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One Story

One Story

Where compassion meets empathy. Where creativity meets tranquility. Where education meets mastery. Where advocacy meets hope. We present to you, One Story, a video series featuring some of our amazing graduate students. These stories demonstrate the compassion that joins us together and the core of the spirit that drives us, each one singularly compelling as it reveals the many dimensions of the Illinois experience. We are proud of each and everyone of our 20,000+ graduate students and look forward to sharing some of your stories.




Originally from Kenya, Byron Juma has traveled far and wide in pursuit of his education. Bringing a personalized approach to anti-doping in professional athletes, Byron's studies have taken him around the world. Bringing his family along for the journey has made all the difference as he finds a new place to call home here at Illinois.


From Long Beach California, Jay Lopez has always loved to be outside and to engage with the public. He started planning for events when he was in college and through his wife Emily, was convinced to pursue a master’s degree in Recreation, Sport, and Tourism online through the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Jay is 37 years old, has two kids, a wife, volunteers, works a full time job in event planning in Long Beach, and has earned an online degree. He is excited for the future and wants to let everyone know that if he manage his family, his job, and graduate school you can too.



Katie Frye studies Microbiology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as a PhD candidate and is a member of the SHIELD Target Test Team, contributing her expertise to helping COVID tests remain stable in transport. She also mentors microbiology students and is a member of SAGE through the Graduate College. Katie is excited to earn her doctorate and will always stay curious when it comes to solving the world’s problems.



A Civil Engineering PhD student from Puerto Rico, Jose Rivera-Perez has wanted to help people and build better buildings for as long as he can remember.  His research gives him the opportunity to go back home and protect the island and the family he loves.


Kelly Searsmith. A PhD in English who is now working on getting her Master’s in Education at the University of Illinois.  Although she has been diagnosed with autism, her strength and quest for knowledge has never wavered and will continue to strive for a better and more educated world.


Jaylen De Angelo Clay is a Master’s Student in Dance at the University, he has loved expressing himself through this artform for many years. His research aims to connect how we interact with space and the how the human body wishes to express itself and hopes to break new ground in the area of Fine Arts and Dance.


Jaya Kolisetty is a PMBA student at the University of Illinois, she advocates for local non-profits using her business background as a guide. When she is not advocating non-profit, she is at the Women’s Resource Center offering confidential advising and crisis intervention for survivors of sexual violence.


For more videos please visit the Graduate College YouTube Page