Where Our Graduates Are Headed

by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney '10

 

 


Matt Cole '20

Photo of Matt Cole '20

 

  • Psychology major from Chicago, Illinois

  • McKendree Football Team

  • 2019 GLVC Special Teams Player of the Year

  • All-GLVC First Team Honors

  • Division II Conference Commissioners Association All-Region 3 Second Team Honors

  • D2football.com First Team Honors
  • Member of Black Student Organization


After an exciting four seasons at McKendree, Matt Cole '20 is trading in his Bearcat jersey for a new one that reads Miami Dolphins #82. He couldn’t be more thrilled at the opportunity to sign as a free agent with the professional NFL team, but he’s also thankful for the role his McKendree career played in helping him achieve his dream.

A Psychology major, Matt came to McKendree for the small class sizes and accessibility of the professors. He dedicated himself wholly to his academics and football with the goal of continuing in the sport he loved after graduation. His positive attitude and big smile at the start of each practice are what Head Football Coach Mike Babcock says made Matt a truly special student-athlete. That of course, and his long list of record-breaking achievements on the field.

As a three-year starter at wide receiver for the Bearcats, Matt set new single-season records for receiving yards and touchdowns. In the 2019 season alone, he nabbed 43 receptions for 939 yards and 12 touchdown catches, nine of which covered at least 40 yards. He also served as the Bearcats’ primary punt returner, gaining 1,832 all-purpose yards in 2019 and breaking the record for the most for any McKendree player in a season. Matt was named a two-time All-GLVC selection during his time as a Bearcat and was honored last year with the 2019 GLVC Special Teams Player of the Year.

At McKendree, Matt says he learned how to work well with others on team projects and formed meaningful friendships with his suite mates. “In the four years I spent living on campus, I am grateful to have met nine men that I’ll forever have a bond with,” he said.

Looking forward to his next steps as a professional football player, Matt says he plans to put his all into his new career, just as he did when he played for the Bearcats. “I’m excited and extremely blessed for this opportunity with Miami,” he said. 

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“I know being a (NCAA) Division II guy, I’m a little under the radar, but I’m ready to take on this challenge. I just want to go down there (Miami), work hard with that blue-collar mentality we had at McKendree, and prove myself.”

 

 


Allison Loehr '20

Photo of Allison Loehr '20

 

  • Elementary Special Education major from Glen Carbon, Illinois

  • Honors Program

  • Softball Team

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

  • Received 2017 Metro East “Get to Know M.E.” Scholarship

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

  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Huddle Leader

  • President of Student Illinois Education Association (SIEA)

  • Member of Kappa Sigma Tau Sorority


Elementary Special Education major Allison Loehr '20 always dreamed of one day becoming a teacher, but she was unsure where her path would lead her. McKendree’s Elementary and Special Education program caught her eye, and she knew she had found the perfect university to make her dream a reality.

“McKendree’s dual program gave me the opportunity to experience two great programs at once,” Allison said. “I have always leaned more towards Special Education because I have a cousin who has Down Syndrome, and I wanted to help children just like him. I knew I would be able to make a big impact in their lives, but they would also have a great impact on mine.”

Led by her desire to help the next generation of learners, Allison took advantage of every opportunity to explore teaching in a variety of different age groups and classrooms. Her first student teaching position took place not in an elementary school, where she thought her career would lead her, but rather at Triad High School in Troy, Illinois. As she worked closely with special education students ranging from 9th-12th grades, Allison found her calling.

“I was very nervous to work with high schoolers, but now, I cannot really see myself working with any other age level,” she said.

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“Here, I feel like I really learned that teaching is the right career path for me. Seeing how much of an impact I can have on the students and how well they responded to my teaching really solidified my choice in becoming a teacher.”


During the second half of the semester, Allison served as a student teacher in a 2nd grade classroom at Westhaven Elementary School in Belleville, Illinois. She loved interacting with younger students as well, but unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic forced the class to move to virtual education one week into her time with them. Completing her student teaching virtually gave her important experience using technology to run a classroom as well.

In spite of the challenges COVID-19 brought to educators, Allison’s dedication to her students at Triad High School outshone it all. She will begin her career as a full-time Special Education teacher for Triad this fall. “I am most looking forward to working with all of the great teachers I met there and many of the same students,” she said. 

 

 


Alyssa Koston '20

Photo of Alyssa Koston '20

 

  • Cyber Defense major from Rochester, New York

  • Founding member and team captain of 117th Regiment Cyber Security Team

  • Founded McKendree Chapter of Women in Cyber Security (WICYS)

  • Internship as a student workforce trainee with the U.S. Department of Justice

  • Resident Assistant

  • Student worker for McKendree’s IT Help Desk
  • Member of Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Beta Delta, and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Societies
  • Bowling team
  • Named to President’s List and Dean’s List


As an innovator always pushing the boundaries of what seems possible, Alyssa Koston '20 has been a trailblazer in McKendree’s new Cyber Defense program. Not only is she one of the university’s first Cyber Defense graduates, but she also helped start the highly competitive Cyber Security Team and a chapter of Women in Cyber Security (WICYS). Her exciting McKendree experience set her up for a truly one-of-a-kind internship and now a full-time position with the U.S. Department of Justice. 

Alyssa decided to try something new when she attended the first meeting of students interested in starting a Cyber Security Team on campus. “I went to one meeting and knew that it was somewhere I belonged,” she said. “We had our first competition within just over a month of our team forming, and it was one of the best experiences I have had during college.” In the group’s first tournament, they surpassed everyone’s expectations and placed 4th in the state at the Midwest Regional Cyber Defense Competition. Since then, they have earned 2nd and 3rd place finishes at state and competed nationally.

Alyssa has served as team captain for the last two seasons. “This team has taught me to apply what I have learned throughout my college experience in a real-world situation,” she said. “I have learned how to use different operating systems, ethical hacking techniques, and how to prevent against potential attacks.” 

Her leadership on the Cyber Security Team and WICYS also enhanced her internship experience with the U.S. Department of Justice. She applied not knowing what to expect, given the large number of other applicants and limited internship positions, but after an interview and several months of waiting, she landed her dream job. “The internship itself was one of the most exciting things I have ever done,” she said.

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“I was able to work with local, state, and federal law enforcement officers on criminal cases. It gave me the opportunity to participate in and attend search warrants, conferences, and court trials. I worked on plans for in-field operations, trial prep, cybercrime projects, and many other projects throughout the different divisions.”

Now Alyssa will be continuing her work with the Justice Department full-time, while also earning her Master’s degree in Cyber Defense from McKendree. For her, lifelong learning is an important part of staying relevant in her field, and she’s found that McKendree is the perfect place to start.

 

 


Justin Smock '20

Photo of  Justin Smock '20

 

  • Double major in History and Professional Writing and Rhetoric from Harrisburg, Illinois

  • Graduate Public Service Intern with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources at the State Historical Preservation Office

  • St. Clair County Historical Society Intern

  • Student Archival Assistant with the McKendree Archives

  • Seasonal Interpreter and Sales Associate at Cahokia Mounds Museum Society

  • Named to the Dean’s List
  • Show Choir
  • President of the History Society
  • Member of Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Alpha Theta Honor Societies


Four years seems like so long ago for Justin Smock '20. The McKendree History graduate is currently a University of Illinois Springfield grad student working towards his Master’s in Public History. When he first set foot on McKendree, however, he was a first-generation college student stepping into unknown territory with plans to major in Secondary Education. History had always interested him, so he eagerly took on the role of Student Archival Assistant on campus. It proved to be a life-changing decision.

“I believed I was going to be a high school history teacher, but I began to question if that was my true calling,” Justin said. “After meeting the Archives Director Debbie Houk and working there, I discovered that my place was in public history.” Not only did Justin learn firsthand how to preserve, catalog, and create artifact displays, but he also helped host booths at the Illinois History Conference, planned and executed the St. Clair Bicentennial Fair, and presented at McKendree’s Academic Excellence Celebration. The experiences gave him a thirst for even more hands-on historical work, and he found that through two exciting internships.

Only a sophomore, Justin landed an intern position with the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. “The McKendree Archives allowed me to find a career path that I had not thought about, and my experience at the Mounds further solidified that I was in the right profession,” he said. There, he wrote site literature, greeted guests, and created an exhibit display that was featured in the gallery for six months. He loved his time with the Mounds so much in fact that he stayed on after his internship ended. As a seasonal interpreter and later gift shop employee, he was responsible for giving guided tours of the site and got to know many of the Native American artists whose work is featured there.

Justin’s second internship took place with the St. Clair County Historical Society. This time, he was given the opportunity to research, plan, and create a historical cemetery walking tour. All of these experiences helped make his time at McKendree truly memorable and prepared him for his next step into graduate school. At the University of Illinois Springfield, he has also landed an internship with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources reviewing and writing National Registry nominations.

“Following my degree at UIS, I hope to receive a full-time position in one of the many public history opportunities in Springfield,” he said.

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“I will never forget the lessons I’ve learned and the skills I’ve obtained at McKendree. While I may be moving on with my education, as President James Dennis always said, ‘once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat.’

 

 

 

Faith Rose '20

Photo of Faith Rose '20

 

  • Psychology major from Aurora, Illinois

  • Student Ambassador

  • Member of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Eta Sigma, and Psi Chi Honor Societies

  • Member of Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority

  • Performer with McKendree musical “Legally Blonde: The Musical” and Show Choir

  • Volunteer at Cedar Ridge Health and Rehab Center

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


Psychology major Faith Rose '20 learned all about what it means to be supported and valued as a student at McKendree. Now she is helping to provide that same positive environment for countless other professionals through her job as a Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) Specialist.

After taking her first Psychology class at McKendree, Faith just knew she wanted to pursue a career in the field. “I watched family members and friends with mental health issues struggle to adapt to the fast-paced environment that we live in,” she said. “After learning the brain mechanisms that lie behind these issues, I decided that this was the field where I could create the best impact.” The opportunity to conduct research alongside one of her professors also opened her eyes to the ways that society often dehumanizes many mental illnesses. Her discovery inspired her to search for careers in Organizational Psychology, where she could improve others’ lives and advocate for mental healthcare in the workplace.

Faith found such a career before she even graduated. This past March, she began her role as FMLA Specialist at ComPsych, a Chicago-based company that provides resources such as counseling, FMLA assistance, and other guidance to workers at a variety of employers. “I am very blessed to be part of a company where I can use my Psychology degree to help create a welcoming work environment for employees,” she said.

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“I hope to one day normalize the aid in mental health issues in the workplace and encourage struggling employees to reach their goals.”


Faith reflects on the many parts of her McKendree experience that led her where she is today. From her time volunteering with the residents of Cedar Ridge Health and Rehab Center, she learned the importance of active listening and offering empathy to those who need it the most. From her professors, she developed the skills to exceed expectations in her work, something she credits as crucial to her ability to advance in her current job. As a member of Show Choir and McKendree musical cast, she gained friendships and memories she will always cherish.

Faith plans to eventually earn her Master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and continue her work at ComPsych.

 

 


Kyle Nordmann '20

Photo of Kyle Nordmann '20

 

  • Management Information Systems major from Belleville, Illinois

  • Member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society

  • Model UN Team

  • Tech Stage Crew with the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts

  • Pianist of McKendree Jazz Ensemble

  • President of Association of Computing Machinery (ACM)

  • Project Manager of COUTReach with the Computing Division’s STARK Program

  • Enterprise Architect Intern with Trident Technologies

  • Intern with the McKendree IT Department


For Management Information Systems major Kyle Nordmann '20, finding the perfect major didn’t happen right away. Once he realized he always had the ability to succeed in Computing, however, there was no stopping his achievements in the program.

“I have always had a fascination for technology,” Kyle said. “Even in high school, I took elective computing courses, but it was always just a hobby-like interest. I never considered myself academically capable of pursuing the Computing Sciences.”

Kyle originally chose to major in Business Management and Marketing with an interest in Hospitality Management. It all began to change as he encountered more Computing students like his twin brother Cole, who encouraged him in his abilities. One time, he accompanied Cole to an Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) meeting on campus only because they were sharing a car. The meeting opened his eyes to opportunities in Computing that he hadn’t considered. Another time during his work as a member of the Hett’s tech stage crew, several friends pointed out similarities between his fondness for programming the light board with the Computing work they were doing in class.

As a result, Kyle became one of McKendree’s first students to major in the new Management Information Systems program, allowing him to blend the Business courses he had already taken with classes in Computing. Once he put his mind to all that he could do, there was no holding him back. He soon became President of ACM, as well as Project Manager of COUTReach, a student-authored web application created to do outreach to local high school computer clubs.

His wide range of skills soon led him to accept a position as an Enterprise Architecture intern with Trident Technologies. There he worked on the organization’s contract with the Department of Defense (DOD) USTRANSCOM EADE at Scott Air Force Base. When Trident lost its bid for the next contract, EADE II, the new company that landed the contract offered him a full-time Associate Systems Architect position. Kyle began his new job with Eagle Technology Group before he even graduated.

During his time at McKendree, Kyle discovered his full potential was so much more than he previously thought. He made university history as one of the only Model UN students to win Outstanding Delegate four years in a row. He honed his musical talents as pianist for the McKendree Jazz Ensemble while working behind the scenes for the Hett’s tech crew. He even won a video competition that landed him, his brother, and a few friends on the red carpet for DC Comics’ Justice League movie premiere. Kyle’s McKendree experience was filled with memorable accomplishments, and he’s just getting started. 

 

 


Brianca Spells '20

Photo of Brianca Spells '20

 

  • Accounting major with double minor in Management and Organizational Communication from Chicago, Illinois

  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award winner

  • Interned at Clifton Larson Allen, Northwestern Mutual, and New Life Church

  • New Student Orientation Leader and First Year Introduction Leader

  • Member of National Society of Leadership and Success

  • UNI 101 Peer Mentor

  • Charter member of the ELITE Chapter of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club (NACWC)

  • President of the Black Student Organization

  • Manager of McKendree Women’s Basketball Team

  • Accounting Club and Fencing Team

  • Member of AmeriCorps


Motivated by an ambitious spirit and desire to make a difference, Brianca Spells '20 left a lasting impression through her many leadership roles at McKendree. Now she will continue to share her talents in the Accounting field at FCB Bank in Swansea, Illinois.

As a student, Brianca was passionate about serving others, whether it was helping first-year students become acclimated to campus life, bringing hope to people in the wider community through AmeriCorps, or helping create a service organization that also strengthened the relationships of black female students on campus. She contributed her leadership skills to charter McKendree’s first ELITE Chapter of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club (NACWC). The group is dedicated to promoting the well-being of women and children through community service and volunteers their time to benefit McKendree students, as well as students at Lebanon Elementary School.

In addition to chartering a new club, Brianca served as President of the Black Student Organization, manager of the McKendree Women’s Basketball Team, and Accounting intern at three different organizations. As a result, she was honored for her dedication to service and outstanding achievements with the university’s prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award.

“Honestly, I was lost for words,” she said. “I still am! I believe when you step into a position, you are serving the people in that organization or community. I never get tired of serving. Whether I was in an elected position, appointed, or just me stepping up to the plate to lead, in those moments I had to be consistent. One thing I loved most was that when things did get crazy, everyone from the organizations I was a part of was so good at comforting me. I’m honored I was able to be that constant for people because they were that constant for me in return.”

Apart from her work on campus, Brianca also found the time to complete internships at Clifton Larson Allen, Northwestern Mutual, and Church of New Life. Her impressive drive for professional growth, as well as service to others, led her to land an Accounting job in the banking industry. While she will miss all the ways she was involved as a McKendree student, Brianca is looking forward to what her next chapter will hold.


 


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