UI alumni reflect on their time on campus

By Christina Oehler

The University of Illinois is known for many of its iconic characteristics: its strong engineering program, the Alma Mater and the deep history of the reputable school amid the cornfields. Yet among all of these things that make Illinois so unique, one of its characteristics that may be often overlooked is its strong alumni community. University alumni continue to hail to the orange and blue throughout not only the nation, but the entire world.

Homecoming gives alumni time to reminisce on their past as students as they return to attend the football game, parade and other Homecoming festivities. University alumni are loyal to their Illini family, and this is seen through the support and attendance of the Homecoming activities on campus.

Luc Selig graduated in 1995 and majored in genetics and plant breeding. Unlike many other students, Selig was a French student at the University, and moving to a college town in the middle of farmland was different from anything he had ever experienced in France.

“It was amazing; it was really culturally different from the French,” Selig said. “Living on campus made me discover a lot about the U.S., and it was great to see all of the electricity and excitement on campus.”

While Selig’s experience may have been vastly different from many other graduates, his stories about life on campus and experiences at the different activities offered at Illinois resonates through discussions with the different alumni and their time at the University. The following alumni share their Homecoming memories and how the weekend has changed throughout the years.

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    1995 (graduation year): Luc Selig, the genetics major mentioned before, discussed his life as a student abroad, and how these memories of the homecoming holiday stick with him to this day.

    “I remember how great it was to go to the football games and see all the animation of the students and cheerleaders,” Selig said. “I remember being amazed at how everything was student-run.”

    1997: Preeya Vyas, a finance student, graduated a semester early, but this didn’t take away from her experience as an Illini. A member of Alpha Chi Omega sorority and a staff member at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Vyas was involved in the University and took part in the Homecoming activities as a student.

    “I went to Block-I a couple times my freshman year, and I usually went to the football games during the Homecoming season,” Vyas said.

    She said her experience coming back to the University as an alumna was a very interesting one.

    “I remember coming back for a Homecoming a few years after I graduated,” Vyas said. “It’s funny to wait in line at bars and realize you’re not a student anymore. All of the students notice you’re an alum and act differently around you.”

    2001: Charles Mockabee IV was a resident adviser at the University. He majored in political science and minored in English. Today, he is an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Vermilion County State’s Attorney’s Office in Danville, Illinois.

    “I remember the parade and seeing all the alum come back to the area,” Mockabee said. “The football game was the main thing I went to and took part in.”

    Mockabee still takes part in the Illini spirit when he ushers for the home football games.

    “I think it’s great how graduates are very loyal to the University,” Mockabee said. “I’ve seen an overall theme of once you’re an Illinois student and graduate, you’ll find alum are very loyal to the students and University.”

    Rachel Raia, an economics major, graduated from the University and moved to Texas to become a health care consultant. However, she is still making an effort to support her fellow Illini by coming back to the University for Homecoming weekend.

    “I remember going to the Homecoming football game and helping out with the iHelp volunteering program.”

    Raia talked about her love for campus and her favorite memories of being a student here.

    “I really enjoyed the Quad during fall and all of the fall colors,” Raia said. “ I loved getting coffee with my friends and being outside during this time.”

    Regardless of the year they graduated, all of these alumni agreed that the University was an amazing place to go to school and still feel loyal to their alma mater.

    “Even after 20 years, I still have an amazing memory of everything because those years at the University were so special to me,” said Selig.

    Christina can be reached at [email protected].