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LaDarius DuPree's Illinois Experience

LaDarius DuPree transferred to Illinois from Brown University. In past semesters at Illinois, he’s served as an Orientation Student Leader, a tourguide with Undergraduate Admissions, and a residence hall desk clerk. This year, he’s rounding out his Illinois Experience as a paraprofessional at the Illinois Leadership® Center.  

He’s from Chicago, and is majoring in queer studies through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Individual Plan of Study (IPS) program.

LaDarius, how did you decide to transfer from Brown to the U of I?

At Brown I wasn’t necessarily doing what I wanted to do. So when it came time to choose a second school, I was looking in-state because I’m from Illinois.  And I wanted a school that was going to be prestigious and also give me what I wanted to do.  I realized I wanted to work with LGBT populations, and at the time Illinois was one of about three schools in the nation that offered a concentration in that area.  I came to campus for a visit, and the energy on this campus was just amazing!

What have you learned as you’ve gotten more involved at the Illinois Leadership® Center? 

There’s just so much self-reflection you have to do to get the (Leadership) Certificate.  You have to learn so many things about yourself, and how to communicate across language barriers and personality barriers. They teach you how to work through that and how to define your own leadership style.   

Is there anyone in Student Affairs who’s had a huge impact on you?

Yes!  Kae Helms was the area secretary when I was a desk clerk at Allen Hall. She was the sweetest older lady/grandma archetype you could think of. She wanted everything done on time, done efficiently, and done well. She got that across; we were a very efficient desk. But at the same time she understood the importance of team morale and a nice atmosphere, so she used to bake us cookies, ask us how our day was going, sit and talk with us. Even though I only worked for her for eight months, she had a huge impact on me. If there’s anybody I’ve met in Student Affairs who I’d want to be like, it’s Kae!   

What do you want to do with your degree from Illinois?

I’m not sure; I might go into Student Affairs. The branches of Student Affairs that I really like are the high-energy, fast-moving, always-changing aspects – like Housing and the Dean of Students office.

You’re also a facilitator for I-Connect workshops….

I think those workshops are really important because they generate discourse that people are (otherwise) afraid to get involved in. They’re afraid to ask, “Why is a ghetto-themed party not OK?” or to say, “I really don’t like gay people.” Those are “cringe moments,” but the I-Connect workshops are the place to do that. I just wish we had more spaces like that across campus, where students can talk about how they really feel without being judged.

Tell us a fun fact about you

I’m insanely obsessed with Pokémon.  It’s crazy.  I feel like such a nerd because I don’t look like the typical Pokémon player. But I could name all 749 of them!