Interview with Karyn Aguirre, Class of 1986


Karyn Aguirre



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Oral history interview with Illinois State University alum Karyn Aguirre, Class of 1986. The interview was conducted on July 13, 2022 by Emily Depperman, at the time a graduate assistant in Alumni Engagement.

Despite her initial intention to attend the historically Black Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia, Aguirre found herself at Illinois State University because it was closer to home. She decided to major in mass communication with a minor in public relations. Aguirre was also involved in various student organizations, such as the Black Student Union, NAACP, National Panhellenic Council, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Aguirre's recollections of campus life include the 1984 Beer Riot and the murder of a fellow student. She also discusses her involvement in student activism within the Black Student Union, recounting a contentious election when a white student ran for the position of vice president.

Post-graduation, Aguirre navigated multiple career paths, initially exploring opportunities in telecommunications and law before ultimately finding fulfillment in social work. Despite her varied experiences, Karyn remained deeply connected to ISU. She attributes her continued involvement to meaningful relationships with fellow alumni and a desire to support initiatives aimed at benefiting current students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds. She acknowledges the university's progress in addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion but emphasizes the ongoing challenges faced by Black students in higher education, advocating for dedicated support and recognition of their unique experiences and needs.

Interview Date



  • Introduction; decision to attend ISU: 00:00-04:26
  • Majoring in mass communication: 04:26-06:14
  • Involvement in student organizations: 06:14-08:37
  • A typical day as a student; memories of campus: 08:37-14:08
  • 1984 Beer Riot; Black Student Union election: 14:08-21:31
  • Notable faculty and staff: 21:31-23:37
  • Career path post-graduation: 23:37-25:52
  • Involvement in ISU as an alum: 25:52-29:59
  • Reflections on being a Black student at a predominately white institution: 29:59-33:55
  • Thoughts on DEI at ISU; conclusion: 33:55-37:16

Interview with Karyn Aguirre, Class of 1986