Monday, August 01, 2005

Living and Learning through the Capital Scholars Program

By Melanie Cain

When Gabrielle Wiegand first came to UIS, she had two distinct goals in mind. “The first thing I wanted was to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I had always been fascinated by politics, but I wasn’t sure if it was something I really wanted to do,” she says.

Her second goal was to meet new people and make friendships that would last a lifetime. “Just about every older person I know met their best friends, their maids of honor, or their children’s godparents in college,” she explains.

As it turned out, Gabrielle accomplished both goals, and had many other rewarding experiences along the way.

Originally from Metamora, Gabrielle was first drawn to UIS because the small class sizes appealed to her. She also loved the fact that the Capital Scholars program was just beginning and she could have an opportunity to help build the program into something great.

She also felt that the professors at UIS offered something that faculty at most colleges didn’t. “On my visits to campus, I got the sense that the UIS faculty were dedicated to students and to teaching. Research and publishing came second,” says Gabrielle. She felt the professors would be willing to give more one-on-one attention, allowing her to get the education she was hoping for. As someone planning to major in political studies, she also liked the fact the UIS was located in Springfield and had ties to the capitol.

During her time as a Capital Scholar, Gabrielle learned a great deal about her chosen major as well as about herself. “At UIS I learned what I am good at, and what I want to do with the rest of my life. I learned that I love to learn new things. I love to have new experiences. A lot of that derived from time in the classroom, but most of the knowledge and experiences that I cherish from UIS came from ‘living and learning’ with 100 of my closest friends in the Capital Scholars program,” she explains.

Gabrielle says that perhaps the thing she enjoyed most about UIS was that “anything is possible there. Come up with an idea, and as long as you can have a good argument and are willing to do some hard work, you can make it happen.”

Gabrielle earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Studies with a minor in Communication in May 2005 as a member of UIS’ first graduating class of Capital Scholars. This summer, she is living in Chicago and working for the public relations firm Serafin & Associates. In the fall, she will return to UIS to complete her master’s in Political Studies.

Do you have a great story about your experiences at UIS? If you’d like to share your thoughts, please feel free to email me at

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