Allison Bulow is fully convinced she wouldn’t be where she is today — a big-city senior art director with a thing for Blue Apron, the Cubs, couponing and her 100-pound bloodhound Muffin — if not for a trio of UI professors.
We’ll let Bulow (BS ’11, advertising) take it from here — in no particular order.
“I spent the first four years of my career in New York and got the true ‘as seen on TV’ advertising experience. It was hard. Nights were long. Drinks were plenty. I’ve had a very successful start and I never would have gotten here without the guidance of two professors.
“When I first started as a freshman at U of I, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was good at speaking Spanish, so I figured I would major in that. I didn’t really consider the fact that a career would be nearly impossible to come by.
“Fast forward to my sophomore year and I needed an elective. I found Steve Hall’s Intro to Advertising class on the list and thought it sounded fun. Sure enough, it changed my life. After the first class, I knew that this is what I wanted to spend the rest of my life pursuing. He was inspiring, knowledgeable, and most importantly, his class didn’t feel like work. I loved it.
“At the time, advertising wasn’t creative-focused. It was a great program built for account, media and project management. I wasn’t interested in those things. I knew I wanted to do something on the creative side.
“My senior year, I took Peter Sheldon’s creative advertising course, the only one that was available at that time. After the final class, he told anyone interested in pursuing a creative career to stick behind. He wanted to give us some advice on what steps to take from there.
“He was the first person to mention portfolio school. I didn’t even know it was a thing. He recommended the Creative Circus in Atlanta and I applied that night.
“The rest is history. I can’t thank them enough for getting me here.”
If not for a third faculty member — Fred Gottheil — it’s a good bet that Bulow isn’t a member of the UI Class of 2011.
“I took Professor Gottheil’s macroeconomics class my senior year as the last requirement I needed to graduate,” she says. “I hated economics. I wasn’t bad at it; in fact, I was quite good at it. I just found it to be horribly boring.
“So, like most students, I would give my ‘clicky’ to a friend that was going to class so that I could skip and still get attendance credit. I thought I was sooooo smart.”
And then came finals week. “I’d been studying like crazy so that I get a passing grade,” she says. “I show up at the hall for the final exam and it’s completely empty. Confused, I double checked my schedule and realized that I had missed the exam by one day.
“I was devastated and immediately emailed Professor Gottheil to explain. He was very understanding and told me a day and time I could retake it. I was so relieved.
“The day of the retake, I was ready. I set my alarm and everything. I arrived at the hall, and, once again, it was empty. I couldn’t believe I’d done it twice now. I checked my email and realized that I had gotten the time wrong.
“I was sure that I’d never graduate on time at this point, but I emailed Professor Gottheil one more time. I begged him to understand and help me out.
“He told me to meet him at his office for a verbal final exam. It was the strangest exam I’ve ever taken. It started with him asking me why I never went to class. I explained to him that I just wasn’t interested in the topics and spent the time doing other things.
“He appreciated my honesty and told me we’d have a conversation about the things that were on the exam. So rather than take a test, I just had to prove that I understood the materials. After 30 minutes of chatting macroeconomics, he gave me a passing grade.
“Who knows where I’d be right now if he hadn’t given me those 30 minutes of his time?
“Thanks, Professor Gottheil. You were a gem.”