Thanks to the tenacity of Alison Norris ’17, Valpo is home to a chamber music ensemble nicknamed the “STEM-quintet,” enabling a group of five individuals with varying interests to incorporate their love for music into their arduous academic schedules.

“I chose to attend Valparaiso University for countless reasons — my mother’s alma matter, premier engineering program, and endless opportunity,” Alison says. “At Valpo, I have not only been able to explore my interests, I have been encouraged and inspired to do so.”

Alison, who recently graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, was a member of the Symphony Orchestra throughout her four years on campus. While Valpo’s music department offers an array of options for non-majors, when Alison sought to expand her musical involvement by joining a woodwind quintet, there were no openings for a flautist. Thus, with the approval of the music department, Alison took initiative to create an additional quintet.

“Many music departments are hesitant to allow non-majors to participate in their ensembles, but at Valpo, it is not only allowed, it is encouraged and supported by other departments and the University at large,” says Ericka Grodrian, D.M., assistant professor of music. “Students here are inspired to create their own opportunities. When students take initiative, some truly incredible and fulfilling things can happen for them.”

Launched in fall 2015, the quintet is comprised of all STEM majors — Brian Thomson ’17, mathematics major, clarinet; Timothy Henderson ’20, engineering major, oboe; Sarah Kuchel ’19, electrical and computer engineering major, bassoon, Janelle Wigal ’18, electrical engineering major, French horn; and Alison, mechanical engineering major, flute.

Entering its third year, the STEM-quintet is coached by Professor Grodrian, who assists the musicians in refining their pieces in preparation for performance. The ensemble has made notable appearances across campus and continually seizes new chances to perform for the community. Most recently, the group was invited to play for the College of Engineering’s National Council meeting. They also performed pre-concert music for the Christmas concert and played in Abendmusik, the music department’s largest and exclusive chamber music performance.

Alison’s determination opened up possibilities for her fellow classmates. The quintet members are able to experience their love of music in a new way and engage with members of the Valparaiso community through performance.

Janelle refers to the STEM-quintet as the “best part of her week,” attributing this to the fun, positive group dynamic and the high level of musicality they are able to achieve together. She is particularly excited this summer as the group has embarked on a tour from Indiana to Tennessee, hoping to impact other students who want to be active in music in college, but not necessarily as music majors.

From Tennessee, Janelle decided to attend Valpo as the University, unlike most other schools, was willing to assist her in embracing all her interests — engineering, music, and track.

“When I visited the music department, it was Professor Doebler who told me Valpo would allow me to do just about anything and everything I wanted to — the faculty and staff would make it possible,” says Janelle. “And now, I am involved in undergraduate research and a member of the Chamber Concert Band, the Track and Cross Country teams, Tau Beta Pi honor society, and the STEM-quintet.”

Reluctant to join the STEM-quintet initially, Brian now says the quintet is his favorite music ensemble of all time. He expresses gratitude for his Valpo experience, attributing Valpo with his ability to pursue varying interests, specifically, the power to “bridge the gap” between mathematics and music. Additionally, at Valpo, he has been able to fully embrace his “love” for education, no matter the field.

“The other STEM-quintet members may have chosen to attend Valparaiso University for its technical programs, but it was the liberal arts tradition that brought me here,” says Brian. “While I have delved deeper into mathematics than I ever thought I would, I have also been able to explore any and every class that interests me.”

For Brian, this “power of choice” afforded him the freedom to take a variety of courses and explore whatever topics compelled him.

The College of Engineering further enabled Alison to combine her two passions, music and engineering, through a research experience, requiring her to write computer code that randomly generates sample pieces of music. Alison was challenged with the task of writing code that will determine when one piece of music is better than another piece of music. Through her program, Alison assigned a “fitness” value to each sample of music and fed it different criteria to improve their fitness value.

“As I’ve gotten to know Alison, it has become evident that she has multiple interests, often feeling compelled to pursue one or the other,” says Peter Johnson, Ph.D., department chair and associate professor of mechanical engineering. “In order to connect her interests, I enlisted Alison to work alongside me on a research project. She possesses the engineering tools and strong musical background to really excel in this endeavor.”

Being too far from home, becoming lost in the crowd, or standing out for not belonging. These are just a few of the many concerns Arielle Thomas ’18 faced as she began her college search. But, in a single trip to Valparaiso University, Arielle found her home for the next four years and hasn’t looked back. Arielle has thrived at Valpo, actively participating in her college journey, relishing in the support of the Valpo community, and finding comfort in a place where she can be true to herself.

“Arielle is an amazing young lady. As a student, she strives for excellence and consistently makes positive contributions to the classroom,” says Byron Martin, M.Ed., director of multicultural programs. “Outside the classroom, she is a leader that is able to connect deeply and richly with everyone she comes in contact with.”

Arielle first came to Valparaiso University to attend the Summer Global Leadership Institute (SGLI), a program that brings together high school students from around the world to experience university life both inside and outside the classroom. Arielle was immersed in a diverse environment, where she engaged with, learned from, and was challenged by individuals from various cultural backgrounds.

“I had to rid myself of misconceptions and open myself to new, even uncomfortable, situations to learn,” Arielle says. “I’ve done more learning outside of the classroom at Valpo than inside, and I think that’s a large part of what SGLI helped me do.”

The program consisted of several team-building activities and extensive hands-on experience in a chosen field of interest, which was nursing for Arielle. She attended academic seminars and workshops and visited Valpo’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, where she met Valpo nursing professors and the College dean. She enjoyed many experiences outside the classroom, including trips to Chicago and the Indiana Dunes and a fashion show, featuring the students themselves.

Through SGLI, Arielle gained a global perspective, made enduring friendships, and became inspired by the program directors. She “fell in love” with Valpo. From that moment, she took every possible opportunity to be on the campus she “loved everything about,” touring campus, attending the Admitted Student Day, and experiencing an overnight visit.

Arielle arrived on campus her freshman year with a support system already in place, consisting of professors and students from SGLI she had established “family-like” relationships with. And, after a brief glimpse into the College of Nursing and Health Professions, was confident in her decision to pursue nursing.

A semester later Arielle found herself at a crossroads, she was struggling in her nursing courses and was forced to re-evaluate her chosen field of study. After much self-reflection, she decided to become a communication major, which she now describes as the “best thing that ever happened to me.”

“Valpo steered me in the right direction and helped me choose my career path” Arielle says. “What I love about Valpo is that there is always a way to make things work.”

Arielle attributes much of her success to Professor Andrew Stem ’05, ’13 M.S., who served as a program director of SGLI. From Valpo Core, the University’s signature first-year experience, to courses within her major, Professor Stem has pushed Arielle to excel in the classroom. Beyond the boundaries of the classroom walls, Professor Stem has offered Arielle endless support and advise, serving as her unofficial advisor, mentor, and friend.

The communications major has provided Arielle with much flexibility, enabling her to tailor her courses to meet her interests. With a keen interest in African American culture, she has reveled in the chance to take a race relations course as well as Black Theology and Black Church.

Arielle has gained technical skills in speaking, writing, and interviewing and, perhaps most important, she has found her voice. In her public speaking course, Arielle was given a platform to not only share pieces of herself and her passions, but to educate her fellow classmates. She selected Madame CJ Walker for her first speech and found her classmates had never heard of her. For Arielle, situations such as this became a “blessing in disguise,” enabling her to expand the minds of those around her.

“What surprised me the most about being a communication major was how much fun I’ve had … public speaking was fun,” Arielle says. “I’ve talked about things I care about and educated the people around me. These teaching moments have been the best part of communications.”

Arielle was recently recognized for her academic excellence through an invitation to Lambda Pi Eta, the communication department’s honor society.

“Arielle has made the most of her Valpo experience. She has faced a fair share of adversity during her time here, and she has risen above it to be incredibly successful,” Professor Stem says. “She has really come into her own in her three years on campus, and I look forward to seeing what she accomplishes as a senior and beyond.”

Like many Valpo students, Arielle has embraced the University’s commitment to community outreach, extending her impact beyond the classroom. She felt called to a life of service from the moment she arrived on campus and has immersed herself in the Valparaiso community through volunteer opportunities.

As a freshman, Arielle learned she could obtain a general studies credit for volunteering and began to teach at the Boys and Girls Club and later for Hilltop Neighborhood House, a daycare in Valparaiso, Ind. After obtaining the maximum credit for volunteering, she engaged with the community through work study. She tutored at Parkview Elementary every chance she had, arriving at 7 a.m. then returning in the evening after class. Arielle has taken advantage of the experiential learning opportunities provided at Hilltop. In addition to teaching, she has designed flyers and pamphlets and managed social media accounts, becoming more marketable to employers upon graduation.

“There’s never a shortage of volunteer opportunities at Valpo. Once I started volunteering, I couldn’t stop; I wanted to do everything,” Arielle says. “There is no greater feeling than helping someone else and making their day just a little brighter. It’s important to be a servant, a blessing, and an inspiration to others.”

The Black Student Organization (BSO) has been another avenue for Arielle to give back to the Valpo community and beyond. She is currently a member of the event planning committee, helping brainstorm about potential events down to details such as food and music. Arielle has enjoyed the supportive, inclusive environment of BSO, which provides a platform to educate others about the African American culture and also gives African American students the space to celebrate and showcase their cultural pride.

Four years after her inaugural visit to Valpo, Arielle finds herself in a “full circle moment,” as she served as an international ambassador for SGLI this summer. Arielle expresses extreme gratitude for the opportunity to serve as a leader — to guide, mentor, and inspire the next generation of prospective Valpo students.

Arielle anticipates a senior year full of exciting, new experiences. She will study in Costa Rica this fall, an opportunity she never thought was in her realm of possibilities, which she says is characteristic of her Valpo experience.

“At Valpo, I’ve been given the space to grow,” Arielle says. “I’ve been pushed in places I didn’t want to be pushed and challenged to go beyond.”

Late-night study sessions at the library. Afternoons spent mentoring classmates at the writing center. Classroom observation with international students. Valparaiso University’s latest Fulbright Award honoree is truly a dedicated scholar. But as a graduate student at Valpo, she’s also spent much of the last two years at the Valpo Softball Complex, bouncing around energetically and leading cheers in the Crusaders’ dugout.

That may not fit the mold of many Fulbright scholars, but then again, little about Taylor Williams ’17 M.A. — who received a Fulbright Award to travel to Korea and teach English in 2017–2018 — has ever fit the mold.

After pursuing undergraduate degrees in both media studies and in women, gender, and sexuality studies from the University of Virginia, Taylor was introduced to TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) while substitute teaching for a year. She was drawn to Valpo for the opportunity to improve her coaching skills as a graduate assistant softball coach coupled with the potential of joining the TESOL master’s program.

“I’m big on agency, big on self-advocacy and being able to articulate your own story,” Taylor says. “At Valpo you have students who come from around the world, from all different backgrounds. They’re great people and students with stories to tell, and the only reason they may not be set up for success is because they don’t speak English. I wanted to help enable these students to tell their stories.”

Taylor has embraced every opportunity to hone her teaching skills outside the classroom. She worked in the University’s writing center, helping international students sharpen academic writing skills, and spent time observing teacher-student interactions at the INTERLINK Language Center, which provides language training, cultural orientation, and academic preparation to international students at Valpo.

Perhaps Taylor’s most impactful contribution came in her practicum, working with two separate groups of Study Abroad students from Namseoul University in South Korea, where she will teach as a Fulbright recipient. Her work with those groups not only helped Taylor develop her skill set in the TESOL field, but also caught the eye of faculty members.

“Taylor planned lessons with the team and co-taught classes,” says Karl Uhrig, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and director of the TESOL master’s program. “Her teaching teammates remarked that she was enthusiastic and eager to use the best possible practices and activities to create meaningful lesson plans. I have no doubt that her students in Korea will benefit immensely from her teaching, and her curiosity and insightfulness will communicate the best of our culture to them.”

Betsy Burow-Flak, Ph.D., associate professor of English and graduate program director for the English Studies and Communication M.A., also took notice of Taylor’s work and her potential and set out to convince Taylor to apply to the Fulbright Program.

“I have seen how faculty have encouraged and mentored U.S. students into this wonderful opportunity for cross-cultural teaching and research,” Professor Burow-Flak says. “Taylor has all of the qualities that add up to a positive Fulbright experience: she is an ambitious scholar and a responsive teacher, wants to live abroad, and has curiosity and respect for the culture in which she will be living. Her experience teaching high school and graduate degree in teaching English are valuable training.”

With the time she dedicated to her academic pursuits both inside and outside the classroom, Taylor still managed to serve as a graduate assistant coach for the Crusader softball program, helping to lead the program to 46 wins during the past two years and the 2016 Horizon League Championship. And even on the softball field, Taylor found ways to hone proficiencies that would apply to her TESOL work.

“One of the most important tenets of our softball program is that we don’t coach softball, we coach people who play softball,” says softball head coach Kate Stake. “You have to be able to teach the same skill different ways to different players, and Taylor’s been able to do that over the course of her time here. That’s an ability that translates into teaching anything, be it catching fly balls or English.”

Taylor departed for Korea in early July, attending orientation at Jungwon University in the North Chungcheong Province. Those who have seen Taylor work over the past two years know she’s ready to make an impact in Korea and be a great TESOL educator.

“Taylor knows the value of communicative learning – of learning by speaking languages, complete with risking making mistakes – but also respects the rigor and success of Korean education in relation to matters such as grammatical instruction,” Professor Burow-Flak said. “She will be a wonderful representative of the U.S., the Fulbright U.S. student program, and Valparaiso University.”

Taylor looks forward to her time teaching in Korea, relishing in the potential to make a difference in the lives of her students through teaching English and beyond, while simultaneously adding to her life experiences.

“I’m excited for the chance to build relationships and be an international ambassador of sorts,” Taylor says. “I’m a minority on a number of counts: race, gender, sexual orientation — there’s all these things about me that aren’t maybe how Americans are viewed in Korea. I want to represent all those aspects of who I am and use them to open cultural dialogues and to talk about these things in a very respectful and mature way. I also want to immerse myself in the Korean culture. There are so many similarities between cultures, and I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to discover those similarities.”

As Taylor moves into this next phase of her professional and personal journey, she’s secure in the fact that Valparaiso University, and the people who make up the campus community, have left her as prepared as she could be for the upcoming experience.

“The notion that culture is so important and that you need to care about the person first is something I’ll take with me from softball into the classroom,” Taylor says. “I’ve been nothing but impressed with the support of those around me. Everybody here at Valpo — whether in the TESOL program, the English department, or in Athletics — has been invested in my growth. That’s something that you don’t find everywhere, that people will so wholeheartedly invest in the success of others.”

At Valpo, academic disciplines are blended together across campus, facilitating new pursuits and discoveries. Elizabeth Wuerffel ’00, MFA, associate professor of art, and Jeff Will, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering, have enjoyed an enduring, collaborative relationship, embracing Valpo’s commitment to multidisciplinary innovation.

“I value the size of the University as well as its nature as a comprehensive university,” Professor Will says. “Liz and I can get together and interact, and if other possibilities arise, we can get in touch with other faculty, like music, dance, or theatre. There are no barriers. I truly believe my university values this kind of working across disciplinary boundaries.”

Professors Wuerffel and Will began their collaborative relationship more than six years ago when Professor Wuerffel and her art students sought the expertise of the College of Engineering in the area of aerial photography. Professor Will answered the call, engaging his senior design students to work on this art application. Senior design is a required engineering course that brings together students from each engineering discipline — civil, electrical, computer, mechanical, and now bioengineering — working in teams of five to seven to conceptualize, design, build, test, and assess a project.

“What attracted me to Valpo, first as a student and then again to teach, was its size,” Professor Wuerffel says. “The intimacy of the University enables me to simply walk over to another college like the College of Engineering and see who’s interested in a particular project. This ability to become interdisciplinary is one of Valpo’s strengths.”

This aerial photography project interested many engineering students, so two entire senior design teams were dedicated to it. Each team successfully designed and created an aerial balloon device for cameras to the art students’ specifications, with one team creating an indoor aerial balloon and the other an outdoor aerial balloon. This collaboration between the College of Engineering and the art department expanded during the next several years. Students produced a high-altitude aerial balloon with a parachute that traveled one mile up and contained a GPS tracking system, a submarine device to capture underwater shots, and then utilized drones to extend the balloon’s capacity even further.

The collaboration between Professors Wuerffel and Will has extended into the VisCube, an immersive 3D visualization system located in the University’s Scientific Visualization Laboratory. Using three large rear-projection walls and a front projected floor, the Viscube displays images into 3D space, allowing users to collaboratively examine and manipulate complex 3D models. Professor Will introduced virtual reality to Valpo as an educational tool in 2002. What began as a rudimentary virtual reality system consisting of two screens has developed into what is now known as the Viscube.

“I believed the power of virtual reality technology could be used in education,” Professor Will says. “Education can be moved forward through the use of virtual environments. Bringing this technology and educational method to Valpo benefits our undergrads throughout campus.”

The VisCube, in addition to enhancing students’ education and knowledge in varied disciplines, offers an abundance of opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. The use of motion capture technology has enabled art students to draw in 3D space. Students don motion capture suits and draw through movement, creating three dimensional drawings. Once exported as a video, students can wear 3D glasses and actually enter into the drawing itself. While the art students were responsible for the creative content of these videos, the engineering students provided technical support through programming, troubleshooting, and visualization of data.

Students from across campus, from dancers to theatre students, have utilized this motion capture technology. Most recently, conducting students in the music department used the Viscube to record, review, and analyze 3D renderings of their body movements while leading musical ensembles.

Erik Matson ’17, who recently received his bachelor’s degree in church music with a minor in math, utilized this motion capture technology as part of the advanced conducting course. He and his classmates went into the lab, and while sporting the motion capture suits, recorded themselves conducting multiple pieces.

“I appreciate that at Valpo there’s the opportunity to make these connections,” Erik says. It was definitely a unique experience that gave me a lot of insight and improved my conducting.”

The motion capture lab allows conducting students to study wireframes of their conducting to see exactly how each part of their body is moving. Through the 3D renderings of their conducting, students to see themselves at every possible angle and size. The students are able to detach and look beyond their physical appearance or facial expressions and delve into the conducting itself.

“The sense of inquiry, curiosity, and discovery we share when we’re collaborating is so much fun, and that’s what I love to see in my students,” Professor Wuerffel says. “What I enjoy about life is the abundance of opportunity to try new things and that means crossing disciplinary boundaries all the time.”

A high school track star from Westampton, N.J., Stefon David ’17 came to Valpo with high hopes and big dreams four years ago, with little foundation of what to expect. A first-generation student, he wasn’t familiar with the school, or the region, or even Indiana.

Now a recent graduate, his résumé bursts with campus involvement, internships, and leadership roles. He’s a brother of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, ran track for two years, and served as the Morale Team Captain for this year’s Dance Marathon.

But 2017 is not where Stefon’s story begins.

At first, Stefon encountered difficulties finding his footing on campus. “I came to Valpo to run track and double major in chemistry and biology,” he says. “I ended up hating my science courses, and I dreaded going to class.”

Stefon grappled with his coursework and experienced injuries on the track field. It all became too much, and coupled with his newfound freedom being away from home, Stefon struggled to balance athletics, academics, and a transition to college life.

Stefon took a break from track and refocused his energy. Around that time, he took a communications class with Professor Andrew Stem ’05, ’13 M.S. “Professor Stem’s class was really engaging. He really involved the whole class,” says Stefon.

Even as a freshman, Professor Stem noted that Stefon exhibited signs of being a leader. “He was one of those people I could count on to carry a discussion in class,” he says. He became a mentor to Stefon, and the two met regularly to catch up on life and talk about the future.

After that first class with Professor Stem, Stefon came to an important realization. He switched his major to communications, hung up his running spikes, and prepared to pursue other opportunities at Valpo, which included joining a fraternity.

After meeting the brothers of Phi Kappa Psi, Stefon set his sights on becoming a part of the organization and became a brother at the end of his sophomore year.

“Before joining Phi Kappa Psi, I didn’t know much about fraternities. The process was not at all like the movies portray it to be. I found my experience to be more tight-knit and inclusive,” Stefon explains. During his years at Valpo, Stefon became even more involved with his fraternity through leadership conferences and as recruitment chair.

Bonnie Dahlke Goebbert, assistant dean of students for first-year students and commuter programs and the faculty advisor for Phi Kappa Psi, saw firsthand how joining a fraternity changed the course of Stefon’s college career.

“It was fun to watch. Things started to click for him,” Assistant Dean Goebbert says. “He has such a strong presence — you started to see that impact things campuswide in a really positive way.”

In fall 2016, Stefon was crowned Homecoming King, and in the spring he helped to raise nearly $70,000 for Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago through the annual Dance Marathon as the philanthropy’s Morale Team Captain. He also enjoys his on-campus job as supervisor of the call center and enjoys mentoring younger students.

Throughout this journey, Stefon discovered a new academic calling.

“After taking an intellectual property class and watching a powerful documentary, I thought about becoming pre-law,” Stefon says. “My brother, who was incarcerated for a period of time due to a crime he didn’t commit, inspired me to want to make a difference in this field.”

Stefon took the LSAT in February and has already been accepted to several law schools.

Looking back, Stefon has some advice for incoming freshman.

He stresses the importance of developing a strong support system, whether that’s a great group of friends, a roommate, or someone from a student organization. “When you fall, you want to make sure you have someone there to pick you up and guide you. They should be people who bring you up, not pull you down,” Stefon says.

Stefon also recommends new students get involved on campus. He says being involved kept him busy, helped him find balance, and allowed him to develop important relationships.

“I’ve never come across anyone, either faculty or student or staff, who interacted with him and didn’t like him,” Professor Stem says. “He’s got quite a winning combination in terms of affability and smarts that will allow him to accomplish great things in whatever realm he decides to go in.”

Both Professor Stem and Assistant Dean Goebbert use the same word to describe Stefon: Gregarious.

“There are many stories like Stefon’s, but his is so special because of where he started and where he’s ended up,” Assistant Dean Goebbert says. “We miss his presence on campus, but I can’t wait to see what kind of contributions he’ll make as an alumnus and in his career.”

Third in the state in high school doubles says a couple of things. It says you have a real shot at being able to play Division I tennis, while you will likely do something else professionally. Paige Heuer ’17 understood this from the start. Her drive to not just storm the net but her studies has her at the top of her game in another arena few can master.

Joining one of the prestigious Big Four accounting firms not long after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, the company Ernst & Young (EY) is taking a gamble on Paige, just as Valparaiso University did four years ago. Paige credits the University’s encouragement of balancing athletics and studies as playing a critical role as she is set to start her career.

“Valpo has great academics, including our College of Business being AACSB accredited, and I was able to play Division I athletics,” Paige says, as she reflects on the key factors that went into her decision to attend Valpo. During her time here, she’s thrived in both areas.

During the final match of the 2016–2017 season, Paige earned her 41st doubles win, finishing eighth in program history. It seems fitting Paige is known for playing doubles, because she’ll be the first to say her academic success didn’t come from going it alone. She was a leader of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and a member of a sorority and the Order of Omega, and she says the Valpo community has helped her become the person she is today.

“Kathleen Hebble ’17 was my doubles partner and she was also my roommate,” says Paige, who grew up in Munster, Ind., less than an hour from campus. “She puts so much hard work into her classes, and it’s really the whole team that feeds off each other when it comes to studying.” During a team trip to Northern Kentucky — a drive of more than four hours — Paige estimates that three of the hours they’d all be studying.

With the women’s tennis team ranked third in GPA among all Valpo Athletics programs last year, their wish seems to have mostly been granted. But Paige says this winning attitude doesn’t happen without team leadership behind them. “Our coach is always making sure we put grades first,” she says, “and reminds us what we’re here for. We have to remember that we’re student-athletes — not ‘athlete students’.”

Some may wonder how accounting can compete with the excitement of tennis, but it’s where it rivals it in mindset that partly attracted Paige.

“Tennis is about taking several steps to winning a point most of the time,” she says. “You may have to hit one shot, to lead to another shot, and maybe the next one is the winner. Accounting has its process as well. You have to focus and not get ahead of yourself.”

Paige says faculty have only helped her enthusiasm for the subject, particularly noting Professor Marc LeClere’s advice. “He’s taught me for multiple accounting courses, and he’s been there whenever I’ve had questions,” she says. “Throughout my internship, he gave me many pointers and thoughts on how to be helpful to the staff and stand out in the best way possible.”

Even with those advantages, it was a nerve-racking moment equal to situations on the court when Paige knew the decision of whether she would be hired was forthcoming. When she found out she would be joining the EY team full-time as FSO (Financial Services Office) Tax Staff, with a strong focus on banks, she once again experienced a payoff from hard work and determination.

“Securing this position is a relief and allows me to look ahead now that I know where I’ll be,” Paige says. “I also have a lot more studying to do in order to become a CPA. But it’s exciting!”

Even though she may be trading in much of her court time for the pressure of tax time and financial statements, Paige isn’t quite ready to retire her racket.

“My mom played college tennis, and we’re playing together in a league,” Paige says. “I may have to change the priority I put on the game, but I don’t have to stop. Tennis taught me so much and made me better at other things. I appreciate the University giving me the chance to go further in my experiences in the sport.”

Paige even admits to having a dream of possibly opening up her own tennis facility. Of course, if being good at a sport were enough to run a corresponding business, many athletes wouldn’t be able to share their tales of woe. Still, many of them didn’t have the kind of background that an accounting degree and Big Four employment can provide.

“Paige is ‘The Package’,” Professor LeClere says. “An exemplary student who combines outstanding academic work with D1 athletics, all wrapped up in an engaging, ebullient, and outgoing personality.”

Regardless of whether her future career includes her sport, Paige is positioned well for the next shot.

Tennis balls fly back and forth across the net as young men run in zig-zag patterns to thwart their opponents hard driving serves. Tennis at Division I schools is a blur of intense and concentrated movement. At Valpo, it’s especially engaging as a Horizon League Championship winning team includes Senior Tennis Team Captain, Kyle Dunn 17.

Kyle is a student-athlete on a mission to win on the tennis court and gain admittance into dental school.  As a senior and team captain, Kyle is an inspired leader, setting a high standard of excellence for both himself and his teammates. A team leader in overall singles victories, with at least 20 wins per season, Kyle’s effectiveness on the court is undeniable.

Growing up in West Englewood, on Chicago’s South Side, Andre Daniels ’08 was surrounded by violence, poverty, and drug abuse, with nearly every one of his friends engaged in some type of negative activity. Music became his refuge at an early age. He began rapping at 13 and has been perfecting his craft ever since.

Andre recently launched a music based after-school program, utilizing his Valpo education to pursue his intense passion for mentorship and continue to foster his love for music in service to his community.

“Andre is an evangelistic figure in the black community who unselfishly practices philanthropy as a part of his own life purpose and philosophy,” says DeQuan Jackson, mentee of Andre’s. “Through the arts, Andre is managing to transform youth lives and perspective on the world.”

When Andre was in fifth grade, a neighbor was killed due to gun violence and a friend was shot, but survived. These incidents gave Andre a different perspective on and appreciation for life. Shortly thereafter, he turned to music as a way to escape the negativity permeating his environment. He explores many important themes, including social and personal issues, political topics, race, and relationships in the music he writes.

“My music is my comfort zone — a safe place filled with memories and feelings, where I can vent and express myself,” says Andre. “It is the therapy that my parents were never able to afford.”

Andre found Valparaiso University to be quite different from Chicago, but it was the differences that “inspired” him. He embraced it and immersed himself in the close-knit Valpo community. Andre became driven to bring the love and connection that surrounded him back to his childhood community in a city often divided by difference rather than united by it.

“As a student, Andre stood out as a kind, humble, service-minded young man who shared his time and talents with the campus community,” says Stacy Hoult-Saros, Ph.D., associate professor of foreign languages and literatures. “He is extraordinary not only for his musical talent and work ethic, but also for his motivation to use his considerable gifts to help others.”

A communications major and journalism minor, Andre explored various interests during his four years on campus and was extremely active in multiple areas — as an artist, radio show host, member of the Black Student Organization (BSO), and through community service. He served Valparaiso area residents at Hilltop Neighborhood House, a daycare in Valparaiso, providing care and education for their youth. Overwhelmed with feelings of appreciation, love, and need, it became evident to Andre that he was making a difference in the lives of the children as well as their parents. The difference they were making in his life was most significant — revealing his true passion for youth development.

“Andre knew how to maximize his impact as a member of the Valparaiso community when he was a student. He used his voice to bring awareness to situations that few wanted to address, and he used his ears to learn from others,” says Paul Oren ’02, ’10 M.S., lecturer in communication. “There were days when I was his professor, and there were days when I was his student.”

In 2015, Andre was invited to campus to perform at the BSO’s Black History Month dinner. This was a “full-circle moment” for Andre, transporting him back to his time as a student when he participated in every Black History Month dinner either reading a poem or performing. BSO supported Andre as a student and encouraged him to “stay on this path of inspiring others.”

While Andre refers to music as his “first love,” there is a “certain joy” he finds as a mentor that gives him more satisfaction than anything else. His engagement as a mentor is extensive, from teaching rap to middle schoolers with Guitars Over Guns, a music mentoring program, to co-hosting a weekly writing workshop called Wreckshop for teens and young adults through Young Chicago Authors.

“The most important things you can do are for others as to opposed to what you can do for yourself,” Andre says. “If I can help someone feel better or enhance their life in any way then I feel I have fulfilled my purpose.”

In July 2016, Andre partnered with his church, Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church, and Guitars Over Guns to launch Haven Studio, a free after-school program in Bronzeville on Chicago’s South Side. Haven provides a positive environment where teens can express themselves creatively; learn the basics of recording, engineering, and producing songs; and grow as young women and men. Perhaps most importantly, it provides an alternative to teens who are in dire need of positive influences and might otherwise be drawn to gangs and the streets.

As a teen, Andre recalls spending his evenings at a friend’s house, using his computer and microphone to record music and avoiding the negativity spread throughout the environment and attracting nearly all his friends. He hopes Haven will enable him to replicate that experience for other young adults and decrease the violence in the area neighborhoods.

“For the young adolescents who have experienced perilous trials and tribulations, Andre offers an outlet at Haven Studio — a vessel for self-expression and self-discovery,” DeQuan Jackson says. “As his mentee, he will forever have his mark on my life, and I will forever be thankful for his guidance and wisdom.”

In its first six months, Haven has touched the lives of more than 100 teens and young adults who have entered the studio. Rival gang members have come together in the same room and have learned not only how to communicate with one another, but developed friendships and created music with one another. Andre hopes Haven will continue to grow and benefit as many kids as possible without losing its personal touch and familial atmosphere.

“The success of Haven is defined by the small, but impactful victories that put our mentees on the right path — kids staying in school when once on the verge of dropping out, rectifying their relationships with their parents, taking responsibility for their actions, taking care of each other and their community, or just being able to smile again,” Andre says. “I don’t care if any of them turn out to be musicians. My main concern is that they end up as better people.”

In recognition of his extensive humanitarian work — Guitars Over Guns, Young Chicago Authors, speaking engagements, community work, and Haven Studio — Andre was honored with a humanitarian award by The Arts of Humanity at the Fashion and Arts Humanity Fete in November 2016.

Andre is a self-proclaimed “driven, ambitious individual who wants to make this world a better place.” He is an inspirational force, using music as a platform to transform his community.

Since her arrival on campus, Rebecca Valliere ’18 has fully immersed herself in the College of Engineering. She has thrived in the small, collaborative community, developing close relationships with her fellow students and faculty and discovering a true passion for civil engineering, which has extended beyond the classroom.

“Civil engineering is often deemphasized or overlooked, but it’s a large part of our society and affects a lot of people,” Rebecca says. “At its core, civil engineering focuses on people. I want to ensure our roads, buildings, bridges, and water are safe for the benefit of society.”

From creating structurally sound buildings to providing clean water, Rebecca is keenly aware of the major role civil engineers play in ensuring our society operates effectively and efficiently. She is committed to receiving an education that will prepare her to serve the community through engineering. Rebecca recognizes the uniqueness of Valpo’s civil engineering program in that the guiding principles of civil engineering are directly linked to the mission of the University — to prepare graduates to lead and serve where needed in society.

Throughout her time as an engineering student, Rebecca has seen the impact of mentorship first-hand. She has been mentored and guided by faculty as well as her fellow students. She has availed herself of the Hesse Center’s resources as a mentee and taken part in the Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) mentorship program, where upperclassman women mentor freshmen women in engineering, as both a mentee and mentor. Recognizing her technical ability and leadership skills, Rebecca was selected as a grader and lab aid for civil engineering.

“The College of Engineering is comprised of a lot of passionate individuals, from faculty and staff to my fellow students,” Rebecca says. “Being surrounded by that energy has elevated my performance, empowering me to do better for myself and to help others.”

Since her freshman year, Rebecca has taken on a leadership role in Valpo’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE), currently serving as the group’s president. Among its many activities, ASCE attends the Great Lakes Student Conference, which involves nearly 20 other regional institutions. The group participates in several mini competitions — materials, surveying, environmental, geotechnical, quiz bowl — with the primary event being concrete canoe races. In an effort to grow the organization, Valpo’s ASCE chapter will participate in the conference’s other main event, steel bridge, this year.

Valpo’s ASCE chapter also participates in the American Concrete Institute’s (ACI) semi-annual competitions. Currently, students are making a reinforced beam for the spring competition. The students have experienced much success in this competition, placing third for cementitious efficiency in the pervious concrete competition fall 2015 for developing a concrete mixture with the lowest amount of cementitious material while maintaining overall performance. This Spring Break she attended the ACI’s competition as a finalist for its civil engineering fellowship. If awarded the fellowship, she will be placed in a civil engineering internship this summer.

“Rebecca is an outstanding student both in and out of the classroom,” says Jacob Henschen, instructor of civil engineering. “In addition to scholastic achievement, she continues to hone her leadership skills as president of the ASCE student chapter. For her hard work and diligence, she has been chosen as a finalist for a fellowship through the American Concrete Institute. And, I look forward to her future success at Valpo and in her career.”

As president of ASCE, Rebecca guides, oversees, and manages the organization’s projects. Recently, she took initiative to launch a mentorship program within ASCE. Rebecca was deeply inspired by fellow women in engineering through SWE’s mentorship program and hopes to directly impact the academic journey of her fellow civil engineering students through ASCE’s new program in which freshman and sophomore civil engineering students are mentored by upperclassman civil engineering students.

In order to prepare herself for anticipated pursuit of graduate school, Rebecca acquired a research position with Zuhdi Aljobeh, Ph.D., associate professor of civil engineering, the summer following her sophomore year, which extended into the fall of her junior year. The research project involves iron-enhanced rain gardens. Iron shavings were placed in a sand layer of the rain garden, absorbing phosphorous and thus decreasing algae blooms, which have a negative effect on the water. Rebecca tested water samples and created a virtual version of the rain garden. Through this hands-on research, Rebecca developed an interest in environmental engineering and gained experience critical for entry into graduate school.

“Exposure to the research process under the close guidance of faculty mentors is a critical learning experience provided in the College of Engineering,” Professor Aljobeh says. “Rebecca’s involvement in our rain garden research — sampling and analyzing the storm water runoff and developing a computer model of the rain garden — will undoubtedly shape her future, especially if she wishes to pursue research at the graduate level or in her career.”

A devoted teacher and cutting-edge researcher, Sanjay Kumar, Ph.D., associate professor of information and decision science, joined the College of Business faculty in 2014 along with his wife Jiangzia Liu, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting. He has since made a second home at Valpo — he embraces the Valpo ethos, shares his love for teaching, impacts students through his innovative teaching style, and prepares the College of Business for the future.

“His teaching ability and his passion are unparalleled,” says Michael Kinsella ’17, a finance major who has taken several courses Professor Kumar teaches. “He cares deeply about his students, connecting with them on an impressive intellectual level and forcing them to think critically.”

After five years at a large public university, Professor Kumar joined the Valpo faculty in a comparable role, teaching complementary courses and continuing similar research in supply chain management. However, it became immediately apparent to him he was in an entirely different environment. At Valpo, everything he sees is “positive”— small, open environment; collegial, welcoming faculty; and students who are hard-working, respectful, and engaged in and outside the classroom.

“I decided to come to Valpo based on the University’s reputation and a day-long visit, but there remained many uncertainties,” Professor Kumar says. “I’ve been here about two and a half years now, and what I felt in that one day was right — this is a good place to be, a wonderful environment. I wake up every morning wanting to come to work.”

While Professor Kumar jokes that everyone should take his supply chain management course “because it’s the best class,” he considers it to be the most important thing to learn in the business world. Most people are unaware of what occurs in supply chains, so he teaches students to see the world from a completely different perspective — through supply chain lenses.

“Supply chain management examines multiple companies, interconnected to provide a product or service, to ensure they are operating efficiently,” Professor Kumar says. “We need to understand how companies operate, how they are interrelated, and how we can make decisions that can shield them from disruptive events.”

Professor Kumar is currently establishing a minor in global supply chain management at the University, eventually leading to a major. With the support of faculty coupled with a strong student interest, he is confident this program expansion will positively impact the University, and most important, students.

His research is focused primarily on reducing the effects of adversity, such as hurricane, terrorist attack, bad policy, or worker strife, on supply chains. In the near future, Professor Kumar hopes to collaborate with Valpo students on this high-quality research. This research is on the cutting edge of supply chain management and has been cited in influential publications such as the Washington Post. Research productivity is one way in which Professor Kumar measures success in his career, but he considers the achievements of his students, who can be found at companies such as Google and Amazon, to be a major component of his own success.

Professor Kumar is most at home in the classroom and feeds off students’ energy and enthusiasm to learn. Rather than approach his courses from a content perspective, he finds great benefit in focusing on the students themselves. He uses more student-oriented, instead of textbook-oriented, examples, enabling students to connect to the material and truly grasp the ideas being conveyed.

“What impressed me most about Professor Kumar is his ability to present course material in both an engaging and informative manner,” says Reid Zimmerman ’17, international business major. “He constantly gauges student understanding of the material and adapts his teaching to meet the needs of his students rather than pursuing his own predetermined agenda.”

One of the reasons Professor Kumar was drawn to Valpo was based on the College of Business’ mission to cultivate values-based leaders in a dynamic and global environment. Through his lectures, he stresses the importance of making decisions that are good for a company and society in the long-term rather than making short-term, reward-driven decisions. He brings a different perspective to the business world as he has extensive international experience, including 24 years in India. He emphasizes the global nature of business and encourages his students to embrace opportunities to gain exposure to business in all areas of the world.

“As a result of Professor Kumar, every time I approach a problem I delve a little deeper,” Michael says. “I will forever be grateful for having had him as my professor, for his insight both inside and outside of the classroom, and for making my Valpo experience both special and indelible.”

In fall 2016, Professor Kumar assembled and coached a team of four Valpo College of Business students for the first-ever Conexus Indiana Logistics Case Competition, an event sponsored by Conexus in collaboration with leaders in Indiana’s logistics industry in order to increase awareness and interest in logistics careers. The competition included students from the top universities across the state, where, unlike Valpo, substantial programs in supply chain management exist.

“These other students may have taken more classes, but you just can’t compete with the education received in Valpo’s College of Business,” Professor Kumar says. “I truly believe the education we provide students is much better than that at most major schools. At Valpo, a student cannot hide. They see that the faculty is invested in them, that they care, which really impacts the student.”

This team of Valpo students won first prize and walked away with a trophy and $5,000, “impressing” the event’s organizers in the process. Professor Kumar attributes the win to the personal attention received at Valpo, which enables professors to instill in their students the confidence to succeed.

“I am proud to call Professor Kumar my professor, mentor, and friend,” Reid says. “As a relatively new professor, he is already making his mark, and I look forward to seeing the continued impact he will have on the supply chain and logistics program at Valpo.”

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