How LAS has enabled me to explore diverse passions

Ryan Blake in Memorial StadiumRyan Blake is a senior pursuing a dual degree in chemistry (with a concentration in environmental chemistry) and political science (with a concentration in public policy and democratic institutions). He is a member of the Marching Illini and Hoops Band, an accelerated general chemistry TA, the undergraduate student representative on the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Courses and Curricula Committee, a member of the Provost of Undergraduate Education’s Student Success Advisory Committee, and an undergraduate representative on the Department of Political Science Climate Committee.

Through the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and my majors’ departments, I have had countless life-changing experiences. I have spent a semester away from Champaign-Urbana in Washington, DC, doing a full-time internship in U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth’s office. I have been able to design, execute, troubleshoot, and put together a complex senior thesis in organic chemistry, where I am synthesizing a derivative of cannabinol, which might have positive pharmaceutical applications. I have visited countless locations around Champaign-Urbana that impact our environment and met with the people who work there to understand more about how these systems work, which will be invaluable for my future in environmental public policy.

So how can I do this and still graduate in four years? Well, I utilized the excellent resources that our college has to offer—from college-wide advisors that help you declare a dual degree or double major, to department-specific advisors who do everything in their power to work with a secondary program of study, to faculty who are often cross-listed between departments, meaning they have numerous fields of expertise. Yes, it is a lot of hard work, but I know I have a strong safety net behind me with all of the resources between our college and the university community. Oh, and I should mention that pursuing a second program here at Illinois doesn’t cost a dime extra!

I am receiving a robust, multifaceted education that will set me apart from my competitors in the job market, allow me to hit the ground running in my career, and give me the knowledge and background information necessary to effect meaningful change in humanity’s treatment of the environment.

So why do I think you should do it too? I get this question a lot from my current students in the class I am a teaching assistant for and from prospective and admitted students in my capacity as a student admissions representative. Here is why I think this is so advantageous: the job market is currently inundated with people with cookie-cutter degrees from cookie-cutter programs; designing your own education to support your career and life goals sets you leagues apart from other applicants. It makes you more interesting, makes you seem more capable, and makes your resume have a little bit more flair.

Many students have diverse academic interests, and you should jump at the opportunity to explore these passions at the college level. Here at Illinois, especially in LAS, that pursuit is not only possible—it is encouraged.

Blog Source

Ryan Blake