UI featured in Amazon Prime series “The College Tour”

Payal Rathore | The Daily Illini

Chancellor Robert Jones poses with workers from The College Tour series. The series featured the University on April 27.

“The College Tour” series streaming on Amazon Prime featured the University, amongst other universities, on April 27. The series gives its viewers an insight on the actual campus life, from academics and sports to career opportunities.

The series is hosted by Alex Boylan, award-winning TV producer and host. Boylan also won a previous season of “The Amazing Race.”

The segment featured 11 students from different years and backgrounds, who shared their respective stories based on various topics ranging from campus involvement to research.

“It was a great experience to be featured on the college tour!” said Arnoldo Ayala, senior in LAS, in an email.
Ayala submitted a two-minute video telling his story once he got to know about the series from a group chat. Soon, he was cast on the show and had about a month to prepare his script and submit pictures for the same.

“My segment is about open access at the University,” Ayala wrote.
Once elected as a Senator for the Illinois Student Government in his sophomore year, students from the Illinois Coalition Assisting Undocumented Students Education and ISG, along with Ayala, decided to create a scholarship for students who do not qualify for federal financial aid.

“We called it the HOPE Scholarship, and it benefits a broad range of students from undocumented students, students without a permanent address and others who cannot qualify for FAFSA,” Ayala wrote, who was named as the director of the scholarship and called it a major highlight of his college experience.

“The College Tour” was inspired by Alex Boylan’s niece, Izabelle Polnaszek. After exploring colleges near Los Angeles, Polnaszek did not have the finances to fly around the country to look at other schools. The pandemic soon after and the lack of resources to travel the country resulted in doing research on colleges online.  

“This is when the lightbulb went off,” Boylan said, who went on to create “The College Tour” along with his partners (Lisa Hennessy and Burton Roberts), a series that showcases authentic stories told by current students attending the university.  

Boylan added that the team knew that they had to stay true to the University and the students in order to make this series real while serving the purpose of education and inspiring the next generation of prospective students.

“U of I is a really special episode,” Boylan said, regarding why the University was chosen to be a part of the series.  “This is my Co-Executive Producer’s (Lisa Hennessy) Alma Mater.  So going in I knew this was going to mean a lot to her and all the alumni of U of I.” 

Boylan further added that he was very impressed with the attitude of the students featured who showed confidence in delivering their lines on camera in front of the producers.



Brown twins to be featured Sunday on Amazon Prime series

Jeremy Werner, ILLINI INQUIRER | May 23, 2021

Illinois football players Chase Brown and Sydney Brown will be featured on Sunday’s episode of Amazon Prime’s “The College Tour.” The series focuses on the college experience of specific college students and is hosted by Alex Boylan and produced by Lisa Hennessy, an Illinois alumna in speech communication.

Sunday’s episode will focus on 11 University of Illinois students, including the Brown twins. The episode will be available at 7 p.m. CT Sunday on YouTube or at go.illinois.edu/thecollegetour.

“This project was exciting for us,” Chase said in a statement. “It was a great way to tell our unique story as students and football players on this campus, and show off what a great place Illinois is to excel at both of those endeavors.”

Added Sydney in a statement: “It was important to include Illinois Athletics in this campus profile because the spirit of Illinois students really shines at sporting events, especially in Memorial Stadium. As students from Canada, I know this show would have been really helpful for my brother and myself as we were making our college decisions.”

Background: The Brown brothers are Canada natives who grew up in London, Ontario. Both transferred to St. Stephens Episcopal in Bradenton (Fla.) to play football. Though inseparable for most of their lives, the identical twins went separate ways for college — initially. Sydney signed with Illinois, while Chase chose Western Michigan over several power-five offers to pursue WMU’s aviation program. But the cost of flight schools and being away from his brother pushed Chase to transfer and he rejoined Sydney at Illinois.

Sydney, a junior safety, has started 26 of 27 games he’s played at Illinois, totaling 179 tackles, 10 passes defended and four interceptions. As a sophomore in 2019, he earned All-Big Ten Third Team honors from coaches after leading the team in interceptions and finishing second on the team in tackles.

Chase earned a waiver to play immediately midway through the 2019 season but preserved a redshirt by only playing in four games. He quickly emerged in 2020 as the Illini’s lead running back. His 540 rushing yards (5.2 ypc) ranked fifth in the Big Ten. He had back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances in wins over Rutgers and Nebraska. He had three rushing touchdowns and earned Third Team All-Big Ten honors from the media.


Producer, host of new show ‘The College Tour’ featuring U of I join WGN News

WGN News | May 20, 2021

The producer and host of the new streaming show “The College Tour,” which features the University of Illinois, joins WGN News at 4.


New Series About Campus Life Features University Of Illinois

CBS -2 Chicago | May 23, 2021

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has a featured role in a new series on Amazon Prime. “The College Tour” showcases schools around the country through the stories of students on campus.


The University of Illinois showcased in new Amazon Prime Show

Sally Schulze, Fox32 Chicago | May 20, 2021

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A new Amazon Prime show called, “The College Tour,” is giving viewers the chance to tour schools, like the University of Illinois, by watching television.

“It really is a chance for students who might be attending the university to see what it’s like through the lens of young people like themselves,” said Executive Producer Lisa Hennessy.  The show highlights 17 universities and colleges, with students introducing viewers to different aspects of their schools. 

The show comes during a time when in-person tours are out of reach for many, due to cost and coronavirus. The host, Alex Boylan, says his niece’s experience helped launch it. 

“She wanted to go to all different kinds of states and all different types of schools, and she didn’t have the finances to do that, and between that and then all of a sudden COVID hit, and what a challenge. So a light bulb went off saying higher education needs its own television show,” said Boylan.

The University of Illinois is the only school in the state and only Big Ten university to be profiled.  The show’s executive producer is a U of I grad. 

“I’m just so proud to have attended the University of Illinois and proud to help tell the university’s story because it’s such a great institution and really gave me my start in terms of helping launch my career,” said Hennessy. The tours are underway now on Amazon Prime.

‘College Tour’ series gives prospective students a taste of campus life at U of I

Nancy Harty, CBS Radio Chicago | May 23, 2021

The College Tour & Exclusive Aftershow for the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled or changed a lot of college visits this past year but a new series gives prospective students a look at campus.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is hosting a live watch party at 7 p.m. Sunday for “The College Tour” episode featuring the Big Ten school.

“The College Tour” is a streaming series that Executive Producer Lisa Hennessy started working on before the pandemic hit.

The Park Ridge native and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign alum told WBBM Newsradio since the series debuted last October, it has shown high school students what they can expect academically and socially on campus.

“It’s a really authentic way to really get an idea of what a university is like though the voices of people who go there,” Hennessy told WBBM Newsradio.

Among the 11 students featured is Kennedy Campbell of Chicago, a sophomore who said Quad Day helped her find her place in Urbana-Champaign metro area.  Campbell helped create a mentorship group for pre-med students.

There’s really something for everyone. From Ultimate Frisbee to volunteer opportunities to creative writing,” Campbell said.

The first six episodes of “The College Tour” are available on Amazon PrimeYouTube and the show’s website. To listen to the full radio interview click here.


‘The College Tour’ series shares a unique perspective on campus life


Vivianne Linou, WGN Radio |May 21, 2021

FILE – In this Jan. 27, 2014, file photo, students walk between buildings on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Ill. The U of I has partied its way into the top spot on an annual list of top party schools in the country. The Urbana-Champaign campus has been among the top five on the Princeton Review’s annual list for years but is No. 1 on the new list released Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/David Mercer, File)

In a new Amazon Prime TV Show, “The College Tour” tells the story of what life is really like on college campuses across the country and around the world. The University of Illinois is the only school in the state of Illinois and the Big 10 to be featured in this new magazine-style show. Reality TV star Alex Boylan and Executive Producer Lisa Hennessey joined Jon Hansen, filling in for Bob Sirott, to talk about the new show. To listen to the full interview, please click here.