Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Put on your most festive Indiana University colors— and support scholarships for IU Kokomo students — at the inaugural Cream & Crimson Scholarship Gala.

Cream and Crimson Scholarship GalaCream and Crimson Scholarship Gala.

Reservations are now available for the event, set for 6 p.m. Thursday, June 12, at the Continental Ballroom, 920 Millbrook Lane, Kokomo, by contacting the Office of University Advancement, 765-455-9485 or

Planners have set a lofty goal for the Gala.

"Our goal is to have participation from each of the 14 counties that we serve," said Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke. "With the support of our friends and donors, the opportunity to make an IU education more affordable for the students in north central Indiana is within our reach. I challenge leaders in each county to come to the gala to announce a scholarship for students in their community. We know that college graduates will contribute to the future growth of the cities where they work, live, and raise their families. It is a gift that will keep on giving."

Groups of donors, individuals and business owners, may provide an endowed scholarship by giving or pledging a minimum of $10,000, which can be given over a five-year period.

Reservations are $100 per person, and table partnership opportunities are also available. A portion of the cost is tax deductible.

Dress for the evening, which includes dinner and dancing, is festive cream and crimson.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo will be closed Monday, May 26, in observance of Memorial Day.

Meet at the Rock, 9/11 RememberanceA moment of silence at the veterans memorial rock, IU Kokomo.

Classes will resume and offices will open at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 27.

The Cole Fitness Center, the bookstore, the Cougar Country Café, and the IU Kokomo Library also will be closed Monday.

Online and electronic resources are available when the library is closed, at

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Maria Pineda fulfills the hopes and dreams of her entire family, graduating from Indiana University Kokomo.

Commencement 2014Maria Pineda

The daughter of immigrants from El Salvador, and the third of four children, she is first to earn a college degree, inspiring her siblings to also seek higher education.

"For our family, this is huge," Pineda, 22, said. "My younger brother now wants to go to college, because he saw that I did it, and I graduated. That really puts a smile on my face."

Older sister Marta Mendez, 26, is an education major at Indiana University — Purdue University Indianapolis, while another sister, Cecilia Pineda, 25, plans to return to IU Kokomo in 2015 to complete a degree in criminal justice. Their brother is 10.

They've come a long way since moving to Logansport, when Maria was a second grader. The move brought their family together — Cecilia and Marta had been living with family in El Salvador, while Maria was with her parents in Los Angeles. The girls spoke little or no English when they moved, and they experienced culture shock moving to the Midwest.

"Los Angeles is so diverse," Maria said. "When we moved to Logansport, if we saw five other Hispanics, it was once in a blue moon. I'd lived in the United States, but mostly spoke Spanish."

There was another cultural difference — more opportunities for education available to them.

"Women are more independent here, and have careers, and can choose to be something besides a housewife," she said. "We've really embraced that. We can better our lives, and have a better quality of life than we would have had in El Salvador."

She knew from an early age that her career would be in the medical field. At age 15, her optometrist hired her as a translator and file clerk, giving her an early chance to experience her chosen field.

She enrolled at IU Kokomo for its School of Nursing, and also because her sisters were students there at the time, providing a support system.

"We were the first in our family to go to college, so we were relying on each other," she said. Marta transferred when she moved to Indianapolis, while Cecilia took some time off to work.

Maria found it hard to transition to college life at first, but guidance from J.R. Pico, lecturer in Spanish, helped her. Pico is a native of Colombia, and provided an example of someone who had succeeded in academics.

"As a Latino, he empowers Latino students," she said. "Our culture is about family, and he treated us like family. It was major for us to have that special guidance."

Pico said Maria's educational success should inspire other Hispanic students to go to college, and breaks down stereotypes of Latinos not speaking English, and working in low paying, low skilled jobs.

"She and her sisters are good examples for their own family, their community, and the region," he said. "Maria has a bright future as a nurse, and shows others that they can aspire to these kinds of professional jobs. Because she is bilingual, she will be in demand when she passes her certification and is ready to work."

He knows the kinds of barriers students like Maria face in getting to college and succeeding — many lack money or transportation, and as first generation college students, their families often don't know how to apply and how to access financial resources. Others work one or two jobs to pay their own way, and have to make time for college around their work schedules.

When one of them succeeds, Pico said, "I celebrate their achievement and their graduation as if I were graduating again. It is difficulty, but important. It's something that pays off in the end."

Maria earned her degree in December 2013, and participated in Commencement in May. Her whole family attended, and it was an emotional day, for her parents in particular.

Her mother attended school through third grade, while her father has a seventh grade education.

"It was a great day for all of us," she said. "My family was overwhelmed."

Maria is preparing to take her nursing certification exams, and then wants to work in Indianapolis, either in an emergency room or an intensive care unit. She also wants to earn a Master's of Science in Nursing degree.

"My degree has opened tons of doors for me," she said. "I think I picked the perfect degree for me, that fits what I want to do. I can't wait to see what I do with it. I know I'll have a better and brighter future."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — The threat of rain may have moved Indiana University Kokomo's Commencement inside Tuesday (May 13), but it did not dampen the celebratory atmosphere, as 599 students received their degrees.

Commencement 2014Graduates are recognized during Commencement. See more pictures on Flickr.

The two ceremonies included the first graduates from the Master of Science in Nursing program, and the awarding of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie presided over the morning ceremony, which included graduates from the School of Nursing, Division of Allied Health Sciences, and the School of Education. John Applegate, executive vice president for university academic affairs, presided over the afternoon ceremony, which included graduates from the School of Sciences, School of Business, and School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

McRobbie congratulated the Class of 2014, and reminded them of their responsibilities as graduates.

He shared the words of Robert F. Kennedy, who told students in 1966 they were among the most privileged citizens of the world, because of their opportunity to study and learn, and that history would judge them based on how they used their gifts to enlighten and enrich the lives of their fellow man.

"Those choices, and that future, are now in your hands," McRobbie said. "In the face of vast and sobering challenges, you have the power to shape your world, and to fulfill the best qualities of your own spirits.

"As you take your place among the next generation of business leaders, journalists, judges, artists, scientists, public health professionals, teachers, social workers, and government leaders, may you remember that learning is a process rather than a product, and may you be audacious enough to imagine the possibilities of your own present and future."

Marchionne thanked McRobbie and Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke for the honorary degree, saying he accepted it not on his own behalf, but in recognition of the 300,000 colleagues and collaborators in the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles world, who work together to generate growth and value not only for the company, but also for the communities where the company operates.

He congratulated the graduates, and urged them to think about what each of them wants to be remembered for after they are gone.

"Making a difference is the best answer I have ever heard," he said. "Your outlook on life changes completely if you point your efforts to this very simple objective. Making a difference to the organization you work for, to the community that you live in, to the families that sustain you, and the ones you will support as you go through life. Doing things for no purpose is a denial of our humanity.

"This is a crucial moment in history, and the world needs your talent, and it needs your energies, your passion, and your commitment," Marchionne said. "My wish for you is that you find your passion, that you pursue your dream, and that you make that difference."

Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke commended Marchionne for his revitalization of Chrysler, which has had a profound impact on Kokomo. Since 2009, he has invested more than $1.5 billion in the region, and opened the new Tipton Transmission Plant Tuesday.

She is especially thankful for an active partnership between Chrysler and IU Kokomo, which has led to internship opportunities for students.

Shaina Shirar, vice president of Student Union Board, represented the Class of 2014 as student speaker. The Frankfort resident said she learned many important life lessons, from college, including that when things don't go your way, don't dwell on it, but find the good and move on to the next thing.

"Don't dwell on the bad moments, but cherish the good," she said. "We have to remember not to sweat the small stuff in life. We've accomplished our biggest milestone yet today."

Each student had his or her moment to shine, crossing the Havens Auditorium stage to shake hands with Sciame-Giesecke and accept his or her degree, as Todd Gambill, vice chancellor for student services and enrollment management, read names.

Proud family members burst into applause when they heard their graduate's name, and held up smart phones to take pictures. One also received a "Way to go, Mom!" as she walked onto the stage.

Sciame-Giesecke recognized achievements of several graduates, including Maria Pineda, the daughter of immigrants, who is the first in her family to graduate from college. She honored Lashanda Thomas, a mother of eight who completed her degree in general studies, despite losing her family's home in a flood; Aaron Bird, who served in the Army National Guard and the Reserve Officers' Training Corps while earning his degree; David Lapan, a veteran who graduated with a degree in English; and Pam Plain, who earned honors as the 2012 Indiana Intern of the Year. She also recognized Arwa Albawardi and Talal Al Hammad, the campus' first Saudi graduates.

"IU Kokomo is a stepping-stone to many more hopes and dreams for these graduates," she said. "We could not be more proud of them."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke honors two Chrysler Group LLC executives for their partnership with the campus, awarding them the Chancellor's Medallion.

Commencement LuncheonChancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke, Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne, and IU President Michael McRobbie chat during the Commencement Luncheon. See more pictures on Flickr.

Brian Harlow, vice president and head of NAFTA powertrain operations, and global head of powertrain manufacturing engineering; and Brad Clark, general manager transmissions, received the awards Tuesday, May 13, at the Chancellor's Medallion luncheon, following Commencement.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie and honorary degree recipient Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC., also were honored guests at the lunch, at the Casa Bella Ballroom. Other guests included John Applegate, executive vice president for university academic affairs, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight, and many other local and state elected officials.

Joanna Gonzalez, who began her current job with the Chrysler Group as an IU Kokomo intern, shared her story as an example of why Clark and Harlow received the awards.

She earned a degree in health administration, and then enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program, planning a career in hospital administration. When she heard about the Chrysler internship program, which started in 2013, she saw it as an opportunity to grow her skills in a different way.

"At first I thought, 'What could I possibly be doing in the manufacturing industry?'" Gonzalez said. "Then I realized I could still help people."

As an intern, she helped start a professional development program, and translated documents from Spanish to English. The internship led to her current job as a full-time people development specialist.

"I am thankful to IU Kokomo and Chrysler for making this possible for me," she said. "In the words of one of my wonderful colleagues, 'Take time to build someone else up, you all will soar.'"

Sciame-Giesecke appreciates the open door Harlow and Clark have offered her, and the chances for both the Chrysler Group and IU Kokomo to benefit one another. Just recently, she said, company officials called her with a specific personnel need, and the campus referred several students who could potentially fill that job.

"I look forward to continuing to partner and learn from one another in the future," she said. "Today is an excellent example of the kind of regional partnership President McRobbie envisions for IU's regional campuses."

The Chancellor's Medallion is awarded to those who have provided exemplary service to IU Kokomo. It is created by Kokomo Opalescent Glass, from crimson-colored glass, etched with the image of the campus Well House.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — People called Jennifer Santos crazy when she quit the job she'd held for nearly 14 years, to enroll in college.

Commencement 2014Commencement 2014. See more pictures on Flickr.

On Tuesday, May 13, they called her a graduate.

She received her bachelor's degree in public administration from Indiana University Kokomo, and now hopes to begin a career with the federal government.

"I wanted to be able to do a job that not just anybody could walk in and do," Santos, from Kokomo, said. "It was a big leap of faith to leave my job. That's how much I wanted to get an education. I am glad I took that risk."

Nearly 600 graduates celebrated their accomplishments during two ceremonies, moved inside to Havens Auditorium due to inclement weather. There was a festive atmosphere despite the overcast skies and intermittent thundershowers. Many graduates marked the occasion with specially decorated mortarboards, including one with a bright red crystal IU pitchfork, surrounded by brilliant white crystals. Others had names, simple designs, and, one nursing student proudly proclaimed "RN" on her mortarboard.

Alaynah Weisend wore an honors medallion with her cap and gown, signifying completion of the honors program, along with her nursing degree. The honors program required her to do research projects above and beyond what the rest of her classmates did in several classes, which she admits was stressful at times, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

"I like to challenge myself," she said. "This day was a long time coming."

She started at another school, in another major, before deciding to come back to her original dream of being a nurse. Now she wants to work in an emergency room, before returning to school to become a nurse practitioner.

"I have a passion for helping people, and being with them in their vulnerable moments," Weisend, from Peru, said. "I decided to go with my dreams, and study at IU Kokomo. I'm super excited today, and I feel accomplished. The faculty here really care about us, and they gave me the tools to be a great nurse."

Weisend was thrilled to have her parents and her four-year-old son there to see her earn her degree, and said she could not have done it without their support.

"I'm definitely blessed with amazing parents, who did all they could to help me succeed," she said.

Her classmate Paula Melcher said the best part about the nursing program was the friends she made while earning her degree, and she will miss all of them after Commencement.

"The people in my cohort have all been really close," she said. "The friendships I've made here are priceless. The IU Kokomo program is the best one available, and I feel prepared for my future."

She plans to continue working at St. Joseph Hospital in Kokomo, and eventually return to school to become a nurse practitioner. Melcher, who is from Converse, is proud to set a good example for her two sons, ages 6 and 8.

"They can see I worked hard, and they will see all the rewards from that hard work," she said. "They will see that being educated is important."

Tyler Keck returned from student teaching in New Zealand just before Commencement, and looks forward to traveling to Great Britain with the Innovation Symposium later this week. He hopes his international experiences lead him to a teaching job with one of Kokomo's International Baccalaureate Schools.

Keck, a Kokomo resident, was excited to graduate.

"It's just the culmination of the last four years, and a jumping off point for the future," he said. He was especially proud to have his mother, a teacher, in the audience to see him graduate.

"It feels worth it now, all the hard work. It feels good to look back and see all the people who helped me, all the great people, family and friends, who are teachers, and to join them in that profession," he said.

Lauretta Aleshire, Kokomo, can't wait to begin her teaching career, after completing her degree in secondary education and special education. She already has a permanent substitute job at Kokomo High School, where she was a student teacher, and she hopes it leads to greater things.

"I am excited to begin my career, and to work and provide for my family," she said. "I love working with my students, and watching them learn and grow. I am grateful for so many good professors who worked with me and kept me on track, and were always willing to answer questions and help me."

Nick Davis left a factory job to earn a degree in health sciences, and now hopes to work in medical sales.

He remembered times he was ready to go back to full time work instead of school, but now is glad he persevered.

"Today means a lot to me," he said. "Several years of hard work and dedication have finally paid off. There have been a few times I wanted to just give up and try to find a job. I am glad I didn't now."

The Kokomo resident thought college gave him a better chance at a fulfilling job.

"I wanted to get a career I was passionate about," he said, adding that he has started looking for that job.

Evan O'Connor also has started his job search, after completing his degree in medical imaging technology, specializing in MRI. He plans to eventually earn a master's degree in health care administration, to further his career.

He is especially proud of having earned a 4.0 grade point average for his last two semesters.

"I feel like I worked hard, and it means a lot to me," said O'Connor, from Noblesville. "I can't wait to walk across that stage. Today feels absolutely great."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Eight students in the Division of Allied Health made history at Indiana University Kokomo, as the first inductees into the newly formed chapter of Lambda Nu honor society, which rewards academic excellence in the radiologic and imaging sciences.

Allied Health Pinning - 2014Allied Health Pinning

The School of Nursing and the School of Business also honored outstanding students with induction into honor societies.

Heidi Sebastian, clinical assistant professor of radiographic sciences, said Lambda Nu's objectives are to foster academic scholarship at the highest levels, to promote research and investigation in the radiologic and imaging sciences, and to recognize exemplary scholarship. IU Kokomo's Gamma chapter is one of three in Indiana.

"Lambda Nu not only provides academic recognition for our students' achievements, it gives them a new network of radiography and imaging sciences professionals outside of IU Kokomo," she said. "Our students consistently place in the top 20 percent on national certification exams, and earn outstanding grades, so we are pleased to have this outlet to honor their academic and professional achievements."

To be considered for membership, students must have a minimum of a 3.30 grade-point average (GPA) and be a current member of the Indiana Society of Radiologic Technology and of the American Society of Radiologic Technology. Each one also must be an active member of the campus Medical Imaging Club.

Associate of Science in Radiography students inducted into Lambda Nu included David Brinkley, Corenn Duke, Carly Moore, Courtney Perez and Whitley Wilson, all of Kokomo. Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging Technology students inducted were Kenzie Daniel and Jennifer Dessing, Kokomo; and Stephanie Parton, Sharpsville.

The School of Nursing inducted 16 students into the Alpha chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing.

"This is a wonderful accomplishment," said Dean Linda Wallace. "This honorary was founded by IU students in 1922, so these new members are part of a long tradition of advancing world health, and celebrating nursing excellence in scholarship, leadership, and service."

New members include Whitney Orr, Cicero; Mellanee Neely, Converse; Kaitlin Townsend, Forest; Leslie Phillips, Frankfort; Daphney Ingle and Lisa Millspaugh, Greentown; Andrea Wehr, Huntington, Lindsey Abell, Cari Cochran, Jessica May, Susanne Miller, Cameron Morris, Jillian Redmond, and Brittany Stallsworth, Kokomo; Alyssa Bohuk, Tipton; and Karin Hollenback, Wabash.

The School of Business inducted 12 new members into Beta Gamma Sigma honorary. Undergraduates must be in the top 10 percent of their class to be inducted, while graduate students must be in the top 20 percent.

David Rink, professor of marketing, said the organization's mission is to promote high standards for business leaders, and to reward academic achievement.

"We honor the best and the brightest students, who are going to be our future business leaders," he said,

Graduate students inducted were Stephanie Fantuzzo, Tia McKay, and Aaron True, Kokomo; and Christopher Lammer, Noblesville. Both True and Lammer also were inducted as undergraduate students.

Undergraduate inductees were Kyle McAninch, Burnettsville; Carol Raines, Cicero; Kristie Stanley, Fairmount; Caili Thomas, Kempton; Brittany Smith, Lafayette; Joshua Weaver, Noblesville Garrett Meives, Peru; and Ashley Miller, Sharpsville.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo celebrates academic excellence, with the annual honors convocation and master's hooding ceremonies.

Honors Convocation - 2014Honors Convocation

Hundreds of students crossed the Havens Auditorium stage during the Honors Convocation Monday, May 12, receiving certificates or plaques for being on the dean's list, providing excellent leadership on campus, completing the academic honors program, or for outstanding academic performance in their majors.

Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke commended the students for their commitment to excellence throughout their academic careers.

"Your hard work, dedication, and commitment have played a role in your success," she said, adding that this success comes with responsibility.

"I want to challenge you, our best and brightest, to lead," Sciame-Giesecke said. "I challenge you to use your skills to make a difference in the world. The IU Kokomo family is proud of you."

Stephen Green, who earned a degree in new media, never considered himself a leader before he enrolled at IU Kokomo. His student experiences gave him confidence to step forward and lead, and changed his life. He decided to earn a master's degree in higher education and student affairs at Colorado State University. His excellent record of involvement and leadership at IU Kokomo helped him gain assistantships that will pay his tuition for his master's degree.

He was thrilled and honored to receive the Outstanding Student Leader Award.

"IU Kokomo gave me the ability to create myself to become a leader," he said. "It's opened the doors to what I want to do for the rest of my life."

April Name, who received the outstanding student award in the new media program, credited individual attention from faculty as one factor in her success. She received a national design award for work she did with Erik Deerly, program director, to redesign a literary magazine.

"I always work to be the best for myself," Name, from Kokomo, said. "This feels really good, and I worked hard for it."

Nevin Bowden, Noblesville, earned the outstanding student in informatics award. He said small class sizes allowed him to learn and excel, and to participate in projects including designing a smart phone application for the Howard County Habitat for Humanity to monitor finances on the homes it builds.

"I liked being able to work one-on-one with professors," he said. "I am glad to be done, and to be graduating."

Krystyn Bell, outstanding student in communication arts, begins her first professional job Monday. She called her time at IU Kokomo "a real life-changing experience," after transferring from a larger school.

"The professors invest so much time and effort into you, and it's really rewarding," Bell, from Peru, said. "They take a hands-on approach, and guide you through your entire educational journey. It was a real honor to receive this award, because there were so many great students in my classes. It makes me feel like I did something right."

IU Kokomo also honored its graduate students, including the first-ever class in the Master of Science in Nursing (M.S.N.) program, with the traditional master's hooding ceremony. Each of the 38 students received the hood that marks him or her as earning a master's degree, from a mentor faculty member.

The M.S.N. degree is just the next step towards her dream job teaching nursing students for Beth Robbins, who won the outstanding student award in that program. Robbins, from Greentown, was a manager for an area hospital when she enrolled, and accepted a job as education supervisor at IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette while earning her degree.

"Going back to school was a huge step," she said. "I just knew it was time to take that first step towards my dream job. The program itself is just phenomenal, and so was the growth we all experienced."

Stephanie Fantuzzo, Kokomo, was inspired to earn a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) by her children, who were enrolled in college.

"I love to learn and read," she said. "I love checking things off a list, and this is the biggest check mark on my list."

She worked as practice manager for her husband's dental practice while going to school, calling it a "plate spinning act," to balance school with work and family life. She excelled in the program, earning the outstanding M.B.A. student award.

Doug Preece, Peru, hopes to advance his career with the Air Force Reserves, after completing his Master of Public Management (M.P.M.), and earning the outstanding student award in that program.

His wife, Gloria, urged him to enroll after she completed her M.B.A. He feels prepared for future leadership roles because of the program.

"It's taught me a lot about the administrative side that we're not always exposed to," he said. "I look forward to exploring new opportunities with this degree."

For Gregory Ogle, earning a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (M.A.L.S.) was more about enrichment and example than career advancement. His bachelor's degree was in electrical engineering, and he wanted something completely different for his master's degree. He earned outstanding student honors.

"I wanted to set an example for my four grandchildren," he said. "My mother always said when you have an education, nobody can take that away from you. I'm passing the importance of lifelong learning to the next generation."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Aaron and Michelle Bird took a leap of faith, choosing a college they had never heard of, in a state where neither had even visited, to begin a life together.

Aaron and Michelle BirdAaron and Michelle Bird

Indiana University Kokomo just happened to be in the right spot, offering the right degree programs.

Just before each started their senior year in high school, they reconnected on Facebook, renewing a friendship that began in a Minnesota elementary school. Aaron moved to Nebraska and his family was planning another move to Georgia. The two decided to find a college they could both attend, where she could study psychology, and he could earn a degree in informatics.

"IU Kokomo was in the middle, between Minnesota and Georgia, so we could meet each other halfway," she said. "It gave us the opportunity to continue our lives together."

They arrived on campus in August 2010, with the goal of graduating together in May 2014, and were married in July 2012. Great things are happening for them in 2014 — they're graduating, he is beginning his military career, and they are starting a family, expecting their first child in October.

"The goal of graduating together helped motivate me to keep going when I struggled, because I knew someone close to me was also working hard to reach that goal," he said. "Our time together here has given us time to grow together. We became a stronger couple by working through many situations that college students face, and we learned we don't have to face them alone."

During their time on campus, he joined the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) and the Army National Guard, missing one semester of classes to complete his basic training. Even with the missed semester, they've achieved their goal of graduating together. They will be among the 599 students receiving degrees at Commencement, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 13, in the IU Kokomo pavilion.

IU Kokomo was the right place for them, and not just because of geography.

"It really meant a lot to me that my professors knew me by name, and wanted to get to know me as a person, not only as a student or a number," said Michelle. "I had a small university feel, but with a large university education."

Aaron agreed the interaction with professors was important to him.

"Being here helped me become more worldly, through my education and from being involved with students and professors from around the globe," he said. "It was also important to me to have direct contact and guidance from professors."

Michelle, who is graduating with a degree in psychology, worried that Aaron's time away at basic training would mean they would not graduate together, and she appreciates his hard work to meet their goal.

They've both worked hard, each holding multiple jobs while going to school. Michelle worked on campus, in the Cole Fitness Center and as a scribe for another student, in addition to a job at Walgreens. She also was president of the folklore and urban legends club, and an officer in the psychology club.

Aaron worked as an information technology technician on campus, and at Walgreens, in addition to being a leader in the ROTC and serving in the National Guard.

He said it was helpful that each of them understood when there wasn't time to share a meal or spend time together, because of school or work.

"We both would rather spend time together, but it was nice to know she would understand when that was not possible," he said.

Aaron says his experiences at IU Kokomo prepared him for his military career.

"The small class sizes require you to take leadership roles, which have prepared me to become an Army officer," he said. "You also get more interaction with other students and with the professors. The one-on-one interaction with the professors also helped me understand the material better, and at a greater depth, than would have been possible at a larger school."

Their lives won't slow down after Commencement. Aaron plans to work four weeks as an instructor at the leadership development and assessment course for third-year ROTC cadets, and then will spend 16 weeks in Fort Gordon, Ga., for his basic officer leadership course, before moving to his first duty station in the Army.

For Michelle, that means likely moving two times before the end of the year — once near her due date, and once with a newborn. She's taking the move in stride.

"I'm a military wife, I have to get used to moving," she said.

She plans to incorporate their military experiences into her future studies, researching post-traumatic stress disorder as she earns a master's degree and Ph.D. in psychology.

"I wasn't originally sure what I wanted to do," she said. "When Aaron decided to go into the military, this seemed to be a good option. I'd like to work with military personnel and families of those deployed, redeployed, or returning from deployment. I want to help people.

"We started together, and we're finishing together."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo's School of Nursing and Division of Allied Health Sciences honored its graduates on Thursday (May 8) with the annual recognition and pinning ceremonies.

The School of Nursing Pinning - 2014The School of Nursing Pinning. For nursing pictures, click here. For allied health pictures, click here.

The School of Nursing honored 97 R.N. to B.S.N students, as well as 36 Bachelor of Science in Nursing students, during its pinning ceremony. The Division of Allied Health Sciences recognized 17 Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging Technology and 10 Associate of Science in Radiography graduates.

Marion residents Michael and Shelly Backs were among the R.N. to B.S.N. graduates who received their pins, in a ceremony in Havens Auditorium. As they crossed the stage, a little voice called out, "I love you, Grandma and Grandpa," from the audience.

The couple earned associate degrees in nursing when their daughters were toddlers, and then returned to complete their bachelor's degree in the last year. They were thrilled to have their family with them for the big moment.

"This is such an accomplishment for us," Mike Backs said. "Going back to school has really revved up our brains." Shelly Backs said her husband was initially reluctant to return to school, but now they are glad to have this experience together.

"It's been wonderful," she said. "We could not have asked for a better experience."

For Suzan Ferguson, Kokomo, graduation is the realization of a long-held dream.

"I always wanted to be a nurse, but life took me in a different direction," she said. Ferguson went back to school when her son, Joshua, reached middle school, to prepare to reenter the workforce. She previously earned an associate degree and took a job at IU Health Tipton Hospital, where she worked while completing the R.N. to B.S.N. program.

"I'm relieved, and excited to have reached this goal," she said. "IU Kokomo was a great place to get my degree, and I will wear my pin proudly."

The nursing students chose Joyce Hollingsworth, lecturer in nursing, as their speaker. She recalled her own graduation from IU Kokomo, and the pride she and her mother, also a nurse, felt on that day. She encouraged the graduates to represent nurses and IU Kokomo in the best way possible.

"They're compassionate and knowledgeable, and they're going to go out in the world and make it a better place, and take care of you and me," she said. "Stay true to yourself, and if you do, happiness and success will follow you your whole career."

Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke congratulated the graduates. She noted than in Indiana, only 19 percent of people have a college degree.

"You are one of the few who have spent the time and the effort to reach this goal. It will open all kinds of doors for you," she said. "Your studies have helped you become the person you are, and the person you are going to be."

Patricia Davis, clinical liaison, honored the allied health graduates, which included the 10th graduating class from the associate degree program.

"The transformation we have seen in each of you is amazing," she said. "It is with great pride that we welcome all of you as professional peers."

Courtney Perez, Kokomo, had plenty to celebrate – not only did she earn an Associate of Science in Radiography degree, but she received a job offer this week.

"It doesn't feel real yet," she said. "I appreciate being able to earn this degree in such a great program, close to home. With the small class sizes, you get to know your classmates. That makes it really personal."

She plans to return to campus to earn a Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging Technology.

David Brinkley, Kokomo, also plans to return for the bachelor's degree program.

"It feels good to have this part of it behind me," he said about the associate degree program. "Now I just have to pass my certification test, which is the day after graduation, and then look for a job. This has been a great program."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Kathy Parkison will witness history as it happens, representing the United States as an election monitor in Ukraine.

Kathy ParkisonKathy Parkison

Parkison, Indiana University Kokomo's interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, leaves May 19 to observe the May 25 elections in the eastern European country. Ukraine's parliament voted in February to remove its president and call for an early presidential election after the November 2013 revolution. The presidential election had been scheduled for 2015.

Monitoring an election is no vacation — it is a week of exhausting travel, staying in homes in remote areas, possibly with no running water or electricity, and working in potentially volatile conditions. In one country where she monitored, a polling place was firebombed just minutes before she and her co-monitor arrived.

However, Parkison, who has observed elections in Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Macedonia, Moldova, and twice in Kyrgyzstan, welcomes the opportunity to serve.

"This volunteer work allows me to see parts of the world I otherwise would not see, and to show my commitment to the democratic process," she said. "It's a short-term opportunity for me to help out in the world."

She's watched news reports from Ukraine closely since her selection, as civil unrest has continued and worsened, particularly in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine.

"If it's too unsafe, they won't send us," she said. "They're not going to put people at risk."

After arriving in Kiev, Ukraine's capitol, Parkison and her fellow observers, including her husband Rob Pfaff, who is assistant vice president of academic affairs at Saint Joseph's College, will spend a day in briefings with the Organization for Security in Europe (OSCE) and the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), before receiving their assignments. Each person is paired with someone of the opposite gender, and from a different country, before traveling to assigned regions.

"The idea is that men and women see different things," she said. "We'll travel to our region, spend a day driving around looking at billboards, looking out for voter intimidation, and signs of fraud. We'll work out a plan of action for the next day."

As an election monitor, Parkison will open polling places, looking to be sure the ballot box is empty when the election begins, and that ballots have not been pre-filled. She will visit multiple polling sites, and choose one to monitor closely. She will watch as ballots are counted, and then as ballots are taken to a central election site, where she will make sure the count stayed the same.

"You do not intervene," she said. "You just document, document, document, and turn those results in during and after the election."

The day after the election, Parkison will return to Kiev for debriefing, then fly home to Indiana.

As a volunteer, her travel expenses are paid, and she receives a daily stipend to cover transportation, lodging, and food.

"I have stayed in some interesting hovels," she said, recalling one where the only bed left was on the floor, because she was last to arrive. That worked out, because those who slept in real beds found them to be infested with fleas.

"You see the way people really live, and you hope you leave a good impression of Americans."

She's always been posted to remote, rural locations, including a region in Azerbaijan that is "as close as you can get to Iran without being in Iran," and another region where she ate lunch by a river, and then waded in, stepping into parts of three countries.

"I have literally moved cows to get into a polling place," Parkison said, laughing. "I'm an Indiana farm girl, so I'm OK with that."

Officially, she represents the U.S. Department of State as an election monitor. The U.S. Agency for International Development, the OSCE and the ODIHR are sponsoring organizations in this monitoring effort. The groups monitor elections in nations all over the world, including in the United States.

"The idea is to prevent another world war," Parkison said.

She plans to continue following news from Ukraine after the election.

"An election is just the beginning of democracy," she said. "There has to be rule of law, and an agreement by everyone to follow the law. It's not just elections that count. It's what happens after the election. This is just step one of the democratic process."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Stargazers should have an excellent view of the planets at the Indiana University Kokomo Observatory's free open house Sunday.

The ObservatoryThe Observatory

Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn are all above the horizon at sunset, and will be joined by a waxing gibbous moon, according to Patrick Motl, assistant professor of physics.

The open house begins at 8 p.m. Sunday, May 11, and continues until 10 p.m., weather permitting, in the Observatory, 105 E. Rebecca Lane.

Motl will begin the open house with discussion of recent results from the BICEP2 mission at the South Pole, which detected polarization features in the cosmic microwave background that indicate the universe had a phase of rapid expansion, called inflation, in its very early history.

"As part of telling the story of BICEP2 results, I will discuss the big bang cosmological model, and motivations for its extension to the inflationary big bang model," said Motl.

After the talk, participants may view the planets through the Observatory's telescopes, which include a six-inch Takahashi refracting telescope and a 16-inch Meade reflecting telescope mounted together. The Takahashi provides exceptionally sharp images of planets, while the Meade allows viewers to see fainter objects in the sky, due to its larger light collecting area.

The open house is free and open to the public, and free parking is available on campus.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — A record number of 599 graduates will be celebrated at Indiana University Kokomo's Commencement, as IU President Michael A. McRobbie will confer 606 degrees.

2013 Commencement2013 Commencement

The ceremony is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 13, at the Pavilion, with Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke presenting the graduating class.

"Commencement is the highlight of the year for all of us at Indiana University," Sciame-Giesecke said. "Our students have worked hard, and we look forward to celebrating their accomplishments."

Nearly 40 percent of the graduates are first-generation college students. They represent 31 Indiana counties, nine states, and nine countries. Fifty-nine students are earning master's degrees. Another 536 are earning bachelor's degrees, while 11 will receive associate degrees. Some students earned more than one degree.

The School of Nursing has the largest number of graduates, with 174 earning bachelor's degrees. It also will recognize the first graduates from its Master of Science in Nursing program. The second most frequent degree being awarded is the Bachelor of General Studies, with 77. This brings the total number of graduates from IU Kokomo to 12,450.

Shaina Shirar, a senior majoring in history and political science, will represent the graduates as class speaker. Shirar, of Frankfort, serves as student body vice president of programming.

During the ceremony, Sergio Marchionne, chairman and CEO of Chrysler Group LLC and CEO of Fiat S.p.A., will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, the highest academic recognition IU can bestow. He will address the graduating class.

If inclement weather is expected, an announcement will be made in the evening on Monday, May 12. Two ceremonies, then, will be conducted indoors at Havens Auditorium, beginning at 10:30 a.m., and will include graduates of the School of Nursing, Division of Allied Health, and School of Education. The second ceremony, at 1:30 p.m., will include graduates from the School of Sciences, School of Business, and School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Outdoor ceremonies are open to the public, with seating in the Hunt Hall parking lot. Those attending ceremonies in Havens Auditorium must have a ticket. Graduates received tickets with their caps and gowns. Free parking is available on campus.

Commencement can be viewed via live streaming on the campus website at

For more information, go to and click on the Countdown to Commencement button.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — The Indiana University Kokomo Art Gallery features its first-ever show created by senior fine arts students.

Senior Thesis Art ShowChancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke stands with Nicole Brubaker and Minda Douglas. See more pictures on Flickr.

Eight students are showcased in the Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition, which continues through Saturday, May 17, in the Art Gallery.

Susan Skoczen, art gallery director, said five of the students are receiving the Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree, with two earning the Bachelor of Arts degree. An additional senior, who minored in creative arts, also will have work in the gallery.

In previous years, thesis work was featured in the annual student exhibit, but this year, with the largest number of seniors ever to participate, all the gallery space was needed for their exhibit.

"This is the chance for seniors to put together their first body of work, and to gain experience of what it is like to be a professional artist," Skoczen said. "From the start of deciding upon a concept for their thesis, to the research, to the physical making, and then even how to frame and install the work in the gallery, these students are doing it all."

Nicole Brubaker, a B.F.A. student from Flora, enjoyed the experience of creating a themed exhibition, something she hopes she will get to do as a working artist after she graduates.

"I've always had a passion for art," she said. "I've grown as an artist while I've been at IU Kokomo, and learned how to use art as a communication tool."

Her theme is "Isolation," and she admitted it was difficult to decide which pieces of her work complemented the theme, and which should not be included in the show.

"That's part of the learning process, because including those pieces would have thrown off my theme," she said. "I've learned to make those hard decisions, even though it's hard to see something you worked hard to create sitting at home."

The exhibition includes sculpture, painting, printmaking, mixed media, drawing and digital art.

Seniors in addition to Brubaker include William Black, Logansport; Wendy Brown, Russiaville; Daniel Speight, Kokomo; Dusti Speight, Kokomo; Theresa Stewart, Bunker Hill; and Sarah Willis, Russiaville. Bryan Crow, Kokomo, is a creative arts minor.

Admission and parking are free. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays.

For more information, call the IU Kokomo Art Gallery at 765-455-9523 or go to

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.