From Hawaii to the Midwest: One Chef’s Journey with ICC

December 9, 2022

Some people may question why one would leave living in Hawaii, being a chef, and enjoying the beauty of the islands to move to the Midwest, but for Gypsy Russ, her mind was made up to attend Illinois Central College to get closer to achieving his dreams.  

“My experience was unique, as I am a non-traditionally aged student. I left a well-paying career in Hawaii to come to the Midwest in hopes of attending a Big Ten school. ICC was the perfect stepping-stone to achieve my goals.”  


Even during a pandemic, making the return to academia more challenging, Gypsy found this the perfect time to adapt to the Midwest and learn how to become a student again after being away from classes for so long. “It took some trial and error to figure out what I wanted to eventually major in.” Gypsy admits. 

“ICC was my smart choice for two reasons. One, financial. Two, I had not been in school for a long time. Everyone made me feel really comfortable, despite my age. I was able to make the Dean’s and the President’s List.” These were all confidence boosters for a non-traditional student who had goals of advancing to a Big Ten school after community college.  

Thanks to her advisors, Gypsy was able to reach her goal and graduate from ICC. “Raymond Kowalchyk and Jennifer Spengler from the Department of Business were crucial to my success. Kowalchyk made me better; he knew how to push my buttons just enough to dig deep and find my strengths. Spengler was and will always be my inspiration. Without her encouragement, I would not have completed my internship.” 

Given the support system that Gypsy built at ICC, she was able to make it to a Big Ten school. “I have already started at University of Iowa as a Marketing Analytics major with a minor in Public Policy. My end goal is to market sustainable companies and work with policy makers, possibly as a liaison, to be part of the changes coming.”