Until heading off to college, Katarina Mescal-Pevzner didn’t know what a strong female academic role model looked like.
And then along came Professor Emily Watts.
“I admired her immensely,” says Mescal-Pevzner (BA ’00, English), the Miami-based vice president of marketing at Panoply Media. “I found her class remarkable and her relationship with her students to be so genuine.
“Professor Watts supported me as I made what would be a pivotal shift in my career and, ultimately, life path. In a January 2000 letter from her I still treasure — yes, a paper letter — she encouraged me to dream big and live abroad, which I ultimately did.
“In addition to Professor Watts, I have five peers from my University of Illinois study abroad program in Granada, Spain who remain close friends after nearly 20 years. These are among the fiestiest, bravest and kindest women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
“Erin Bell, Jenna VanBerschot, Karen Vail, Liz Karras and Alex Angio Taylor are now all in education fields themselves. They lead by example and I’m grateful they are the women shaping a future generation. I could not be prouder to know them and they have been instrumental in supporting me as I prepare to become a mother of two girls.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have had these exceptional women support me during my college years and the influence of the strong female voices I encountered at UIUC have stayed with me in both my personal and professional lives.”