportunity presented itself perfectly. My sorority had a vacancy in the vice president of philanthropy position during my second semester in the house. Under normal circumstances, a first-year sister would not be allowed to serve on the executive board. However, because it was second semester and we were initiated, my pledge class was eligible to run. The philanthropy for my sorority is one of the top reasons I joined the house and the position opening felt like it was meant to be. After brainstorming ideas and surveying many girls, I was able to come up with ideas on how to bolster our philanthropic events and fundraising goals.
When the moment came during our chapter meeting, I stood in front of my sorority of over a hundred women, knowing full well that 5 girls had already given speeches. A bit flustered and definitely red in the face, I began to confidently explain to them how my ideas would benefit our philanthropic cause and the organization we were helping. The next day it was announced that I had won the election with a unanimous vote and was proud to represent my sorority and our philanthropy as well as the opportunity to lead such a great group of women.
COVID-19, but make it positive (not the test result)
As with literally every other human being on the planet, COVID-19 has played an enormous role in defining my experience at UIUC. Beyond separating me from my friends and stealing any hope for a "normal" college experience, COVID-19 afforded the opportunity for me to take extra classes over the summer. Between classes and internships, I had a surprisingly busy summer, but I couldn’t have done it without the assistance and support from my advisor, Kelli Halfman. Aside from the best professors, state-of-the-art facilities, and a beautiful campus, UIUC has blessed me with a winning lottery ticket of an advisor. Throughout the course of quarantine, I changed my career plans not once, not twice, but three times, and each time she was there to give me resources on how I can make a better-informed decision. It is because of her that I was able to take a universally negative situation and turn it into an overall positive decision, which leads me to my third defining experience at UIUC: graduating a year early.