As Aaron Willis danced with his fraternity brothers late into the night at Valparaiso University’s first annual Dance Marathon, he did so knowing his dancing would make a big difference in the lives of Indiana kids — kids just like his nephew.

“My nephew wasn’t supposed to live past the age of five months,” Willis explained. “I remember visiting him in the hospital — I walked in and instantly cried.”

Willis’ nephew was a patient at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, one of the country’s top pediatric hospitals. He was born prematurely and suffered a number of complications after his early birth. “He was born one pound one ounce,” Willis said. “He’s had multiple heart failures, including one that lasted more than 30 minutes. He cannot breathe on his own. He had to get a tracheotomy.”

Cooperative Agreement to Fund Solar Research at Valpo’s Solar Energy Research Facility

The United States Department of Energy announced today it has awarded Valparaiso University a $2.3 million cooperative agreement to fund solar research through a proposal from the College of Engineering. Part of the Modern Electro-Thermochemical Advancements for Light-metal Systems project, Valpo is the only organization in the state of Indiana to receive this funding.

The funding, which will be dispersed during the course of a three-year period, is a direct result of the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility housed in the College of Engineering. At the heart of the research facility is a solar furnace, the only one at an undergraduate institution in the United States and one of only four research facility solar furnaces in the nation.

Valparaiso University alumna Veronica Fall, class of 2013, has been selected to participate in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, a yearlong, federally funded fellowship for study and work in Germany during the 2013-2014 academic year.

Fall, a meteorology graduate from Wauconda, Ill., was selected as one of 75 participants among more than 600 applicants for this unique fellowship program.

“Veronica’s success in landing this position is another example of how a Valpo education can really jump start a student’s vocation upon graduation,” said Julie Maddox, director of study abroad programs at Valparaiso University. “Not only is she participating in the prestigious Congress-Bundestag program, but she was also admitted to a top graduate school — the University of Oklahoma — upon her return to the United States.”

Valparaiso University graduate student Wissam Shahin, a Fulbright Scholar from Syria, is working as a summer intern with the Regional Bureau for Arab States, part of the United Nations Development Programme. Shahin assists the UNDP’s resources management adviser and will work with the Bureau Directorate in New York City through August.

A student in Valparaiso University’s international economics and finance graduate program, Shahin will put his classroom-learned skills to work analyzing balance sheets and macroeconomic indicators, presenting forecasts for development and management projects and researching and providing information for best practices in the area of shared services and audit.

“What really motivates me to pursue a career in this field is that I am from a region that has plenty of economic advantages, but there is still a high percentage of poverty, unemployment and other social and economic problems,” Shahin said. “I am planning to occupy a position where I can help to decrease the economic and social suffering of people in this region and in the world.”

Louise Williams ’67 shakes her head and laughs now when she thinks about it. She wasn’t even 30 years old but had been given the reins of a nonprofit organization after spending only about six months prior as part of the staff.

And that organization happened to be the Lutheran Deaconess Association on the campus of Valparaiso University. It was an organization that was near and dear to Williams’ heart, considering the LDA helped shape her life during her time as a student at Valpo and resident student in the LDA’s education and formation program.

Yet, suddenly, Williams was responsible for LDA staff members and resident students and the direction of the organization as whole.

“I was very young and inexperienced, and I kept saying that I needed to be 10 years older to be doing this job,” Williams said. “I had people’s lives in my hands. It was intimidating.”

That was nearly 40 years ago. Williams went on to spend 33 years as the executive director of the Lutheran Deaconess Association before retiring in 2008.

Nestled among overgrown evergreens and deciduous trees on the south side of campus sits Mueller Hall — home to Christ College, one of the nation’s oldest honors colleges. Since its doors opened in 1970, the brick walls have housed conversations of discourse and discovery.

Much like Mueller Hall, every building has a story — a rich history of time and place and the people who studied, worked and lived inside. Sparked by conversations inside Mueller, Emily Royer ’12 and Jacob Just ’12 listened for these stories during their time as Christ College students and continued this work through their collaboration on a story-telling project.

The Valpo grads currently research and document Central Stories for the Porter County Museum of History, which highlights the rich connections between historic architecture, memory, and community in one downtown Valparaiso, Ind., neighborhood.

Michael Seger initially marveled as the storm developed in what the 2005 Valparaiso University graduate referred to as “textbook” fashion. Later, he watched in awe as a majestic tornado spun from the dark, low-hanging clouds and dropped from the sky, beginning a slow and eerie dance across the horizon.

But as the twister grew, churning away at the earth below it, Seger felt a pit form in his stomach. The heavily populated Oklahoma City suburb of Moore stood in the path of the monster storm. The realization had begun to set in for Seger — this was going to be devastating.

And it was.

Seger reported live for FOX23 News in Tulsa, Okla., on the afternoon of Monday, May 20. He and a storm-chasing team from the station followed the massive tornado as it marched across the countryside and into Moore, where it left historic destruction in its path, leaving 24 dead and injuring nearly 250 people.

Allison Meyer found a muddy shoe. Another student found a garden trowel. Valparaiso University’s biology club members made several unlikely discoveries to expand on classroom knowledge while restoring the region’s rivers this spring.

The club was working at the Elkhart Conservation Club property on Cobus Creek, five miles west of Elkhart, Ind., when Meyer found the discarded footwear on her first restoration trip. While there, Valpo students gained invaluable hands-on experience to further develop lessons learned in the classroom.

Biology club members partake in a variety of tasks on their restoration trips. Over the years, students have helped the Elkhart Conservation Club to deliver fish and maintain the hatchery. They also monitor the river for flow, chemistry, macro invertebrates, bank stability, and habitat. Other river restoration activities include removing log jams; stabilizing the river bank with stone, logs, mesh, or plantings; narrowing the channel; redirecting flows; and building trout and macro invertebrate habitats.

When Caleb Kortokrax ’11 transferred to Valparaiso University during his junior year, he had anticipated majoring in art history. But a conversation with Bob Sirko, chair of the Department of Art, changed Kortokrax’s thinking.

“I was telling him that I would also like to take painting and drawing classes,” Kortokrax recalled. “He was like, ‘Why would you want to study the history of art when you can make art? If you can make art, you should study art.’ ”

It was an option Kortokrax had not seriously considered. But it was a path he ultimately chose, later adding education as a second major.

While Kortokrax came to Valpo for a particular area of study, one from which he ultimately deviated, he instead began a journey. It was a journey of self-discovery that has continued at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting, where Kortokrax is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts.

Micah Shields ’11 came to Valparaiso University with a desire to help others, inspiring his decision to study psychology as an undergraduate student. Valpo further cultivated that spirit in Shields, and he’s taken it out into the world.

In March, Shields, of St. Louis, spent a week building a new home for a family in Haiti. He traveled with a student group from Palo Alto University, where he is pursuing a PhD in clinical psychology. The team’s trip to Haiti was made possible by The Fuller Center for Housing’s Global Builders program.

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