Julian Parrott started his career with the UI as a graduate assistant adviser in the General Curriculum Center in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 10 years ago. He is now the director of the center and assistant dean of the college. A native of Wales, Parrott earned his bachelor’s degree in American studies at the University of Manchester, England, and his master’s degree in history from Western Illinois University.
What do you do in the General Curriculum Center?
We sort of serve as the college office for students who were admitted to the university as undecided, undeclared students. We see a lot of pre-professionals. We also see students who are in transition. They realize now that they want to get into a college or a certain major but now have to meet the transfer barriers to get into those colleges.
I manage the advisers and supervise the advisers. Conduct training. I also do a lot of program planning. I also still see students. I think it’s important for a director of an advising center to still maintain an advising load and keep that connection and contact to the students and with changing policies and procedures across campus.
What is the most challenging part of what you’re doing now?
Trying to help students try and reconcile their abilities and interests. A lot of the students come in, and I’d say almost the majority of them want to define themselves with a specific major. We often call them ‘Ima’s’: ‘I’m a pre-med,’ or ‘I’m a pre-law.’
For a lot of students they’re looking at more of a socially defined idea of what you should be to be a success rather perhaps than looking internally at their abilities, their interests and their values.
You said you had majored in American studies. Has the experience of living over here been what you had thought it would be?
Oh, absolutely not at all. I came here without giving much thought to what I was doing. I didn’t even think about emigrating at the time. I came for the noblest of reasons, I guess, which is love. I met my future wife at a Super Bowl party.
What kinds of things do you like to do in your spare time?
I do quite a bit of woodworking. For some reason, I love making bookshelves. My whole family reads a lot, so we always buy books. There’s always another reason to go off and build another bookshelf.
Are there any particular types of areas that you like to read about?
No, pretty eclectic tastes. I read a lot of history books. I like detective fiction, historical fiction, travel books.
My specialization was pre-WWII, American diplomatic relations. So I am still very, very fascinated with that era. But for the last couple of years I’ve sort of developed an interest in Britain at the time of Waterloo, the Napoleonic Wars.
I love Bill Bryson. I like to read travel authors who’ve done travels similar to I have and see their impressions.
I understand that you have a car that attracts a lot of attention.
Yes, I do. If it were a little red sports car I think people would say it’s a midlife crisis. It’s a little green 1974 Austin Mini Cooper. I had grown up driving Minis at home, and it’s one of my favorite cars, so I looked for about a year on the Internet and found one in Florida and had it shipped up.
It’s about the smallest thing on the road. It does elicit reactions from almost everybody who sees it. It’s very low. It’s about 4 feet high and 9 feet long.
I think it’s one of the most imported European cars. There are about 5 million of them. They built them for about 40 years. They just stopped building them last year.
It’s a strong part of my culture to have a Mini, and it’s amazingly fun to drive. It’s peppy. My kids love it. They say, ‘It’s just my size.’