No, Callie Jo McFarland didn’t finish first, or second, or third, in her graduating class at Illinois.
But she left campus for the real world in 2003 with something more valuable than a 4.0 GPA — a clear understanding of who she was and where she was headed.
“Growing up in Urbana, and the daughter of a long-term U of I employee, I have so many memories of my community that was and still is rich in its culture and diversity,” says the 2003 urban and regional planning grad, named Monticello’s community development director in 2008.
“At the university, I admittedly was not a stellar student, and by happenstance settled on the major that has led me to the career I have grown to love. Rather than focus on academics, as my hard-working parents probably would have preferred, I spent most of my time working at various venues for the U of I and the community.
“Unbeknownst to me at the time, these income generators helped mold me into the person I am today.
“A couple of supervisors that stand out beyond simple memory from the late '90s:
— “Jerry Bennett with the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics’ ticket office impressed that no one person is better than another — regardless of how much they reminded you they donated to the cause for great ticket seats. They need to wait in line like everyone else.
— “Dr. Phil Michener, who was a Ph.D. candidate with the Department of Crop Sciences, taught me that true leaders need to be alongside the worker bees in the trenches — or corn rows, in that case.”