When one thinks of enrolling in a graduate degree program, they most likely don’t picture themselves getting involved in extracurricular activities. It’s a common perception that graduate students attend evening classes, work either full or part time, possibly have a family to care for, are generally detached from the campus community, or only visit campus to attend classes. While this may be the case for some students, it is certainly not for all. In fact, research shows undergraduate students benefit immensely from active participation in on-campus activities, so why shouldn’t the same be true from graduate students?
DeJoie Simmons of Chicago is a first-year graduate student pursuing his Masters of Public Administration (MPA) within the UIS College of Public Affairs and Administration. After receiving his Bachelors from Purdue University Northwest, DeJoie decided to pursue his MPA from UIS after being introduced to us through Model Illinois Government.
In addition to taking courses for his MPA, DeJoie is actively involved in many clubs and organizations on campus as well as in the Springfield community. He is currently serving as the Student Government Treasurer where he attends meetings and has a hand in making important decisions for campus by being a voice for the students. Along with this duty, DeJoie is the Chair of the Student Organization Funding Association (SOFA) which holds responsibility for allocating University funds for student organizations. He is currently active in Model Illinois Government and was just awarded the David Hunt award for Outstanding Senate Committee Chair at a recent event. DeJoie also recently held a supporting role in UIS’ theatrical performance of Stop Kiss which marked his first time acting in front of a live audience.
Currently, DeJoie is serving as the President of the Military and Veterans Club (MVC) at UIS which provides a support network to active military, veteran students and families. In this organization, DeJoie works with the UIS campus as well as community members to host and attend events that bring awareness to military-connected students and their families. One such event they attended called the 22 Dinner was hosted recently in Auburn. The 22 Dinner, hosted monthly on the 22nd is put on by Kare 9 Dinah Military Ministry to bring awareness to the shattering statistic that nearly 22 veterans commit suicide daily. As a Second Lieutenant of the Illinois Army National Guard, this organization and event means a lot to DeJoie and his fellow military-connected members. The MVC also recently collected 255 pounds of food at the Annual MVC Food Ruck where students, faculty and staff brought in non-perishable food items for donation, loaded them up to walk 3 kilometers on the UIS Cross Country Course, then donated it to the Central Illinois Foodbank.
That sounds like plenty to keep a graduate student busy, right? Well, DeJoie is also a GPSI for the Illinois Department of Public Health where he is working in the State Loan Repayment Program. In his role, he is responsible for running student loan repayment program data for health professionals, making sure they are in good standing, creating reports, and crafting grant agreements. He most recently assisted in writing a 45-page grant for the whole State Loan Repayment program which included seeking nearly $850,000 from the federal government and 1 million from the state of Illinois. Through this position, DeJoie says he has become more knowledgeable in Excel, grant agreements, databases, data conversion, attention to detail, professionalism, as well as the importance of email signatures and formal email structures.
After DeJoie graduates, he hopes to join the world of public sector employment full time, either through securing a role in state government or getting involved in politics. Additionally, he aspires to obtain a doctoral degree, potentially in law. His advice for anyone looking into graduate school is, “It’s never going to be the perfect time to start, so start now. It’s worth it.” We believe it’s safe to say that DeJoie has made the most of his first year in graduate school at UIS and have no doubts UIS will continue to benefit from his talents and generosity with his time in the coming years. This time next year, he may be trading in his Master of Plentiful Activities MPA for a Masters of Public Administration MPA.
Myra Kaufman is the Assistant Director of the Graduate Public Service Intern program at UIS. Prior to her start at UIS and GPSI in July 2017, Myra earned her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Communication Studies- Interpersonal Communication and her Master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She is currently pursuing her Doctor of Education degree in Education, Policy, Organization and Leadership in Higher Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.