Commencement Stories – Celebrating The Class of 2017

May 12, 2017 | Stacey Ortman, director of public information

DUBUQUE, Iowa – Congratulations Spartan Nation’s Class of 2017!

Commencement is a time-honored tradition at the University of Dubuque. On Saturday, May 13, UD will celebrate the dedication, perseverance, and accomplishments of more than 350 undergraduate, graduate, and seminary students at its 165th Commencement ceremonies on campus.

The University is honored to share the stories of a couple of our exceptional graduates.

Alexandra Erickson - 2017 Graduate (300x400 px)
Erickson Continues Education While Deployed Overseas‌

Alexandra Erickson (MBA'17) woke hours before the sun rose in Afghanistan to connect to a world outside of the military and continue her education with the University of Dubuque LIFE-Cedar Rapids program.

“The deployment has already put my life on hold for every other aspect, and I was adamant about getting to continue my education,” she said. “It also made me feel more connected to home. Getting to read and do homework on something that is not deployment related is a breath of fresh air.”

Erickson, administrative officer for the 2/34th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT), will graduate with a master in business administration. Although her commencement journey has taken her from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Afghanistan, Erickson continued her education with the support of Zoom, a service that unifies cloud video conferencing, online meetings, group messaging, and a software-defined conference room solution in one platform.

Erickson enrolled in LIFE-Cedar Rapids in April 2015. She discussed her deployment with Todd Rogers, senior director of LIFE admissions, in their initial meeting to schedule classes.

“I was worried that I might lose motivation, but the UD staff has been so supportive,” Erickson said, later adding. “I am so fortunate to have found an institution that actually cares about their people. To me, that is the best business practice and I am proud to call myself a Spartan!”

Karen Middleswarth, academic advisor for LIFE-Cedar Rapids, knew Zoom would be the natural choice to help Erickson continue her education overseas. It had already been used by others in LIFE classes.

“It is not only my responsibility, but also it should be expected by the student that their academic advisor will seek the best course which will provide a positive and successful result when taking a class in this type of situation,” Middleswarth said.

Because of a more than 10 hour time difference, Erickson routinely had class around 4 a.m. in Afghanistan while her classmates attended the same class at 6 p.m. in Cedar Rapids.

“The Internet there was shaky at best, but thanks to the time difference most people weren’t using up the bandwidth at 4 a.m.,” Erickson said. “I had some issues with staying connected, but I reached out to the professor ahead of the first class with some of my lessons learned. They all were great to pause and ask for my input so I felt included and got to participate. All of my professors were very understanding, as some are veterans themselves.”

Erickson served as the supply and services manager for the 185th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB). Among her many duties, she was involved in supporting contract oversight for sustainment services and coordinating food, fuel, and general supplies through the warehouse to the customer unit.

“What I have been delving more into is the analytics, thanks to my business modeling class for peaking my interest, for our warehouse operations, trying to get a better handle on understanding the business side of what we do, and seeing how I can make an impact in the collecting of information for the future units to utilize and make better business decisions,” Erickson said.

Steven Whiting 2017 Grad (300x400 px)
Whiting Builds Relationships at UD‌

Steven Whiting will leave University of Dubuque for graduate school in the fall, but he will not forget the lessons learned in classrooms and through meaningful relationships at UD.

“I feel like I know a lot of people and I have a lot of friends here,” said Whiting (C’17). “Professors know you and you can build relationships with professors, faculty members, and even the lunch ladies. That is what I will miss most about UD, just the relationships you can build on a smaller campus.”

When it came time to apply to graduate schools, Whiting, a sport marketing and management major from Woodstock, Illinois, knew he could rely on those relationships for help. He asked Anne Funke, assistant director of vocation and civic engagement, and Kevin Cattani, associate professor of sport marketing and management and director of sports marketing, to review his graduate application materials.

“I value all of their advice because they’ve been through the application process before,” Whiting said.

Funke understands the value of strong relationships. She said those relationships allow her to build a level of mutual trust and respect with students who enter the Vocation and Civic Engagement Services office.

“Learning about their career goals and strengths not only helps me to serve students better, but it allows me to get to know them on a personal level,” Funke said. “It’s students like Steven who put time into developing these relationships that make my work meaningful and rewarding, especially as they transition into life after UD.”

Cattani agreed. He said the choice to attend graduate school is a big decision in the lives of undergrads, and the staff and faculty at UD are happy to help.

“Getting to know the students and reviewing their materials are important facts to consider, because you want those students to present themselves in the best light possible,” Cattani said. “As most full-time faculty have completed graduate school of some kind, our experience can guide the students through the turbulent parts of the application process.”

Whiting will continue his education at the University of Louisville. He is in the running for the Louisville Athletics Adidas Internship Program, a ninth-month hands-on program with Adidas.

“I’m just looking forward to a new challenge and experience,” Whiting said.

While at UD, Whiting met challenges head-on through internships with the Dubuque Fighting Saints and UD Intramural-Recreational Sports Program. The internship experiences, along with classroom studies and volunteer efforts, led to Whiting earning the Sport Marketing and Management Award of Excellence this school year during Honors Convocation in April.

“My choice to go to a smaller university was honestly perfect because I can build relationships with these faculty members to the point where I can go to them for advice and help and they will help me,” Whiting said. “I’m not just a number here at the University of Dubuque. I’m actually a person.”