For new student, UIC is a ‘family affair’

When Tatiana “Tania” Shanley began thinking about college, she knew there was only one name at the top of her list: the University of Illinois Chicago.

Not only did the first-year student find her dream design major at UIC, but she also liked the short commute to campus from her family’s home in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, and she loved the natural beauty of the campus.

But the biggest draw for the recent graduate of Rauner College Prep was more personal. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her family members, who were all UIC alums.

Three generations of one family celebrate attending University of Illinois Chicago. Grandparents, OIeh and Maria Sajewych (Oleh, class of 1969, Maria class of 1971) along with their daughter Oksana Shanley (class of 1998) and their granddaughter, Tatiana “Tania” Shanley (first year student 2023). Photography by Jenny Fontaine University of Illinois Chicago
Three generations celebrate attending the University of Illinois Chicago. Left to right: Tatiana “Tania” Shanley, Oksana Shanley and Maria and OIeh Sajewych. (Photo: Jenny Fontaine/University of Illinois Chicago)

These family members include: her grandparents, Oleh ’69 and Maria Sajewych ’71; her mother, Oksana Shanley ’98; her mother’s two sisters, Ulana ’98 and Andrea ’13; and about a half-dozen other extended family members.

“It’s a family affair,” said Tania, a student in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts. “It feels surreal that my family was here at different times. I feel proud that I can ask them questions like, ‘Did you have similar experiences to those I will have during my time in college?'”

The family’s connection to UIC began when Tania’s grandmother enrolled in what was then called Circle Campus. Her grandfather joined a year later when he transferred from a junior college to the university. Oleh was born in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany during World War II and came to the U.S. at age 2, and Maria was born in Illinois two months after her parents arrived as refugees from Ukraine.

Oksana (left) with her sisters Ulana and Andrea at UIC after Ulana’s graduation in 1998 a year after Oksana walked in her own UIC graduation and about 15 years before Andrea’s UIC 2013 graduation. Photo provided by Oksana Shanley.
Oksana (left) with sisters Ulana and Andrea at UIC after Ulana’s graduation in 1998.

While they had attended grade school together, they didn’t know each other well because Oleh was a few years older. They met again at the university and began their courtship on campus, sharing meals in the cafeteria and studying together. They married the year after Maria graduated and now have been married for 51 years and have six grandchildren.

“UIC gave us our education and gave us the opportunity to pursue our dreams and get our degrees,” Oleh said. “It’s such a great opportunity for anyone who lives in Chicago and wants a very good education and doesn’t want to put out incredible amounts of money.”

Maria received a degree in Russian, and Oleh graduated with a sociology degree. Both worked for many years as librarians for the Chicago Public Library system.

Oksana and her sisters attended UIC after hearing about the school from their parents, including their father’s fond memories of playing on the university’s volleyball team.

“UIC was my first choice; I never applied anywhere else,” Oksana said. “I’ve seen so much growth at UIC and wanted my kids to come here.”

Future UIC student Tania Shanley (Class of watches a UIC Men’s Basketball game.
Tania Shanley watches a UIC men’s basketball game in 2018 with her father, Jeff, brother, Andrew, and grandfather and UIC alum Oleh Sajewych.

Oksana also has worked for the university for 25 years and currently works in the Office of Transfer Articulation and Degree Audit. She said she thinks of UIC as her second home and the UIC community as an extended family. She still maintains friendships from college.

“I’m so excited to finally have Tania on campus,” Oksana said. “I hope that Tania, as well as all UIC students, have a wonderful experience and they take advantage of all UIC has to offer.”

As Tania prepared for her turn at UIC, Tania’s family shared memories of their time at UIC, including divulging their favorite places to study — the top floor of the library — and they advised her to ask questions if anything is unclear and take advantage of extracurricular activities by joining student organizations.

“I reminded her to study hard but don’t take it all that seriously; you have to have a little bit of fun with your studies,” said Maria, Tania’s grandmother. “I enjoyed attending UICC, as it was known back then, and I hope she gets as much out of it as I did.”

Chancellor Marie Lynn Miranda speaks to student during Convocation 2023 while Provost Karen Colley and Robert Dixon, Vice Provost for Student Affairs look on. Photography by Jenny Fontaine University of Illinois Chicago
Chancellor Marie Lynn Miranda speaks at New Student Convocation as Provost Karen Colley and Interim Vice Chancellor and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Rob Dixon look on. (Photo: Jenny Fontaine/University of Illinois Chicago)

As the family accompanied her to the New Student Convocation ceremony recently, Tania recalled visiting her mother at her office in the Student Services Building when she was younger and attending many UIC basketball games and other events on campus.

At the Credit Union 1 Arena across the street from the Student Services Building, Tania listened as newly appointed UIC Chancellor Marie Lynn Miranda welcomed her and hundreds of other new students to UIC during convocation. Miranda reminded the new students to value their time at UIC.

“I want to encourage you to take the time to appreciate and celebrate those smaller moments along the way,” Miranda said.

Tania said she was ready to listen to the new chancellor, celebrate those smaller moments and forge her UIC memories.

“I’m speechless; it’s kind of crazy that my grandparents, my mom and her sisters, and all of my family came here,” Tania said. “I’m following in their footsteps to become a UIC alum.”

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