On a sunny day in September 1964, two freshmen were studying in the cafeteria in Wehrenberg Hall. They casually struck up a conversation, and the chance meeting in their first few weeks at Valpo sparked a more than 50-year tradition that continues today.

In September, Rick Filip ’68 and Bob O’Dell ’68 returned to campus to celebrate their 52nd Homecoming and Reunion Weekend.

“It gets put in the calendar every year and nothing gets in the way,” Rick says.

“That’s right,” Bob adds. “We’ve never missed a year.”

Their friendship, which spans more than five decades, began during those first weeks at Valpo. Rick studied marketing and management and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Bob pursued a degree in government and economics in the College of Arts and Sciences. Though they never had a class together, they continued to spend their time together at campus events and other social activities after that first encounter in the cafeteria.

Rick and Bob soon became great friends, then roommates after their freshman years. They lived together in Brandt Hall their sophomore year and pledged Sigma Pi together.

“Our junior year we lived in the Sig Pi house down on Morgan Street, and then our senior year was the best year, because we got a house on Flint Lake,” Rick remembers. “My saddest day was the day I had to graduate.”

Rick and Bob’s Valpo experience also included meeting their spouses. Of course, they were each other’s best men at their weddings. Rick married Leann Danneil ’69 Filip and Bob wed Patricia Connell ’72 O’Dell.

Their annual Valpo Homecoming trip grew and now includes a group of their closest Valpo friends.

“My wife Leann has two college roommates and we have two Sig Pi brothers whom we include, along with their spouses, and we all try to meet every Homecoming,” Rick says. “Our group includes Charles “Chuck” ’70 and Gayle Montie ’69 Gibbons, Henry “Hank” ’68 and Karen Swanson ’69 Rahmel, Ken ’68 and Linda Benson, and Gary Schuessler ’69.”

The pair couldn’t imagine not returning to celebrate Homecoming.

“Our best friends are our Valpo friends,” Rick says. “It’s us, our wives, our wives’ Valpo roommates and other friends — we’re all one big, happy family.”

Bob and Rick live more than 1,000 miles apart, but that hardly means Homecoming weekend is their only chance to catch up. Bob lives in The Villages, Fla., and his sons and their families live in suburban Dallas, not far from Rick’s home.

“I couldn’t have picked a better spot or better people for them to live near than Rick and Leann,” Bob says.

The group gathers the Saturday morning of Homecoming and Reunion Weekend in front of the bookstore in the Harre Union. There, they greet each other before making their way to Founder’s Table cafeteria to enjoy lunch and reminisce about great times spent at Valpo. After that, it’s off to see what’s new on campus.

The group also takes time on Saturday afternoon to visit Bob and Rick’s old home on Flint Lake and other Northwest Indiana gems that invoke nostalgia of their Valpo days, like the Indiana Dunes State Park.

“The guys like driving up to the Dunes or to New Buffalo to spend time outdoors, and the ladies will visit notable tourist locations and shop,” Rick says.

Before Bob, Rick, and their friends end their special Valpo weekend, they meet one final time for breakfast to reflect upon how Valpo brought them together and what a blessing they are to each other. Not that they’ll be apart long; they know they’ll see each other again soon for their annual spring cruise or trip to The Villages, Fla.

“Everyone gets together again for another trip. It’s a tradition we started about 10 years ago,” Bob says. “This friendship we’ve developed — it all started at Valpo — has extended to places across the United States.”

Every graduate can describe the “Valpo experience;” the special energy and pivotal moments when students create their own paths. For Bob and Rick, it’s the friendship they’ve cultivated with each other and with their college friends.

“The friendships we’ve developed over the years and the ability to track those friendships back to Valpo are what make our time there special for us,” Rick says. “Sharing our memories of what we used to do at Valpo and making new memories each year are what will continue to make our relationship to each other, and to Valpo, truly unique.”

After Valpo, Rick went on to a long and successful career at Hammermill Paper Company in Erie, Pa. He left Hammermill in 1991 to launch an insurance agency in Rockwall, Texas, he continues to operate today.

Bob started in the National Teacher Corps program after graduation and pursued a master’s degree in education to specialize teaching in inner-city school systems. He taught in Chicago for four years before enrolling at the Chicago-Kent College of Law.

“After teaching I went on to a private practice and then became a corporate and real estate attorney and worked for State Farm Insurance Company for the remainder of my career at its corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Ill.,” he says.

Though their careers have taken them far from each other, Bob and Rick know that each autumn will bring them together again to remember the start of a friendship that has spanned more than a half-century.

The bright lights illuminate the flawlessly manicured field at Alumni Stadium. A piercing wind amplifies the effects of an already bitter November evening. Scores of screaming, shirtless fanatics provide the soundtrack of another NCAA Tournament game held at Notre Dame.

For Vanesa Abad ’18, Nov. 14, 2014, was the day she found herself at the intersection of déjà vu and a self-fulfilled prophecy.

Vanesa’s journey through her first two years of college was a dizzying and unconventional one. Committed to competing at the highest level from a young age, the Barrington, Ill., native pledged her commitment to The Ohio State University while a junior at Lake Zurich High School. The Buckeyes were coming off a Sweet 16 appearance and were asserting themselves as a premier program within the fierce Big Ten.

The allure of Columbus faded, though.

As determined and driven as Vanessa is on the field, she possesses even more grit in the classroom. Initially a biology major, Vanesa made the transition to nursing before arriving in Ohio. It was a move that posed serious logistical concerns — clinicals coincided with the four-hour block of practice time in the spring.

To Vanesa’s credit, she thought outside the box in an attempt to make it work. She enrolled in night classes at a local community college. Eventually, enough was enough. Nursing and soccer were mutually exclusive.

Vanesa scrapped the scarlet and gray in favor of brown and gold after the spring of 2013.

She was immediately embraced by her new teammates. Vanesa credits goalkeeper Sydney Galvez-Daley for her guidance through the transition. Sydney, a transfer from Creighton the year prior, provided the two-time All-Area player with a primer on life at Valpo.

If there were any first-year jitters, they certainly didn’t show.

Time management and an indefatigable work ethic helped Vanesa ace her way to a 3.893 grade-point average in the classroom last year. On the field, she found the back of the net six times for the most dominant team in program history en route to Horizon League Freshman of the Year accolades.

She has aspirations of becoming an emergency room nurse after obtaining both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Valparaiso University. Vanesa says she embraces the split-second decision making necessary in such a high-pressure environment. That same moxie has made her one of the most dependable players on the roster.


Perhaps more than the awards, Vanesa cherishes her Valpo experience.

“Everyone here is very approachable and helpful. Whether it’s nursing or soccer, the faculty and coaches do everything to help you succeed,” she says.

The only people more elated to have Vanesa back in the Central time zone than the Crusader coaching staff are her parents. Vanesa spoke at great length about the influence her father, Michael, and mother, Ana, galvanized on the multi-sport athlete growing up.

“My mother never allowed me to lose focus on academics. She’s very pragmatic in the sense that she’s always made sure I have a back-up plan. My dad has been involved with the soccer side of things from day one,” Vanesa says.

At just under two hours, the drive from Barrington to Brown Field is one that permits her parents to attend home games. The Horizon League’s agreement with ESPN has allowed Michael, a chemical engineer, to track Vanesa and the Crusaders while traveling internationally to countries as far east as Lithuania.

It was Vanesa’s father, after all, who piqued her interest in soccer at a young age. Michael would take her and her sisters to Notre Dame for NCAA first-round matches. It was then, while a middle-schooler, that Vanesa conjured up dreams of taking the field at Alumni Stadium.

Move the needle a decade and there she was. The sights and sounds a touch more vivid in November 2014 than in November 2004. Valpo’s most magical season to date had its own storybook ending.


Photos provided by Adam Stepanek, VUSIT Convective Field Studies

Valpo’s renowned meteorology program annually graduates budding weather experts, but they’ve hardly spent all their time in classrooms.

Earlier this year, the Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team (VUSIT) had an up-close look at a series of tornadoes that touched down in northern Illinois, including a deadly funnel cloud that hit the small town of Fairdale, about 100 miles west of Chicago.

IMG_5156The dangerous storm was on the ground for 41 minutes and rated a 4 out of 5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

There’s no way for the team to predict what it will see as it heads into storm areas, but the practice is nothing new at the University, where students have been chasing serious weather since the late 1990s.

“Every storm has its unique characteristics that make it hard to forecast,” says former VUSIT director Russell Danielson ’15. “So every time we track a storm it provides a new challenge for us.

“Being so close to something so powerful is a stunning experience. These storms cause incredible damage and put people’s lives at risk, so the amount of respect we have for these storms is humbling and keeps us out in the field chasing.”

The team, which had 53 members at the end of the 2014–2015 academic year, is made up mostly of meteorology majors. Bart Wolf, Ph.D., professor of geography, oversees its field activities, which include two 11-day summer chases each year. Several smaller outings, called day chases, also keep the VUSIT engaged and learning.

IMG_9646Russell says a four-year team member chases an average of 50 storms before graduating, and Professor Wolf says has been on nearly 100 outings with students.

“The severe storm field courses and day chase trips are fundamentally important,” Professor Wolf says. “They provide concrete ways for students to take the theories they learn in the classroom and apply them to real-world forecasting and logistical challenges the ever-changing atmosphere presents.

“These trips also are a means by which meteorology students can serve communities affected by these storms by providing detailed spotting and verification information.”

For most chases, the team is armed with two computers and CB radios, as well as equipment to track surface conditions. Team leaders monitor the computers for radar images while the remaining members take video and photos. The information is then pooled after the chase to assist younger meteorology majors.

IMG_2100“A big part of storm chasing is learning about severe weather because it is hard to learn about it in a classroom setting,” Russell says. “Students can learn a lot about storm structure and how the dynamics of storms work.”

But VUSIT activities focus on more than the needs of its members. It annually leads severe weather discussions and conducts outreach events to help area schoolchildren and adults learn more about preparing for heavy storms, tornadoes, and other events common to northwest Indiana.

While some may think of meteorology strictly as the domain of network forecasters, Valpo students quickly learn the most important aspect of the field: public service. The National Weather Service works diligently to warn home and business owners of approaching storms or serious weather events to lessen the chances for loss of life.

As Russell and the team learned, the warnings can make all the difference. Much of Fairdale was leveled by the tornado and two women were killed, while 11 other people were injured.

The knowledge gleaned during the chases will accompany Russell, who graduated in May with a degree in meteorology while minoring in math.

IMG_2179“Russell is one of the most talented and organized leaders I’ve observed in the meteorology program at Valpo,” Professor Wolf says. “Not only is he talented academically, but he translates classroom learning into application seamlessly.”

Russell is headed to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to work on a master’s degree this fall and will spend his next two summers as an NWS intern in Albuquerque, N.M.

“Meteorology has always interested me,” says Russell, who hopes to pursue a career with the NWS. “The size of the storms and the storm systems amaze me every time we go chasing.”

Sitting at his desk inside the office of a major financial institution, Reid Lester ’02 shifts his gaze toward the television. His beloved team – the Chicago Cubs – is playing a matinee at Wrigley Field. And for Reid, a lifelong sports fan, the heap of spreadsheets and portfolios on his desk doesn’t command his attention like the Cubs do.

After a friendly, albeit honest, discussion with his supervisor, Reid decided to make the leap from the corporate world to pursue his passion. He attended Major League Baseball’s Umpire School, spent three years in professional baseball, and prompted a series of events that would lead him to develop a nonprofit organization to help United States veterans.

Reid’s story began to write itself well before he arrived at Valparaiso University. The Rockford, Ill., native’s upbringing revolved around two constants: sports and church. Reid developed a sense of service to others around the same time he learned mechanics of a bounce pass or a sacrifice bunt.

“Between playing a number of sports and church, our calendars were always full growing up,” Reid says.

His father John spent many of his days as a sports official following the conclusion of his semi-professional career on the diamond. Baseball was Reid’s love, but tennis was his sport. He also excelled on the basketball court. Reid reminisced how a quasi-controversial call on the hardwood thrust him into his father’s footsteps.

“My team was up 20 points with about a minute to go, I’m driving down the lane, and I get hacked. I mean, hacked. The referee, who was a long-time friend of my dad, doesn’t call the foul. I knew him well enough to call him out, and he replied ‘If you think you know the game better than I do, bring a pair of black shorts and a whistle next weekend.’ So, I did.” Reid says.

From that day, Reid began officiating basketball and baseball at the age of 16. Little did he know, his lucrative part-time job would form the basis of something much more altruistic.

Following a successful prep career at Rockford East High School, Reid enrolled at Rock Valley Junior College. There, he helped the Golden Eagles’ tennis team to a national title in 2000. It was at Rock Valley where Reid entered the radar of Valpo head men’s tennis coach Jim Daugherty. He arrived in Northwest Indiana for the final two years of his collegiate journey with sports still at the forefront.

His time as a Crusader on the court was a brief one. An injury ended his playing career, but Reid found a new brotherhood within the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.

In the classroom, Reid earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration. Valpo’s tenets rang a familiar bell with the Midwesterner.

“The biggest thing that Valpo provided was a sense of serving others. We were required to complete a certain number of service hours as part of our fraternity. That aspect of campus life meshed with what my parents instilled in me at a young age,” Reid says.

Throughout myriad changes from his first days at Rock Valley Junior College to the afternoon he walked across the stage to receive his diploma from Valpo, one constant remained: sports officiating.

So Reid continued umpiring baseball part-time while he worked his first full-time job out of college as a financial advisor. While it’s not out of the ordinary for a youth umpire to fetch a few hundred dollars during a busy weekend, umpiring also provided an outlet for his first love: sports.

His second and most important love blossomed when he returned to Rockford following graduation. Reid reconnected with his eventual wife, RuthAnn, and the young couple relocated to Colorado in 2010 so she could pursue her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

Reid immediately began officiating in Denver. He joined the Mile High Umpiring Clinic and gained a new network of colleagues. While with the organization, Reid was assigned to mentor a young umpire named Clint Greer.

Clint had just returned to American soil after stints in Iraq and Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. He sustained a number of combat-related injuries that prompted a medical discharge. Medical issues compounded by unemployment left Clint searching for a spark and longing to again be part of a community. Umpiring provided that flame.

The closer the two became, the more they realized they had in common. Clint was also a multi-sport athlete in high school. His military service particularly struck a chord, as Reid had also started service with the Civil Air Patrol as a search and rescue pilot.

Reid began to realize that Clint wasn’t an outlier. It’s an alarming figure, but according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the unemployment rate for veterans age 18-34 is 20 percent higher than the rate for non-veterans.

“The transition can be extremely difficult. A person goes from having the most important job you can have – protecting our freedom and country – to returning to a desk job in an office where it’s not life or death,” Reid says.

As a result, Reid and Clint collaborated on the Lester Foundation. Inspired by Reid’s grandfathers who served in the Navy, the foundation was established as a means for veterans to receive the certification necessary to officiate basketball and baseball games.

“I think the assumption is that it takes weeks to become eligible to umpire baseball or referee basketball. The truth is, in just one week of intensive training, a veteran can gain the skills and experience necessary to start officiating and earning money immediately,” Reid says.

The foundation’s goal is to prepare every participant for freshmen level competition.

Reid currently operates clinics in the Denver area and will soon expand into San Diego. Clint is carrying the torch on the East Coast while his fiancé completes her law degree at George Washington.

Reid and Clint continue to discuss ways to impact lives across the country.

The Lester Foundation has already assisted more than two dozen veterans, and that number is expected to double once its efforts commence in Southern California.

Reid possesses a level of purpose knowing his work is helping those who have sacrificed themselves for their country. He acknowledges the risk he took when he stepped out of the corporate sector and ventured into the relative unknown, but he’d do it all over again.

His days of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are long gone, but even in something as unassuming as training sports officials, he’s found a way for his work to pay big dividends.

By the time he reached his teens, Daniel Blood ’10, Ph.D., had an intimate understanding of the value of American goodwill in the poorest parts of the world.

Now, as a member of the College of Engineering faculty, Professor Blood helps a new generation of students learn how their knowledge and skills can enrich the lives of the less fortunate and bring the University’s spirit of service around the globe.

“Dan continually seeks to provide meaningful international service-learning opportunities for our students,” says Eric W. Johnson ’87, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering. “He is a great role model because he is very entrepreneurial, and he’s passionate about finding engineering solutions for those in need using low-cost alternatives.”

An assistant professor of mechanical engineering, Professor Blood recently returned from a trip to Les Cayes in southwestern Haiti. There, he and a team of Valpo students helped implement a solar-powered system to bring potable water closer to a center for children and young adults.

He made his first trip at 16 to help his father, Dr. Michael Blood, a family practice physician from Crawfordsville, Ind., tend to patients there, and he’s returned frequently throughout the past dozen years.

“It all started when my parents met someone in town who went to Haiti with their church,” Professor Blood says. “They encountered many people with medical problems and thought maybe my dad should check it out.

“He was overwhelmed. At first he saw about 90 patients. Then it got to the point where they made two trips a year and he saw 1,000 to 4,000 people every time he went down.”

That sense of service continued when Professor Blood began his undergraduate studies at Valpo. With the University’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, he traveled to Kenya and Tanzania, where projects mainly focused on improving access to clean water.

“Students have a real drive to help people and personally, that’s motivating,” he says. “I knew if I could come back, I’d have a lot of opportunities to help people.”

After graduating from Valpo in 2010, Professor Blood earned his master’s and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida. He says he accelerated his courses to complete his studies after learning his alma mater would have an opening before the 2013–2014 academic year.

“Once I knew I wanted to teach, Valpo was really kind of a dream job. It’s been absolutely fantastic,” he says.

And that dream continues to make a difference in Les Cayes, where Pwoje Espwa (Creole for “Project Hope”) houses more than 400 children and young adults. Some are orphans, while many more have lost a parent or have parents who cannot care for them. Far too often, children without parents end up on the streets or as domestic workers in the western hemisphere’s poorest country.

The Haitian students have been quick studies in past trips, one of which saw the Valpo party bring a 3-D printer to a technical school, which had many immediate uses. Basic parts for golf carts and other machines and tools in need of repair at the school’s compound were among the first projects in a place that doesn’t enjoy the convenience of myriad retail outlets or reliable package delivery.

Just as important, Professor Blood says, was the effect the visit had on the American students.

“It’s interesting to see how they react,” he says. “Some students have seen poverty or grew up in areas of the country we might consider poor, but no one has seen, in person, what you see in Haiti.

“The students are fairly quiet at first, but about an hour into the trip they start to slowly ask questions. Before too long they become invested and ask ‘what can I do now?’ It’s cool to see their motivation. They can’t wait to get back and help out more.”

And there will be more chances to do so. A trip to Nicaragua is planned for the fall to help expand a region’s ability to store and distribute water during dry seasons there. Other long-term goals include entrepreneurship training in Haiti and elsewhere.

“I think the students really benefit from the experience,” he says. “It’s not just sitting in a classroom; they get to see right away how things they do can make an enormous impact on someone’s life.”

As she sits alone in Valpo’s art studio, Kelsey Larson ’15 focuses intently on the project at hand, blocking out any other distractions or obligations. Working diligently, she begins to craft a piece that would later serve two purposes — provide enjoyment for Bauer Museum patrons and feed the hungry.

In the spring, Valpo ceramics students created bowls that would later be auctioned to support the “Soup Bowls for the Hungry” fundraiser — an event led entirely by students who organized, marketed, and executed the event that raised nearly $1,000 to support the Northwest Indiana Food Bank. Kelsey played a large role in the event’s success.

“Some of the bowls that the students made were abstract, while others could actually be used as a soup bowl,” she says. “Mine was more abstract, and the bottom part of the bowl was woven.”

Kelsey’s bowl was later selected by professors to be featured in the Brauer Museum’s student art exhibition. She says she was honored that her bowl was chosen for display, but ultimately, she was proud of what the bowl symbolized.

“This project was a perfect extension of how we can use art to have an impact on our community,” she says. “We were given free reign and creativity to produce something unique, and at the same time, it supported a good cause. I was excited to be part of it.”

Valpo is a place where academics and community service naturally intersect. Whether in the classroom or through experiential-learning, students are often challenged to apply classroom knowledge to their roles as engaged citizens of the world. Kelsey says she was not surprised that Valpo would host a project like this within the confines of the classroom.

What did surprise her, however, was her ability to take a course in ceramics while she worked toward a double major in chemistry and physics and remained active in Christ College — The Honors College.

“What I love most about Valpo is its commitment to the liberal arts,” she says. “This is a place where I am able to express my interests in a variety of ways.”

While art and science might seem like contrasting disciplines, Kelsey is fascinated with their similarities and intersections.

“As a person heavily interested in science, I naturally like to solve problems,” she says. “And in ceramics, the artist has to think through what the end product will look like in a three-dimensional sense. Even that is a problem that needs to be solved.”

Many professors at Valpo encourage this interdisciplinary thinking and eagerly welcome students from other disciplines into their classrooms. Michele Corazzo, MFA, adjunct assistant professor of art and instructor of Kelsey’s ceramics class, especially encouraged her to pursue her passion within a department outside her major.

“Kelsey successfully crossed over into the arts to achieve some really sensitive, beautifully crafted, and well articulated sculptures and vessels in her ceramics class,” she says.

This fall, Kelsey will begin a Ph.D. program in atmospheric science at the University of Washington. She hopes to continue her passion for art through local classes and community art opportunities in Seattle.

As a high school student in south central China, Jiangxia (Renee) Liu, Ph.D., anticipated the opportunity to continue her education in the United States.

That dream came true, and as she wraps up her first year as an associate professor of accounting, she is eager to help students with similar ambitions further their studies here at Valpo.

“I always knew I wanted to study in the United States,” Professor Liu says. “And there are so many others in China and other countries who want to do the same thing.

“Provost Biermann has been very supportive of reaching out to universities in China to help broaden those students’ educations and broaden the University’s profile.”

She’s developed relationships with three schools in her home country and looks forward to adding more. Valpo continues to feel more like home since she joined the faculty in fall 2014.

“I love the College of Business work environment,” she says, “and the proximity of Valpo to Chicago is ideal for my lifestyle. Access to a major city makes life easier and richer, yet being far enough away from Chicago makes it a lot more peaceful.”

Professor Liu, an only child of a high school math teacher and factory worker in Luzhou, earned a bachelor’s degree at Chongqing University. Drawn by opportunities in the U.S. and with the support of her parents, she sought and obtained a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas.
There, she earned a master’s and Ph.D. before beginning a teaching career that took her to Western Carolina University and Gannon (Pa.) University, where she oversaw the accounting program before coming to Valpo.

Her background helps bolster the focus College of Business Dean James D. Brodzinski, Ph.D. has on preparing students for the global marketplace after graduation.

“We strive to prepare students to work with international colleagues in a global business society after graduation,” says Dean Brodzinski. “The addition of Renee to our faculty has broadened the scope of the expertise we can offer our students, and she is an exceptional professor.”

Professor Liu, a Certified Management Accountant, always knew she wanted to teach.

“My dad was a good high school teacher, and my granddad was a principal at an elementary school,” she says. “I believe teaching is a very respectful and impactful profession in any society, and from the time I began my undergraduate program, I already noticed my desire and passion to be a teacher.”

Her research includes CEO compensation and corporate governance, both of which became notable subjects in the wake of the 1990s’ dot-com bust and Enron scandal. The results of those and other scandals, Professor Liu says, helped raise the profile of accounting as a profession and emphasize the need for increased attention to potential ethical pitfalls.

“This made the job and role of an accounting professor important; to instill ethics in students,” she says. “As an educator, I put more effort into teaching ethics while I design my classes.

“Many people see accounting as boring. That makes me feel excited and challenges me to polish my teaching methods and approach to make my students see, feel, and learn accounting.”

Valpo’s Confucius Institute and its collaborations with international universities – along with the sense of family she feels in the College of Business – excites Professor Liu about possibilities for prospective students who share the same dedication that took her halfway around the globe to continue her studies.

“With my connection with Chinese universities, I will be able to continue to develop collaborations between them and Valpo,” she says. “Academic freedom here and the support provided by the administration make me feel I will make a strong impact here.”

Margaret Lippert ’15, who earns her bachelor’s from Valparaiso University during its undergraduate Commencement ceremony on May 17, will spend the 2015–2016 academic year in Taiwan thanks to a prestigious Fulbright English teaching assistant grant. In the past 10 years, nearly 30 Valpo graduates have been offered Fulbright research and teaching assistant grants through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

“We are very pleased to see Margaret’s talent, hard work and dedication recognized by the Fulbright Program,” said Mark L. Biermann, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This honor is a confirmation of the extraordinary education students receive at Valparaiso University, and I am confident she will represent us well in her future endeavors.”

Pursuing a career in international education, Lippert, of Elmhurst, Ill., majors in international economics and cultural affairs with a concentration in East Asia and a minor in Spanish. She studied abroad at Valpo’s study center in Hangzhou, China, and completed an internship at YMCA in Valparaiso, Chile. She works in Valpo’s international programs office; is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, the Spanish honor society, mortar board and Order of Omega; and studies Tang Soo Do Karate with a first-degree black belt.

“Studying abroad was one of the most important things I’ve done at Valpo,” Lippert said. “I was immersed in the culture, and now while teaching I’ll be able to interact with students on a day-to-day basis and get to know them more in depth. I’m excited for the opportunity to teach, be part of the community and get a glimpse of Taiwanese culture, which is a fascinating mix with a unique history.”

During her time at Valpo, Grace Leuck ’15 has capitalized on every opportunity to hone her leadership skills while contributing to the greater good. As Valpo prepares students for fulfilling lives of leadership and service, Grace embodies the University’s mission to the fullest.

Grace is a double major in political science and global service with an emphasis in humanitarian aid and services. She was immediately drawn to Valpo’s campus and its inclusive academic environment fostered by students, faculty, staff.

Early in her undergraduate career, Grace was committed to absorbing as much as she possibly could from the University, a place that teaches students how to simultaneously lead and serve.

“My time here has provided me with a framework for seeking purposeful employment, prioritizing my vocational search through all four years,” she says.

And in that time, Grace has done just that — discern her calling and purpose. Along with being an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, Valpo’s service fraternity, Grace serves as secretary and treasurer for the Porter County League of Women Voters. And her commitment to service doesn’t stop there.

Last spring, she spent a semester in Washington, D.C., as part of the Lutheran College Washington Semester, where she worked for the National Peace Corps Association.

Following her semester, Grace spent the summer interning with the United Way of LaPorte County as one of the Institute for Leadership and Service’s inaugural CAPS Fellows. Grace says that, while she has had many life changing service-learning experiences through Valpo programs, this particular opportunity was dramatically different.

“During the summer, I was able to organize and facilitate community conversations focused on health, income, and education conditions,” she says. “I received hands-on service-learning while broadening my academic understanding of service theories, core issues, and components of service from the program’s reflections and mentor meetings.”

Throughout the program, Elizabeth Lynn, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Leadership and Service, was particularly struck by Grace’s passion and desire for growth.

“Grace really stands out to me as someone who understands the importance of leadership and service in every context, international, regional, or local,” she says. “As a student, she has engaged at all those levels — working with Peace Corps as an intern, with the United Way of LaPorte County as a CAPS Fellow, and with Our Greater Good right here in Valpo this semester.  And in every case, she brings warmth, passion, intelligence, and good humor to the cause.”

This fall, Grace took advantage of one more opportunity to coalesce service-learning theory and practice through a course called “Global Humanitarian Examined” offered by the Rev. John A. Nunes, Ph.D., Emil and Elfriede Jochum University Chair. During the course, Professor Nunes brought together classroom and community by challenging his students to create a humanitarian simulation designed for Lutheran middle school youth from the area. The simulation, which they called “Project Diakonia,” was co-sponsored by Lutheran World Relief.

“It allowed youth to learn about topics such as water security, food sustainability, disaster response, and infrastructure development through interactive learning modules designed entirely by the students in Professor Nunes’ course,” Grace says.

When recalling the experience, Professor Nunes said he was thankful for students like Grace, who made the entire course a success.

“Having Grace in my Global Humanitarian course brought to mind the limits of the classroom experience,” says Professor Nunes. “Care for the vulnerable can be shaped into service, but no lesson plan can create compassion. My best teaching relies on leaders like Grace, investing her best self in the learning experience, letting her light shine in the classroom, across our campus, and in the world.”

Upon graduation, Grace hopes to continue pursuing her passion for service in a position with the Peace Corps, where she has applied to work as a community development advisor in Eastern Europe. She has also considered continuing her education with a graduate degree in public administration or community development. She says that Valpo has provided her with ample resources to succeed after graduation.

As director of project delivery in Dubai Aviation Engineering Projects, Jumah Al-Mazrooie ’02 solves some of the most complex engineering puzzles in the Middle East.

He’s one of the leaders for Dubai’s airport expansion project, the largest of its kind currently in the world, which will prepare Dubai to be the leading airport traffic recipient on a global scale.

And he combined this passion for engineering with an entrepreneurial spirit, launching an international elevator engineering company — an ambitious endeavor that stems from his undergraduate research experience at Valparaiso University.

“My undergraduate research team at Valpo created an elevator prototype and model,” Jumah says, “and now I own a global elevator company.”

Originally from the United Arab Emirates, Jumah came to Valpo to study computer engineering. He credits much of his success to the insights he gained while at Valpo as well as the academic rigor of the engineering program.

“We were forced to think quickly and logically in order to succeed,” he says.

In addition to learning key concepts through engineering courses, Jumah learned invaluable lessons about leadership and service while studying in the United States and particularly at Valpo.

“Living and studying abroad strongly shaped the leadership skills and independent personality that I now possess and have carried forward since my time at Valpo,” says Jumah. “I also learned that it is important to contribute to the work and life of others.”

Jumah uses these skills not only to make a difference as a leader in the engineering field, but also to influence the trajectory of his alma mater. Currently, he serves on the College of Engineering National Council, an advisory council made up of alumni and friends to provide guidance for the College. In addition, Jumah says that giving back financially is equally important.

“We have a debt toward our school and instructors, and the least we can do is give our time and financial resources to improve the school so that others can benefit from similar experiences,” says Jumah.

Because of his desire to stay connected to the University, many faculty members in the College of Engineering maintain a close relationship with Jumah, including Eric W. Johnson ’87, Ph.D., dean of the College.

“Jumah was passionate about learning and worked very hard,” Dean Johnson says. “I am excited about his engagement with the College of Engineering. Not only will he bring a global perspective to our National Council, but he wants to share his experiences with our current domestic and international students.

“He is a role model for our students on how to be a successful engineer and entrepreneur.”

Jumah’s work on the Dubai airport expansion has gained worldwide recognition, including a National Geographic documentary about the project, in which he is featured. And because of extraordinary contributions of alumni like Jumah, Valpo continues to find answers for the world’s most complex problems through its innovative and global engineering education.

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