"You're going to complain about wherever you are": A profile of Iain Konigsberg
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 3:41pm
THE FIRST MEMORY I have of Iain was during my subbie year cross country season. He and the rest of the varsity guys had found a patch of mud and spread it all over their chests and faces; they looked a bit ridiculous. As I have gotten to know Iain over the past few years, I have come to appreciate this type of outrageous behavior that makes being around him more fun for everyone.
Time before Uni
Before I got to know Iain, I interpreted his outrageous behavior and constant grumbling as hostility. Once I started spending more time with him, however, I realized that complaining was just his way of interacting with the world, and that I should never take his grousing too seriously.
"For most of my Uni career, if I were asked [about Uni] I would have said that I hated it and I would not ever recommend that someone come to Uni," Iain said. "But especially in my senior year I have really seen the benefits of this place."
Some of the problems Iain had about Uni can be attributed to first impressions. He came to Uni directly after moving to Champaign from Knoxville, Tenn.
"Subbie year, I was really upset about moving," he recalled. "I was enjoying Tennessee — I guess I felt I had hit my stride in Tennessee — and when I moved and came to Uni, I just didn't know what to make of it, so I was not very social. I was pretty rude and reserved. Now I try not to be that way."
In elementary school, Iain went to an inner city school in Knoxville. According to him, it was a struggling, predominately black school that was "a pretty different experience from Uni." He says he didn't enjoy it very much academically.
"In elementary school, I was in 'special' classes for gifted students, which pretty much meant I had to do classes alone or with one other person, and I'd do these weird activities and never see my class."
Because of this and bullying, his parents enrolled him in a Montessori school. He says there was a "much higher standard placed on learning" and that, in this way, it was a lot more like Uni. But Iain wasn't exactly filled with praise for the Montessori school.
"I actually did not like it very much because the kids could pretty much act however they wanted and they were babied," he said. "So there were a lot of these kids who were really spoiled and really did not know how to act with social conventions. ... A lot of people consider this to be a problem at Uni too, but it was much worse there."
Furthermore, he thinks his time at Montessori actually hurt him academically.
"I learned to slack off pretty much because they didn't believe in really punishing us," he said somewhat disdainfully. "... They also didn't believe in giving us grades — they thought a letter couldn't accurately represent how we were, or our academic achievements or interests. ... I took full advantage of that system. By the time I got to Uni, I learned how to be lazy and procrastinate."
The Uni years
Iain has been involved in various activities over his time here, but running and Habitat for Humanity stand out as two of his strongest commitments. While Iain did not participate in cross-country or track as a subbie, he became interested in running competitively at that time.
"Subbie year I was just running in fitness and I got cocky because I was the fastest kid in our fitness class," he said of his running origins. "I thought I was great then."
Iain joined cross-country and track as a freshman and has competed in every cross-country and track season since, although he was injured for most of cross-country his junior year. Once the current track season is over, he will have earned six varsity letters from his time at Uni.
Beyond that, though, running also played a large role in leading Iain to discover his other passion: Habitat for Humanity.
"The cross country team has a pretty strong connection with Habitat," Iain explained. "When I was younger, I know I heard [Class of 2010 alum] Jack Snyder talk about it a lot. Later on, [Class of 2011 alums] Albert [Anastasio] and Buck [Walsh] both went [on the Agora Days trip] and they talked about it a lot. And then Buck became one of the leaders for Habitat Club, and me and him were good friends, so I sort of tagged along to that. And then after hearing so much about how life-changing the trip was and hearing so much about this work, I really was like, 'I want to be a part of this; this is just amazing.' And so I started going to the club, volunteering for big events and stuff, and I really enjoyed it."
Iain was chosen to go on the Agora Days trip his junior year. When asked to describe his experience, he could not find the right words.
"It was amazing," he said. "I really can't do it justice."
He also went on the summer Habitat trip after his junior year and this year was one of the Habitat club leaders. Under him and his fellow leaders, Habitat has expanded its influence as a club and even added a talent show to its repetoire of fundraisers.
Plans for the future
Although his plans are not entirely finalized yet, Iain plans to study biology at Indiana University next year. He says he liked that the faculty at Indiana were interested in teaching their students, unlike professors at other colleges he visited, whom he described as being "caught up in the bureaucracy of academia."
"They are just sort of doing their job to do it; they do their publications so they can get a tenure," he said of those professors. "And they sort of take part in the system without trying to make a difference or to actually inspire kids and teach them. At Indiana, I didn't find this to be the case."
In addition to taking biology courses at Indiana, Iain will be researching genetics in one of his professor's labs. He says biology has always been a passion; as a kid, he loved animals and wanted "to be a vet without having to operate on animals." He hopes to move into the more specific field of ethology — animal behavior — for graduate school.
In the end, Iain is thankful he came to Uni. Although he often wished he went somewhere else, he says the benefits of a Uni education greatly outweigh the detriments.
"There's a lot I can't endorse about Uni, but there are so many great opportunities here," he said. "We're in a community full of people who actually enjoy learning. ... Being around a lot of people who are passionate about some field — like most Uni students are — is the best environment to be in."
Later he continued: "As pessimistic as I was about this place, it is a great school and I'm glad that I went here. I think that's sort of being a teenager; you're going to complain about wherever you are. "