Search Roosevelt University
Dev Placeholder

Life in the Loop

Living and learning in the heart of Chicago puts Roosevelt students in the center of the action. Read their stories and find out how they’re making bold moves in the city.
More in this section...

Living and learning in the heart of Chicago puts Roosevelt students in the center of the action. Read their stories and find out how they’re making bold moves in the city.

Friends dig in downtown

  • Jessica Naber (BA, ’16) psychology major, lives in a University Center apartment
  • Juliana Escutia (BA, ’15) integrated marketing communications major, lives in Irving Park

The day after 23-year-old Juliana Escutia was selected via the lottery to run the 2014 Chicago Marathon, she received a card from Jessica Naber, entitled, “26.2 Reasons You Are Awesome.”

As race day approached, Escutia took training tips from Center for Student Involvement Director Elizabeth Choporis, or “Chops,” as Escutia lovingly calls her.

And after she crossed the finish line, Escutia got hugs from Naber and a thermal blanket from a Roosevelt orientation leader.

Escutia’s marathon journey perfectly illustrated what drew her to Roosevelt: the people.

“At Roosevelt you meet people who genuinely care,” the Roosevelt senior said. “It really is a place you wish you could stay forever.”

Escutia and Naber, who met as orientation leaders this fall, finished each other’s sentences over stir-fry at Flat Top Grill on Wabash Avenue. “Jess Naber and I are gonna be friends till we die. That’s just how it works,” Escutia said. Though they share a kindred spirit, their paths to Roosevelt were distinct.

Naber, a junior, was born and raised in a small New Hampshire town and wanted something “completely different” for her college experience. She fell in love with Chicago after a high school spring break trip, and chose Roosevelt because of its business school and student organizations. She remembers battling nerves as she drove across the country to begin her freshman year, wondering, “How will I get around? Why is it called the ‘L?’ How will I get to the grocery store?” But when she moved into her 30th floor suite in the Wabash Building, the view entranced her. She took pictures of the sunrise almost every morning.

“The Willis Tower is in my backyard and the ‘Bean’ is in my front yard and I get to look at Lake Michigan every day,” Naber said. “I’m in the heart of Chicago, not just Chicago.”

She soon started exploring and met friends through the annual Student Leadership Summit, Center for Student Involvement and orientation leader training. Now, she says she can’t walk through Roosevelt’s halls without knowing at least one person—or, according to Escutia, “More like five people. She knows everyone!” Naber recognizes the importance of meeting people socially and professionally, a value she attributes to going to college in a metropolitan environment.

“What you’re learning outside of the classroom is just as important as what you’re learning inside the classroom,” Naber said. “Being in the city means you can go to volunteer opportunities, learn how to interact with people professionally, be independent and get where you need to go without relying on someone else.”

“What you’re learning outside of the classroom is just as important as what you’re learning inside the classroom,” Naber said. “Being in the city means you can go to volunteer opportunities, learn how to interact with people professionally, be independent and get where you need to go without relying on someone else.”

Escutia appreciates the importance of personal connections, too. A born-and-raised Chicagoan, she grew up one mile from Wrigley Field (and is a die-hard Cubs fan) and went to two colleges in Chicago before landing at Roosevelt. Meeting Roosevelt Transfer Coordinator Jennifer Jones at a transfer fair was the deciding moment. Escutia felt an instant connection to Jones, who introduced her to program administrators and academic advisors.

Now, Escutia is interning with Exact Publicity, a public relations agency in Chicago, and is considering careers in public relations or advertising. She also works at the Chicago Park District, something she feels passionate about after growing up taking park district classes. Both women are unsure of what the future holds, but their time at Roosevelt has taught them to be open to all the possibilities.

“These years at college are your opportunity to do something you’ve never done before,” Naber said. “Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Nine times out of ten you won’t regret it, and even if you do you’ll learn something from it.”

Passion for public policy

  • Frank Pettis (BA, '15) political science major, lives in a four-bedroom apartment in University Center

Between bites of catfish nuggets at Harold’s Chicken Shack on Wabash Avenue, 21-year-old Frank Pettis said, “I’ll tell you a story.”

It was Election Day in February 2014, and Pettis was an intern for Illinois State Rep. Christian Mitchell. Pettis and three campaign workers were driving to polling sites in Englewood and Hyde Park, neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side. As they rode down a busy street in broad daylight, Pettis looked to his left and saw ten black male teens beating a smaller teen, also black, against the side of a building.

He told the driver to stop and honk the horn, but the teens kept pummeling. Pettis ran out of the car and charged the group, screaming and waving his hands. Finally, the group scattered. When Pettis asked the teen if he needed help, he shrugged Pettis off, leaving him feeling lost and helpless.

Pettis didn’t fully understand his encounter until he volunteered as a mentor for the award-winning Black Male Leadership Academy at Roosevelt, an experience he said changed his life. The academy—launched this summer by the St. Clair Drake Center for African and African-American Studies—brought 19 black Chicago teens to Roosevelt’s Chicago Campus for courses in leadership and African-American studies, cultural experiences and teambuilding exercises.

On the second day of the weeklong program, Pettis and the BMLA program teens went to Rosebud Steakhouse for dinner. Pettis sat next to one of the teens, who was around the same age as the teen Pettis saw attacked earlier that year. As the two ate their steak and potato dinners, the young man told Pettis he had never been downtown before, let alone to a steakhouse or a college campus. Pettis didn’t understand how that could be true.

“He lived four blocks away from the CTA Red Line,” Pettis said. “Four blocks to me is a ten minute walk, but to him, four blocks means crossing two rival gang territories. He didn’t have access to transportation. What I realized is that the young man I saw earlier that year could have been trying to go to the grocery store or downtown to look for a job, but he was beat up on the way to the train station.”

Gaining this kind of perspective is what Pettis, a senior, values most from his experience living and studying at Roosevelt. The Waukegan native began his college experience at a small liberal arts school in Indiana, but transferred to Roosevelt during his sophomore year. He sought the ability to start his political career in Chicago while attending college.

“It’s very easy to envision your future when you have access to opportunities like working with a black politician on the South Side—someone I can emulate and try to mold myself after.” 

“It’s very easy to envision your future when you have access to opportunities like working with a black politician on the South Side—someone I can emulate and try to mold myself after,” Pettis  said

Pettis has involved himself in public policy issues since transferring to Roosevelt. In 2012 he volunteered with RISE, a Roosevelt organization that connects students to environmental and social justice organizations on campus and throughout the Chicago area. He and his classmates collected more than 5,000 signatures for petitions advocating for more counselors and fewer armed police officers in Chicago Public Schools. 

Now, Pettis is preparing for a spring study-abroad trip to Durban, South Africa, where he will intern with South African and American policymakers and study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. After graduating in May, he plans to attend graduate school, with the ultimate goal of pursuing policy work in Chicago or international relations.

“Living your life shutting out that [social injustice] exists is a huge disservice to you and to the people you influence,” Pettis said. “I wouldn’t want to live that way.”

First-generation pioneers

  • Jesica Leon (BA, ‘16) hospitality and tourism management major, lives in the Wabash Building
  • Edgar Mariscal (BA, ‘17) economics and international studies major, lives in an off-campus apartment in Little Village
  • Alfredo Hernandez (BA, ‘17) business management major, lives in an off-campus apartment in Little Village

From where Jesica Leon, Edgar Mariscal and Alfredo Hernandez sat in a study lounge on the 19th floor of the Wabash Building, Lake Michigan was a late-November shade of grey. As temperatures dropped, holidays approached, and finals week loomed, the three were ready to close out another semester and start a fresh new year. New beginnings don’t daunt this trio; in fact, the friends embrace uncharted territory. All three are first in their families to attend college and bonded over a passion for creating new opportunities at Roosevelt.

Their friendship began in 2012 at an Association of Latin American Students (ALAS) event. As they met more Latino students, they noticed many commuted to Roosevelt and often left campus immediately after class. Hoping to create more ways for those students to get involved, sophomores Mariscal and Hernandez helped establish Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity, Inc.—a Latino fraternity—at Roosevelt last spring, and Leon, a junior, helped reestablish Gamma Phi Omega International Sorority, Inc. this fall.

The three also hope to form a multicultural center at Roosevelt, an endeavor they envision would bring multicultural student groups together to collaborate and socialize.

“If students want to be pioneers and do something big, they should come to Roosevelt,” said Mariscal, originally from a neighborhood south of Los Angeles. “The first year I came here was the first year the Wabash Building opened. I wanted to be part of it, and today we’re seeing the fruits of that. There’s a lot of opportunity here.”

Leon said living downtown was key in securing opportunities at Roosevelt. The Northlake native didn’t envision herself going to college in a city at first, but after visiting campus she decided to immerse herself in Chicago’s thriving hospitality industry. Through Roosevelt’s hospitality program, she landed her current internship at Choose Chicago—the city’s official tourism organization—where she is helping plan Chicago Restaurant Week. Juggling her internship, classes and social commitments is something Leon says wouldn’t be possible if she didn’t live on campus.

“Chicago has so much to offer, and you just have to grasp on and go for the ride. It’s a scary feeling to go outside your comfort zone, but there’s potential to grow as an individual and be a leader at Roosevelt.”

“If I lived at home, I’d be limited in the time I had available to do the things I do now,” Leon said. “Chicago has so much to offer, and you just have to grasp on and go for the ride. It’s a scary feeling to go outside your comfort zone, but there’s potential to grow as an individual and be a leader at Roosevelt.”

Hernandez aspires to lead a business after he graduates from Roosevelt. His trailblazing nature comes from his parents, who emigrated from Mexico with Hernandez and his four younger brothers. They sent all five boys to private school and have been involved in Hernandez’s college education at Roosevelt. Hernandez said his mother felt especially engaged when she came to a Spanish-speaking financial aid event hosted by ALAS. After meeting with admission counselor Elizabeth Gómez De La Casa, she felt that her son was taken care of—in fact, she was so happy she started crying.

“My parents gave me the motivation to go to college by the example they’ve set for us,” Hernandez said. “They came to this country because they wanted a better future for their kids. If they can manage to do that, I can manage to go to college.”

Additional Stories...

Jordan Radcliff
Roosevelt's Chicago, Current Students

Jordan, a transfer student from Moraine Valley Community College, will be joining the Roosevelt community in Fall 2017.

Anthony Ivy
Academic & Artistic Excellence, An Inclusive Community, Roosevelt's Chicago, Business, Real Estate, Real World Experience, Alumni

When Anthony Ivy suffered recurring injuries while trying to make the big time as a cornerback with the National Football League, he knew he had to come up with an alternative plan for career success.

student cleaning up environment and picking up trash on earth day
Social Justice in Action, Real World Experience, Roosevelt's Chicago, Current Students

Many creatures share space with us on our green planet. Their homes are the woodlands and prairies, the rivers and wetlands, and the many other diverse ecosystems that make up the planet that we call home. The Earth’s marvelous biodiversity — from rhododendrons to rhinos, to bees, bats and bacteria — is essential to the overall health of our planet. Now more than ever, it needs to be protected and conserved.