Mathieu Billings publishes book on Irish immigration to Illinois

MWBillingsMathieu Billings ’96 ’09, associate adjunct professor in the history & political science department at the University of Indianapolis, recently co-authored a book that brings together familiar and unheralded stories of the Irish in Illinois.

The Irish in Illinois is the first statewide account of Irish immigration to the Prairie State.

“With more than a million Illinoisans claiming Irish ancestry today, and Cook County boasting the largest Irish population of any county in the nation, we reasoned that this was a topic worth pursuing. Fortunately, Southern Illinois University Press agreed,” he said.

Billings believes in making history accessible and says the book is written to appeal to everyone from general readers to scholars.

The book provides dozens of inserts (biographies, images, maps, etc.) that help bring stories of Irish Illinoisans to life. Some, such as Mayor Richard J. Daley, are well known. Others such as Jennie Hodgers, a 19th-century Irish woman who disguised herself as a man and fought in the American Civil War, are lesser-known.

The book also emphasizes the multifaceted experiences of Irish immigrants throughout the Prairie State. For example, many immigrants were Protestant. Others voted Republican. Many of the most famous Irish Illinoisans were women (Mother Jones, Margaret A. Haley, and Sister Mary William Sullivan). Much of this story is centered in Chicago, but much is not. Perhaps most importantly, the Irish quest for success and respectability was distinct but not unique. The legacy of Irish immigration to Illinois, like their legacy throughout much of the rest of the United States, is that they paved the way for other immigrant groups to follow.

“History should challenge us to think about the human condition–how individuals and groups in the past identified problems and then responded to them,” said Billings. “Sometimes they acted with courage and wisdom. Sometimes they did not.”

Senior spotlight: Cassie Kury ’21 (exercise science)

Cassie Kury will be graduating this May 2021. She is majoring in exercise science with a concentration in pre-athletic training, and a minor in psychology. Throughout her time in the exercise science program, Kury has enjoyed increasing her knowledge to greater heights of how the body moves, how it responds to exercise and how exercise is medicine.

“Not only does the flow of the program’s content build upon itself well from course to course, it has prepared me to apply my knowledge to the real world post-grad, as well as creating opportunities for me while still in the program,” she said.

About mid-way through the program, exercise science students must take the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) exam. This turned out to be an important turning point for Kury.

“This exam not only put my application of classroom knowledge to the test, but opened up an entirely new doorway I never saw myself stepping through; being a personal trainer! The quickly evolving world of exercise already excited me, but having this credential has given me the confidence to share my knowledge and apply it in order to help others reach their goals, which has been an incredibly rewarding process thus far,” she said.

Kury’s end goal as an athletic trainer is to be a part of the training staff for either a gymnastics or swimming and diving team, whether at a collegiate or professional level. Connecting classroom knowledge to athletic training has come with ease, and Kury had an abundance of opportunities to gain experience working with athletes from the program faculty, including an internship for her capstone.

“During the last semester of the program, students must complete an internship for their capstone. At first I was a little intimidated by the requirement, but cannot express how grateful I was for the experience,” she reflected. “I had already gained so much knowledge and hands-on experience from being able to work under a collegiate athletic trainer. I truly didn’t think there’d be a better use of my time right now to prepare me for my Masters of Athletic Training program here at Uindy in the summer!”

Upon exiting the program, students must take either the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) exam, or the Exercise Physiologist Certification (EPC) exam. Kury chose to take the CSCS, not only to fulfill her graduation requirements, but it has now led her to some amazing opportunities post-grad that she cannot elaborate on too much yet.

“The program guarantees that when you graduate, you not only have a diploma from an accredited and respected program, but you have these extra credentials that not only increase your appeal to employers, but also increase your confidence and potential professional pathways,” said Kury.

A lifelong athlete in gymnastics, Kury started her UIndy career on the women’s swimming and diving team. Although she decided to step away from her athletic pursuits on the team, she continues to provide for her teammates. Classes such as ‘Exercise Science Programming and Management,’ and ‘Strength and Conditioning’ combined with her diving knowledge have given Kury the tools to properly analyze the sport, critically think about the athletes’ needs, and weigh all their other stressors as she creates their programming.

“Our head dive coach has been incredibly grateful to still have around and be complimenting his depthful diving knowledge well with my exercise science background,” she said.

Kury is grateful for the scholarships and grants that made her UIndy education possible.

“I have graciously received both academic and athletic scholarships every year at UIndy. They have not only made college possible for me, but provided peace of mind throughout. They allowed me to focus just on academics and athletics my first two years of the program, not feeling like I needed to start working during the school year until after my sophomore year,” she said.

Kury reflected on her years as an athlete, which helped her build discipline and time management.

“Once you leave home and enter college though, your freedom is nearly endless. Diving not only forced me to continue with wise time management, but held me accountable because I had gained the sense of succeeding for something bigger than myself,” she said “The camaraderie of going through years of early mornings, long hours, exhaustion, cries, laughs, wins, losses, and every up and down in between by each others’ sides gives you such a strong connection with your teammates, and a strong conviction to succeed as one rather than just one part. The human connections that I have made within this team will last me far past college years.”

Senior spotlight: Taylor Woods ’21 (communication)

Taylor Woods Class of 2021Taylor Woods hit the ground running early in the communication department. During her UIndy career, she was named Outstanding Freshman in Communication and worked with UIndy Radio and TV. Her newscasts and field reports have awarded her with accolades and scholarships from the Indiana Broadcaster’s Association and the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists.

On-campus, she served behind the scenes on executive boards for the Black Student Association and Project Regalia. Her strong communication and leadership skills helped her with the opportunity to serve as a UIndy Presidential Ambassador, and many weekends were spent advocating with the UIndy Speech and Debate team, where she was named state champion in novice poetry interpretation. She is also the news director for 88.7 WICR-FM.

After graduating, she will be pursuing a master’s degree in journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Learn more about her:

Where do you work and how does it tie in with your goals?

I have now been working part-time at WISH-TV for nearly a year. In this short time I have witnessed the station that I grew up watching, grow by leaps and bounds. The owner, DuJuan McCoy has expanded WISH-TV’s viewership statewide, and now launching a multicultural news network is incredible. I believe this multicultural platform is needed now more than ever to inform viewers about news in every ethnic community. It is empowering to work at a diverse station that is owned by an African American man. This helps pave the way for future broadcasters that look like me.

How has UIndy helped you prepare for your career?

I value my liberal arts education at the University of Indianapolis because of the small classroom sizes which allows me to have more one-on-one attention from my professors. The professors in the Communication department have prepared me for the broadcasting industry in so many ways. I had hands-on experience 5 weeks into my freshman year on air for UIndy Radio and TV. I’m thankful for that experience because it has awarded me with statewide broadcast journalism awards and scholarships. It has even offered me the opportunity to work as news director at WICR and intern at WISH-TV which is now my part-time job.

Who are some of your UIndy mentors and how did they help you? 

Professor Uecker gave me opportunities to grow as a journalist. He allowed me to deliver newscasts on air at the radio station during the summer of 2019. This was groundbreaking for me because I found who I was a journalist and I sharpened my storytelling skills. This pivotal moment was how I started being awarded with statewide scholarships and news accolades. I will forever be grateful for Professor Uecker’s advice because it helped me cultivate my multimedia journalism skills.

What advice do you have for incoming freshmen?

Absorb and soak everything up like a sponge during that first year. Try to join at least one club or organization if you can but don’t overwhelm yourself because you did come to college for an education. Get to know your professor a little better and go to those office hours.

UIndy Speech and Debate Team wins an International Championship and High Marks at National Championship

UIndy Speech & Debate Team

UIndy Speech & Debate Team

The University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate Team earned high marks at two championship tournaments held virtually in March 2021. Craig-Anesu Chigadza ’21 (political science and psychology) brought home an international win, a first for the team, by winning the Informative Speaking division at the International 31st Annual International Forensics Association Speech and Debate Tournament. In addition, the team earned widespread accolades at the National Speech Championship culminating in an overall team ranking of 15th in the nation. 

The UIndy Speech and Debate Team is a nationally ranked learning-centered community that competes in speaking events to enhance student’s communication, research, and public speaking skills. Stephanie Wideman, assistant professor of communication, is the team director.

“The strength and dedication of this team really shined this year as we were forced to compete virtually. Our students not only survived the change in competition, but they thrived by delivering stellar results at two high-level championships,” explained Wideman.

Craig Chigadza

Craig Chigadza

Of his international championship Chigadza says, “The opportunity to represent UIndy on an international level is the pinnacle of my time here as both a student and competitor.” His award-winning speech informed the audience about a burgeoning movement to acknowledge inequities in representation at museums across the world. “During a time when our country and world is struggling with racial injustices, the opportunity to advocate for racial equity on a global stage is a chance I was given by the university to be a part of the change.”


“Our success at the National Speech Championship (NSC) speaks to the quality and dedication of our coaching staff. We are comparatively a smaller team on the national level, but we keep our eyes on quality not quantity. At NSC we had several students break into quarter, semi, and national finals, placing them within the top echelon of speaking excellence,” explained Wideman.

UIndy Speech & Debate TeamThe team will graduate two members this year. Craig-Anesu Chigadza (political science and psychology) and Kathryn Leigh (biology). The seniors would like to dedicate their success to every member of the greyhound community that worked tirelessly during this pandemic to make sure their education continued. 

Full results below:


International Forensics Association Championship

Craig-Anesu Chigadza ’21 (political science and psychology)-International Champion 1st place Informative Speaking, 6th place in Impromptu Speaking

National Speech Championship

Overall Team Ranking 15th Nationally
Craig-Anesu Chigadza ’21 (political science and psychology) 3rd place Interviewing Speaking

Semi Finalists (Top 12 in Nation)

Craig-Anesu Chigadza Informative Speaking and Impromptu Speaking
Kathryn Leigh ’21 (biology) Interviewing Speaking

Quarter Finalists (Top 24 in Nation)

Kathryn Leigh Rhetorical Criticism
Elise Paz ’23 (business and Spanish) Informative Speaking
Landon Owens ’22 (sports management) Programmed Oral Interpretation
Landon Owens and Alexandra Nickerson ’21 (political science and communication) DUO Interpretation
Craig-Anesu Chigadza Extemporaneous Speaking

Senior spotlight: Shyanne Milne ’21 (criminal justice)

Get to know the newest members of the University of Indianapolis Alumni Association!

Shyanne Milne, UIndy 2021Shyanne Milne, Class of May 2021

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to keep working at my current job as a correctional officer and eventually down the line I hope to work my way into being an evidence technician. That is really my end goal.

How did you decide on your career path?

I decided to work in the criminal justice field because of my prior life experiences as well as I have always had an interest in crime scene investigation. I have been interested in Criminal Justice for as long as I can remember.

How has your experience in the criminal justice program prepared you for the next steps in your career? 

While focusing on crime scene investigation I got to work a lot in the crime lab which helped me really narrow in on what I wanted to do with my major. The criminal justice program allows you to explore many different focuses without wasting any time.

Where do you work now and how does it tie into your major?

I work at a jail in Hancock County. I started as an intern at the jail and was hired on full-time. It has been an amazing experience and I have been fortunate enough to meet a lot of amazing people. The jail has helped me with my criminal justice major as well as my psychology minor. You really encounter a lot of different scenarios that test your knowledge and help you learn more about not only that individual but yourself as well.

How did you balance everything during college?

Balancing my responsibilities throughout college has really been difficult for me. I have to balance my time between my family, my school work, and my full-time job (I work night shift). There hasn’t been a year of my college career where I didn’t have to figure out a way to balance my responsibilities. However, I always managed to get it done.

What’s a favorite thing about UIndy?

I think my favorite thing is all of the workshops and extra activities that are offered. It helps everyone on campus be able to connect with one another. I have met some lifelong friends here at UIndy that I am very grateful for.

What advice do you have for incoming freshmen? 

Do not procrastinate. Don’t blow off your freshman year. Keep on top of things and keep your GPA up. Also, if your major requires you to take a biology or chemistry class take it your freshman year. Coming right from high school makes the class go much easier because you are still familiar with the basic information.

Senior Spotlight: Tori Akles ’21 (Biology, Spanish)

UIndy 360 recently had the chance to talk to graduating senior Tori Akles ’21 (Biology, Spanish, Chemistry minor) about her experience at UIndy, participation in the Roche Academy, and her plans after graduation.

What advice do you have for incoming freshmen?

Learn to pace yourself in your work. If an assignment is going to take an extended amount of time, don’t be afraid to put it down and take a break or work on something else. You don’t want to burn yourself out. Basically, know your limits of studying, know when to take breaks, and leave time for fun too. 


What is the most significant way UIndy has had an impact on you?

I have made lifelong friendships here, and I have really grown as a person. Through UIndy, I have also found my future career at Roche Diagnostics that I never would have found on my own. Through an internship, I received a job offer and I start working a month after graduation!


Do you have any faculty mentors? If so, who are they and how have they helped you? 

All of the professors that I have had have helped me further my knowledge and experience. However, I think that both Dr. Mary Gobbett and Dr. Daniel Scholes have helped me the most. I have worked with both of these professors for about two years, and the experience I got from this was able to get me the Roche internship in the first place. They have helped me get experience in lab work and prep, as well as tutoring others as they work through their courses. 


Have you done any internships, and if so, where were they? What skills did you gain?

I did my internship with the Roche Support Network in Roche Diagnostics. From this, I gained a career for after I graduate as well as skills I are useful for many different fields of work. My internship consisted of a lot of computer work as we were unfortunately under quarantine at the time. But the start of my career will consist of the fieldwork I didn’t have the opportunity to do during the internship. 


What would you like to do following graduation? What are your long-term career goals? 

After graduation, I have planned about a month off for traveling before I begin working for Roche. I am traveling with friends and with family. After this, I begin my life in a new career and a new apartment. Tip- if you get a career in Roche or other healthcare careers, ask about preferred employer programs at apartment complexes. If you work for the right company, you could get discounts on move in and rent.


What’s your favorite thing about UIndy?

My favorite thing is the small class sizes. Because of this, I have been able to get to know my professors well, and I have been able to take advantage of many opportunities they have provided me with, including the Roche Diagnostics internship. I’m so glad I decided to attend the University of Indianapolis.


Senior spotlight: Samantha Mundt (4+1 public health)

UIndy 360 had a chance to talk with 4+1 Public Health student Samantha Mundt, who is currently in her first year of a Master of Public Health degree and final year of a Public Health Education and Promotion undergraduate degree.  


How is the public health program preparing you for the next steps in your career?

“The public health program has done so much to prepare me for the next steps in my career. This program has given me the opportunity to implement real interventions within my community. I have had the opportunity to work with organizations such as the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, the Hoosier Environmental Council, the YMCA, the South Indy Quality of Life Project, and so many others. Additionally, I have been able to speak at national conferences relevant to my field and hold leadership positions within state and national professional organizations.”

Have any UIndy faculty mentored you? 

“Mentorship from UIndy faculty members such as Dr. Heidi Hancher-Rauch and Dr. Angelitta Britt-Spells has led me to earn two internship positions. Dr. Kara Cecil has led me to compete in multiple case study competitions. My professors have given me all the skills necessary to ensure that I am well prepared to not only enter the workforce but also to be a leader in my field.”

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities? 

“As a UIndy student, I am president of our Eta Sigma Gamma chapter, a health education honorary. I am the Collegiate Champion for the National Society for Public Health Education at UIndy as well as the Student Representative for InSOPHE.  In addition to this, I am a Contact Tracer, Graduate Assistant, Writing Lab Tutor, and former Greyhound Ambassador for the university. This is just a few of an even longer list of all the ways in which I have been able to be involved while a student at UIndy. Each of these experiences has heightened how much I value being in a program that pushed me to do more than just work towards my degree. Because of the public health program at UIndy, I am constantly striving to reach new heights and often finding myself at the top.”

Have you had any internships? 

“In my time at UIndy, I have had two internships. The first was with the Indiana Minority Health Coalition and our work was focused on maternal & child health and minority health. The second internship was with the Hoosier Environmental Council and we worked on the topic of instances of childhood lead poising in rental situations. Each of these internships emphasized utilizing policy and advocacy to tackle these issues. I have gained important skills from these internships such as professional communication and writing as well as research.”

Can you talk about your experience on the contract tracing team?

“Communication and empathy have been a big part of my role as a contact tracer. Every day that I go in I speak with countless UIndy students and employees. Not only do I need to be able to share and gather important information but I also need to show empathy when discussing a topic which often leads to feelings of vulnerability. My biggest takeaway from my role as a contact tracer is the importance of open communication and transparency during crisis situations.”

Have you had any academic research opportunities at UIndy? 

“As a student at UIndy, I have had many research opportunities within my curriculum. I have researched and carried out studies on topics from hepatitis vaccination uptake among college students to the impacts of maternal age on infant birth weight. Alongside public health faculty, I am working on four additional research projects outside of my curriculum.”

What would you like to do following graduation? What are your long-term career goals? 

“Following graduation, I hope to work in health administration, health education, or health policy & advocacy. While working in one of these fields, I hope to freelance as a writer and editor for nonprofit organizations. After a few years, I hope to go back to school and earn a doctorate in public health so that I can eventually become a college professor.”

What’s your favorite thing about UIndy?

“My favorite thing about UIndy is the support which I receive from university faculty as well as the friendships I have made both within and outside of my program. UIndy has done so much to support me in my education, and it has allowed me to accomplish more in the past three years than I could ever have imagined doing in such a short period of time.”

What advice do you have for incoming freshmen?

“My advice for incoming freshmen is to jump at every opportunity that comes their way and to seek out those that don’t. College flies by quicker than you can imagine so it’s important that you use this time to the fullest. Make sure you’re nourishing all the realms of your health; physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual because each one is important in supporting you through the next four years.”

Spotlight: Seth Ward ’23

SethWardSeth Ward ’23 is a software engineering major at the R.B. Annis School of Engineering. A New Zealand citizen, he also is a Strain Honors College student with minors in mathematics and computer science.


What has your experience in the engineering program been like so far?

“So far I think I’ve set a good basis of knowledge from my courses. Having a lot of contact with my professors has helped me learn more than I think I would have in huge classes based upon how I learn. The DesignSpine is great for incorporating knowledge from multiple different disciplines and bringing it together on one project. This is great because it gives you a lot of experience on what jobs will be like after college.”

Could you talk about your experience as an international student and how the pandemic affected you?

“During the Fall semester of 2020 I stayed at home in New Zealand due to the nature of the pandemic in the United States. All of my professors were very understanding and many went out of their way to help me throughout the semester. Most of the time they would record their Zoom lectures to the rest of the class and upload the footage to the Google Drive where I would be able to view them at a time which better suited me; this is because due to the 16-hour time difference the live classes were between midnight and 7 a.m. for me, which wouldn’t have been possible to complete my studies. I also worked with my professors to organize times to take tests which were different than the class times so that it would work for me.”

Have any faculty members mentored you?

“I work a lot with Dr. [Steve] Spicklemire over a wide range of my courses. He’s my point faculty on our Engineering Design spine project. Also has taken me for SWEN and Physics classes, I have regular contact with him and he helps and advises on anything I need.”

Seth Ward

Seth Ward (UIndy Athletics file photo)

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?

“I’m part of the men’s soccer team here for the university. It’s the reason I’m here at the university; as an international student I was scouted to come play for the school. I think getting to play at the collegiate level is a great experience. Mainly just getting to be around the boys on the team is great.”

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen at UIndy?

“Don’t specialise too early; explore what’s on offer to find what you enjoy.”

What’s your favorite thing about UIndy?

“The small class sizes. You’re able to specialize and get a lot more one on one time with your professors. You also are able to create better working relationships with them which in turn helps out throughout your courses.”

DHSc alum takes top billing at national PT conference

SuzanneO'NealThe Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy (ANPT) Degenerative Diseases Special Interest Group recently awarded “Best Platform Presentation” to Dr. Suzanne O’Neal, a 2020 UIndy Doctor of Health Science (DHSc) alumna. O’Neal’s platform presentation at the APTA Combined Sections Meeting, “The effects of backward cycling on posterior protective stepping responses in people with Parkinson disease,” was based on her DHSc doctoral project at UIndy. 

It was O’Neal’s interest in physical therapy for the treatment and management of Parkinson disease that led her to UIndy’s DHSc program. 

I chose UIndy because of their organized curriculum and because a faculty member — Dr. Stephanie Miller — had similar research interests,” O’Neal said. “I thought it would be a great match in terms of a doctoral project. Turns out, I was right!”

The award of Best Platform earned O’Neal, an associate professor at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, a spot on the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy’s Degenerative Diseases Special Interest Group’s podcast “4D: Deep Dive Into Degenerative Diseases.” She said that it was the support of the DHSc faculty at UIndy that helped her to succeed. 

“My UIndy Doctoral Committee was such an integral part of the success of my project,” O’Neal said. “They were all so responsive and helpful. Also, each had their own expertise to bring to the table, which brought a variety of perspectives to my project.” Notably, O’Neal said it is Miller, chair of the UIndy Krannert School of Physical Therapy, who was O’Neal’s doctoral project mentor, who stands out as a key influence. 

“From the moment I met her at the UIndy program orientation, I knew our research interests would click! She was always so approachable and responsive. Even though I know she wears many hats and is so  busy, she never made me feel like I was bothering her or taking away time.” 

“I’m so fortunate to have found the UIndy DHSc program,” O’Neal continued. “For a working professional, it was the absolute perfect choice. I received quality education regardless of being online.”  She found the research methods and statistics courses to be particularly valuable. 

“I loved how I went through the program with a cohort as it allowed me to get to know people, have a support system and who I still remain in contact to this day!”

Senior spotlight: Zachary Smith ’21

ZachSmith Class of 2021, SOEZachary Smith is the president of the Catholic Student Association at the University of Indianapolis. He’s also the creator and leader of the young adult community at Holy Name Parish in Beech Grove.

After graduating this May with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (concentrations in mild interventions and reading), he looks forward to a future that combines these skills and passions.

“I intend to enter the field of ministry with a focus on explaining the teachings of the Catholic Church to young adults and children, and in whatever capacity I can. Youth ministry is my first step, though!”

UIndy’s School of Education prepared Smith for his career by training him to teach and simultaneously learn from others. 

“Regardless of the role I go into, the ability to listen to other people and communicate a concept to someone who doesn’t quite grasp it will be beneficial. I’m lucky enough to have been taught how to do that from the School of Education,” he said. 

When Smith needed help affording the cost of college expenses, he received financial assistance through UIndy to continue his education. 

“I’ve been blessed and deeply honored to receive scholarships that sustain me financially, especially during this difficult time. Without these immensely beneficial packages, college, as I know it now, would not be possible.” 

Smith, who is also a member of the executive board for the Student Education Association, enjoys UIndy’s small campus, where “the students know the faculty on a deep, personal level and that makes the educational experience so much better.”

“Each and every professor that I’ve had the pleasure of studying under has been a tremendous help in my development, but I particularly want to thank Dr. Angelia Ridgway,” he said. “She was so incredibly kind to everyone who entered her door. As a transfer student, she was one of the first professors I had and was just such a welcoming, kind individual.”

His advice to incoming freshmen?

“Be yourself. One of the most difficult parts of being a freshman is figuring out where you fit in or belong. Don’t worry about that. Eventually, you’ll find your place, but you’ll only find the right place by staying true to what makes you unique. Grow, develop, and become a better person, but don’t ever pretend to be something you’re not because you want people to like you.”

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