Interview with Matthew Rillie, Class of 2015 (2023)


Matthew Rillie



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Oral history interview with Illinois State University alum Matthew Rillie, Class of 2015. The interview was conducted on July 6, 2023, by Milner Library student employee Ayushi Shukla.

Rillie, who uses they/them or he/him pronouns, provides insights into his early life, his decision to attend ISU, and his experiences during his time as a student. They share that their initial intention in pursing higher education was preparing to become a high school math teacher, but their perception of college shifted over time to focus more on personal growth.

They initially chose to major in math education but later switched to sociology with a minor in women's and gender studies. Rillie discusses their involvement with ISU Pride and leadership roles within the organization. He credits faculty members like Dr. Alison Bailey and various mentors and supervisors in his job at Braden Auditorium with shaping his ISU experience.

Beyond campus, Rillie was active in the Bloomington-Normal community, partnering with local nonprofits, engaging with the mayor’s office and socializing with business owners. Following graduation, they moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where they became involved in nonprofit work focused on youth mentorship and community engagement. In his current role at Columbia College in Chicago, Rillie serves as advisor for both the Pride and Trans Student Union student groups. They emphasize the importance of providing foundational support to student-led movements without overshadowing their agency.

Rillie acknowledges the challenges he faced as a student at ISU, including academic struggles and personal relationships, but underscores the valuable lessons learned from those experiences. They also share their observations on the evolution of ISU since 2015, noting both physical transformations and shifts in student demographics and experiences. He expresses gratitude for the safety he felt while exploring his identity at ISU, at the same time acknowledging areas where institutional support could have been stronger. They recount the affecting experience of witnessing the legalization of same-sex marriage while gathered at The Bistro, a community hub for queer people in Bloomington.

Lastly, as co-chair of the Alumni Association Board of Directors' Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, Rillie outlines the committee's goals to embed DEI principles in all alumni activities and networks, fostering a culture of inclusivity and amplifying diverse voices within the alumni community.

Interview Date



  • Introduction; Rillie’s early life: 00:00-01:45
  • Choosing ISU: 01:45-05:48
  • Selecting and changing major: 05:48-08:44
  • University presidents: 08:44-10:09
  • ISU Pride: 10:09-14:53
  • Dr. Alison Bailey: 14:53-17:59
  • Campus events; working at Braden Auditorium: 17:59-19:46
  • Influential faculty and staff; death of Steve Klay: 19:46-24:40
  • Living in Bloomington-Normal: 24:51-29:12
  • Moving to Madison, Wisconsin following graduation; working at DreamBikes: 29:12-34:05
  • Serving as advisor to Columbia University’s Pride and Trans Student Union: 34:05-35:55
  • Reflecting on personal and professional growth: 35:55-38:30; 40:18-43:15
  • Changes to ISU since 2015: 38:30-40:18
  • Support Rillie experienced in regards to their identity at ISU: 43:15-46:24
  • Participating in student activism and advocacy: 46:24-48:30
  • Re-election of Barack Obama; legalization of same-sex marriage: 48:30-51:02
  • Serving as co-chair of ISU Alumni Association Board of Directors' Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee: 51:02-53:17

Interview with Matthew Rillie, Class of 2015 (2023)