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Education Continues For Missouri State Rep, Alumnus

Posted on April 1st, 2015 by

Education Continues For Missouri State Rep, Alumnus

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Trying to hit the ground running can be tough for anyone starting a new job. Justin Hill, a new state representative in the Missouri House of Representatives and a 2010 graduate of Bellevue University, can attest to that.

Hill2 “My first few months in office delivered a crash course in how bills and agendas move forward and how they fail,” said Representative Hill. “There is no training course for legislators. New legislators are fresh and have had little time to be “educated” on issues by interested parties; therefore, a lot can be passed quickly while one fourth of the legislature is learning the ropes.”

Hill, a Republican, represents District 108 in Missouri which includes Lake St. Louis, O’Fallon, Dardenne Prairie, and Wentzville. He was elected in November 2014 with 72 percent of the vote. Hill was motivated to seek elected office after a career in law enforcement and insurance.

“I always followed the politics behind the decisions that were passed down to those that enforce law or deliver government services. The waste and the self-interest that I witnessed in all levels of government was extremely disheartening,” he said. “I ultimately decided to run for office following the enactment of the Affordable Care Act.  The federal government’s overreach into our personal healthcare options went too far and I wanted a state government that could stand up against bad policy and federal funding enticements.”

Hill had earned an Associate’s Degree from St. Louis Community College in 2002, and was looking to build on his education when a Bellevue University representative visited his police department. The online options fit with his schedule.

“I was assigned as an undercover narcotics detective and going to a brick and mortar school was not a good option. I was excited to learn that I could finish my bachelors in the safety of my own home,” he said. “The enrollment process was seamless. I expressed my needs to the advisor and she addressed each one promptly.”

Hill earned his Bachelor of Science in Management and enjoyed the Kirkpatrick Signature Series (KSS) courses in particular.

“The KSS was the final factor in the decision to attend Bellevue University.  The expressed values of a higher education institution are extremely important in the decision to earn a degree from that university,” Hill said. “I was excited to learn that Bellevue valued limited government, freedom, and responsibility.  It was a pleasure to share with others my experiences as a government employee who recognized the government’s ability to continuously expand. It was even more of a pleasure explaining our duty as citizens, granted to us through the constitution, to make sure it stays accountable to the people in protecting their individual rights.”

Going forward, Hill hopes to impact healthcare options in Missouri.

“My primary goal for this first term is to move forward good legislation regarding healthcare and health insurance,” he said. “Healthcare is at the top of everyone’s list for reform and I intend to help Missouri move in the direction of restoring free-market principles in the purchase of healthcare services and health insurance.”


Former Adjunct Aims to Bolster Marketing Program

Posted on March 10th, 2015 by

Former Adjunct Aims to Bolster Marketing Program

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Kristin Lynch has hit the ground running as one of the University’s newest full-time faculty members. Lynch will bolster the Marketing program, where she has served as an adjunct for over seven years.

SONY DSCLynch, who started as an adjunct in July 2007, joined the full-time staff in December 2014.

“I am excited to become more fully involved in the University and take a more active role on campus,” Lynch said. “I’m also planning to grow the undergraduate marketing program because I believe it offers a wonderful opportunity for many students, not only in the local community, but also in the country and around the globe.”

Keeping up with the latest marketing trends and techniques and passing that information on to students will be one of Lynch’s chief missions.

“Marketing is an ever-evolving discipline, and I plan to continue to update the program based on trends in the industry,” she said. “I also want to connect with marketing leaders in the community to best understand what they are looking for in our graduates, so we prepare our students for success as marketing managers.”

Lynch grew up in Norfolk, Neb., and earned her bachelor’s degree in Advertising from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1998. She followed that up with a Master of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2004. In addition to her adjunct experience at the University, Lynch also has teaching experience at Hamilton College (now Kaplan) and Iowa Western Community College.

Interacting with students is one of the highlights of the teaching experience for Lynch.

“I have met several talented, professional individuals who work very hard and have done some amazing things since graduating from the University. The cohort program is especially exciting because as an instructor you get the chance to form close relationships with the students, and I always become vested in what they are doing,” she said. “I still have students from the first cohorts I taught connecting with me on LinkedIn, contacting me about marketing questions and asking for recommendations. It’s exciting to see where these students’ education takes them in life.”

Married and the mother of four children, family keeps Lynch busy when she is away from the classroom.

“I spend most of my free time at a myriad of practices, games, scouting events and in the car toting kids here and there,” Lynch said. “I also teach fitness classes part-time and enjoy running (and racing) when I have time. I love to travel—especially to places that have warm, sandy beaches, but I am happy to take a weekend getaway any chance I get!”


One Goal Achieved, Floridian John Lazarre Plans to Keep Learning

Posted on February 25th, 2015 by

One Goal Achieved, Floridian John Lazarre Plans to Keep Learning

By Bill Wax, Director of Communications

John L 300ppi

John Lazarre plans to pursue professional IT certifications and keep learning.

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

Posted on February 23rd, 2015 by

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike 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

Posted on February 20th, 2015 by

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.

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Roy and Macaela Smith

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.”

Mac J Mucha J Martinez Pix

Scholarship recipient Jennifer Mucha, center, chats with donor Macaela Smith, left, and Johnna Martinez, Manager, Scholarships and Grants.

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

Posted on February 18th, 2015 by

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“I had colleagues, my manager and mentors ask me numerous times ‘when are you going back to school? You are almost finished’,” she said.

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

Posted on February 16th, 2015 by

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.

Shaddix1“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

Posted on February 11th, 2015 by

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.”


Winter graduate Kellye Ceder, right, chatted with Mary Dobransky, CST Dean, left, and Amanda Edison, her Academic Advisor, during the pre-commencement Open House event January 30. 

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

Posted on February 6th, 2015 by

Alum Jumps into Film Career

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager 

Dive in!

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.Heatherly

“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.

She’s also worked on Payne’s Citizen Ruth (1996) and About Schmidt (2002).

“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 or 1-800-756-7920.


Ad Prompts Alum to Degree, Editor-in-Chief

Posted on January 30th, 2015 by

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.

SENDELBACH“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, 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.”

Interested in a degree in Leadership, Emergency Management, or Communications? Contact us at or 1-800-756-7920.