Saving, Supervising, and Sharing

Bellevue Grad is Saving Lives, Supervising the Life-Savers, and Sharing the Life-Saving Vision with Her Family

By Dan Sheridan

Going on 13 years now, Diane Braun has been an Adult Behavioral Health Clinical Supervisor with Lutheran Family Services (LFS) in Omaha, Nebraska. Established in 1892, LFS through its Children, Community, and Behavioral Health services helps over 45,000 people per year fulfilling a mission to “express God’s love for all people by providing quality human care services that build and strengthen individual, family and community life. Our vision is safety, hope and well-being for all people.”

Diane helps LFS deliver on that mission thanks, in part, to three degrees she has earned at Bellevue University. The most recent of these, her crowning achievement, a Master of Science in Clinical Counseling. Today, Bellevue University’s program has earned CACREP accreditation status, which stands for the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, and is considered the national “gold standard.” Bellevue University’s CACREP-accredited program is one of the few in the nation that is fully online.

Diane’s supervisor at LFS, believing she’d make a great counselor, encouraged her to get her master’s degree, and despite the obstacles she faced, she rose to the challenge. Diane, then a single mother of two, worked full-time and went to school full-time, both online and on-campus. She encourages single mothers in her situation to do the same.

“Bellevue University is accommodating,” says Diane, “they understand the non-traditional student realizing we have a life besides our education and they make things accessible to us so we can do both, or in my case all three – work, go to school, and be a parent.”

Diane, in addition to loving Bellevue University’s program, sings the praises of its professors who made her transition from the classroom to real life seamless.

“I love the faculty,” boasts Diane, “they had so much knowledge, knew what they were talking about, and made the lessons practical, showing us how we can use them when we were in the actual field. Dr. Jon Kayne is my mentor and I am so grateful that I get to continue to work with him in the outside world. I remember the first day I walked into my master’s class, I was so nervous wondering if I should take this big step, I just wanted to run out of the room instead. Then in walks Dr. Kayne calming me through his wisdom by saying ‘the first thing you have to learn how to do is just listen; let them tell their story.’ I never turned back after that. Those simple words stuck with me.”

Diane has found these words of wisdom are not only valuable in working directly with clients, but they are essential in working with staff to help inspire them to be the best they can be.

“I now supervise our entire substance abuse program in the eastern region,” says Diane, “I supervise 10 therapists some of whom recently graduated from Bellevue. I get to help them grow and it’s all by listening to what they have to say.”

Diane still works with her Bellevue University mentor helping first responders.

“Dr. Kayne is Nebraska’s statewide director for the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team,” she said, “They help first responders who have been involved in incidents which have adversely affected them emotionally or physically, and I am one of the state trainers for that program.”

Diane has had the privilege of helping many people throughout her career. One recent case provides a snapshot of the work she does best.

“I sit on the drug court for Dodge County as one of the treatment team clinicians dealing with those with substance abuse and mental health issues. About three weeks ago a man in his mid-50s was graduating from drug court. During the ceremony his mother stood up to speak, looked us all in the eyes, and thanked us for saving her son’s life. She said, ‘My son would be dead if it wasn’t for you.’”

You can find out more about what Diane is doing at

You can find out more about Bellevue University’s CACREP-accredited Master of Science in Clinical Counseling program here:

Grad is Making Connections and Helping Others Succeed

By Dan Sheridan

“Working with patients, connecting with them, and seeing them succeed,” is the best part of Lisa Crouse’s job.

Lisa, a U.S. Navy veteran, is now a Mental Health Therapist at Heartland Family Service in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Founded in 1875, the organization currently serves over 50,000 people through its mission to “strengthen individuals and families…through education, counseling, and support services.” In her role, Lisa is serving those in her community with substance abuse and mental health issues and is helping to shape their futures for the better.

Lisa, after working hard both online and on campus, earned her Master of Science in Clinical Counseling degree, at Bellevue University in 2015. Bellevue’s program is accredited by CACREP, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. CACREP accreditation provides recognition that the content and quality of the program has been evaluated and meets standards set by the profession. According to Lisa, the program, which is one of the few in the country that is fully online, resulted in a very practical degree which immediately translated into real life. “It was a pretty easy move,” says Lisa, “going from the classroom into the real world,” which is critical when working with people with serious needs.

Bellevue University’s experienced and passionate faculty are the heart and soul of the program. When asked if she liked her instructors, Lisa, without hesitation, replied “Oh yeah.” Dr. Jon Kayne especially, stood out to her.

“Dr. Kayne’s knowledge base, his recall, and his experiences make him special. He has mentored me since graduation and helped connect me with the Nebraska Critical Incident Stress Management team and the South Metro Tactical Negotiation Unit.”

Bellevue University faculty go the extra mile, working with students post-graduation, they transition from teachers to mentors. Lisa says Dr. Kayne instilled in her a very important virtue that is essential in her line of work.

“The stories he would tell us about his experiences,” recalls Lisa, “taught him the importance of having patience and to wait things out, an essential lesson which he greatly emphasized. This wisdom he gained, no doubt, from his law enforcement and military background.”

Dr. Kayne, in addition to being a Professor of Clinical Counseling and Psychology, works in psychotherapy and social work assisting veterans and first responders. His vast and unique experiences have enabled him to see how various disorders manifest themselves, to discern their subtleties, and apply the best treatment options.

According to Lisa, Bellevue University instructors aren’t espousing dry theory; they live what they teach, successfully apply it to life, and pass these living principles on to students, like Lisa, who in turn change hearts and lives.

She encourages prospective students who are thinking about pursuing a CACREP-accredited Master of Science in Clinical Counseling degree to consider Bellevue University’s program.

“The program is flexible and the quality of the instructors is great. I’m still in touch with Dr. Kayne. I work with several other Bellevue grads at Heartland and they all have contact with him, they stay connected and they’re great resources.”

What should a student expect from this course? “Lots of reading,” says Lisa. “Make sure you have time to sit down and read to process through everything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, they are more than happy to answer them.”

You can find out more about what Lisa is doing at

You can find out more about Bellevue University’s Master of Science in Clinical Counseling program here:


Kayne Exemplifies Real Learning for Real Life

By Dan Sheridan

Meet Dr. Jon Kayne, Professor of Clinical Counseling and Psychology at Bellevue University. Bellevue’s Master of Science in Clinical Counseling degree is accredited by CACREP, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. Kayne not only teaches the program, he is a practitioner; a living example of Bellevue’s motto – “Real Learning for Real Life.”

Kayne, however, didn’t become what he is today overnight. From his youth, Kayne wanted to serve humanity.

“As long as I can remember, even when I was a kid in school, I wanted to be of service to others. I enjoyed helping others,” he said.

It took Kayne years of hard experiences to figure out the best way to do go about that. He entered college right after high school, but only lasted one semester; college wasn’t a good fit for him at this time in his life, he said. He then tried the military.

“I was one of those idealists who back in those old days joined to serve my country and fellow-citizens,” he said.

Though he enjoyed his military experience, it wasn’t his passion. So, upon his return to civilian life, he tried college again while working a variety of jobs, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

“I was then provided with an opportunity to work in the Middle East, Israel. After a few years working on a border settlement, I came back home and tried college again, but it still didn’t click for me so I became a law enforcement officer. Keep in mind that I joined law enforcement with the mindset that I was going to be helping people.”

Two college tries, the military, law enforcement, and overseas work turned out to be, though he didn’t realize it at the time, necessary life experiences teaching him a very important lesson.

“I came to the realization,” Kayne said, “that the idea of helping people was not a white knight kind of thing where you’re going to rescue people, but instead they really needed someone to listen to them and work with them. With this new realization I was propelled back to college and from that point on there was no stopping me. I got my master’s in clinical social work, then my first job in the field, and while working full time I got my doctorate.”

Kayne was finally living his passion, not with a night stick or M-16, but with his ears providing life-changing service to others. After many years in the clinical counselling field, he came to Bellevue University.

“I joined the Bellevue team in 1987 where I designed the professional studies programs and the accelerated degree programs. The whole time I have been teaching at Bellevue I am also doing private therapy on the side, so I am both faculty and a practitioner. I’m busy and I love it!”

These “side jobs” include seeing vets at Bellevue University’s Military Veteran Service Center; he’s the state wide clinical director through the Nebraska Department of Emergency Medical Services for a critical incident stress management program serving traumatized first responders; and he serves in the Douglas County Jail as an advisor for their veterans unit.

Kayne has watched Bellevue University grow over the last 21 years, especially under the leadership of its President, Dr. Mary Hawkins.

“Dr. Hawkins’ vision has taken this university from being just another private university to being a contender within its class and I am proud to be part of this endeavor.”

Kayne believes Bellevue’s CACREP Accredited Master of Science in Clinical Counseling degree is special.

“What makes Bellevue’s program unique is that just about our entire faculty have ongoing experience seeing clients themselves. Many people who go into college teaching stop doing the counseling and focus on the teaching, we live up to Bellevue’s motto, ‘Real Learning for Real Life.’”

Kayne has touched so many lives, especially his students. Diane Braun, an Adult Behavioral Health Clinical Supervisor with Lutheran Family Services (LFS) in Omaha, Nebraska, says of her former Professor and now Mentor,

“Dr. Jon Kayne is my mentor and I am so grateful that I get to continue to work with him in the outside world. I remember the first day I walked into my master’s class, I was so nervous wondering if I should take this big step, I just wanted to run out of the room instead. Then in walks Dr. Kayne calming me through his wisdom by saying ‘the first thing you have to learn how to do is just listen; let them tell their story.’ I never turned back after that. Those simple words stuck with me.”

Upon hearing about testimonies of former students like Braun’s, Kayne thankfully said, “I wouldn’t be doing this if influencing students wasn’t my goal.”

Dr. Kayne encourages those who think they are getting a late start in life. It took him many years to be able to live his passion. “I absolutely believe if I had not done all those things I would not be as good at what I do as I am today.”

Summing up his life’s work, Kayne said,

“I heard a chaplain once sum it up as a ministry of presence. I really believe that. It’s a therapy of just being there for people and listening.”

Stigge Tills New Ground with Ag Software

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Man has been planting crops for a good, long time (Since about 9500 BC, according to some). So how do you innovate in a space where the soil has been turned over so many times?

Software, of course.

Drew Stigge, a Data Analyst and Precision Ag Salesman for Plains Equipment Group in Lincoln, Nebraska, for over six years, is a student in Bellevue University’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems program. He is using the skills he picked up and refined in his coursework to help farmers maximize their yield.

“What I enjoy most about my job is helping growers leverage the agronomic data that they have been gathering to help them make changes in their organization or operation which could in turn have a positive impact on their bottom line,” he said.  “It’s most satisfying to me to show them the analytics for the first time and they see the opportunities they have set before them.”

There has been a growing emphasis on the agronomic data that growers have been collecting, but Stigge believes that the many companies are missing out on providing information on how the grower can make positive changes in their operation for gains.

“What we have created is a way to provide analytics of the data to show growers where making certain changes in their operation can either lead to savings or gains to their bottom line,” explained Stigge.  An example of this, Stigge said, is how fast a grower plants corn through the field.  Because speed impacts how the planter is being pulled through the field, which in turn effects where the seed gets placed in the seed bed, this ultimately can affect emergence of the corn plant in a positive or negative way.  “One of my growers has followed my advice,” Stigge said, “and has gained over $11,000 on this one change alone by changing his speed 0.25-0.50 mph.”

“There are many more analytics that we can create to get the grower to think outside the box with their operation.  Because of the neutral stance we take on these recommendations, we purely want the grower to get the most out of what they’re doing.”

Stigge earned his Associate’s degree at Southeast Community College in Lincoln. After doing some research, Stigge discovered Bellevue University would meet his needs in his quest to earn his bachelor’s degree.

“I knew that I needed to find a path that would allow me to take classes online for completion,” he said. “I have always been curious how things are built or created regarding software and technology and the CIS program is structured in such a way that it allows the individual to choose the path that most interests them.”

Stigge praised the efforts of Dr. Karla Carter who led his Ethics in Information Technology course.

“She stood out to me because she would take the time to discuss the topics that I presented for assignments,” Stigge said. “She would try and take the topic and make me see it from different viewpoints to try and take an objective view.”

Now, Stigge is just two classes away from completing his degree.

“Earning the degree will mean validation more than anything,” Stigge said. “It will prove what my parents have said to me my whole life about achieving anything I desired.”

That degree will represent a fruitful harvest, indeed!


Thompson Moves Vets Beyond Traditional Treatments

By Jenny Skinner-Chiburis

Armed with 25 years of experience and an arsenal of field experience, Substance Use Disorders Program Coordinator Mary Ann Thompson spends countless hours providing education, therapy and support to the 45 veterans currently participating in programs at the Veterans Administration Clinic in Lincoln, Nebraska.  And she makes a difference every single minute.

“I get to hear their stories, see their pain and get the chance to give them whatever I can to help them face their past, their present and future,” she said.  “For some, I’m the first civilian they get to share their war-time experiences with and I get to show them my compassion, unconditional love and acceptance.” This unconditional love and acceptance takes some veterans by surprise—they find it shocking when Thompson is unfazed by the sometimes haunting tales of their past experiences.  “I know what it takes to stay sober and I know they will only get sober if they face themselves honestly,” she said. “I get to help them face themselves and the healing that comes.”

Thompson, a 2012 graduate of Bellevue University’s Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science program, oversees the experienced Lincoln-based staff that is committed to serving our nation’s veterans as they address their addictions and strive to make positive changes in their lives.  She has assisted in changing the way addiction is approached by developing and implementing a structured Intensive program at the Lincoln VA.  Although the program provides education and therapy for the veterans, it also offers so much more.  Thompson and her team are invested in treating the whole person–mind, body and spirit–not just the disease.  The Lincoln VA has gained a partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Innovations Program to offer veterans in treatment access to facilities to further develop and hone their skills in the arts.  The team’s commitment to service doesn’t end upon the completion of treatment. Thompson herself developed a mentorship program called Moving Beyond Treatment, an initiative that invites program alumni to visit groups twice weekly to offer support and encouragement to those currently in treatment.

“I love working with veterans, I am honored for the chance to give back to them,” Thompson said.  “I know what it takes to be stay sober.  I know how great life can be sober.  I know no one has to die from this disease and I want to do all I can to help them find the healing they deserve and help restore the pride they once felt.”

Thompson began her career as an Addiction Therapist with the Omaha Veterans Administration in Nebraska.  In 2005, she applied and accepted the position in Lincoln, despite knowing the current program was in danger of being discontinued.  Thompson knew that she had the skills, knowledge and drive that was needed to turn the program around—and she has.

Although there have been many improvements to this once struggling program, Thompson still faces many challenges when it comes to treating addicted veterans.  As with most federal programs, funding is tight, and she finds it difficult not having all the tools necessary to provide the care that is needed.  If the funds were available, Thompson wishes she could give the program a recovery house where the veterans’ stays could be extended to ensure a safe and sober reintegration back into society.   Releasing an addict back into society before they are ready or have the proper tools to keep them safe and sober can be detrimental to their continued sobriety and recovery.

Thompson began her career with an associate’s degree, but always felt the push to obtain higher education.  An Omaha native, she was no stranger to the abundance of local colleges and universities.   Having attended some other institutions early on her academic career, Thompson was pleased with choosing Bellevue University to complete her degree.

Bellevue really cared for me as a student, Thompson said of her experience. “It’s by far the best university ever.”  Thompson stated that the experience of earning the Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science has proven that even at the age of “50-something”  a person can still earn straight A’s and be on the Dean’s List!   Thompson’s career has offered many experiences that have deepened her understanding of life and all that one can carry below the surface.

Thompson hopes that one day Bellevue University will consider adding to the Behavioral Sciences curriculum—to include courses in the addiction field, focusing particularly in the development of treatment plans.  Thompson feels this skill is one that therapists struggle with the most during their careers.  “I’d be glad to teach the class because I think I’m pretty dog-gone good at it,” Thompson offered.

Addiction and recovery is not always an easy road, but with the experience, strength and hope provided by Thompson it is a battle that is being won—one veteran at a time.

Carbajal Overcomes Obstacles to Earn Two Degrees, Pursue Ph.D.

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

There will be obstacles. There always is in route to anything worth achieving. Certainly that is the case for any endeavors within higher education. Carrie Carbajal overcame obstacles including a hearing disability to earn her two master’s degrees from Bellevue University.

Carbajal certainly isn’t afraid of a challenge. Not ready to stop with those degrees, she is now pursuing her Ph.D. in the University’s Human Capital Management program.

Carbajal first enrolled at Bellevue University in 2010 while she was a Contracting Officer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in San Franciso, California.

Carbajal completed her Master of Business Administration in 2013 and followed that up with a Master of Science in Contract & Acquisition Management in 2017.

I wanted to be a director of contracts in the future and having a degree in contracts would be impressive,” she said. “I decided to see what Bellevue had to offer and saw that they offered a Master of Science in Acquisitions and Contract Management. The degree was online, and it worked with my work schedule.”

In addition to the challenges of pursing higher education while juggling outside obligations, Carbajal worked and still does today to overcome her hearing disability.

I am deaf in one ear with partial hearing in the other,” she explained. “I wear a hearing aid and have a cochlear implant. I learn best with the assistance of a CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) provider.”

A CART provider delivers real-time captioning that is composed of text that can be used by people who are deaf or heard of hearing to access content delivered by spoken words and sounds.

“I find that real-time captioning is one of the best resources to use in school as I can spend my time listening to the teacher and use the captions and transcripts to increase my success. I don’t have to spend my time asking the teacher or classmates repeated questions,” Carbajal said. “This topic is huge for me as I had to break barriers in the workplace and school.”

Carbajal credited Terra Beethe, a Training and Organizational Specialist at the University, with helping her get the assistance she needed.

“She was instrumental in listening to me explain about my disability and how I best learn and what accommodations that I need to succeed,” Carbajal said. “In the beginning, it was a rough transition, but ultimately with a commitment to learning, compassion and patience, it all worked out.”

Carbajal’s experiences through her two master’s degree programs made the decision to pursue her Ph.D. at Bellevue University an easy one.

“I have enjoyed the passion and dedication of Bellevue University’s faculty and staff. It’s so diverse and incredible the amount commitment they have invested in you once you enroll in the school,” she said. “The graduation experience is one that I will never forget as the University creates an atmosphere in which your achievements and success are recognized. It’s a feeling that can’t be described unless you are there.”

Some inspirational words from a Bellevue University faculty member also helped motivate her to pursue her doctorate.

“I remember sitting at my graduation for my Master’s of Science in Acquisition and Contract Management and listening to the Dean of College of Business, Rebecca Murdock, speak about success and the future,” Carbajal said. “She mentioned that no matter where we go in our lives, that we are all unique and opportunities are endless. If we want to change the world, to make it better, then it is up to us as individuals to make the greatest change to humanity.”

Carbajal credits the support from her family for helping her through her academic and career endeavors.

“My biggest supporters have been my family that includes my parents, Mark Evans and Margaret Evans-Brandt; my three brothers, David, Captain Timothy Evans and Daniel Evans; and my husband, Daniel Carbajal,” she said. “My husband has been a shining light and a big strength of support at times when I didn’t think I could get through the programs. He pushed me to see outside my perceived limitations to see the endless possibilities that life has to offer. Why not get a Ph.D.!”

Knapps Believe in Bellevue University Students and Mission

Omahans Robert “Bob” Knapp Jr. and his wife, Susan, got involved with Bellevue University nearly a decade ago at the recommendation of his long-time friend, Michael Fuchs, a former member of the University Board of Directors. The Knapps have since become supporters and advocates for the University and sponsors of its fall Signature Event programs. “We have attended the Signature Event since the first one in 2009, and have told others about it, as well,” Bob Knapp said.

The annual Signature Events enable community leaders to meet and hear nationally known speakers discussing politics, business, history and the importance of America’s foundational values and principles like personal liberty, responsibility, and free-enterprise. The Signature Event program originated a decade ago as a way to raise the profile of Bellevue University’s required undergraduate Signature Series courses, which promote American vision and values and advocate active, informed citizenship. “I especially like that the Signature Series courses are a requirement,” Knapp said.

A fourth-generation family business leader, Knapp is the former President of Omaha Box Company, a manufacturing firm founded in 1890 and one of Omaha’s older companies. He sold the company to Minneapolis-based Liberty Diversified International in 2016.

Knapp, who studied business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, remains active in a part-time consulting role at Omaha Box Company, which has a workforce of about 50. He is optimistic that having a more pro-business administration in Washington can help rein in unnecessary regulations. “You can deal with your employees and customers, but there’s not much you can do about regulations,” he said.

The Knapps are strong believers in the value and benefits of education. Susan taught third grade for a decade in the Omaha Public Schools. Last year, motivated in part by a challenge matching grant from the William and Ruth Scott Family Foundation, they made their initial contribution to Bellevue University’s American Dream Scholarships fund, which provides scholarship support for financially needy and underserved students in the Greater Omaha area, many who are the first in their families to attend college. Typical scholarship recipients include minority and low-income students, single parents, career-changers, community college transfer students, and working adult students. “We don’t have children ourselves, but we have the means to help others with college. These students are serious about their education, and this a way we can help them reach their goals,” Knapp said.

The University awards about $1.25 million in donor-funded scholarships a year and provides a variety of support systems such as career and academic coaching, and financial counseling, to help students succeed. About 1,000 students apply for scholarships annually, and approximately half receive scholarships.

Recently the Knapps names were added to the University’s Benefactors Wall of Recognition, located in the R. Joe Dennis Learning Center on the University’s main campus. The Wall formally acknowledges individual, corporate, and foundation donors that have provided six-figure or higher cumulative support benefiting the University, its students and mission.

Travel Advice from Royal Caribbean’s Dwight Morris

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

As the Manager of Investigations for Royal Caribbean, Dwight Morris wants travelers to enjoy their stay on any of the over 50 ships in global cruise company’s fleet. Leaving one’s problems on the dock is a great way to kick off that vacation.

When that doesn’t happen is when Morris’ job comes into play. A 2009 graduate of Bellevue University’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Administration program, Morris oversees a Miami-based staff of six senior investigators that handle all of the issues that might require police intervention for the fleet. That can include up to 140,000 people at sea at any one time. While the incident rate is much lower than one would find in a city of the same size, it is enough to keep Morris and his team busy.

“We handle the problems that occur on board in which you would normally call the police,” Morris said. “People don’t check their problems. They bring them on board and we deal with them.”

Should an incident occur, Morris’ team will guide the on-board security team on how to manage the situation.

“When they pull into port everything’s ready. The on-board team has all witness statements, suspect statements, and victim statements. They have all the pictures. They have whatever is necessary to assist law enforcement,” Morris said.

Morris started his career in law enforcement in 1988 as a police officer with the City of Virginia Beach. He advanced to detective and enjoyed a 17-year career with the Virginia Beach Police Department before moving into the private sector. Morris had earned an associate’s degree through Arundel Community College in Maryland, but knew he needed additional education to further his career.

A referral from colleague and fellow Bellevue University alum Tina Sinclair helped steer Morris toward Bellevue University.

“She had nothing but good things to say about Bellevue,” Morris said. “I looked around at a lot of different colleges, did my due diligence, but Bellevue turned out to be the perfect fit for me.”

Once enrolled in the online program, Morris formed a collaborative relationship with adjunct instructor Tony Infantino, as well as with his fellow classmates.

“Collaboration within your department and your team is huge,” Morris said. “Group projects in class help develop that mindset. Those challenges that you have to work through will directly impact your success in a corporate environment.”

Morris landed his job with Royal Caribbean shortly after graduating in late 2009 with a 4.0 grade point average. The cruise company encompasses Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and several other lines. The Symphony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, launches in April 2018.

“I could not have come here without a degree,” Morris said. “It was the door. It was the gateway. That’s something that I knew early on. That was the kick in the pants that I needed. If you’re going to go anywhere you have to have a bachelor’s degree.”

So Morris set about the task of juggling work, family, and school.

“The advantage to the online program was, if I was in a hotel room travelling, in the evening I could sit in my room doing homework and writing papers,” he said.

Support from his wife, Kathy, was key, as well.

“When I was a student at Bellevue, I was hard on myself. I was bound and determined that I was going to earn As,” Morris said. “I devoted almost every free moment to perfecting my work. She made sure that everything else was being taken care of. I am so fortunate that she is that kind of person.”.”

Morris’ role does not put him out to sea often, but he has taken more than a few cruises with Royal Caribbean. It’s taken him to exotic locations like Rome, Barcelona, and the South of France.

“You’re leaving Spain and the next morning you wake up in Italy. The next day you’re in France,” he said. “It’s really a lot of fun to get a taste, a flavor, of each country.”

While the European trips have been fun, Morris puts Alaska at the top of the list. “The Alaskan itineraries are really, really special. The beauty is unbelievable.”

Of course, Morris knows better than anyone the key to a successful vacation, regardless of destination — travel light.


Super Smart Alum Writes New Story for Youth

By Cris Hay-Merchant, Director of Strategic Communications

Latina McIntyre’s life has truly come full circle.

Thanks to lessons she learned from her Grandma Essie, she’s seeing two organizations she founded achieve success in motivating young women to be as McIntyre describes it “sweet, smart and goal-oriented.”

Latina McIntyreMcIntyre, a 2010 Master in Public Administration graduate and proud Air Force veteran, explains that both entities, which share the name “Super Smart Girl,” are focused on helping girls be the best versions of themselves. “Super Smart Girl is built on love and positive exploration,” she said. There is a non-profit club that engages young girls ages 2 through 18 in community service events and educational programs in order to stimulate critical thinking skills, life skills, teamwork and positive self-image, as well as a for-profit LLC that provides mentoring services to girls in three age groups.

Stunning Girls1Girls who acquire those skills, believes McIntyre, will have a bright future. “The Super Smart Girl model is bridging the gap between the local community and youth,” she said. In 2017, Super Smart Girl members engaged in educational activities with a historical museum where they learned to polish silver and maintain museum artifacts; put together Hurricane Harvey care packages; and collected and donated books for St. Jude’s and Shriners Hospital for children, further reinforcing the non-profit organization’s literacy-based, educational mission.

cover newAnother visible sign of Super Smart Girl’s message of positivity is “The Super Smart Girl Book,” which was recently published by Mascot Books. Written by McIntyre and accompanied by illustrations by Eric Quzack, the book tells the adventures of Royal, a fierce and respectful young girl. According to McIntyre and her book’s heroine, Royal, Super Smart Girls are capable of excelling in reading, math, cooking and fashion, while also demonstrating that they are loving, respectful, helpful, kind, responsible and authentic to those around them.

Currently, girls in several age groups from North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina, where McIntyre and her family now reside, are members. But the Super Smart Girl map will likely expand soon. “I plan on obtaining national accreditation and I have a workshop that I will be launching,” said McIntyre.

Wherever she goes to spread the story of “sweet, smart and goal-oriented girls,” her husband and best friend, Elston Ray, and her two sons and stepdaughter, will be cheering her on. “Our boys are excited and anticipating the release of the boy version of the book. My husband is happy to be a part of the vision and growth of the book.”

McIntyre believes that her Grandma Essie, who always made time to help others, would be rejoicing in her success if she were still alive. “Royal is the little girl that I always wanted. Her love for life and people is the love that my late grandmother instilled in me.”

Scholarship Helps Odion Enjoy Hopper Celebration

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

“Attend a networking conference if you can,” said Irene Odion, a Workstation Support Technician at Bellevue University and a student in BU’s Master of Science in Management of Information Systems (MSMIS) program. “You never know who you will meet.”

OdionIrene knows of what she speaks having traveled to Orlando, Florida for the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. The annual event, held every fall, brings research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. It is named after Grace Murray Hopper, a computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral. Irene earned a scholarship to attend the conference that covered conference registration, flight, hotel, stipend, and a meal card. She earned the spot based on her application, as well as recommendations from Adjunct Professor Steven Wright and Academic Advisor Glenda Masteller. She was one of 657 scholarship recipients selected from a field of 15,000.

“It was indeed an amazing experience. I heard inspirational stories from great women in tech, from Telle Whitney of, Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation, and Debbie Sterling of GoldieBlox,” Irene said. “I had the opportunity to network and collaborate with people of like minds. I met with women who overcame various challenges and made a mark in tech, coding, and computing. It inspires me to strive to reach the zenith of my career despite the challenges and hurdles.”

Irene came to the United States a little over a year ago from her home in Abuja, Nigeria. She enrolled in the University’s MSMIS program with a concentration in Information Security Management after researching the school and the program online. The program’s curriculum, recognition of the school from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity, and the affordability of the program were determining factors in her decision to enroll.

“I was passionate about technology and constantly dreamed of working in the global technology industry. So, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in order to make my dream come true,” she said. “I have enjoyed a lot about the program, ranging from meeting professionals to learning a lot of functional and technical material in a relatively short period of time.”

CIS 633 – Information Technology Project Management, taught by Professor David Wilson, is one of Irene’s favorite classes thus far.

“He not only knows his material, but also understands his students and their diverse cultural backgrounds. He gives realistic and practical examples to convey his message and thus easily makes a connection with his students,” Odion said. “He also took a creative and hands-on approach to help students learn the course, which was a driving factor in helping us better understand the material.”

In addition to her academic responsibilities, Irene is a student worker in the IT department.

“Some of my responsibilities include providing IT support for all users in the university campus by analyzing and resolving system/network problems encountered, maintaining accurate inventory and reporting all hardware and software assets, and ensuring regular updates of antivirus and other security packages are installed on user systems,” she said. “What I love most about my job are the people I work with, my wonderful colleagues,” said Irene, also crediting her supervisor, Dipendra Bhujel, for her success.

Family has also played a large role in Irene’s success.

“I have been fortunate to have an amazing support system, starting with Prince and Mrs. D.I Odion (her parents), my siblings, Jeffery and Esther Smith (her guardians), Orunor Andrew Abohwo, Imoukhuede Ehimika, friends, colleagues, and loved ones,” she said.

So whether it is networking at a conference or helping to keep Bellevue University’s network up and running, Irene has it covered.