Barrett Shares Value of GI Bill with Fellow Military Members

By Dan Silvia

Col. William “Buzz” Barrett (ret., United States Air Force) came to Bellevue University on the recommendation of a fellow service member. Now, with two Bellevue University degrees under his belt, he does not hesitate to steer folks toward his alma mater.

Barrett actually already had two master’s degrees to his name before taking his first classes at Bellevue University, but with the Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit, he could not turn down the opportunity to learn more. He completed the Master of Science in Organizational Performance (MSOP) in March of 2018. Then, as a small business owner who wanted to learn more about a variety of business topics, and with GI Bill education benefits still available, he enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Business program.

Currently, Barrett is a government civilian working for the Air Force in United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). He’s also a resource to others who are considering continuing their education at Bellevue University.

“It’s actually a pretty easy conversation. I tell prospective students about the ease of registering, just one time, when using the Bellevue University cohort design, which can yield a bachelor’s or master’s degree in 18 months without needing to register every few weeks,” he said.

Barrett points out the flexibility that Bellevue University offers without sacrificing quality, and its experience in dealing with the needs of military members. “Once registered, it is truly simple to begin the process to obtain a degree,” he said.

He is originally from Equality, Illinois, a town of 550 people.  Being from a small town he could see the value education played in creating opportunities for the future. He graduated from junior college, and then attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering Technology.  He then served in the United States Air Force for 20 years, before retiring from active duty as a full colonel in 2005. During his time in the military, he flew the B-2 stealth bomber, the B-1B, and the B-52. Today, though, his missions are more likely to involve being of service to his co-workers who have GI Bill education benefits at their disposal.

“I wanted to serve my country and become a pilot. Both of my grandpas, my father, and my brother all served in the military as well,” he said. “I truly enjoy sharing my Bellevue experience with my fellow veterans, as well as active military personnel, and anyone else. I want people to be able to take advantage of everything Bellevue University has to offer.”

Diop is Linchpin at LinkedIn

Hussein Diop was the anchor of the Bellevue University defense when he played center for the men’s basketball squad in 2008-2012. At 6-feet, 10-inches, he’s now the tallest link in the chain at LinkedIn, one of the world’s largest social networks for business professionals. Diop brings the lessons that he learned on and off the court at Bellevue University to his new role.

As a Small Business Account Manager, Diop sells and supports LinkedIn Talent Solutions, a product that supplies users with recruiting tools aimed at helping them improve their talent acquisition process. Diop handles a book of about 400 clients, introducing them to the product and assisting with its functionality.

“My job is to help them with everything and anything – getting them started, helping them maximize its potential, and offering different strategies,” Diop said. “We want to make sure that they are getting as much out of the product as possible.”

Maximizing His Potential

Maximizing potential is a particular area of expertise for Diop. He has been doing that ever since he walked into the men’s basketball office as a project with very little basketball experience. But he worked with Head Coach Shane Paben and his staff to polish his game.

As a freshman in the 2008-09 season, he averaged 2.2 points per game along with 2.0 rebounds. Maybe most importantly, he contributed 35 blocked shots over 23 games. He appeared in all 32 games as a sophomore upping his averages to 6.6 points, 5.4 rebounds with 67 blocked shots. His game continued to evolve, capped by a senior campaign in which he averaged 9.0 points per game, 8.1 rebounds and blocked 81 shots.

The Bruins enjoyed a great deal of success during Diop’s time with the program, including a trip to the NAIA Final Four in 2009. Diop credits Paben’s tough practices with helping him sharpen his focus and hone his time management skills. Assistant coaches Bob Ludwig, Jason Isaacson, and Jack Nelson were also invaluable mentors for Diop, he said.

“Between practice, class, games, and travel, you have to be able to manage your time very well,” Diop said. “It also helped with handling pressure. You’re trying to get that win as the clock winds down toward the end of the game. You have to be very mentally sharp,” Diop said. “I don’t get ruffled by pressure. Every time it comes in I’m calm and I can think through it. I think that comes from my basketball background.”

In addition to support from his coaches, Diop enjoyed a supportive and engaged faculty during his time at Bellevue University. He singled out Dr. Dan Warren, former professor in the College of Business, and Dr. Karen Robinson, Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, as being particularly influential.

“They were both fantastic with me,” Diop said. “They challenged me. The faculty is very supportive of the athletic department, but they don’t take it easy on you.”

Diop also said Erin Officer and her family, Omaha residents at the time, played a key role in his success at Bellevue University.

“Her and her family just took me in and were like ‘Hey, your family isn’t here. We’ve got you.’ They brought me over for Christmas and the family would come to games,” Diop said.

Setting His Sights on Success

Diop is a native of Dakar, Senegal. While many of his schoolmates in Senegal sought additional education in France, Diop had his sights set on the United States. He knew only one person in the U.S., his cousin, Fatou, who was living in some place called “Nebraska.”

“She was the person that helped me apply at Bellevue (University) and helped with the translations,” Diop said. “I barely spoke any English when I came here.”

Today, Diop is focused on his career at LinkedIn and doing as much travelling as possible. He’s checked off quite a few cities within the United States including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and Dallas. He recently visited Washington D.C. with his mother and was back in Senegal with a group of LinkedIn employees to help build a school. While Diop has been back to Senegal many times since first coming to the United States, he said this trip was special.

“It was an amazing experience. I didn’t know about this project until late. They had already done a lot of fundraising for it. My team got together and raised the funds necessary for me to go in about a week,” Diop said. “That’s just the LinkedIn culture. I work for some amazing people that will not hesitate to do that type of thing.

“I spoke to the villagers that we were building the school for and told them, ‘Listen, I am here because there are literally a hundred people who supported me.’ That’s the kind of heart and passion that is going into this school.”

Student Speaker Zopoula Reaches Milestone in Educational Journey

By Dan Silvia

Earning an education takes a lot of legwork. Nathan Zopoula, the student speaker for Bellevue University’s Winter Commencement ceremony, knows that better than most. Growing up outside of Boura, Burkina Faso, a landlocked West African country, he trekked 10 miles to school every morning.

“I was very fortunate to go to school,” Zopoula said. “My parents did all they could to help me and my siblings go as far as we could in school.”

He’d journey even further when he traveled almost 6,000 miles to pursue his college education in the United States. He started at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska, where he earned an Associate of Arts and Sciences in Agronomy and Crop Science in 2013. He continued on to earn his Bachelor of Technology in Agronomy from Northwest Missouri State in 2015.

Zopoula began his Bellevue University quest in 2016 around the same time he began working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At DHS, Zopoula helps “provide the right immigration benefits to the right people in the right amount of time, while making sure that no beneficiary is a threat to national security.”

The flexibility that Bellevue University offered would allow Zopoula to balance that job and other responsibilities and was a key point in Zopoula’s decision to attend the University.

“With a busy life, Bellevue University made it possible for me to still get my degree. The faculty is always available to help. They are ready to listen and provide solutions,” Zopoula said. “Everyone is working for your success. One day, a classmate from an online class that I never met emailed me to check to see why I hadn’t posted throughout the week on an online discussion. That really helped me. I was going to forget that week’s discussion and get a reduced grade. Even students look out for each other at Bellevue University.”

Zopoula also praised his adopted country, the United States, for the opportunities it has provided him.

“After looking at schools around the world, I found that the best education is here in the United States,” he said. “I came here to get a degree and the more I studied and learned, the more my love for the country grew.”

That love for his adopted country manifested itself when he joined the United States Army Reserve shortly before he began studying at Bellevue University.

“I’ll be there as long as I can,” Zopoula said. “I have been waiting for my security clearance to go to Officer Candidate School.”

While Zopoula has completed his Master’s Degree in Security Management, he is not done juggling work, school, and other responsibilities. He is giving back through The Promise Farm, a philanthropic endeavor he launched in 2014 that is dedicated to enhancing agricultural development in Burkina Faso. The Promise Farm provides agricultural education, resource management, fertilizer and soil management to the country’s farmers.

“The Promise Farm was created to help small scale farmers gain knowledge about soils, seed, and best farming practices,” Zopoula said. “We are currently working only in the country of Burkina Faso. Our goal is to bring agricultural education to farmers. I believe that with the urbanization of Africa, it is wiser to invest in agriculture than any other area because when people eat well, they will be healthy and they will be educated. Instead of giving food to people, help them farm better.”

Additionally, he is already pursuing his Ph.D. in Global Security at Henley-Putnam School of Strategic Security at National American University. So when Zopoula walks across the stage at Bellevue University’s 2019 winter commencement, he will already have already traveled a great many miles, but his journey will be far from over.

Course Design Team Recognized for Achieving University’s First Quality Matters Certification

Mike Freel, Program Director and Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, and members of the Design and Development team were recognized at the December All Faculty meeting for helping to achieve a ‘first’ at Bellevue University.

Last month, the MHA 649: Leadership and Team Development course became the first Quality MattersTM (QM) Certified Course at the University. To achieve this internationally recognized designation, Freel, along with Course Designer Tracy Gies, Senior Quality Specialist Janel Heitz, and Brett Goetz, Learning and Innovation Developer, all worked together for several months prior to prepare the course for review.

Quality Matters is a non-profit organization specializing in standards, processes and professional development for quality assurance in online and blended learning for all types of educational and academic institutions.

A Quality Matters certified course must meet a rigorous set of 42 design standards, across eight categories, and earn a total score of 85 points or higher (out of 100) in an official Quality Matters peer review. Courses that successfully meet the QM Rubric standards are eligible to carry the QM Certification Mark. The official review, which was completed by three Quality Matters certified faculty members from outside institutions, took approximately six weeks.

The MHA 649 course not only met all 42 QM standards, but it earned a perfect score of 100. The reviewers were so impressed with the overall design and quality of the layout (i.e., custom formatting, use of imagery, placement of course information, clean look and feel, etc.) they suggested the entire team should consider presenting their approach and results of the QM review process at  future conferences.

According to Rick Koch, Dean, Design and Development, all Bellevue University courses go through instructional design and quality assurance processes as they are developed in the department. He added that while not every course will go through the formal QM certification process, the lessons learned during this effort will help enhance the University’s online course development processes.

Congratulations to the team for their hard work and dedication to meeting and exceeding Quality Matters review expectations!

Flood Communication CEO Ruback Touts University’s Culture

Broadcast veteran and Bellevue University alumnus Andy Ruback is the CEO of Flood Communications, one of Nebraska’s largest and fastest-growing media operations, with a focus on radio, television, and online channels, and general and Hispanic audiences. Ruback is a 1999 graduate with a degree in Communications. Since graduating, Ruback has become well-recognized as a community and industry leader, and was named one of Radio Ink magazine’s “Best Managers” in addition to other recognitions.

What did you know about Bellevue University that prompted you to pursue your degree here?

Bellevue University has a stellar reputation and is well-known for investing in the success of their students. Part of the reason that this is possible is because of the smaller, more intimate classroom setting.

What did you enjoy the most about your Bellevue University experience?

Over the years, I have learned that while some would call my college experience non-traditional, it was certainly not uncommon. Like so many people I know, and many of them extremely successful individuals, I started at a large out-of-state university where I quickly became just another number. With lectures having 300 or 400 students, it was easy to get a bit lost in the system. In my experience, professors didn’t know their students by name, let alone take the time to invest in their success.

To me, people matter and you need to know people to empower them and help them achieve their goals. At Bellevue University, every professor knew every student and they truly cared about seeing their students excel.

What was one of your biggest takeaways from your educational experience at Bellevue University?

A cultural fit can be difficult to explain, but everyone knows when they feel a sense of inclusion. Bellevue University was a great fit for me. Not only did my classes offer value to my education and life, but I felt like I was valued in the classroom, as well. Being empowered to succeed is something that I have taken forward with me to my own employees. It’s important to both offer value and to be valued in life and working to empower others to achieve life goals is very fulfilling.

Tell us a little about the work and culture of Flood Communications.

Flood Communications is Nebraska’s premier, forward-leaning media operation with eight radio stations and two television networks. We have leading brands throughout the entire state. And, we stand by our reputation, our clients, our employees and our communities. With dedicated news, television, radio and social media teams, everything we do is to serve our audiences.

What do you enjoy most about your job as the CEO at Flood Communications?

There are innumerable reasons why I enjoy serving as the CEO of Flood Communications, but top amongst them is our dedicated employees. In my role, I’m ultimately responsible for the overall success of Flood Communication’s talented team of professionals and extensive network of Television, Radio, Hispanic, and Digital products.

And that is only possible because we have an amazing team. With more than 130 professionals throughout Nebraska, I’m thankful to be part of a team that is at the forefront of the industry evolution and creating new models for user and advertiser success every day.

What are some of the biggest challenges in your position?

Flood Communications is committed to communities throughout our state and for engaging our diverse populations. This diversity is represented in all ways – age, language, geography, political philosophy, urban and rural… And we represent our communities authentically and try to provide the best most relevant content. It’s a definite challenge, but very rewarding when you are able to help keep Nebraskans informed, entertained and engaged.

What are your interests outside of work and school?

First and foremost, I love spending time with my family and creating positive memories and experiences with my awesome wife and kids. Beyond that? The usual…fishing, bourbon, and playing the drums.

Who have been your biggest supporters in your academic and career endeavors?

That one is hard to narrow down. I’ve had the opportunities to work with incredible people at incredible companies over the years. Mentors are important. I’ve had the privilege to be mentored by some truly great people. They have set a gold standard in my life and I can only hope to be a mentor in a similar way to others in the future. It’s important to pay it forward in life and continue to be grateful.

Any major takeaways for our readers?

Life isn’t about just the finish line; it’s also about the journey. There is power and value in the process

Bellevue University alum named “Teacher of the Year”

Amy Doty, English instructor at Southeast Community College in Lincoln and a Bellevue University alumni, was recently named Teacher of the Year by the Nebraska Developmental Education Consortium in Norfolk.
Doty was chosen for her contributions to student success and professional development. She helped lead the design of an accelerated pathway for students to complete their English requirements and also co-created a professional development resource for her colleagues, allowing them to learning and engage in best teaching practices.
Doty, who earned her Bachelor of Science degree in the Adult and Continuing Education program in 2013, said the University “was the perfect place for me to begin my educational career.” In additiion to her role at SCC, Doty is a doctoral candidate at Walden University.

Salama-Bellevue University International Coursework Lays Groundwork for Future Business Leaders

When Omaha-based trade and consulting company Salama International opened its doors for business in 2015, co-founder Nilufar Salama made it her mission to expand access to real-world knowledge of international business and increase the cadre of international business professionals to help grow Nebraska’s global relations.

Formerly the Director of International Market Development at Lindsay Corporation and Founder of the Eurasian Business and Research Center, Nilufar drew upon her extensive experience and relations with clients and government leaders in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Africa and the Middle East, China, Europe, and Brazil to establish a bridge of mutual understanding, business opportunity, and cross-cultural collaboration between Nebraskans and leaders worldwide.

In March 2018, Salama International took its efforts to the next level, partnering with Bellevue University to host its Third Annual International Trade Conference, “Global Perspectives on International Business.” The conference brought together academics, non-profit members, business leaders, international trade and development experts, and government representatives from across the globe to mobilize resources, establish key partnerships, and solidify the state of global business. Critical insight into everyday global affairs was shared by speakers from countries such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Japan, and Mexico, as well as leaders from the United States, including Nebraska, Missouri, Washington, D.C., and New York. Bellevue University President Mary Hawkins presented, too, on a core take-away from the conference—the role of education as an export product in the global business world.

Preparing Nebraskans to Enter the “Real World” of Global Business.

Bellevue’s University’s College of Continuing and Professional Education is now taking up the challenge to prepare Nebraska’s future business leaders, service providers, employees, and students for success in the competitive job market of international business. College leaders are partnering with Salama to offer the “Global Trade in Practice Boot Camp.” This eight-week training course will demystify all the key areas of international supply chain management such as laws, rules, and regulations; country analysis and market research; international banking; and logistics by providing comprehensive, step-by-step instruction on how to address the everyday demands and challenges of each component. Throughout the course, Salama will equip participants with concrete strategies, tools, and resources employed by importers and exporters on a daily basis. By the end of the boot camp, participants will possess a more holistic view of international operations, insider knowledge of actual management practices, and the confidence necessary to thrive as a team member, manager, entrepreneur, and participant in today’s “real world” of international business.

Registration is now open for the winter session of this course, which will run November 3-December 22, 2018. Register online or learn more at

College of Business Adjunct Faculty Member Featured in Army AL&T Magazine

By Cris Hay-Merchant

Dr. Dean Angell, adjunct faculty member in the Bellevue University College of Business and Bellevue University alumni, was recently featured in the October-December issues of Army AL&T. Army AL&T is the premier career and professional news source for members of the U.S. Army’s acquisition, logistics and technology workforce.

Dr. Angell, who teaches Master of Business Administration (MBA) students, was featured in the “Faces of the Force” series in the magazine’s print and online editions. As a Cost and Price Analyst with the U.S. Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command, Dr. Angell plays a key role in the command’s procurement operations.

The article highlights not only the massive scope of the contracts that Dr. Angell and his Army colleagues are responsible for, but also Dr. Angell’s perspective about the importance of communication. “One of the most important lessons a person can learn – and possibly one of the most difficult to master – is in communication,” said the 13-year military service man (eight years in the U.S. Army; five years in the U.S. Marine Corps). “Don’t just hear – listen.”

The feature also recounts how during his MBA program, Dr. Angell struck up a professional relationship with Dr. David Levy, a Professor in Bellevue University’s College of Business. After Dr. Angell received his doctorate in business administration, Dr. Levy offered him an adjunct professor position.

“Every time I teach a class,” Dr. Angell said, “regardless of the subject, I learn something new.” Dr. Angell was also recently named the recipient of the Department of the Army Superior Civilian Service Award for his work on a $4.7 billion contract to provide rotary-wing aviation services at Fort Rucker Alabama. The award is the third highest Army civilian award.

Army AL&T magazine is published quarterly by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center, which is a direct reporting unit within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. The publication reaches thousands of readers across the Army, Department of Defense industry and Capitol Hill.

James Completes Chapter of “Real Learning” Story

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

A “Real Learning for Real Life” commercial back in 2002 prompted Jami James to enroll at Bellevue University. Now, in 2018, she’ll be completing her journey with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting.

“I had heard the commercials when I was employed with Mutual of Omaha. They had advertisements that talked about the accelerated programs Bellevue (University) was offering and that intrigued me to inquire more about going back to school,” James said. “Bellevue was also willing to accept the credits I had already accrued from the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa Western Community College, so I would not have to re-take a bunch of classes.”

As so often happens, real life had a different plan for James and she stopped out in 2005 to start a family. She wouldn’t be back in a Bellevue University classroom until the summer of 2016.

“When I made the decision to return to Bellevue (University) to complete my bachelor’s in Accounting, I had been throwing the idea around for a couple of years,” James said. “I knew in order to gain any further advancement; I would need to finish what I started.”

James credited Monica McElhaney, Professor in the College of Business, with helping her persist throughout the entire process.

“She was my advisor when I started my path in 2002 and provided such an amazing amount of knowledge and guidance during my time here,” James explained. “When I returned in 2016, she provided lots of useful information in deciding what classes to take based on what my career goals were. She is also one of the best professors I have ever known. She not only cares about you as her student, but also as a person. She wants to help you find the best path and provide you with the best tools to accomplish that.”

James chose to walk during the June 2018 commencement ceremony, but is finishing up the Kirkpatrick Signature Series during the fall term. Her degree has already paid off as she recently landed a job as an Accountant II with the City of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

James was nervous about interviewing for the position because while she had 25-years of experience in customer service, her accounting experience was limited to the classroom.

“I am confident that if I had not made that decision to return to Bellevue University in 2016 to finish the courses required to graduate, I would not have been considered for the Accountant II position. Although my life and work experiences had given me lots of knowledge for any job, I believe Bellevue (University) emphasized and helped develop the skills required to land my dream job,” she said.

A 1997 graduate of Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson High School, James credits her family with supporting her in her academic and career endeavors.

“Without my family supporting me, I could not have made it. I could not have been any prouder seeing the smiles on their faces when I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma,” she said. “They saw firsthand the hard work and determination it took to accomplish my goals and now they will be able to see us reap the rewards.”

Now James is ready to continue writing her own “Real Learning for Real Life” story.

“I have met a lot of great people and have some wonderful experiences that will make me a better person both personally and professionally,” she said.

Biology Grad Publishes Two Papers

By Dan Silvia, Communications Manager

Amiera Rayyan, who completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology at Bellevue University in June, has recently had two papers published in Microbiology Resource Announcements. The first paper is entitled Draft Whole-Genome Sequence of the Purple Photosynthetic Bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris XCP, while the second is Draft Genome Sequence and Brief History of Rhodovulum sp. Strain BSW8.

Rayyan served as the lead author of the papers. Co-authors are Terry E. Meyer from the University of Arizona and Bellevue University’s own Dr. John Kyndt. Rayyan’s accomplishment stands out beyond the publishing achievement itself:

  • They are the first papers published for Rayyan. Even at larger universities it is rather unusual for an undergraduate student to get a first author publication during his or her undergraduate studies.
  • They are the first papers by an undergraduate science student at Bellevue University where the research was done entirely in the University’s science labs.
  • It marks the first bacterial genome sequenced at Bellevue University.

“This is wonderful news,” said Mary Dobransky, Dean of the College of Science and Technology. “This achievement prompted me to think about the positive influence Bellevue University has on our students and society.  While this is true of higher education in general, it is especially strong in Bellevue University’s student-focused, open-access, innovative environment. I greatly appreciate the work the entire College of Science and Technology team does to help our students succeed. Amiera’s success is our success.”

The papers emerged from Rayyan’s senior thesis project. She relished the opportunity to use the University’s new genome sequencer versus conducting a review of already completed research.

“At that point no one had used the MiniSeq yet,” she said. “I thought that sounded much more fun. It incorporated techniques that I could practice, so I thought that would be the better route.”

Rayyan, a graduate of Bellevue East High School with an undergraduate from Creighton University in Medical Anthropology in addition to her Bellevue University degree, is now weighing her career options.

“Whatever career I end up going toward, I think this is a great motivator,” Rayyan said of her publishing efforts. “It keeps the ball rolling for me. Let’s keep going to see if we can do more of it.”