Ginger Zuidgeest ’02 wakes up at 4 a.m. each weekday with resolve.

“Since Valpo, I’ve been on this constant mission,” she said. “One of my best friends calls me ‘The Explainer,’ and it’s true. When you’re a scientist on television, you’re an explainer. You have to take science and make it simple, while also teaching people something.”

Ginger, who goes by the moniker Ginger Zee (“Zuidgeest,” she said, was too difficult for people to pronounce), is perhaps most well known for her work as the lead meteorologist for Good Morning America, a role she stepped into in fall 2013 after several years of delivering weekend forecasts on the program.

At only 32, Ginger is a seasoned television veteran, having worked for more than 10 years at television stations and networks throughout Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois.

It wasn’t the glamour of television that fueled Ginger’s interest in broadcast meteorology, though; it was the joy of making science meaningful to audiences.

When people see weather on television, Ginger said, “They need to know, ‘Why did that happen?’ That’s a human reaction, and to be the person who can explain — it’s such an honor,” she shared. “I’m so proud of what I do.”

The ability to make a tangible difference in the lives of viewers was something Ginger discovered as a student at Valparaiso University. She loved science as a child, but it wasn’t until former professor John Knox encouraged her to complete an internship during her freshman year that she began to consider a career in front of the camera.

“When I came back from that internship, I had on-camera experience,” she said. “PBS in Merrillville was auditioning meteorologists, and I secured a position when I was only 19 years old.”

Professor Bart Wolf remembers Ginger as being absolutely determined to follow her passion. “What struck me with Ginger was her focus on her career,” said Professor Wolf. “She knew what she wanted to do from early in her studies, and she worked very diligently on a career path that would get her there.”

After graduating from Valpo a semester early (with a meteorology degree and minors in mathematics and Spanish), Ginger worked for several newsrooms in her home state of Michigan. Then in 2006, WMAQ-TV in Chicago extended her a contract to work in the country’s third largest television market. It was in Chicago that she began to receive national attention for her work — appearing on national newscasts at MSNBC and hosting her own show, “Storm Chasers,” on the Discovery Channel.

Working in Chicago also meant Ginger was close to Valparaiso, and she took advantage of the opportunity to make a difference for students at her alma mater, designing and teaching the meteorology department’s first course dedicated to television forecasting.

“I loved being able to give students something I never had,” she said. “There wasn’t anyone to lead me through what I was about to experience, and TV is a strange, strange business.”

“I made my students work very hard in that class and wasn’t going to stand for anything less,” she continued. “I had them dress as if they were going to be on TV, so they all had to wear suits. I told them, ‘If you’re going to do it, you have to live it now’.”

Ginger’s former student, Justin Thompson-Gee ’12, who is now a meteorologist at KAAL-TV, an ABC affiliate in Minnesota, remembers her as being open and honest about the realities of the television business. “It was a blessing to have someone so experienced and so successful teach you and give you feedback every single day,” he said. “She brought real television experience to class and told us what to expect once we graduated without sugarcoating it.”

Ginger was intentional about sharing with her students both the positive and the negative aspects of the business — like the criticism one endures from the viewing public.

“I made sure that they knew the negative parts without scaring them away,” she said, “because if someone would have helped me to start combating criticism the right way early, I think there may have been less tears, and I may have been an even stronger person.”

Meteorologists, in particular, face tremendous scrutiny, because they are both on-air personalities and scientists. In addition to the pressure to look flawless, audiences expect meteorologists’ forecasts always to be accurate.

“Most of us who are in this position, who are scientists who have studied meteorology the way we do at Valpo, have to be smart. You have to be an intelligent person to do what we do, so when that is cut down by what you look like, what you’re wearing, or how your hair is, it is so hurtful,” she said.

Ginger said she has missed teaching since she has moved to New York City, but she still keeps in touch with many of her students and is always looking for opportunities to support them in their careers.

“Ginger has always made a point to be available to me on a personal level, so it’s very nice to know that she is only a text, phone call, or email away,” said Justin. “When I was searching for a job after graduation, she asked me how the search was going and if there was anything she could do to help.”

“People make fun of the Ivy League, but they take care of each other. I think that’s what they do well,” said Ginger, who was the 2012 recipient of the Valparaiso University Alumni Association Outstanding Young Alumna Award. “They give each other opportunities, and that’s what the world is about.

“I would help anybody,” she said. “But, of course, if somebody tells me they’re from Valpo, and I have a choice, I want to give them that opportunity because I know that they have the education to back it up.”

Remaining connected to Valpo is important to Ginger. She credits the education she acquired and the connections she made on campus as playing a large role in her career and her quest to be ‘The Explainer.’ Though she has worked her way to one of the biggest stages one can reach as a broadcast meteorologist, she will never forget where it all began.

“Valpo set me up for success, and I will always be grateful for that,” she said.

The earth shakes as another bomb hits the city. The explosion sends shards of glass and brick flying into the streets. Civilians run for cover. In the midst of the chaos, Red Cross aid workers quickly evacuate the wounded from the pandemonium. This may sound like war, but in fact, it is only a simulation.

When Amy Atchison, assistant professor of political science and international relations, began teaching International Humanitarian Law she knew the best way to engage students would be through hands-on activities.

“International Humanitarian Law is the rule of war,” Professor Atchison explained, “and like any field of law, students can feel very disconnected from the subject if they aren’t really engaged. But this law is incredibly important for our students because many of them want to work in humanitarian fields. These laws spell out not just the conduct of war, but also the treatment of civilians in a conflict zone.”

To engage the students, Professor Atchison staged a series of wartime exercises based on the ‘Raid Cross’ activities developed by the Red Cross.

“Basically, we waged an in-class war,” Professor Atchison said. “These exercises not only highlighted some of the most important principles of International Humanitarian Law, they also gave the students at least a small sense of the victims’ need for justice and the difficulty the international system has providing it.”

In an effort to bring greater awareness of International Humanitarian Law to Valparaiso University, Professor Atchison recruited students to form a Red Cross Club on campus. Valpo, in collaboration with the Porter County Chapter of the American Red Cross, is part of a pilot program with nine chapters across the United States. The Red Cross Club works to educate individuals on what is legally acceptable behavior in the heat of battle.

Valparaiso University celebrates the 21st consecutive year of placement rates higher than 90 percent, with 92.5 percent of 2012-2013 graduates employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation.

Through dedication to preparing students for success post graduation and a proven career services strategy, the independent Lutheran university graduates accomplished students who attain job and graduate school placement throughout the country and the world.

“Valparaiso University’s consistently outstanding placement rate is a testament to the intellectually rigorous and innovative education we offer and to the supportive community we foster for our students,” said Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., Valparaiso University president.  “Valpo’s gifted faculty and dedicated staff provide the resources and mentoring necessary for students to achieve great success, both during their undergraduate careers and throughout their lives.”

Each year, Valparaiso University conducts comprehensive surveys of recent graduates. The results of the 2014 Graduate Report are nothing short of the high standards Valparaiso University sets every year.

Highlights of the 2014 Graduate Report include:

  • Graduates are working or studying in 38 states, the District of Columbia and nine foreign countries. More than 35 percent of 2012-2013 graduates are working or attending graduate school in Indiana. Of those attending graduate or professional school, nearly 30 percent are studying at Valparaiso University.
  • Six respondents are involved in full-time service: two in Lutheran Volunteer Corps, one each in AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Young Adults in Global Mission and ABBA House Orphanage.
  • Three were awarded a Fulbright scholarship and currently are in Germany, Poland and Taiwan.
  • Eighty-seven percent of the respondents indicated that they are satisfied or very satisfied with their job or graduate school situation.

“The student experience at Valparaiso University prepares our graduates for a wide variety of opportunities post-Valparaiso,” said Tom Cath, director of the Career Center. “We’re offering a greater selection of programming than ever before and connecting students to professionals through networking events, career panels and interviewing workshops.”

Maintaining Valparaiso University’s history of excellence in career services and job placements has been a priority since Mark Heckler was named Valparaiso University president in 2008.

For more information about Valparaiso University, contact Nicole Niemi, director of media relations, at or 219.464.6010.

It’s 6 a.m. and Women’s Basketball Assistant Coach Katie Loosvelt’s phone belts out Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” The snow may be calf-deep, but a 16-mile run sits at the top of her to-do list on yet another blustery March morning in Valparaiso.

Before The Boss makes it to the second verse, Coach Loosvelt, bundled in layers, is poised to tackle the next step in her training for the Bayshore Marathon in May.

The 2014 Bayshore Marathon through Traverse City, Michigan, is expected to be much more low-key than her last 26.2-mile expedition — the 2013 Boston Marathon.

What began as a sublime morning on Beantown’s biggest civic holiday of the year concluded in tragedy and chaos. Soon after famed long-distance runner Lelisa Desisa Benti completed the race, a pair of pressure-cooker bombs detonated near the finish line. The sights and sounds remain hauntingly fresh in the minds of those who were present. Uneasiness lingers in the memory of those who watched, fixated on their televisions, hoping — praying — that the runners, the spectators, and the Bostonians who lived nearby were safe.

Like the majority of the long-distance running community, Coach Loosvelt considers the Boston Marathon to be the Super Bowl of all races. Because of the downhill terrain, Boston represents one of the most demanding marathon courses in the nation. For those who believe 26.2 miles is best traveled by plane, train, or automobile, a downhill track would seem ideal for running, perhaps enjoyable. But the toll it takes on one’s legs is actually inflated.

So when she and her longtime friend, Erin Miller, crossed the line at 3 hours and 35 minutes, the feeling on Boylston Street was pure jubilation.

“It’s almost impossible to describe the moment when we finished. I’ve never experienced an emotional high like that ever in my life,” she said.

Coach Loosvelt loitered near the finish line for a few minutes afterward, letting it all sink in and cheering for fellow racers. She eventually made her way back to her hotel where the mood was merry as she watched live coverage of the event from the Boston Park Plaza.

The first bomb exploded.

Coach Loosvelt heard a blast. At first she was confused why there were fireworks so late in the race.

The second bomb detonated.

She knew something tragic had occurred.

“People in the lobby started talking and said it was explosives, not fireworks. Immediately, we thought we were under attack,” Coach Loosvelt said.

Rumors included a report that bombs were going off in the subway. A fire at a local library only added to the confusion.

In a matter of minutes, a celebratory day on Boylston Street turned into the overwhelming fear after being thrust into the middle of a terrorist attack.

“It was such an odd feeling. I was in an incredible, euphoric state of mind, so I could not get my brain to process the panic,” Coach Loosvelt said.

Immediately, the Boston Park Plaza — and much of the city — transformed into a military zone. Police and hotel employees told guests they were forbidden to leave.

“I had never seen a tank or a machine gun before, and then I looked out the window of my hotel, and there was a tank on Boylston Street and about 40 machine guns. It looked like a war broke out in the downtown of a major city,” she said.

Survival instincts kicked in. Coach Loosvelt and her friend provided what little they could to those who took shelter in the lobby: a helping hand, words of support, a cell phone for those to call concerned family members and friends.

The days that followed the Boston Marathon created a captivating hide-and-seek plotline. The grainy images of the suspects were plastered on every newspaper, television, and post office in the country. The story unfolded for next three days.

It was after that time that she was able to reflect on her experience.

She recalled the complete exhaustion felt after making it through Heartbreak Hill, which is situated between miles 20 and 21 and greets runners with a steady ascent, a wicked departure from the course’s downward tilt. The agony became unavoidable.

“As hard as I trained and as big of a stage as the Boston Marathon is, I wanted to give up so badly. I’ve never experienced that kind of pain. I thought my quads were going to tear,” Coach Loosvelt said. “But something in me just kept going.”

The arithmetic doesn’t lie: had she walked the final five miles, she most likely would’ve crossed the finish line in the path of the destruction.

“Every split-second decision can literally be life or death. I never thought I would learn that running a race,” she said.

Coach Loosvelt recalls that day in Boston frequently. She mourns the three who lost their lives. She laments the hundreds injured and maimed. She counts her blessings but also concedes — albeit selfishly by her own admission — that a bit of anger still resides within her. What was to be one of the more rewarding days of her life spiraled into the most catastrophic.

On April 21, 2014, she watched in awe of Meb Keflezighi and Rita Jeptoo, the 2014 Boston Marathon champions. Jeptoo set a course record by nearly two minutes.

Coach Loosvelt hopes to get back to Boston one day – possibly the 2015 Boston Marathon.

“It’s every runner’s dream to qualify and run in the Boston Marathon,” she said. “I feel like part of my dream was taken away that day. I want to make that final turn down Boylston and get those goose bumps again.

“And this time I want that joy to last.”


Standing on the lush green lawn of the Taj Mahal, Health Care Leadership major Antwon Gates ’15 was overcome with gratitude. The trip to India, coordinated by Valparaiso University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, was an opportunity for students to observe health care outside of the United States.

For Antwon, it was also symbolic of a journey he’s been on since he first learned of Valparaiso University from one of Valpo’s accomplished alumni, Cornell Boggs ’82, ’85 J.D., the senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary of Dow Corning and one of Savoy Network’s 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America.

The two met while Antwon was in the process of discerning where his life would take him.

“I was in a rough spot,” he said. “I was 24 years old and spent much of my time with people who lacked ambition. I realized in order to do good things I had to associate myself with good people,” he said.

Antwon began working at a Virginia boarding school, where he supervised students in the residence halls.

“The job was fulfilling and gave me an opportunity to watch kids grow and change,” he said. “It was an experience that helped me mature.”

The experience directly influenced the trajectory of Antwon’s life, as one of the students he supervised was Cornell’s stepson. When Cornell and Antwon first met, Cornell immediately saw in Antwon someone committed to making a difference.

“Antwon came from an underprivileged family in Columbia, S.C. In addition to working at the school, he was attending community college with an aspiration to go into health care,” Cornell said.

As a student, Cornell’s life had been changed by another Valpo alum, Richard Duesenberg ’51, ’53 J.D., who took a vested interest in his success.

“We met while I was a senior, and he was a distinguished practitioner in residence at Valpo,” Cornell said. “Richard was very helpful and instructive, and he was instrumental in my decision to attend law school. There isn’t anything I’ve done in my career that we haven’t discussed first.”

Cornell was impressed that Richard intentionally reached out to him and took on a mentorship role. The experience made Cornell appreciate the role Valpo alumni can make in the lives of current and prospective students. Since graduating, he has worked to stay connected to the University and to give back in any way he can.

“My wife and I always coach and encourage students, and we strive to reinvest in the university to make sure others have an experience as enriching as I had,” he shared.

Cornell thought Antwon could also benefit from and contribute to the unique community at Valpo. He and Antwon began corresponding, and a relationship developed.

“I told Cornell that growing up I never knew many successful African Americans,” Antwon said. “I just liked to talk to him and pick his brain.”

Cornell invited Antwon to visit Valpo’s campus and to stay with him in Chicago. Gazing at the Chicago skyline, Antwon could see the future he dreamed of come into focus. He decided to give the College of Nursing and Health Professions a call.

Now a junior, Antwon said all of his classes — from Communication Process in Health Care, to Business Law, to Indian Christian Theology — have helped him to become a more well-rounded person.

“I’ve been challenged to think outside the box in each class, and my professors have helped me find my voice,” he said. “I am thankful for them and the University for the opportunities to expand my horizons.”

Antwon’s trip to India during spring break was one of those unique opportunities. In addition to visiting health care facilities, Antwon and his classmates toured many of the country’s historical and cultural attractions and spent time learning with and from people they otherwise would never have met.

Antwon isn’t certain about his next step after gradation. He may continue his education with Valpo’s Masters of Health Administration program or perhaps apply to law school, but one thing he is certain of is where he can turn for advice.

Just as Cornell values the advice of his mentor, Richard Duesenberg, Antwon knows that wherever his journey may lead him — whether it’s the steps of the Taj Mahal or continuing his education through graduate school — he has the support and guidance of a caring Valpo alumnus to offer wisdom along the way.


With 200 trees planted, $5,000 raised, and three cleanup activities executed, Taiz, Yemen, is flourishing with a greener landscape, increased funds for a cancer hospital, and restored public and private spaces.

Graduate School alumnus Ammar Al-Hawi ’10 said his experience at Valparaiso University was the inspiration behind these changes.

“My time at Valpo provided me the honor of becoming a social redeemer and healer in my home country,” Ammar said. “I used the experience I gained to volunteer my work and participate in community service projects to promote several social activities in my native city.”

Ammar attended Valpo on a Fulbright Scholarship and earned his master’s degree in English Studies and Communication. Since returning to Yemen, he’s become involved with AMIDEAST, a non-profit organization that promotes educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Yemen.

Valparaiso University student-athletes continue their history of excellence in competition and in the classroom, with eight Valpo students across five sports being placed on Horizon League Academic All-League teams. A total of 53 student-athletes were recognized from the league’s nine institutions, and Valpo’s received the second-most honorees from a single school.

The Horizon League recognizes student-athletes with seasonal Academic All-League Teams in each of its 19 championship sports. To be eligible for Academic All-Horizon League consideration, a student-athlete must have a cumulative grade-point-average of 3.20 or higher (based on a 4.00 scale) and have completed at least one year at the member institution, having earned 24 semester-hour or 36 quarter-hour credits.

Professor of History Kevin Ostoyich was preparing to spend a year as Valparaiso University’s Study Abroad director in Hangzhou, China, when he made a life-changing discovery about a group of 106 Jewish people who took refuge in Shanghai, China, during the Second World War. This group of refugees, it turned out, was but a fraction of the approximately 18,000 to 20,000 Jewish people who had journeyed to Shanghai in order to escape Nazi persecution

At the time, Professor Ostoyich had never heard of the Shanghai Group, but as he read through documents in a file located in the state archives in Bremen, Germany, a story began to unfold. The refugees had attempted to immigrate into the United States but had been denied and eventually returned to Germany.

“As I started translating documents from this file,” Professor Ostoyich said, “I realized this was a fascinating story that needed to be told.”

Valparaiso University’s inaugural Shakespeare Week, March 17-22, was a campus-wide celebration of the work of William Shakespeare. Featuring Actors From The London Stage, one of the world’s premiere Shakespeare companies, the weeklong event featured lectures and performances across disciplines centered on Shakespeare and the role his work plays in a range of arts and sciences.

“The week was a collaboration between Christ College and the Departments of English and Theatre,” said Betsy Burow-Flak, professor and chair of the Department of English. “We were thrilled to have the Actors From The London Stage spend a week with us and to have our departments collaborate to talk about the importance of Shakespeare to what we do.”

Actors From The London Stage performed three productions of “As You Like It,” Thursday – Saturday, March 20–22. They also visited classrooms across campus to discuss their work and how it applies to disciplines beyond the theatre.

“We’re very excited about it,” said Lee Orchard, professor and chair of the Department of Theatre. “They attended our rehearsals and worked with the students and coached some of the scenes. They also visited an acting class, movement class, and some of our intro classes.”

For most high school and college students, spring break is a time to have fun, relax, and maybe do some traveling. For Valpo freshman Marko Labovic, however, spring break 2013 was a frightening time of uncertainty as he faced medical concerns that led to a trip to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.

“At first they weren’t exactly sure what was wrong, but the doctors and nurses really made me feel comfortable,” Marko said. After some tests, he was diagnosed with myocarditis and pericarditis, conditions that involve inflammation of the heart muscle and the tissue surrounding the heart.

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