Graduates Who Have Made Their Mark

by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney '10



Isabella Strimling '21

Photo of Isabella Strimling '21


  • Political Science major and Communications minor from Brentwood, California

  • Named to the Dean’s List

  • Model UN Campus Coordinator and Moderator

  • Water Polo Team

  • Debate Team

  • Political Columnist for The McKendree Review student newspaper

  • Student Athlete Advisory Committee

  • Member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society

  • All-In Committee Student Co-Chair

  • Internship with the Golden State Warriors sports law team

Isabella Strimling '21 had never heard of McKendree before a call from the Bearcat water polo coach brought her all the way from sunny California for a campus visit. After sitting in on a Political Science class and meeting the tight-knit university community, she was hooked.

Quotation Graphic

I have always been relatively passionate about government and politics, and the one thing I knew coming into college was that I wanted to help people have a voice,” she said.

“The professors of our Political Science program are so passionate about using their platform as an educator to do the same, and as I became more involved in the field, I realized that it was exactly the major I belonged in," she said.

Isabella discovered a host of opportunities to nurture her interest in politics, from competing on the Debate Team to writing for The McKendree Review to serving as the campus coordinator for Model UN. “Being on the Debate Team was such a cool experience,” she said. “I got a little introduction into what it feels like to stand before a judge and make arguments, and a lot of the time they were based on topics in feminism and social justice that are easy to get passionate about.” Her participation in debate led to other students’ recognizing her talent and passion for the field, and as a result, Isabella was invited to write as the political columnist for the Review student newspaper. She also became a moderator for Model UN and coordinated the national high school conference McKendree hosts each year.

Quotation Graphic

Every organization helped me grow into a better student and a better citizen in its own, unique way.

It wasn’t until her internship with the Golden State Warriors state law team, however, that she really started to pinpoint where her interests could lead her professionally. This virtual experience enabled her to learn more about sports law and legal counsel for professional sports teams. She even spoke directly with the Warriors’ chief legal officer David Kelly about his own experience working in business and sport law.

Learning about trademarks, copyrights, and the protection of creativity that goes into brands, she also discovered a desire to pursue a career in intellectual property law. “I love the idea of being the spokesperson in the protection of human intellect,” she said. “Through IP law, I’ll be exposed to several outlets and opportunities to work with artists, groups and individual creators to get them the monetary credit that they deserve. Someday I would love to work for the NBA or the music/entertainment industry.”

Isabella will be attending the University of San Francisco School of Law this fall as a Dean’s Merit Scholar Recipient. She will miss her McKendree family but looks forward to growing her knowledge and skills in a similar environment where her professors are already eager to help her become the best she can be. “There is not a single moment that I am most proud of at McKendree, more so just who this university allowed me to be in my time here,” she said.



Shelby Benn '21

Photo of Shelby Benn '21


  • Management and Supply Chain Logistics double major from Lansing, Illinois

  • Recipient of the 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award

  • Student Government President

  • Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity

  • Bearcat Football Team

  • Named to the Dean’s List

  • Member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society

  • McKendree Community Action Team (McCAT)

  • Environmental Awareness Committee and Student Athlete Advisory Committee

  • Chair of Athletics Diversity and Inclusion Committee

  • Internship with Campus Compact

For Shelby Benn '21, a good leader not only works for the greater well-being of the community, but also seeks to understand and shed light on the value that each individual brings. It was this mindset over the last four years that enabled him to leave a lasting legacy and improve the McKendree experience for countless of his fellow students.

As a first-year student, Shelby arrived on campus full of ideas that he was passionate about, including diversity, safety, and mental health issues. He became the university’s youngest Student Government President during his sophomore year, and he has used his leadership platform to create meaningful change across the campus. From raising money for local homeless shelters to advocating for the importance of college students’ vote in elections, Shelby has made his mark in a wide variety of tangible ways.

One of his most memorable experiences was leading a Black Lives Matter rally on campus this year. The event highlighted the level of diversity at McKendree and demonstrated the power of a peaceful protest. More than 100 students, faculty, and staff showed up to support the cause. He also used his position as SGA President to work directly with university administrators to gain early dismissal for students to go vote on Election Day, as well as create a textbook resource program for students needing assistance.

Apart from Student Government, Shelby has been a consistent community outreach volunteer and an active member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, joining his fraternity brothers in sending words of encouragement and guidance to young African American men and women throughout the area. He is also a talented member of the Bearcat football team and sits on numerous committees that seek to give students and athletes a voice on campus.

Shelby’s hard work and dedication to benefitting others led to the university naming him one of this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award winners. Receiving the award was a humbling experience for him. “I love to help people every time I host an event, community service project, or school policy,” he said. “You never truly know the effect of your work; you can only hope it actually helps people.”

He says his desire to keep learning and have open conversations with people has been the driving force of his work at McKendree.

Quotation Graphic

I’m most proud of helping improve diversity and inclusion on campus because I truly want every student to be comfortable going to school here,” he said.

“My work is never done until every student feels like they have a place and a voice. My philosophy is to have a conversation, implement policy, then engage the community. I like hearing people’s stories and learning about their backgrounds because, as individuals, we are never done learning.”

A double major in Management and Supply Chain Logistics, Shelby plans to take the leadership experience he gained at McKendree into his future career, where he looks forward to meeting more new people and continuing to add value to others’ lives.



Paris Suzuki '21

Photo of Paris Suzuki '21


  • Public Relations Studies major and Marketing minor from Covina, California

  • Named to the President’s List and Dean’s list

  • Technos Trip 2019

  • New Student Orientation (NSO) Leader and UNI 101 Peer Mentor

  • Member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society

  • Member of Kappa Sigma Tau Sorority

  • Member of the National Society for Leadership and Success

  • RA and a member of the Residence Hall Association

  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes

  • Women’s Hockey Team

  • Student Athlete Advisory Committee

  • Co-Chair of the Athletic Diversity and Inclusion Committee

  • Internship with the McKendree Student Success Center

Paris Suzuki ’21 came a long way from home when she decided to play hockey and study Public Relations at a university in small-town Lebanon, Illinois. A social butterfly through and through, she thrived in the family atmosphere at McKendree, where one of her main sources of pride is greeting each class of new students and getting to know almost everyone on campus. It was that strong community that inspired her to make her mark on campus in everything from athletics and Greek life to honor societies and student-led committees.

Paris’ passion for hockey not only helped lead the team to Nationals three years in a row, but it also drives her career goals. “I came into McKendree extremely passionate about becoming a sports broadcaster or getting into an event management position for a sports team, preferably hockey,” she said. “I have gained so much experience shadowing some of the Graduate Assistants in the Game Management program here, along with getting some mentoring from the great Scott Cummings with broadcasting.”

Along with the experience came the camaraderie of competing on a team made up of players from all over the world. She enjoyed bonding with her teammates over the different lingos, foods, and cultures they brought with them to campus life. Being on the ice was even more fulfilling for her because of the new family in which she found herself and their commitment to playing for each other.

In 2019, Paris was thrilled to experience an even more diverse range of people and cultures when she was selected to represent McKendree on the annual Technos Trip to Japan.

Quotation Graphic

I am proud to be both Mexican and Japanese; however, I knew way more about my Hispanic heritage than I did about my Japanese heritage,” she said.

“This trip allowed me to explore my roots and get a better understanding of what the culture is made of. In fact, the theme for that specific year’s trip was, ‘Roots,’ which made it extremely sentimental for me. I learned so much about my heritage while developing friendships abroad that I still have to this day.”

Paris brought those unique experiences back to McKendree to enrich the lives of even more students. As an NSO leader and UNI 101 peer mentor, she introduced new students to all the opportunities to get involved on campus and encouraged them to make connections like she had done. When the pandemic hit and off-campus internship opportunities were nearly nonexistent, she tapped into that close-knit community and was offered a PR internship with McKendree’s Student Success Center. The experience allowed her to use her creativity and communication skills to create a First-Year Student Handbook.

Quotation Graphic

I tell my NSO students every year, ‘McKendree is what you make it, so make it yours,'” she said.

“Coming from a big city in California to Lebanon, Illinois, was definitely a change. However, it was such an amazing experience for me because I took advantage of every opportunity to get involved on campus. The friendships I made and connections I have gained will always be the most memorable experience I had at McKendree.”




Caylin Dean '21

Photo of Caylin Dean '21


  • Biopsychology major from Griggsville, Illinois

  • Recipient of the Community Service ACES Award

  • New Student Orientation (NSO) Leader

  • Member of Phi Eta Sigma and Pi Gamma Mu Honor Societies

  • Member of the National Association for Leadership and Success

  • First Student President of McCAT

  • Coordinator for Trinity Services

  • Named to the President’s List

For Biopsychology major Caylin Dean '21, McKendree’s rich culture of volunteerism was the perfect place to answer her calling to help others. Now paired with a strong academic background in the pre-med sciences, it’s grown into a lifelong mission to continue that service as an occupational therapist.

Quotation Graphic

My dream has always been to become an occupational therapist, so getting my undergraduate degree in Biopsychology was the perfect fit,” she said.

“It provided me with all the necessary prerequisite classes that were required for OT school, which ultimately set me up for success in my acceptance into a graduate program.” Caylin will attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, this fall to earn her doctoral degree in occupational therapy.

Although she felt drawn to this career field from an early age, it wasn’t until she started working with the student service organization McCAT and the Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service that she discovered her passion for serving adults with disabilities. As a sophomore, she became the coordinator for student volunteers assisting at Trinity Services, a local organization that provides important support services for people with disabilities and mental illness. Caylin noticed that Trinity Services was the only weekly volunteer opportunity McKendree offered to help this population, so she took it upon herself to bring another site to the university’s list of volunteer locations. Community Link also works with developmentally disabled individuals to bring them greater fulfillment and independence.

Quotation Graphic

Myself, fellow McCATs, and other volunteers have been able to make a big impact on the individuals we volunteer with at those sites,” she said.

“It’s also where I learned that this is the population that I would like to work with as an occupational therapist, so I see myself continuing my service in multiple forms in the future.”

Caylin’s strong leadership and commitment to McKendree’s service learning opportunities led to her election as McCAT’s first student president, as well as being named winner of the Community Service ACES Award. Through it all, she says an open mind and a willingness to try new things have helped shape her McKendree experience into an unforgettable time.

Quotation Graphic

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned through my college experience is to just go for it, whatever it is,” she said.

“Take the class, do the internship, apply for the job, just do it. I’ve built a lot of confidence within myself at McKendree through my studies and encouragement from friends and professors, allowing me to have experiences and achieve goals that I thought were out of reach. There is no better time to go after your dreams, so start now.”



Emily Westlove '21

Photo of Emily Westlove '21


  • Sport Management and Marketing double major from Naperville, IL

  • Fan Fair Ambassador to the NHL All-Star Game 2020

  • Wayfinder at Super Bowl LV

  • President of the Sport Management Society

  • Senior Resident Assistant

  • Member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee

  • Co-chair of the Scott Cummings Superhero Challenge Race

  • Captain of Women’s Water Polo Team

  • Class of 2021 Outstanding Sport Management Student

  • Named to the President’s List

  • Member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society and the National Society of Leadership and Success

Growing up as an athlete in swimming, water polo, soccer, basketball, and softball, Emily Westlove ’21 has always had a passion for sports, so it was no surprise she wanted to continue it in college. Her McKendree experience allowed her to accomplish more than she ever imagined, from making program history on the water polo team to working an NHL All-Star Game and Super Bowl LV.

Emily took her athletic interests into the classroom by choosing to double major in Sport Management and Marketing. She drew inspiration from her mother, whose work as a marketing professional prompted her to blend the two academic fields.

Quotation Graphic

My lifelong career goal is to work for the Green Bay Packers one day and be able to experience all that goes into sports behind the scenes,” she said.

Little did Emily know that she wouldn’t have to wait long to get a glimpse into the inner workings of the professional sports world. Last year, one of her professors connected her and several other Sport Management majors with a staffing agency hiring for the NHL All-Star Series. She applied and was selected to work as a Fan Fair Ambassador, a job that gave her a hands-on role bringing one of the country’s major sporting events to life.

Quotation Graphic

The four days I worked the NHL All-Star Series was an awesome experience,” Emily said.

“I worked the Fan Fair, so I helped with former and current NHL player interviews/signings and filtered fans to view the Stanley Cup. I also ensured fan questions were answered and they were directed properly.”

Another incredible opportunity appeared through a simple online job posting that Emily applied to while trying to keep her expectations low. She was surprised and thrilled to land the position of Wayfinder at Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida. There she assisted at the Miley Cyrus pre-game concert for front-line healthcare workers and worked with the VIP section at the game.

Quotation Graphic

My favorite part of working the Super Bowl was being in that atmosphere,” she said.

“Never would I have imagined that I would work the Super Bowl in college, and I did. The thrill made it that much more exciting to work in the world of sport.”

Despite Emily’s impressive behind-the-scenes experiences helping to make such national sporting events happen, her proudest moments from the last four years all involve her accomplishments as a Bearcat student athlete and her contributions to the university she loves.  “My most memorable experiences include being the first All American for Water Polo, hosting the Scott Cummings Superhero Challenge, Sport Event and Facilities Management class, and graduating as the top Sport Management student for 2021,” she said. “I am extremely humbled for all the opportunities and experiences I have had the past four years and I am excited for what the future holds.”




Mitch Deleel ‘21

Photo of Mitch Deleel ‘21


  • Political Science major and Philosophy minor from Trenton, Illinois

  • Debate Team

  • National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) National Champion 2020

  • National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE) Runner-Up 2021

  • Member of Phi Kappa Phi, Pi Sigma Alpha, and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Societies

  • Member of the Honors Program

  • Show Choir

  • Model UN

  • Named Outstanding Political Science Student

  • Named to the President’s List

Political Science major Mitch Deleel ’21 made university history in debate for the last two years, yet his proudest memories as a Bearcat are the ways in which the Debate Team shaped who he has become. As the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) National Champion last year and this year’s National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE) Runner-Up, he has helped lead the McKendree Debate Team to impressive victories during a challenging time.

Quotation Graphic

When I started on the debate team in 2017, I had no real dreams of making it to the final round of any local tournament, nonetheless the final round of a national level tournament two years in row,” Mitch said.

He credits his coaches and three debate partners, Rebecca Postula, Adeja Powell ’20, and Kyle Garrett, with pushing him, believing in him, and helping him achieve all that he has. These strong relationships were something that Mitch didn’t expect to form as a first-year commuter student with little free time. During his Debate Team practices, trips, and competitions, however, he found lasting friendships and unforgettable experiences that led him to the person he is today.

“Debate is the only reason I’ve ever been on an airplane bigger than a puddle jumper,” he said. “It’s the only reason I’ve ever experienced Ethiopian, Thai, and Korean food. It is the only thing that allowed me to see wonderful sights like Lake Tahoe, the Mall of America, or the Great Salt Lake. Debate is the only reason I got to touch the ocean for the first time in my life. In all of these respects, debate has been one of the most mind-opening experiences physically and mentally.”

While the Debate Team clearly made an impression on him, Mitch also left an indelible mark on McKendree as a whole. His impressive academic success led him to make the most out of his education, taking on new challenges as a member of the Honors Program and participating in three different honor societies. Named this year’s Outstanding Political Science Student, Mitch has contributed his own voice to the university’s academic community in the same way that he has personally grown and flourished from it.

Quotation Graphic

The biggest lesson I have taken away from my time here is to listen; to understand and grapple with the material shown to you in a meaningful way,” he said.

“McKendree gave me a true opportunity to grapple with the subjects I learned whether it be philosophy, political science, sociology, psychology, or even literature. Each of these classes gave me the opportunity to understand and even push back against the subjects we learned, gaining insight each time a conflict was resolved.”

That skill of listening with an open mind and always seeking to understand prepared Mitch for his next steps in life too. He will continue his education journey as a Saint Louis University law student this fall working toward his Master’s in Political Science and Juris Doctorate.



Make It McKendree