She Finished Strong at Governors State University
Matteson Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin is 1993 Governors State University alumna who says her GSU experience has shaped the trajectory of her life and career. After earning a bachelor's degree in what is now Communication, Chalmers-Currin went on to serve as a senior policy advisor and Director of External Affairs for former Illinois Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon.
She was also hand-picked by then-Senator Barack Obama to serve on his selection committee for the Naval Academy and coordinated voter registration efforts for Senator Obama's presidential campaign.
After assisting others with their political ambitions, Chalmers-Currin began her own entrée into public service as Trustee of the Village of Matteson, where she has served for eight years. Her political ascent led her to a 2017 victory as the mayor of the Village of Matteson.
Today, Chalmers-Currin says many of the lessons she learned at GSU have impacted her policy-making decisions.
“I finished my bachelor in Speech Communication at Governors State, but it was the beginning of so much more,” Mayor Chalmers-Currin said.
Why did you choose GSU?
I wanted to attend GSU because it was close to home, it had a flexible schedule, and it was affordable. I've lived in Matteson for over 30 years and needed a program that worked with me, as I was working full time in the Gas and Supply Training Department for what is now Integrys and also raising kids. It was the right choice.
What did you get from GSU that you couldn't have gotten anywhere else?
GSU helped shape me into the person I am today. Not only did I become more knowledgeable in the area of communication, I was also introduced to different point of views that challenged my beliefs and expanded my thinking. GSU helped shape my decisions in politics as far as what I wanted to see in the future that would be sustainable. GSU afforded me the opportunity to understand various backgrounds and cultures, which allowed me to appreciate and respect diversity.
What's next for you professionally?
Right now, my focus is to continue to do what I'm doing here in the Village of Matteson. As the mayor, I'm involved in making sure I move us to the next level. I'm also proud to serve on the Board of Directors for the Human Resources Development Institute (HRDI), an organization that provides mental health services, substance abuse treatment, alternative youth education, and prevention of domestic violence.
How did your GSU degree help you advance your career?
I believe in education. It shows others you have the ability to complete a course of study. GSU was my first real initiative into making sure that happened. I share this with my friends because it was the most important thing about GSU for me. At the time, it was an upper-division school, and there was a quote on the front of the door that I saw every evening I arrived after working and taking care of my kids. "Here is Where You Finish What You Started." That was a catalyst that would ring in my ears every day and propel me to finish. The instructors reinforced the message. I made a promise to myself that those words at the entrance would ring true throughout my life, and here I am now.
What are you most proud of when you look back at your GSU experience?
I look back on the effect it had on my children. They watched me study and saw what I endured and how it changed my career. So, I look back on that as something that helped motivate them to go on to college as opposed to waiting later to do it. They watched how hard I worked, and it has made a big difference.
What advice would you share with current GSU students?
I would say to enjoy the experience because it plays a part in shaping and inspiring lives. Unfortunately, there are many minority students who attend college, but don't finish their degree for a multitude of reasons. I wish that sign was still there to encourage students to make that promise to themselves like I did: "Finish what you started."