Meet your 2013 University of Illinois Homecoming Court!
Political Science and Communication
Michael Allensworth, Kewanee, Ill., is studying political science and communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. On campus, he has been involved in various organizations, including the Illinois Student Senate and the Student Advisory Committee, and has worked for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and University Housing. Allensworth is applying to graduate school, where he hopes to pursue a master’s degree in student affairs administration. He believes it is an honor to participate in Homecoming Court and that his selection—based on his activities at the University—demonstrates the truly transformative effects of the Illinois experience.
English and Secondary Education
Margarita Altidis, Naperville, Ill., president of the Panhellenic Council at the University of Illinois, is studying English and secondary education in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She is a member of the Student Alumni Ambassadors of the UI Alumni Association, Sigma Kappa sorority and the Orthodox Christian Fellowship. Honored to be a member of Homecoming Court, Altidis considers the University of Illinois to be her home. As a teacher, she hopes to instill the Illinois spirit in her future students and inspire them to become part of the Fighting Illini family.
Alaina Behrends, Bloomington, Ill., is an accountancy major in the College of Business, where she serves as a facilitator trainer in the Sleeman Leadership Institute at the college. A member of Phi Chi Theta Professional Business Fraternity, Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society and the Society of Women in Business, Behrends took third place in the PricewaterhouseCoopers Case Competition this spring. A James Scholar and college tutor, she has interned at State Farm Insurance and PricewaterhouseCoopers, served as a financial literacy teacher and volunteered at a local nursing home. She says the U of I has provided her with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed.
McKennon Biers, Mendota, Ill., grew up attending University of Illinois basketball games and relishes the opportunity to help students discover their passion for Illini sports. He is a member of the Orange Krush student cheering group, where he has led the organization as president of its Foundation Board and serves as student representative to the UI Athletic Board. An accountancy major and member of Delta Sigma Pi – Professional Business Fraternity, Biers interned this summer in Denver, Colo., with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and will continue working with PwC after graduation. He says he is indebted to the U of I for the many opportunities it provided him.
Caroline Cavallo, Staunton, Ill., studies animal sciences in the College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and hopes to attend veterinary school to become a sports medicine veterinarian. A Fred H. Turner Fellow in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and a member of Chi Omega sorority, she is a member of the Panhellenic Council, serving as vice president, recruitment, and recruitment board president. As part of the Homecoming Court, Cavallo believes she can give back to and celebrate a campus that has given her so many opportunities, as well as serve as a positive role model for future students.
Jake Ekstrand, Yates City, Ill., grew up on a small farm and has pursued his passion for agriculture by majoring in agricultural education at the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Having been involved with farm-related organization since the age of 8, Ekstrand continued that path at Illinois, where he serves as president of FarmHouse Fraternity and is active in agricultural education projects. Ekstrand is grateful to be a member of the Homecoming Court because he has gained so much during his time at Illinois, and he is honored to represent the students of the University.
Kyle Granger Jr.
Double Major: Animal Sciences and Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Kyle Granger Jr., East St. Louis, Ill., an active leader on the University of Illinois campus, is honored to be part of the tradition of Homecoming Court. A resident adviser, he serves as vice president of both the Illinois chapter of The Wildlife Society and the House Arrest 2 Dance Team Inc.; in addition, he has been an Illinois Promise Scholar for four consecutive years. Granger, who is double-majoring in animal sciences and natural resources and environmental sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, counts his optimistic attitude, determination and outgoing personality as the embodiment of a “true Illini.”
Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Kurt Hansen, Lake Zurich, Ill., has been involved in a wide range of activities on campus, including membership on the ExplorACES Steering Committee, an open house for prospective students; heading Block I, the fifth-ranked college football student section in the nation; and as an I-Guide campus coordinator to help new students move in. Hansen, who majors in natural resources and environmental sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, also serves on the Student Advancement Committee in ACES, working to keep alumni connected to Illinois. Homecoming Court will provide him a final opportunity to represent the U of I as a student.
Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability
Maria Jolly, Chicago, Ill., is passionately involved in promoting justice and equality, in part through advocating health-care delivery, reform and sustainable practices. A South Indian immigrant, she has interned at the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and volunteered in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; New Orleans, La.; and Huancayo, Peru. Majoring in Earth, society, and environmental sustainability in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Jolly is an active member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and Phi Delta Epsilon Pre-Medical fraternity, interns at the University’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Resource Center and raised funds for pediatric cancer research.
Economics and Political Science
Doug Lavey, Champaign, Ill., an honors student double-majoring in economics and political science at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is continuing a long family tradition of attending the University of Illinois, where he has applied the Illini passion he was raised with to his academics and role on campus. Lavey has served in multiple leadership positions, including as resident adviser and tutor, and participated in the Committee on Campus Affairs of the Illinois Student Senate Student, the Student Sustainability Committee and multiple honor societies. He considers being a member of the Homecoming Court the ultimate honor for a senior.
Double Major: Communication and Political Science
Christopher Lowery, Benton, Ill., who is double-majoring in political science and communication major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, sustains an avid interest in politics. On campus, he serves as chairman of the Community and Governmental Affairs Committee in the Illinois Student Senate and helped lobby at the Illinois State Capitol on behalf of students. A member of the Illini Democrats and political director for the statewide federation, Lowery has interned in the constituent offices and on the campaigns of several Illinois legislators. He believes that the U of I has provided him with the foundation to become involved with and give back to communities across Illinois.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Nishant Makhijani, Godhra, India, has devoted himself to creating a sustainable campus community through his involvement in U.S. Green Building Council Students, where he served as president, and as vice chair of the Student Sustainability Committee. Makhijani has held leadership roles in Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity, as well as mentored incoming freshmen as an engineering-learning assistant. A civil and environmental engineering major in the College of Engineering and an active participant in various Illinois Leadership Center programs, he is honored to be on Homecoming Court and encourages students to become a part of the bigger Illini family that lies beyond their classrooms.
Double Major: Advertising and Political Science
Stuti Mehta, Glendale Heights, Ill., is pursuing a dual degree in advertising (College of Media) and political science (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences). Currently the president of the Illini Union Board, she considers her experience there a highlight of her college career, as she enjoys programming and bringing the campus community together at events. Mehta, who was born in India, has also worked at residence hall libraries during her student tenure. Having planned campus activities, she understands the importance of Illini tradition and is honored to be a member of the Homecoming Court.
Stephanie Mieczkowski, Chicago, Ill., a psychology major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, realized her interest in service and leadership via her experiences as an ACE IT facilitator and Alternate Spring Break Volunteer. At the campus Career Center, she nurtured her skills in peer education and personal development through becoming a paraprofessional; in addition, she created a psycho-educational workshop and used her counseling expertise while exploring her interest in diversity. Mieczkowski hopes to blend these interests to form a career in human resources. She believes her participation on Homecoming Court will increase awareness of the many opportunities the University offers for development.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Marika Nell, Cheverly, Md., advocates fervently for campus sustainability and safe drinking water for people around the world. A leader in campus sustainability initiatives, the civil and environmental engineering major at the College of Engineering heads the Student Sustainability Committee and serves on the Steering Committee of the Center for a Sustainable Environment. Through the Oglala Lakota Water Project and Engineers Without Borders, Nell has worked to improve the quality of rural water sources. A Udall Scholar, she has represented the University on a national scale and is honored to represent her causes, her college and the University as a member of the Homecoming Court.
Marketing and International Business
David Perez, Hoffman Estates, Ill., a first-generation college student, majors in marketing and international business in the College of Business. He has interned at Google, the White House and Microsoft; taught English in Beijing, China; and spent 17 months studying, working, and volunteering in China, Brazil, Turkey, Australia and Italy. On campus, Perez has focused on increasing the diversity and support of minority students in his college, which he has represented on the provost’s student advisory board. Upon graduation, Perez hopes to become a Fulbright Scholar and eventually work for the 2016 presidential campaign. Wherever he ends up, he is proud to be an Illini.
Fadya Salem, Chicago, Ill., an interdisciplinary health major in the College of Applied Health Sciences, applies her hometown experiences to her campus activities. She has served on the AHS Council, interned with the college’s Center of Health, Aging and Disability and mentored students. In addition, she has volunteered at McKinley Health Center and at a local assisted-living community. Salem currently works as an internship program coordinator for the Department of Communication, an information and programs manager at the Student Dining and Residential Programs Building and as a teaching assistant. As a member of Homecoming Court, Salem is proud to represent her college, hometown and fellow students.
Robert Schnitzer, Highland Park, Ill., plans to teach middle school math after graduation from the University. The elementary education major has become a hard-working campus leader, serving as president of the Illini Hillel Center for Jewish Life to ensure that Jewish religion and culture remain a strong and engaged presence on campus. Schnitzer has nurtured the development of other campus leaders and has been active in the Champaign-Urbana community, where he has volunteered at multiple local schools, participated in food collection drives, cleared garbage and donated blood. He says he loves representing the Orange and Blue and will always remain loyal to Illinois.
Economics and Statistics
Marin Thompson, Jackson, Wis., was drawn to the University of Illinois for its balance of academic and athletic excellence. For three years the honors student swam on the Varsity women’s swimming and diving team, earning the Big Ten Medal of Honor, Academic All-Big Ten Honors, the Avery-Brundage Scholarship and induction into the Chi Sigma Alpha honors fraternity. Thompson, who studies economics and statistics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is in her second term as president of the Lutheran Student Movement and has studied in Germany, Burkina Faso and Japan. She is honored to represent the University as a member of Homecoming Court.
Triple Major: East Asian Languages and Cultures, Marketing, and Management
Julia Weiss, Wilmette, Ill., is pursuing a triple major in East Asian languages and cultures, marketing, and management via the colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Business. During her time at Illinois, she has served as a Student Alumni Ambassador of the UI Alumni Association, a soccer referee, an LAS 101 intern and a Fighting Illini fan. To improve her proficiency in Mandarin, Weiss spent a semester studying in Beijing, China. Grateful for all of her experiences at the University and excited about the opportunities that lie before her, she is eager to live up to the legacy of being an Illinois alumna.
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2012 Homecoming Court
2011 Homecoming Court
2010 Homecoming Court