Real Impact stories spotlight the real difference that people, programs and partnerships – across the system – make on the state's economic, social and cultural well-being. For more, meet Brenda.
An experience his freshman year pushed introverted Eli Cook to get chatty with clients and coworkers.
“Before, carrying on a conversation was hard. My Northwestern Mutual internship broke me of that,” he said.
Coming full circle, the 2017 University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) graduate and Northwestern Mutual financial advisor and college unit director now recruits and trains the next generation of interns.
“My role with college students gives me a sense of fulfillment because I can do for others what someone did for me when I was an intern almost a decade ago,” he said.
Cook and hundreds of thousands of other U of I System graduates choose to stay in Illinois. A growing number, in fact. According to the newly released 2022 Economic Impact Report, nearly 75% of system graduates stay in Illinois, up from 64.5% in fiscal year 2017. The full report analyzes the system’s economic impact on the business community and the benefits its universities generate in return for student and taxpayer investments.
Cook’s reasons for staying in Illinois are clearcut.
“It’s home. My wife and I have family here. Plus, the cost of living is insanely low,” said Cook, who has friends who live in Nashville, Denver and Dallas. “Our house in Chatham is nicer than what we could get for the same price in another state.”
Alumni working in Illinois account for $9.5 billion of the $19 billion the system adds to the state’s annual income. More than 450,000 living alumni contribute their talents in Illinois today. Their public-university experience instilled in them a dedication to career success as well as the civic responsibility of giving back to their communities.
With more than 24,000 new graduates a year, system universities in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana provide a talent pipeline ready to meet employers' ever-evolving needs.
Northwestern Mutual is just one national company that recruits students and employs graduates from all three universities in Chicago, Springfield and Urbana-Champaign.
“Our relationship with employers is invaluable. There are benefits on both ends – students are always seeking opportunities that will use and enhance the skills and knowledge they gain throughout their educational experience,” said Jennifer Neef, director of The Career Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
“Employers appreciate a talented and diverse future workforce that possesses the vital skills and strong drive needed in today’s competitive work environment.”
More than willing to speak up now, Cook uses his voice to share his school and career experiences.
“If you put in good, you get good out. Show up, do your job and behave. Look for opportunities to go above and beyond,” he said. “UIS absolutely helped enhance my career by giving me the environment to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people.”
The University of Illinois System impact through our alumni living, working and giving back is just part of what makes us Altogether Extraordinary.