Cheryl Westlund, an office support specialist at the College of Law, has seen the UI from afar and, for the past five years, up close.
She prefers up close.
"I really like being able to experience the campus atmosphere," said Westlund, who came to the UI after working for 11 years in UI Extension's northeast regional office, based in Matteson. "When you work here, you feel better connected and more attached to the university."
Westlund, who has three adult children, made the move to the Champaign-Urbana area after her husband took a job with the local United Way. She accepted a job with UI Extension in 2007 and moved to a higher-level position with the College of Law a year later.
"The jobs have been very different," she said. "My job at Extension was more financial and the one I have with the College of Law is more clerical."
She said other law employees have made the transition an easy one.
"There's a lot of support we give and get from all of the faculty assistants in the building," she said. "The faculty assistants are very generous and giving of their time to co-workers. You can send out an email call that you need help and you will immediately get responses and ideas."
She said her office becomes especially busy during finals, as employees are asked to complete a long list of tasks that includes everything from preparing student information packets to handing back graded work. She said she especially likes working with students.
Prior to her work for the university, Westlund worked in downtown Chicago doing clerical work for several corporations. She said the most interesting of her jobs was for W. Clement Stone, the famed philanthropist and self-help guru.
She said she misses taking the daily train into the city, but not the other travel-related difficulties associated with living in Chicagoland, such as tollways and high parking fees when she did drive someplace.
"Everywhere you turn you have to pay for something," she said. "I hear people complain about parking here, but it's nothing compared to Chicago."
She said traveling by train also had led to several friendships.
"You take the same train every morning and evening, so you get to know the people riding with you," she said.
Westlund's hobbies include working with stained glass and reading, and she volunteers for an international youth group and other community service organizations.
She recently participated in the Central Illinois Honor Flight program, which pairs volunteer "guardians" with World War II veterans for a flight to the war memorial in Washington, D.C. The volunteers pay for their own expenses; donations support the veterans.
She was paired with an 88-year-old Army Air Corps veteran who was "spry and quick-witted," she said.
"It was a marvelous trip," she said. "I cannot believe how emotional it was. He said he wasn't prepared for how emotional it would be, either. The reception they received was incredible."
She said the veterans shared their memories during the flight and that she was enthralled listening to them recall the days of their youth.
"We heard so many neat stories," she said. "The veterans felt like people really cared about them and respected them. It was a great experience and I'd do it again in a minute."