Day 6: Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Build

Thursday, March 15 – The Endless Hike

“I think one of my favorite things about these trips is that they bring together students of different majors and backgrounds in general that you wouldn’t normally get to meet in your classes and you’re able to develop strong and close friendships that continue after the trip is over.” -Crystal

Back to work today for the ASBers! The group was split a little differently this morning. We separated in half at 7:30 a.m. for our separate projects for the day. Half of the ASBers went to the Habitat ReStore, a store dedicated to raising money to keep Habitat for Humanity functioning. The other half of us headed to a rehabilitation project at a house near downtown Birmingham.

The house today was an extremely fun project – probably the most fun I’ve had so far in the trip. Our supervisor, Matt, managed all ten of us on his own. Matt was not only incredibly kind but also funny enough to keep us laughing all day long. Our favorite part of having him as the supervisor was that he did very little micromanaging. He left us to our own projects and only intervened if he thought we needed it which led to some interesting situations, but those situations only led to new lessons learned.

My tasks for the day included demolition of a sealed-shut screen door. Matt showed Amy, Ricardo and me the door and said, “I have no idea how to do this, but you need to get this door out without breaking the glass.” Although we all shared a laugh about his parting words to us before our project, we realized he was completely serious. The three of us spent an hour hammering, prying, and shaking to wriggle the door out of the space in the wall. Finally, the door came out and the entire ASB crew in the house all cheered with us. I don’t know if I have ever felt so satisfied in a project. To spend an hour on a project that seems impossible only to find out that you can do it is one of the best feelings during construction.

The rest of the work day was spent hanging drywall to the ceiling and framing the wall for a new window. At 3 p.m., we left our favorite supervisor after a very productive day. Immediately from the work site, we drove to Ruffner Mountain for a “short” hike. However, the hike turned out to be nearly three hours long. Although the entire group can agree that the hike was gorgeous, we were all so dead from the long day and the lack of dinner that our feet were dragging the whole time. The view from the top, however, made the entire hike worth it!

After what felt like an eternity, the ASBers returned to the house where it was my group’s turn to cook dinner: pasta and salad (although I didn’t help much because, let’s face it, I can’t cook). While finishing a very quiet and tired dinner, we celebrated Audrey’s 22nd birthday with cake, ice cream, and Taylor Swift’s “22”. We finished the night by going around the room giving compliments to the other ASBers. I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day of work before heading back to Illinois!

– Teagan Potter ’19

Day 4: Career Immersion Excursion – New York City

Wednesday, March 14

What better way to end a fantastic trip to one of the most well-known cities in the world than visiting one of the most famous streets in the world. Folks, you definitely do not need Google Maps to recognize this one because Wall Street is not just your typical street– it is a street filled with many people in suits, a lot of energy, and of course, lots of money.

Our first stop on Wall Street was the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Walking into the NYSE for the first time is similar to visiting Disney World for the first time, and let me tell you, there is some sort of magic in the air. With a countless number of screens, live reporters, numbers everywhere, the names of business after business, the NYSE is truly the Disney World of the financial district. Even if you have no idea what any number or graph means, this experience was one that truly captured the essence of New York City. In one room, there were what seemed like a million things happening at once, yet everyone seemed to handle everything with ease, as if they fed off of one another’s energy.

As if witnessing the money in the NYSE wasn’t enough, following the NYSE we had the chance to visit the Federal Reserve Bank. Not only is the Fed the hub of money for banks, it also looks like money with its classic architecture and vaulted ceilings that make you feel as if you are in another era. Along with receiving our own personal bag of shredded money from the Fed, we had a chance to visit the gold vaults that lie in the basement, and are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. After witnessing all this gold, I must say, there truly was some “24 karat magic in the air” (–Bruno Mars).

All this money in one day and it was time to take some selfies with the famous bull on Wall Street. After all, if you didn’t take a picture with the bull did you really visit New York city? A few selfies, some amazing authentic Chinese food for lunch, and my top purchase of a hat that says New York all over it to flaunt my tourist self, and that’s all we needed to wrap up our trip to the Big Apple.

On the flight back to Chicago, I realized just how inspired I felt after leaving this city. New York showed me that although there are tons of career paths that exist, no path is easy, yet there is a road to success within each one that can be found with hard work and determination. In New York, I saw people who were driven, motivated, and successful, and many of these people were our very own Illinois Wesleyan alumni.

It is incredibly inspiring to see people who started off just like us, taking the same courses with the same professors, who were involved in the same organizations on campus, achieve such success. The CIE is a networking trip, but in the end, I realized it is so much more than that. Not only did I strengthen my networking skills, I also strengthened my knowledge about life in general.

Life can be hard at times. It can mean hating your first job, losing your path and then rediscovering it, living in a tiny apartment with fake walls, or dropping everything to make a change and begin working in another city or country. But within each struggle is a lesson learned and success that follows, and after this trip, I have proof of that.

Thank you to everyone who made this trip truly life changing. What an unforgettable experience! New York, that’s a wrap, see you soon, and hopefully I’ll be working in this city by that time!

– Vi Kakares ’20

Day 3: First-Year Humanities Fellows Immersion – Chicago

Wednesday, March 14

It’s been a chilly March with scattered snow flurries during our time in Chicago, so our tour of the Garfield Park Conservatory couldn’t have been timed more perfectly. The moment we shed our winter coats and walked into the humid air of the first room of the conservatory, the palm room, we were transported to a landscape that felt more like escaping into an idyllic scene from a picture book than into a building in the heart of Chicago. And that’s precisely the point: Inspired by Central Park in New York City, Chicago commissioned a series of conservatories around the city in order to bring urban workers in touch with the marvels of nature, in a space that has remained free and open to the public to this day.

Visiting a conservatory might sound like an odd destination for a group studying the humanities, but in fact, the conservatory is a place where history, art, and nature come together in a one-of-a-kind experience. As our tour guide explained to us how conservatories have evolved throughout history, it struck me how a place that once housed groves of orange trees for northern aristocrats to show off to their friends has transformed into a place in which so many passionate people have invested their time and energy. I loved how human art is on display in the form of statues and sculptures, in order to accent the art of nature that hundreds of dedicated staff and volunteers maintain so that it can flourish.

And how fortunate the public is to see the results of their work! Wandering around in these rooms brought such tranquility to replace the usual stress about work. If this were a nature blog, I’d spam the following section with all of the hundred or so pictures I took at the conservatory, because it was just that wondrous of a setting. With any luck, some of the pictures in today’s photo gallery will be able to convey parts of its beauty.

In one sense, spending the morning taking pictures segued nicely into our tour of the Museum of Contemporary Photography. However, it required transitioning from soothing nature scenes to depictions of war and conflict around the world — including Libya, the former Yugoslavia, and Israel and Palestine — that have impacted even those who are not direct victims of the violence. Our tour guide was wonderful in explaining the historical context of these conflicts and also the biographies of the photographers who felt compelled to capture these horrors, whether through realistic or symbolic means. For instance, artist Diana Matar told the story of her father-in-law, who was kidnapped in the 90s for speaking out against Gaddafi’s regime and was never found, by tracing his steps through Libya until the trail finally goes cold.

Other galleries weren’t quite as linear, but each of them still conveyed a powerful story about loss, chaos, and war. As I went through the galleries, I was surprised at how interpreting the pictures became somewhat easier the more we explored the museum. For me, and I’m sure for others as well, it’s a struggle to look beyond the surface level of a photograph. Having the photos in the context of a historical narrative, however, helped to make sense of the deeper, artistic meaning. The political science majors in particular jumped at the chance to view historical events from their classes through this new lens (no pun intended), but everyone in the group still felt the emotional impact of these stories, conveyed through an artistic medium that allows one to see a whole other side of the world through the eyes of a solitary human being.

In a brief window before dinner, we read an article about the parallels between Henrik Ibsen’s play “Enemy of the People” and the Flint Michigan water crisis before heading to see the play at the Goodman Theatre. The play, in which a doctor’s discovery of the town’s toxic water is discredited by the manipulative government, features a main character, Dr. Thomas Stockmann, who harshly criticizes democracy. At a public debate, Stockmann rants that democracy has created a cycle in which an ignorant majority elects leaders who use institutions to brainwash citizens into believing that they have free will. It’s a distressing message to deliver at a time when parts of our country doubt the legitimacy of democratic elections, but I think that it can also have a more positive interpretation: in a country led by the people, we must ensure that we educate as many citizens as possible to be discerning, intellectual people with the ability to lead the nation if called upon. It’s a lofty goal, but as our education system continues to expand and improve, hopefully the dream of an educated population is not too far off.

Sadly, the end of our time here in Chicago is also not too far off, but we’ve had an incredible time so far. Day 4 of 5 is coming soon!

– Rachel McCarthy ’21

Day 5: Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Build

Wednesday, March 14  – The ASBers Take a Day Off

“If we are wrong, the Supreme Court is wrong.
If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong.
If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The ASBers finally got a day off (well…sorta). We ended up doing another volunteer project later on in the day, but it was unrelated to Habitat.

We started the morning off slow because we FINALLY got to sleep in until 8:30 a.m. By 9:30 a.m., we were on the road with our lunches packed and music blaring. All of the ASBers headed towards Downtown Birmingham for a day at the Civil Rights Institute. There, we all had an incredibly powerful experience regarding many of the civil rights events. While I won’t spend time trying to recap all of the exhibits at the museum, I will say that being in Birmingham made everything in the museum all the more real.

For those who may be unaware, like I was, there were many bombings during the civil rights movement in the ’60s. Some of the most striking bombings included churches because most Americans, black and white alike, found churches to be safe havens away from the violence of the protests. However, in the ’60s, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed, killing four little girls. From the museum, we could see the church which made reading about the bombing situation invoke even stronger emotions. However, I felt the saddest today when I saw the artifacts found on one of the four little girls when she died. The case included her shoes, her bracelet, her necklace, but it also held the chunk of brick that was lodged in her head. Seeing these items made history come alive- it was no longer something we just read about in history books or see in pictures, but it was real, and it happened to actual innocent people.

The ASBers were already experiencing quite a mix of emotions – sadness, hope, anger, frustration – but the Civil Rights tour did not stop there. Our next stop was the actual 16th Street Baptist Church. This experience enlightened us further on some of the scarring details regarding the bombing, but the most saddening story was actually part of the tour guide’s history. When our tour guide was in college, he lived in Atlanta, Georgia. At the church in Atlanta, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the associate minister and was scheduled to speak on the day of the Birmingham bombing. Right before speaking, he got a call in his office that told him about the bombing.

Our guide recalled that when King came out to speak, he was absolutely speechless. An eloquent man who always had something enlightening to say in every situation was speechless. Once again, King got another call which he took in his office. During this call, he was told about the four little girls. Our guide said that when King returned, he had a look of complete devastation, shock, and confusion. Our guide, 55 years later, was still choked up recalling this event. This piece of history was something that couldn’t be found in a museum, and yet, it is the part of the tour that stuck with us after we left the church.

The day wasn’t all emotionally down though. Even as we were pulling out of the museum, the ASBers were talking amongst themselves about the sadness they felt and the hope they had for the future. To improve our mood, the ASBers then went to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens where we got a short tour and began a conservation project. Even on our day off, we suited up with work gloves to pour mulch around the pathways of the fern garden in order to preserve the plants better. It felt good to give back, even if it only had a miniscule impact on the community, especially after our emotional morning.

Our night ended on a high note because it was taco night in the Habitat home. The ASBers are really becoming close-knit. The room was filled with laughter and conversation between each and every person. I’ve never met a kinder and more giving group of people and I’m honored to be able to participate in this Habitat trip with them. As for tomorrow… we’re getting back to work!

– Teagan Potter ’19

Day 3: Career Immersion Excursion – New York City

Tuesday, March 13

There is a common saying. “He shoots, he scores,” and boy did we score on day 3 of the CIE trip. Not only did we have the opportunity to visit the NBA Headquarters, but we also scored the chance to meet with people working in the consulting and insurance industries, not to mention the insight we gained from networking with highly successful and talented alums working in the New York area at an alumni social event later this evening.

Before we could have a sip of our morning coffee, we got a sweet taste of what it’s like to work as a consultant in the New York area. For someone like me who has heard of consulting but never really knew much about the profession, I must say that I was incredibly intrigued. I think what is most interesting about this industry is the unique relationships consultants build with their clients. It is interesting to see the dynamic of these relationships and truly get a glimpse of the people skills that are needed for any business to thrive along with the technical skills.

We are all insured in some way (at least I hope we are). Whether it’s homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, or health insurance, it is important to have some type of coverage because, let’s face it, life is just a little too risky. But after attending our afternoon insurance panel with Marsh and McLennan, an insurance agency, I learned that there is a lot more that goes into this risky business than simply calculating premiums and deductibles. I learned that data analytics plays a large role in the insurance industry. Companies are always going to face risk, but what is their best form of coverage against that risk? The answer to this question can be found in data analytics, a growing field in the insurance industry that insurance agencies, like Marsh and McLennan, are using to support their proposed insurance plans and ensure billion dollar companies that they are indeed, properly insured.

When most people hear the word basketball, they tend to think of the game itself, or the NBA, or players like Michael Jordan. But it is also important to consider that basketball is not just a sport– it’s a business, and a pretty big one. Thanks to Ed Winkle ’86, the vice president of global partnerships at the NBA, we got a closer look into this business and the vast amount of opportunities that exist for future internships and careers in the NBA. There are so many components that make the NBA the multibillion industry that it is, and our visit to the NBA Headquarters allowed me to see this first-hand. Ed’s work experience in Asia for 15 years before coming to the NBA was also inspiring. Ed said that he never would have pictured himself working abroad, and because of this, he emphasized the importance of taking risks and having an open mind because it is often the unexpected opportunities that lead to the greatest experiences. Also our NBA snapbacks were a plus– thanks to Ed and the NBA for the wonderful gifts!

When you talk to people about college, many will ask you what you’re majoring in, what your future career plans are, and what you hope to gain out of these four years. At our alumni social event later this evening, I finally found the answer to these questions. College isn’t simply about learning– it is about being a part of a larger network of people who have different majors than you, but the same ambition to fulfill those dreams. Standing in a room full of Illinois Wesleyan alums who graduated in the 1960s, all the way until now, made me realize that I truly am a part of a group of people who graduated from the same school and have achieved success in their field.

We all share the Illinois Wesleyan experience. We’ve all been to Shirk, ate at The Dugout, and found a second home in Ames, yet we’ve all ended up somewhere different. That is the beauty of college. It is having a pool of mentors all around the country, and all around the world, who were once in our footsteps, who share the same roots yet have planted their success in different industries, in different parts of the world. This strong alumni network is one that I can only hope to be a part of when I too find that same success.

To top off this incredible evening was a visit to Fox News, which was truly a dream come true for an aspiring broadcast journalist like myself. Not only was my jaw dropped the entire time while visiting the Fox Newsroom, I felt even more inspired to continue working toward my dream after the visit. A huge thank you to Tariq Khan ’93 for allowing us to have a sneak peek behind the screens!

– Vi Kakares ’20

Day 2: First-Year Humanities Fellows Immersion – Chicago

Tuesday, March 13

Welcome to Day 2 of the FYHF journey to Chicago! Our day began with a tour of the Jane Addams Hull House, a famous center that educated and rehabilitated the poor in an effort to fight urban poverty on a national level. Jane Addams, the founder, was a social reformer who was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

It’s been a long time since I’ve stepped foot in this particular type of museum within a historical landmark, but coming back to places like the Hull House as an adult really gives you a special appreciation of these testaments to a person’s legacy. I for one loved walking into Jane Addams’ room, sitting in a chair near the foot of her bed, and reading about her personal life. There was a surreal kind of stillness and quiet about that space, that feels like a tiny piece of the past found itself tucked away only to be discovered decades later. I feel that when you can sit in a person’s private space, envision yourself in their particular time, and discover the parts of their life that resonate with yours, that’s when these famous historical figures can really come to life.

After lunch, we made our way to the Chicago History Museum, where we spent most of the time viewing their featured exhibit “Race: Are We So Different?” The exhibit tackled the question of whether or not race is just a social construct without a firm biological basis. This topic tied in nicely with “Philosophy of Race,” a class which many humanities fellows are enrolled in together. Personally, I came into this exhibit as a skeptic that people could have just “invented” the concept of race, even after engaging in a lively debate with some students in the philosophy class.

On the bus ride to the museum, I found myself talking to Professor Carmela Ferradans, who was born on the border between Spain and Portugal in a region of Spain called Galicia, a region which is considered autonomous from Spain despite existing within it. So for her, explaining where she comes from is convoluted and hard to articulate by simply stating her race, or even her nationality. Then, she asked what my race meant to me. I responded by saying that I’m multiracial, half Asian and half white, so when people look at me and can tell that I’m not fully white, giving my race is a simple explanation… and fun to watch people trying to guess the right Asian country. We also discussed that particular phenomenon, how the mentality that “all (fill in a race) look the same” can be a useful heuristic for people without the nuance to differentiate between nationalities. And then we went into a conversation about race vs. class, and then… it was a long bus ride.

I feel that those conversations prepared me to keep an open mind throughout the exhibit, which did manage to persuade me that the race is in fact a social construction. Over and over, I found myself struck by the facts in several instances, such as the fact that the word “race” didn’t even come into use until the 15th century, or that in a computer model of a person’s face that shifted between different races, I couldn’t tell where one race ended and the next one began.

I’m still not sure whether or not I think the concept of race is an inherently bad heuristic for society, because it’s such an inherent way for us to describe other people, but it also leaves room for unfounded stereotypes and prejudices that the exhibit highlighted. Still, I found this experience to be a classic instance of college education challenging a student’s whole worldview, and it will the type of transforming life experience that I won’t soon forget.

Dining at the Fireplace Inn provided our group with a nice opportunity to sit down together and discuss our experiences over the past two days. An important part of this trip is to get ourselves thinking strategically about what types of organizations or causes in the humanities we would want to get involved with, such as through volunteering and internship opportunities that can lead to potential careers. In particular, Taylor expressed her interest in learning more about the restoration of historic buildings like the Hull House. Kathryn, who’s already taking an anthropology course about museums this semester, talked about her interest in the curation and decision making that goes on behind the scenes at museums like the Chicago History Museum in order to build a cohesive narrative for the public.

As for me, I may not be burning to start a career at a museum, but to see the exhibit on race and how children can learn to feel ashamed of their race from a very young age reminded me about giving minority races proper representation if I plan on writing for children’s media. (You’ll probably notice throughout this blog that I have about half a dozen different interests that will someday come together, I hope!) As we went around our table, everyone was able to share similar moments of inspiration—a sign of a solid start to our trip for sure!

Everyone in our group was hyped to see the performance at The Second City, known for its top-tier comedy sketches and improv shows. What really impressed me, particularly for the improv sections, was the seamlessness with which the actors were able to transition from scene to scene, adopting wildly different demeanors in a matter of seconds. As a sketch writer for my high school’s talent show, I tried improv for a little while as a means to generate story ideas, and sometimes I could really feel what my character should be for a sketch, while at other times I’d be at a complete loss. To see these professional improv actors trust each other’s ideas and come up with genius ideas on the spot showcased a special kind of quick thinking that’s relevant for a number of fields beyond theater or comedy. Case in point, I’m planning to take a class next semester that’s taught by Professor Joe Williams, who teaches courses in both improv and neuroscience.

Of course, we needed to give our brains (and laughing muscles) a rest as we headed back to home base. Tomorrow will mark the halfway point in our journey, and we’re sure looking forward to what Day 3 will bring!

– Rachel McCarthy ’21

Day 4: Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Build

Tuesday, March 13 – Going to Great Heights in Birmingham

“Today was just really fun… we did the same work as yesterday, but the attitudes everyone had made it so much more fun.”

In contrast to yesterday morning, everyone slowly and sleepily got ready for the day. Even the bus ride was sleepy; ASBers were taking naps and the music was calming. Nevertheless, we made it to our two different work sites. Like yesterday, the ASBers split into a small group to do rehabilitation, and I went with the larger group to work on Roy’s new home. It seemed as if even the supervisors were slow to start this morning because we mostly did minute tasks for an hour and a half until the supervisors could show us the large task of the day.

The larger group was split into a few different tasks. Some helped finish the grouting on the tile floor that was put down yesterday, some painted baseboard trim for the entire house, some installed the baseboard, and others (me included) painted the inside of the garage. Although the painting job didn’t seem like it would be too difficult, it was frustrating to try to work while the electricians were in the garage setting up the lights and others were walking in and out. At some points, we had to close the garage in order to paint the ceiling, but after only a few minutes, someone would ask that we would open it. The project as a whole was rather simple, but it took much more time than I had originally expected.

We finished around 3 p.m. again. When we said we were going, Bob and Wayne came out to tell us about how good of a job we did and that they can’t wait for us to return on Thursday. So I guess that settles it, we’re coming back as part of the large group on Thursday!

After building, we rushed over to Red Mountain Park for a little bit of hiking. There we got the opportunity to rock climb or zipline (I did both, and I can say as someone with a fear of heights, I do not recommend). The entire afternoon was filled with laughter and screams of joy as the zipline took off. However, after only a few hours, the ASBers got extremely tired and extremely hungry.

Once again, we headed back to the home where we are staying where one group of ASBers had a grill night. They made us delicious hamburgers, baked beans, mac n’ cheese, and strawberry shortcake. The whole group eagerly inhaled the food and proceeded to overeat until food comas began. Personally, I was so exhausted that I went straight to bed for a “nap” at 8:30 p.m. and didn’t wake up until 8:00 a.m. this morning. I thought Spring Break was supposed to be relaxing!

– Teagan Potter ’19

Day 2: Career Immersion Excursion – New York City

Monday, March 12

Day 2 of the CIE trip and I think I’m ready to live and work in NYC. From the early hour of 7 a.m. until 10 p.m I lived through a day of the typical New Yorker and truly experienced the hustle and bustle that characterizes this city. Although my feet paid for it, walking around the city of Manhattan and taking subway after subway allowed me to feel as if I was a part of the New York grind.

Prior to today, the words “finance” and “investment banking” scared me dearly. But after our first finance panel at Morningstar, I learned that the world of finance is one filled with not only a lot of money, but also, a lot of opportunity to succeed. From hearing the panelists’ personal experience and success in this industry, I gained exposure to a completely new industry that I had never before considered, and I became inspired to further explore career opportunities that would push me outside of my comfort zone.

Although there were some finance terms that I did not understand, I learned that the most important part of succeeding in this industry does not only come from how much you know about finance, but rather, how much you are willing to learn and apply your unique skill set to contribute something valuable to this industry. I learned that finance is about numbers but it is also about communication: One may know the numbers, but how effectively can he/she communicate what those numbers mean to an audience to add value to their company? It was incredibly interesting to learn that there are both quantitative, qualitative, and creative aspects to this field that made me more and more attracted to it.

Mike Mason, the Chief Security Officer of Verizon said that this generation is filled with “cyber natives,” as technology has been an integral part of our lives since a young age. And, according to Mason, this generation that is filled with cyber natives is having a massive impact on corporate America. During this technology panel, I learned that it is up to us to use our inherent cyber skills combined with our creativity and knowledge to continue adding value to the tech world that continues to dominate most aspects of our daily lives.

After our visit at Verizon, we visited Oppenheimer Funds to gain a closer look at the world of human resources, and it was, indeed, resourceful. At this panel, we learned the do’s and don’ts of resumes, cover letters, and interviews from the people who look at thousands of resumes every day. What are the most standout qualities of a resume? How should you approach an interview? What are the most common mistakes you find among applicants? These were several of the questions us CIE’ers were dying to know, especially because resumes are your tickets to the work world. And let’s face it, it’s a little scary once you’re told you have to summarize your life story on one sheet of paper.

After another adventurous subway ride trying to figure out which stop we should get off at, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for our alumni dinners, where groups of two to four students had the opportunity to go out to dinner with an alum. This was by far one of my favorite experiences, as I had the opportunity to have dinner with Tariq Khan ’93, better known as Fox News’ “Oscar Doctor.”

While eating chicken parmesan at a cozy Italian restaurant, I had the opportunity to hear about the incredible success Tariq has encountered as a broadcast journalist. Having worked at places such as Access Hollywood and NBC News in L.A. to Fox News in New York, to attending the Academy Awards, Tariq has also met with actors such as Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman. Along with his fascinating experiences, Tariq is also an Oscar expert. As someone who watches five to six films a week, Tariq can name the nominees and winner for any category of the Oscars’, for virtually any year of the Oscars’ without hesitating for a second–I was truly mind-blown!

It was incredibly inspiring to hear his story. Tariq is the prime example of someone who never gave up on his dream. He grew up watching the Oscars, completed his senior honors research project on the Oscars at IWU, and went on to make a career out of it. It was refreshing to hear that those dream careers we envision as children can become a reality. Thank you Tariq for a remarkable evening filled with laughs and lots of inspiration!

– Vi Kakares ’20

Day 1: First-Year Humanities Fellows Immersion – Chicago

Monday, March 12

Monday morning began bright and early by taking the train up to Chicago. As we rushed past fields of corn and soybeans, we prepared for our first location, the Harold Washington Library, by listening to a podcast and writing our reflections on the life of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

If anyone wants to learn about a strong-willed intellectual who stuck to his core belief in fairness, even in the face of tremendous opposition by both blacks and whites, then Washington is a person you should definitely read up on. The man definitely deserved to have a library as immense and breathtaking as the Harold Washington Library named after him. We’re talking nine floors of historical exhibits, art tours, and even a garden on the top floor, because why on earth not? So, after a brief group meeting and writing exercise, we were given free range to explore this labyrinth of knowledge.

We spent our afternoon taking a walking architecture tour of Chicago to learn about the history behind some of Chicago’s oldest buildings. Besides learning that I need to go to the gym more often, walking through some of these gorgeous buildings taught me some surprising reasons behind the artistic decisions made. For instance, at the Marshall Fields building (which is now Macy’s), there’s a beautiful dome of glass crafted from over a thousand pieces, each individually set. The glass was specially made to seem as though the dome is backlit, and it lets in a soft lighting that filters down through the 14-story high atrium. The architect’s goal in including this masterpiece was to create a more flattering light for women trying on clothes so they would be encouraged to buy more. As someone curious about the marketing business, that little detail made me laugh.

Then came dinner at Giradano’s with three IWU alums: Kristen Fields, Kaz Frankewicz and Korey Williams. During the evening, I got to swap stories with Kaz and Kristen about my current English professor, Professor Chapman, as they reminisced about their time at IWU. We also discussed the various aspects of working in the marketing industry, such as how to handle creatives clashing with corporates, how to take criticism in the professional world, and how marketing takes many creative, intuitive minds working at many stages to create a cohesive final project. By the end, everyone and their take home boxes were stuffed with pizza, but most of us still had enough room for a quick ice cream trip before heading on the “L” to the guest housing at UIC, where we’ll be staying for the entirety of our trip.

We made sure to get some rest, though, because tomorrow is scheduled to be just as busy!

– Rachel McCarthy ’21

Day 3: Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Build

Monday, March 12 – What was the highlight of your day?

“Getting to see the man whose home we were building and being able to visualize the gratitude and sincere happiness he had for the college students who were helping out”-Andrew Coop

Our morning began at 6:30 a.m. when someone had set off the fire alarm in our little home due to a burnt bagel for breakfast. Everyone groggily got out of bed in a morning confusion and all tried to get ready for the day at once. One problem with that: for 19 people, there are only two bathrooms in the house. There were only two bathrooms and an hour before we had to go. We quickly (as quickly as this non-morning person’s body would go) made breakfast and packed our lunches for the day. At 7:30 a.m. on the dot, we were on the road to our first build site.

The ASBers split into a small and large group today; I went with the larger group to the new home, while the smaller group worked on a rehabilitation project in a different area of Birmingham. We arrived at our work site at 8 a.m. with our on-site coordinators, Bob and Wayne. Both men were retired and volunteer regularly to keep themselves busy while also doing good for their community. Although Bob and Wayne took time to explain our tasks for the day, we quickly developed a comfortable rhythm that was only disrupted by our lunch break and Bob’s frequent critiques of our work (we were in awe of how much care he put into the work for the family).

My personal responsibility for the day was tiling the floor. I was directed, along with my good friend, Maggie, to tile the entirety of a bedroom floor. Maggie and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders; we wondered what we would spend the rest of the day on after cranking out the tiling on the floor. Joke’s on us: the floor took ALL day, and when I say all day, I mean the entire 7 hours we were on site. Basically, for the two of us, the day consisted of seven hours hunched over on our knees laying tile. However, I was blessed with a wonderful partner. Throughout the seven hours, I don’t think I heard Maggie complain about the tasks once. In fact, we were both invigorated and excited about tiling upon meeting the future homeowner.

A little after lunch, the homeowner, Roy, drove by to meet us at the house. Roy is a disabled veteran who needs a wheelchair accessible home in addition to a garage that makes getting in and out of his car a little more comfortable. Bob enlightened the ASBers to the fact that building a garage is a special feat for Habitat Birmingham, so today, we were part of something incredible.

To make the day even better, we finished up the work day and headed to the Habitat headquarters where we enjoyed a pizza dinner with all of the other collegiate chapters in the Birmingham area this week. In addition to seeing the plethora of kind-hearted volunteers, we also got to meet two families that Habitat Birmingham has benefitted. On our way home, we all talked about how even though we were exhausted, we want to continuously volunteer in the future. It has only been one work day, but we’re already geared up and ready for more!

– Teagan Potter ’19