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The College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) at Illinois State University is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year! This series, CAST 50×50, is designed to highlight 50 faculty, staff, students, alumni, and organizations within CAST that make the college special. These notable people will tell you that every day in CAST is a great day to be a Redbird!

Today #CAST50 presents a special profile! It’s no secret Gamma Phi Circus is a decorated and well-celebrated tradition at Illinois State University and here in CAST. The Gamma Phi profile consists of four students—Rebecca Angles, Holly Bush, Prado Keme, and Savannah Wetzel—who are members of the circus and who major within CAST.

Tell us about your major, what year in college you are, and why you chose the major you are in. How did you choose ISU?

Keme: I’m currently a freshman here at ISU majoring in renewable energy. I chose this major because I was intrigued by my AP Environmental Science class and learning about the different types of energy, where they come from, and its effect on our environment and the human population.

Wetzel: I am a senior studying fashion design and also theater production design as my second major. For as long as I remembered, I wanted to make clothing and study design. I grew up in a rather artistic family so I was always surrounded by creativity. During my senior year of high school, I participated in the work-study program where I participated in an internship in Illinois State University’s Costume Shop. I interned there for two hours each day Monday–Friday for a semester. I was then offered a scholarship to attend Illinois State the following year, which contributed to my decision to become a Redbird.

Bush: I am in my fifth year of college (third at ISU). I transferred from Parkland College in Champaign in 2014. I am a senior in the athletic training program. I have classes in the morning and clinical in the afternoon where I get to work as an athletic training student and gain real-life experience. Going in to college I wanted to become a physical therapist. I later shadowed an athletic trainer who is an ISU alum and decided to pursue athletic training as a way to transition into PT school. Throughout my time in this major, I have fallen in love with athletic training and have decided to continue pursuing a career in AT. I chose ISU because this program is one of the best out there. I had heard great things about it and ISU as a whole and wanted to get the best education I could.

Angles: I am a double major in exercise science and Spanish on a pre-physical therapy track. I chose ISU because it was close to home and received some excellent scholarships to come here.

What is your favorite part about being in Gamma Phi? How did you become involved with the circus? How do you balance school and the circus?

Keme: I learned about Gamma Phi through a mentor who was an alum. My favorite part about being in Gamma Phi is that everyone is a family and willing to help with anything including homework.

Wetzel: I was first introduced to Gamma Phi because of my mom, who was also a member back in the 1980s while she was attending Illinois State. She shared her love and passion for this organization and encouraged me to give it a try. Initially, I told her that I had no desire to participate in a circus but I decided to check it out despite my original opinions. Now four years later, I couldn’t have imagined my “college experience” any other way. This organization has impacted my life in more ways than I can express. I have grown to know so many wonderful, talented people who make Gamma Phi what it is today.

Bush: My favorite part about being in Gamma Phi is all the friendships I have gained from it. Circus made transferring to ISU effortless. Circus quickly became a second home to me filled with 100 members of my second family. My uncle told me about circus the summer before I left for ISU. The president (of Gamma Phi) at the time had gone to the same high school as me, so I contacted her and she invited me to come to an open gym. It only took one day in the gym, and I was hooked. Balancing school and circus hasn’t been as hard as I expected. With classes, clinical, circus practice, studying, and trying to fit in the occasional nap, my schedule is pretty busy. Luckily with circus, school always comes first, which makes it easier on me to balance everything.

Angles: I have so many favorite parts of Gamma Phi. I love having a group of amazing friends, practicing fun and exciting acts and performing for other people! I became involved after hearing about the circus from several of my friends from University High School who were in Junior Gamma Phi. Balancing circus and school is not too hard. When you are doing something you love, there is always time.

Where is your favorite place to study on campus? Favorite place to eat on campus?

Keme: Favorite place to study is the 12th floor of Haynie Hall because of the view, and my favorite place to eat is McAlister’s.

Wetzel: My favorite place to study on campus is the atrium in the Bone Student Center, and my favorite place to eat on campus is McAlister’s.

Bush: My favorite place to study on campus is in my room. I have a hard time studying with other people and find it easier to shut myself in my room where I am less distracted. My favorite place to eat on campus is Starbucks. It’s more my favorite place to drink because I love coffee and it is conveniently attached to McCormick, which is where all of my classes are.

Angles: My favorite places to study on campus are on the second floor of McCormick and the third floor of Milner Library.

What are you most looking forward to in the spring show?

Keme: The thing I look forward to the most is performing in Redbird Arena.

Wetzel: I am most looking forward to seeing all of the acts come alive with the theme we have chosen this year. The theme for this year’s show embraces the talent that we have in our organization and the creativity that we have to offer. This show is definitely going to be a bittersweet because it will be my last show performing with Gamma Phi.

Bush: I am really looking forward to the week leading up to the spring show. As exhausting as that week is, it is one of my favorite parts of show. I get to spend an entire week with all my friends in circus. During this week, the world outside of Redbird Arena ceases to exist, and I get lost in the excitement of performing.

Angles: I am most looking forward to performing aerial acts for the first time!

Advice for #FutureRedbirds considering auditioning for Gamma Phi?

Keme: Give it a shot! This is an opportunity few college kids across the country have so take advantage of it. Besides it’s fun, and there’s nothing to lose.

Wetzel: My advice for future Redbirds considering auditioning for Gamma Phi is to just go for it! I had absolutely no experience going into my freshman year and looking back, I couldn’t imagine my college years without Gamma Phi. This organization provides members with a family away from home and an experience to take with them for the rest of their life. There is nothing greater than performing for an audience of thousands of people doing what you love to do.

Bush: My advice to future Redbirds considering auditioning for Gamma Phi is to 100 percent go for it! This is the best organization I have ever been a part of. It has helped shape who I am today through the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had. There is a place for everyone in the circus whether it is in an act, in leadership, or in backstage. Who knows, you may even discover you have a clown alter ego you never knew existed. … I did.

Angles: Start working out now! Acts are way more fun when you’re strong enough to do them!

Think you know an individual or a registered student organization that should be featured? Contact us!