Two Econ198 classes of about 100 undergraduate students had the privilege of learning about the value of their economics degrees from the University of Illinois. Panelists Paul Barr (Senior Writer - Hospitals & Health Networks Magazine), Brian Jeselnick (Manager of Business and Experience Development at Walt Disney) and Susan Keegan (Executive Director, Center for Disability & Elder Law) shared with the class their career path, experiences and lessons learned since gradating from the UI Economics program. A very valuable experience for our students! Thank you so much to these amazing alumni!



Paul Barr

Paul Barr has extensive experience as a business and financial journalist as well as experience working in the mutual fund industry. In the journalism field, he has had the opportunity to cover such topics as the Passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Great Recession of the 2000s, the bursting of the Internet bubble of the late 1990s, futures markets, derivatives and the hedge fund industry. In addition, he worked as an assistant on the trading desk of several fixed income funds before and after the stock market crash of 1987. During his time at Illinois, he worked at the ticket desk of the Krannert Center for Performing Arts and a waiter for Illini Union Catering. Mr. Barr currently lives in Downers Grove, Ill. , and is married with two grown daughters, one of them a member of U of I's Class of 2013.

Career highlights:

  • Senior Writer – Hospitals & Health Networks magazine

  • News Editor, Reporter - Modern Healthcare magazine

  • Managing Editor, Senior Reporter - HedgeWorld

  • Senior Editor – Online Investor magazine 

  • Trading Assistant – Van Kampen Merritt

Educational Path:

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, MBA/MS Journalism

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, BA, Economics



Brian Jeselnick

Brian Jeselnick's path led him to a career with The Walt Disney Company, where analytics and financial modeling are tools to understanding and improving the magic guests experience at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world. In Mr. Jeselnick's current role, he is tasked with developing the business case for new products, services and business strategies that focus on improving the guest experience within the Disney Parks & Resorts. Additionally, as a part of Walt Disney World's upcoming launch of MyMagic+, he is responsible for overseeing the testing and integration of the Annual Passholder product.

Brian's prior roles with The Walt Disney Company involved developing guest-centric pricing strategies, identifying new products and services for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and pricing imaging and merchandise products – including the world famous Mouse Ears. Before the door opened on his Disney career, Mr. Jeselnick worked as a consultant, focused on implementing best practice operational processes, technology, and analysis to drive revenue cycle improvements in the health care industry. He also served as a commercial loan underwriter on Middle Market/Leveraged Finance transactions for Merrill Lynch.

Mr. Jeselnick feeds his personal curiosity through running, travel, and entertaining at home in Celebration, FL with his dog Finnegan and wife Melissa (Illinois, BS, Mech. Eng. ), who also works for The Walt Disney Company.

Career Highlights:

  • Manager, Business Development; Experience Development - Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

  • Manager, Strategic Pricing Initiatives; Pricing – Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

  • Pricing Analyst, Merchandise & Imaging; Pricing – Walt Disney World Resort, Co.

  • Consultant – Jeselnick & Associates

  • Associate - Merrill Lynch

Educational Path:

  • University of Notre Dame – Mendoza College of Business, MBA

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, BA, Finance & Economics



Susan Keegan

Since February 1, 2012, Susan has served as the Executive Director of the Center for Disability & Elder Law. CDEL's mission is to provide quality legal services to low-income seniors and people with disabilities in Chicago and Cook County pro bono and to foster pro bono service throughout the Chicago area legal communities. Prior to taking over the helm at CDEL, Susan engaged in private practice focusing on plaintiff's business litigation and human rights work including her partnership with the international human rights firm D'Amato Keegan & Duggan LLC in Chicago.

Susan also served as Policy Advisor for the State Treasurer from 1991 to 1995, acting as counsel to the Illinois Public Treasurers' Investment Pool, a public investment pool with assets in excess of 2.5 billion dollars. In 2012, Governor Pat Quinn appointed Susan Chairman of the Quality Card Board for the State of Illinois. The Board monitors and oversees the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG assists in investigating reports of abuse and fosters humane and caring treatment of people with mental and developmental disabilities. In addition, Susan is a Director of Green Earth Productions, Inc. which just completed the filming of full length feature film. It is in the editing process and scheduled to be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival for January, 2014.

Susan has been married to attorney Mark Furlane since 1987 and is the mother of two children, Gahan Patricia and Michael Keegan. She has been a resident of Chicago since 1989.

Career highlights:

Executive Director – Center for Disability & Elder Law

  • Chairman - Quality Care Board for the State of Illinois

  • Director – Green Earth Productions, Inc.

  • Private Practice Attorney

  • Policy Advisor to the State Treasurer

Educational Path:

  • Northwestern University, Juris Doctor

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, BA, Economics



Interested in becoming an alumni panelist? or getting involved in other ways?