Students from different departments within CAST (and one student involved in Gamma Phi Circus) were selected as Robert G. Bone Scholars for the 2020-2021 academic year. The recognition is the highest campus honor given to undergraduate students. Recipients receive a monetary award and are included in a Bone Student Center display. Students are chosen based on academic achievements, community involvement, and demonstrated leadership within the University and surrounding communities. This year’s recipients answered questions about their work, inspiration, and the honor of being named a Bone Scholar.

Jake Gillum is a senior majoring in exercise science, with a minor in Spanish.

What originally made you choose to study exercise science at Illinois State?

I was curious about the underlying science behind running and what allowed top athletes to excel. I wanted to take my experience with cross country/track and use it to help facilitate a deeper learning in the classroom by forming practical applications in the real world. I loved the culture here. Everyone I talked to on my official visit from coaches and teammates, to professors and advisors seemed genuinely excited about the school, and I wanted to be a part of it.

Do you have any mentors or people who have helped guide your academic path so far?

Dr. Dale Brown was one of the most influential professors I have had at ISU. On top of teaching me anatomy/physiology, he also taught me how to follow my interests and passions. I came into ISU as an undecided major and was never 100 percent sure what I wanted to do until I took his class. The material fascinated me, and I realized that I wanted to make a career out of exercise science.

Tell us about a favorite course or project you have worked on. What did you enjoy the most about it?

Last spring, I had the opportunity to work on a biomechanics research project with Dr. Torry. I explored the impact of track curve radius on lower limb kinetics and kinematics when running at moderate jogging paces. I really enjoyed the freedom to investigate a subject of interest, the lab resources to collect accurate data, and the guidance from Dr. Torry to bring it all together into a coherent project.

How have you adapted to this learning environment we are currently in (with a majority of courses online)?

I try to identify any positives I can with the current situation. Many of my classes are asynchronous, which allows a good deal of freedom for taking them at my own pace and according to my interest. I am also able to break up long class and study sessions by getting outside and going on a run to help reduce stress and keep myself sane.

What kinds of engagements do you have outside of campus?

Outside of campus, I have spent a good deal of time working with local youth programs to help be a positive influence for elementary school children. I served in the mentor program at Oakdale Elementary School for a semester, going one or two times each week to read with kids, help them with math problems, and get them engaged in physical activity at recess. When my academic schedule no longer allowed me to go in physically, I volunteered to be a pen pal to stay in touch with the school and program.

What are you involved with on campus?

On campus, I run cross country, indoor, and outdoor track, and compete nearly year-round for ISU. I also work for University Housing and can often be found at the front desks at Tri Towers.

You have maintained an exceptional GPA while staying active as a Division I athlete. How have you worked to balance academics and your involvement in athletics so well?

I think there is a lot of overlap in the two. Athletics taught me how to constantly strive for perfection and to never be afraid of hard work. Although it can get overwhelming at times, these qualities allow me find success in both areas.

What does this recognition mean to you?

Hanging in the concourse of Redbird Arena, there is a photo display featuring the small but select group of student-athlete Bone Scholars in ISU’s history. I’ve run by the display probably 1,000 times during winter practices where it is too icy to be outside, and each time I am presented with an image of what it means to be truly great as a Redbird student-athlete. These photos have motivated me daily for the past four years, and it is incredibly fulfilling to finally join that elite group where I hope to help inspire future Redbirds just as the past recipients have done for me.

Do you have any advice for students when it comes to academic success?

Consistency is key. There were plenty of classes that I loved, but also several that I didn’t. The best thing I could do was to always take a genuine interest in the material. When you value the subject, putting forth effort to learn it becomes easier and more worthwhile.

Tell us about your future goals: What is coming up for you after you leave ISU?

After graduating in the spring, I am planning on heading back to ISU for another two years as a graduate student in exercise physiology. I have the first year to compete as an athlete and check off a few of the goals that COVID delayed, followed by one year where I can dedicate myself entirely to academics and research. I’m excited for the continued opportunities at ISU and am looking forward to seeing where it can take me.

Want to learn more about opportunities within the School of Kinesiology and Recreation? Check out the school’s website for more information.