McK Alumni Mentors

McKendree Alumni Mentorsby Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney ’10

From the first campus tour to the excitement and culmination of commencement, McKendree students are surrounded by a close-knit community of mentors and encouragers, people who stretch your mind and show you just how much you’re capable of achieving. For many students, it’s a faculty member who took the time to know them on a personal level and offer guidance that changed the course of their future. For others, it’s the Career Services staff whose endless resources and one-on-one assistance opened up job opportunities they never knew existed. And for some, it’s an alum whose support and advice transformed them from a mentor to colleague to friend.

No matter how they received it, McKendree graduates understand the rich value of having a mentor in their life. “One of the things our graduates routinely say is that it feels like a family here because faculty and staff truly care about students,” said University Provost Christine Bahr. “They form strong bonds with their instructors, and many faculty keep in contact with them long after they’ve graduated.” It’s through these connections students not only gain a quality education in the classroom, but also countless networking, internship, and job opportunities with professionals in the community. Whether it’s bringing working alumni back to campus to speak to a class or connecting students with local internships, McKendree faculty often play a pivotal role in their students’ first steps in a career.

Similarly, the Career Services staff are dedicated to mentoring students through individual guidance and the multitude of opportunities they create for students to connect directly with alumni professionals in their field. The University’s annual Career Conference attracts a host of McKendree alums, who speak to students about topics such as networking and job searching while also leading mock interview sessions. An online mentoring network system provides an easy way for alumni to seek an intern, review a resume, and offer professional tips to current students. “Our department also organizes a career fair each year and hosts on-campus interviews with employers seeking students for internships and full-time jobs,” said Jennifer (Harris) Pickerell ’99, director of career services. “Some alums who don’t typically serve as recruiters come back to campus just to recruit at our career fair.”

With so many opportunities for growth and guidance as students, it’s no wonder that many McKendree alumni find themselves giving back and mentoring others later in life, especially those who share the same alma mater. Their university experience  has taught them that they have more than a McKendree diploma in common; they share the desire to use their talents to help others succeed.




Photo fo Brook and DanaBrook & Dana


Psychology alum Brook (Lashley) Lynch ’00 may have found her doppelganger when she selected Dana (Maedge) Suhre ’08 as a student intern for her team at Nestle Purina. From academic interests to career goals and personality traits, these two McKendree grads share a wide range of qualities that not only inspired a mentoring relationship between them, but also led to their current work together as colleagues for the same company.

As McKendree students studying psychology, Brook and Dana were both initially interested in pursuing a career in family counseling, but soon discovered the clinical route was not the best fit for them. At the suggestion of a family friend, Brook began exploring careers in industrial/organizational psychology, where she could apply the concepts she learned in class to improve the experience of employees in the workplace environment. When Dana met Brook years later through her internship, she also realized her own passion for this area of psychology and found her niche in the same career. Now, they each have their master’s degree in industrial psychology and work alongside one another as talent sourcing managers for Nestle Purina.

Quotation Graphic“We both think strategically and have similar ways of viewing things due to our time at McKendree.”

“It was an ongoing joke around the office that Brook only recruits people like her because we’ve had such similar experiences,” laughed Dana. “We both think strategically and have similar ways of viewing things due to our time at McKendree.” Brook’s work with Nestle Purina started, not surprisingly, with a student internship as well. She was a graduate student when she attended a conference presentation by a Purina employee and was immediately attracted to the company. It wasn’t long before she was hired as a student intern, then a contractor, and finally a full-time employee in the talent sourcing department. “I first met Dana when I contacted my former psychology professor Tami Eggleston as part of a Purina initiative to drive company awareness to local universities,” said Brook. “We were seeking interns, and I wanted to make sure I was the one to contact McKendree.” Knowing Dana would be perfect for the job, Dr. Eggleston passed along the internship opportunity to her, and she jumped into her first experience at Purina working with a fellow McKendree graduate.

Dana remembers her internship being unlike anything she had done before. She was on the ground floor helping to develop Purina’s presence as a career team on social media and contributed to the strategies behind it. “I started off working on real world projects that full-time employees would otherwise be doing,” said Dana. “After a couple of months, I was presenting to the leadership team about the millennial generation—how to hire them, how to market to them. It’s what I ended up writing my graduate school thesis on.” With Brook’s encouragement, Dana followed in her footsteps, earning her master’s in industrial psychology and eventually being hired as a permanent employee at Purina.

Today, Brook and Dana share the same job title of talent sourcing manager. Brook oversees the commercial side of marketing and sales, and Dana is in charge of product supply. Both manage Purina’s strategies for recruiting the right kind of employees. The guidance and mentorship Dana received from Brook is something she knows has helped shape the course of her career, yet it happened so effortlessly neither of them could have predicted where it would lead. “Brook was my boss when I was an intern, so my mentoring relationship with her developed naturally. Our similar backgrounds made it easy,” said Dana.

Although Brook has been one of Dana’s biggest encouragers, challengers, and professional role models, she feels she gained much more from just being a witness as Dana’s life path has unfolded. “It’s interesting to look back on our relationship and how it has changed,” said Brook. “Now we are co-workers and managers on the same team. Seeing people like Dana grow professionally is one of the really cool parts I get to experience in my role.”

Ultimately, they both look to their McKendree roots when they think about how it all began. “My relationships with my professors were the most memorable part of my McKendree experience,” recalls Dana. “I got my internship through a professor, and what I learned in class was transferrable to my work as an intern and later employee.”

Those unique learning experiences are still influencing their lives and careers today. Brook says the research she conducted in her psychology classes as an undergrad helped prepare her for what she would later do in graduate school and in the workforce. “Dana and I still do a ton of research to drive the strategies we create for our customer groups. We use applied psychology on a daily basis to improve how our organization operates,” she said. Whether it’s the real world concepts they studied or the caring mentors they met along the way, Brook and Dana know they have their alma mater to thank for introducing them and transforming two would-be strangers into colleagues and friends.




Photo of Bud and RyanBud & Ryan


As one of the chief technology leaders for such major corporations as Disney, Ameritech, Getty Images, and Music Net, computer science alum Bud Albers ’86 knows what it takes to succeed in an industry that’s always changing. It’s one of the reasons he chose to seek out a McKendree graduate to join his team at the St. Louis start-up company Recursive Labs.

“I’m a big believer in having a firm foundation that you can build upon,” Bud said. “If you don’t learn multiplication and division, you have no chance of doing calculus one day. I know from experience that McKendree graduates get that strong grounding in the basics.”

Ryan Vincent ’12 had been a software developer for two years at DuPont Pioneer in Des Moines, Iowa, when he heard about the job opening from his former computing professor Jim Feher. Bud had returned to McKendree to give a guest lecture in one of Dr. Feher’s classes and told him he was looking for a developer who could quickly pick up what they were doing at Recursive Labs. “Dr. Feher knew I wanted to move back to St. Louis to be around family and start a life with my new wife,” said Ryan. “I applied for the position, and it has been a wonderful experience to work with Bud.”

Bud’s 30-year career in the technology industry has seen him take on major leadership roles in both large and small corporations across the country. After graduating from McKendree, he started out much like Ryan, a software developer for a local company in St. Louis. From there, he took a job in Colorado running the research and development/innovation department at another software company.

In the early 1990s, Bud transitioned to a brand new component of the tech world: e-commerce. He was the head of technology at Ameritech in Chicago when he decided to relocate to the west coast. “I interviewed with a company in Seattle and ended up living there for the next 13 years,” he said. “I remember telling my wife, ‘This silly company wants to sell books on the internet.’” Bud oversaw the original development of Getty Images, one of the first profitable online businesses, and went on to work as the chief technology officer for Music Net and later Disney. He led the launch of video and music on Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, and Virgin and managed the start-up of Samsung Mobile. During his time at Disney, he was responsible for the websites of such behemoths as ABC, ESPN, and

Most recently, Bud returned to St. Louis and started work as a strategic consultant. It was then he became involved with the start-up community and took on the role of CEO at Recursive Labs. Bud acquired the funding, built the engineering and sales groups, and turned what was an idea into a fully functioning product company. He knew he needed to be selective when hiring staff for the young, entrepreneurial business, and he trusted the faculty at McKendree to help him fill the need. “Dr. Feher gave Ryan a high recommendation, and I had confidence in him,” said Bud. “Ryan has proven he is flexible, can wear multiple hats, and is good with customers.” A vital member of the engineering team at Recursive Labs, Ryan is responsible for creating innovative high-speed products, fixing website problems, and coming up with new features for the company. He has found the perfect mentor in Bud, not only because of his many accomplishments and years of experience in the computing field, but also due to his personality and ability to motivate and lead people. “Bud has absolutely been a mentor to me through his leadership and willingness to reach out and help develop others,” said Ryan. “Some of the most important things I’ve learned from him are lessons in how to successfully run a small business and how to lead a group of people towards the same goals.”

Quotation Graphic“It has been a tremendously rewarding experience to watch Ryan learn and grow, gain confidence...”

Bud also finds it fulfilling to work with Ryan and observe him rise to meet each new task. “It has been a tremendously rewarding experience to watch Ryan learn and grow, gain confidence, and take on more challenges. In computer science, you enjoy development and seeing your work come to life. When you get into management, you lose that, but you gain the ability to help others grow in their career.”

Although the McKendree computing program has changed significantly from when Bud was a student, both he and Ryan took away values and concepts that continue to make a difference in their lives. For Bud, that strong foundation in the fundamentals gave him the ability to adapt and stay on the leading edge of technology’s growing presence in the business world.

For Ryan, the real world learning experiences and genuine service attitude of McKendree professors, staff, and students gave him an important perspective on mentorship and what it means to be a good leader. “As a student, I witnessed people being responsible citizens by giving their time to organizations and ideals they believed in,” he said. “I regularly saw professors engaging their students so thoroughly they would not get back to their homes until well after hours. This love of serving others is something I definitely took away from my McKendree experience.”




Photo of Kevin & KatieKevin & Katie


During her senior year, Katie Dauphin ’14 walked into an on-campus interview with accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen not knowing she was meeting her future boss and fellow alum, Kevin Meder ’82. Since that day, Katie has not only gained a full-time position as an associate at CliftonLarsonAllen, but she’s also found a mentor and colleague who has taught her how life-changing it can be when you take the time to reach out to the next generation of McKendree graduates.

“When I was a senior at McKendree, I got an internship with a CPA firm in St. Louis and was offered a permanent position there when I graduated,” recalls Kevin. “I remember being a graduating senior worried about where I would end up working, so I went back to my roots and have been helping to place folks from McKendree.”

Today, Kevin serves as principal for CliftonLarsonAllen’s Belleville office and works with a diverse range of clients in the manufacturing and distribution industries. His role rests heavily on communication and building relationships with businesses as he works to help them meet their own unique financial goals. That ability to connect with people continues to serve Kevin well as he returns to his alma mater each year to recruit student interns. Interviewing approximately 10-12 students per year, he leads CliftonLarsonAllen’s on-campus interview sessions at McKendree, working closely with the Career Services Office to make it happen. Katie credits the faculty and staff with facilitating so many opportunities for student employment and career development on campus. “Jennifer Pickerell and Jill Smucker in Career Services are amazing and so good at letting students know about the companies that come for on-campus interviews,” she said. “My accounting professors were really encouraging about going to the interviews too.”

It didn’t take long for Kevin to recognize Katie’s high potential during their interview, and she soon found herself starting her first day as a student intern with a professional accounting group. She was purposely hired for the spring semester so she could gain valuable experience working in a wide variety of roles with tax returns, audits, and outsourcing during the busy tax season. “We try to give our interns exposure to all sides of the practice so they can get a definite idea of which areas they like and don’t like,” said Kevin. Under the philosophy of learning by doing, Katie discovered she was most interested in auditing and chose to pursue her career path in that direction.

After only four months as an intern, Katie received a job offer upon graduation and began her career working with the same people who guided and coached her through her first real world experience in accounting. Kevin praised Katie’s “glowing reviews” from partners and managers in a roundtable discussion, as they provided feedback on student interns and evaluated who to select as an associate. “I have not been disappointed with Katie or any of our student interns from McKendree,” said Kevin. “They’re able to put what they learn into practice, and it’s very neat to see them growing, learning, and becoming leaders.It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Quotation Graphic“They’re able to put what they learn into practice, and it’s very neat to see them growing, learning, and becoming leaders.”

Currently, Katie spends most of her time traveling to meet with a different client every week and overseeing each auditing process from start to finish. During tax season, though, she still makes it a point to come into the office and assist Kevin with the multitude of tax returns. “Kevin is always checking in with me to make sure things are going well in my career,” said Katie. “He shows he cares about my success, and his hard work is inspiring to me.” One of the most fun parts of her job now is one that she knows came from Kevin and his emphasis on giving back. “Lately, I’ve been recruiting and working with Jennifer and Jill again to come out to McKendree’s career fair, this time as an employee representative. I love meeting the new students. The campus has always had a lot of good, motivated people, and Kevin definitely fits that description too. McKendree is what brought us together.”

Kevin feels a sense of pride when he meets and works with recent graduates like Katie, whom he calls “real people with good, solid thought processes, who are energetic and ready to further themselves and take on challenges.” His time as a McKendree student also taught him the impact that a personal and professional mentor can have on the life of one person. To this day, he still keeps in contact with his former math professor Paul Funkhouser ’70, who retired from teaching and is now a financial advisor. Kevin says his university experience gave him the confidence to interact with the diverse clients he helps today and connect with the recent graduates he mentors. As he and Katie have both discovered, the funny thing about having a mentor is it often inspires you to become one for others too.