UIndy network helps Jacob Weisenbach ’17 ‘pay it forward’

Building community connections could well be the defining career principle for Jacob Weisenbach ’17 (M.A., educational leadership). A graduate of the University of Indianapolis’ nationally recognized iLEAD program, Weisenbach was recently honored with the Outstanding Community Partner Award from the Center for Service-Learning & Community Engagement for his work at Central Catholic School, where he served as assistant principal for the past three years. 

Jacob Weisenbach (M.A., educational leadership)

As Weisenbach prepares to take on a new role with Indianapolis Public Schools as a special education specialist at Arsenal Technical High School, he reflected on ways the iLEAD program prepared him for success.

“I really enjoyed the concept of the iLEAD program for its hybrid nature. I got an in-depth experience working with other dedicated educators and that cohort mentality of working together to solve problems, having actual dialogue in front of people and working to better prepare ourselves to serve our schools immediately through the program,” Weisenbach said.

Weisenbach worked at Wayne Township Schools as an inclusion teacher in special education while he completed the iLEAD program at the University of Indianapolis, then went on to serve as assistant principal at Central Catholic. In his new role, he will serve inclusion teachers at Arsenal Tech.

With the iLEAD program, Weisenbach said he was able to leverage broad experience to grow his overall leadership skills. 

“It takes a great partnership between myself and the student, the school I was working at – Bridgeport Elementary – and the University, to allow for the flexibility to take on new leadership activities and even to step outside of my role as a teacher and take part in opportunities at different levels,” he said.

Weisenbach grew up close to UIndy on Brill Road near Hanna Ave., attending St. Roch Catholic Church and school. When the time came for college, he felt that the UIndy campus was a little too close to home and opted for IUPUI. After serving nine years with the Army National Guard, including tours in Baghdad and the United States, he was ready to own his calling to become a teacher. Encouraged by his wife, Natalie, also a UIndy alum, he came to appreciate the opportunities that awaited him at UIndy.

“I really found my love for that great university that was in my backyard the whole time. It was like an undiscovered treasure I knew about!” he said.

The Weisenbach name may be familiar to the Greyhound community. Jacob Weisenbach’s aunt, Lynne Weisenbach, was the first executive director of the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL), serving from 2001 to 2008, and helped pen the Center’s name, which highlights the model of transformative partnerships that are reshaping education in Indiana.

“That sense of community was always there for me,” said Weisenbach. He noted that even outside of those family connections, “the University does a great job to create and cultivate these relationships.”

Weisenbach would continue to build his UIndy network while at Central Catholic, thanks to introductions by RightFit, an after-school program partnership between the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and Notre Dame ACE Academies. RightFit introduced Weisenbach to Marianna Foulkrod, director of the Center for Service-Learning & Community Engagement at UIndy, leading to opportunities for UIndy students to serve in a variety of roles. 

“Jacob has been exceptional in working with our students and faculty to create service-learning experiences that connect them with UIndy’s mission of education for service,” said Marianna Foulkrod. “We are excited to see where these new relationships will take us.”

Central Catholic is now an official community partner with UIndy, and Weisenbach was recently recognized for those efforts with the Outstanding Community Partner Award. He noted that having that close partnership already in place was key to navigating the challenges of the pandemic.

“Central Catholic was one of the few places striving for a safe, in-person connection even through the bumpy waters of 2020 and 2021. For students seeking the opportunity, they were able to come to us and we were able to conduct the program in a safe manner,” Weisenbach explained.

As Weisenbach steps into his new role at Arsenal Tech, he is eager to grow his connections with the Center for Service-learning & Community Engagement.

“I’m sure there will be opportunities at a larger campus, and I’m curious to see how we can expand the role of service and leadership at Tech,” he said. 

Weisenbach appreciates the UIndy students who have built connections with Central Catholic. In many cases they return to become coaches, check in on the students and attend their graduations.

“The connections we make, and the time and service we build together, help to foster and create this sense of community throughout,” Weisenbach said. “The opportunity to become educational neighbors really enhances the spirit of what you’re doing. The work that we do is the business of teaching and learning, but the connections that we make are where we get our joy and fulfillment in our missions.”

Letters of Love and War: Robert McBride & Luella Hart

You can’t talk about Judy Bentley’s family history without also mentioning the University of Indianapolis. For starters, it’s where her parents, Robert E. McBride and Luella Hart, met during their first year at Indiana Central College in the early 1940s. Her mom and dad both worked in the school kitchen and forged a romantic connection while cleaning pots and pans together.

Bob and Luella at Indiana Central College

Bob and Luella at Indiana Central College and Washington, Ind. (lower right)

What happened next is documented in Judy’s book, 25 Sugarland Road, Letters of Love and War, 1943-1945, published by the Indiana Historical Society Press. It’s a compilation of letters that Bob and Luella wrote to each other during World War II as they interrupted their education, navigated a time of great deprivation, and started a family together. 

Sugarland-Road-Cover-691x1024“I have selected family letters from 1943 to the end of 1945 and narrated the necessary background and war information,” Judy explains. “The book includes their engagement picture on a bench in front of the old college administrative hall and several mentions of what is now the University of Indianapolis.” 

The letters were discovered by family after Luella and Bob died, and it wasn’t until Judy read the collection years later that she realized what a special discovery they’d made. 

Readers can follow along as Bob proposes to Luella in front of Good Hall in 1943, as they get married in 1944 on a three-day military leave, and as Bob receives written word from home that his wife is pregnant with their first child, Judy. Letters from Elwood (Woody) McBride, who was an outstanding basketball player at ICC, are also included in the book. 

“We don’t have another story like this, with artifacts like these letters in the archives,” said Michael Cartwright, Vice President for University Mission and Associate Professor of Philosophy & Religion. “The book presents a unique view of what students were doing, thinking, and feeling during World War II.” 

It’s also a story about seeing the world differently; for example, Bob left rural Indiana to visit exotic locations like London, Berlin, and Paris during his time as a military medic, writing home about experiences with people from different backgrounds than his own. 

Related: Read Indiana Historical Society’s Q&A with Judy Bentley

After the war, Bob and Luella returned to the ICC campus and lived in married student housing at Cummins Hall with their daughter while Bob completed two and a half years of college. After graduating in 1948, he attended seminary in Ohio, worked on his doctorate at the University of Chicago, and then returned to Indianapolis to teach philosophy and religion at Indiana Central College. (During these years, he supported the family as a minister in the Evangelical United Brethren Church.)

Judy as a child near Cummins Hall

Judy as a child with Doug Mullen near Cummins Hall

In 1954, the McBride family moved to a house on Castle Avenue in the University Heights neighborhood, which is where Judy grew up from fourth grade through high school. She writes that it was a neighborhood where the church, school, and community all overlapped; it was also a very White, Protestant, homogeneous place. 

Judy remembers roaming the area with friends, attending services at the United Methodist Church, and going to see the musical Oklahoma! on UIndy’s campus. Judy’s brothers, Ron and Steve, were fast friends with Russell Brooker, son of chemistry professor Bob Brooker, who lived down the alley from the McBrides. The McBride family also hosted events for students at their house on Castle Avenue. 

“The Philosophy Club met in our home, and my mother always made good dessert for that. I sometimes listened in,” Judy said. 

Meanwhile, Luella became a secretary for the Evangelical United Brethren Conference South office, working in the basement of Buxton Hall (now known as the Stierwalt Alumni House), and Bob became known as an intellectual force at ICC who encouraged students to think carefully and rigorously. Before retiring, he wrote a memoir titled A Family Affair, which can be found in the University of Indianapolis archives. 

Although Judy no longer lives in central Indiana, the University of Indianapolis continues to hold a special place in her heart and in her family’s history. Her dad was an accomplished student-athlete at ICC; maybe that’s why Judy can still remember all the words to the old ICC fight song. 

All royalties from sales of 25 Sugarland Road will be donated to the University of Indianapolis. 

School of Education Alum receives Amazon Award

Mark Snodgrass

Mark Snodgrass ‘00 (elementary education) received one of 10 Amazon “Future Engineer Teacher of the Year” awards and was the only award recipient from Indiana.

“I am overwhelmed with joy and humbled that a company such as Amazon has recognized my love of teaching and my students need to access technology,” Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass was chosen among thousands of applicants and was among the first recipients to ever receive the award, which contained a prize package valued at more than $50,000. The grant will provide improved technology to his students at Southport High School.

A School of Education alum, Snodgrass continues to support the program as a guest speaker and by bringing his students to demonstrate their work. He says UIndy’s School of Education has been “the best decision I could have made.” 

“The real-life experiences in the classroom, the professors understanding that their students will grow from mistakes, as well as the friendships and support from professors even after graduation, helped to make me the teacher I am,” he added.

With relationships on campus that span decades, Snodgrass has also found support through the R.B. Annis School of Engineering at UIndy.

“The department has been a great support for my classroom, my engineering teams, and Southport High School Engineering,” he said. “I am so blessed to work with professors like Dr. Steffel, Dr. Pennell, and Dr. Talaga. I am forever grateful for their guidance and wisdom and for being awarded this honor by Amazon. Go Hounds!”


Learn more about the Amazon award recipients

UIndy alumni making waves with Silver Screen film podcast

Katie Gainey ’11 (English, theatre minor) and Jared Boomer ’15 (communication, electronic media concentration) are two University of Indianapolis alumni and friends of nearly seven years who have recently started collaborating on a podcast all about movies and the media. 

Realizing how much fun they had bantering about movies, they launched the Silver Screen Podcast in 2019. The weekly podcast focuses on movies and series ranging from upcoming releases to classic films. The pair dedicate each episode to a specific movie and discuss the synopsis, ratings, reviews and their own personal commentary alongside these professional opinions. You can also expect to hear them discuss relevant social issues, news about movies and actors and plenty of lighthearted laughs. Among other episodes, Gainey and Boomer have covered Netflix’s “Tiger King,” “Toy Story,” “The Big Lebowski,” and “Contagion.” The “Contagion” episode discussed the Coronavirus weeks before social distancing started and remains their most popular with over 500 downloads. 

Recording Equipment (1)

We asked the Silver Screen Podcast hosts a few questions:

Q: Who are your favorite actors and directors? 

Gainey: “I could go on for days about this question but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum. It should be mentioned that we cannot seem to record an episode of the podcast where I fail to mention Tom Hanks. I adore him. He is a phenomenal actor and human being and the highlight of 2019 was when I got to attend some of the Indy 500 festivities and he came to Indianapolis to film a segment on the ‘Today Show.’ I got to be in the same room as him and hear his voice. I was elated!”

“As far as the classic actors that I can’t get enough of I would say Audrey Hepburn is my number 1 of all time, others include Vivien Leigh, (I was named after the actress and a character she played) Katharine Hepburn, Angela Lansbury, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck and Fred Astaire. Actors of today that I could watch forever would include Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Rachel McAdams, Kate Winslet, Octavia Spencer, Reese Witherspoon, Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Eddie Redmayne, Leonardo DiCaprio, Timothee Chalamet. Favorite directors would be Stanley Donen, Vincente Minnelli, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Damien Chazelle, Greta Gerwig and Olivia Wilde.”

Boomer: “One of my favorite actors is Tom Hanks. I am also a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Saoirse Ronan and Emma Stone. For favorite directors, Christopher Nolan is my favorite director, and I also really like the Coen Brothers, Damien Chazelle, Wes Anderson and Steven Spielberg.”

Q: Did you have any mentors at UIndy?

Gainey: “I loved the English Department staff and had a great experience with the Theatre Department as well. The professors that had the biggest impression on me were Dr. Jennifer Camden, Dr. Bill Dynes, Dr. Kyoko Amano, and Jim Ream [retired associate professor of theatre]. Jen Camden and I still get together a few times a year and I regularly communicate with Dr. Dynes through social media. Dr. Amano is now at another university but we keep in touch through social media. And one of the best memories this past summer was visiting Jim and his wife, Paula, with a few of my theatre friends for a birthday party. I had the most classes with Dr. Camden and she is fully the reason I was able to complete my portfolio and graduate. She set a strong example both personally and professionally.”

Boomer: “One of my biggest mentors was Professor Scott Uecker. Scott is in charge of the radio station on campus, 88.7 WICR, and also teaches a variety of communication classes. We are still close even five years after graduation and since I work for a radio station, he helps me out with career advice from time to time. Another mentor would be Dr. Robert Gobetz (or Doc. G. as he is affectionately called) who is no longer at the university but taught a variety of communication classes that I had a lot of interest in. One more would be Dr. Jonathan Evans in the Philosophy and Religion department. Although I only had one class with him, he was my instructor for a Spring Term trip to London and Paris that was one of my best experiences in college.”

Q: How do you stay connected with UIndy?

Gainey: “I’m extremely proud that I attended UIndy. I won Homecoming Queen in college so I always get excited to hear updates about Homecoming festivities and stop by if I’m in town. I was a member of the Student Alumni Association so any time I get a call from students I like to talk to them about their experience. My cousin is currently a professor there, (Dr. Kara Cecil. She is super involved with the COVID-19 crisis right now since her degree is in Public Health) and every fall I take the online Communiversity class with Dr. Camden.” 

Boomer: “I still come back to campus from time to time to help mentor Communication department students. I also usually try to make it back on campus for at least one football and basketball game a season and I rock a UIndy license plate!” 

The Silver Screen Podcast recording session

The Silver Screen Podcast is available on Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, and more. If you’re interested in the Silver Screen Podcast, want more information, or feel like voting what movie they should cover next, be sure to check out their social media:

Twitter – @PodcastSilver

Facebook – https://bit.ly/36XxIym

Instagram – podcastsilver

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.”

WZPL personality Nikki Reed donates kidney to stranger

Nikki Reed '07

Nikki Reed ’07

Nikki Reed ’07 (theatre with a concentration in radio) searched in vain for a reason not to donate a kidney. She really did. Surely there was some far-reaching health consequence. Even though it would be extremely beneficial to the recipient, there had to be negative long-term health implications for the donor. After all, that’s why we most frequently think of organ donation coming after death, right?

“The more research I did, the more I realized just how small a deal it is to donate a kidney compared to giving someone the gift of life,” Reed said. “I went into it looking for the thing that was going to say ‘this is a bad idea, don’t do it,’ and I just couldn’t find it.”

Reed is an on-air personality on 99.5 WZPL in Indianapolis, a co-host of the Smiley Morning Show, who first became interested in the idea of kidney donation because of a guest they had on the show several times: Butler University mascot handler Michael Kaltenmark. Kaltenmark had been on the Smiley Morning Show several times representing the university and was in the middle of health complications that left him in need of a kidney transplant.

“I wanted to do as much research as I could, to do a good job for him,” Reed said. “We’re not always a serious show but this is an important issue, so I wanted to do educate myself as best as I could to be prepared and do the discussion justice.”

The more Reed researched kidney donations, the idea of donating a kidney herself slowly began to take shape. Before long it became a calling. “The more you know about organ donation, the better you understand it, the more you realize how possible it is to do something like this,” Reed said. “The more I read about it, the more I looked at my life and the things I wanted to contribute to the world around me and it became clear: this was something I was supposed to do.”

Reed began the process of becoming a kidney donor by simply filling out an online form. She was soon informed that due to an overwhelming response to Kaltenmark’s story there was actually a waiting list to see if those people were eligible to be donors. It was at that point Reed was offered the opportunity to become what is referred to as an altruistic donor, which is a term used when a living donor makes a non-directed (to a specific recipient) donation. “I told them ‘No idea how this all works, but if you want to keep the process going, I’m game,’” she said.

The process can be a long one. There is a very extensive battery of testing which the potential donor must undergo in order to make sure that they are healthy, they have proper kidney function themselves, and there are no potential health risks that may present themselves once the donation has been made. Potential donors can get turned down for any variety of reasons, blood issues, cholesterol issues, and sometimes a person already only has only one functioning kidney (due to being born with only one, or being born with two but only one functional).

Eventually Reed was accepted as a donor it was full steam ahead. “When I realized that I wasn’t going to donate to Michael, it didn’t deter me,” she said. “I knew that there was someone out there who was suffering and I could help them.”

Learn more about kidney donation 

Understandably her friends and family were supportive—but cautious. “A lot of first reaction was fear or concern,” she said. “Which I know comes from a good place, but it’s also because of a lack of understanding about the whole process.” Reed’s parents were especially worried, though she notes that they never told her not to do it. “They just needed that extra assurance,” she said. 

The kind concern of others never instilled any fear for Reed. She was extremely thorough in her research so there was never a moment of doubt. “I thought it was a possibility I might get turned down, but I never questioned the fact that it was what I was supposed to do,” she said.

Just days before her surgery was scheduled to take place, Reed came down with a virus that attacked her lungs and ultimately led to the doctors delaying her donation because of fear of complications arising from the virus as well as being put under anesthesia.

“It was just devastating, I knew if there was any type of health hiccup that could happen,” she said. “I felt disappointed in myself, like I didn’t do enough. I felt horrible for my recipient because I heard they had just been told. There was a lot of guilt.”

Because of her role on the radio and actively using that platform to spread the message of organ donation and share her journey, Reed also dealt with a sense of guilt as it pertained to the community. “I was keeping most everything a secret until it was officially official,” she said. “I didn’t want to be ‘the girl who cried kidney.’” 

Fortunately, her negative feelings were relatively short-lived as she and the doctors were able to reschedule her surgery a few short weeks later. Reed had her surgery on a Monday and was resting at her home by Wednesday night. “They say it’s two days in the hospital, two weeks until you’re “back,” two months to feel fully like yourself, and two years until you forget you ever did it,” she said. 

As far as those far-reaching negative long-term health implications? She might actually turn out healthier for the whole experience. “Kidney donors tend to live longer lives because they tend to make healthier decisions because of their donations,” she explained. This includes things like eating less red meat, taking fewer anti-inflammatories, hydrating better, and just generally placing an emphasis on health in their lives.

Reed has been so thankful for all the people, in both her personal and professional life, that have reached out to her and the general reaction to her sharing her story. “Wonderfully overwhelming is probably the best way to put it,” she said.

To Reed, the most rewarding part of the journey has been hearing people say that they will look into donating or that they will put their name in to get tested to see if they are compatible with anyone in need. 

“I just hope that when people come across an opportunity to do something for someone else – donating a kidney, giving blood or anything in between – even if it inconveniences their daily life, that they consider the huge positive impact that they can have on someone’s life,” Reed said.

By Garrison Carr, content strategist

Public health alumna leading drug-free coalition in Beech Grove

By the time Diana Hendricks enrolled in the Community Health Education undergraduate program at the University of Indianapolis in 2013, she had already raised a son, spent many years as an office administrator, and had been a wellness consultant and personal trainer for more than two decades.

Diana Hendricks“I enjoy my profession – it’s certainly gratifying, but something was missing,” Hendricks explained. “I wanted to make a difference in the health and wellbeing of my community, but I lacked the knowledge and credentials necessary to develop and implement quality public health programs.”

When Hendricks came across UIndy’s Community Health Education program, now called Public Health Promotion and Education, she knew she had found the right fit. After transferring credits from another institution, Hendricks was able to complete her degree in two years and later pass the exam to earn the national Community Health Education Specialist (CHES) certification. And just in time, because the Beech Grove Mayor’s Faith-Based Round Table asked Hendricks to develop a community substance misuse prevention program.

Hendricks took up the challenge and now serves as the executive director of the Beech Grove Comprehensive Drug-Free Coalition (BGCDFC). In that role, Hendricks has seen the coalition grow from eight to nearly 45 members and has been invited to sit on the Healthy Southside Initiative committee, INSTEP INDY initiative, and Drug-Free Marion County’s grant planning committee.

She credits her UIndy education, and Dr. Heidi Hancher-Rauch, direcor of the UIndy public health programs, with providing her the education and skills needed to successfully launch BGCDFC.

“I’ve led the coalition to conduct a needs assessment, make recommendations for programming, implement interventions and programs, and evaluate our efforts to fine-tune what we are doing to promote a substance-free community,” Hendricks said. “Along the way, I’ve valued being able to touch base with Dr. Rauch for her insights.”

Since BGCDFC began, it has been instrumental in the implementation of prevention curriculum for Beech Grove Community Schools fourth through ninth grades, dissemination of prevention resources at community festivals and health fairs, and offers community events on youth substance misuse and overdose awareness.

“The BGCDFC motto is ‘It takes a community, to keep a community healthy…together, we make a difference,’” Hendricks said. “In addition to our substance misuse prevention efforts, we are working to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction so those who need help will seek it without feeling shamed.”

University of Indianapolis announces 2018 Alumni Award recipients

The University of Indianapolis announced Friday the recipients of the 2018 Alumni Awards, which recognize outstanding alumni whose positive contributions make a local, regional and national impact. The 2018 nominees represent the community leadership, integrity and commitment to giving back that embodies the University’s founding principles.

Michael ShurnEducation for Service Award: Michael Shurn ’71

The Education for Service Award recognizes an alumnus or alumna whose life work has exemplified a fulfillment of the philosophy underlying the University’s motto “Education for Service.”

Michael Shurn graduated in 1971 with a degree in English and later earned his J.D. from Indiana University. He is the judge for the Pulaski County Circuit Court in Winamac, Ind.  An avid community volunteer, Judge Shurn has worked extensively with the Pulaski County Historical Society, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Winamac Kiwanis Club and his church, which earned him the 2011 H.J. Halleck Award for community service. He also served six years on the University’s Alumni Board of Directors and remains active in UIndy events. Michael and his wife, Mary, have two children. Their daughter, Megan, is a 2003 UIndy graduate.

Foulkrod,_MariannaDistinguished Faculty/Staff Alumni Award: Marianna Foulkrod ’01 ’04

The Distinguished Faculty/Staff Alumni Award recognizes current faculty or staff members who are alumni and have demonstrated consistent dedication and superior service to the University.

Marianna Foulkrod ’01 ’04 came to the University of Indianapolis from Cyprus and earned a degree in French in 2001, followed by a master’s degree in Applied Sociology in 2004. She serves as the Director of Service Learning & Community Engagement at the University. She is committed to providing students with a quality education through service which has earned UIndy the 2010 Community Engagement Classification through the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, as well as recognition from the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. Foulkrod and her husband Kevin, Class of 2000, have two children.

Wittenberg-Derik-2016-150x150Distinguished Young Alumni Award: Derik Wittenberg ’14

The Distinguished Young Alumni Award recognizes and honors an alumnus and/or alumna of the University who, while still relatively young, has made outstanding contributions to his or her community.

Derik Wittenberg earned an MBA from the University in 2014 and currently serves as a financial consultant at Elanco. Prior to graduate school, he was a chemist with the Lilly Research Labs and Lilly Manufacturing. Since graduating from Ulndy’s MBA program he has been promoted three times in the last three years and was the youngest member elected to the Board of Directors of the Heritage Place of Indianapolis. Serving as Treasurer, Wittenberg oversees the financial vitality of this organization that serves 1200 senior citizens across central Indiana while also chairing multiple fundraising events that helped support outreach initiatives.

Edwin "Ed" O. QuallsGene And Joanne Sease Award: Ed ’84 and Pam ’84 Qualls
Named in honor of former UIndy President Gene E. Sease and his wife, JoAnne, this award recognizes couples who contribute their time, talent and treasure to the University.

Pamela S. QuallsEd Qualls earned degrees in business administration and business data processing in 1984 and Pam Qualls received a degree in music performance also in 1984. Both currently serve on the University’s Board of Trustees. Ed is the owner and president of Just Add Power Cardware Co., Inc. Pam is the chief executive officer of UMCM Suncoast, a leading social services not-for-profit agency. The Qualls met on campus as undergraduates in the 1980s and credit experiences at the University for shaping their lives, including a lifelong commitment to “Education for Service.” The Qualls have two children and reside in Largo, Florida.

WolcottDistinguished Alumni Award: Vickie Wolcott ’77 ’79

This award recognizes outstanding professional accomplishments or longtime service in a chosen occupation or profession.

Vickie Wolcott earned degrees in Economics & Finance in 1977 and Business Administration in 1979. She has been with M.J. Schuetz Insurance Services for 40 years serving in every role in the company, starting as the receptionist, certificate of insurance typist, bond typist, claim processor, bookkeeper, account executive, and, today, president and owner. Well known throughout the industry, Vickie has served in leadership positions on multiple boards and was awarded the Harry P. Cooper Public Image Award in 2014. Vickie has two children, including a daughter, April, who graduated in 2013.

UIndy alum’s opera project pays tribute to veterans on national stage

SSG Hilgert speaking to cast members of "The Falling and the Rising."

SSG Hilgert produced “The Falling and the Rising.”

Joining the Army might sound like an unusual route to become an opera producer, but for Staff Sergeant Ben Hilgert ’04 (music), it turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

Eight years ago, SSG Hilgert made the decision to serve in the United States Army Field Band, the touring “musical ambassadors” for the U.S. Army. With more than 70 members, the Field Band performs more than 400 concerts a year and travels thousands of miles to perform in the U.S. and abroad.

“It’s a really fantastic opportunity to move people. As artists we look for ways we can express our artistic intentions. By far the biggest impact I could have ever imagined is singing for millions of people every year representing something so much bigger than the sum of its parts,” Hilgert said.

The band and its affiliated groups perform mainly for civilians – contrary to the misconception that military service members are the only audience, Hilgert said.

“Pretty much everybody thinks we perform for service members and tour bases. We actually do very little of that,” he explained. “Our mission is to engage the American public to bridge the civilian-military gap.”

Fewer than 10 percent of the U.S. adult population have served in the Armed Forces, according to Pew Research Center. “A big concern among military leadership is that American citizens are at great risk of becoming out of touch with what it means to serve in the Armed Forces,” Hilgert said.

Following his graduation from the music program at the University of Indianapolis, SSG Hilgert brought his passion for opera to the Soldiers’ Chorus, a vocal complement of the U.S. Army Field Band, with performances ranging from opera to musical theatre. He produced opera scenes for several years, including concerts at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. But he felt compelled to do something more – and when a new commander challenged him to align his work more closely with the band’s mission, he was ready.

After attending an opera conference, SSG Hilgert realized the U.S. Army Field Band was in a prime position to reach new audiences – people who enjoy operas, but who may not know much about the Army. Bringing the Army story to the American public and honoring veterans was Hilgert’s inspiration for producing the opera, “The Falling and the Rising,” based on interviews with dozens of Army veterans.

"The Falling and the Rising"

“The Falling and the Rising”

“We’ve got an opportunity to tell the Army’s story, literally – that’s why I proposed the project,” he explained. His goal? “Find soldiers’ stories, turn them into an opera, collaborate with opera companies and make this something that is bigger than our organization.”

SSG Hilgert worked with librettist Jerre Dye and composer Zach Redler to interview 36 soldiers, including some at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery and U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade.

The time he spent talking to soldiers “were three of the most moving days of my life. They reshaped my perspective on the Army, service, and being an ambassador for soldiers,” he said.

His first interviewee was a young veteran recovering from a traumatic brain injury that had stolen his memories of high school and his ability to speak, which he was working to regain. Despite his tremendous challenges, SSG Hilgert said the veteran had an impressive perspective on life.

“He shared with us this beautiful story of service, recovery and resilience. Just one of many jaw-dropping, inspiring stories we were privileged to hear,” he explained.

SSG Hilgert performing in 2012 in Wheeling, West Virginia. Photo courtesy U.S. Army Field Band.

SSG Hilgert performing in 2012 in Wheeling, West Virginia. Photo courtesy U.S. Army Field Band.

That story helped to form the central theme of “The Falling and the Rising,” which has been received enthusiastically across the country since a world premiere at Texas Christian University in April. Other productions include Seattle Opera, San Diego Opera, Arizona Opera, Opera Memphis, and Seagle Music Colony.

SSG Hilgert credits his musical education at UIndy with helping him pass the audition for the U.S. Army Field Band and setting him up with career opportunities.

“I would not have [my current job] if I had not carried [Professor of Music] Paul Krasnovsky’s choral experience with me and his work ethic – the diligence he approaches every piece with. It set the tone for how I approach music,” Hilgert said.

“As a singer I’d be nowhere without my voice teachers. Steve Enzinger and Kathy Hacker both put me on a great path forward. They gave me a solid foundation of technique and nurtured my curiosity for the human voice. They have a special place in my journey.”

He also appreciates the mentorship he received from Charlotte Templin, professor of English, who helped him with his junior recital.

“She gave me the time and really was an early mentor, somebody who opened a door that I didn’t even know was there. It makes you aware of possibilities greater than you understood,” Hilgert said.

Upcoming performances of “The Falling and the Rising”
Seagle Music Colony in upstate New York is next to perform “The Falling and the Rising.” Their production is scheduled to tour the state in September and October. The US Army Field Band is planning on a performance sponsored by Opera Memphis in New York City in conjunction with the Opera America New Works Forum in January 2019. Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University has a production scheduled for February in Baltimore. Opera Memphis will have its own production in April in Memphis, Tenn.

Follow the U.S. Army Field Band here.

Written by Sara Galer, University of Indianapolis senior communications specialist. Send your story ideas to newsdesk@uindy.edu.

Honors College alum shines in national scholarship competition

Aura Ankita MishraUniversity of Indianapolis Ron & Laura Strain Honors College alumna Aura Ankita Mishra ‘12 (psychology) recently earned the top prize in a national competition hosted by Alpha Chi Honor Society.

In a field of 27 applicants, she was selected to receive the $6,000 Joseph E. Pryor Doctoral Fellowship, which will support her pursuit of a Ph.D. in human development and family studies.

Mishra says she is excited about the next steps in her career, the foundation of which began at UIndy.

“What really helped me prepare for graduate school was the Honors College independent project at UIndy. I gained firsthand experience in working with actual data, running analytic models, and interpreting results, all of which are important skills necessary to succeed in graduate school.”

Her research has focused on evaluating the influence of childhood maltreatment and adversity exposure on adolescent and adult mental health outcomes, showing that child maltreatment has lasting effects. For example, she evaluated the dynamic association between post-traumatic stress, ongoing home violence and the ongoing changes in friendships in school.

“Aura’s achievement demonstrates the success students in the Strain Honors College have after leaving UIndy,” said Jim Williams, executive director of the Ron & Laura Strain Honors College. “The honors projects our students undertake often take a year’s worth of planning and execution under the tutelage of a faculty mentor, and as in Aura’s case, one can see how that labor of learning became a springboard for her profound work today on adversity in adolescence.  She’s now in a position to conduct research that will impact policy and prevention on a critical issue in our world.”

Mishra’s more recent work researching the cascading impact of childhood adversity on later-life health and well-being resulted in the study that won the Pryor Fellowship award.

At a time when about one in five – or over 40 million – Americans experience mental illness, Mishra’s work is focused on ways to lower those numbers.

“These studies are important because they provide empirical evidence for prevention and intervention methods to prevent the harmful effects of childhood adversities during adolescence and adulthood,” she explained.

After graduating, Mishra plans to gain additional training as a post-doctoral research fellow and subsequently work as a faculty member at a research-oriented university.


Learn more about the University of Indianapolis Honors College

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