Congratulations to the Class of 2018!


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On Sunday, May 13, 2018, the department celebrated the achievements of another outstanding group of students. Approximately 125 graduating seniors and seven PhD students participated in this spring’s ceremony in the Tryon Festival Theatre at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

Overall, for the 2017-2018 school year, the department awarded 15 PhDs and a record number of 192 bachelor degrees. For the second year in a row, the department included graduate students in the May ceremony. A reception was held immediately after the ceremony on Centennial Plaza between Noyes Lab and the Chemistry Annex.

This year’s convocation address was presented by two speakers: husband-and-wife alumni Deborah Roberts Correnti (BS ’84) and Corey Correnti (BS ’85). Both arrived on campus as freshmen in the fall of 1980 from suburban Chicago. They met junior year in a chemical engineering class. In his address, Corey Correnti said it’d been a long time since they presented together.

“The last time we did a joint presentation was our senior year here at Illinois. Even though we were dating, we decided to be lab partners for our senior project. Two competitive individuals working side-by-side for an entire semester in a tiny lab in RAL. Both of us had strong views on how to run the experiments and the best way to present the results. What could possibly go wrong? The good news is that we made it through and are still happily married after all these years.”

Corey Correnti started his career in refining engineering with Amoco and would later work in a variety of refining operations management and commercial roles. After Amoco, he joined BP, where he rose through the ranks and held a number of senior leadership positions in the U.K. and U.S. Before his retirement from BP in 2015, he was Senior Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Supply. He is now a senior advisor to Marakon, a global corporate strategy firm, providing energy sector expertise and strategic support.

Deborah Correnti worked in manufacturing and process design for Monsanto and Amoco Chemical companies. Later, she became involved in Amoco’s marketing department and managed the daily operations of a petrochemical product line. She also has held positions in operations planning, economic analysis, and strategic planning. Her specialty was microeconomic analysis and production optimization. She has taught micro and macroeconomics for nearly 20 years in the U.S. and the U.K. and is currently a lecturer at Benedictine University.

Both also hold MBAs from the University of Chicago.

In her remarks to students, Deborah Correnti described her life and career path as one “of saying yes to unusual opportunities.”

“Some of my best adventures were a result of saying yes to things I never imagined—like joining a writers group in an old London house, pitching screenplays to Hollywood producers, learning to paint, running a non-profit art league, and even working as an antiques dealer. It’s all part of the journey and all to be embraced. My advice would be to stay open to new opportunities, take chances, say yes. You never know where this will lead,” she said.

When Corey graduated, he had many questions on his mind. “Did I pick the right job? Did I pick the right industry? Did I make the right career choice?” He advised students not to worry too much about whether they made the right choice after graduation.

“You can have a plan and be making it up as you go along. This requires taking in the scenery to recognize new opportunities. As a newly graduated engineer, I had little knowledge or interest in non-technical areas. I knew I enjoyed challenging problems and working across teams to solve them. I liked variety and new experiences. I valued personal interactions and seeing tangible results from my work. These personal needs took me into areas that I could never imagine as a new graduate: manufacturing, R&D, corporate planning, commodity trading, marketing and sales. The key to navigating this was being honest with myself, knowing deep down what I truly value and what work really satisfies and feeds me.”

Photos from the event may be downloaded from this site:

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This story was published May 17, 2018.