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Fall 2022

This issue of USI's illume magazine features insightful essays by alumni on the subjects of the war in Ukraine and homelessness, the role Student Trustees play in shaping campus policy and USI's reasoning and readiness for transitioning its athletic teams from Division II to Division I. 

illume fall 2022

Plumes of Smoke: Ukraine

Alumnus Hans Schneider ’01 pens a thoughtful-piece on his year living in Ukraine on a Fulbright grant researching wooden churches and his family living through today’s Russian-Ukraine war.

Rising Phoenix

Katelyn Vinci '21 M'23 never imagined she would one day be a college graduate. This provocative, heartfelt essay reveals what it was like for her to be homeless as a child.

State of the U

Once a competitive swimmer in high school, President Rochon reflects on what he learned from having that opportunity and on USI today being part of Division I athletics in the Ohio Valley Conference.

My interest in water and learning to swim happened when I was in middle school, and my mother enrolled me in lessons at the 111th Street YMCA in Chicago. I love sports but was never athletic and always the last kid picked when teams were formed during gym class. But in the

water, I became somewhat of a fish, rapidly rising through the swim-skill levels from minnow to dolphin. From there, I became a certified lifeguard and swim instructor trained in CPR and water safety. The turning point in my athletic pursuits came when I qualified for the Y's competitive swim team during high school—an opportunity not offered at my school.


Swimming provided me a path in athletics, a lane of my own, away from the pressure I'd experienced in other team sports where I feared fumbling the football or leaving a player on base. In the water, in my lane, I performed solo to the best of my ability during each event, while still contributing to the team's overall success. My teammates were extremely athletic and gifted swimmers who pushed me to become my best. But a team is nothing without a coach. Coach Rod Manifold believed in us. He believed in me. He taught us to respect our bodies through good nutrition. He taught us considerable lessons about swimming and competition and to exhibit grace in both winning and losing. Through him and being on his team I learned valuable insight into trust, growth and discovery.


While competitive swimmers stay in their lane, their performances are tied to the team. My swimming was not only about me improving my own time, my own stroke, my own method of engaging the water, but my doing well for the team. Me serving as a representative of the team. That's what athletics means to me—being an essential part of a team.


Over the years, USI has risen from a local institution to a national and international presence.

Our students come from around the globe. Some graduate and go on to attend the most

prestigious universities for graduate and professional school. Some leave us and immediately

procure employment earning six-figure salaries. That is because of who we are. That is because

of our faculty and staff. That is because of our academic programs. That is because of the

reputation this institution has secured and accomplished over the past 57 years.


Just as swimming provided me a path forward in life, the University of Southern Indiana

embarked on a new path forward by accepting the opportunity to transition into NCAA

Division I athletics and join the Ohio Valley Conference. This move is just another step in

fulfilling one of our key goals in the 2021-2025 strategic plan: elevate visibility and reputation.

Competing at the Division I level will strengthen and enhance our academic and athletic

reputations in the future. For the first time, we are going to have our athletic competitions—

men's and women's—streamed on ESPN+. We never had that opportunity before, and it is

quite significant. For the first time, we are going to be playing teams from around the country

that are extremely distinguished—academically and athletically—and all eyes will be on USI.


As we move forward with noteworthy competitions, remarkable stories and future

championships, students and student-athletes will come to the University of Southern Indiana

and distinguish themselves. They will contribute in special ways to our community. They will

be role models. They will exhibit their ambassadorship. They will do it as a team. Because, like

the individual swimmer I once was, athletics is just one part of USI's community and team.

Our academics have been in the DI lane for years.

I believe in our USI team. I believe in USI's ability to take on this new challenge. I believe in

this opportunity for us to grow our reputation and increase our visibility among students

seeking a place to advance their lives through higher education. Our years with the Great

Lakes Valley Conference (we were a founding member) and Division II, our numerous team

and individual national championship wins, our student-athletes' extraordinary academic

success, and our growth as an institution have prepared us for this new challenge and

advances us to a new lane. From here and with intentional teamwork, we dare to compete and

win at the highest level. Welcome to the future of USI. Go Screaming Eagles.

Ukraine Matters

Dr. Andrew Buck, Associate Professor and Chair of Sociology, talks with alumnus Hans Schneider ‘01 about Fulbright grants, advocacy and why the Russian-Ukraine war should matter to the world.

Piece of the Pie

The University's decision to advance to Division I athletics as part of the Ohio Valley Conference didn’t spring up overnight. This move was a long time in the making and positions USI to be showcased on a national scale.

A Seat at the Table

Every two years, one student is selected by the Governor of Indiana to sit on the Board of Trustees. Learn what they do and what it was like for the first Student Trustee Eric Williams ’89 and the current Student Trustee Liam Collins ’23 to be part of USI going independent and Division I.

Scoreboard Q&A

Student-athlete Addisyn Backwell ’22 brings her game to the basketball court and accounting classroom. Get to know her thoughts in this Q&A.

Student POV

First-year student Tegan Ruhl ’24 was not prepared for the emotional upheaval she’d experience during her first semester. Fortunately, she found her way out of depression and put herself on a new path forward in life.

First-year student Tegan Ruhl ’24 was not prepared for the emotional upheaval she’d experience during her first semester. Fortunately, she found her way out of depression and put herself on a new path forward in life.


Professor Xavia Harrington Burton’s path to becoming an educator started with a superhero teacher who inspired students in Burton’s rural South Carolina community to dream bigger than what their small town offered. She did!

From the Desk of

Janet Johnson M'05, Director of Alumni Relations and Volunteer USI, writes about the mentors she’s had in life and the value alumni mentors bring to students through the Screagles Mentoring Program.