Alum Leads Chamber’s
We Don’t Coast Crusade
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Omaha does not coast and neither does Bellevue University alum Kim Sellmeyer.
Sellmeyer, Creative Director for the Greater Omaha Chamber, is one of the driving forces behind the Chamber’s branding effort, We Don’t Coast. The tagline is popping up on sidewalks and billboards throughout the metro area and officially rolled out August 6, 2014.
Sellmeyer thought a little differently when it came time to tackle the branding assignment. Rather than bringing in an agency from outside the area or awarding the job to a single local company, Sellmeyer formed a creative task force with 16 creative individuals from 15 local agencies.
“We wanted wide acceptance, so we picked kind of a unique process to build this,” Sellmeyer explained. “We had a big group, but they were all there for the right reasons. They care about the community and wanted to help take us to that next level.”
The We Don’t Coast theme emerged early in a two-day design charrette and was then vetted by area marketing professionals and stakeholders.
“We built this to unite the community together in one voice,” Sellmeyer said. “If we can all use the same words and the same tone it’s going to be louder.”
Her Bellevue University degree helped launch her toward her leadership position with the Greater Omaha Chamber. After earning an associate’s degree at the Colorado Institute of Art, Sellmeyer realized she would need to continue her education to get where she wanted to go.
“I researched colleges in Omaha and found that Bellevue was able to easily transfer my previously earned credits and had the flexible schedule I needed,” she explained. “I was working two jobs at the time, so I could pay as I took classes. I didn’t want to take out loans.”
Sellmeyer, married to former Marine and fellow Bellevue University alum Kerry Sellmeyer, earned her Bachelor of Science in Commercial Art from the University in late 2000.
“I had a great Bellevue experience,” she said. “I had one professor who forced us to use a Wacom Tablet (a computer input device frequently used by artists) in design class. It was torture. He said, ‘You’ll thank me someday when you don’t have carpal tunnel.’ I can’t work without a tablet today and, so far, no hand issues either.
“Having a degree has opened up doors for me that I don’t believe would have been otherwise.”
If anyone had reason to coast it might be Sellmeyer. The branding project comes on the heels of her successful Omaha! Omaha! social media campaign capitalizing on the line-of-scrimmage calls of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. Sellmeyer described the on-the-fly campaign as “three weeks of no sleep.”
The experience with both We Don’t Coast and Omaha! Omaha! has been a highlight for Sellmeyer.
“It’s been very rewarding” she said. “We’ve built something that is going to get attention.”
New Building Marks Milestone For Credit Union CEO, Bellevue Alum
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
SAC Federal Credit Union, like Bellevue University, has been a long-time member of the Bellevue community. Led by CEO Gail DeBoer, a graduate of Bellevue University’s MBA program, the credit union recently opened the doors to a new corporate headquarters building at the southeast corner of 72nd Street and US Highway 370. With 94,000 square feet of usable space, the building will house 115 employees.
DeBoer recently spoke about the new headquarters, the impact of her Bellevue University education and where she, and SACFCU, will go from here.
How important is the new building to SACFCU both in a utilitarian sense and as a milestone of progress and growth?
The new building serves as a tangible sign of SAC’s success and stability to our members, our employees and the community. Our focus over the past seven years has been to grow the business with a deliberate and paced strategy. The growth has allowed us to consolidate our operations at the new headquarters in order to reach higher levels of efficiency in our operations, which in turn will fuel more growth.
We were also purposeful in designing the building in order to foster and grow our desired culture. We did this through open and collaborative design that facilitates a culture that focuses on results and member engagement.
Are there some parallels between the growth of SACFCU and the growth of Bellevue University?
As an alum, I’ve enjoyed watching Bellevue University grow at such a strong rate. It is interesting to have both of our organizations have such success at the same time. I believe it stems from each having a very clear purpose and identity and not straying away from their mission and producing a product that is of high quality and in high demand.
Leadership is key when you have strong growth and both Bellevue University and SAC have very strong leadership teams in place. Their commitment to their stakeholders is evident in the way they operate and the way they serve their customers.
When you were completing your MBA did you envision yourself as CEO and the growth that SACFCU has enjoyed?
I certainly always had the goal of advancing my career and I knew that earning my MBA was a requirement to be the CEO. I also knew there was great potential for growth at SAC but that it would take a different kind of strategy and leader to get us there. I studied leadership and gained the technical skills I needed so that when the opportunity came I would have all the requirements I needed to be successful.
What’s next for you and for SACFCU?
Great things are ahead for SAC! We are seeing growth continue to be strong and we are planning for more success for our members and the communities we serve over the next 20 to 30 years. As for me, in the short term I look forward to guiding SAC through the transition with the new headquarters and expanding our reach. I’m excited to bring new technology to the market and really change the way that people access their money and plan for their financial futures. The work that credit unions do to provide education, financial products, convenience and community support is what makes them unique and that is what gets me excited about coming to work every day!
Henderson Among First RN to BSN Grads
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Bellevue University’s first cohort in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program just wrapped up. Ginny Henderson, a Registered Nurse (RN) at Immanuel Communities, was among the students who participated in the graduation ceremonies held Saturday, June 6, at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs.
Henderson had been considering pursuing her bachelor’s degree for some time and had some special insight into the Bellevue University program from stepdaughter Brenda, a Student Financial Counselor at the school.
“I’ve always admired the nurse with a bachelor’s degree. While I could not always put a finger on it, there was a sense of professionalism, knowledge, and skill set that I have always desired. I always felt I was too old, too busy, and lacking the financial means to go back to school,” Henderson said.
Henderson’s Chief Nurse Executive (CNE), had encouraged her charges to consider going back to school to enhance their marketability and to secure their future.
“My Chief Nurse Executive decided to go back to school to get her MSN along with another BSN prepared nurse. The momentum of several of us continuing our education in nursing at the same time offered a sense of excitement, or bond that we are in this together,” Henderson said.
Henderson had no problems transferring in credits from Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “What a relief to find that I would not have to retake algebra courses or other classes that while I appreciate the value, would not benefit my skills as a leader or a professional nurse. The curriculum appealed to real life issues in nursing,” she said. “Many days, I could not wait to tell my co-workers what I learned the night before.”
Henderson adapted quickly to her first experience with online courses and effectively juggled her school, work, and family obligations.
“I love online learning! The ability to go out of town, decide what days of the week or hours to work on course work is so feasible for those with a plate full of commitments,” she said. “I worked smarter versus harder, finding that staggering my hours increased my productivity to complete more work in less time without interruptions and as a bonus, be a support to the other staff that work evenings and nights.
“Director (Kristen) Wessel provided tips early on such as using a calendar just for school work. From the school calendar, I prioritized and arranged caring for my elderly dad on certain days, and my children’s activities on other days. I found that sticking to a schedule worked best for me.”
Henderson is ready to put her new-found knowledge to use.
“With health care delivery changing rapidly with the increasingly complex health needs of an aging population, more nurses with the knowledge, resources, and critical thinking skills are needed to provide care in widening areas of care delivery,” she said. “The patients and families I care for ultimately receive the utmost impact through improved quality and, safe care delivery.”
Alum Dugan Champions
PayPal’s College at Work
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
Bellevue University alum Linda Dugan is paying it forward as the Vice President of Global Operations for PayPal, the online payment processor based in Omaha. Dugan, who graduated Summa Cum Laude with her Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems in 2001, is helping PayPal employees earn their degrees as well through the company’s College at Work partnership with the University.
“We are consistently striving to identify ways that we can engage our team members and drive to differentiate our workplace in a manner that enables our teammates to have lasting careers with PayPal,” Dugan said. “The College at Work program is an ideal program and solution to support this business objective and to enable us to invest in the development of our teammates.”
The PayPal College at Work program started in 2007 and really gained traction in 2008 and 2009, said Jim Nekuda, Associate Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Bellevue University. A total of five cohorts have run on site at PayPal’s La Vista headquarters and a sixth started in March. Recruitment is currently underway for an MBA onsite for fall. Over 100 PayPal employees have graduated from Bellevue University as a result of the overall College at Work program with close to 50 from the onsite offerings.
“PayPal is a prime example of how we structure our strategic relationships with organizations,” Nekuda said. “As a trusted partner, Bellevue University provides marketing, curriculum, and outcomes measurement of the programs impact to the organization. PayPal’s custom portal, www.paypal.corporatelearning.com, was one of the first created for a strategic client.”
Bellevue University’s ability to meet the needs of an ever-changing marketplace has been a key component in making the partnership a successful one, Dugan said.
“The PayPal and Bellevue University relationship has evolved quickly primarily because of the willingness of Bellevue to be agile and responsive to our business needs and plans,” she said. “The collaboration is excellent and we continue to partner to understand how we can deepen the engagement and program opportunities. We believe we are just at the beginning of our shared journey.”
Dugan began her journey with Bellevue University in 1999. The University’s ability to meet her needs played a key role in her decision to attend.
“Bellevue University provided me an opportunity to be a student, mother, wife, and employee all at once,” she said. “The class sizes were ideal to be an active participant in the learning experience. The professors were exceptional and brought rich and interesting discussions to the classroom on every topic that we studied. Bellevue University enabled me to have a complete life while being a student of an exceptional university.”
The Kirkpatrick Signature Series, taught by the late Dr. Ed Rauchut, was a highlight for Dugan.
“I believe this program is a ‘must’ experience opportunity for every student,” she said. “The content was thought-provoking. The classroom discussions were engaging and always produced healthy debate and interest. The series was brilliant and remains a memorable learning experience.”
Flexxive® Helps Boat Captain Earn Degree
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
As a boat captain for a parasailing company, Alan Campbell enjoys a little adventure. So diving into Bellevue University’s first offering in its new Flexxive® learning model, a Bachelor of Business Administration – Business Enterprise and Essential Management Skills, came as second nature.
Campbell’s research had shown Bellevue University to be an affordable, accredited option to continue his education. Admissions Counselor Michele Smith provided him with information on the new Flexxive option.
“I was initially drawn to the Flexxive program because it was affordable, and it offered an accelerated degree path,” Campbell said. Campbell had prior college experience, but didn’t find the traditional path to his liking. He has since enjoyed smooth sailing with Flexxive.
“My experience with Bellevue, and the Flexxive program, has been five stars since day one,” he said. “The admissions counselor was thorough, responsive, and provided excellent continuity of service. My courses transferred easily and I immediately had a clear, coherent path ahead of me. Financial aid was made easy by Bellevue’s accommodating staff.”
Campbell has taken advantage of an option within the Flexxive program that allows students to save over 50% on the total cost of completing their degree by moving through the courses at an accelerated pace.
“I actually completed my last 2 years of college in one year for less than $6,500!” Campbell said. “I’ve really had to work at it, but I thrive with the self-paced format. When I get a few free days, I really buckle down for 8 or 9 hours a day, and knock out large chunks of my classes. Perfect for the motivated, working student.”
Campbell praised the work of Flexxive faculty members Sharon Rea, Kent Burkholder, and Merrill Johnson and he is on track to complete his last course on June 30th.
“It will feel like an enormous load has been lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “I have been in and out of colleges for over 10 years, and to finally tie it all together is priceless. I’m hoping to enter and MBA program, or law school, in the fall of 2015.”
In the meantime, Campbell is enjoying providing a little adventure for others at Pirate’s Cove Parasailing. http://www.piratescoveparasail.com/
“One day, I flew 154 passengers in 12 hours,” he said. “It takes a lot of concentration, and a lot of experience. I am responsible for the lives of thousands of people every year. That being said, we have a lot of fun out there on water — couldn’t ask for a better office.”
By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager
With four degrees to his name, John Witzel knows a little something about education. He’ll put that knowledge to use as one of the newest members of the Nebraska Board of Education.
Witzel earned his first degree in 1974, a Bachelor of Science in Business from Louisiana Tech. He followed that up with a Master of Arts in Executive Development from Ball State in 1979. But he did not stop there. When his military career saw him assigned to Offutt Air Force Base as the Director of the Airborne Command Post (Looking Glass), he enrolled at Bellevue University. He earned his first degree from Bellevue in 1997, a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, and followed that with a Bachelor of Technical Studies in Computer Information Systems in 1999.
“Earning both degrees certainly has paid off for me following retirement. I like to say, old dog-new tricks,” Witzel said. “The Accounting and CIS programs are not at all easy degrees to obtain–especially accomplishing some via night school. There are so many wonderful and dedicated professors at BU, but I do remember Tessa White CIS, Dr. (Lynn) Suberly in Accounting, and Dr. (Pam) Dinville in Accounting. The whole staff at BU was always very helpful.”
Witzel appreciates the strong ties between Bellevue University and the military.
“(It’s) Outstanding,” he said. “BU truly understood the challenges of being active duty and attending classes. Many of the professors were indeed prior military.”
Witzel represents parts of Omaha, Bellevue, and Papillion on the Nebraska Board of Education. He has several items at the top of his agenda.
“I’m proud to represent the citizens in relaying their concerns and desires,” he said. “My current goal is to obtain a waiver from the Federal Government for the No Child Left Behind Act. This would take a lot of explanation why, but in a nutshell, we will be required to have it with Nebraska Standards —non-Common Core State Standards — with local control.”
In addition to his responsibilities with the Board of Education, Witzel has also published his first book, a novel called _Saving Tres Rios_ . Robert Madden is the story’s protagonist, a retired Air Force Sergeant and an educator.
“You would not think that a novel about a public school teacher would be exciting, but it is an action thriller — no doubt,” Witzel said. “Much of the story is based on true events with one main character living through all of them.”
Witzel has maintained close ties to Bellevue University following the completion of his degrees.
“I truly owe a lot to BU and am blessed to have earned two of the degrees I have from BU,” he said. “After retirement from the Air Force, I like to say I got ‘retooled for the future at BU.’ I’m proud to be on the BU Legacy Foundation where part of my estate is directed to BU.”
Alum’s Clients Have
By: Dan Silvia
Scott Shehan works with jackasses… and he loves it.
Shehan, who graduated from Bellevue University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication, helped found Lusco Farms Rescue, a nonprofit, donkey rescue operation located in Malvern, Iowa. The farm is currently caring for 12 donkeys and has rehomed or cared for over 60 donkeys since 2011.
“I come from a family of animal lovers,” Shehan explained. “My wife and I cared for four Cocker Spaniel puppies on our wedding night after they had been left at the church door during rehearsal. I believe the donkeys chose us. We rescued a small donkey named Nester in 2009 and we have been taking care of donkeys ever since.”
Shehan recently took on a new challenge as well accepting a job as a Distribution Manager with Sergeant’s Pet Products at their new Omaha location at 10077 S 134th Street. Sergeant’s is currently building a 350,000 square-foot distribution center in Omaha and the company will be one of the five largest employers in the Omaha area.
“One of the key points on my resume was the degree in Organizational Communications that I earned at Bellevue University,” he said. “They were looking for a leader who had the skills and ability to build a new team for the Omaha distribution center.”
The Shehans are founding members of the Southwest Iowa Animal Coalition, a group of nonprofit rescues who have come together to support each other and hold community educational events and adoption fairs.
“My goal is to get the animals out of the bad environment and into the rescue where we can help them,” Shehan said. “Fundraising and being a good spokesperson is critical to attract volunteers and financial supporters.”
In addition to his bachelor’s degree, Shehan has gone on to earn his MBA and now teaches at Buena Vista University.
“My educational experiences at Bellevue have aided me in communicating with the public and the media more effectively,” he said. “While earning my degrees, I had to learn to manage time to get my course work completed, work full time and still be a father and husband. I believe those challenges have prepared me to be successful in the business world both at a full time career, the nonproft donkey rescue and continue my passion for teaching.”
Shehan credited Dr. Dan Warren for inspiring his own desire to teach.
“Dr. Warren was very helpful in guiding and encouraging me,” he said. “What I discovered was my desire to teach others. Towards the end of my program, I discussed what I needed to do to become an instructor myself.”
There are several upcoming opportunities to support the donkey rescue operation. On Saturday, June 28, Beers for Ears, a benefit concert featuring Jared Blake will be held at Warrior’s Sports Bar at 701 1st Street, Sergeant Bluff, Iowa. Attendees can come greet the donkeys from noon to 3 p.m., while Blake will perform at 9 p.m.
In addition, Lusco Farms Rescue and Loess Hills Harley Davidson are raffling off an HD Street Motorcycle at the 3rd Annual Ride You’re A$$ Off for the Donkeys on Saturday, August 23 at the dealership in Pacific Junction, Iowa. Visit the Lusco Farms Rescue site for more information.
Fortune Among Shape’s
50 Hottest Trainers in America
By Dan Silvia, Communication Manager
Earning his degree at Bellevue University has helped Chet Fortune become one of the hottest in his chosen field —a degree, and a few thousand crunches, dips, pull-ups, and assorted other exercises.
Fortune, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Business in 2009, has been named one of Shape magazine’s 50 Hottest Male Trainers in America 2014. The magazine is tracking facebook likes for each of the 50 to recognize the top trainer.
Fortune has already been profiled in the Omaha World-Herald on the heels of the Shape list. The result – business is booming at Warrior Fitness Center, the gym Fortune opened in June 2012 at 13239 Portal Drive in La Vista.
“My inbox – everything is just blowing up,” said Fortune, a Certified Professional Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “I’ve even had people from out of town interested in the gym, interested in training and how I can coach them from a distance. It’s been a positive impact for sure.”
Fortune, a 2001 graduate of Bellevue West High School, started his college career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, but found himself sidetracked while working full-time jobs in the banking industry.
“I got out of school for a while and focused on management,” he said. “but other roles that I might have taken at the bank, I was at least going to need my degree. Bellevue was known for its online courses and the business department was respected. There were one or two courses that weren’t offered online, so the convenience of it being nice and close to my home was important for me too. That’s what got me going to Bellevue University.”
Marketing Essentials, taught by former adjunct John Thomas, was a class that stood out for Fortune.
“He just made it fun,” Fortune said. “I was going to Bellevue for the online aspect, but out of the classes that I had to attend that was the definitely one that I did not mind going to. We focused on social media a lot. That’s what we ended up talking about.”
While taking classes at Bellevue and in the years following graduation, Fortune began to develop an entrepreneurial spirit. He craved the opportunity to call his own shots.
“The first year I did a little bit of both, I ran the gym and managed the 89th and Dodge location of American National Bank,” he said. “I didn’t open this up to do both. I opened it up with the mindset that I wanted to be here full-time.”
Fortune did just that last June and isn’t looking back.
By Dan Silvia, Communication Manager
Director of Fun and Excitement – That sounds like a pretty good gig!
That may not be Adam Long’s official job title, but as Director of Student Life at Iowa Western Community College he does indeed hold those responsibilities at the Council Bluffs school.
Long’s efforts to plan and lead activities at IWCC were recognized when he was named National Advisor of the Year by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities.
Money isn’t always available to pump life into campus events, so a little creativity must go a long way, according to Long, who completed a B.S. in Business degree from Bellevue University in 2012. “Some of the challenges that I face in terms of event planning at Iowa Western would be making large events successful, while working on a minimal budget,” he explained. “When I first began working at Iowa Western, I challenged myself to create a fun and exciting “tradition” during the week of homecoming. In 2011, I planned the 1st annual Homecoming Lip Sync Contest. This event was a HUGE hit in its first year, and has grown even bigger each year.”
Long transferred to Bellevue University after completing his Associate of Arts degree at Iowa Western.
“It just so happened that Bellevue was able to accommodate each of my needs as a full-time professional: accepting credits from my previous college, allowing me to take online classes, and offering an accelerated format to allow me to complete my Business Degree even sooner than I had expected,” Long said. “I was very pleased with the ease of communication and ability to pursue my careera t the same time as my education. I spoke with several other schools, and Bellevue was by far the best option in every way.”
Hands-on customer service also played a role in Long’s decision to attend Bellevue and in his career choice.
“I am very thankful for the time that Amy Cox gave me in my “planning stages” of becoming a professional in Higher Education, as well as needing to further my education” Long said. “She was very easy to communicate with, she made the transfer seamless, and she showed me throughout my time at Bellevue that I was a student who was valued. This made my experience incredible, and I owe a lot to her for that.”
The April edition of AlumniLinkonline includes a request for alumni to complete an online survey measuring their perceptions of the Bellevue University brand. If you earned a degree from the University, you also will receive an individual email message inviting you to complete the survey. Nationally recognized brand communications firm Bailey Lauerman has been retained to guide the formal survey process.
Please take a few minutes to complete the survey and provide your thoughtful insights and perceptions.
Current students as well as University faculty and staff members also are being asked to complete similar surveys, which are part of a new Brand Initiative guided by Geri Mason, Director of Marketing at the University. “Our goal is to ensure that the Bellevue University brand is compelling and truly reflects the value of the University,” Mason said. “Alumni opinions and perceptions are a key part of the Initiative, and we sincerely appreciate and value their input.”
Survey responses will be kept confidential by the researchers. Information collected will be used to identify common themes and messages, and highlights of Brand Survey results will be shared in future alumni publications.