Senior Spotlight: Delanie Kent ’20 (criminal justice)

While the spring semester has been impacted greatly by the coronavirus pandemic, many Greyhound seniors are putting a ‘cap’ on their UIndy careers before the conferral of their diplomas this summer. Please enjoy the entries in this year’s “Senior Spotlight” series, as we celebrate these soon-to-be Greyhound graduates.

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“UIndy has shown me what I’m capable of,” says Delanie Kent ’20 (criminal justice). Kent has kept herself busy during her four years at UIndy, being an active participant in the criminal justice program while also participating in extra-curricular activities and volunteering her time coaching volleyball and working multiple jobs.

A lesson she learned early on was to leave no opportunity unexplored. “Freshmen should go all in. Utilize the resources given to you: tutoring labs, RAs, faculty and staff, ProEdge, and so much more. Show up to events. Go to hall meetings,” she said. “You’ll make new friends that will last you a lifetime.”

Kent, who has a case management job lined up after graduation, hopes to put her degree, which has a concentration in corrections, to work at a police department as a K-9 officer, or potentially get into administration at a prison or jail. Her experience in the criminal justice department at UIndy opened her eyes to the career possibilities.

“The program has been incredible,” she said. “We have a crime scene lab that gives all criminal justice students a hands-on experience with solving crimes.” 

Like many UIndy students, one of the standout qualities about her time at UIndy is her experience working with faculty. “Our professors are always willing to talk with us, tell us their opinion, and help us in any way we may need, as well as give us resources to help ourselves,” she said. “The program has helped connect me with professionals and opened my eyes to the different career paths I am capable of pursuing.”

Kent was an active member of Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice national honor society. She served as both secretary and president during her time at UIndy. “We put on successful events, such as ‘K-9s on Campus,’ which helped connect me with professionals and community leaders and helped us all find ways how we can try to impact the community,” she said.

Kent also took on a challenging internship with the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center (MCJDC). “I learned about the procedures and how to deal with residents of the juvenile detention center, but also how to understand them from an emotional and psychological side,” said Kent, who will also graduate with a minor in psychology.

Her time at the MCJDC helped her discover a passion for helping juveniles and also taught her valuable life lessons. “Everyone can flourish depending on the resources and support that they have,” she said. “This also strengthened my patience and understanding of the issues we have in our own neighborhood”

Kent leaves UIndy as a person with a purpose. Her education during her time at UIndy, both inside the classroom and out, helped her discover her passions and set her off on a path to use that education to serve her community.

“I have found the woman I want to be in this lifetime because of how I was pushed, and shown by the faculty and staff what I can accomplish,” she said. “UIndy is full of opportunities, and people with the desire to push you to success.

Learn more about the criminal justice program at the University of Indianapolis.

 

 

Senior Spotlight: William Durchholz ’20 (chemistry, pre-medicine)

While the second semester has been impacted greatly by the coronavirus pandemic, many Greyhound seniors are putting a ‘cap’ on their UIndy careers before the conferral of their diplomas this summer. Please enjoy the entries in this year’s “Senior Spotlight” series, as we celebrate these soon-to-be Greyhound graduates.

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IMG_3294William Durchholz ’20 (chemistry, pre-medicine), who will be going to medical school in the fall, knows one thing: Even if he leaves the state to further his education, he wants to find his way back to Indiana eventually. 

“I want to return to practice in a medically underserved community,” he said. “There are so many areas of Indiana that have physician shortages which negatively impact patients. While I am not set on the exact area of medicine I would like to practice at this time, I am certain I want to be a part of the solution of physician shortages and access to care in Indiana.”

Durchholz, who is weighing his medical school options, credits the support he received at the University of Indianapolis for helping him direct his passion. “I came to UIndy knowing that I wanted to make an impact on other people, and that I’ve always had a passion for helping others and solving problems,” he said. “Through conversations with faculty members and fellow students, I found that the best way to blend my interests was to become a physician.”

On the arduous road that applying to internships and medical school can be, Durchholz credits ProEdge and Stephanie Kendall-Dietz in being helpful with his resume, cover letters and mock interviews. “The staff at ProEdge are so talented and have so much insight into getting a job, internship, or applying to graduate school,” he said. “Their help put me ahead of many other interviewees I came across at different medical schools.”

There has been no shortage of faculty mentors for Durchholz during his time at UIndy, he cites Dr. Joe Burnell, Dr. David Styers-Barnett and Dr. Kathy Stickney in particular. “In the chemistry program we benefited from some of the best faculty the University has to offer,” he said. “I was always able to get the advice I needed from the chemistry faculty. They opened so many doors for me, including two summer internships with Roche and prepared me for my career in medicine.”

Durchholz’s participation in the Roche Academy provided him the opportunity to step inside a billion-dollar business and learn about how it works as well as allowed him to learn about a side of healthcare that he did not even know existed. “Not many people think about what happens to their blood tests when they are taken at their family physician’s office or at the hospital, but that is where Roche Diagnostics is so important,” he said. “They taught me about how they support all of their instruments and be sure they are working for all of their clients nationwide. They also shed light on how they are innovating their instruments to be able to get results to patients faster, which can be critical for certain patient populations.”

Durchholz encourages incoming freshmen to get involved in any activity they can outside of class. He began his UIndy career playing football which exposed him to many new people and he was involved through the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. “I formed a group of five individuals that started out as a study group, but eventually became my lifelong friends,” he said. “UIndy is a great place to get an education, but it’s important to remember that you will only get out of your education what you put into it!”

UIndy announces Teacher of the Year nominees and winner

The University of Indianapolis is delighted to recognize Dr. Angelia J. Ridgway as its 2020 Teacher of the Year. Dr. Ridgway is a Professor of Secondary Education and the Coordinator of the MAT program in the School of Education.

“At UIndy, I teach with the most dedicated and caring team of teachers I call my colleagues and friends,” Ridgway said. “To be recognized as the Teacher of the Year from this amazing group of individuals means the world to me. Teaching is my mission. I hope it can be one of the ways I change the world, especially for my students’ future students.”

Excellence in teaching occurs through the intentional weaving together of a number of key elements that include relationship development, content engagement, and authenticity.  Each of these elements is crucial in enabling students to succeed in the classroom and beyond. For Dr. Ridgway, relationship development may be the most important of all. “It all begins and ends with the human element,” she said. “The old adage in teaching is that “students don’t care about learning until they know you care” remains as true from my first year of middle and high school teaching until today.”

This relationship building plays out in many ways inside the classroom. “From knowing students as individuals who have unique cultural and experiential backgrounds, to finding multiple means in which to engage them in learning,” Ridgway said. “Every learner to your course or clinical field experience with not only their own unique backgrounds but with preferential ways of growing. The best teachers are never finished — they are consummate learners themselves who seek new ways to connect with a variety of students.”

Dr. Ridgway recognizes the zeal that UIndy students have for becoming great secondary teachers, and it is her mission to provide these students a platform from which to be successful. The strength of the relationships that she develops is evident in the student evaluations of her teaching where she consistently, across multiple courses and multiple years, is recognized as being an ‘outstanding’ teacher. However, these relationships do not fade once a student graduates from UIndy. Rather, many graduates connect with Dr. Ridgway on a frequent basis as she serves as a mentor to them in the field, answering questions and fostering their continued growth as they now foster the growth of their own students.

“This is important to me because they are fulfilling the mission of changing secondary students’ lives through the innovative practices they learn while at UIndy. They truly do embody the UIndy mission of ‘Education for Service,’” she said. “Their success is my success. I have enjoyed the privilege of being mentored by many inspirational teachers – I do hope I can do the same for them. And, I always want them to know once you are my student, you are my student forever!”

Dr. Ridgway has had educational role models to look up to in her parents, and even her children, and recognizes how they have helped shape her into a better teacher along the way. “My father, a lifelong educator, still has a tremendous curiosity around school practices and policy. My mother is a ‘techie.” She’s always trying new technology. They have been great role models for me in terms of the high value of lifelong learning,” she said. “My own sons continue that legacy of innovation and curiosity – one is the co-author of a book we published last year and the other is the most curious person I know, always seeking answers to all things in life, both big and small.”

There were many deserving nominees for Teacher of the Year this year, please see those nominees below and help recognize their positive contributions to the University and its students:

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Lori Bolyard, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry
Dr. Lori Bolyard’s passion for teaching is driven by her joy for teaching and the challenge of the job.  She makes her chemistry content understandable for all students.  As one Teacher of the Year Committee member noted, although the course was about chemistry, it was clear that Dr. Bolyard aimed to teach other skills such as critical thinking through her classroom methods. In this way, her lessons seemed to transcend the specific content and provide background for the students to excel in whatever their major may be.

 

 

Leah Courtland, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics & Earth Space Science
Dr. Leah Courtland firmly believes in linking earth science concepts to communities and people in order to make the content relevant.  She takes her content beyond the walls of the classroom by providing field experiences for her students so they can see the things they are learning about. Her innovative use of standards-based grading allows encourages students to apply and master the concepts she teaches.

 

 

Kevin Gribbins, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Biology
Dr. Kevin Gribbins sees himself as a motivator as much as an educator. An observer to his class noted that it was clear that Dr. Gribbins has a passion for what he is teaching and enthusiastically delivers his lectures where he shares experiences and personal stories which further provided excitement throughout the class.

 

 

Katie Polo, DHS
Associate Professor, School of Occupational Therapy
Dr. Katie Polo exemplifies education for service with the opportunities that she provides to occupational therapy students to provide care for those recovering from cancer. A member of the Teacher of the Year committee who observed class remarked that Dr. Polo interacts with her students as future colleagues and embodies the element of the team of her and the students working together to further students’ education. 

 

 

 

Laura Santurri, DHSc (doctor of health sciences program)

Laura Santurri, PhD
Assistant Professor, College of Health Sciences
Dr. Laura Santurri is extremely knowledgeable about the content she teaches and uses countless real-life examples to show students the application of what they are learning in the classroom to their own careers. Her teaching is aimed not just at meeting requirements but preparing her students for their futures. One observer noted that it was evident that she had personal relationships with the students which went beyond the classroom making her very approachable.

 

 

 

 

 

Smith, RachelRachel Smith, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Business
Dr. Rachel Smith is very knowledgeable about her content and uses countless real-life examples to show students how they will be able to apply this knowledge later in their own careers. She exhibits superior verbal, nonverbal and visual communication skills and encourages students to demonstrate their own communication skills as they present about current topics in her class.  The questions she asks in class are designed to require students to think deeply about what they are learning.

 

Jordan Sparks Waldron, PhD
Assistant Professor, School of Psychological Sciences
Dr. Jordan Waldron is very passionate about what students take away from her class, and it is clear that the focus of her teaching is to help students understand the why of what happens in the world. In addition, Dr. Waldron focuses on how what is being taught can be applied to the future careers of her students.

 

 

 

 

Liz Whiteacre, MFA
Assistant Professor, Department of English
Professor Liz Whiteacre’s classroom is clearly student driven, and she encourages the students to take charge of their learning. A member of the Teacher of the Year Committee noted that Professor Whiteacre has an incredibly positive attitude during the class session and stated “It is clear that she loves what she does and is committed not only to teaching the students, but fostering interpersonal relationships with the students.”

 

School of Nursing adjusts to aid in COVID-19 support

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The University of Indianapolis is finding innovative ways to ensure continuity for students as well as to support the local community during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since hospitals began admitting COVID-19 patients, School of Nursing students have been prevented from completing their required clinical hours in person. To remain in compliance with the accreditation requirements for the SON, students have been allowed to substitute clinical hours with virtual experiences. Normally, those hours would be a maximum of 25% of the total hours for each course in the undergraduate program as prescribed by the Indiana State Board of Nursing (ISBN). With the current COVID-19 crisis in effect, the ISBN is allowing schools to fall back on national guidelines which allow up to 50% of hours in simulation. With that change, the SON has contracted with Kaplan to provide virtual simulation for the remainder of the semester. These virtual experiences will be used in conjunction with guided case studies to meet the required hours.

“Changes in how we deliver clinical education will allow students in the undergraduate nursing programs to satisfy more of their required clinical hours virtually rather than in person,” said Dr. Norma Hall, dean of the University of Indianapolis School of Nursing. “This is especially important for senior students who are set to graduate this May.”

Hall also noted that keeping students on schedule using virtual experiences will allow students to continue their training and enter the workforce this summer as registered nurses. As the cases of coronavirus continue to rise, there will likely be workforce shortages. 

“Our graduates will be entering the workforce at a critical time to alleviate staffing shortages that COVID-19 will cause within area hospitals,” said Hall. “The knowledge and skills our nursing graduates gained at UIndy will be taken into the workforce to care for the sickest of the sick at a time of great need. I couldn’t be more proud of our faculty and students for remaining flexible and resilient during these trying times.”

The School of Nursing has also been proactive in trying to aid local health organizations in their fight against COVID-19. The School of Nursing organized the donation of some materials on-hand to local hospital networks, including Community Health Network and Franciscan St. Francis. The donations included 8,500 pairs of gloves, 30 surgical gowns, 450 surgical masks, 150 thermometer probe covers, and 10 stethoscopes.

The School also made the decision to forgo their shipment of gloves for the month of April (and potentially beyond) so that they might be given to those who need them more.

UIndy alum helps bring NFL Combine to Indianapolis

SchaferAudrey Schafer ‘09, events and program manager for National Football Scouting, Inc., is responsible for organizing the entire event and bringing it together as seamlessly as possible. Schafer, who graduated from the University of Indianapolis with a degree in sports management and a minor in business administration, works almost year-round to coordinate venues, vendors, players and team schedules.

The National Invitational Camp, what we all know as the NFL Combine, culminates over the course of approximately one week in late February, but the lifecycle for planning the event goes well beyond that. “The Combine actually does not end for me until the NFL Draft,” Schafer said. “I will work with the NFL teams and their medical staffs from the start of the Combine until the draft to ensure they have all the information about players that they need.”

Immediately following the draft is when typical back-office operations take place to wrap up the current year, but focus quickly shifts to planning for the next year throughout the fall.

Lucas Oil Stadium“During that time I work on anything from what we can do better, to how we can implement new technology, to new player gear design for the next event,” Schafer said. Once vendor contracts are generated in the early stages of winter, Schafer and her team then begin to finalize invitations and registration as well as begin to set the schedule for the event – which at that point is still months away!

Schafer enrolled at UIndy with the intention of becoming an athletic trainer. While she ultimately decided to follow a different path, she was interested in staying in the world of sports. Schafer credits her relationship with Dr. Jennifer VanSickle, program director of sport management and professor of kinesiology and health & sport sciences, and her willingness to provide career advice, for Schafer’s success today. 

“Professor VanSickle encouraged me to try different facets of sports management to see what avenue I liked best,” Schafer said. “I took a public relations class and started working in the Athletics Department with Matt Donovan [Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development].”

Schafer enjoyed her time working in athletics, specifically on game days. She sought out more hours working games and events and she soon realized that event management was going to be her focus.

While the event management of the Combine follows the same template year after year, it is definitely never the same event twice. “Every year there is something that makes me stop and say, ‘well I haven’t done that before, but let’s figure it out,’” Schafer said.

Because of all of the planning that goes into the event, in a perfect world, the event itself is almost the easy part. “The two weeks leading up to the event are the toughest for me,” Schafer said. “That is the time that everyone needs something from you and it feels like there isn’t enough time to complete your to-do list. Luckily I have a great staff that helps pull everything together.”

Schafer isn’t the only important UIndy connection with the NFL Combine. “One of the unknown ways UIndy supports the Combine are our athletic training tables,” Schafer said. “Several years ago we purchased the training tables for our event, but did not have room to store them. I reached out to UIndy and worked out that they can use them for the year, free of charge, as long as they can transport them to us to use during the event.”

UIndy students have also had the opportunity to be involved in the Combine over the years. National Football Scouting works with the athletic training department at UIndy to identify a student to work as an intern for the week of the event. “This is a fantastic learning experience for the student as they work with our training staff throughout the week at the event, on the field, and at the bench press,” Schafer said.

In past years, coordinated through the Indianapolis Colts organization, athletic training students have also worked at local hospitals during the event to help take players’ orthopedic histories.

For the last several years, students have been able to volunteer to work at the NFL Combine Experience. They help with staffing of different areas throughout the Experience. “This is a great way for sports management students to get their volunteer hours in, and is set up and run through the NFL office directly,” according to Schafer.

These opportunities and those Schafer had during her time at UIndy are invaluable to students trying to discover their passions and how they will use them in their future careers. “UIndy really helped shape who I have become as an adult,” Schafer said. “UIndy is a school that will give you back everything and more that you put into it.”

“I am proof that your professors are really there to help you succeed in every way possible,” she continued. “I was able to create a career that keeps me smiling and enables me to help guide others looking to get into the business, and provides me with unique ways to give back to my alma mater.”

UIndy artists collaborate for ‘Empty Bowls’ fundraiser

UPDATE: Per recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), this event has been canceled. Visit events.uindy.edu for updates.

Empty Bowls - lunch for a good cause

Empty Bowls is an internationally recognized grassroots movement by artists around the world to care for and feed the hungry in their communities. This month, the experience is coming to the University of Indianapolis for the first time!

The concept is simple; participating artists create and donate bowls, then serve a simple meal. Here’s how it works:

  1. Visit the Schwitzer Student Center on March 26 for lunch.
  2. Choose a handmade ceramic bowl to take home with you.
  3. Fill that bowl with your choice of soup.
  4. Make a suggested minimum donation ($10 for UIndy students, $20 for all other guests) *CASH ONLY
  5. Enjoy!

100 percent of the proceeds from this event will benefit Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. 

Three hundred ceramic bowls are being created by Department of Art & Design Assistant Professor Barry Barnes, current and former UIndy ceramics students and UIndy High School Day participants.

Empty Bowls, students making ceramics

See a bowl you like? Show up early on March 26 to make your selection!

An illustrated cookbook created by Department of Art & Design Assistant Professor Randi Frye and students in her creative digital practice classes will also be sold during the event for $20. *CASH ONLY

Empty Bowls cookbook

The cookbook features 80 recipes. University of Indianapolis faculty and staff were asked to contribute recipes that the students could use to work with, so a large portion of the recipes are from the Greyhound community.

Empty Bowls illustrated cookbook

 

Learn more about the event, taking place on campus Thursday, March 26

UIndy Gender Center: a welcome wave of support

Launch of the Gender Center in room 208C and the adjacent hallways in Schwitzer Center

The University of Indianapolis Gender Center held a grand opening Thursday, February 20, full of music, food, confetti, and a letterpress station run by Assistant Professor of Art & Design Katherine Fries.

Students, faculty, and staff came in support of the new office, located on the second floor of the Schwitzer Student Center in room 208C , and stayed for a ribbon-cutting prefaced with remarks made by Gender Center Committee member and Assistant Professor of History & Political Science Laura Merrifield Wilson and President Robert Manuel.

Wilson spoke about her goals for the center, stating that she would start with “getting people aware and building our partnerships, as well as finding ways to help the thriving LGBT community that is already on campus. Whatever they need, whether it’s resources, support, or funding, we are here for them.”

According to the center’s website, “The Center empowers, advocates, and promotes gender equity by supporting research and education, serving as a connector for resources; and nurturing and cultivating intentional partnerships and relationships.”

When asked what she thought of the Gender Center, student Carrie Long ’23 replied, “I think it will impact the lives of the LGBT community on campus in a very positive way.”

In addition to supporting individual students with questions and concerns, the Gender Center is looking to expand its reach into the community of UIndy through partnerships with fellow organizations that align with their values.

One upcoming event the Gender Center will be partnering with is the Kellogg Writers Series poetry reading Wednesday, March 25th, featuring Midwest poet Emily Skaja. Her debut collection, BRUTE, “confronts the dark questions and menacing silences around gender, sexuality, and violence,” according to Goodreads. Some proposed concepts of this cross-collaboration include promotional materials, a giveaway of Emily Skaja’s books that have been purchased by the center and can be signed by the author when she visits, and redeemable Gender Center pins to encourage event attendance.

Associate Professor of English Barney Haney, co-instructor of the Kellogg Writers Series course, shared his opinion on the importance of the Gender Center and what this collaboration will mean for both parties involved. “We are excited about what the Gender Center could mean for our campus community and for the communities that our students serve. By collaborating with the center on the Emily Skaja poetry reading, the Kellogg Writers Series is hopeful that we can further spread the word about the Gender Center while also providing a valuable and relevant experience to the entire student body. Skaja’s debut collection, BRUTE, deeply examines intimate partner violence committed against women and shows us a path to recovery and reclamation of the self. Her poems are fantastic, brutal, and honest. They are what our students need to hear.”

Fellow co-instructor of the Kellogg Writers Series course, Associate Professor of English Rebecca McKanna, expressed that “In Emily Skaja’s BRUTE, the speaker reckons with her experiences of intimate partner violence, often talking to her past self, offering her the language to name what is happening to her. We hope the reading will open up conversations on campus about these issues, allowing students and the wider campus community to engage with this ferocious debut poetry collection.”

This collaboration marks the beginning of a promising legacy for the Gender Center as they provide a long-lasting safe space for those in need of resources and/or support.

Making the most of makerspaces

professors use makerspace

When John Kuykendall began his tenure as the dean of the University of Indianapolis School of Education, the idea of housing a makerspace on campus had been in development for several years. Launching the School of Education makerspace would become one of Kuykendall’s priorities during his first year. 

The School of Education makerspace was inspired by the notion that today’s teachers must have the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare PK-12 students for an innovation-driven economy. Makerspaces compel teachers to deliver content through “learning by doing,” immersing students in real-world projects that foster deep learning and understanding. A makerspace is a space where students can gather to create, invent and learn. Education makerspaces are housed on campus and allow people to share resources and collaborate and allow teachers to provide a “lab” where they can apply the lessons that are already occurring within the classroom. They combine education with a “do it yourself” strategy.

Last fall, the School of Education’s makerspace began operation, with programming that largely focuses on STEM fields, but is available to use in any way that professors and students can find to fit the curriculum. Ultimately the makerspace will help equip teachers with new skill sets that enable complex thinking, problem-solving, designing, collaborating, communicating and creating for today’s 21st-century student. 

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“It was a connected effort within the University to get all this done,” Kuykendall said. He noted the efforts of Deb Sachs, assistant professor of education, who helped coordinate funding from a STEM education grant.

The University’s makerspace was aided in design by Indianapolis-based 1stMakerSpace, which builds and sustains in-school makerspaces. They partner with school districts to provide students with standards-based hands-on learning experiences to complement classroom learning strategies. The goal of these makerspaces is to inspire an authentic, rigorous and motivational environment by fostering creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

“1stMakerSpace challenged us to come up with ideas how the makerspace could be used in all of the courses that we teach,” Kuykendall said. “We don’t want to pigeonhole the faculty and think that the pedagogy has to be centered around the sciences. As more faculty learn how to use it, they can begin to use it more and more often for a variety of lessons.” 

The makerspace provides an added educational layer where students can actually manipulate a problem with their hands and eyes rather than only trying to visualize a solution. 

“We’re very excited about it. It will allow students to see, apply and practice what they’re learning,” Kuykendall said. “There’s often more than one way to solve a problem. Makerspaces allow the open creativity to do that. They allow for more communication and can become collaborative pieces of learning.”

professors use makerspace

Kuykendall said housing a makerspace within the School of Education puts UIndy “ahead of the game” in offering students more resources to be successful should they end up in a school system that utilizes makerspaces.

Even though the makerspace on campus is still in its beginning stages, Kuykendall is already focused on ways in which the program will grow. “We want to continue to develop it year after year and keep growing the tools inside the space,” he said, “As more students and faculty use it that will help us envision how it will grow.” Kuykendall also envisions hosting workshops and professional development opportunities for local schools.

“Ultimately, we want programming that will help our students to interact with their future students,” he said.

Inquiries about the availability of the makerspace can be directed to School of Education Graduate Programs Administrative Assistant Rhonda Helterbrand (helterbrandr@uindy.edu) who is in charge of the scheduling and organization and management of the makerspace.

Greyhounds giving back: Tiffany Hanson ’06 selected as judge for ELEVATE Awards

Tiffany Hanson ’06 (communications, emphasis in public relations) was recently selected to be a judge for United Way of Central Indiana’s 2020 ELEVATE Awards. Hanson was selected to identify finalists for this year’s awards from nearly 100 applicants. Hanson currently serves as Outreach and Engagement Manager for LUNA Language Services and as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Indy Pride, Inc..

Hanson has become an excellent ambassador for UIndy and leads by example when it comes to serving others. “I am driven every day to help people in the work that I do and to make my community a better place. I would encourage all students (and alumni!) to consider taking time to reach out to your friends, neighbors, and strangers to understand how your time and talents can make the world a better place for those around you and allow that to drive your passion,” she said.. 

Below is a conversation with Hanson about her experience with service learning, judging for the ELEVATE Awards, and a career full of philanthropy and a passion for helping others.

 

How did you become involved with the ELEVATE Awards?

A couple of years ago I served on a planning committee for IndyVolved (a large annual nonprofit expo produced by IndyHub) with Ashleigh Wahl, who is in charge of planning for UWCI’s ELEVATE Awards. She and I have stayed connected since then and she was familiar with all of my community engagement work, so she reached out to me to be a judge. I was delighted to accept the honor of serving on the judges panel.

 

You’ve served in a lot of community-related roles. Why do you think that type of work is important for organizations to focus on here in central Indiana?

I think community-related work is important for people and organizations to focus on no matter the region. In every area of our country we can find neighbors and friends that need support. As someone who has a lot to be grateful for in my life, I feel it is important to share my time, talents, and resources with my community. 

I engage in a pretty robust amount of community work because my career allows it, but I believe that we all can make some time and space to donate resources to local community organizations to help everyone in our community to truly thrive. When our neighbors and friends thrive, then we thrive, and our businesses thrive too!

 

In your role as a judge, was there anything that struck you about the kind of philanthropy/volunteer/activist work that people are doing in the community?

One finalist that really stuck out to me was a local chef who had utilized their time and connections to support other nonprofit organizations. As someone who worked in restaurants for many years, I have really enjoyed seeing our local culinary scene explode over the past 10 years and it’s amazing to see what chefs can to do give back to the community.

When you think about it, bringing people together over a meal is one of the most common ways to gather and connect people from all backgrounds. Breaking bread together gives us a shared experience and opportunity to connect. For nonprofit organizations, this also gives them an excellent way to connect with their constituents to spread awareness of their services as well as with their donors to raise funds! I loved the fact that this local chef had used their unique talents to support the community in such an engaging way.

 

What advice do you have for current students who want to get involved in community activism/philanthropy?

I would suggest finding a nonprofit that aligns with something that you are truly passionate about and finding out how you can develop your own talents through donated work. For instance, my role with Indy Pride began as a volunteer position mostly managing their social media platforms, and it later turned into a paid position. 

As the Director of Marketing and Communications, I have been a part of a complete rebranding of the organization, launching a new website, managing four social media platforms, learning basic graphic design and assisting in promoting one of the largest parades in Indianapolis and the largest LGBTQ+ festival in the state! Many of those skillsets were very new to me before I had interacted with the organization and I was able to dive into those through my volunteer position and really create a reputation and niche career for myself.  

I would also suggest utilizing volunteer opportunities to build your network. Connect with leaders and members of the Board of Directors for the organization that you volunteer your time with that are doing work in the career fields you may be interested in. Ask them about their career pathways and for advice. Learn from the work that they have done to guide your own career decisions. They may even be able to assist you in finding a job opportunity down the road!

About United Way of Central Indiana

United Way addresses generational poverty in Central Indiana and to be selected as a judge for this honorary role requires a strong understanding of the Central Indiana landscape, demonstrated working knowledge and accomplishments in areas of community impact, and a passion for service in various areas ranging from volunteerism to board membership.

Getting included in the conversation – Amber Smith looks to turn small wins into big gains in inclusion and equity

Amber Smith, Vice President of Inclusion and Equity at the University of Indianapolis

Amber Smith

In her former role at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Amber Smith’s mission was to change lives for the better. Smith served underrepresented populations and implemented a program that provided students the opportunity to connect with the institution, provide wraparound services and ultimately increase traditionally low graduation rates. “That was the first time I got a specific mission tied to the overarching strategy of the institution,” she said. “I felt like I was impacting change. Not just in students’ lives, but for the institution as a whole.”

A second project, helping underrepresented populations bypass remediation before entering their first year of college through a summer program, was enough to establish Smith in a field she would quickly become passionate about and look for ways to expand her impact. “I began to learn how inclusivity and equity can help positively impact an organization, both from a bottom-line perspective as well as the overall culture of the organization,” she said. “Getting the chance to influence organizational change, that was very intriguing to me.”

Smith, who started at the University of Indianapolis as its Vice President for Inclusion and Equity in January, now turns her focus on advancing those goals in the Circle City. Smith sees the pursuit of equity and inclusion as a campus-wide effort with the goal of her office to help people understand how to connect without fear of vulnerability. Smith wants to work with different colleges and departments independently so that initiatives are specifically tailored.

“Everyone has the goal of being more inclusive and creating equitable opportunities,” she said, “but that looks different for everyone. It isn’t one size fits all.”

She sees her role as a consultant to help examine issues, plan initiatives and eventually bring them to fruition. Especially early in her tenure, her role will be that of information gathering. She plans to do this through a series of interviews and focus groups, SWOC (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, challenges) analyses, and surveys to students, staff and faculty. “Feedback is of paramount importance,” she said. 

Inclusivity and equity are goals that everyone can agree are worthy to pursue—but what do they mean for an academic institution? The mission for the Office of Inclusion and Equity states that “our institution is incomplete without embracing cultural differences and diversity within our student body and workforce.” Putting that in her own words, Smith says “We are all on our own quest. While we’re on it, it feels good to know that we are supported. Not ‘regardless of’ but ‘because of’ our unique differences. Learning and connecting over those differences is how we are all able to belong.”

This is no small task, of course. On a college campus, and in the world at large, there are a near infinite amount of perspectives to consider. Smith says it is important to realize that perception is reality for many people, and that the discussion of inclusivity and equity must start where individuals are mentally in order to make small, incremental changes.

“Sometimes we despise small beginnings, so we don’t recognize the power of small wins,” she said. “When a person evolves from where they are, they can feel that small win. And small wins grow into larger wins.”

Smith says it is important to realize that there are reasons that people have the perspectives that they do. Their personal experiences are informative, and you might not always have the benefit of understanding why they feel the way that they do. “That is evidence in their mind that their approach is right,” she said. “My job is to help them see things in a different light. We must inform – while being careful to not invalidate their experiences.”

Smith also recognizes that one of the biggest roadblocks in achieving equity is that many people look backwards and see large amounts of progress in inclusivity, but still fail to see the continued room for progress in the future. “It’s about moving from the mere presence of diverse populations to the inclusion of diverse individuals, and we all have a role to play,” she said.

“My position is one where I’m able to help people identify a role, help people understand the role they play based on their gifts, talents and experiences and how to execute on that.”

Smith expects students will play a vital role in expanding this discussion on UIndy’s campus. She intends to seek out student opinions and discover their unique experiences. “Coming to the table and voicing how they feel will help me better understand how to do my job effectively,” she said. 

Working together with students, faculty and staff, Smith anticipates UIndy forging ahead in the mission of the Office of Inclusion and Equity, fostering a positive environment and turning UIndy into a leading and aspirational educational institution.

“My vision is to create a space where you can be unapologetically you, and where who you are is someone that belongs,” she said. “Unapologetic doesn’t mean combative in this instance, the tone is one of belonging. It’s not a fight. You are who you are, and you are included.”

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