UI 150 Sister Jackie

Sister Jackie Jean-Marie Gitonga

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Among the 1,936 stories you’ll find on our Gies College of Business-powered ‘UI at 150 & Beyond’ website is one about JACKIE JEAN-MARIE GITONGA, who earned a pair of postgrad degrees in human resource development at Illinois before becoming a religious sister with the Daughters of St. Paul.

Home was 8,000 miles and change away. But there was something about the UI campus that made SISTER JACKIE feel like she was back in Kenya.

“I grew up on the farm and so the vast lush scenery of greenery and serene ambience of the campus felt like home to me and was a wonderful environment for study,” says the Louisiana-based national director of Pauline Cooperators for the Daughters of St. Paul. “I especially loved driving back to my apartment in Orchard Downs using the Savoy-area routes so I could enjoy seeing the fields. I grew up in the central part of Kenya — farm country — with lofty dreams of studying abroad at some point in my life.

“The realization of UIUC happened in quite an ordinary way — my uncle Bob used to be a student at UIUC and his adviser, Bob Nelson, had been to Kenya many times. So when I completed my undergraduate studies in commerce with a major in business administration, the thought of grad school popped up in the discussions between the two Bobs.

“Even though now long retired, Professor Nelson continues to be a mentor and friend in my vocational journey, providing challenging questions to help me think of why I am doing what I am doing.”

She wouldn’t have pursued the career path she did if not for one local house of worship and the man who led it at the time.

“Monsignor Stuart Swetland, chaplain of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, was quite inspiring in his deep knowledge and ability to teach the Catholic faith. The activities in place at the Newman Center all provided a great foundation in my discernment of what I would like to spend my life doing and being.

“I discovered my desire to become the Catholic religious sister that I am today because of all the help I received at the Newman Center all along the way.”

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