One Goal Achieved, Floridian John Lazarre Plans to Keep Learning
By Bill Wax, Director of Communications
On January 31 , John Lazarre of Wellington, Florida, reached his goal. Now he’s embarked on a new one.
“Getting my degree was a goal. My goal now is to keep learning about technology,” said Lazarre, who picked up his B.S. in Information Technology degree at Bellevue University’s winter commencement exercises.
A telecommunications specialist at A.T.&T., he previously completed a two-year Associate’s in Engineering degree and served six years in the U.S. Army Aviation Branch. When considering a bachelor’s degree, he researched several colleges offering online IT programs before deciding on Bellevue University.
“Education gives you the opportunity to learn more. You develop your own way of learning. You learn how to do research, become more knowledgeable and build up your skills,” Lazarre said. “My program helped with my career to a certain extent. But you also have to put in your own time.”
Lazarre plans to apply what he has learned in is current job and to pursue Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certification as well as Cisco Networking certification. His daughter, Saphira, flew in from Florida to see her father reach his goal.
Pursuing the Dream: Matthew Weiberg’s Journey to a College Degree
By Bill Wax, Director of Communication
For Matthew Weiberg, his wife, Crystal, and their two small sons, the 600-mile road trip from their Indianapolis home was the final leg of the journey to his Bellevue University B.S. in Marketing degree.
Like most of the University’s students, Weiberg wanted a degree for career advancement. Eight years ago, he joined Cintas Corporation, a S. & P. 500 company that provides specialized services to North American businesses. Although he liked the company and the career path he was on, he left Cintas for three years to work for the family’s commercial printing business at the request of his father, David Weiberg. “Dad came down with lung cancer, so I helped, primarily in the sales function, to grow the business through cultivating new business relationships and acquiring new customers. Eventually I was able to return to Cintas. Dad was probably one of the biggest reasons I decided to do that, and to finish college. He encouraged me to pursue my dream.” David Weiberg died in 2011.
Now a market sales manager for Cintas in the Indianapolis area, Weiberg initially chose another college and took classes part-time before eventually enrolling at Bellevue University on the recommendation of a friend, Brad Duchac, who completed a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business degree from the University in 2012. “He graduated, and I didn’t,” Weiberg recalled. That experience prompted him to take stock and look at his options.
“At my previous college, I knew I would have to spend the next eight years attending part-time in order to finish my degree. I decided to try Bellevue University,” he said. “I have spent the last two and a half years at the kitchen table, completing my online degree in Marketing. It was a fantastic experience!”
Weiberg’s only prior experience with distance education was limited to a few online tests and quizzes. “It was not as robust as Bellevue University,” he recalled. “I got to know a lot of my classmates. The cohort format enabled me to focus on one class for six weeks at a time. It was challenging and very informative. It helped stretch me to where I am today. The whole educational experience broadens your thought process, improves your critical thinking and how you look at things. This experience has better prepared me to use the tools available to me now at Cintas, including how to execute an email marketing campaign and to best utilize social media and video.
“I would recommend this program to any working professional who is thinking about going back to school,” Weiberg said. “The program is flexible, and I found the staff to be very accommodating. The only regret I have is that I didn’t start sooner at Bellevue University.”
Roy and Macaela Smith Endowed Scholarship Makes College Possible for Local Residents
By Bill Wax, Director of Communications
The Roy and Macaela Smith Community Scholarship reflects the legacy of success and service of its cofounders. Students like Jennifer Mucha of Union, Nebraska, are benefitting. Mucha is one of the first five recipients to receive Smith Scholarships during the current academic year, and many more students will benefit in the future, thanks to Macaela Smith’s commitment to permanently endow this scholarship fund.
Roy A. Smith, a longtime member and former chair of the Bellevue University Board of Directors, is perhaps best remembered for his business acumen and his devotion and service to his community. He also was an advocate and supporter of education, including the University, receiving an honorary doctoral degree from the University. In 1991 while serving as Chairman of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, he made worker training and education high priorities. Smith operated award-winning auto dealerships in the Omaha area and is a member of the Omaha Business Hall of Fame and Nebraska Business Hall of Fame.
The Smiths worked tirelessly for decades, serving and supporting numerous causes and non-profit organizations for decades, including the Salvation Army. Macaela Smith was a member and chaired the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary Board. She received numerous awards and other recognition for her efforts in behalf of organizations serving the community.
Both Roy and Macaela Smith have been long-term advocates and supporters of Bellevue University since 1984, when he joined the Board of (then) Bellevue College. “Roy loved being involved at Bellevue University because of the type of students that it helps to educate,” Mrs. Smith said. “He wanted to help students who want to make a better life for themselves and their families, and who gave back to others by being involved in their schools and community activities.”
The scholarship, which enabled Mucha to complete her B.A. in Health Science degree in August without additional student loan debt, really helped. “By working two jobs I could manage to give our kids all they needed,” Mucha said, “but I would not have been able to afford my education without the Roy and Macaela Smith Scholarship and other financial assistance.”
Mucha’s story is fairly typical of the type of working student that Bellevue University helps to educate. After graduating from Plattsmouth High School in 1996, she enrolled in Metropolitan Community College. Then came marriage, a daughter and a son. She and her husband teamed to build a good life. When their children were small, she was a stay-at-home mom. She eventually completed an Associate’s degree in Medical Billing and Coding at Metro. She transferred to Bellevue University to complete her bachelor’s degree and is now a full-time payment representative at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and works part-time for the Plattsmouth Animal Hospital. “Every class that you take at Bellevue University exposes you to something new. It has been totally worth it. I want to show my kids that college is important,” she said. Mucha is now earning an M.B.A. degree from the University, with a concentration in Healthcare. Her career goal is to be a financial analyst.
“This scholarship helped lessen my financial burden, no small thing, especially when you consider that my daughter will be in college herself next year, and my son right behind her,” Mucha said. “I am so appreciative I was selected as a scholarship recipient, and for the quality of the education I am receiving.”
OPPD Employee Completes Bachelor’s Degree Journey
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Kathleen DeLeon set a goal for herself back in 2001. There were more than a few obstacles along to the way, but she crossed the finished line by earning her bachelor’s degree in business in 2015.
DeLeon, a Family Medical Leave Assistant at Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), had to take long stretches away from school to become the primary caregiver first for her father and later for her mother as she battled cancer.
“We took my Mom straight to my house from the hospital where I then became her full time caregiver with my kids,” DeLeon explained.
Her ex-husband and the father of her children also became ill at this time, which added yet another diversion to DeLeon’s quest. Kathleen now had to carve out additional time to ensure her children were able to spend valuable time with their ailing father. “Not only was I a care giver for my mom, I became a single parent…. that was a very heavy load when you go from having a great man/father there and then, one day, he is gone.”
“I did continue going to school,” DeLeon said. “I was almost finished and ready to move on to the Kirkpatrick Series and then around end of November 2009 my mom’s cancer started progressing and I had to put my schooling on hold. This was very upsetting to her because she was so supportive during this time and hated to see me stop.”
After her mother passed away in 2010, going back to school was not DeLeon’s first priority, but she had promised her she would earn her degree. Encouragement from her colleagues helped motivate her to finish as well.
DeLeon praised Professor Rick McFayden for keeping her engaged.
“He was an awesome instructor and I would recommend him to others,” DeLeon said. “He made our learning fun and interesting and that to me is what I needed during this time.”
DeLeon’s first inclination was to skip the graduation ceremony since her mother could not be there, but encouragement from her children helped change her mind. When she saw that the commencement ceremony was on the fifth anniversary of her mother’s passing that sealed the deal. “This was definitely a sign from her that she has been with me during this time and will be there with me on Commencement Day,” DeLeon said. In addition, DeLeon was able to share this moment with her cousin and his wife, Marcus and Emily Jensen, also 2015 Bellevue University graduates.
DeLeon now wants to relay her experience to others to let them know that obstacles can be overcome.
“I really want to get more involved with young ladies or single mothers that feel they can’t go back to school and let them know once you put your mind to it and regardless of your obstacles you can always reach your Dreams!” she said.
Internship Takes Online Student across Globe
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Interning – it can be a tough existence that often means low pay and menial tasks.
But Cherise Shaddix, a Communications student from Marietta, Georgia, is certainly welcoming her intern title for a two-month stint beginning in early February. It probably doesn’t hurt that the internship is in Greece and an extension of a modeling contract.
“My internship has really been made possible by my wonderful professors here at Bellevue,” Shaddix explained. “I was called away on a modeling contract, and Dr. Kate (Joeckel) will be overseeing me in my business trip to help put together an overseas course focusing on how different cultures communicate.”
The 20-year-old Shaddix has been modeling for about four years and has worked with (fashion designer) Jason Wu, L’Oreal, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks 5th Avenue, and Belk.
“I felt like this was an industry that I would be able to make a difference in,” Shaddix said. “I love to travel, and am comfortable in front of the camera, so that seemed the best opportunity for me. It’s something that I’m really passionate about, so it was kind of a no-brainer.”
Shaddix will be living in Athens during her stay in Greece. She hopes to visit the Greek islands of Santorini and Mykonos as well. Quick stops in Norway, Munich, and London could also be part of the trip.
An effort to transfer in as much credit as possible was one of the reasons Shaddix chose Bellevue University to continue her studies. She uses a single word to describe her Enrollment Counselor Ashley Wurdeman – “Fantastic.”
A number of people collaborated to help make Shaddix’s internship a reality.
“Cherise and I met through one of my online Communication courses. She brought her unique internship opportunity to my attention and we collaborated with Emily Krueger in International Programs to make the internship happen,” Joeckel said. “The internship will allow Cherise to explore the connection between culture and communication in the dynamic environment of international modeling.”
Shaddix hopes that earning her degree will help facilitate additional travel opportunities and a chance to learn about other cultures.
“I am, at heart, a people person,” she said. “If I can travel the world to understand different cultures, I am a happy girl. I want to use my degree to explore new cultures and how they interact.”
Advisor Edison Helped Ceder Stay on Degree Track
By Bill Wax, Communications Director
The journey was personal for each of the 475 individuals who crossed the platform to receive their Bellevue University degrees at winter commencement exercises January 31.
Navigating relocations, job changes, family, marriage and life issues all while completing a college degree can be stressful, according to Kellye Ceder of Omaha. The working wife and mother of four credits her academic advisor, Amanda Edison, for the encouragement and advice necessary to complete her B.S. in Computer Information Systems degree.
“I was ready to quit a couple of times,” Ceder recalled, “but she (Edison) said ‘No, we’ve got this.’ She was really a counselor for me as well as an advisor. I was having some family and personal issues then, and having someone caring about me at that point in time was huge! At one point, I spent half an hour on the phone in the car in the parking lot at work in Nashville, talking to Amanda and crying.”
“As I recall, there were a lot of two-way emails and some phone tag,” said Edison, adding that trust is a key to a good advisor-student relationship. “The more you build that trust, you can be a little more up-front with them, professionally, of course, but reminding them they’ve invested a lot already. I like to ask a lot of personal questions—about where they work, their kids, marriage. It helps me to see what’s on their plate.
“Advising has changed at Bellevue University over the past two years,” Edison said. “It’s more proactive now. We touch base regularly with the students, at least every 90 days. In my opinion, the Academic Advising group has done a great job in thinking about how to be more creative in outreach and finding the best method to contact the students.”
Ceder and her family lived in Texas when she began her quest for a degree several years ago. She contacted the University on the recommendation of a brother who was a student at the time.
From Texas, Ceder’s next stop was Nashville, then Omaha, all while continuing her Bellevue University studies online. The Ceders have four children, a daughter who will graduate from Millard North High School in May, and three sons, ages 15, 13, and 7. “Before I started, my kids were like, ‘I’m not going to college.’ But I think seeing me do it at this point in life helped to encourage them to get a degree themselves.”“I called Bellevue University and asked if I had to provide my previous University’s transcript. Seriously, I failed everything in the first attempt at college. Did I have to include those grades? They said ‘No.’ I could start from scratch.”
Ceder said her husband, Brad, was her number one supporter as she approached the finish line of her quest for a degree. “I wasn’t planning to participate in commencement exercises, but he said ‘You can still go.’ Family came from out of town to attend.”
Recently, her newly acquired bachelor’s degree in hand, Ceder was promoted to Manager of the IT QA department at Schneider Electric, in Omaha. “That’s really the frosting on the cake, when students or alumni get a promotion and can see their education is paying off,” said Mary Dobransky, Dean of the College of Science and Technology.
“It’s why I do what I do,” Edison added, “helping people to get past the moment they’re in and achieve their goal. Having a belief in that person is key, I think.” On the eve of winter commencement, she said the ceremony would be bittersweet for her. After more than two years as an academic advisor, she recently accepted a promotion to Adjunct Faculty Manager in the College of Science and Technology and will no longer have daily contact with students.
Alum Jumps into Film Career
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
That’s an attitude that has served Stacy Heatherly well in her life. It’s led the 1997 graduate of Bellevue University from work on several Alexander Payne’s films to her own documentary film organization.
Heatherly is president of Digg Site Productions, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Fremont, Nebraska, dedicated to educating the public through documentary film and to providing an accredited documentary workshop for high school students of diverse backgrounds and needs.
“We want to give students opportunities to experiment, grow, use their imaginations, and share their perspectives with their families and community,” Heatherly said.
In addition to her role with Digg Site, Heatherly is the Eastern Nebraska Film Commissioner. She helps facilitate film production in the eastern part of the state.
“As the Eastern Nebraska Film Commissioner, I have utilized (Nebraska State) Senator Colby Coash’s LB863, which allows communities like Fremont the opportunity to utilize LB840 funds to incent film to the area,” Heatherly explained. “I have assisted the City of Fremont by developing a film packet which includes a film permit and film guidelines as well as an application specific to the film productions to seek a grant through the LB840 to reimburse for local spending.”
Heatherly got her start in film working on the 1995 comedy To Wong Foo Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar.
“It filmed in Lincoln and Omaha. I was asked to fill in for a friend as a hair and makeup artist while she took her finals at another University. When she came back they kept us both on,” Heatherly said.
“It was the experience of a lifetime. I was green and knew little about the industry. He gave me a chance. It was a little piece of heaven with a lot of stars! It was difficult at times, because I was learning, but I wouldn’t do a thing differently,” Heatherly said of her Ruth experience. “Alexander is a kind man. He is genuine and honest. To work with him on several of his films has been a privilege. I imagine in 20 years the people who have worked for him including myself will look back and know they worked for an icon.”
While the glamour of a Hollywood production has a certain appeal, math doesn’t hold quite the same attraction. Heatherly was a bit intimidated by the subject when she first started her college experience at Bellevue University.
“One story I have shared over the years to struggling college students and even high school students who don’t think college is for them is this one; I was horrible at math,” she said. “I barely survived high school math and was terrified about taking a college math class. I walked into my first math 101 so frightened. I opened my book and the professor began teaching. He started writing equations on the board and taught them in a way I understood for the first time in my life. I got a B in that class. It was the setting for my entire experience at the University.”
Heatherly survived her math class and went on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Management with a minor in Psychology.
“I came away knowing that there is a University that cares about people. They care about your future and they prove that by hiring the best of the best to teach people of all ages and backgrounds,” she said. “I came away with courage and confidence, knowing that if I was dedicated there would continue to be support throughout my life. It strengthened my belief in pay it forward.”
Interested in a finding out what Bellevue University has to offer you? Contact us at OneStop@Bellevue.edu or 1-800-756-7920.
Ad Prompts Alum to Degree, Editor-in-Chief
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
A small ad in a trade publication helped lead Tim Sendelbach to Bellevue University. Now, after earning his Master of Arts in Leadership (MLDR) degree in 2007, Sendelbach is editor-in-chief of that same publication.
“I saw an ad for Bellevue University in Firehouse Magazine. I was looking for an online master’s program, saw the ad, made a call, and applied later that day,” explained Sendelbach, a 29-year veteran of the fire and emergency services industry.
Sendelbach was promoted to his current position this past summer. The job entails more than the magazine itself, he is also responsible for the editorial direction and content of Firehouse.com, two national conferences — Firehouse Expo (Baltimore, Maryland) and Firehouse World (San Diego, California) — and related Firehouse products.
“I hope to create a renewed focus on training, professional development and leadership across our entire brand of products. With the support of our staff and contributors, I hope to diversify our readership and our contributor base to include the next generation of fire service leaders, innovators and change agents,” Sendelbach said. “Our greatest challenge is to keep pace with every change world of social media, and to develop the format and product base that supports the wants, needs and interest of the next generation (within the scope of 42 characters or less).”
After earning associate’s and bachelor’s degrees at Eastern Kentucky University, Sendelbach hoped to build on that education.
“I was looking for an opportunity to pursue a degree that would benefit me both personally and professionally,” he said. “I can say without hesitation that my degree in leadership has opened many doors and brought about a great deal of satisfaction over the years. I remain a student of leadership and I continuously seek opportunities to advance the knowledge and skills I learned at BU.”
Sendelbach, who currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, lived in Georgia while he pursued his MLDR and embraced online learning.
“While I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with classmates and the outstanding support of my professor, I think the most enjoyable aspect was the online learning itself,” he said. “As much as I enjoyed attending class as an undergrad, the online interaction and individual responses allowed me to meet new friends and learn from them. It also provided me with a much more in-depth understanding of the topics/subject matter.”
Fortitude and perseverance are key traits for any leader. Sendelbach hones those skills away from the office as an endurance sport competitor.
“Outside of work, I enjoy training and competing in endurance sports most notably, triathlons,” he said. “In 2012, I did my first full Ironman (Ironman Louisville) and have since become addicted to the sport. I do an average of six to eight triathlons a year and in 2015, I have plans to do three half-iron races (70.3 miles) and three full Ironman (140.6 miles) races. My goal is to earn a spot to race at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.”
McIntosh Powers Ithaca IT Department
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
A nearly 25-year career in the Air Force kept Keith W. “Mac” McIntosh moving around the globe. His Bellevue University degree has been a critical factor in his career advancement.
Mac’s latest career stop is at Ithaca College as the Associate Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer. McIntosh joined Ithaca College, a comprehensive residential campus community of 7,000 students nestled in the scenic Finger Lakes region in the heart of upstate New York, in August 2014. His job responsibilities include providing vision, leadership, oversight, and management for the College’s academic and administrative information technology services, facilities, hardware, software, and staff.
Mac is starting the New Year with a number of resolutions.
“The chief challenges/opportunities I look forward to tackling in 2015 are developing and implementing a robust IT Strategy, creating an IT Governance process, and restructuring our IT department to be agile and flexible,” said McIntosh.
Two tours at Offutt Air Force Base helped put Bellevue University on Mac’s radar. He took his first Bellevue University class in the fall of 2001 and earned his Bachelor of Science in Management of Information Systems in January 2003. A smooth enrollment process got Mac off on the right foot, but he did have a little extra help with that.
Interaction with faculty and peers were among the highlights of Mac’s time at the University, with the Kirkpatrick Signature Series among his favorite classes.
“It stands out because the faculty really challenged me to think critically about each and every topic we discussed and for me to identify and develop my own core values,” McIntosh said. “I came away from my Bellevue University experience with many things — improved communication (oral and written) skills, improved critical thinking, and a great sense of pride from pursuing and completing my degree.”
McIntosh’s Air Force career saw him stationed in South Korea, Iraq, Colorado, Texas and Arizona in addition to his time in Bellevue.
“The most enjoyable part of my Air Force career was getting to meet and work alongside highly dedicated and professional people,” said McIntosh. “I am thankful for the many training opportunities I received, the superb staff I was fortunate to lead, and for the outstanding leaders I was privileged to serve. I enjoyed being stationed with my father, CMSgt James L. McIntosh (Ret.), during my first tour at Offutt Air Force Base.”
McIntosh credited his Bellevue University experience with developing the necessary skills to earn his MBA in 2008 and advance in his career.
“I believe the pursuit and attainment of my degree improved my critical thinking and communication skills while I served in the Air Force. This greatly aided my growth and development as senior leader in the Air Force. It also enabled me to enroll in and complete my master’s degree,” McIntosh said. “Ultimately, I would not be a Chief Information Officer without my undergraduate and graduate degrees.”
Interested in an IT degree from Bellevue University? Visit www.bellevue.edu or call 1-800-756-7920.
Children’s Book Author Overcoming Obstacles
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Breaking down barriers is one of the themes author Debbie Estrem tackles in her children’s book, Sights at the Zoo. Estrem, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration of Technical Studies in 1999 at Bellevue University, wanted to help children understand why some people may use aids such as walkers and wheelchairs. Estrem was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010, and hopes the book answers questions children may have.
“Children ask questions and want quick responses, which is what this book does,” Estrem said. “When doing book readings at schools, several children wanted to ride on my motorized chair or I would teach them how to drive it. It helped them to not be afraid of me or the chair. We talked about if any of them have relatives or family friends who use help to get around. Reading the book brings up the opportunity to talk about it.”
Zoo is Estrem’s second book, following Have You Ever Seen a Firefly. She collaborated with artist Kim Sponaugie on both books and published them through print-on-demand outfit Xlibris.
“I had written poems in 2003 and someone suggested that they may make a good children’s book- so once I was diagnosed with MS and not able to work anymore, I was wanting something positive to talk about- was tired of talking about my health and the MS,” Estrem said. “So, I researched how to go about writing a children’s book and started into the process.”
“It’s very challenging and so very different with each person,” she said. “We all have to fight through it and try our best to stay positive. We are all thankful for our caregivers, therapists, doctors and CNAs (certified nursing assistant).”
Estrem began attending classes at Bellevue University in 1997 after her husband was stationed at nearby Offutt Air Force Base.
“I heard commercials on the radio daily about Bellevue’s accelerated degree programs as I drove downtown to work at the YWCA every day. I had an associates degree but wanted to get my bachelor’s degree. So I checked out Bellevue University,” she explained. “My experience there was great. We were transferred to a base in Tucson, Arizona while I was still attending classes so I was able to complete my classes online. I traveled back to Bellevue for my graduation. Our daughter was in 5th grade then and I wanted her to see her Mom graduate from college.”