Monica Chen is the University’s 2015 Lincoln Laureate

Monica Chen knows how to keep herself busy. She’s currently a senior accountancy major, president of the Minority Business Students Association and the James Scholar Executive Committee – which she represents on the College of Business Council of Presidents – and serves as a cultural integration circle leader for the Masters of Science in Accounting Mentor Program. In addition, she has studied diversity in groups as a research assistant for Associate Professor Lewin Loyd, competed in an international case competition with the College at the University of Sao Paulo, and mentored at-risk youth in the Champaign-Urbana community with the Prison Justice Project.

As a result of Chen’s academic excellence and extracurricular involvement, she was named the 2015 Lincoln Academy Student Laureate for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Each year, the Lincoln Academy of Illinois recognizes outstanding seniors from each of the state’s four-year, degree-granting colleges and universities. They were honored in November at a ceremony held at the Old State Capitol Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois.

Chen, one of five College of Business students to earn the prestigious award in the past six years, was nominated by Rich Johnson, Assistant Dean of the College’s Honors Programs.

“Monica Chen is a living example of a ‘Level 5 Leader’ as defined by the author Jim Collins,” explains Dean Johnson. “She possesses the professional will to lead change and the personal humility to acknowledge that she cannot do it alone. Monica represents the best of the College of Business and UIUC. I feel fortunate to call her my friend.”

Among her many activities, Chen has found the biggest reward in mentorship. “I owe so many of my achievements to my mentors who have paved the way for my success and given me advice on how to navigate tricky situations,” she says. “I’ve learned so much from them, and I’m finally in the position to give back. This semester, I took a lot of time to help my friends who were going through the interview process for the first time by doing resume critiques and mock interviews. It’s been such a rewarding experience, and it was the first time I was really able to see how far I’ve come as well.”

After graduation, Chen plans to intern with KPMG in their Tax and Deal Advisory practices at the Chicago office over the summer. By next fall, she will begin working on a masters of accounting science, and she also hopes to pursue an MBA after that. Her career goal is to start full-time in deal advisory or a consulting firm.

What advice would Chen give to other College of Business students? Get involved, build relationships with a diverse group of people, and focus on activities that matter to you rather than those that will only matter to your resume:

“Your experience here at Illinois is only as rewarding as you make it. Build those relationship networks that will help propel you to success as you enter the workforce. I firmly believe that impact can only be achieved with passion because it is easy to get burnt out and overwhelmed, so intrinsically caring about whatever you are dedicating your time to will make your hard work so much more worthwhile.”

Pictured with Monica are, left to right, Rich Johnson, Assistant Dean of the College’s Honors Programs; William Bennett, Vice Chancellor of the Lincoln Academy; Monica Chen; Bruce Rauner, State of Illinois Governor; and Robert Lenz, regent of the Lincoln Academy.

Lincoln Laureates from College of Business:

2014 Naomi Liu
The finance and supply chain management major works as a section leader for Business 101, a course assistant for the BADM 395 consulting course, a case trainer for Business Career Services, and an office assistant for the College’s honors programs—while also maintaining a minor in the Hoeft Technology & Management Program. As a result of Liu’s academic excellence and extracurricular involvement, she was named the 2014 Lincoln Academy Student Laureate for the University of Illinois.

Each year, the Lincoln Academy of Illinois recognizes outstanding seniors from each of the state’s four-year, degree-granting colleges and universities. They were honored in November at a ceremony held at the Old State Capitol Historic Site in Springfield, Ill.

Liu, one of four College of Business students to earn the prestigious award in the past five years, was nominated by Rich Johnson, assistant dean of the College’s honors programs. “Naomi is an amazingly driven emerging global leader; we’re fortunate to have her represent the College of Business and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,” Johnson remarked. “She embodies the tenets of servant leadership with her selfless commitment to her fellow students, the University, and to both national and international communities.”

Among her many activities, Liu also led a committee on the College’s Business Council; consulted for OTCR, the University’s student-run business and technical consultancy; and served as president of Enactus, a social entrepreneurial organization focused on improving the quality of life for those in need.

“For Enactus, I managed all the operations and oversaw our projects from a high level,” she said. “This year, I’m serving as the director of new member development, which means I train our new members to become successful project associates and future project managers.”

After graduation, Liu plans to travel for several weeks around Southeast Asia before starting work full-time as a management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago.

Liu’s tireless work ethic stems from her childhood. “When my parents moved here from China,” she explained, “they arrived with only $30 in their pockets and minimal knowledge of the English language. Since then, they worked incredibly hard to build a successful life here and ensure that my sister and I were able to live comfortably and have a variety of experiences growing up. Their courage, endless hard work, and dedication to building a better life have been my inspiration from the start.”

“I cannot articulate in mere words the impact that Naomi has had and will have on the world as a whole,” Rich Johnson added. “Her significance will be felt for generations to come.”

2013 Ben Miller
Senior Ben Miller is no stranger to the notion of hard work paying off. Throughout his undergraduate career, Miller has managed to maintain almost a perfect GPA while serving multiple leadership roles in student organizations. Miller’s academic excellence and extracurricular involvement has earned him the most highly endowed student honorary in the state.

Each year The Lincoln Illinois Academy acknowledges outstanding seniors’ from every four-year- degree granting colleges and universities in Illinois. Students are given the Lincoln Laureate award for excelling in and outside of the classroom. 53 students were honored at a ceremony held at the Old Capitol, House of Representatives in Springfield, IL. Miller was nominated by a former dean in the College of Business.

“I was extremely shocked. It’s about 40,000 students here. It was nice to hear that you were the top one.”

An honor student that has been at the top of his class since freshman year, Miller knew earlier on that he wanted to leave a lasting impression on the University.

“The College of Business understands that being involved with other things outside of your major enhances leadership skills and professional development. I knew I wanted to have the largest impact on this school that I possibly could.”

This past summer Miller helped coordinate a mission trip Uganda, Africa with Enactus; a project based organization focused on empowering individuals through entrepreneurial action. For two weeks, he and other business students had the opportunity to teach small business owners some fundamental entrepreneurial skills.

“I guess that was an instance that I got my name out there. I was also able to provide opportunities to business students to travel abroad and spread some business knowledge.” While the promising entrepreneur has high hopes for success in the corporate world, he is dedicated to giving back to those less fortunate.

“My passion was first sparked by my trip to Uganda. I would like to focus on that realm to find management tools and provide them with the resources to make their lives easier.” Starting in July, Miller will be working as a Business Technology Analyst at Deloitte in Chicago.

2011 Billy Tabrizi
The Lincoln Academy of Illinois’ Order of Lincoln award honors the top senior from each four-year university in Illinois. This year, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign selected College of Business senior and accountancy major William “Billy” Tabrizi to receive the State’s highest student honor for excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities.

In receiving the Order of Lincoln, Tabrizi is identified as a Laureate and formally retains membership in the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Other notable laureates include Mary Ann G. McMorrow, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Illinois, and Ronald Reagan, President of the United States.

Tabrizi is well known and admired by students and faculty alike for his wit and intelligence. A member of the College of Business Honors Program and 2010-2011 “Mr. Business,” Tabrizi moves fluidly between his roles as a teacher of freshmen, president of Business Council, a community social entrepreneur, a recruiter for the College and as a campus tour guide, a scholar, and as a “maker of smiles.”

To this last point, John Hedeman, honors dean for the College of Business, praised Tabrizi for his “remarkable sense of humor to go with his sincere love of his fellow students and the faculty/staff of the University of Illinois. Students and faculty alike profit from Billy’s ability to make people smile.”

Hedeman expressed great respect for Tabrizi’s service to the local community as a co-founder of Project Future, an effort that rose out of an accounting case competition. Tabrizi convinced a College alumnus to donate $10,000 that he and five other students (Kari Notton ’13, Vidhan Desai ’13, Josh Yomtoob ’12, Kyle Deininger ’13, and Julia Malik ’13) used to teach entrepreneurship skills to a group of local high school students. The younger students were also counseled by college-aged mentors and received instruction from business faculty. Once prepared, the group was provided funding to start a sustainable and environmentally friendly business. The students learned lifelong lessons about financial discipline and business.

Hedeman and other senior staff in the College lauded Tabrizi’s significant influence on his fellow students as a section leader and course manager for the introductory business course, BUS 101. Professor C.K. Gunsalus highlighted Tabrizi’s exemplary contributions out of her more than 30 years of supervising students. “Billy is a standout in every dimension [of the Lincoln Academy guidelines]:  he is reliable, his work is of the highest quality, he takes responsibility and initiative in ways that lead to program improvements, he is professional in all his efforts and his contributions have been unique and, in our experience, unprecedented.”

When asked about the award, Tabrizi’s affinity for his fellow students and faculty was clear, “I was honored and humbled to receive the Lincoln Laureate award. It means so much to be selected to represent our school, and I realize there are so many amazing people at this University who create incredible opportunities that help us all succeed. The award, to me, represents hard work and commitment to a variety of organizations and also a lot of time spent working side by side with some incredible friends, professors, deans, community members, and more.”

Tabrizi is the second Lincoln Laureate in three years to come from the College of Business. Mark Paik ’10, senior in finance and accountancy, received the award in 2009.

2009 Mark Paik
Each year ILLINOIS recommends one student from its entire undergraduate population to the Lincoln Academy for a special honor recognizing extraordinary academic and extracurricular success. On November 7, Mark Paik, a senior in finance and accountancy received the honor of becoming this year’s Student Laureate of ILLINOIS in a ceremony in Springfield, Ill.
“I was with bright and talented people,” Paik said. “I’m honored to be the one to do that for ILLINOIS.”

Paik was nominated by Dean John Hedeman to represent the College of Business, and each other college on campus nominated one student for the award. The nominees were reviewed by a committee organized by the Office of the Chancellor, and Paik was notified shortly before the November ceremony that he had been selected to represent ILLINOIS.

“It just reflects what I’ve done and how the College of Business has supported me,” Paik said.
During his time at the University, Paik has been active in developing different organizations that focus around the themes of service and humanitarianism.

Paik helped launch the Web site that aims to spread awareness for various service organizations and opportunities. He also helped found the organization Entrepreneurs Without Borders (, which gathers entrepreneurial-minded students to use their skills and resources to help disenfranchised people and countries throughout the world. ILLINOIS is the headquarters for the organization, and branches are being established at other universities throughout the country and world.

Paik said he is thankful for the opportunity to have worked with Professor Paul Magelli, professor of economics, because during his time at the University, Magelli has been a great source of support.

“He has been my greatest mentor and advisor,” Paik said. “He’s the one to tell me every day I can do whatever I think of.”

In a few weeks, Paik will travel to India to spend time filming and photographing impoverished areas for another of his projects. Although his academic background is in business, Paik said he is more interested in using his skills to continue helping others, rather than use them in a traditional business setting.

“You really have to spend every day enjoying your life,” Paik said. “There’s never one truth, always other options. I encourage people to look for that, not settling for convenience or the first thing that comes up. You can always make opportunities.”

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