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.

Avery Davis was still in high school when he was first introduced to the sheng — a traditional Chinese instrument made of bamboo pipes that looks a little like a xylophone turned on its side.

Holes in the pipes allow the performer to change the pitch of the instrument, or one can use combinations of pipes to play chords, much like a flute or a clarinet.

When Avery first played the instrument, he was in love. “I just loved the sound,” he said.

In high school, Avery had played percussion, as well as the baritone and euphonium, but it was a visit from a Valparaiso University professor who changed the way Avery saw his future.

Junior Kaitlyn Spaudie’s face lights up when she talks about the project she’s working on in her Communications in Health Care class.

“We’re researching community health initiatives and writing proposals for services either in the Valpo community or our home communities,” she said.

Spaudie is working toward a Bachelor of Science in Health Care Leadership — one of several new degrees in the College of Nursing and Health Professions aimed at giving students a broad range of career opportunities.

E.J. Ramos ’04 still gets emotional when he thinks about the moment he realized how important music is to him.

He was studying with Valparaiso University trumpet instructor, Charles Steck, when it happened. “I was in a trumpet lesson with Mr. Steck,” Ramos recalled. “We were playing through something, and I just put my horn down and said, ‘This sucks.’ Mr. Speck said, ‘What? Excuse me?’ I told him I needed to do what I love and what I enjoy, and I had to change my major.”

Ramos began playing the trumpet when he was in fourth grade but chose to attend Valparaiso University to study engineering rather than music. Then after two years in the College of Engineering, Ramos said, “I loved the engineering department, but I got to a point where I just didn’t feel right.”

At Valparaiso University, Ruyue Yuan has found a connection between math and music that might surprise most people.

“They’re both beautiful,” Yuan said.

Yuan has been playing the violin since she was 6 years old. She loves music. In fact, she enjoys studying all of the humanities, but she also has a natural gift for mathematics.

So when she followed in her father’s footsteps — he was a visiting scholar at Valpo in the early 1990s — and came to Valparaiso University from her native Hangzhou, China, she was excited she wouldn’t have to choose between her passion for math and her love of music. The interdisciplinary nature of her studies in Christ College — The Honors College allows her to pursue both a math major and her interest in the humanities. She’s also a member of the Valparaiso University Symphony Orchestra.

“I can’t live without playing,” she said. “Music is a part of me. I love really old baroque: Vivaldi, Handel, Bach. And also I just love really peaceful, royal music.”

Lauren Stutler dreams of traveling the world as a business management consultant. And although her plans have changed during her time at Valpo, she knows the people she’s met and the opportunities she’s had here have prepared her to make her dream a reality.

Stutler originally planned to become a high school Spanish teacher, but she quickly realized that the classroom was not the place for her.

She loves Spanish, but when required to do an observation of a high school classroom for one of her education courses, Stutler felt disconnected.

The Rev. Joshua Burkholder ’02 and David Rojas Martinez’s paths first crossed because of a stained glass window, but it was a shared adoration of Lutheran liturgy that forged the friendship that would shape Martinez’s future.

“I really love church art,” said Martinez. “I had seen this church with a really beautiful stained glass window, and one day the door was open so I walked in. The pastor was there, and we started talking.”

Burkholder was that pastor, and after their meeting Martinez started attending the church — St. Paul Lutheran Church in Frankfort, Ind. Martinez was raised Roman Catholic but started feeling drawn toward Lutheran theology in high school. And Burkholder, who had become a Lutheran while studying at Valparaiso University, saw a bit of himself in Martinez’s search for truth.

“Valpo was my introduction to liturgy and Lutheran theology,” said Burkholder, who studied political science as an undergraduate. It was the professors in the theology department, though, who encouraged Burkholder to start thinking about his faith.

“Part of David’s and my relationship was that we both came out of non-Lutheran traditions where we had questions about our faith and struggled with certain theological ideas. We really found a theological home in Lutheranism,” said Burkholder.

As Martinez became more and more involved at St. Paul, Burkholder thought of another stained glass window Martinez might like to see — in Valparaiso University’s Chapel of the Resurrection.

Andrew Schrader was in seventh grade when he decided to pursue a career in humanitarian engineering.

“I went on a mission trip to Mexico to help build homes,” he said. “I knew it was the kind of work I wanted to continue.”

So when he was deciding where to attend college, he knew he wanted to go somewhere where he could be involved with Engineers Without Borders — a program that connects people who have technical and engineering skills to developing communities around the world.

Lily Salinas dreamt of becoming a nurse since she first stepped foot on Valparaiso University’s campus as a freshman, but she never imagined how soon the training she received from her professors would be tested.

During Salinas’ junior year she took part in clinical rotations at a local hospital as a part of the requirements to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She had just arrived for her rotation one morning when everything she’d been learning shifted from theoretical to real-world.

“I heard someone yelling, ‘Help! Help! Help!’,” Salinas said. When she realized it was her patient, she and her professor, Annie Trapp, rushed to the patient’s bed.

“We both witnessed the patient having a seizure before completely passing out,” Salinas recalled.

Valparaiso University’s Homecoming and Reunion Weekend 2013 was filled with exciting celebrations, inspiring speeches, a thrilling football game, and many more extraordinary events as students, faculty, staff, and alumni from around the globe came together to reflect their Crusader light.

“Homecoming is always a good time for reflection. It’s a time when we get an opportunity to remember the people and relive the moments that made our time at Valpo special,” Valparaiso University President Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., said at the Homecoming Luncheon on Friday, Sept. 27. “Each year, we return here to catch up, to reconnect, to reflect on how this place has shaped us and made us the people we are today. It’s a time to remember who we were as students and to celebrate who we are now as we pursue the vocations that started so many years ago, right here in this place.”

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