This year’s Homecoming Alumni Panel, led by President Robert Manuel and consisting of nine University of Indianapolis graduates, took place on Wednesday, Oct. 5, in UIndy Hall A. The panel was followed by a question-and-answer session that included questions from attending students.
After introductions, Manuel began the discussion by asking the panelists to describe the “single-most important thing” that they learned or experienced at UIndy, and how this knowledge or experience helped them find their career paths. Sarah Miles, a 2006 and 2014 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in gerontology, said that the independence UIndy instilled in her prompted her success.
“You either do it, or you don’t. It’s completely up to you,” Miles said about college and her current position as executive director of the Indianapolis and Bloomington locations for AccessAbilities, Inc., an agency of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Expanding upon Miles’ idea, Lauren Roscoe, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, explained that her network of support at UIndy, and the independence to seek those support systems, helped her to find her career path.
The ability to access these support systems had much to do with UIndy’s “smallness” and community atmosphere, according to Caitlyn Spires, a 2013 UIndy graduate with a degree in theatre teaching and a master’s degree from the University of Georgia. Spires said that she was able to build close relationships with her professors, and that if she ever needed help, she and her professors could “have dinner and talk about it.”
DyNishia Miller, a 2014 graduate who majored in communication and a current student at UIndy working on her master’s degree in international relations, brought this segment of the panel discussion to a close by addressing how UIndy had “taught [her] not only [her] abilities, but [also her] capabilities.” Miller recounted that the first job she had was less than ideal, but that UIndy had taught her not to settle, and this enabled her to decide to go back to school.
Manuel began the next segment of the discussion by asking whether the panelists had found their passions and what role UIndy might have played in that process. Lauren Cain, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and in 2015 with a master’s degree in occupational therapy, felt that she had fully developed her passion for her profession at UIndy through clinicals and fieldwork experience.
“I found [my passion] early on during my time at UIndy, from the experiences that I had, and I can’t say enough about UIndy,” Cain said. “I don’t know that I would have found my passion otherwise.”
Other panelists felt that much of their passion and inspiration stemmed from their connections with professors. Jeffrey Weiss, a 2014 graduate with a bachelor of science degree in nursing, explained that his professors knew him well and knew how to direct him toward his goals. Weiss admitted that he went off course during his sophomore year, but that his professors were able to motivate him and reinforce his belief in himself and in the passions he possessed for helping others. Similarly, Emily Bielefeld, a 2015 graduate with a degree in supply chain management and information systems, named Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management Karl Knapp as a huge inspiration for her during her freshman year.
“Still to this day, I tell him … ‘You exposed me to the world of supply chain and how magical it is,’” Bielefield said.
After the segment on passion, senior creative writing major Heather Nickolich asked the panel how the panelists stayed motivated during their senior years and throughout graduate school. Many of the panelists agreed that knowing themselves and what they could handle as an individual was especially important to their ability to stay motivated. Bethany Kirkland, who graduated in 2014 and is pursuing a master’s degree in occupational therapy at Indiana State University, emphasized the importance of knowing one’s own limits. Kirkland also stressed the importance of enjoying the senior year and knowing how to take breaks the right way.
Joshua Ford, a 2013 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, who earned a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education from Colorado State University, talked about the best advice he had received from a supervisor in preparation for an internship.
“[My supervisor said,] ‘Make every day an adventure,” Ford said. “Every day, choose to be happy, and take a small adventure.’”
Ford said he adopted this mentality, and to this day, he uses it to enrich each day and maintain his motivation at work.
Manuel concluded the panel by talking about how forming connections with people and building a network of trusted individuals during college is of utmost importance. He also reinterpreted the issue of passion when he said that knowing why you are passionate about something is more important than knowing what job you are passionate about. He said that passion should be articulated through what can be given to other people.
Nickolich said that the event was inspiring and helpful.
“It helped seeing that somebody from [UIndy] actually succeeded, [that they] were able to get jobs and do what they wanted to do,” Nickolich said. “As a senior who’s trying to graduate a year early, it’s just nice to see there are people to prove that point. They don’t just disappear. And they’re not living at home with their parents anymore, so that’s cool.”