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Erika Jones

Erika Jones

Leadership development facilitator | United Airlines | Class of 1996

Among the multiple perks of Erika Jones’ chosen field of study: Every day was movie day.

“When I think back to my time at U of I as a cinema studies major, I remember the many, many afternoons spent in 66 Library watching films on the big screen — everything from Charlie Chaplin to ‘Mad Max,’” says the Class of ‘96 alumna, now United Airlines’ Chicago-based leadership development facilitator.

“I learned about storytelling and cross-cutting and points of view and fell in love over and over again every time the lights went down. I had no idea where any of it would take me; I only knew that for those few hours in class, I had the chance to escape into a creative world that brought a different kind of meaning.

“Sometimes, it also allowed for short naps, which I was grateful for, especially during tough exam weeks.”

And when she did need a jolt of energy back then, Jones knew just where to go to find it: Espresso Royale on Goodwin.

“It was a short walk from my dorm — Busey-Evans — and I spent many hours there drinking cafe mochas and writing very long papers. I had a crush on one of the baristas there, and it took me about 11 months to gather the courage to drop him a note of the ‘do you like me, yes or no?’ variety.

“Sadly, it was an unrequited love, but I will always be grateful for my time there. Espresso Royale was messy and noisy but it was also warm and cheerful, and that got me through many a dark winter month away from home.”