There’s book smart, and then there’s street smart.
It wasn't until he got to Illinois in the early ’80s that Robert Kravets discovered the difference.
A self-described “survivor” of the Chicago public school system, Kravets “learned how to learn at Illinois. I started out pre-vet but I discovered that wasn’t where my passion was. I ended up staying at the U of I for my master’s in food science” after earning his bachelor’s degree in microbiology.
“That was where I learned the difference between what the book says and what the world actually does. This epiphany greatly influenced my career path,” says the Cal Poly assistant professor of food science and nutrition.
“I went on to complete my doctorate at Virginia Tech but I never forget the lessons I learned at Illinois. I developed a diverse background and realized that if I was going to someday teach food science, I needed to go out and work at it first to see how things are really done.
“That led me on a career path through the food industry before finally coming to Cal Poly as an associate professor. Each year, I teach my students the lessons I learned at Illinois: how to learn, how to think critically and to never sell yourself short as most of the hurdles we deal with are self-inflicted.
“I encourage them to get out of their own way, find their passion and always strive to be their best. And if they’re looking for a good graduate program, the U of I is definitely worth checking out.”
Outside the classroom, it’s a two-way tie for first on Kravets’ list of favorite spots.
“The first is Papa Del’s. Coming from Chicago, I loved the deep-dish pizza — enough so that I ended up working there for a while.
“My other favorite place was the Quad. My favorite times were taking my dog there and just enjoying a beautiful spring or fall day while she ran around, caught Frisbees and brought them back to me.
“I met a lot of people that way.”