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Justin Thompson

Justin Thompson

Senior associate dean, COO | University of Virginia Curry School of Education | Class of 1994

Take the total number of residents in Justin Thompson’s hometown, multiply it by 30 and you’re still 3,000 people shy of the UI’s enrollment when the wide-eyed freshman showed up for his first day of classes.

Can you say: culture shock?

“I attended K-12 schools in Annawan, Illinois — population 1,100 — so the transition to a university enrolling 36,000 was an unparalleled period of growth and discovery for me,” says the 1994 cell and structural biology grad.

“A year or so into my studies in Champaign, I was still trying to find my place in UI’s wild and wonderful campus and Campustown. A friend suggested that I might like to interview for Student Ambassadors, a group sponsored by the UI Alumni Association and considered the university’s official student hosts and hostesses.

”The Student Ambassador Office in the Union was home base for the service we provided to the university community. There I connected to the great diversity of the University, for example, by major, minor, hometown, home country, professional aspiration, personal interests and social network.

“I met lasting friends there and I also became aware of the invaluable work performed by university leaders such as the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Stan Levy and the UIAA’s Lou Liay, Judy Babb Troxell, Don Dodds, Bob Lumsden and Kathy Forrest.

“Among others, they helped me settle in to my education so that I could access the extraordinary resources that are available to students at the University of Illinois."