The Daily Illini

Student attends University after work and military

By Ciera Johnson, Contributing Writer

Kevin Welch, a 28-year-old student with sophomore standing, decided to continue his college education due to a salary cap in his career field.

He worked full-time at the Humphreys & Partners Architects firm in Maitland, Florida, while simultaneously serving in the Air Force Reserves for six years.

While being in the Air Force Reserves, Welch was afforded the opportunity to be an engineering assistant.

Welch realized most of his colleagues were making more than him due to their educational backgrounds, and thus, he decided to attend college to expand his career horizons. 

He realized this after talking to a good friend of his at the firm. How much money they were making came up in conversation, and he realized he wasn’t making nearly as much because of his lack of a college degree.

“I kinda had to do twice as much work to look the same as somebody else that had a degree,” Welch said. “So my supervisor and my coworker said ‘go just get the degree, you have the experience and you know you can probably come back into the field no problem.’”

Welch decided to enlist in the military right after high school due to familial ties as well as his love for military history.

“My father was in the Marine Corps for four years and reenlisted in the Air Force after 9/11,” Welch said. “He and I share a love for military history, and I wanted to be a part of that and serve my country.”

Welch is currently majoring in architecture at the University. He was referred to the program by his uncle, who is a graduate of the architecture program on campus.

Welch’s passion for architecture formed at a young age. He said his family largely influenced this passion.

“Starting from my first LEGO set and Lincoln Logs, I’ve always loved buildings … My uncle graduated from the U of I Architecture program, and I saw the projects he worked on,” Welch said.

While being in college, Welch faces the challenge of adjusting to the collegiate lifestyle as well as grasping concepts as fast as his classmates.

“I think some of these classes … (are) taught with the thought that you are coming straight out of high school and so you now have these facts that you just know straight out of high school,” Welch said. “You came straight out of a math class or a history class, and I haven’t thought about some of that stuff in 10 years.”

Welch said one of the most difficult challenges he faces is the scheduling of a student rather than a full-time employee.

“Just the mentality is a little different. Not just an age mentality, but really just being a full-time student all the way through,” Welch said. “You go to class, then you can go and relax. I’m used to getting up at six or seven o’clock in the morning, going to work, making some money, and then come back.”

Welch’s sister, Brittany, believes her brother not only has the go-getter mentality that has brought him this far but also a good amount of kindness and selflessness to complement his ambition.

“He consistently shows up for people — one of the kindest and most authentic humans — but now he is showing up for himself by committing to get through school to reach his career goal as an architect,” Brittany said.

Welch’s friend, Corey Funk, also vouches for Welch’s courageous and resilient mentality while on this journey. He describes him as someone who is dedicated to his personal growth, as well as those around him.

“Kevin is constantly working hard to improve himself and the lives of those around him,” Funk said. “Never before have I seen someone selflessly and tirelessly work so hard for the improvements he’s worked for.”

Welch’s ultimate goal is to graduate at the University with a masters degree in architecture and become a licensed architect. Even though Kevin is currently in the multi-family design sector of architecture, he is open to trying different types of design if the opportunity arises.

While he is older than most of his classmates, he said ultimately, they are all at the University for the same goal.

“We’re the same as any other student … we’re in the same boat as all you guys,” Welch said. “We’re just here to learn.”

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