New Redbird Taliyah Herron wants to keep her options open.

That’s why she’s starting her freshman year this month at Illinois State as an undecided student. Maybe she’ll major in computer science, or Spanish, or special education. Maybe she’ll follow her curiosity about astronomy to the ISU Planetarium. Maybe she’ll join the marching band.

The not knowing is the fun part.

“I’m a very curious person,” said Herron, a Bloomington-Normal native. “I don’t want to lean a certain way just yet because I don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.”

Last year, around 14 percent of the enrolled freshman class was undecided like Herron. Illinois State provides these students many different ways to choose from 165 bachelor’s degree options, including a for-credit Career Choice class, the Career Center’s FOCUS planning tool, and more.

Herron was very involved as a high schooler, graduating from Normal Community West. She was president of the Spanish club and served on two school advisory councils. She also played in the band for eight years, and volunteered at a gym class for special education students.

“I just want to check out everything at Illinois State,” she said.

Equally important to Herron is that she’ll at a school that shares one of her core values—diversity. Herron and her family asked lots of questions about the diversity of Illinois State’s student body before making their decision. They were impressed by Illinois State’s higher-than-average retention rate for African-American students—one of the University’s Points of Pride.

Last spring Herron enjoyed attending Redbird Ready, a program hosted by the Office of Admissions for admitted students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds or first-generation students. Students come to campus for a daylong program aimed at showcasing the opportunities and support for success at Illinois State, including meetings with faculty members.

“There were a lot of different people that I didn’t think I would meet,” said Herron. “I made some really close friends already who understand some of the things I’m going through.”

Even before then, Herron was no stranger to campus. She grew up in Bloomington-Normal, and her grandmother, Sheila Perry, M.S.E. ’86, is an alum from the College of Education.

So what convinced her to choose Illinois State? Hearing about scholarship opportunities available to her, and the increasing diversity of our student body.

“That really made ISU stand out,” she said.

Herron plans to put her schoolwork above all else, in hopes of maintaining good grades just like in high school. She’s a bit anxious about how she’ll adjust to the increased workload of college courses, but she’s mostly just excited to see the great things that await her as she begins her college career as a Redbird.

“I’m personally someone who likes change,” she said. “So I’m welcoming to everything.”

Herron is one of five new Redbirds featured this week on STATEside. Meet our other freshmen:

Apply now for spring or fall 2016, or set up a visit to our campus.

Ryan Denham can be reached at