Kereston Hochgesang has always thought and dreamed big. Coming from a tiny town with a population less than USI’s freshman class, Kereston wasn’t going to let being a small-town girl define her. “I feel that coming from a small town made me more excited for a new beginning and the possibility of new friendships. I was ready to try something new, be off on my own.”
When deciding on a major, the options seemed limitless too. She tried on many hats and loved them all, finally deciding on Communication Studies. She honed her leadership skills working as a student assistant in Student Development. Jennifer Garrison, assistant director in Student Development recalls interviewing Kereston and being struck by her possibilities. “She was shy at first, but you could tell there was more than meets the eye. Now I joke that she manages me more than I manage her,” she said.
Weighing her options, Kereston saw the wisdom in not limiting herself to one major. It simply made sense to turn her minor in German into a major, which would allow her to study abroad in Germany. Never one to shy away from adventure, she chose an immersive experience, living with a family and attending Freie Universtat in Berlin.
Embracing the college experience and dreaming big have molded Kereston into a confident screagle as she prepares to graduate. “My family in the Student Development office has been so much for to work for these past three years, and they have led me on a career path I would like to pursue in higher education. All of my professors, old and new have been extremely welcoming, particularly during my transition from one major to another. All of them have provided me with ‘knowledge for life.’”
Kereston advices all students to dream big and explore their options at USI. “Don’t underestimate USI and all that it can provide you. Do what you love! That could be from getting involved in organizations you are passionate about or trying on a major you didn’t initially see yourself doing. You’re going to grow so much while you are at USI.”×
The Spanish meaning of Virgilio is flourishing. And flourish is what Virgilio Paulino did in his four years at USI. Dr. Michael Dixon, assistant dean of Liberal Arts recalls meeting him the fall of 2014, when Virgilio served on the College of Liberal Arts Advisory Council. “It was obvious very quickly that Virgilio would become a leader on our campus.”
Coming from East Hanover, New Jersey, Virgilio found a home at USI. “I chose to attend USI because of the hospitality and inclusivity that it has to offer. Never in my life have I ever felt so welcome at a place so far from home until I came to USI. Even though I’m graduating, this University will always be my home away from home.”
At his new home in the Midwest, Virgilio found mentors who were eager to help in his pursuit of being a lawyer. Dr. Nicholas LaRowe, professor of political science, wrote many letters of recommendation for him. “I was always amazed by the amount of stuff on his vita. You could really split it in half and still have two really good resumes.”
Although he wasn’t able to travel internationally while at USI, he was able to study abroad without going abroad as a resident assistant on the Global Communities floor for three years. He made friends from all over the world in those three years. “One of the hardest parts of that job was seeing the international students leave at the end of the year and not knowing if I’ll ever see them again. Even though I won’t always have them physically with me, I’ll forever have them in my heart.”
While at USI, he served in numerous capacities that were close to his heart, from being an honors mentor to the president of the Pre-Law Club. He was selected to provide commentary at the 2016 Gubernatorial Debate hosted at USI, where he talked about how the presidential election sparked the interest of the millennials to be involved in the election process.
As a student at USI, he was able to meet former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton. Virgilio was inspired by Hamilton’s passion for public service. He will follow the same path Hamilton took to Indiana University School of Law this fall. And he will continue Hamilton’s tradition of using the law to influence policy that will help others.
“As I wrote in my recommendation of Virgilio for the President’s Medal, ‘Every graduate of the University of Southern Indiana possesses infinite promise to success in all facets of life. Few, however, display as much promise as Mr. Virgilio Paulino for success in both his career and commitment to making the world a better place,” said Dr. Dixon.×
Whitney Mosier’s love story began in second grade with a boy named Tommy. Not your classic love story, but a love for helping students who have disabilities.
Tommy was a first grader on the autism spectrum. As a second grader, Whitney would rush through all her work to help Tommy with his. Together, they would work on addition and subtraction flashcards. At recess, she was his constant friend, protecting him from bullies.
She lost touch with Tommy when her parents moved, but remained moved by her friendship.
She came to USI knowing she wanted to major in elementary and special education, and found faculty that shaped her and helped her to reach her full potential as a student leader and student teacher.
Finishing up her student teaching at Lodge Elementary School in Evansville, she revels in the little moments with her students. “The moments when you see a kiddo that you struggle with on a daily basis finally behave in an appropriate way, when your kids actually, genuinely enjoy the lesson you have prepared and don’t want it to end, and when the student that is normally getting in the most trouble finally listens and encourages the other students to do the right thing.”
She credits USI faculty with molding her into the young teacher she is today. But she cites Dr. Theresa Branson as not only an advisor, but a friend, a shoulder to cry on, and a mentor.
Years later, Whitney ran into Tommy at a special needs prom, where she worked as a volunteer. To her delight, he remembered her and his face lit up when he saw her. “It made my heart smile to see him,” she said.
Whitney treasures those small moments in the classroom, especially the ones that make her think of Tommy. “The absolute best thing about teaching is those itty bitty things that could be easily overlooked if you are not watching for them.”×
The quote on Kali Riley’s graduation cap says “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” To her this is a good piece of advice to give to any graduating high school student. “When you discover your passion, go for it with everything you have, even if you don’t make a lot of money.”
And if there is one thing Kali is passionate about, it’s bringing healing to a world that is full of pain. “I want my life work to be all about making a positive impact and providing hope to those who need it.”
Inspired by the many people in her family who made their vocation helping people, Kali volunteered at summer day camps as a high school student. It was at Camp MAGIC, a program for kids who have lost loved ones, that she understood her passion was to serve children.
She came to USI because it was not too far, but far enough to step outside her comfort zone. She found more than confidence--she met her future husband on the Honors floor. He started as merely a friend, and the floor’s go-to guy to fix your printer or computer, but a couple years of friendship blossomed into love and culminated with a lakeside proposal behind Ruston Hall (where the Honor’s floor is located).
During an internship at EVSC’s Academy of Innovative Studies, an alternative high school, her eyes were opened to the emotional trauma teenagers face. “Being an alternative high school, the students are stereotyped as bad kids. This is so far from the truth. One of the things that stuck out most to me was that several students had parents who wanted them to drop out of school and get a job to contribute to the family. But some of those students wanted to stay in school and finish up.”
Her graduate internship at Lampion Center gave her the opportunity to work with other aspects of trauma, from mental health and substance abuse to physical abuse. She depended on her advisor Bonnie Rinks to give her support and ideas on how to cope with an emotionally draining job.
“I think it is important to remind yourself that there is good and happiness in the world. When I see kids playing, people laughing and the calm of nature, it helps remind me the world is not all negative and to push myself to be part of something positive and calm.”×
On Friday, April 27th, Cameron McBeath’s journey through higher education ends as he receives his Masters in Social Work in front of all the friends and family who saw his potential when he didn’t.
Cameron never intended to attend college. He was a high school student with below average grades and below average expectations for himself. Going into his senior year, he took a factory job, expecting to be satisfied with his life. To his surprise, he hated it. He knew in his heart there was something more and hoped he wasn’t too late. “So now, I was a high school student with poor grades and no plan,” he said.
Worried that he was adrift, he confessed to his mentor, Rev. Larry Rascoe, that he didn’t think he was meant to work in a factory. “I knew I couldn’t attend college based on my grades and what my guidance counselor had told me.” Seeing a spark in Cameron, the minister went to the Cameron’s guidance counselor that next Monday. Together they mapped out a plan and hired tutors to help prepare him for the ACT. By his senior year, he had turned things around enough to be accepted into college.
With high hopes, Cameron attended Oakland City University. However, he was not quite ready for the rigors of college. He failed. He went back to the working world, this time at the Evansville Psychiatric Children’s Center (EPCC), where began to gain purpose. He later met his wife on USI’s campus and she gave him even more direction and purpose. “I couldn’t have asked for a better loving and supportive friend.” He was finally ready for college.
With the help of Christy Baker, associate professor of social work, and Renee Rowland, director of advising, he began to understand what college could do for him and how to utilize financial aid in the smartest way possible. Like his wife, he decided to major in social work. He used his experience at the EPCC to pursue his desire to focus on helping at-risk populations. And, when he was done with his bachelors, he went on to get his master’s degree.
The road may have been longer for Cameron, but he still arrived at his destination. “You are not defined by your failures, you are defined by how you respond to your failures,” he says.×
After her grandfather’s stay in a hospital due to respiratory complications, Jessica Oser’s focus became crystal clear. She would become a respiratory therapist. She was inspired by the care her grandfather received by the staff, and knew she wanted to help people breathe.
In high school, she knew her success lay in taking as many dual credit and AP classes as possible to make the transition to college smoother. “I would tell any high school student who is looking at going to college to start taking those dual credit classes. I started college with 25 credit hours just from high school. It made my college education much more enjoyable, attainable and much less expensive!”
A legacy Screagle, with her mom graduating with a degree in accounting, Jessica settled down to enjoy the college experience. After completing her associate’s degree in respiratory therapy, she easily found a job at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
When the Respiratory Therapy Program transitioned from the two-year associates program to a 4-year program, she decided to return to USI for the additional coursework. “I believe it’s very important to get that bachelor’s degree. The learning never stops. More education never hurts.”
Along the way, she met many role models and mentors, including friends and professors, who helped to shape her into the professional she is today. “They gave me a great foundation to start my career.”
Today, an amazing day at work includes getting to see people who were critically ill finally get better, “Knowing that you helped them get to that place, and had a hand in saving their life, makes all the long shifts worth every second.”×
When entering Princess Noura Bint Abdulraman University in Riyad Saudi Arabia, you are immediately struck by the grand, palm tree-lined entrance, the fountains, monorail, and the enormous library welcoming you onto campus. When entering USI, you are struck by the iconic, fountain roundabout, the tree-lined entrance, the lakes, the flowers, our friendly campus shuttles and the Cone welcoming you on campus. Despite the differences in the two campuses, USI has become a place that Afnan Alnashwan can call home.
“Indiana residents are lucky because of the nature they live in! I love USI because it is surrounded by nature and has walking areas! I go there often with my family, the only thing that I still can’t understand is the humidity and how some girls can keep their hair so perfect during high humidity days!” she jokes.
Far from home and family, Afnan has found a family in the students and faculty in the Master of Arts in Language Acquisition, Policy and Culture program. As much as she has embraced being a Screagle, her faculty and fellow students have embraced what they learn from her. “She had valuable insights to contribute to class, that challenged us to think deeply and broaden our imagination about education and the world,” said Dr. Joy Howard.
With her goal of teaching English as a second language back home in Saudi Arabia, Afnan will stand out as a role model due to her experience at USI. “I want to thank Dr. Rode. She opened a door for me to the world, not only in my professional career, but in life.”×
His faculty mentors describe Khiry Cousert as a quiet leader, thoughtful and poised. Khiry admits that, as a child, he was always thinking. He was so introspective in school that teachers suspected he might be bored. He was academically tested and promoted twice. The quiet boy flourished with more challenging coursework.
Two-years younger, and smaller than everyone else on the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy football team, Khiry realized that he wasn’t going to have a career in professional football. But he was determined to make sports his career. “I figured if I couldn’t play, I could get as close as possible to sports,” he said.
The bright 16-year-old from Hammond, Indiana, found many mentors at USI who utilized his natural thirst for knowledge and drive for success. Heather Bauer, director of Student Support Services knew that Khiry needed the financial resources to stay in school. She helped him find them.
His marketing professors challenged his mind in the way he thought about sports management. The introspective student found that he was limiting the way he thought about a career in sports. “Until my first marketing class, I didn’t realize that almost everything about sports involves marketing. It opened my mind to a whole new way of thinking!”
Going into his junior year, he saw the need to develop his personal brand and start networking. He turned to D’Angelo Taylor, assistant director of USI’s Multicultural Center and was encouraged to join the Collegiate Men of Distinction and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
Khiry is quietly determined to follow his passion in sports. He aspires to a career working as a marketing coordinator for an athletic team on his way to becoming a majority stakeholder in a professional sports franchise.×
Shawneis Jones came from a family of entrepreneurs, so she is used to thinking outside the box and searching for inspiration. What she didn’t know when she came to USI, is that she would find an abundance of inspiration and role models who would shape her as a leader.
Arriving at USI, she was motivated by Dr. Ron Rochon; provost and now president-elect, and Mayola Rower, director of Graduate Studies. They pressed upon the recent Tennessee State University graduate the possibilities USI held for her if she reached for them. “First of all, the access a student has to high level administrators is unmatched. At a big university you couldn’t walk right up to the provost, or the president, and have a conversation with them. I knew I made the right decision in coming here right away.”
The projects she completed as a graduate assistant expanded the foundation Shawneis received in her MBA classes. She worked on a strategic plan for Graduate Studies and attended Graduate Studies recruiting fairs. Acting as a representative for USI, she impressed upon potential students that the possibilities at USI are endless. “There are all sorts of people here to help you achieve the vision you have for yourself. All you have to do is ask.”
At a Martin Luther King Day event at USI, she was inspired by an impassioned speech by NAACP president Cornell Brooks. He challenged students at the event to be better advocates to what they are passionate about. She asked him at a Q&A for students what she could do. He told her to start an NAACP chapter on campus. So, she did.
It was not easy. She talked to many people, drummed up support and began research on how to make it more relatable to students in a digital age. With a vast store house of knowledge, she went to the USI Student Involvement Fair and talked to hundreds of students. With her executive committee, she chartered the USI chapter of the national NAACP organization.
Shawneis praises her faculty mentor and NAACP advisor, Wendy Turner-Frey, with channeling her passion about starting the student chapter. Graduating at tonight’s ceremony, she knows she leaves behind a competent executive board to carry on her dream.
“My advice to any student is to embrace the short time you have in college and be open to the evolution of your goals and discovery of new passions. The people I met at USI pushed me daily and supported me every step of the way.”×
Coming from rural Mvurwi Zimbabwe, Gloria Sengwe has had champions guiding her all the way to rural Indiana. It began with a mix-up at the Detroit airport. “Oh my gosh, this is the worst travel story. Ever,” she said emphatically. After 16 hours of flight time, she arrived to find her flight to Evansville cancelled. Somehow, she got put on a flight to Nashville. When she landed in Nashville, she had no idea what to do or where to go. But a random college-aged girl she met in the airport rescued her, and got her to the Nashville bus station. They both took the bus to Evansville, arriving at three in the morning. Gloria called the person who was supposed to pick her up at the airport, and the girl from Nashville stayed with her until her USI ride arrived. She never saw that girl again.
And champions have been guiding Gloria ever since. Initially, she picked USI out of other schools because she heard that another girl from Zimbabwe was attending. That would be USI’s first Zimbabwe student, Florence Takaendesa. She had previously met Florence, who was interning with the study abroad company that brought her and Gloria to USI.
Encouraged to find her niche at USI, Gloria joined many clubs, some she tried on and some she found a comfortable fit. She joined the International Club, serving as the vice president one year and chairing the popular international food expo. While chairing that event, she found her leadership style. “It was very interesting because while you are managing all those personalities you are learning about their countries as well. I’m pretty direct. I wanted us to feel like a team, but they needed to get things done and stay on track. I was effective, but maybe no nice!” She enjoyed serving as a student ambassador as well.
As a student in USI’s Romain College of Business, she found a champion and mentor that not only inspired her, but helped to shape her life goals. “International students are looking for someone who sees potential in you, someone who expects the best and keeps you in check. Dr. Cashel-Cordo was not only an excellent professor, but he wanted me to excel. He suggested extra readings and books so I was a more well-rounded economics student.”
She also competed in three case competitions for the Romain College of Business, twice for the Alberta Not-for-Profit Case Competition at the Alberta School of Business in Alberta, Canada. “That was an invaluable education that took place out of the classroom. My team was taking a problem that a non-profit had, and based on what we learned in the classroom, tried to solve it. We were acting as consultants.”
Gloria’s goal is to attend law school. But her biggest goal is to be able to give back someday and start a scholarship for other Zimbabwe students to come to USI to study. “The people here at USI genuinely care about students and want us to succeed.”×
It is the goal of the University of Southern Indiana to provide a Commencement experience equal for all graduates. Graduates in need of special accommodations during the line-up process, while receiving their diplomas or in other aspects of the ceremony are asked to contact Special Events and Scheduling Services at 812-464-1930.
Handicap accessible seating will be available on the floor on both sides of the arena, as well as several rows of seats on the floor behind the graduate seating section. Guests should locate a host in a red vest to be escorted to the handicap accessible seating areas. To minimize wait time, it is recommended to arrive when the doors open, one hour prior to each ceremony.
There is a reserved seating section for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing with an American Sign Language interpreter. Seating in this section is reserved until 10 minutes prior to the start of each ceremony, at which time it will open for general seating.