2021 Best & Brightest Business Major: Bethany Antuna, University of Illinois (Gies)

Bethany Antuna

Gies College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

“Jack-of-all-trades, master of none, woman of her word, and lover of clichés.”

Fun fact about yourself: I have seen the movie The Day After Tomorrow upwards of 50 times for no particular reason

Hometown: Wheaton, IL

High School: Wheaton Warrenville South High School

Major: Marketing and Finance

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course: Digital Marketing (BADM 395) – This class gives valuable insight into the world of digital marketing today. We learned about public policy that has the potential to impact our work as marketers, the different platforms and skills that are important to master, and how to use our experiences from growing up in the internet age to our advantage. After working in the world of digital marketing, I can confidently say that this course is the one that has best prepared me for my future career.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:


  • Phi Chi Theta Professional Business Fraternity
    • President, Professionalism Chair, Rush Chair, Webmaster
  • Illinois Business Consulting
    • Senior Consultant
  • Gies Scholar Program
    • Student Recruitment Chair
  • Dean’s Student Advisory Board
    • Member
  • Gies Community Launch
    • Team Lead


  • Gies Scholar
  • James Scholar
  • Dean’s List Recipient
  • President’s Award Program Scholarship Recipient

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Google- Remote; Google Customer Solutions BOLD Intern
  • Milwaukee Tool- Brookfield, WI; Channel Marketing Intern
  • QsrSoft- Lombard, IL; Intern
  • Quillbot – Champaign, IL; Marketing and Internal Operations Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Google; Associate Account Strategist

What company do you admire most? I admire my local candy shop called The Little Popcorn Store. Accurately named, it’s located in a small alley between buildings in our downtown area and sells all candy and popcorn for around a dollar or less. It has always been a bright spot for the children (and adults!) in my hometown and was my favorite place to go as a kid. It has been around for 100 years, with the most recent owner running the store for four decades. Small businesses like this one are a massive part of what makes communities special. Businesses should have an important mission that we can see and feel through their product or service, and The Little Popcorn Store’s long legacy of being a joy for Wheaton residents makes it quite admirable to me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? I’ve learned to pursue situations that I am unfamiliar with as a means to learn. I have found that putting myself in those situations has allowed me to learn in new, different, and sometimes more exciting ways. For example, when deciding between majors, I chose marketing because it’s in line with my passions and interests, but decided to add a finance major in order to learn about the dominant force behind all business decisions. Though finance is not something I am particularly passionate about, I knew I stood a lot to gain from exposing myself to something that I was unfamiliar with. Now, after completing most of my coursework, I have learned about the value of finance in business and how it can create more powerful marketing strategies. Though this is a small example, I found that diving into new experiences, especially those out of your comfort zone, have the potential to be some of the most valuable that you will ever have.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? All of my life, I have never been described as especially “school spirited”. I was never head of the student council or leading the pep rallies. I was always a supporter of the people around me, but never felt incredibly connected to the institutions themselves. That has changed during my time at Gies. Early on in my career here, it felt as though we decided we were one of the best business schools and made it true. It has been incredible to be here at the time when it is all happening. The progress feels constant, whether it was the naming of the college, the revamping of the business core requirements to include more data-focused courses, or the introduction of the Gies Emergency Scholarship Fund. More than just the administration, it feels like the students are genuinely excited to see what’s to come. When I came to Gies, I didn’t expect to feel so connected to the mission of the college and so personally invested in its growth. It has made the college feel like a tighter-knit community and that is something I did not expect from a program of over 3,000 students.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of?  I am most proud of being elected the President of business fraternity Phi Chi Theta. This is an organization that shaped my college experience. It is filled with people who refuse to believe in a narrow definition of business and urge others to explore all of the different possibilities, no matter how non-traditional. The members of this organization helped me figure out what I want to do with my career and pushed me to follow what I am most interested in. I was so excited to give back. More than that, I was honored that an organization of individuals that I regard so highly would trust me to lead them. Once I was elected, the achievement lies in the development I experienced in this role. I pride myself on dependability, and navigating this organization through the pandemic allowed me to lead with my greatest strength. It also challenged me to think critically about what makes our organization great, and how that can be translated into an entirely virtual world. Aside from the challenges, helping set the foundation for others to succeed was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my professional life so far, which is in itself a great personal achievement. When our members get an internship, get accepted to an academic program, or otherwise reach a milestone in their life, it feels great to know that we played a small role in helping someone find and pursue their passions.

Which classmate do you most admire?  I have been lucky to make amazing friends during my time at the University of Illinois. With friends that include incredible Catan players, online workout enthusiasts, and an amateur chef in training, there is plenty to admire. However, one who stands out in my mind is my friend Sushmetha Venkata Subramanian. First, she is a woman who has worked hard to break into and dominate an industry that is otherwise heavily concentrated with men. Her work ethic and intelligence alone are qualities to be admired, but her dedication to helping other students is what inspires me most.

Many top-tier students are so focused on the challenges of collegiate coursework that it feels like a never-ending grind between deadlines, but Sushmetha always finds a way to proactively look around and help everyone else too. She will sit with students who aren’t picking up the material quickly or need reframing of a particular concept until they gain the confidence to try again. During the pandemic I’ve gotten countless calls from her just to check in and make sure I’m doing ok – something I know she has done for many others too. I admire her so much because in spite of her full course-load she is an incredible friend and peer that makes everyone feel valued. Her prioritization of the welfare of everyone around her is something that I aspire to emulate.

Who would you most want to thank for your success?  My mother. In our family, we always try to lead with compassion – something we all learned from her. She has a heart that truly beats for everyone and has the mentality that if you have the ability to help others, you have the responsibility to do that. With her background as a software engineer, she is a born problem-solver. If you go to her and tell her about anything from a bad day to a difficult career decision, she will talk with you until there is a solution. She took time off of her regular job to be a full-time stay-at-home mom for the better part of two decades, then took classes to keep up her skills and returned to the workforce without missing a beat. There are people in the world who are simply incredible in their ability to consistently uplift everyone around them without ever fatiguing or slowing in their pursuit of personal goals. She is one of the, consistently and without any expectation of appreciation or acknowledgment. Any perceived success I have achieved, I owe to her and everything she has taught me. She is a light in everyone’s life, my loudest supporter, and my biggest inspiration.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? 

  1. I would love to teach a course or lecture at a university. I have always loved school. When I was younger, I thought I would be an English professor. Though that’s no longer the plan, one day I would really enjoy sharing what I’ve learned from my career with students.
  2. It has always been a dream of mine to work internationally. I have studied abroad in Singapore for a semester and in Brazil and Argentina for a two-week immersion trip. From those experiences, I have gained a passion for learning in depth about new cultures and working with different people. Being able to do that on a larger scale would be an incredible opportunity and immensely fulfilling!

What are your hobbies? Cooking, trying new foods, watching movies, traveling, pilates, watching live theatre, and playing board games

What made Bethany Antuna such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021? What makes Bethany so special, please tout your experience with her.

“Bethany Antuna is an exceptional student leader within Gies College of Business. I first met Bethany as an incoming freshman when she was selecting her first semester classes, and I knew instantly that she was going to be a standout student.  Bethany has engaged in Gies student experiences with both breadth and depth, and she has built an impressive resume through her academic success and extracurricular involvement. As a Gies Scholar and James Scholar, she has taken an active role in both of our college’s honors programs, including mentorship to our newer students and engagement with program leadership in an advisory capacity. What stands out most to me about Bethany is her intentionality. She embodies Business On Purpose through her involvement, her internship and soon to be full-time work experience, and the relationships she has built with students, faculty, and staff. Her contributions to Gies are numerous, but she will be best remembered as a leader who cared deeply about her peers and who dedicated her college years to improving her fellow students’ experiences.”

Jana Lithgow
Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs and Honors Programs
Gies College of Business  


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