Marisa Hellesen

From developmental math to a Fortune 100 company

Meet Marrissa Hellesen

When Marrissa first came to Kish, she wasn’t so sure about her future. Psychology major? Maybe CISCO Tech? Struggling with developmental math, she wasn’t so sure she even had a path; school had never been her strong suit. Until one day when she met Steve Dunn, who was a Physics instructor at the time. He came to her geometry class and talked up engineering as a major and career. “Steve radiated passion for what he did. He cared so much for his students and for his work,” she says, “When someone is that invested in what they do and the passion they have for their field radiates in that way, its contagious.”



Marrissa gets it. 

Before she knew what happened, she was committed to pursuing engineering. Dunn’s philosophy about engineering, and particularly physics, was that students in his class learned about things they already knew – he would just attach the proper name to what they had observed their entire lives. It lit a spark for Marrissa. She found herself becoming an excellent student and an active member of campus, founding an LGBT Allies student organization, becoming a math tutor, and becoming a senator and then president with Student Government Association.

Kish is the place where I grew into the person that graduated from Illinois and got the job at Microsoft.

Marrissa credits Kish and specially Steve Dunn (who passed away in November 2014) with her success. “I reached out to Steve whenever I needed advice. I remember coming back to visit over Thanksgiving break during my first semester at UIUC. I was so upset - it wasn't going well. But Steve told me I'd pull through and that I'd make it," she recalls. “He believed in me and his believing in me was often all I needed. He had given me the background I needed to succeed at Illinois, even when it wasn't easy and I stumbled a bit. I was able to reach out to many people at Kish after I left and I still feel like Kish is the place where I grew into the person that graduated from Illinois and got the job at Microsoft.”

Get ready.  Get Kish.