Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — The Indiana University Kokomo Art Gallery features the work of talented high school artists in its newest show.

19th Annual High School Art ExhibitionAleaya Batchler of Peru High School and Ashley Nguyen of Taylor High School stand with their awards at the 19th Annual High School Art Exhibition. See more pictures on Flickr.

The annual High School Art Show includes artwork created by juniors and seniors from Kokomo High School, Mississenewa High School, Peru High School, Tri-Central High School, and Western High School.

The exhibition, which opened with an awards ceremony Wednesday, May 28, continues through June 14 in the gallery, in Upper Alumni Hall. Gallery Director Susan Skoczen encouraged people to visit and see the drawings, paintings, photography, ceramics, mixed media, and sculptures included in the show.

"The level of work being created at the high school level is quite impressive, and we are honored to showcase this work," she said. "People should see this show to know how important art is in the curriculum, not just in high schools, but at all levels of education."

Award winners included Ashley Nguyen, Taylor High School, best of 2D; Kaylee Anderson, Peru, best of mixed media and an honorable mention; Aleaya Batchler, Peru, best of 3D; and Cortney Zickmund, Tri-Central, juror's choice. Additional honorable mention winners were Karissa Bates, Peru; and Hadley DeWeese, Tri-Central.

"The students in this show dedicated hours upon hours of time and effort into making these pieces," Skoczen said. "They do this because it is their passion and primary interest. It is evident in the high level of work in this show."

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.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Bethann Duly discovers a passion for overseas travel, teaching, and languages, while earning her degree at Indiana University Kokomo.

Bethann DulyBethann Duly

After starting college planning to go to dental school, she now dreams of teaching English as a second language, preferably in a Spanish speaking country, after graduating in May. Her travel experiences, along with her classes in English and Spanish, opened her eyes to that possibility.

"Before college, I had never put my feet in and taken that kind of risk," she said. "Then Karla Stouse told me I needed to apply for the Innovation Symposium, and next thing I knew, I was on my way to England. After that, I wanted to go everywhere. It was Karla's push, and giving me those experiences, and telling me I would benefit from going, that made the difference."

Stouse, senior lecturer in English, offered her other travel opportunities too, including attending the lifetime achievement ceremony for Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison at Virginia Tech, and meeting Japanese veterans of World War II in Hawaii. Duly's previous travel experience was a mission trip to Mexico, as well as a few fishing and camping trips in Canada, but she was a brave, adventurous traveler.

"She respects and embraces the culture everywhere she goes, willing to try local foods and participate in local customs, rather than remaining a tourist, unaffected by a new place," Stouse said. "These experiences took her far outside her comfort zone, eating Scotch bonnets at Jamie Oliver's, interviewing and developing friendships with World War II veterans, and translating in Spanish. In all of these experiences, she remains a wise and kind soul, with a heart of service."

Duly found her calling in Mexico.

"I felt like I was at home," she said. "I felt comfortable. I realized, though, that if I wanted to get around, I'd have to speak Spanish. Teaching English as a second language gave me the platform I'd always wanted in the Latin community. It gives me a way to go wherever I want, and is a springboard into humanitarian work. That's what I want to do. I want to affect a lot of people in my life."

Her work-study job gives her hands-on experience teaching, working with children in an after school program at F.D. Reese Christian Academy, in Kokomo. She's continuing the work there for the school's summer program since graduating in May.

"I've learned so much about teaching, and about myself," she said. "I had never wanted to teach children. I just wasn't interested, and I didn't think I would like working with children. This really opened my heart to something new. This job has been a blessing."

She's developed her Spanish language fluency in classes with J.R. Pico, lecturer in Spanish, and credits him for teaching her that language is more than memorizing vocabulary.

"When you learn a language, it's not just the words, it's learning about the culture of the people," she said. "You can't learn a language without diving into the culture, and trying to live how they live. Language is a window into someone else's perspective."

Her experiences at IU Kokomo have been about more than just going to classes and studying. They've been about making connections, and learning about herself.

"I'm graduating with an experience I never could pay for," she said. "We have teachers here who really love what they do, and they want you to leave here a better person. That's what I love about this campus."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Talal Al-Hammad graduates from Indiana University Kokomo not only with a degree, but with new understanding of American culture, and a desire to be a bridge between the United States and his home country.

Talal Al-HammadTalal Al-Hammad

Al-Hammad, 37, was the first of the current group of students from Saudi Arabia to enroll in the Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program, two years ago. He is taking his final class during the summer session.

"This has been a great investment in my future, to go to graduate school in the United States," he said. "I'm ready now to go home, and to be a link between Saudi and American countries. I leave here with good memories, and good friends."

His wife, Reem, also is finishing her graduate studies, in Indianapolis, and they plan to return home after the birth of their first child this fall.

His experience has been positive at IU Kokomo, as he has built relationships with faculty and his classmates. He believes both sides have benefitted from knowing one another.

"It's good when you are in a diverse environment, to learn about many points of view," he said. "You can look at things from different angles. Sometimes during class discussions, we can bring in examples from our experiences in our country, and add something new to the class."

Gloria Preece, M.B.A. program director, called Al-Hammad "an exceptional student," and noted that he added an international aspect to the program. He didn't just concentrate on his classes, though, but became part of the campus community.

"I am always inspired and humbled by Talal's thoughtfulness towards our community and towards his fellow students," she said. "During the last two years, he has dedicated much of his personal time to mentoring new students, as well as current students who needed help. I believe Talal is destined for great success, and I wish him all the best."

Al-Hammad helped start a Saudi Student Club, which hosted a Saudi cultural celebration for the campus. They served traditional foods and had educational presentations about their culture. Club members also cleaned up damage from the November tornadoes in Kokomo, anxious to be of service in their adopted community.

He has found American students are interested in learning about Saudi Arabia, and a few want to come visit their Saudi classmates after they've returned home.

"American students like to ask about our culture and religion," he said. "They show so much respect of that. We have had discussions of what we share, and what we don't."

He learned about IU Kokomo's M.B.A. program while researching online. He contacted Preece through Facebook with some questions, and was impressed when she responded within an hour. She then worked with the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission to gain approval of IU Kokomo's programs as one Saudi students may attend on its scholarships.

The campus has earned good word-of-mouth from its current students, who like the quality of the classes and the friendly atmosphere.

"More and more Saudi students are coming here," Al-Hammad said. "Everybody is bringing everyone else. At first, it was just M.B.A. students, but now more are coming for undergraduate study too."

He recommends it to other students, based on his own experiences.

"I appreciate that when you have a question, you can contact your professors directly, and they will answer your questions quickly," he said. "Everybody at IU Kokomo knows everybody by their first names. It makes you feel like you are at home."

While in the program, he's run his business back in Saudi Arabia, via e-mail and telephone. It hasn't been easy, but the time was well spent.

"You can do great things with experience and education," he said. "The M.B.A. focuses on 10 areas of business. Now it's like I speak 10 new languages. Now I know the accounting language, the finance language, the legal language. It puts me ahead of people who don't have this education."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Laura Brown has been mother to her daughter, Wendy, in all but name since she was 4 years old.

The BrownsThe Browns.

In July 2013, they made it official.

Wendy asked Laura and her husband, Brian, to adopt her — at age 26 — so that when she and her mother graduate from Indiana University Kokomo, they have the same last name.

"I wanted the last name of the people who were there for me and supported me," said Wendy, who will earn her degree in December. "It makes me feel more like part of the family."

For Laura Brown, who graduated in May, the adoption was more about putting on paper what was in their hearts for Wendy.

"When you're there for all the growing up stuff, you are the mother," she said. "This didn't change anything for us. It's a change of her name more than it's a change of situation."

Wendy and her sister, Melissa, were only supposed to stay with the Browns for a short time, while their biological mother served in the military. However, she did not return for the girls after completing her service, so they grew up as members of the family. The Browns adopted two other children, who are now in junior high, but Wendy never felt the need to accept their standing offer to adopt her — at least until 2013, as she neared graduation.

One of Laura Brown's rules was that college was a requirement, not an option. She regretted not going to college herself, discouraged by her guidance counselor, who told her she was "not college material." Her own children would know better, she decided.

"I drilled it into her that you need to go to college," Laura Brown said. "I never told her what to study. I said that I didn't care if she went to Hamburger University, but she had to do something. She had to have a job, a driver's license, and be enrolled in college before she graduated from high school."

Wendy Brown recalls signing up for fall classes at IU Kokomo during spring break her senior year from high school, mostly to get Laura to leave her alone, but now she's glad she did.

Just a year later, her mother decided it was time for her to go to college, and enrolled in a math class.

"I faced my biggest fear, and I walked out with a B," she said. "Once I got past that, I knew this was possible for me. I've had a 3.0 GPA, while working, raising kids, and taking care of my family. It's been so much better than I ever thought it would be. I wish I had done this 20 years earlier."

Laura and Wendy took several classes together, and learned to work off each other's strengths to succeed in those classes. Laura takes detailed notes, while Wendy's gift is being able to recall precisely what was said in class.

"When we're studying at home, if you don't understand something, you can yell across the room for help," Wendy said. "We had some healthy competition with our grades. I probably earned better grades than I would have otherwise, because we had that competition going."

They never told people they were mother and daughter, which led to some funny moments. Both of them laugh remembering a young man flirting with Wendy in a class, only to be embarrassed when he realized her mother was right there. Another time, a professor joked that when the class paired up for projects, there were not to be any mother and daughter pairs.

Both agree they've learned about each other, and strengthened their relationship by going to school together.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Five hundred seventy-four full-time Indiana University Kokomo students earned dean's list honors for the spring 2014 semester. Dean's list students earned a minimum 3.5 grade point average (GPA) on a scale of 4.0, while carrying at least 12 credit hours throughout the grading period. Students are listed by hometown.

Indiana University KokomoIndiana University Kokomo


Kimberly Lorraine Allen

Natalee E. Beeman

Stephanie M. Goodpaster

Loraine Ann Huffman

Jada Nicole Smith


Colten Scott Lorenz

Marissa Ann Spohn


Tracie Lee Davis

Calani Rae Hitchell

Marka Lee Maxwell

Mary Jo Woolums


Jordyn Anna Logan

Jacob Tucker Million

Lindsy Megan Richards


Peyton Bristol

Siarra Singer


Simegn Kebere Bitew


Cynthia Mae Hillenburg


Carrie Ann Thomas

Bunker Hill

Megan Mercedes Myers

Julia Mae Walters


Duana Paige McAninch

Kyle T. McAninch

Kendra Michele Wheeldon


Joshua David Flora


Kathy Ann Bitar

Jennifer Anne Conley

Vi Thi Nguyen

Tressia Marie Puller

Sandra Lee Shipley

Austin Matthew Stark

Jordan Vallieres

Kimberly Ann Ware

Adrienne Gail Wilhelm


Jennifer Marie Slown


Tyler Jordan Elmore

Erin Elise Heaver

Heather Rae Hickok

Cayley Jo Higginbotham

Madison Moses

Jessica Rene Nordhoff

Danika Shae Smith


Jennifer Lynn Gale


Hayley M. Bunker

Mellanee Jean Neeley

Sheryl Kristina Ottinger


Dee Anne Arnone


Teresa Louise Fraser

Kaitlyn G. Hall

Paola Marissa Zaldivar


Sabrina Marie Briggs

Melinda Sue Burns

Tristan Michelle Hippensteel

Sara J. Musselman

Justin Paul Thiry


Alison Jean Ashbaugh

Christopher James Capps

Meagan Sue Davis

Jake Hobbs

Leeza Sabrina Price

Korsen Ray Stiner

Leah Danell Tranbarger

Jennifer Marie Vandiver


Meagan Ashley Hall

Sharon D. Hoheimer

Joshua Lee Mahoney

Christine Kay Myers

Kimberly Kay Willman

Alanna Marie Winters


Andrea Nicole Stevenson


Kasey Bergman

David Michael Brown

Heather Lee Hayes

Kristy Ann Johnson

Tabitha Marie Kennedy

Emily Robin White


Steven Alexander Amos

Fort Wayne

Sonia Marie Bassett

Heather Nicole Brisentine

Kaleigh Ensley


Lori Ann Brubaker

Nicole Lynn Brubaker

Amanda C. Green

Alexander James Luzadder

Emma Madelyn Packard

Elizabeth Pearl Rowen


Judith Alanis Guijosa

Ricardo Alanis

Troy Brooks

Stephanie Ann Cole

Caryn Shari Erickson

Amanda Faye Keafer

Shelley Nicole Martin

Allison Wren Ostler

Jordan Perkins

Leslie Michele Phillips

Karen L. Ponder

Callie Elizabeth Reecer

Kayla Michelle Scott

Alin Sotelo

Daisy Valdez

Chelsea Ann West

Mitchell David Young


Stephen Todd Back


Emily Janell Barnard

Allyson Dannielle Boyd

Hollie Charlene Boyles

Noah James Cicalo

Josh Hansen

Kara Marie Keppel

Jessica Elizabeth Roller

Kelsey Jo Thieke

April Lynn Walker

Douglas Todd Walker

Emily Anne Watkins

Joshua David Williams

Steven Eli Wright

Gas City

Amber Christine Ancil

Meagan Rose Cunningham

Madison R. Elkins

Christopher Adam Osborne

Allison Poulson


Jack H. Mattingly


Amanda Lynn Alexander

Karen Lynette Bowlin

PrinceKristian Dionisio Bravo

Nicholas Salvatore Carley

Morgan Dunkle

Eric Len Hainlen

Christopher Wayne Johnson

Amy Rebecca McCauley

Lisa Rae Millspaugh

Vincent Michael Molino

Mitch Padfield

Molly Roberts

Shannon R. Stockdale

Brendan White


Aaron Jon Lipp


Adebisi Rashidat Adeyeri

Linda Louise Collins

Maura Murphy Fredwell

Sarah Lynn Jacobs

Alton James Knight Jr.

Melissa Marie Kocsis

Brenda Ann Lehman

Deidre Lyn McDaniel

Susan Michel

Roshanna Minton

Marzieh Tavassoli Naderi

Steven Lee Stinchcomb

Kathryn Jean Thomas

Nancy Ann Todd

Norma C. Wasson

Carol A. Williams

Karri J. Woodard

Margaret Rose Yeisley


Kimberly Kaye Altman

Lyndsay Ann Christensen


Lindsay Breanne Timm

Zachery Dalton Timm


Kelly Cunningham


Kaylea Eli

Caroline E. Landis

Maddox Tristen Macy

Joseph A. Nierzwick


Teresa Ann Metsker


Lindsey Nicole Abell

Kara Beth Abresch

Carolina Anaya Pico

Delaney K. Alexander

Lyna Alkhayat

Amanda M. Bagwell

Kortany Maree Baker

Alexandria Rae Beechy

Yalanunda D. Benitez

Erica Jane Bennett

Courtney Rose Boike

Scott Bolinger

David Alan Brinkley

Brittany Lee Brooks

Kala Christine Brown

Ian Nathaniel Buchanan

Tabetha Lea Bumbleburg

Jacob George Byers

Sarah Nichole Byrd

Katharine T. Calabro

Lydia Anne Capps

Kimberly A. Catt

Megan Catt

Michelle Lee Cline

Rebecca Lynn Coath

Nia Marie Cobb

Cari A. Cochran

Victoria Ann Colaizzi

Bridget JoAnn College

Ben Y. Constable

Austen Michael Conwell

Jenna Kay Conyers

Zachary Cox

Haylee Marie Cullison

Nicholas Norman Daanen

Kenzie Lynn Daniel

Nicholas Andrew Davis

Brad Deaton

Jennifer Lynn Dessing

Jordan Elizabeth Douglas

Justine Nicole Eads

Morgan E. Engerski

Keaton Alexander Evans-Black

Joseph William Farkas

Suzan Jean Ferguson

Derek Lawrence Fields

Owen Leo Fishback

Lori Ann Fitzgerald

Matthew Floyd

Samson Duane Frazier

Felicia Christine Freeman

Andrea Marie Funk

Daisy Michelle Gangloff

Lexi Chantal Geiger

Gage Michael Gilbert

Courtney Elizabeth Gilman

Melissa Anne Glaze

Alexandra Marie Glenn

Brandon Kyle Goodman

Kristina Marie Goodman

Amber Graves

Brooke Alise Grider

Brielle Nicole Griffith

Stephanie Lee Griggs

Brittany Alexis Groover

April Renee Gunnell

Angelina Chantelle Gurney

Liana Janelle Gurney

Miranda Marlene Hammons

Angela Michele Harmon

Mindy Elizabeth Harper

Morgan Lea Harrison

Teresa R. Hart

Andrew John Hartman

Jaina Leigh Hattabaugh

Jennifer Diane Hecht

Madison R. Heflin

Stephanie Marie Helmer

Daniel J. Henning

Kasey Sierra High

Challen Michael Hodson

Gina Marie Holguin

Amanda Hosier

Elizabeth Ann Hubenthal

Heather R. Huey

Tausha Marie Imlay

Bradley Scott Jakes

Lauren Christine James

Alexandria Rae Jewell

Tania Maria Jocius

Charlene Elizabeth Johnson

Christopher Taylor Johnson

Amanda Christine Kailey

Michael Robert Kinsey

Cameron Paul Kuntz

Dakota Kohl LaMott

Kelsey Lanning

Bradley E. Lawson

Ashleigh Raelle Ledford

Emily Michaele Lytle

Jennifer Lytle

Rachel LeAnne Lytle

Susan Kathleen Maack

Jessica Manchester

Joelynn Nicole Marconi

Rebekah Joy Martin

Tanner M. Martin

Trevor Martin

Jessica Lyn May

April Nicole Mayer

Daniel L. McKinney

Krista Leigh Melcher

Christopher Adam Miller

Jennifer Miller

Justin Miller

Kyle Joseph Miller

Ronald Miller-Norris

Benjamin Morgan Mooney

Amber Monette Moore

Carly Renee Moore

Jacob Aaron Morris

Allison Nicole Mose

Amy Katherine Moser

Stephen M. Mullett

Kelly Christine Nagy

April Rena Name

Cody Joseph Nelson

Jessica Marie Norfleet

Colin F. Overman

Valerie Mae Pearce

Derek Lee Pearson

Marcus J. Pemberton

Courtney Kaye Perez

Eva Larissa Pier

Jenna Ann Powell

Jessica Purcell

Nicole L. Purcell

Rachelle Louise Purcell

Meghan Ann Raines

Jillian Nicole Redmond

Jake Ridgeway

Charles Richard Rounder

Christina M. Russell

Patrick Michael Russell Sr.

Andrew Sale

Lindsay Sanchez

Brittany L. Sands

Jennifer Marie Santos

Christopher John Santucci

Antonia Francesca Sawyer

Jacqueline Ann Schick

Keith Mitchell Scircle

Jennifer Schoolcraft

Kenton Charles Schroer

Laura Anne Scott

James Charles Smith

Jessica H. Smith

Misha Breanne Smith

Nathan Smith

Shelby Linn Spall

John Daniel Sparks

Zackary L. Spyker

Brittany N. Stallsworth

Emily Joelle Sutherland

Julie Elizabeth Thomison

Richard L. Truax

Ryan Michael VanHaecke

Elizabeth Ellen Vautaw

Abby L. Waggoner

Shelby Maria Waggoner

Erica S. Walter

Heather Nicole Wells

Tyler Russel Wilhite

Aurielle A. Williams

Jeremiah Lee Williams

Spencer Wilson

Tami Suzanne Wilson

Whitley Paige Wilson

Boston Michael Woolley

Brandon Carter Wysong

Justin T. Young


Rhonda Lee Akers

Melissa L. Bledsoe

Wendy Bowling

Meaghan Elizabeth Chinn

Shanon Denise Croell

Reggie Ervin Henderson

Hannah Leah Lord

Britney Ann Schneidau


Jennifer Robyn Adams


Jennifer Lynn Willis


Tamara J. Greene


Rachel Jo Allen


Kristen Berry

Bryanna Leigh Bowman

Renee Elise Canady

Danielle Jessica Carrier

Jacob Lee Colee

Kathleen L. Elliott

Amy Ann Glasson

Madeleine Jay

KyLeigh Cristin Kleckner

Victoria Elizabeth Kleckner-Baer

Henry Lewis Martin

Sarah Alice Middleton

Jennifer Marie Nies

Jenna Marie Pfeiffer

Cory Douglas Rozzi

Katherine Salas

Adriana Sanchez

Annette S. Shively

Kaitlin Nicole Wickersham

Kristen H. Zimmerman


Damon Tyler Hoffman

Jacqueline Anna Paul

Jessica Lynn Paul

Connor Patrick Reed


Michael J. Backs

Rashell Lynn Backs

Bethlyn Kay Bertram

Kierstin Breanne Bott

Amanda Rose Byrd

Shannon Marie Campbell

Arielle Castanon

Scott Bradley Chain

Nicholas Allen Dawson

Aubrey Lynn Delgado

Jennifer L. Evans

Jacqueline Anne Feuerstein

Johnna Morgan Fritch

Patricia Elaine Harrison

Brittney Nichole Hunt

Christine Lynn Miller

Kayla Brooke Phillips

Aaron West

Elizabeth Anne Wimsatt


Erica L. Nielsen


Angela Lorraine Garner


Jayesh Lalla


Sarah Jo Herbst

Timothy Curtis Nutt


Brittany L. Harp


Erin Michelle Watson


Kayla Marie Lampke

Deborah Christine Taylor


Megan Alyssa Agugliaro

Sandra Lee Beech

Katelyn Berman

Nevin Hunter Bowden

Jillian Renee Branham

Tiffany L. Carr

Kathryn Jane Creasy

Carla Marie Cupp

Shelby Nicole Ellerbee

Kristin Kay Frissell

Joan Beth Gabrielli

Alisha Nicole Hobbs

Evan J. O'Connor

Christa Marie Reynolds

Brooke Lynn Runyon

Michael Julian Taff

Felita Yvette White

North Judson

Alysa Paige Caudill


Keith Lee Flick

Rebecca Lyn Millard


Karli Dishman

Kari Lynn Gibson

Lisa Anne McKenney


Misty Dawn Bailey

Aubree Kathleen Binney

Ashley Danielle Burns

Benjamin Ballard Burns

Darion L. Daugherty

April Lynn DeRozier

John L. Dietz

Meaghan Elizabeth Dziengel

Jacob Tanner Feasel

Lauren Alayna Fields

Alexandria Lee Frazier

Katelyn E. Funk

Nickolas Allen George

Emilie Margaret Hubbard

Julie Lynn Johnson

Chelsey Louise Jones

Sarah Jeanne Jones

Cynthia Michelle Loe

Renee Michelle McClory

Garrett Jameson Meives

Kinzie Leigh Morton

Alexis Elizabeth Nash

Elizabeth Ann Piper

Matthew Franklin Robson

Anyssa Marie Ryan

Quinton D. Sanders

Tiffiny Marie Sears

Amanda Nichole Simpson

Michael A. Sommers

Danielle Elizabeth Steele

Jerica N. Strayer

Abigail G. Stuber

Amy Marie Stuber

Cody James Summers

Mark Anthony Thompson

Kelcy Jo Tolliver

Joseph Eric Townsend

Robert Lee Trlak

Lindsay Rae Weisenberger

Thomas Mark White

Carley Brooke Williams

Brett James Worden


Amy Michelle LaFata

Johanna Kyung Maturana


Kathy Lee Edwards

Kofoworola Elesinnia-Howard

Mavis Mvundura


Bonnie Rame


Kylie B. James


Kasi Balanow

Jayson Alexander Cloud

Jenna Ann Crispen

Samantha Sisinger

Tori Anne Stockberger


Benjamin Hufford

Brittany Ann Royer

Michael Jordan Wagoner


Coree Ellaine Achor

William Bradley Bennett

Michele A. Boggs

Summer Nichole Cottrell

Corenn Duke

Leigh-Ann Durham

Karen Dee Ebeling

Rebecca Jean Jenkins

Haylee Joyce Robertson

Ronald D. Smith

Deborah S. Smithson

Erin E. Soutar

Zachary Taylor Stout

Caily Lane Tanner

Jenelle I. Turner

Holly J. Westendorf

Michael Jed Williams

Rachael Shirley Williams


Jacob Lee Cook

Mary Katheryn Dudley

Gae Lou Huff

Ashley Marie Miller

Stephanie Parton

Gabrielle M. Perkins

Emily Brooke Ragan

Danielle Smith

Nicole Fay Wilcox


Shawna Renee Edwards


Ashley Jean Gibson

Jaclyn Suzanne Greeman

Star City

Krystal Ann Antrim

Heidi Allyson Hendryx


Tammy Elain Edgington

Vicky Joleen Pickering

Mitchel Mark Slaughter


Erika Lynn Freeman

Christopher Andrew Trejo

Guillermo D. Trejo


Alyssa Mae Bohuk

Drew Anthony Frawley

Cody Hayden Griffith

Kelsey Lynn Grimme

Madison Nicole Knight

Shelby Lynnette Markins

Justin Allen Murray

Pamela L. Plain

Taylor V. Powell

Natalie Suzanne Smith

Kyrsten A. Strong

Lisa D. Tragesser

Courtney Lynn Waymire

Meghan Leigh Yocum

Twelve Mile

Ashley N. Lowe


Lauri Ann Shafer


Zachary James Meyer

Van Buren

Cameron Troy Estelle


Douglas W. Small

Tia Janelle Wagner


Sarah Brown

Mendy Hadley

Casey Lynn Hill

Ashley Lynne Morrison

Breanne Renee Robertson

Brooke Ellen Robertson

Ashlee Lynn Rodgers

Matthew Thomas


Deeonna Nicole Eltzroth

Melinda Kay Smith


Elyse Jayne Clark

Jenna Breanne Crowder

Joanna Limio Davis

Ramona Evoy

Marika Singleton

Heidi Joan Wells

West Lafayette

Kristine Elizabeth Eikenberg

Thomas Adam Long


Danielle Lynn Schmicker

Brianna Wildermuth


Korti Ann Dye

Libby Kimbrough

Brandon Lee Whitehead


Craig S. Baker

Meagan Sue Hazlett

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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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.