Some call him Nick. To others, he's most recognizable by his social media handle (@illiniguy). No matter what you know him as, one thing is for certain—Nick Tarleton is an Illini at heart. A first-generation college student, Tarleton received his B.S. in Food Science and Human Nutrition in 2016 and has been one of Illinois' biggest fans ever since.
From homecoming to highlighting the Illini spirit, get to know the Illinois alumnus and his love for all things orange & blue.
Tell us the story behind your social media handles (@illiniguy)?
My friends and former residents of Weston Hall always joked that I only owned orange and blue clothes (which is somewhat true). My love for #ILLINOIS grew during my freshman year when I joined Student Alumni Ambassadors. At the time, Instagram had just become very popular. I'm surprised in Fall 2012 no one had claimed the name.
Orange or blue?
Orange. It's vibrant and stands out on campus and in Downtown Chicago.
Why do you love Illinois?
Illinois challenged me in the classroom and with help from professors/staff/and mentors on campus and, more importantly, taught me that opportunities are endless. There were many opportunities that challenged me, such as LeaderShape and being a Resident Advisor, to grow, learn and excel especially as a first-generation college student.
Favorite homecoming memory?
My favorite memory was being crowned Mr. University of Illinois 2014 by the Illini Union Board. The previous year, I'd dropped out of the pageant because I was nervous and thought my talent of presenting how to build genuine relationships and networking at events wouldn't compete with others who could play the piano, sing, dance and much more. My friends, especially residents of Weston Hall and professors, really encouraged me.
Any advice to current and future Illini?
Come to #ILLINOIS with an open mind and ready for a challenge. You're going to be immersed in many diverse cultures and experiences that will challenge you to think outside of the box and grow as a learner, leader, and future innovator beyond Illinois. Build relationships with professors, staff and your peers—tap into them when you're having a good day and when you're having a bad day. There are so many people on campus who make you feel like home and care about seeing you succeed.
If I could start my career at Illinois over again, I'd invest my time in getting to know people to build deeper relationships and friendships. There was so much pressure being the first in my family to attend college that sometimes I forgot to truly have fun and create lifelong memories with my peers. Definitely take advantage of this opportunity to find your lifelong friends...or potential #Illini companion. :)
Describe your Illinois experience in one word.
Continue your Illinois story by joining us for Illinois Homecoming 2019 on Oct. 13-19.