A typical student, Francine Parham was not.
When she arrived at the UI in 1999 to pursue her master’s, the Purdue grad lived in Orchard Downs Family Housing, not a dorm.
“I brought a baby in tow as a single parent with the hopes of obtaining a graduate degree from what is now known as the School of Labor and Employment Relations,” says Parham, who’d do that and a whole lot more, going on to land HR executive roles at GE and Johnson & Johnson.
Truth be told, she says, “Orchard Downs wasn’t that spectacular. It was pretty sterile and basic, but the community of families, their backgrounds, their home countries and their experiences was amazing and so rich to learn from and experience.
“It was truly a community before the word ‘community’ became popular. I met terrific individuals and made so many friends from around the world.
“My son, 4 years old at the time, also met such amazing young children to play with — also from around the world, which he probably would never have encountered if we had not been in the family housing. It was a great cultural and learning experience outside the classroom that my son and I experienced every day.
“The result of this experience set the tone and desire for me to continue to want to explore the world and see how others lived and worked. As I continued into the business sector upon graduating, this became one of my key job requirements — a global position or job assignment. I was able to fulfill my requirement in almost every position I held throughout my career.
“Needless to say, Orchard Downs Family Housing created the experience and provided a beginning for me by exposing me to other people and cultures that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else at 24 years of age. Who knew that I would carry this with me for many years to come into my professional career and personally today.”