Amanda Cox, ’16, M.S ’18, will be returning to University Program Board. This time, she will be leading the students.

Amanda Cox always made trips to Illinois State when she was a little girl with her parents. Her parents grew up in Morton, Illinois, went to Illinois State, and met here. Cox, growing up in Wisconsin, has fond memories of visiting campus when she was younger with her parents. Cox reminisces, “We would always eat at Pub II to get their cheeseballs and visit campus.” It was not until she was graduating high school and looking for colleges that she seriously considered Illinois State University.

“Illinois State was far enough away from home, but close enough that I could make it back home.” She came to Illinois State in the fall of 2012 and was really missing home. She soon got involved in with Encounter and University Program Board (UPB). These groups gave her the community feeling that made her feel right at home.

During the summer of her junior year, she became a Preview Guide for the summer orientation program for new freshman to learn about Illinois State, sign up for classes, and meet other people. There, she had a blast. Cox had a realization, “I did not realize that this could be a career. I was having the time of my life all while doing my job.” Through the opportunities with Preview, she began looking into the College Student Personnel Administration program (CSPA).

In her time during undergrad, she became a Lead Preview Guide, Preview Student Coordinator, InfoCentre Student Manager, Transfer Student Assistant, Forever Redbirds Intern, and part of Welcome Week Intern team. She did this all while getting more involved in UPB by taking up committee chair positions and planning big events. “Those experiences really pushed me and reassured [me] that student affairs was right for me,” Cox said.

Being a part of UPB, she got to attend conferences. “One of my favorite memories of undergrad[uate] was NACA,” Cox said, “Being able to see these live performances and other students coming together made the experience worthwhile.”

NACA is short for National Association for Campus Activities. Each year they host a conference for students and professionals involved in Student Affairs and planning university events. Through the experiences during her undergraduate career, she knew she wanted to continue learning at Illinois State.

Cox graduated in 2016 with her Bachelor of Arts. In 2017, she started the CSPA graduate program at Illinois State. There, she held a graduate assistantship for University Program Board. She was happy to return to UPB and see how she could lead the students that were in her same position only a couple of years earlier. Over the summer between her first and second year of graduate school, she interned with Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. There she assisted with the Parent and Transfer Orientation, similar to Preview.

“It was amazing,” Cox said, “I met so many people that I am still connected with that are great resources for me in the student affairs community.”

After graduating from Illinois State, she accepted a job at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as a Peer Mentor Program Specialist. “I actually got the job through with a connection from L.J., the Vice President of Student Affairs,” Cox said laughing, “He really does know everyone!” Cox made many other connections and mentors through the CSPA program at Illinois State.

While in Milwaukee, Cox found out about the full-time position for UPB at Illinois State. “Milwaukee was a great experience for me, but I decided to apply and was lucky enough to be selected for the position,” Cox said, “I came back because of what made me feel at home here: community. That close-knit feeling has never gone away.”

As Cox steps into leading the organization she knows so well, she is ready to contribute. “I feel like I am constantly going to be learning until I understand the role completely. I have a lot of opportunity for growth,” Cox said, “I hope to show students the importance they have on campus. Planning events has a lot of power and leveraging that [can] make an impact on students.”

From student to graduate to full-time staff, UPB has made an impact on her life and so has Illinois State. No matter where we go, Redbirds are always welcome back at home.