A university that originally relied on Central Illinois’ small towns to fill its enrollment rolls now casts a much wider net. Pardon the pun, but the latest evidence is the arrival of new Redbird Elise Webber from Homer, Alaska, home to the popular Discovery Channel series Deadliest Catch.

Webber described the town of 5,500 as an artistic place but one with limited options: “The major things to do are hunting and fishing, not much else.”

Webber’s family moved to Homer about six years ago when her father, a marine biologist, began working at the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Webber plans to follow in his footsteps and major in biology, though she prefers the laboratory to the field studies typical of a wildlife biologist.

“Science is what I want to do and is my passion,” said Webber, who started her freshman year this fall at Illinois State.

She came to Illinois State partly to take advantage of the undergraduate research opportunities it offers. What made her choice possible was receiving the Presidential Scholarship, Illinois State’s most prestigious award for new freshmen. In fact, all freshmen with a 25 ACT (1150 SAT) and a 3.4 GPA received merit-based scholarships in 2016.

“The scholarship was very important,” said Webber, who also earned lower in-state tuition in Illinois.

Webber earned a 4.2 GPA in high school and scored 30 on her ACT. She was an officer with the local chapter of the National Honor Society and was a member of Homer High School’s varsity choir.

Webber is no stranger to the Midwest. Her family lived in Columbus, Indiana, for a time, after stops in Hawaii, California, and Anchorage, Alaska. She was attracted to Illinois State—despite it being more than 13 hours away from Homer by car and plane—because she wanted to go to school outside Alaska and the campus is relatively close to Chicago where she has family. She also has a cousin who is a Redbird.

Illinois State’s welcoming atmosphere and the personalized attention Webber received during her campus visit really set the University apart from other schools she was looking at.

“The faculty and the students were so friendly,” she said. “Everyone was very helpful. I really felt at home.”

Webber is one of five new Redbirds featured this week on News.IllinoisState.edu. Meet our other freshmen:

Apply now for fall or spring 2017, or set up a visit to our campus.

Kevin Bersett can be reached at kdberse@IllinoisState.edu.