Meet Aileen Conley, From Peoria to Antofagasta, Chile

Aileen Conley at “El Mano del Desierto” or “The Hand of the Desert,” a 36-foot sculpture by Mario Irarrazabal in the desert about 30 minutes from where Aileen lives.
Aileen Conley at “El Mano del Desierto” or “The Hand of the Desert,” a 36-foot sculpture by Mario Irarrazabal in the desert about 30 minutes from where Aileen lives.

Several years ago, Aileen Conley faced a dilemma. Caterpillar was sending her boyfriend Chris (now her husband) to Antofagasta, Chile. If she went with him, how would she complete her college degree?

A counselor at Illinois Central College (ICC) suggested UIS Online, and in May 2015 Aileen will graduate with her BA in Business Administration with a Management Concentration. She hopes to use her degree, along with her time in Chile and her new Spanish speaking ability, to join a company and work her way to management.

Along with her UIS classes, for a time Aileen taught English to business professionals at a local institute. For her UIS internship, Aileen updated the institute’s website, created a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare account, and made sure all the sites delivered the same message.

If you ever go to Chile, Aileen suggests you try the choripan, a grilled chorizo sausage served on fresh bread with mayonnaise and pebre, a finely chopped salsa: “It’s SO good.”

  1. Name:
    Aileen Conley
  2. Location:
    Antofagasta, Chile
    (Home in the States: Peoria, IL)
  3. UIS Degree and Major:
    Business Administration with management concentration.
  4. What goals were you trying to achieve when you decided to pursue your degree?
    After high school my goal was just getting a degree. When I decided to pursue a business degree online at UIS, my goal became qualifying for a career that would take me anywhere in the world.
  5. How have your goals changed since you’ve been taking classes?
    I now realize this degree fits my personality and my goals to travel. I want to pursue multiple career paths and experience the same type of work in different industries and different countries.
  6. How did you come to enroll at UIS?
    I told my guidance counselor at ICC that I wanted to find a university would both support my goals and have the flexibility to allow me to pursue my degree abroad. She suggested UIS Online.
  7. Three good things about UIS online:
    • Flexibility: I love being able to schedule my own time. My education fits into my life rather than making me try to fit my life around my education.
    • The professors: I’ve been blessed with some phenomenal professors. They are very helpful which is a big plus considering I never meet them face to face. They make every effort to help students succeed.
    • Test taking: My test scores have greatly improved because I’m testing in the same manner that I’m learning and studying. I’m sitting in the same environment for all three of those activities and that is a proven benefit to my test scores.
  8. Three tips for other students:
    • Schedule your time early: The moment you receive the course schedule and syllabus, sit down with the task/calendar app of your choice and put all of the information in one place and make sure you have an idea of what will be expected of you each week.
    • Ask questions: If you can’t find something or if something isn’t making sense, first read through the instructions again, next check the student question discussion board to see if another student has already asked about it, and only then email your professor. They’re helpful when you help yourself.
    • Don’t leave big projects for the end: It’s really easy to get into a groove with the weekly readings/assignments, but you have to schedule your time for projects and papers so you don’t get to the end of the semester and have to do ALL of it for ALL of your courses.
  9. A brief story about getting some help from someone at UIS:
    It can be difficult to connect with other students online, but one surefire way is to solve a problem together. In my first semester, I worked on a group project with Chantell Redish (a student), and we hit it off. The following semester I saw that we were in another class together. One day I came to a concept that I could NOT understand and the corresponding assignment was due within 3 hours. I sent her an email and not only was she happy to hear from me but she helped me out with the assignment. From then on, we’ve kept in contact, and each semester we discuss the classes we’re in and the professors we have. It’s really helpful and refreshing.
  10. A suggestion for improving the online program:
    The only suggestion I would make for improving the online program would be to do more to make online students feel a part of the university life. Ultimately when we walk at graduation it will be at the same place and time as the students who attended class on campus. It would be great if we could participate in more clubs and organizations or even had the option of meeting as an “online student” group a few times a year to discuss similar topics.
  11. Any other comments (good or constructive):
    I’ve personally had a great experience with UIS online. I’ve gotten to know quite a few students, found some great professors and really grown as a student. I think online education is only going to continue to grow. It really prepares you for working internationally as you have to work with people in different time zones and on different schedules. I love it.

By the way, the Atacama Desert, which contains Antofagasta, is the driest desert in the world. Some parts of the Atacama have never had recorded rain. The area is so much like Mars that NASA uses it to test equipment they might use on Mars. A “rain shadow” makes the area dry (the Humboldt Current keeps the ocean near Antofagasta cold). The only drier region in the world is Antarctica.

Conley rain shadow diagram
Conley’s rain shadow diagram