Humans of Parkland: Sage Russell

Greg Gancarz


Many college students find that their interests change and develop throughout their college careers, often leading to a switching of majors. This was true for Urbana’s Sage Russell, a 23-year-old student majoring in physics at her first semester at Parkland.

While Sage is from Urbana, she originally attended Danville Area Community College immediately after graduating high school. She originally planned to get her associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees in the English field, but realized after receiving a degree from Danville, that it wasn’t something she wanted to make her life about.

“I was always really involved in language arts in high school and middle school. I’ve been a writer for a really long time so a lot of the stuff, when I was getting my previous associate degree, seemed repetitive, like I was taking the same four classes over and over,” she said. “It burned me out. I was like ‘I can’t do this for four more years. I can’t go and get a Master’s in this it’s not going to happen.’”

After a three-year hiatus, Russell decided to return to school, this time, at Parkland. She says she’s seeking another associate’s degree, but this time, one that will prepare her for the classes that a four-year university’s physics degree will foist upon her.

“[The first degree was] liberal arts and sciences because I was originally going to get an English degree, and now I’m majoring in physics. I need a little more science for that because I would totally fail out of a four-year university program right now,” she said.

Russell says it’s a path that she was surprised she wound up on.

“In high school, I never thought that I was any good at math or science and I wouldn’t do well in the subject. Then, when I got to college, it changed. Like, once I learned how to study I was like ‘oh, I like this. Now it works,’ So now I enjoy it,” she said.

“This semester, I’m taking the astronomy class and it’s awesome. It’s just so cool to learn about space. I think it’s going to be cool to layer on in my degree, especially at a four-year school, to get more in depth and that kind of thing. It’s always been really interesting.”

Russell is also taking full advantage of the amenities and programs offered at Parkland, already serving as an active member of the Astronomy Club. Russell volunteered to single-handedly paint and carve the club’s multiple pumpkin submissions for Halloween’s ‘Pennies for Pumpkins’ charity event. She says she made good time, with the pumpkins only taking a couple of hours to complete.

She says her love of the subject and the convenience of the organization’s schedule played a role in involvement.

“Professor Johnson, [who runs the club,] is my astronomy professor and [the club] is literally right after my class so it works out,” Russell said.

She says she plans to stick with the organization in the coming semesters.

In addition to taking an active role in school organizations, students will also likely be able to come across Russell manning the phones at the Center for Academic Success (CAS) where she now works.

Overall, she says she is much happier at Parkland than she was at her previous college.

“I really love it. It’s a much friendlier atmosphere than my last college. There are a lot more social activities, like the clubs and they go out of their way to offer you student support services or things like that. You had to search that out by yourself at my last college so I didn’t know we had any of that until the last semester I was there. I was like ‘Really? I would have utilized all of this.’ It’s awesome here.”