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Who’s Hungry? We’re All Hungry

Posted on September 23rd, 2014 by

Who’s Hungry? We’re All Hungry!

So Let’s Eat! – at Alum’s Salt 88

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Well, that’s just not John Horvatinovich’s style. Instead of mixing up some lemon juice, water and sugar, Horvatinovich grated some lemon zest over calamari. That’s just one of the many dishes you’ll find at Horvatinovich’s restaurant, Salt 88.

A busted-up knee and a job opportunity that wasn’t are a couple of the bad breaks Horvatinovich suffered before opening the restaurant. Even his alma mater, Bellevue University, handed him a bit of a lemon when the new Culinary Arts degree he had initially registered for never fully materialized.
Salt881

However, Horvatinovich persevered at the University, earning his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2010. He opened Salt 88, located at 3623 N. 129th Street in Omaha, in May 2013.

“He’s able to speak in front of a crowd, he’s able to really draw up some great ideas, he’s able to organize things from people to projects — that’s what a degree at Bellevue University means,” Horvatinovich said. “Bellevue was able to prove to me that it was worth staying and finishing even when the degree of choice that brought me there was no longer available.”

Dr. Julia Cronin-Gilmore’s marketing classes stood out for Horatinovich. Cronin-Gilmore and other professors were able to capitalize on Horvatinovich’s real-world restaurant experience as well as his experience as an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan Community College.

“They recognized that ‘hey, this is a resource that we can tap into so other students can see some real-world experience’,” he said. “There was definitely more engagement. I think that was the best part of it.”

Horvatinovich, who came to the University with an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts from the Art Institute of Colorado, describes the cuisine at Salt 88 as modern American with Italian influences.

“We didn’t want to put ourselves into a corner. We wanted something different. We wanted something unique,” Horvatinovich said. “Omaha is very big city when they want to be and small town when they want to be. We like to change those hats often.”

Among the highlights at Salt 88 is the sweet and spicy pizza, made with spicy sausage, bell peppers, mozzarella cheese and a sweet and spicy sauce. The pizza won both the judges and people’s choice award from Omaha’s Food & Spirits magazine.

Horvatinovich also recommends the plank-fired salmon.

“We put it on a cedar wood plank and grill it right on top of an open grill,” Horvatinovich explained. “We top it with a tomato basil sauce and some fresh grilled vegetables.”

The Make It Rain is the signature drink served up at the bar, a cucumber and lime-infused vodka with English cucumbers, fresh mint and agave nectar.
Salt882

The attention to detail the helped Horvatinovich through college is evident in the interior design at Salt 88 as well. In addition to the main dining room and bar, the restaurant features a private dining room and a patio overlooking Eagle Run Golf Course. Lighting along the toe kicks and back benches help illuminate the restaurant without being overwhelming.

The Salt 88 experience is not complete without a little cotton candy. That’s right, cotton candy. The sugary treat is served as a free dessert at the end of every meal.

“I don’t think it is possible to eat cotton candy angry,” Horvatinovich explained. “It’s shareable. It’s fun. It allows people to let down their guard a little bit.”

 

Kyndt’s Combinations Lead to New Degree Offerings

Posted on September 9th, 2014 by

Kyndt’s Combinations Lead To New Degree Offerings

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

 
Combining elements is second nature to Dr. John Kyndt. That’s probably no surprise from someone who holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry.
But rather than combining potassium chlorate and gummy bears (which is pretty darn cool), Kyndt is hoping to create just as much energy combining cool things like technology innovation and entrepreneurship or sustainability and project management. Kyndt leads the University’s Master of Professional Science in Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MPS) program as well as the Bachelor of Science in Sustainability Management.
Kyndt believes these combinations will help launch students into burgeoning job markets.
kyndt

“It’s not the traditional track where you have a science degree or an entrepreneurship degree or a management degree,” he said. “Bring the two together and make it something people can use. That’s what attracts me. It’s a challenge because you have to explain to people that this is a new type of degree and people have to get used to it. Once they go through the program and see the benefits it will be interesting to see (what develops), but I’m confident that graduates from these programs will come out well-rounded and well prepared for the modern workplace.”

Kyndt came to the University two years ago from the University of Arizona where he was a research professor experimenting with algae biofuels. Originally from Belgium, Kyndt earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. at the University of Ghent. Well over 100 years old and with enrollments of close to 40,000 students each, both Arizona and Ghent offer a different experience than Bellevue University.
“There are pluses and minuses to both,” Kyndt said. “(At Bellevue University), you can easily get new programs off the ground that you could not do at a large institution. Being smaller, being a private non-profit helps with turning things around faster, being more innovative in a more timely manner.”
Initially attracted to the permanent summer offered in Arizona, Kyndt began to miss the seasons after almost eight years in Tucson, so he came to Bellevue along with his wife Heather, and three children; twins Diego and Sebastian (10) and youngest Elliot (7). “Coming here, it’s more like Belgium. You have the seasons again. I see the culture here is more like Belgium than it was in Arizona,” he said. “I like having some roots in both Europe and the U.S. It makes me more diverse and I can see things from different angles.”

Kyndt’s Sustainability program launched last spring with 13 students. Another section is due to start in October.
“The students come from different backgrounds. Some are from waste water management, some are from energy companies, some are just interested in sustainability,” he said. “I think it is a good group to start with. It’s not too big, but it gives enough interaction.”
The combination of the science of sustainability with project management is what gives the program its electricity.
“I think that merger is unique and talking to some of the students before they entered the program they liked that. Some of them had looked at environmental sciences degrees, but they liked the project management part on top of it,” he said. “It gives them enough tools to implement a project and stand it up.”
For more from Dr. Kyndt, check out his TEDxOmaha talk on YouTube.

 

Bellevue Alum Helps Keep St. Kitts Safe

Posted on August 29th, 2014 by

Bellevue Alum Helps Keep St. Kitts Safe

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

It’s never too soon to start planning your winter vacation getaway, so now is a good time to move St. Kitts (formally known as St. Christopher) and Nevis to the top of your list of destinations. Carnival officially begins on Christmas Eve on the two Caribbean Islands.

Plus, you’ve got friends in high places there.

Celvin Walwyn, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Bellevue University in 2007 and followed up with his master’s degree in Security Management in 2008, is the Commissioner of the The Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force.

Walwyn was prompted to return to school for several reasons. He needed to obtain certification recognized by his then-employer, the Orange County, Fla., Sherriff’s Department. One of his colleagues, Carlos Torres, was attending Bellevue University at the time and pointed him to the school. He also wanted to be a role model for his children.

WalwynandWife“I went back to college again because my first child was entering college,” said Walwyn, who had previous credit from the University of the Virgin Islands in the late 1970s. “I wanted to show her it could be done. Today, my daughter has a master’s degree from University of North Texas and Mary Hardin Baylor University. Of my four daughters, two are college graduates and two are enrolled in college.”

The Bellevue University experience has been a family affair for Walwyn. His wife, Antoinette, holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Security Management from the University. Orville Hudson, a friend of the Walwyn’s attended at the same time and earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.

“The three of us graduated together,” Walwyn said. “My wife is now a security consultant for Walwyn International Network and Orville owns a nursing home in Houston, Texas. That is what I enjoyed most, reaching back and bringing two people to the front with me.”

Walwyn is a native of St. Kitts, although he left the island at 13-years old in the 1970s before returning as Police Commissioner in September of 2011.

“My career has been impacted greatly (by my Bellevue University degree) because I have not only theoretical tools, but I am able to apply practical applications in real life, in my every day affairs in law enforcement,” he said. “I was always looking for solutions and was very proactive in patrols and crime fighting. The lessons learned at Bellevue placed me in the forefront at Orange County Sheriff’s Office. I no longer thought like a deputy, I began thinking like a leader and began paving the road for that eventuality.”

Walwyn is currently pursuing his Ph.D. with Capella University.

“My dissertation, of which I am almost complete, is a phenomenological study on what factors influence Florida State Troopers in Orange County to enforce the DUI statute,” Walwyn said. “The momentum of the master’s program from Bellevue motivated me to continue in the furtherance of my doctoral education.”

 

Say Hey There! BU Alum Launches Social Media Firm

Posted on August 22nd, 2014 by

BU Alum Launches Social Media Firm

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

 
Say Hey There!
Got your attention now? Mikala Harden hopes so. Harden, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in Leadership from Bellevue University in 2009, has recently launched Say Hey There Social, a social media and community engagement boutique that advocates for authenticity, simplicity, relevance, and the power of storytelling.
Harden“I’ve set out to stand out,” Harden said. “Long-term, I want Say Hey There Social to be a firm that is known for not only producing killer work, but also being very involved in the local creative community, including the arts and entertainment scene.”
A desire to lead is what brought Harden to Bellevue University and her academic program of choice.
“I am not one of those people who always knew exactly what they would do,” Harden said. “I didn’t always envision being an entrepreneur, but I have always been a leader. That natural drive within me is what initially attracted me to Bellevue’s leadership program: and today I can’t think of a more influential scholastic resource that led me to where I am. It’s not your typical business degree. It’s about leading people and inspiring change.”
The Kirkpatrick Signature Series stood out for Harden.
“The Kirkpatrick Series and its principles fascinated me,” she said. “Dr. Stephen Linenberger was my professor the whole way through, and he was always available, encouraging, and thought-provoking. His leadership transcended the digital realm. I had attended both a major university and a community college before coming to Bellevue, but BU seemed like the only place that was set up to work for me.”
In addition to her Bellevue University education, Harden brings some real world experience to her entrepreneurial endeavor.
“I spent the last few years leading the content and social media division of a digital branding agency. Before that, I served as the internal communication coordinator at a healthcare research firm,” she said. “I have always been a writer. I have always been a communicator. At the heart of social media engagement, you will find great content that people care about and that creates community. I provide that.”
Tin Lizzy, a tavern in Fremont, Nebraska, is one of Harden’s early clients.
“When we met, they were already marketing-savvy,” Harden said. “They realize the importance of an engaging online presence and have established a great following on Facebook. Their dilemma was with time. There just weren’t enough hours in the day to dedicate to multiple platforms…and that’s where I come in. Our partnership helps to make sure their message is being pushed out to multiple platforms on a consistent basis, engaging fans who may not have a presence on Facebook.”
One of the realities of being a small-business owner is taking on all the tasks necessary to run the business. For Harden, that means sales.
“I’ve never considered myself a salesperson,” she said. “My fix is to try not to look at it in the traditional sense. I’m focusing on just having real, down-to-earth conversations with people, and I think that approach will be more relatable anyway.”

 

Alum Leads Chamber’s We Don’t Coast Crusade

Posted on August 7th, 2014 by

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.

KimSellmeyerSellmeyer 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

Posted on July 21st, 2014 by

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

Gail DeBoer, CEO of SAC Federal Credit Union

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

Posted on July 16th, 2014 by

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.

Henderson72_4

 

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 Linda Dugan Champions PayPal’s College at Work

Posted on July 7th, 2014 by

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.

LDugan“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

Posted on June 30th, 2014 by

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/

Campbell1

“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.”

Accomplished Bellevue University Alum becomes member of Nebraska Board of Education

Posted on June 26th, 2014 by

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.”

John Witzel

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.”