You name it, Jim Misener studied it en route to a bachelor’s degree with high honors from the College of LAS in the early '90s.
“By graduation, I had studied multiple languages, taken as much coursework in Art History as in English and left wanting to complete another degree in History and Philosophy,” he says. ”I remember that all of my professors were great supporters of an interdisciplinary approach to exploration and problem-solving, which continues to guide me and to shape my work and my creative roaming today.”
Today, Misener is principal and president of Chicago-based 50,000feet, a global brand consultancy and creative agency.
He made it here thanks in no small part to a pair of of particularly influential UI professors — Robert Parker and Amanda Anderson.
“Their ability to combine a rigorous and disciplined approach to inquiry and understanding with an ability to explore, discover and celebrate the imaginative expanse of humankind continues to influence me today,” says the former James Scholar and English major.
“They, like all of the faculty during my time, were incredibly generous — and nice. While coursework was challenging, classes were energizing, inspiring and fun. Alongside learning what was outlined in the syllabus, my years there reinforced my feelings of accomplishment and my joy in the hard work spent on projects and programs about which I was passionate and in which believed.
“Illinois also taught me how to integrate and apply the lessons of history, psychology, linguistics, the social sciences and the larger survey of the arts to understand a body of work.
"A lesson that I took from many of my courses is that gaining a breadth of knowledge can lead to a depth of understanding in any given project at hand or field of study. In short, it often helps to go wide, then deep for a richer and more rewarding perspective.
“Being a student of literature and, more broadly, of the liberal arts and sciences, taught me to read, interpret and respond not only to the explicit but also to the implicit in any given situation. You learn to listen to what is said and unsaid and then to combine these to develop an understanding of a challenge or an opportunity; to draw conclusions and make decisions; and then to make a plan and to move forward.
“This approach taught me to see with all of my eyes — to marry the strengths of our minds with those of our hearts in order to make new connections and to forge new ideas.”
Looking back now, Misener appreciates one aspect of Champaign-Urbana that the major metro he’s called home since can’t match.
“I took for granted that the campus made it so easy to walk anywhere — and everywhere,” he says. “It was incredible to be able to live along the leafy, sleepy streets of Urbana, to walk to classes along the Quad and then to venture out to areas of the campus to spend the day studying with friends, to work or to explore.
“I remember studying in the quiet and cavernous rooms in the graduate library and being inspired by the sense of history of the place. I would walk back home at night with friends to read, study and spend time with friends until we feel asleep.”