Prof(ILL)es Series: Paul Ceneac

This is post 2 of 3 in my Prof(ILL)es Series. If you are interested in learning more about why I’m doing this, check out my introduction piece. Click here if you missed last week’s Prof(ILL)e with Thomas Dowling.

A line or two on perspective

The operative word for Paul Ceneac seems to be “perspective.” For Paul, gaining perspective through others is an important way to fill gaps in your knowledge, and provide a better sense of the world. Perspective is also easily applicable, allowing him to make meaningful connections with more people or even resolve conflicts and arguments.

Growing up, what it taught him

Paul considers himself to be from Skokie, Illinois, but will also mention offhand that he was born in Haiti, and spent significant time growing up in places like New York and Canada (“and a few others,” as he put it). Through this diverse upbringing, he had to learn how to quickly immerse himself in a wide variety of cultures. He credits his father with helping him develop these skills at an early age, and prides himself on his ability to connect with others from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.

Paul at the Business Instructional Facility (BIF)

How he’s applied his upbringing to his Illinois experience

At the University of Illinois, that background has served Paul exceptionally well.

A quick aside: Getting acclimated to a new environment is something I found myself being able to easily relate to. Coming here, I knew of one other student from my high school who was going to attend (hey Victor!), and even then, we started off on opposite sides of campus in two very different fields. That meant I had to adapt, and quickly.

What Paul (and I) have learned is that being able to throw yourself into unfamiliar situations often allows for personal growth.

For Paul, that’s meant getting connected to his university through his work with the University of Illinois Foundation as a student development representative, starting his own business and tech conference, and pursuing a degree in accounting. These opportunities have allowed him to develop a balanced skill set that includes leadership, time management, and communication (among many others).

Here’s what truly separates Paul, though. When you talk to him, you can’t help but get excited about what he’s working on. For the past few months, I’ve been going back and forth with Paul about his business and tech conference, and usually come away reenergized for my own work through his own passion for bringing impactful leaders to campus. You know how Illinois will say if you can’t find the right organization for you, you can build it yourself? Well, Paul’s actually doing that. And in a big way.

In addition, when I asked him about his accounting work, Paul says that “understanding the language of business (accounting) is really important, and will continue to open doors for me throughout my career.” That kind of perspective is infectious and translates well to a campus like ours.

What he hopes others will get out of our university

“For me, the University of Illinois means home. It is a school where the faculty will go out of their way in order to help you realize your ambitions. Everyone is so willing to help you succeed and there are so many resources as long as you are willing to pursue them.”

Talk soon.

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