Learning, Thriving, and Making an Impact in Academics and Athletics
The opportunities offered at Valparaiso University encourage our students to grow as individuals and leaders. Evan Annis ’23, a recently graduated biomedical engineering major, exemplified our dedication to learning and thriving, pushing himself to have the kind of Valpo experience that makes our University unique. On top of taking on a challenging major, and a minor in chemistry, Evan was a force on the football team, being named as the first Pioneer Football League Scholar Athlete of Year in Valparaiso University history.
“It’s great to see a lot of hard work culminate in such recognition,” Evan says. “It’s not why I did any of it, but being recognized for that struggle to be a student-athlete in a more challenging and technical major was really special.”
While considering where to go after high school, one thing Evan knew for sure was that he wanted to be on the football field. The youngest of three football-loving siblings, Evan began playing the sport at the age of five.
“I always wanted to live up to that legacy that they provided for me,” Evan says. “It was something that I’ve always wanted to do, and being fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write my own legacy after high school and come to Valpo to play Division I college football has always been a dream of mine.”
Evan heard about Valparaiso University’s football program as a younger player, and knew about the stellar engineering program through a sibling’s friend who had attended the University. When he toured the campus as part of the college recruiting process, he knew it was where he was meant to be. Although he was initially interested in the physician assistant program, Evan found that the field did not have enough of what he was really passionate about.
“I decided there wasn’t enough math in there for me, so I switched to bioengineering,” he says. “I really like science and life science, and I wanted to mix that with engineering and physics. Bioengineering seemed like a great way to do that.”
It was a large departure from his original college plans, but Evan flourished in the new field of study.
“Evan was a fantastic student to work with, both in class and in the research lab,” says Lauren Sestito, Ph.D., assistant professor of bioengineering. “He was genuinely excited about his field and constantly challenged himself to learn new things and ask interesting questions in the lab. His enthusiasm is contagious, and he had me thinking about our research problem in brand new ways.”
While bioengineering came with the mathematical focus that Evan was looking for, pursuing it in addition to a chemistry minor and athletic responsibilities came with challenges. Managing his time became a major hurdle.
“In the off-season you have morning lifts, then morning lab, then you have class all day, then you go back to do more football stuff,” Evan recounts.
Evan’s professors and coaches were keen on his success and provided him with the flexibility he needed to stay on track with his studies and training. Cultivating the proper mindset and discipline to stay on-track was just as essential.
“I remember struggling my freshman year, wanting to go out with my friends, but the realization that it’s four years that impact the 40 after is something that I think is hard to realize when you’re young, but once you do realize it, it puts things in perspective,” Evan says.
Evan’s four years at Valpo have already provided his career a great start. He interned at the Valparaiso-based AM Stabilizers Corporation for multiple semesters, assisting with the production of PVC plastic additives that provide heat stabilization.
“It’s been a mix between chemistry and engineering,” Evan says. “I’ve been doing a lot of materials science testing. I worked as a research and development and quality control intern. I was there for two summers, as well as part-time this past fall semester.”
Immediately after graduating in December of 2023, Evan moved to Detroit to work for Texas Instruments as a technical sales representative.
“I’ve found through engineering that I love to problem solve, and that I love to build relationships with people,” he says. “I think my passion is people, and being able to merge the two is something I’ve always been interested in.”
Wherever he goes in his engineering career, Evan will always bring the memories of playing Valparaiso University football with him.
“I was part of a team that beat San Diego for the first time since 2003, and had never beaten Drake on the road, let alone do it twice,” Evan says. “That was cool. My favorite memory was going to Butler and beating them 47-3. That was a really great experience. My oldest brother actually played at Butler, so having that was pretty cool.”
Beyond the victories, his time on the football team has also gone a long way to letting Evan thrive as a person.
“Being able to come here, I was not only able to learn as a football player, but feel like I’ve been redeveloped as a man, is something I’ll always be grateful for,” Evan says.
For current and incoming students, Evan has reassurance that, although the journey may not be easy, the Valpo experience can hold everything a student is looking for to excel in what they’re passionate about.
“You can do it all. It’s going to be hard, but you can do it,” Evan says. “Take advantage of your resources. Valpo does a great job of providing resources. If you’re an engineering major, use the Hesse Center. If you’re on a sports team, there will be older people that have been through those same classes, so talk to them. Make friends with your classmates. Everybody is going through the same thing, and if we’re able to collaborate and teach each other, that is a huge thing I would say is an advantage.”