Two decades later, Henry Neeman still remembers exactly where he was the moment he knew he’d found the grad school for him.
In town just for the day and a long ways from home, the Buffalo-born and bred computer science student had wrapped up conversations with professors, still unsure if Illinois was the place for him.
And then this happened:
“I was just hanging around on the Quad by the Union, when a gal came by, walking a ferret on a leash. I’d never seen anything like that before -- and just that suddenly, I decided that U of I was where I wanted to be.”
Smart choice, it turned out.
Not only is Illinois where a Ph.D. advisor (Mike Norman) taught him how to be a researcher; it’s also where he gained what would prove to be invaluable experience outside of the classroom.
“The most important thing I did at U of I was to be an officer in the Dancing Illini, the ballroom dancing club. That’s where I learned the people skills that I use every day at my job as director of the supercomputing center at the University of Oklahoma.
“It’s also where I learned how to teach, which I do every semester. There’s no better way to learn how to teach than by teaching a physical skill, because you get instant feedback about whether the way you’re teaching is working.
“I tell my students now, the best thing you can do in college is to lead a student organization. That’s where you’ll learn how to make things happen, how to work with people, and ultimately how to lead.”