Down Memory Lane: Reminiscences from an alum after 22 years

In May 2016, I got an opportunity to visit my alma mater UIC after 22 years! I first came to UIC as an international student in 1988. I graduated from the MSA (Accounting) program in 1989. After working for 3 years, I came back to UIC in 1992 and completed my MBA in 1994. Since 1995, I have been working in India. I am now a professional practitioner and author in Quality and Knowledge Management. Through my company The CPi Coach, I provide consulting and training services in Quality / Business Excellence and Knowledge Management. I am also a certified corporate director. My books Continuous Permanent Improvement and The Strategic Knowledge Management Handbook (both published by the American Society for Quality - ASQ) tell the story of my experiences and lessons learned while working with a variety of companies over the years in the areas of Quality and Knowledge Management. My education and experiences at UIC have without a doubt played a significant role in shaping who I am as a professional and as a person. Some months ago, when ASQ invited me to speak at their annual World Quality Conference (the 2016 conference was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), I immediately accepted the invitation – not only because Quality is a subject close to my heart, but also because it was an opportunity to visit UIC.

What made the visit all the more special for me was that I was coming back to UIC after more than two decades! Naturally, quite a bit has changed at UIC in this period. The changes seem to be largely driven by developments in information and communication technology. For instance, I found the library to be entirely new and modernized with many technology aids. Many of the campus buildings are equipped with electronic directories, making it easy for people to find the person or department they are looking for. On the other hand, I was happy to find the campus physically almost exactly as it was in my student days. On both of the days that I had in Chicago, I spent hours walking leisurely around the campus – particularly around my old haunts on the east side such as University Hall, BSB, the lecture halls behind the library and Chicago Circle Center (CCC). I learned that CCC has a new name – it’s now called Student Center East. I took in the vast green space just south of the SEO building – immaculately maintained, just as it was all those years ago! The UIC campus most definitely has character, and everyone associated with the university can be proud of it.

I also visited the west side of the campus, which primarily consists of the UIC hospital and health sciences related departments. Many buildings on this side are historic and much older than the east campus. I recalled the old days when I used to visit my friends on this side of the campus at their departments or the apartments at the Single Students’ Residences (SSR) or the Medical Center Apartments (MCA). Most of the professors from my student days have now retired, but I was delighted to meet a couple of them – Prof. Sandy Wayne (Dept. of Management) and Prof. Michael Popowits (Dept. of Accounting) – who have been here since those days. 

My nostalgic rounds then took me to the Physical Plant accounting office (corner of Morgan and Roosevelt), where I used to do a part time student job. It was a great pleasure to meet two colleagues from those days, who still work there. What a great surprise it was for me, as well as for them! The majority of my old colleagues have retired. I also made a visit to the apartments near the campus, where I used to live when I was a student. I initially lived in Greektown at the corner of Halsted and Jackson, but for most part of my student life at UIC, I lived in an apartment at Little Italy at the corner of Taylor and Loomis, in between the east and west campuses. The apartments are still there; perhaps the present residents are UIC students too. They brought back old memories of the great times I had with my roommates, who were also UIC students.

Finally and most importantly, one thing that thankfully hasn’t changed is the “UIC spirit” –something that cannot be put in words, but can be felt by anyone who has studied or worked here. The memories from my student days – lectures, projects, professors, fellow-students, friends, endless coffee, hard work and great fun – it all came back to me in waves. I sat down for a while on a bench near Taft Hall in a nostalgic heaven. It was an indescribable experience. I had a lump in my throat when it was time to leave for the airport. Thank you, UIC.

Arun Hariharan
Bombay, India
UIC MSA 1989, MBA 1994
Founder & CEO, The CPi Coach
Certified Corporate Director
Former President - Quality & Knowledge Management, Reliance Capital Ltd.
Former Senior Vice President - Quality & Knowledge Mgmt, Bharti Airtel Ltd.
Former Senior Consultant, Ernst & Young Global Management Consulting