Illini Transfer Ambassadors

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Illini Transfer Ambassadors (ITA’s) serve and work to support and facilitate the New Transfer Student Experience as outlined by the New Student Programs professional staff. Illini Transfer Ambassadors work to create, assist, implement, and evaluate events to help new transfer students make a smooth transition from their previous institutions to life at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Illini Transfer Ambassadors (ITA's) are transfer students at Illinois, just like you! They all have unique journeys on their roadmap to success at Illinois. They are very excited to assist you in your new journey at Illinois.

The easiest way to find us is through the ITA Link Tree.

Meet the ITAs

Julian Akinsanya photo

Julian Akinsanya

Julian Akinsanya is a student from the Suburbs of Chicago who transferred from Parkland college. He is now currently studying graphic design at the school of Fine and Applied Arts.

I transferred to the fall 2021 semester in the pandemic, and most of my classes were online due to the pandemic. During my first semester I wasn’t very aware of the opportunities that were offered by the new student programs and the transfer program. Some of my struggles when transferring was socializing and utilizing the university to its fullest potential. It was a time that social distancing was still in place and the universities covid policies were in place. I overcame those struggles by taking precautions, still joining organizations, and socializing within those precautions. I found out about new student programs, and the transfer ambassador program by the hiring outreach. Now that I am a transfer ambassador, I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to help out other transfer students and help them with the processes.

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Mariana Atuesta

Mariana is a senior at Illinois who transferred from College of Dupage. She is majoring in Business in Operations Management with a minor in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability.

I am originally from Colombia where the college experience is completely different. Therefore, having to transition twice (first from the Colombian school system to a community college and then from there to a four-year institution) was quite the challenge. I was beyond excited when I got accepted into Gies but once I got to campus it was overwhelming. Thankfully, the school offers plenty of resources to help you out, and the ITAs team from last year was extremely helpful in pointing those out. Joining students’ organizations was the main differentiator factor during my transferring process, getting to know people with similar interests made it easier to make this school feel like a second home and led me to meet some of my closest friends.

As an Illini Transfer Ambassador, I aim to be a helpful resource for students who are trying to find their way on campus, and I hope to be able to create resources to help future transfer students have a smoother transition experience.

Campus involvement: ITA, Alpfa, Society of Women in Business, Dance 2XS Caliente, Actgreen, Stiletto Queens.

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Aidan Bovee

Aidan is a senior here at U of I, majoring in Communication. He grew up in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, and ran track and cross country in high school and college. He transferred from the University of Illinois at Chicago during his sophomore year amidst the Covid-19 shutdown.

I transferred here during the pandemic and did my first semester here entirely online in my hometown Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. I was an athlete at UIC and I felt very involved at the school, but things changed once I got injured and my athletic career was over. I needed a fresh start somewhere new. I wanted to be closer to home and I wanted to be at a school that felt like more of a community. I decided to apply to U of I after general admissions were already finished so I felt stuck in an awkward middle ground between schools. I was scared for what was going to happen next, but thankfully I was admitted during the late-admission period. When I arrived at Illinois, I realized how much this university had to offer. When I first came to the school, I noticed the students and professors were so welcoming and it really started to feel like home despite strict covid rules and regulations. I found a home here and I am forever thankful for the opportunities this outstanding university has given me. Since my admission, I have worked at Campus Recreation, got a seat on the Student Undergraduate Advisory Board, joined two intramural sports teams, and now I am the Illini Transfer Ambassadors Coordinator!

I started working as an ITA because I wanted to help transfer students have an easier transition period than I did. I wanted to show people that there is a community here full of hopeful transfers looking to make new friends just like I was. I know how hard transferring to a new school can be, but as ITAs we are here to make it easier and give new students a chance to explore new paths!

Campus Involvement: Campus Recreation CSA, Member of the Student Undergraduate Advisory Board, Intramural Athletics, Illini Transfer Ambassador Coordinator, Red Bison (RSO)

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Sam Dachman

Sam is a transfer student from Plainfield, Illinois. He transferred from Joliet Junior College, and he is a junior studying finance.

I transferred from Joliet Junior College after my freshman year, and I found it to be a pretty smooth transition. I was able to make friends through my classes, my RSOs, and my dorm floor. One of the challenges I faced was adjusting to the classes from community college to this big university. I attended community college during COVID, so all my classes were asynchronous online classes, and transitioning to big in-person classes took some time to get used to. I overcame this challenge by taking the time to talk to my professor and asking them what I need to do to be successful. I also attended their office hours whenever I was having trouble with a subject, which I feel really helped me understand my classes better and allowed me to be successful in them.

I started working for the ITAs because I thought it was a great opportunity to help incoming transfers adjust to their new life here on campus. I want students to have an easy transition onto campus like I did my first semester on campus.

Campus Involvement: EntreCorps, Hedge: Equities, Options, and Alternatives, ITA, Gies Ambassador, Illinois Sports Business Conference, Accounting Club

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Brianna Ford

Brianna (Bree-AH-nuh) is a Jamaican American student from Aurora, Illinois. She transferred from Waubonsee Community College with an Associates in Arts and is currently studying Clinical Psychology with a minor in Communication.

My transfer experience is sort of atypical. During the height of COVID in 2020, I graduated from high school at 16 years old. Unable to study abroad as I’d originally planned, I was accepted into a fast-track degree program at my local community college called QuickPath. This allowed me to complete my Associates Degree in a year and transfer to UIUC as an academic Junior at 18 years old. Although the process has been swift, there have been challenges. When I first arrived at U of I, I was unaware of resources or support available to students and I didn’t know anyone on campus. Once I went to Transfer Student Orientation, I had received a better understanding of what was offered, however, finding information has been an extensive learning process. As the year progressed, I found my footing and becoming an Illinois Transfer Ambassador has allowed me to feel more competent as a student.

As an ITA, I want to be a familiar face to those transferring in. Every transfer student’s background and situation are unique, no two transfers are the same. While this may feel isolating at times, these varying, individual experiences are what make the transfer community collectively rich. I understand and resonate with feeling like an outlier and wish to use my position to empower others in owning their story.

Campus Involvement: First Year Campus Acquaintance Rape Education (FYCARE); Illini Transfer Ambassador (ITA)

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Brandi Gee

Brandi is a first-generation college student and transferred from McHenry County College. She is studying Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

As a student who transferred after the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, I was lucky enough to experience the campus while it was coming back to life. It was so exciting to see the variety of RSOs, old and new restaurants reopening, and people enjoying each other’s company in person. In comparison to going to a commuter school, coming to UIUC’s campus provided me with opportunities and experiences to a lively campus and to really feel like an integral part of the community. Since becoming an Illini, I have challenged myself to get involved and step out of my comfort zone. I applied for the Illini Transfer Ambassador (ITA) and LAS 101+102 Intern last Spring ‘22. Both these roles provide me with a platform to share my experiences as a first-year transfer. In addition, I’ve also been working closely with Visit Champaign County and a student athlete to grow and promote their brand as a Brand Hub Ambassador. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my Labrador-Beagle dog, Fiji, and my Himalayan Blue Point cat, Yuki. My hobbies include content creation, cooking, and eating followed by a food coma nap.

I started working as an ITA to help others when they arrive at Illinois. I want to create opportunities for people to connect and know that they have a community right when they step onto campus. Being a part of this team provides me with the platform to streamline helpful resources that may prove beneficial to incoming students from all walks of life. I’m thankful to be a part of a team that pushes me to grow as an individual and share my story. I-L-L!

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Hizkeel Himani

Hizkeel is a Junior at the University of Illinois Majoring in ACES with a concentration in Public Policy and Law and a minor in Criminology, Law, and Society. He transferred from Harper College in Palatine, IL, and started as a business major. His favorite hobby is solving Rubiks Cubes and cracking bullwhips.

I transferred here toward the end of the pandemic in the spring of 2022 applying to the ACES Public Policy and Law program. Coming in as a spring transfer, I had a lot of difficulty acclimating, but going to ITA events gave me a sense of camaraderie with others, and I knew I had to be a part of the experience at Illinois. I have 1 little brother, he is a freshman in high school, both of my parents are immigrants, and I am a first-generation student. I studied at Harper College as a business major under the One Million Degree scholarship program. I knew I always wanted to be a lawyer but as time progressed and I matured I knew the path I had to dreadfully take and began my public policy and law classes. The end goal for me is to become a judge and just try to make my community as best as I can. Coming to UIUC was never a part of my plan but I am as happy as can be to be a student here.

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Aya Jabi

Aya is a junior at U of I, majoring in Food Science and Human Nutrition. She graduated from a high school overseas and went to the College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I started at the College of DuPage in the Spring of 2020 when COVID-19 first hit. I spent most of my freshman and sophomore years at home, taking classes online. During the pandemic, it was challenging for me to connect with people and make friends. I knew I would transfer to a bigger school to get my bachelor’s in Food Science and meet ambitious food scientists, but I was a little worried about transferring in spring, as I only had the winter break to find a place to live and discover the campus. U of I was my #1 option as it is one of the top schools that offer a Food Science major. After transferring to U of I in the Spring of 2022, I started looking for ways to get involved on campus. The Illini Transfer Ambassadors made me feel welcomed and were the first to introduce me to the new campus life and share valuable resources through the orientation. I then navigated through campus and discovered a lot in just one semester. Although this is my second semester at U of I, it feels like home! I feel fortunate to be surrounded by welcoming faculty and unique individuals.

I wanted to work as an ITA because I realized how significant its role was in easing my transition, and I want new transfer students to feel welcomed as I did. I want to share my experiences with them to make them feel that the campus is home sooner than later. I want to give them tips about things I wish I had known when I first transferred. I know how challenging it is to be a transfer student, but I want transfer students to realize that they transferred to a university that FITS THEM BETTER!

Campus Involvement: Illini Transfer Ambassador (ITA), Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) Ambassador, Association of Food Technologists (AFT) RSO, Muslim Student Association (MSA) RSO

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Eric Liu

Eric is a Junior majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology and minoring in Psychology. He was born in Chicago but moved to Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and fenced throughout high school. He transferred from Rutgers University during his sophomore year.

I initially attended Rutgers University fully online during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Being fully online took a toll on my decision of going to Rutgers and I wanted to start on a new leaf for sophomore year. I decided on U of I due to two main factors. The first factor was that I lived around the Chicago area until high school, so I was familiar with many people here. I thought that this would help lay a strong foundation for me as I step out of my comfort zone into a new school. The second reason is that being a pre-med student, UIUC opening a new medical school meant that its biology program would also become stronger. I applied during my freshman year fall semester but was deferred. It was quite nerve-racking to wait an entire semester without finding out if I would get into UIUC or not. Thankfully, I was accepted! My first impressions of UIUC truly blew me away. Everyone was so welcoming and with covid restrictions loosening when I arrived on campus, it started to feel like home right away.

I was so thankful to everyone who helped me have a smooth transition as a transfer student and wanted to give back that same welcoming feeling that I received. That is the reason why I became an ITA. At the end of the day, being an ITA allows me to guide so many incoming students that were in the same position as me. It is truly rewarding to be able to help new students thrive at UIUC!

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Luke Rasmussen

Luke is a transfer student from Barrington, Illinois. He transferred from North Dakota State University and is currently a junior studying Integrative Biology.

I transferred in the Fall of 2021 and had a fairly smooth transition to life here in Champaign. I was very much unaware of the ITAs and NSP and all of the awesome events that they put on, where I could have had the opportunity to meet students going through the same circumstances I was. Luckily, I participated in athletics for one season, and was able to meet some of my close friends. I then got involved in undergraduate research working first as a research technician in the Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory, and now I am working in the same position in the Eric Larson Laboratory, assisting a graduate student with eDNA research.

I began working with the Illini Transfer Ambassadors because I wanted to help transfer students going through any struggles as they start their time here at Illinois. I hope that I can help incoming students have a smooth transition, like I did, by spreading awareness of events and resources that we provide throughout the academic year.

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Lauren Zylke-Reyes

Lauren transferred from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Her major is Speech and Hearing Sciences and she is minoring in Spanish.

I was undecided at my previous institution, but I knew I wanted to study Spanish. I knew that UW Oshkosh was not the place for me and the speech and hearing sciences program at UIUC is great. I was excited to go to a Big 10 school as UWO was only a quarter of the size. I transferred in the fall of 2020 when there were no in person classes or events. It was very difficult to meet new people and get involved on campus and I felt like there were not a lot of resources provided for me as a transfer. My first year, I made it my mission to get familiar with the campus and find organizations to get involved in. I joined a sorority my first year and tried to utilize resources for my major. Luckily, my sister was a senior at UIUC and was a huge resource for me. At the end of my first year, I wanted to join Illini Transfer Ambassadors so I could help provide resources and make sure all future transfers would have a positive experience. I understand how it can be overwhelming coming to a new school. Transferring was the best decision I’ve made. I’ve met amazing people and the transfer community has helped me grow.

Involvement: RSOs: Delta Zeta sorority, Bilingual Organization for SHS Students (BOSS), National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association (NSSLHA), Mi Pueblo.

Annie Zei photo

Annie Zei

Annie Zei is a transfer student from the northwest suburbs of Chicago. She first attended Oakton Community college for two years and transferred to DePaul University in Lincoln Park. Early in the trimester at DePaul, Annie had the sinking feeling that the “city” school wasn’t the right fit. Hence, she began her next chapter at UIUC to pursue her Bachelors in Elementary Education.

No regrets: it was meant to be! When I transferred to UIUC, it was already my third institution and a fourth was not an option! I made a deal with myself that I would immerse myself in extracurricular activities. I attended transfer student events such as LIT and HYPE. I had so much fun! This helped me form friendships and bonds with students I would otherwise have never met. There was an immediate ease connecting with other transfer students; we were all in the same situation.

Eventually, this gave me the opportunity to work with the ILLINI Transfer Ambassadors to welcome incoming transfer students. For the incoming students, we plan fun events of all kinds. It is so rewarding to ease their concerns and help them get acclimated during what might otherwise be an overwhelming transition. They make fast friends and form bonds just like I did.

In closing, my fellow Ambassadors are an amazing team, and it is an honor to work amongst them. They are all collaborative minded, smart, creative, and just great to be around! We have all been through the worries of the transfer process and settling in. So collectively, it is our goal for every transfer student to say, as I said - “No regrets; it was meant to be!”.

Group photo of the 2022 ITAs on steps in front of Foellinger Auditorium
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