50 Notable Alumni

William Patterson, Ph.D

Professor in College of Engineering in the Technology Entrepreneurship Center and School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Major: Communications

William Patterson said that “My goal was to attend Parkland to reset my academic experience and to learn how to write proficiently at the higher education level. I knew if I could learn that skill, it would be a passport to more opportunity.” Dr. Patterson received a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Illinois State University in 1994.  Prior to attending Illinois State, Dr. Patterson lived in Chicago and completed a degree in Radio Broadcast/Communications from Columbia College in 1990. Dr. Patterson and another Champaign-Urbana native, Darrell Roberts, launched the first Hip Hop Show at Columbia College in 1986 called “The Serious Jam Attack.”  “Our idea to do the radio show was based on the Hip Hop shows we heard on Parkland’s Radio Station, WPCD.”  During his time at Columbia, he interviewed ICE T, NWA, Gangstarr, Big Daddy Kane, Sir Mix A lot, 2 Live Crew, and Luke Skywalker,  

Prior to pursuing graduate studies, Dr. Patterson was a Traffic Reporter at Shadow Traffic in Chicago, a producer of the Joe Bohannon Show on WBBM, and a Sales Intern at WGCI.  “When I look back on my career I recall a lesson of my communications professor at Parkland, Ed Kelly. He said; if you want to make money in radio or television, go into sales.  At the time I thought that was boring, however, when I was at WGCI, they were grooming me to be a sales rep.  I didn’t have the confidence at the time to do sales, plus I enjoyed being a broadcaster.   In the sales department at WGCI, I was writing commercial scripts that were on the air, and learned how to conduct recording sessions for jingles.  If I had applied the wisdom of Ed Kelly during those early years, there is no doubt I would own radio stations at this stage of my life.  Parkland had the connection.”

As a professor at the University of Illinois his current focus is build engineering scholarship with a foundation in Hip Hop culture. The courses William has developed include Decoding Dr. Dre, Hip Hop Entrepreneurship, and Hip Hop Informatics. Students from a multitude of disciplines take his courses to learn how to build technology and marketing strategies that utilize the ingenuity that is practiced in urban communities around the country.  “Dr. Dre built his company and sold it for 3 billion dollars to Apple based on his lived and professional experiences in Hip Hop, there is much to learn about how that happened.”

Recently William partnered with several colleagues to launch Ghetto Genius, an innovative STEM engineering project development company that focuses on creating processes and products by connecting engineering with culture. The philosophy that drives the company is “How do we make it Hip Hop?” In partnership with the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, TEN80 Education, and Hobbico, they teach young people engineering principles to solve problems. “We’ve been fortunate to work with Hobbico, TEN80 Education, and the local school districts to build projects that use audio and RC technology to teach STEM in a fun and exciting way.”  To become a Project Engineer or volunteer, please email Dr. Patterson at wmpatter@gmail.com.

William is married to Lori Patterson, Parkland’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year, and together they have three children.

The most memorable part of Parkland for William was the radio station and Writing Lab. “It was an exceptional space and my tutor, Gretchen Grove was the best. She showed and taught me how smart I was. I owe so much of my success to Parkland.”