My Story — With a Special Suggestion for YOU

Joye Williams at the UIS 2016 Scholarship Luncheon, held at on campus; Joye was one of the student speakers.
Above: Joye Williams at the UIS 2016 Scholarship Luncheon, held at on campus; Joye was one of the student speakers.

Guest author: (Wilverlyn) Joye Williams, UIS online student

It’s really amazing what a little perseverance and Yankee ingenuity can accomplish!

At one point in my life, I thought I had it all: a great job as a Letter Carrier at the United States Postal Service, a nice comfortable home in suburbia, a loving husband and son, and good health and strength.

Overnight—poof!—it was gone.

I was unemployed, homeless, on the verge of a divorce, diagnosed with a severe mental illness and hospitalized for two years.

A turning point

Because I was a veteran of the United States Navy, I received care and counseling through the Veterans’ Administration. This later led me to attending the College of Lake County and graduating in 2002 with honors.

I was then accepted into UIS in the Minority Leadership in Public Service program under the tutelage of the late Ms. Terri Jackson.

From the moment I stepped on the grounds of UIS, doors opened for me that I am certain would never have been in my grasp at any other institution.

I have never looked back.

UIS’ Leadership lived worked for me

As an undergrad, I participated in many activities. Off campus, I was a proud member of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order Elks of the World, which still provides me with opportunities for service work and social intercourse with individuals worldwide.

On campus, I had many opportunities to develop leadership:

  • I was involved with organizing a student lobby day at the State Capitol.
  • I represented UIS on the Student Advisory Committee for the Illinois Board of Higher Education (where we had direct input into policy decisions).
  • I worked on a case with the Illinois Innocence Project which resulted in the exoneration of an individual wrongly convicted of a crime.
  • I worked daily alongside our state representatives as a legislative aid.

And the crown jewel was meeting an individual who would become the most powerful person in the free world—President Barack Obama. While working on my senior project, I wrote a bill dealing with identity theft which then State Senator Obama sponsored in the state senate. It was eventually signed into law by then Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The convenience of online

In 2004, I received a Bachelor of Arts (cum laude) in Legal Studies and initially planned to continue my education toward a master’s in communication at another university. Unfortunately, I suffered a relapse and was unable to accomplish that goal.

Not one to let little things stop my progress, in 2013 I returned to the College of Lake County and received a certificate in Paralegal Studies.

Realizing I had work left undone, I investigated the UIS Legal Studies Master’s degree program and discovered it is conveniently available 100% online.

I began the program this fall and find it second to none. I have been able to take all the classes I need in the proper sequence and the electives offered have enabled me to tailor my coursework for my particular interest.

More than that, I find the program stimulating, challenging and thought provoking, and I now have a new perspective on our legal system, society and their interconnections.

On campus vs online

Although online allows me to set my own schedule and do my work anywhere in the world that has internet access, I actually prefer face-to-face classes for one particular reason.

On campus, when I had a question, I could ask the professor and get an answer or response immediately. If the teacher wasn’t available, I could go somewhere else on campus and get an immediate response.

This isn’t to say that the online instructors are not responsive because overall they are. I just personally prefer the face-to-face, one-on-one, immediate and direct contact. Online responses tend to be a bit slower.

Civic engagement where I live

On the other hand, because I am online, when a project comes due, I am able to work within the community where I live.

 This semester, for example, my class on Policy Reform for Wrongful Convictions required us to do a public education project. I chose to contact a local radio show host and several other media outlets in Lake County, Illinois.

I successfully secured an interview on the local access radio station and on another cable television show at a later date. I also engaged with students in the paralegal program at the local community college on the topic of wrongful convictions.

Last semester, I also contacted the local VA hospital for a class project.

Through these experiences I have been able to educate myself and my local neighbors on issues relative to our own community. I have also gained valuable networking experiences and contacts which, had I been on campus, would have been limited to the Springfield area.

Offering students online projects such as these allows for civic engagement in communities where UIS is not a household word. This opportunity may serve as a recruiting tool for UIS in the future as my community will see first hand what a UIS education can yield.

I’m always happy to recommend UIS because it is the best place in the world to receive an education—whether on campus or half way around the world sitting in a war zone.

The curriculum is challenging, the instructors are of the highest caliber, and they CARE about providing a quality education as well as the progress and success of their students. That caring goes well beyond the classroom and matriculation.

What’s ahead

Upon completing my studies in 2018 (hopefully, the Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!), I would like to re-enter the workforce as a polity advisor for a politician or a government agency.

At UIS, I have learned to aim for the sky—a lesson I hope to pass on to my five beautiful grandchildren.

Thanks, UIS, for molding me into the person I am today.

Here’s a great suggestion for YOU

This year, I was fortunate enough to be blessed as the recipient of two scholarships from UIS: a UIS merit scholarship and the Rose Marie and Robert C. Roach Scholarship.

I urge every student to apply for these institutional scholarships (due Wednesday, February 15, 2017; see links below). I applied at the last minute on a whim, never expecting to actually be awarded one.

Without a doubt, it’s the experiences and opportunities at UIS to which I availed myself that made me eligible for these scholarships. I’m not one who goes in for superstition, but I have a lucky charm that has played a major role in my accomplishments—I wear something which says UIS every day of my life. Don’t knock it!

UIS Scholarship Application 2017-2018

Global Studies Experience Scholarship 2017-18 (PDF)

Learn more about scholarship applications