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Valparaiso University Academic Year Concludes with Commencement Ceremonies May 19–20

More than 900 undergraduate, graduate and law students participated in Valparaiso University’s May 2018 commencement ceremonies, capping an exciting year marked by numerous accomplishments for the University, along with its students and faculty.

“Each day, I am humbled by the remarkable dedication and enthusiasm our students, faculty, and staff exhibit,” said Mark A. Heckler, Ph.D., president. “Our community has celebrated many achievements this year, and it is my great blessing and privilege to serve as Valpo’s president.”

Here’s a look back at highlights for Valparaiso University’s 2017–2018 academic year:


  • The University welcomed more than 800 freshmen and 250 transfer students during Move-In Day and held nearly 80 events for students during their first week on campus, including a solar eclipse viewing.
  • Fall sports kicked off Valpo Athletics’ inaugural season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference.
  • Washington Monthly named Valparaiso University one of the top 10 master’s universities in the nation for contribution to the public good.
  • Jan and John Draheim ’64, M.S., committed funds to establish an endowed fund for faculty development in the College of Engineering, with additional support directed to annual giving commitments to the Valpo Fund and the College of Engineering Dean’s Fund.



  • Slavica Jakelic, Ph.D., and Shirvel Stanislaus, Ph.D., were named University Research Professors for 2018–2019. The grant recognizes and encourages scholarly accomplishments.
  • Allison Schuette ’93, MFA, received the Philip and Miriam Kapfer Endowed Faculty Research Award to continue her work on “Flight Paths: Mapping Our Changing Neighborhoods,” which is designed to help participants engage and analyze factors contributing to de-urbanization and the fracturing of neighborhoods, communities, and regions in post-industrial America through the lens of Gary and Northwest Indiana.
  • The Valpo Chorale toured Germany for the Reformation’s 500th anniversary and was the only international choir invited to be part of the Reformation Day service at Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
  • The campus community remembered the Reformation through lectures, meals, and discussion. 


  • St. Baldrick’s at Valpo raised $26,556 for childhood cancer research.
  • Valpo Football achieved its best season record since 2003, and head coach Dave Cecchini was named the 2017 Pioneer Football League Coach of the Year.
  • Valpo advancement and recruitment publications received national and international recognition from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and MarCom Awards.
  • Jessica Aguayo-Huizar ’20 received the “Realizing the Dream” scholarship from the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), an annual award for first-generation students.
  • Zeta Epsilon, Valpo’s chapter of the international honor society of nursing, received a Chapter Key Award and was honored through the organization’s Showcase of Regional Excellence.




  • The University launched Crowdfunding at Valpo, a platform for student organizations and campus departments to raise funds that will significantly enhance the student experience through specific, project-based initiatives.
  • The College of Business announced a new major and minor in the growing field of supply chain and logistics management.
  • The College of Engineering established a chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.


  • The Higher Learning Commission reaffirmed the University’s institutional accreditation status through 2027–2028. The University met, without qualifications, the standards of all five criteria and 21 subcriteria set by the HLC.
  • Susan R. Holman ’79, Ph.D., ‘16H was appointed John R. Eckrich Professor and Chair in Religion and the Healing Arts, effective Jan. 2, 2019.
  • Valpo Robotics traveled to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to participate in the 2018 Midwestern Robotics Design Competition (MRDC), held March 9–10. The 14-member student team claimed first- and second-place finishes and took home the Most Innovative Design Award. Valpo’s team later went on to defeat Notre Dame in the Robotic Football National Championship.


  • 2016–2017 Valpo alumni achieved a 97 percent graduate placement rate, marking the 25th consecutive year of a placement rate above 90 percent.
  • The fifth-annual Day of Giving, Proud to be Valpo, brought together campus, alumni, and friends for a day of celebration and giving, raising nearly $715,000 from more than 2,100 donors.
  • Students raised more than $70,000 for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago during the annual Dance Marathon.
  • The 33rd annual Jazz Fest featured guest artists The Tierney Sutton Band featuring Tierney Sutton, Don Braden, and The Bill Boris Trio.
  • Christ College — The Honors College hosted an interfaith conference titled “The Idea of Tradition in the Late Modern World: An Ecumenical and Interreligious Conversation.”
  • The annual Student-Athletes Academic Honors Banquet celebrated 141 student-athletes who received Presidential Academic Honors for earning a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher after at least two semesters at Valpo.
  • The ARC-PA granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the Valparaiso University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Valparaiso University.
  • Mary Evans, who spent the past five seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio University, was named the eighth head coach of the women’s basketball program.
  • Patricia Mileham, interim dean of library services, director of research services, and associate professor of library services, was selected to be a Library Senior Fellow at UCLA, a three-week residential program for top managers of academic libraries.
  • The Rev. Mark ’71 and Kathleen Koepp ’71 Helge generously committed $2 million to establish the Mark and Kathleen Helge Endowed Program for Students and Philanthropy. The fund will provide operating support for a new presidential initiative that establishes an integrated, holistic and student-focused program in philanthropy.
  • Colleen Seguin, Ph.D., and Sami Khorbotly, Ph.D., were named the 2018–2019 Valparaiso University Excellence in Teaching Award recipients.


  • The sorority and fraternity community welcomed the first members of Valpo’s chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi during a new-member ceremony. This marks the first historically African American fraternity or sorority to establish a chapter at Valparaiso University.
  • Valpo announced the establishment of the Conrad Scholars, made possible by the generosity of Linnea Conrad ’84 Roberts and the Roberts Foundation. The total gift will exceed $1.4 million, with $710,000 provided to sponsor a cohort of 20 students for four years and an additional $710,000 offered as a one-to-one match for additional funds raised in support of the program. When the match is complete, the total impact will be more than $2.1 million.
  • A record eight Valparaiso University graduating seniors and recent alumnae received Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards for English Teaching Assistantships for the 2018–2019 academic year from the United States Department of State and the William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
  • David L. Rowland, Ph.D., who has been a member of the University’s psychology department for more than 35 years, received the 2018 Valparaiso University Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Work and was designated a Fulbright Specialist.
  • The May commencement ceremonies on May 19–20 will celebrate the achievements of undergraduate, graduate and law students. David Beckmann, one of the foremost United States advocates for hungry and underprivileged people, will serve as the undergraduate commencement speaker.

The 2018–2019 academic year kicks off Aug. 21 with the University’s annual Opening Convocation and Taste of Valpo celebration.