When arriving on campus as a freshman Mary McMahon thought Illinois State University had everything she was looking for in a college.
“It just had a welcome vibe that I appreciated and an active campus that I couldn’t wait to get involved with!” McMahon said. And she did just that.
From day one she got involved on campus. McMahon took advantage of Illinois State’s large university offerings both in and outside of the classroom. And when she graduated in 2012 with a degree in communication studies organizational leadership and a minor in politics and government, she left her mark on campus. She now serves as a great example of how alumni can stay connected to Illinois State.
Known by some as the Leslie Knope of Illinois State, McMahon, a goofball at heart, worked to continually improve the Illinois State experience for students through the Student Government Association. She saw a need to bring some fun to finals week, and with the help of the Dean of Students Office and Milner Library she created The Club Milner Dance Party, a quick dance party in Milner Library to relieve stress during finals week.
McMahon “wanted to do something for the students that was fun and stress relieving, but would also give the Student Government Association a name for not only passing important legislation, but providing fun, spur of the moment activities.”
As if planning a party at Milner Library and being involved in programs like Model United Nations, Trick or Treat for Change, and Phi Sigma Sigma sorority weren’t enough to fill her time outside the classroom, McMahon was also a School of Communication Program and Development intern. Through these experiences she was able to help plan the “Cup on Campus” event to bring the Stanley Cup to campus. This gave her valuable experience to plan large scale events in the future, and to take what she learned in the classroom and put it into action.
The foundation for McMahon’s leadership began with her participation in LeaderShape, a program offered by the Leadership Community and Connections, a unit of the Dean of Students Office.
“It was one of the best weeks I had as someone beginning their journey as a student leader,” McMahon said.
McMahon, always looking for ways to incorporate fun into learning, shared that “we learned a lot over the week … not only leadership skills, but we had really fun impromptu dance parties.” It is experiences like LeaderShape that help Illinois State students develop into leaders prepared to make a difference in their communities as they become alumni.
After graduation, McMahon’s passion for Illinois State and Student Affairs has not stopped. She is active in the Chicago Young Alumni Network, keeps in touch with faculty and staff on campus, and makes trips back to campus when she can. McMahon also values the importance of giving back through her time, talents, and treasures.
As a current student at the iO Improv Training Center, Mary has fallen in love with the art of improv and sees the value of incorporating improv techniques in Student Affairs work. She recently joined a colleague at Miami University-Ohio to host workshops on Improv in Student Affairs bringing two passions of hers together. Mary describes the relationship between Student Affairs and improv as “because you never know what is going to happen! You need to constantly be thinking on your toes, but also you need to make sure that what you are doing is fun and active in order to keep people involved.”
Through all her experiences as a student and now as an aluma, McMahon knows the importance of giving back.
“It was honestly a no-brainer for me to donate as a senior and every year since. I know the amount of good that is done at the University, and I want it to continue for the future,” she said.
She does this by supporting both her academic department and the Division of Student Affairs. With both the School of Communication and Student Affairs playing a pivotal role in her college experiences, she always knew she had to give back to both areas that gave so much to her.
McMahon’s story is just one of the hundreds of stories about Illinois State University alumni. She took every advantage of the opportunities presented both in the classroom through the School of Communication and the activities and programs supported by the Division of Student Affairs. She continues to support Illinois State and develops her passions.
What made your Illinois State experiences special and how can you give of your times, talents, or treasures to the University? Share your Illinois State story with the Division of Student Affairs and discover about how you can stay engaged as an alum.