This is the fourth story in a series in which students set to graduate in December reflect on how their final semesters at Illinois State University have been impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Drew Taphorn, an undergraduate business information systems major, spoke about his journey to graduation at Illinois State.

Drew Taphorn is about to become a college graduate. One thing he can be assured of is that of the many lessons he’s learned these last few years, perseverance may be the greatest of them all.

Taphorn, a 25-year-old from Morton who lives in East Peoria, had a few missteps academically early in his college career before finding his footing in the classroom. Pretty soon he was married, became a parent, and gained some focus. He shifted to working full time and studying part time.

That road also had its challenges as he experienced being laid off from a manufacturing job. The fact that he’s had to persist makes his success all the sweeter. For this husband, father of three small children, college commuter, and full-time employee, managing his time at home, school, and work has been the greatest challenge.

With the finish line and a degree from the College of Business in sight, Taphorn discusses his journey in the following Q&A.

Why did you become a business major?

I knew I was interested in computers, so I merged computer science and marketing.

What are your plans after graduation?

My career aspirations include someday being the chief information officer for a company.

What accomplishments at ISU are you most proud of?

I’m really most proud that both myself and my wife (Erika has also been working toward a bachelor’s degree) have maintained high GPAs (3.55 for Drew and 4.0 for Erika) while raising kids, working full time, and taking all the right steps to build our future.

How do you plan to celebrate commencement?

My wife and I will do a combined party with my parents and her parents—socially distancing, of course—and with some friends and family.

What will you miss about ISU?

ISU has always been part of my life. My dad, Matthew (’88), played basketball here, and my mom, Kelly (’90), was a cheerleader here. We’re season ticket holders for basketball and have sat right behind the team bench every game for as long as I can remember.

Who would you like to thank for helping make this possible?

My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and my wife as well; I couldn’t have done this without Erika. And, I wouldn’t be able to do it without my dad. I’ve also had some phenomenal instructors, especially Dr. Rosie Hauck and Dr. Bahae Samhan, who were so accommodating to me even with two pregnancies while I was a student here. Bahae even wants to do a COVID research project related to my current job.

Describe the hard work you’ve put in to get to this day.

I work now in IT support at a COVID-19 lab in Pekin that does 40 to 50 percent of the state’s testing, including for ISU. Before that I was working in steel manufacturing, working the second shift from 3 p.m. to midnight so I could attend classes during the day. I was a quality control inspection specialist for three and a half years. During the day I’d be at ISU. I took 27 credit hours during a calendar year.

What challenges have you overcome during the pandemic?

The pandemic actually helped with my schedule. Commuting an hour away is difficult at times when you’re working and going to school. It helped being around home more with my kids and wife and not having to work weird hours. It’s taken some of the load off my wife by me being home, and I get to see my kids before they go to bed.

What have you learned about yourself during these years?

Just going back to school in general makes me appreciate pursuing an education. It’s not only for myself but for my family, setting up a future for my family.

How will you remember this time?

That I took the pandemic time to be at home with my family, and that going to ISU helped provide a new career path.

What’s next?

 Right now, I’m planning to enjoy the rest of my late-20s.

For information about commencement, visit the Graduation Services website.