Jon Fulton is ready for this year’s Gamma Phi Circus home shows. He is really ready.

Fulton, a senior from Peoria double-majoring in early childhood education and English, has been a member of the Gamma Phi Circus all four years of his college career. But this will be the first time that the shows will be held in-person since his freshman year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This year he is a co-act captain for the clown act, one of the heads of the publicity committee, and the president of the nation’s oldest collegiate circus.

“I was completely overwhelmed the very first time I stepped in the gym,” Fulton said. “So I wanted to step into those leadership roles and take on more so that I could help other members and help out just in general because there’s a lot that we do and a lot that is expected of everyone to be able to function in the way that we do.”

In addition to an estimated 10 hours of circus work a week and the heavy course load associated with his double major, Fulton is also the president of Queer Ed Birds and a tour guide for the Office of Admissions.

On March 24, University Marketing and Communications senior photographer Lyndsie Schlink followed Fulton through a day in his life.

Jon Fulton asks a question during a class discussion about the book Tangerine in his Literature for Middle Grades class with Professor Eileen Bularzick at Stevenson Hall.

After a rush to get ready for the day, and an on-the-go breakfast, Fulton’s day begins with his 9:35 a.m. Literature for Middle Grades class.

Fulton is taking the class as a part of his English studies.

“What’s nice about the English major here is that you can really forge your own path, in a way, because you have so many electives available to you,” Fulton said. “So for this elective, I actually have chosen to focus specifically on books that fall into children’s literature genres.”

Jon Fulton, left, tries to get his Literacy and Language Assessment class to guess “Taylor Swift” during a game of charades with Dr. Terry Husband, right, at Edwards Hall.

Immediately following his early-morning class, Fulton makes his way to Literacy and Language Assessment with Dr. Terry Husband, professor of early childhood literacy.

“Dr. Husband structures his class to be very interactive and very engaging. Every day we have some kind of activity where we’re either interacting as small groups or walking around the class and interacting with each other,” Fulton said. “On this day he included a quick game of charades because we were talking about interpreting vocabulary, and I had the great fortune of guessing the person before me, so I got called on to do one of the rounds of charades.”

Luckily for Fulton this section of the course is one linked to the cohort program. “For this class and another class of mine we’re in the same sections together,” Fulton said. “There are about 20 people in the class, and we all see each other twice a day. So you get to know each other better and you know that when they’re laughing at these activities, they’re laughing with you.”

Jon Fulton, left, enjoys a quick lunch while he talks with Gamma Phi Circus Director Marcus Alouan in the Horton Field House South Gym.

At around 12:30 p.m. Fulton takes time for a quick lunch.

“Usually I have about an hour break in here where I could have lunch and do some reading for my next classes, but it was just the circumstances of this day that I was kind of packing it in there a little bit more,” Fulton said.

Fulton spent his usual break between classes in the Horton Field House South Gym, collaborating with University Marketing and Communications (UMC) on promotional content for the circus.

Fulton has been a performer in the clown act for all four years of his involvement with Gamma Phi.

“When I first joined the circus, I stuck with what I knew, which was theater and performing,” Fulton said. “Of course clowns fit well with that, so it became a really great fit for me there and I found something I really enjoy.”

Despite his experience Fulton was required to reaudition for the act during the fall semester.

“Even as an act captain I have to prepare an audition, and there’s never a guarantee that I will make any of the acts that I try out for,” Fulton said. “Everyone in the organization has to put hard work and effort into the audition process because we want to make sure that we’re getting the best performers and the best people to represent what we’re doing.”

Jon Fulton, center, and classmate Sarah Schopp, a senior education major, talk with Dr. Xiaoying Zhao during their Social Studies for Early Education class at DeGarmo Hall.

Once filming is done, Fulton removes his makeup and makes his way to DeGarmo Hall for his second cohort class of the day: Social Studies for Early Childhood with Dr. Xiaoying Zhao, assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning.

“Originally when I came to ISU I was actually a history education major,” Fulton said. “So I really enjoy the content in this class and I appreciate learning about how to incorporate social studies into our early childhood classrooms.”

Jon Fulton works on a proposal for his Senior Seminar class at Studio Teach in DeGarmo Hall.

After his social studies class ends at 3:15 p.m. Fulton works on classwork at Studio Teach in DeGarmo Hall.

“Studio Teach is a teaching resource center that has technology you can use within your classrooms,” Fulton said. “And it also functions as a study space, so I go there to get work done.”

Fulton’s main item on the agenda is preparing and reviewing a contract for his senior seminar class with Dr. Tara Lyons, associate professor of English studies.

“In this course I have to write a capstone project, which is about a 25-page paper in which I reflect on the things that I gained from my time in my English major,” Fulton said. “For that project we have a contract outlining all the things that we plan to write about so that Dr. Lyons knows what we have going on and what we plan to do.”

Jon Fulton, right, talks with his Senor Seminar class professor Dr. Tara Lyons at Stevenson Hall.

Once he has checked over his work, Fulton meets with Lyons in Stevenson Hall to discuss his progress.

“We usually meet asynchronously on this day, but I wanted to meet with her so I could get a one-on-one chat on what I wanted to talk about in my project,” Fulton said. “I’m revising a paper that I had previously written for a children’s literature class, and I wanted to expand what I wrote. So I was getting ideas from her and explaining the process of my writing, and she was an excellent resource.

“I know she had a really long day too, but she still was able to squeeze it in at the end of her day.”

Jon Fulton walks past Hovey Hall en route to his car so he can head home for a quick dinner before going to Gamma Phi Circus practice. Fulton is an Admissions tour guide and works at Hovey Hall on Fridays and Saturdays.

Fulton then heads home for dinner before he must return to campus for evening circus practice.

“I’m a big chicken tender and pasta person,” Fulton said. “But I had such a quick turnaround because I wanted to get back to circus at around 5:40, that I had about only 20–30 minutes at home and I ended up just heating up a cup of soup.”

After his dinner Fulton returns to the Horton Field House for an all-member circus meeting and act practice.

As the home show date continues to approach, Fulton grows more excited for what they have in store.

“There hasn’t been an in-person show since my freshman year and I’m a senior now, so just being able to have that live audience that’s just buzzing with excitement will be awesome,” Fulton said. “But for the audience I’m excited for them to see what we’ve been working so hard for.”

The 2022 Gamma Phi Circus home shows will take place on Friday, April 22, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 23, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Redbird Arena. Buy tickets online.