02/15/2021 10:45 am
For Eric Hougan ’01 and Lesley Irizarry-Hougan ’00, Rockford University was the perfect launching pad for more than just their careers: it prepared them for a life together.
The alumni were acquaintances even before they arrived at Rockford University. But it was at the university that the pair became good friends.
“We are both really competitive,” said Eric. “We ended up in class together and would compete for the best scores. We struck up a friendship and really connected.”
Over the years, that friendship grew and the Hougans were married in 2003 at the university’s Fisher Memorial Chapel. Today, they are parents to three children and live in Seattle.
While both Eric and Lesley graduated with business degrees, their careers took very different paths. Eric pursued both master’s and doctorate degrees in education, and today works as an education professor at Central Washington University. Lesley attended Northern Illinois University Law School and now runs her own immigration law firm.
Both of the Hougans point back to their education at Rockford University as critical to their professions now.
“As a business owner, I use my business skills quite a bit – especially marketing,” said Lesley. “There are a lot of takeaways from a business education.”
The couple credits the school’s international focus for opening their eyes to experiences around the world. Lesley enjoyed “meeting international students and learning about different countries, different cultures, and different languages,” she said. “It was really neat.”
For Eric, that point was driven home through his study abroad experience through the school, when he spent time at Regent’s University in London.
“Growing up as a hometown boy, that was a really good way to be exposed to other cultures,” Eric said. “We appreciated being exposed to things we wouldn’t have otherwise. Rockford University pushed us out of our comfort zone, and taking risks is something that has stayed with me.”
This article was originally published in Rockford University’s alumni magazine, Catalyst.
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