From words of wisdom on the pluses and minuses of grad school to the recipe for his family’s famous homemade chocolate sauce, whatever Nisa (Agrawal) Johnson needed, she could always count on former Gies College of Business assistant dean John Hedeman to deliver.
“He continues to have an impact on my life” even now, the Class of 2008 grad says from Chicago, where she’s brand manager for Modelo Especial (part of Constellation Brands).
“Dean Hedeman always encouraged my classmates and me to have energy, enthusiasm and optimism, and he always provided sound advice, pushing us to fight for the opportunities we wanted at school and after we graduated,” says Johnson, who earned dual bachlelor’s degrees (one in accountancy, one in business administration) and umpteen awards (Chancellor’s Scholar, James Scholar, 2008 Moms Association Humanitarian Award, 2007 Homecoming Court) during her time on campus.
“When I was unsure where I wanted to go with my career, Dean Hedeman helped me network across industries I was interested in, and he encouraged me to take a research assistant role within the accountancy department to give me greater exposure to accountancy as a subject and potential profession.
“Even after graduating from UIUC, Dean Hedeman continued to serve as a mentor for me. When I made the decision to leave PwC to pursue grad school, he helped talk me through my options and wrote several recommendations. His guidance and support allowed me to make the next step in my life, getting my MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.”
Among her favorite memories involving her favorite faculty member:
— A two-week Asian adventure. “He took our class of business honors students to Japan/Korea for a two-week immersive program after the end of freshman year. This exposure to the global nature of consumer goods propelled my interest in getting more international experiences and wanting to work in an industry that allowed for a more global outlook.”
— Home cooking. “Every year, Dean Hedeman and his family hosted our class at his home, complete with their homemade chocolate sauce. He truly made us feel like family, and I continue to carry his tradition by making his family’s famous chocolate sauce recipe.”
When it comes to a favorite C-U spot, that’s an equally easy call for Johnson.
“Hands down, Foellinger Auditorium,” she says.
“I will never forget my first day at orientation — a young, bright-eyed, meek, soon-to-be-freshman on an enormous campus. Our orientation started at Foellinger Hall, where I met a couple of individuals who were also in the College of Business and who ended up being people I would often see throughout my time at UIUC.
“What’s more, Foellinger is where I had my first class — Econ 101 with the late Professor Gottheil; where I participated in my first India Night performance —as an aspiring model of Indian attire; and a place I would see many of my friends, either before or after class.”
It’s also where this happened:
“When I was interviewing for Homecoming Court, I was asked what the one thing I was excited to come back and see as an alumni was. I mentioned the new College of Business, as it truly would revolutionize the education for students ahead of me.
“When asked what I wouldn’t want to change, I said Foellinger Auditorium. While my response was met with some laughs, what Foellinger embodies to me is the spirit of the university.
“It reminds me of a time of firsts in my time at the University. It was a place where many close friendships — that I still have — flourished .
“And it represents a history and richness our University is known for, but it is still humble in nature.”