Meet your 2012 University of Illinois Homecoming Court!
Rose-Ann Aragon has actively advocated for cultural diversity and social justice during her time on campus, where she has served as a leader of the Philippine Student Association and worked with the University’s Asian American Cultural Center. She also co-coordinated the FACT (Filipino Americans Coming Together) Conference, one of the largest such events in the Midwest, and as a member of the Student Cultural Programming Funding Board helped allocate money toward cultural programs. Aragon’s true love is story-telling, which she has been able to do as a broadcast journalism major specializing in community health and human development. An intern at 5 NBC Chicago, WICD NewsChannel 15 and WCIA 3 News in Champaign, she has reported for UI-7 News and served as multimedia director for IMPULSE Magazine. She is honored to be a part of the 2012 Homecoming Court.
Double Major: English, Communication
Orland Park, Illinois
A passionate Illini, Shannon Buckley is vice president of communications for the Student Alumni Ambassadors group of the University of Illinois Alumni Association, as well as a marketing intern for Campus Recreation. She has also served as a content editor for the Illio yearbook and as vice president of public relations for Alpha Xi Delta sorority. Buckley holds a double major in English and communication, as well as a certificate in public relations. Honored to be a part of the Homecoming Court, she is thankful for all of the opportunities she has had as a student at Illinois and looks forward to returning to campus as an alumna as often as possible.
Agricultural Consumer Economics
Arlington Heights, Illinois
Mike Carter has actively served the campus community in numerous leadership roles. With a major in agricultural consumer economics and a minor in leadership studies and communication, he has served as co-director for ExplorACES and the iHelp Volunteer Initiative, an annual day of service coordinated by the Student Alumni Ambassadors of the UI Alumni Association. Carter has also been a general member of the College of ACES Student Advancement Committee, FarmHouse fraternity and Best Buddies. A student supervisor with Dining Services at the University, he works as an intern at the ACES Library Information and Alumni Center and as a developer for Interactive Digital Signage. Carter loves seeing the Illinois community come together at Homecoming when Illini spirit is at its height.
Sociology major Esteban Gast, the co-president of Pancakes for Poverty and vice president of philanthropy for Sigma Phi Epsilon, says he is happiest when helping others. As a member of Uniting Illini, he is working toward registering 12,000 voters for the 2012 elections. Gast has interned for U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorsen and the Lincoln (Nebraska) Public Schools system on matters of educational policy. He is part of the campus’s Civic Leadership Program, and as a Civic Leadership Fellow he plans to pursue a master’s degree in political science at Illinois. In addition, Gast has participated in international mission trips and a semester abroad in Granada, Spain. He is honored to represent the University he loves.
Double Major: Political Science, Communication
Buffalo Grove, Illinois
With a double major in political science and communication and a minor in leadership studies, Matthew Gold has put his education to good use: He has served two terms in the Illinois Student Senate and as the UI student body’s liaison to the Champaign City Council. In addition, he is a member of the Bruce Nesbitt African-American Cultural Program Committee, the Women’s Resources Center Advisory Council, the Pre-Law Honors Society, the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honors Society, Phi Eta Sigma Honors Society and Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Gold also works as an academic tutor for the UI Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and plans to attend the UI College of Law.
Shana Jo Harrison
Involved with College Democrats since her freshman year, Shana Jo Harrison has interned on numerous political campaigns and at constituent offices and currently serves as the organization’s president. The political science major was elected to the Illinois Student Senate, where she headed the Community and Governmental Affairs Committee and advocated in the state capital on behalf of students. She also is the co-founder and associate director of Uniting Illini,which promotes collaboration among campus organizations. Coming from a small town, Harrison believes the University provided her with a diverse environment in which to expand her global view and inspired her to give back to the community which gave her that opportunity.
Emily Malamud is in her second year as president of the Illinois Promise Club, the student group of the Illinois Promise scholarship program at the University of Illinois.Through I-Promise, she has served as an ambassador, mentor, writer and creator of the organization’s newsletter. Passionate about teaching, Malamud has majored in music education and minored in math education. She has also worked as a research, teaching and museum education assistant and serves as treasurer of Sigma Alpha Iota, the women’s music fraternity. In her time off she enjoys rollerblading and scuba diving. Honored to be a member of the 2012 Homecoming Court, Malamud is grateful for the opportunities and learning experiences the University has given her.
Double Major: Political Science, Communication
Through his various activities, Jim Maskeri has had the opportunity to see the University from multiple angles – from the viewpoint of alumni and legislators while working as senior intern at the Illinois Connection advocacy network of the UI Alumni Association; from the eyes of the administration as NUFP Fellow and mentee of the UI vice chancellor for student affairs; from the community as the student body representative to the C-U Mass Transit District Board of Trustees; and as a student. A three-term student senator, Maskeri heads the SORF Board, the Provost’s Undergraduate Advisory Board and the ISS Academic Affairs Committee. The political science and communication honors student is humbled to represent the University and the student body as a member of the 2012 Homecoming Court.
From her semester abroad at the University of Queensland in Australia to her class of fifth-grade students in Mahomet, Lauren Michels is grateful for the opportunities available to her at Illinois. At the UI Alumni Association, the elementary education major is vice president of membership for Student Alumni Ambassadors, where she recruits and readies the next group of Illini leaders, and the student representative to the Campus Alumni Advisory Board, where she updates alumni on Illinois news. Active in her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, and a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Champions Are Readers and International Impact, Michels hopes to serve in a school of high need. She is honored to be a part of the 2012 Homecoming Court.
Recreation, Sport and Toursim
Colleen Morgan is majoring in recreation, sport and tourism, with a concentration in tourism management and a minor in communication. She has interned at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and will complete her required senior internship at McDonald’s Corp. At present, Morgan serves as vice president of programming for Panhellenic Council and as a special-events intern at the UI College of Law. A member of Delta Gamma sorority, she also has headed communications for Illini Dance Marathon and worked as a volunteer tutor at the College of Applied Health Sciences. Upon graduation, Morgan hopes to enter the hotel or corporate event planning industry. She is honored to be on the Homecoming Court of such an excellent University.
Urban and Regional Planning
Transferring to the University of Illinois in 2010, David Pileski got involved in campus events immediately – just two months after his arrival, he was elected to the Illinois Student Senate, where he later headed its Community and Governmental Affairs Committee. Pileski was elected president of the student body for the 2011-12 academic year and currently serves on the UI Board of Trustees as the student trustee of the Urbana-Champaign campus. An urban and regional planning major, he co-founded Uniting Illini, a group that helps organizations collaborate across campus. Each year, Pileski looks forward to joining fellow Illini in Memorial Stadium and participating in the many events held at the Illini Union.
A native of the South Side of Chicago, Brandon “BK” Saunders is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in advertising, while following his passion for music by writing and recording his own material. An active campus leader, Saunders is president of his performing arts organization, W.O.R.D., and his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. In addition, he serves as director of cultural programs for the Illini Union Board and was a resident director for two summers with the Upward Bound College Prep Academy.
News-editorial journalism major Emily Siner has already plunged into reporting, having interned at WCIA 3 News, a Champaign television station; The SouthtownStar, a daily paper in the Chicago suburbs; and the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire in Washington, D.C. In addition, her articles have been published in the Chicago Sun-Times and The Washington Post. On campus, Siner launched the new website for buzz, the weekly alternative magazine, and served as its copy chief, as well as started a music appreciation club while a resident adviser in Allen Residence Hall, the largest living-learning community on campus. Both a Chancellor’s and James Scholar, Siner is the recipient of a Provost Scholarship and the LuLu Kelly Nardine Award.
Double Major: Kinesiology, Molecular Cellular Biology
Ever since he could remember, Matt Soltys wanted to be an Illini. Growing up, his father would take him to Illinois basketball games and regale him with tales of having been a part of the Orange Krush student group. As a University of Illinois student over the past four years, Soltys has written his own story to tell his children – of his days as an Orange Krush chairman, helping to lead the organization into one of the most intimidating student cheering sections in the nation; and as an active member of cru, a Christian community group on campus. Soltys, who is double majoring in kinesiology and molecular cellular biology, is honored to have been nominated to the 2012 Homecoming Court by residents of University Housing, where he has served as a resident adviser.
Information Systems and Information Technology
Vernon Hills, Illinois
A second-generation Illini, Steve Sprieser is studying information systems/information technology and has used his background to serve as a consultant with Illinois Business Consulting and as the founder and president of the Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Association. He is also affiliated with the University’s Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative, where he is an active research associate. In addition to advising a number of tech startups in metropolitan Chicago, Sprieser has helped to create curriculum for low-literate consumers and entrepreneurs in the developing world. He is honored to have the opportunity to represent the University of Illinois as part of the 2012 Homecoming Court.
News- Editorial Journalism
Majoring in news-editorial journalism with a minor in political science, Tolu Taiwo has written for the International Herald Tribune, the international blog of The New York Times; The Daily Illini as a regular columnist; and Community Concierge magazine. Dedicated to student affairs, she is president of the Illini Union Board, a Turner Fellow for the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and a NASPA NUFP Fellow. In addition, Taiwo has worked with the Illinois Leadership Center as a photographer and member of the Student Leadership Advisory Team. She is pleased to serve on the Homecoming Court, a dream of hers since freshman year, and to represent a campus that is rich with tradition, spirit and student engagement.
During his time on campus, Jonathan Weisman has been devoted to Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity, where he has served as president and first vice president of service. The chemical engineering major has also mentored extensively as a resident adviser and engineering learning assistant and participated in the Hoeft Technology and Management Program. He is honored to represent his service fraternity and those with which he has worked on campus by being a member of the 2012 Homecoming Court.
Technical Systems Management
Having grown up on the family farm in Danforth, Ross Wilken followed his passion for agriculture by majoring in technical systems management and minoring in crop sciences. As president of FarmHouse fraternity, he encouraged its members to get involved as much as they could on campus, as Wilken himself has done by joining several organizations and actively participating in them. Despite his busy campus schedule, he continues to assist his father with responsibilities at the farm. Wilken is honored to represent the students of the University by serving on the 2012 Homecoming Court.
Kinesiology major Vita Wu has had several homes on campus: the Alice Campbell Alumni Center, where she serves as vice president of student engagement for the Student Alumni Ambassadors of the UI Alumni Association; Freer and Huff halls when she co-directed Experience AHS, the open house of the College of Applied Health Sciences; the Swanlund Administration Building as a Turner Fellow for the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs; and the Quad as a UI student. Wu congratulates her fellow Court members and is excited to serve with them, as Homecoming Week is her favorite time of the year.
Marissa Zayas has served both the campus and surrounding communities as a sister of Gamma Phi Omega, an organization that has helped her pursue academic excellence, community service and cultural awareness. As a counseling center paraprofessional and psychology major, Zayas has provided developmental and preventative services to students, and through the McNair Scholars Program, she has conducted research on Latinos’ utilization of mental health services, and the effects of child abuse on psychosocial outcomes. In addition, she has served as the vice president of special events for the United Greek Council and as an INTERLINK mentor. Zayas was encouraged by faculty members to represent the community in which she participates and serves, and is therefore honored to have been chosen for Homecoming Court.
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2011 Homecoming Court
2010 Homecoming Court