When “Why You?” Became “Why Not You?”

Bill Zuber, studentImagine sitting down with your high school counselor and announcing you wanted to take German only to hear, “Why you? Why would you want to take a foreign language? You’ll never amount to anything.” That’s awfully hard to bounce back from.

True, in high school, Bill Zuber was not an especially strong or confident student. He was in special education classes and bullied by his classmates. He felt his high school had failed to teach him how to learn, and he lacked direction. All of this left Bill feeling hopeless.

“When I graduated high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. My parents were going through a bitter divorce, and my mother did not support me going on to college. I decided to go to a community college and see what happens,” recalled Bill. Not exactly a strong plan for success.

He began taking courses at Harper, rather randomly, but found he did not have the will to succeed in most of them. A low GPA and academic probation proved it. So, he took a year off to figure out what he wanted from life. During that time, he renewed his relationship with his father and learned his father’s story of perseverance, from a farm boy in Southern Illinois to an executive in Chicago – by way of community college and the University of Illinois. Like his father, Bill came to believe that if he persevered, there had to be something more for him. “I knew I could earn my success, so I returned to Harper and started taking a few philosophy and psychology classes.” Along the way, he ended up taking an accounting class – a very challenging accounting class. Several students dropped the class, but Bill was determined to earn a good grade in the class and found himself enjoying the material. His perseverance paid off and triggered Bill to change his focus to business with an emphasis on accounting. And then he met Professor Mark Healy.

Professor Healy was his economics teacher, and it was through his class that Bill started to put concepts together, opening his eyes to the world of business and changing his outlook on life. This spark gave Bill the courage to “take a chance” and apply to be a Supplemental Instruction Leader for Professor Healy’s class, even though he knew very little of what it entailed.

Supplemental Instruction Leaders are students who have successfully completed a traditionally difficult course and are trained to provide regularly scheduled, out-of-class facilitated learning sessions.

This is how he came to meet Ellen Fisher, Manager of Academic Support Center, and the person in charge of the Supplemental Instruction Leaders. It was through his conversations with Ellen that he unearthed his passion for helping his fellow students grasp difficult concepts. When he would walk into the Academic Support Center, he found it to be warm and inviting. “I felt zero weight on my shoulders when I was in the Center,” said Bill. “I started opening up to Ellen and sharing my apprehensions and my ideas. Would my strategies to help students work? Could I do it? As we talked it out, Ellen would ask me, ‘Why not you?’” This vote of confidence was Bill’s powerful moment that helped put him on a path to success. He completed his associate degree in 2015; in June, he will be graduating from DePaul University with a double major in accounting and finance; he had an internship at Deloitte; and he continues to tutor students. Bill is relishing the fact that he is proving both his high school counselor and his mother wrong.

“Ellen and Nancy O’Malley [retired Academic Support Center Manager] helped me realize I am someone,” effused Bill.

Thank you, Ellen, for providing a powerful moment for one of our students.

If you have a powerful moment that you shared with a Harper student or colleague, please let us know, news@harpercollege.edu.

Last Updated: 8/19/21