Meet Senior Taylor Hartke

Taylor Hartke, a Teutopolis, Illinois native, is a senior majoring in Agricultural Communications. Hartke is the recipient of the 2021-2022 College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Scholarship. In earlier years, Hartke received the  School of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Scholarship.

What do you enjoy most about being an SIU student?
I enjoy the opportunities SIU strives to provide its students. Regardless of your interest, major, or career path, there are opportunities to gain valuable experiences both inside and out of the classroom. SIU, its faculty, and staff are committed to supporting students and providing them with the necessary tools to be successful both now as well as after graduation.

Why did you choose the major that you did?
Growing up, I had the privilege of being raised on my family’s diversified grain and livestock farm. This immediate involvement in the agricultural industry allowed me to develop a deep passion and appreciation for agriculture. Through various leadership roles in organizations like 4-H and FFA, I built upon the foundation of being raised in agriculture and discovered my passion to communicate about it. Collectively a variety of experiences and opportunities have led me to be pursuing a degree in Agricultural Communications with the ultimate goal of serving the farm, the farmer, and the consumers. I plan on utilizing my knowledge from being raised in production agriculture to bridge the gap that lies between producers and consumers by generating consumer trust and cultivating understanding.

How would you describe your favorite(s) professors/staff/admin at your college?
Committed. I’m very grateful for the commitment they have to my success both inside and outside of their classroom. Regardless of the time of day or how busy their schedule is, they make time for me, and they value my perspective as a student.

Did you benefit from a scholarship? If so, how?
I am extremely grateful for the financial support I have been gifted. The generosity of donors has provided me with some of the most amazing experiences to learn and explore a variety of opportunities. Their generosity has lessened the financial burden that paying for college can be ultimately providing me with ample time to focus on academics while maintaining high levels of involvement across campus and in my community.

Are you involved in any student organizations and, if so, in what capacity?
I am grateful for the involvement I have been able to have across our campus through a variety of student organizations as well as employment opportunities. I am currently serving as President of Sigma Alpha Sorority, which is a professional agricultural sorority, as well as President of our Collegiate Farm Bureau Chapter, Financial Chair of Agricultural Student Council, an Agbassador, a Saluki Ambassador, and a member of the Agriculture Education Club, ATA, and Collegiate FFA. I also serve on the national scale as an Agriculture Future of America Student Ambassador.

What would you say to encourage donors to give back to SIU?
Your donation is an investment. You have the power to invest in the next generation of leaders across a variety of professions and industries. I am extremely humbled to have received such support and know that it serves as encouragement going forward as I strive to make a difference in the lives of others as I know that I will encounter challenges. Regardless of if you personally know a student or not, you become an integral role in their success both educationally and beyond.

What is a fun fact about you that you would like to share?
For my siblings and me, being part of the Saluki family started prior to stepping foot on campus as students. We were raised rooting on SIU and our frequent visits started at homecoming in 1999. My siblings and I, a set of quadruplets, were 5 months old and our mom marched as an Alumni of the Marching Salukis. My parents, David & Korrie Hartke, are both proud SIU Alumni. My mom received her degree in Radio/Television and my dad in Animal Science.

They, in fact, met at SIU!

Although my brother, Dustin, decided trade school would prepare him best, my brothers Alex and Garrett, as well as myself are all Salukis. Alex graduated in May 2021 with his degree in Agribusiness Economics and Garrett and I are seniors. Garrett is a Crop, Soil, and Environmental Management major, and I am an Agricultural Communications student. All three of us have worked in different capacities on campus while also being highly involved in a variety of RSO’s. In fact, a large majority of my aunts, uncles, and cousins have chosen SIU to pursue their education as well.


Meet Freshman Lexi Mueller

Lexi Mueller, a Valmeyer, Illinois native, is a freshman majoring in Agricultural Education. She received the Chancellor Scholarship, the Harrisonville Telephone Company/Henry W. Gentsch Memorial Scholarship and the Thomas Stitt Scholarship.

Why did you choose the major that you did?
My father and uncle both have degrees in Agricultural Education. Growing up on a rural small farm, I knew I wanted a career in agriculture. When I joined the Valmeyer FFA, the experiences that I had helped me find the specific aspect of agriculture I wanted to be involved in, which is education. I was also elected as the 2020-2021 Illinois FFA State President and seeing the behind-the-scenes of Agricultural Education made me want to give back to my future students and my community.

What do you enjoy most so far about your college?
In the agriculture department at SIU, I’ve found in my short time here that the professors, staff, and administration truly care about us as individuals instead of as a number. Our agriculture faculty go out of their way to ensure that we as students have the most opportunities and strive to learn who we are and our stories to better serve us as students.

Are you involved in any student organizations and, if so, in what capacity?
I am just beginning to look at joining student organizations here on campus. I am interested, however, in joining Ag Ed Club, Collegiate FFA, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Sigma Alpha. I look forward to seeing what these organizations can teach me.

Did you benefit from a scholarship? If so, how?
I greatly benefited from scholarships here at SIU and from local sources at home. Here at SIU, I was honored to receive the Chancellor Scholarship, Harrisonville Telephone Company Scholarship, and the Thomas Stitt Scholarship. With the support of generous donors, I am able to attend school here for the academics and experience without the financial worry that a typical college student has. Without the support of scholarships, I don’t know if I’d be here at SIU.

What would you say to encourage donors to give back to SIU?
To donors, I would first like to say thank you for even considering giving to SIU. I am firsthand an individual who can obtain a college education because of generous donors. I encourage you to look at the stories of individual students who benefit and ask yourself if you want to be a part of something that is so much bigger than yourself. I am a farm kid from a small village in Illinois and because of outside support, I am able to make a name for myself. I am one of thousands of students here at SIU who can further their education to ultimately give back to our communities. A donation means so much to us students and we would forever be grateful for your support in us.

What is a fun fact about you that you would like to share?
I was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm. My family raises sheep, chickens, pigs, goats, horses, rabbits, corn, soybeans, rye, wheat, and pumpkins. I managed our family’s 8-12 acre pumpkin patch for four years before coming to school here.

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Extended Campus offers multitude of opportunities

By Rebecca Renshaw

Jamie Newton, a senior majoring in elementary education, has always been a good student. Now, she’s nearly ready to transition from student to teacher, and she says SIU’s Extended Campus program has had a lot to do with her preparation.

“I am very grateful to be in the elementary education program at the SIU Rend Lake Extended Campus,” she said. “I have had the chance to get to know my professors on a personal level. It is very apparent that these professors are invested in our success in the program.”

Newton, a recipient of the Lida Lisenby Taylor Future Educator Scholarship, looks forward to teaching first or second grade after she graduates.

“I’ve always had a love of school and learning. SIU has provided me with the tools and confidence so I can be a good educator,” she said. “Spending time at my clinical sites has reinforced my belief that teaching is what I was meant to do.”

Expansive offerings, lasting connections

Featuring countless online courses and off-campus locations across Illinois, in nine other states, and at numerous military sites, SIU’s Extended Campus brings the Saluki experience to the student.

“We help bridge the physical gap between Carbondale and students around the globe,” said Julie Dunston, interim executive director of Extended Campus. “There are Salukis everywhere, and that doesn’t only refer to alumni. We have SIU students  taking classes from coast to coast.”

Having students on campus is an important factor in the college experience, but modern universities have put an emphasis on maintaining a strong off-campus reputation. That connection is something that has struck Newton about her experience.

“There are 18 students in the program including myself. This program has given me an opportunity to create lifelong friendships with my peers,” she said.


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Meet Scholarship Recipient Vernecelyn Allen

Having a clear vision of what we want to accomplish early in life is rare. Vernecelyn Allen is a remarkable exception. Allen graduated this year with a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management and an Associate of Applied Sciences in Aviation Flight.

“Thanks to my mother, I was exposed to different career opportunities through summer camps. I received great experiences during those times that taught me about areas like technology and theater, but the one that intrigued me the most is aviation,” said Allen.

In high school, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP) invited Allen to attend a camp in Delaware where she received flight hours, learned about aviation, flew air simulators, and visited control towers.

“OBAP really nurtured my love for flying. Aviation is not largely populated by black pilots, so they really served as mentors for me and encouraged me in aviation,” she said.

In her senior year of high school, Allen attended an SIU college fair. She learned about their aviation management and flight program. Allen later visited SIU during an open house and was impressed by its aviation program and the many scholarships that were available.

Allen applied to eight other universities in addition to SIU; however, it was being awarded the Chancellor’s Scholarship that helped her choose SIU.

“Aviation flight fees can run up to $25,000 above the cost of a regular tuition in a single year, and the SIU aviation department offered opportunities to students to apply for aid. Receiving the Chancellor’s Scholarship and other aviation scholarships really helped along with the African-American Achievement Scholarship,” she said.

Allen says she is thankful that the scholarships have allowed her to minimize her educational financial burden.

“I would definitely be more stressed out if I had to face a larger loan balance after I graduate. Funding makes such a difference in our lives. It could mean the difference between living out or giving up a dream. I am so grateful to the people and organizations who have found it important to create scholarships so that students can empower themselves to continue to pursue education,” she said.

Upon graduation, Allen hopes to become a flight instructor at SIU. Her ultimate goal is to return to her hometown of Memphis and fly for Federal Express. She would also like to be an officer in the Air National Guard.

“Someday, I want to focus on giving back to groups underrepresented in the industry. I think scholarships would empower more to attain the education they desire, and to reach beyond the stars.”

Chancellor’s Scholarship Program nurtures special connections

Donors encouraged to get involved

By Jeff Wilson

The Chancellor’s Scholarship Program offers a special opportunity to select SIU undergraduates.

The full scholarship, valued at over $102,000, covers in-state tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board charges for four years. Beyond the monetary benefit, the scholarship has great value to students and the university.

“The Chancellor’s Scholarship Program allows students to pursue their passion,” said Dr. LaShonda Stewart, director of the program. “They work with esteemed professors, have the chance to study abroad, and complete 20 hours of community service. They are constantly engaged.”

The program creates a community of support and engagement. The graduation rate for recipients of the scholarship is nearly 100 percent, and most stay connected to the university and one another for years.

“We’re truly teaching the leaders of tomorrow,” Stewart said. “They make the best ambassadors for the university, both as students and later as alumni.”

Even the process of selecting recipients creates a buzz around SIU among prospective students.

“In the past, we’ve hosted about 260 students and their parents for our CSP events,” said Amber Rivers, program coordinator for academic scholarships. “This year, the chancellor went to some local schools and personally informed students about their scholarship. That really built great excitement.”

Currently, the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program works as a tuition voucher program, which means the university simply allows those students to come to SIU and live on campus for free.

Now, the university is offering alumni the opportunity to support and potentially expand the program through donations.

“This is an incredible opportunity,” said SIU Foundation CEO Matt Kupec. “By financially backing the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, our alumni can put their stamp on one of the university’s most prestigious programs.”

The plan, which is in its early stages, wouldn’t change much about the program, but it would give the university a financial boost and add to the impact of these scholarships.

Dozens of students are offered Chancellor’s Scholarships each year, and there are hundreds of alumni around the country. Here are few of their stories:

Mason Higgins, 2018 graduate

Nearing the end of his high school years in Oregon, Wisconsin, Mason Higgins said he was “throwing darts” when it came to choosing a college.

“All I knew is, at that time, I wanted to get away from home, and then I received a letter from SIU,” he said. “I decided to stop by on my way to some other places.”

Having never been to Southern Illinois before, Higgins didn’t know what to expect. At the time, he was interested in theater, so he stopped by the RSO fair.

“I asked a student at the booth whether I could join the program even if I wasn’t a theater student, and he didn’t know,” he said. “I walked from the Rec Center to Starbucks at the Student Center and found that Tom Kidd had followed me all the way there. I walk fast, and he caught me and told me to join.”

Kidd, who recently passed away, was the director of SIU’s theater department, and his persistence impressed Higgins.

“After that, I really fell in love with campus, the greenery, the beauty,” he said. “Everybody at SIU loved SIU. There was a lot of positivity in the air. It really is a small school with big opportunities.”

Receiving the Chancellor’s Scholarship allowed Higgins to pursue many goals and flex his academic muscle. He earned three bachelor’s degrees – music, Spanish, and criminology – and even took 30 credit hours his last semester.

“I was able to learn about who I am,” he said. “The program offers so much mentorship, and you’re being constantly challenged. SIU decided to invest in me, and it paid dividends.”

After graduating, Higgins worked for about a year and half as a police officer in Madison, Wisconsin, until he decided to pursue a law degree from the University of Wisconsin.

“Like SIU, the Madison police officers all love their jobs and their community,” he said. “I just thought I’d be happier as an attorney. I know I want to be a litigator, work as an advocate, and focus on civil rights.”

He gives the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program credit for shaping him and said he believes the program is a perfect choice for those with a philanthropic spirit.

“I had a family in that program. It helps you to be your best person,” Higgins said. “I’m looking forward to the day I have money to give back.”

Britt Peyton, 2021 graduate

Britt Peyton, who is graduating from SIU this spring, clearly remembers the moment she found out she had received the Chancellor’s Scholarship.

“My dad brought it to softball practice, and he said, ‘You got the letter,’” said the Norris City, Illinois, native. “It’s not an opportunity a lot of students get. It was amazing because I didn’t have to do it by myself.”

A third-generation Saluki, Peyton made the most of her experience in Carbondale. She earned her bachelor’s in biological science, worked as a Saluki ambassador, and was a member of the Marching Salukis. Next, she’ll start the BSN program at Barnes-Jewish in St. Louis.

The financial relief provided by the scholarship allowed her focus on furthering her education and gain experience in her field by working as a CNA at a local nursing home and compiling patient contact hours.

“I want to convey how amazing the opportunities are at SIU,” she said. “The Chancellor’s Scholarship helped me make many important connections. The more scholarships the better, and coming from alumni, it would mean that much more.”

Luis Prado, 2019 graduate

It didn’t take long for Luis Prado to see that SIU was the right place for him and receiving the Chancellor’s Scholarship made it that much more special.

“My heart was split about where to go,” he said. “I was invited for a visit and when I got here, I immediately thought, ‘What is this place?’ I was taken by how beautiful campus is.”

Prado had already decided on SIU and was ready to join the Marching Salukis before he first learned about the Chancellor’s Scholarship.

“I started college with 200 friends because of the Marching Salukis,” he said. “I was prepared to work while going to school, and then I learned about the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program.”

When the Westmont, Illinois, native was notified that he’d been selected for the scholarship, he was overjoyed.

“All that extra time I was going to spend doing other things, I was now able to put into organizations and research,” Prado said. “I was able to change my major three times. I feel blessed.”

He decided to focus on geology and is now working on his master’s in environmental sustainability at SIU while working as a teaching assistant. Prado chalks much of his success to the opportunities afforded to him by the scholarship.

“Students can explore their passion outside and inside the classroom,” he said. “You’re part of a community of excellence. There are resources that allow you to flourish.”

Elijah Henson, 2021 graduate

An Albion, Illinois, native Elijah Henson was considering moving away for college until his little sister was born.

“After that, I didn’t want to move too far away,” he said about deciding to come to SIU. “I’ve been really happy with my decision.”

After being accepted, Henson received a Chancellor’s Scholarship. Coming from a family of five the financial support was important.

“It gave me the opportunity to explore,” he said. “My scholarship made college what it was for me.”

Henson was an active member of Alpha Sigma Phi and part of the Saluki Student Investment Fund, which allows business students hands-on experience in portfolio management and investment research.

“(The SSIF) really opened up my eyes,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot more and gotten ahead in my classes.”

After graduating this spring with a bachelor’s in accounting, Henson will begin working as an audit associate at Grant Thornton Public Accounting in St. Louis.

Grace Vargas, 2019 graduate

Growing up in Logan Square in Chicago, Grace Vargas went to a competitive high school. While many of her classmates were exploring Ivy League options, she found everything she was looking for at SIU.

After finding out about the Chancellor’s Scholarship and attending a Scholarship Weekend event on campus, she was convinced.

“I was excited to find a state school with so many options,” she said. “I knew I wanted to grow here and be changed by this place.”

Receiving a full scholarship offered the ability to explore options, and eventually she settled on anthropology as her major. She also studied marketing, Spanish language, political science, and Latino studies.

“The scholarship gave me freedom to pursue things I cared about,” Vargas said. “I found people who were so warm and curious. I am so blessed to have gotten this scholarship.”

While at SIU, she interned for state Rep. Will Guzzardi and helped bring him to the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Vargas went on to work as his chief of staff for about a year.

During the pandemic, she’s been working in communications and marketing for state Rep. Delia Ramirez and finding success with remote work options.

“I’m a go-getter and being at SIU was about being that person,” Vargas said. “My experience at SIU was about holistic development.”

By supporting the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, Vargas said alumni and donors have the chance to make a major difference.

“You can be who you needed when you were younger,” she said. “If you’re blessed enough to help, do whatever you can. It’s not just an education. It’s not about getting the degree and leaving.”

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Saluki bond strengthened through scholarships

Abbie Young, SIU Saluki Swim team member stands in pool.

For Saluki swimmer Abbie Young, her SIU experience has been about making connections.

“I’ve made lifelong friendships with people from all over the world,” Young said. “Being part of the Saluki community means you’re surrounded by people who want you to succeed.”

Young, a senior from Fort Wayne, Indiana, has received an athletic scholarship, a Dean’s Scholarship and the Carol Lee Swim Memorial Award, which is given to a female Kinesiology major at the senior level.

“My scholarships have allowed me to gear all my focus on school and swimming,” she said. “They definitely had an impact on my decision to be a Saluki.”

One of SIU’s most consistent swimmers, Young competes in the freestyle and butterfly events. An MVC Scholar-Athlete, she’s studying exercise science with the hopes of becoming a physician’s assistant.

“SIU has amazing pre-health course studies that allowed me to get my pre-requisites and offered challenging courses that will prepare me for PA school,” she said.

Saluki Athletics takes pride in the volunteer hours and community service performed by its student-athletes. Young volunteered more than 100 hours last year, earning the Top Community Service Award.

“Being a Saluki has been an impactful journey. I have grown as a person and have learned so much about myself and what it takes to work toward my goals,” Young said. “My experience as a student-athlete, especially as team captain, has helped develop my leadership abilities.”

As she makes her post-graduation plans, Young knows her time in Carbondale will stick with her forever.

“Some of my fondest memories are from being part of the SIU Swimming & Diving team. Our team bond is unexplainable, and it became my instant family while away from home,” she said. “My time at SIU may have only been four years, but I know I will be a Saluki for life.”

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Learn About SIU College of Engineering’s Leaders of Tomorrow

With a new year, it is a time of new beginnings, especially for the SIU College of Engineering. After a diligent search, Dean Xiaoqing “Frank” Liu was appointed as the new dean for the SIU College of Engineering in June 2020.

Liu was the professor and department head of the Computer Science and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas and held the college’s Rodger S. Kline Leadership Chair. The department is within the university’s College of Engineering.

Meera Komarraju, SIU’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said Liu brings several strengths to the position.

“Dr. Liu brings teaching, research, and administrative expertise spanning two universities that would benefit our students, staff, and faculty,” she said. “He has a strong track record in promoting student enrollment, engagement and success as well faculty development and research productivity.”

Extensive experience

Liu also served as chair of the University of Arkansas’ Computer Activities Council, playing a leadership role in the governance of information technologies for the university. Before joining Arkansas in 2015, Liu served as interim department chair and associate department chair in the computer science department at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Liu is an established scholar in service computing, software engineering, cyber argumentation, cyber manufacturing and applied artificial intelligence. He has participated in 29 sponsored research projects with $8.8 million in funding as principal or co-principal investigator or faculty participant.

He has published 156 referred journal and conference papers and book chapters. Liu received his Ph.D. in computer science from the Texas A&M University in 1995.

Excited for the opportunity

Liu said he is excited for the opportunity to serve as dean.

“The college is in a time of significant transformation. I appreciate the confidence given by the chancellor and provost and the trust given by the faculty, staff and students in my ability for leading this transformation,” he said. “I am looking forward to working with campus leadership, faculty, staff and students in the college and related disciplines to move this college to its next level of excellence.”

The SIU College of Engineering holds fast to a unique tradition of access and opportunity, inclusive excellence, and top-tier research. The faculty encourage creativity within a climate of outstanding student success-focused teaching. The college’s five departments offer a wide range of courses and promotes opportunities for students to participate in a wide range of activities outside the classroom including research, design competitions, service-oriented projects and leadership development activities.

Spotlight on School of Engineering Students

Below are highlights from interviews from a sampling of students who are pursuing a degree within the College of Engineering:

Scott Kasper, Senior, Riverton, Illinois

Kasper, a recipient of the University Excellence Scholarship and a scholarship from the SIU College of Engineering, says his interest in civil engineering began in high school where he took some low-level courses in engineering. But, his real interest began when he came to SIU and met the faculty within the college.

“The SIU College of Engineering really reached out to me and encouraged me. At larger universities, I know I would not be on a first-name basis with a chair of a department like I am here. The college just promotes a true community spirit where we are all in this together,” Kasper said.

He says that one of his biggest influences during his studies has been the chair of civil engineering, Dr. Sanjeev Kumar.

“Dr. Kumar, from day one, has made himself so approachable and helpful. He never made me feel like just a number. I really have appreciated his help,” Kasper said.

Kasper currently has an internship at Shawnee Professional Services in Benton, Illinois, and has plans on getting a master’s degree in civil engineering at SIU College of Engineering. His professional aspirations are to become a professional civil engineer in water resources.

Kasper recognizes that his focus on his studies would have been much more challenging had he not received his scholarships.

“To receive a helping hand from donors has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. I encourage other donors to continue to give to students like me in the College of Engineering. In my opinion, it could not be a better use of their money because they can literally change the course of a young person’s life,” Kasper said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Jessica Kurpius, Senior, Genoa, Illinois

Kurpius, a SIU Chancellor Scholarship recipient, said that when she was taking a tour of the SIU campus during her senior year in high school, that something special clicked inside of her. Kurpius had applied and was accepted at several other universities besides SIU, including University of Illinois, Marquette and Purdue, but SIU was the only one that fit her personality and dreams perfectly.

“I just knew this was the place for me because it felt right in my heart,” she said.

Kurpius said her aptitude for math steered her toward the engineering field. She also said the influence of being around other students who were engineering majors helped her change her undecided status to pursue a degree in civil engineering.

“The College of Engineering just has so many activities and clubs where several dedicated students really fuel the interest level,” she said.

Kurpius serves as president of the Concrete Canoe Club and is proud of the club’s achievements.

“The ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition provides civil engineering students an opportunity to gain hands-on, practical experience and leadership skills by working with concrete mix designs and project management. It also increases awareness of the value and benefits of ASCE membership among civil engineering students and faculty in order to foster lifelong membership and participation in the Society,” Kurpius said.

SIU’s Concrete Canoe Club competed at the National ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition in 2015, 2016 and 2018. In 2018, SIU students won first place in the technical paper competition, while the concrete canoe and steel bridge teams both took second in their respective competitions.

Kurpius encourages donors to give to the student organizations such as the Concrete Canoe Club.

“Donations make a huge difference in our clubs’ activities and opportunities. We need help with paying for the necessary material and the travel expense. A donation of any size helps so much,” she said.

Kurpius is graduating from SIU in May of 2021 and will start a new job in Kansas City at Burns and McDonald, a full-service engineering, architecture, construction, environmental and consulting solutions firm.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Ally Bires, Senior, Gillespie, IL

Bires said her love of engineering came from when she was a small girl working alongside her father.

“We were always spending time building things together, so engineering, especially mechanical engineering, came as a natural extension from when I was young,” she said.

Bires is a walking ambassador for the College of Engineering and is very supportive of the college.

“This college has given me a future by providing me with scholarships, opportunities and so many contacts,” she said. “It has great programs and faculty members go out of their way to give students everything they need to know to go out and be successful in the workforce.”

Bires spent the last two years working as a calling supervisor for the SIU Foundation. She understands the importance of philanthropy and of lending a helping hand, especially to registered student organizations, such as the Rover Design Club.

“We learn so much by building a rover. The entire machine cannot be built using any pre-fabricated parts other than the shocks and pedal shafts,” she said. “Our team looks forward to the opportunity to participate in the annual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Design teams from 70 high school, college and university teams from all of the world come to race their rovers and it is a really exciting competition.”

She encourages donors to give to such student groups as the SIU Rover Design Team.

“We need so much material, and we also need funds to travel. It is an opportunity for a donor to really change the course of young people’s lives by donating to the SIU College of Engineering,” Bires said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Brock Ward, Junior, Downs, IL

As a senior in high school, Brock Ward was accepted into several universities, such as University of Illinois, Saint Louis University and SIU Carbondale. Ward said that he chose the SIU College of Engineering because of several factors – distance from home, the beauty of the campus and the offer of the SIU University Excellence Scholarship.

“Everything just fell in place for me. The affordability, the beauty surrounding me and the personalized and friendly approach the faculty has shown me really made a positive impact,” Ward said.

Ward is a member of the college’s Leadership Development Program (LDP). The SIU College of Engineering is one of very few STEM colleges (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the nation that offers a technical leadership program. The SIU Leadership Development Program provides a direct bridge from leadership training to a career as a technical leader. Founded in 2006 by Dick Blaudow, an engineering alumnus and chairman of the board of Advanced Technology Services in Peoria. Blaudow and his wife, Brigitte, established the program as a way to help develop the next generation of America’s technical leaders.

Bruce DeRuntz, professor of technology at SIU and director of the College of Engineering’s Leadership Development Program, says the program truly transforms these students into leaders.

“To be successful, these students know they have to prepare for success. It’s great to watch the transformation happen in these students as they go through the LDP program,” DeRuntz said.

Ward joined the group in December of 2018 and says the group gives him a place to practice leadership skills, project management and real-world experience.

“I am enjoying the connections I am making in both the group and in the community,” he said. “Recently we got to go take a tour of Southern Illinois Healthcare to try out their surgery automation machines. It was very cool. LDP also connects students to a wide variety of internship opportunities.”

Ward hope that donors will give back to his college during the upcoming SIU Day of Giving.

“I think if a donor has some money to give back to SIU, I can’t think of a better place to make an investment into young people that are motivated to make the world a better place,” Ward said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Audrey “Claire” Waldon, Junior, Olive Branch, MS

Waldon’s sister attended SIU in 2014 but Waldon insisted she was not going to follow in her sister’s footsteps and attend the same university. However, as Waldon saw the support her sister received during her time in Carbondale, it became a natural progression that Waldon would fall in love with SIU as well.

“Everyone here is like family. The professors are so supportive and the RSOs really connect students to one another and they help ignite their passions,” said Waldon.

Waldon is a recipient of the Chancellor Scholarship and she also serves as the ASCE Chapter President. She says she enjoys being involved, especially with the SIU College of Engineering’s Concrete Canoe team.

“One of my favorite memories is coming back to Campus Lake’s shore after doing a test run with our concrete canoe. In the sandy area by the boathouse, we got to see baby turtles hatching from their eggs. It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget,” said Waldon.

Waldon hopes that donors will give back on March 3 for the SIU Day of Giving, especially the College of Engineering.

“SIU serves as a door to opportunity for so many students. When donors give, they are truly investing in our future.”

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Nelson Fernandes, Junior, Chicago, IL

Nelson Fernandes, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering has big plans for his future. He minors is in continuous improvement sustainability and he is specializing in energy engineering.

“I am a senior mechanical engineering undergraduate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a focus in energy engineering, sustainability, and continuous improvement. At SIU Carbondale, I am the program manager for the SIU Green Roof Team, which is my project to transform the SIU Green Roof, originally an urban horticulture research facility, into a multidisciplinary innovation hub,” he said. “Here, students from all fields of study can bring their research projects to life. Presently, we are especially focused on Renewable Energy projects. We are improving the space through low-cost engineering projects to jumpstart and bring awareness of the research opportunities.

“Our team members from SIU Carbondale and other universities gain hands-on experience while modeling the way for other innovative students to work on multidisciplinary projects like renewable energy technologies which is a growing field of study in our university’s curriculum.”

Fernandes said he first learned about the SIU College of Engineering while he was working on a science project in high school.

“I became connected to Dr. Koc, who was the chair of the department, who connected me to other SIU professors to help me in my project to make material that turns greenhouse gases into oxygen and liquid hydrogen. He was very kind and welcoming,” Fernandes said.

Fernandes is the first recipient of the Applied Energy Boost Scholarship, and he gives Dr. Mondal credit for encouraging him to study at SIU College of Engineering.

“Dr. Mondal showed me he truly cares about me and students like me. He and the entire faculty are sincere in their desire to help students and they are willing to work with us,” Fernandes said.

Fernandes hopes donors give back to SIU College of Engineering during the SIU Day of Giving and beyond.

“Finances are critical to help projects we are working on continue to grow. We have the right people, but we could use the financial help,” he said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Grant Berger, Senior, Murphysboro, IL

Grant Berger is majoring in computer engineering and is a recipient of the SIU Dean’s Scholarship and serves as president of the SIU Carbondale Robotics Team.

“This club has about 40 active members and gives students a lot of hands-on experience. It gives students from the College of Engineering the opportunity to design, build and test real working robots built to specific specifications,” Berger said.

Having grown up in Southern Illinois, Berger says his exposure to SIU came at an early age. He spent summers attending camps at SIU and attended many basketball and football games throughout the years.

“You can definitely say maroon is in my veins. I love it here,” he said.

When asked what he likes the most about the SIU College of Engineering, Berger said that he appreciates the early hands-on experiences he has gained during his undergraduate years.

“There are many places that won’t allow students to get into labs and do hands-on experiments until they are a senior or else are in graduate school. I have really appreciated getting into the labs early on and also appreciated how helpful the professors are in this college,” he said.

Berger recognizes how his scholarship made a difference in his college career.

“College is expensive, and I am not sure how I would have paid for my education had I not received the dean’s scholarship. It allowed me to focus on my schoolwork. I am forever grateful,” he said.

Berger hopes donors will give to the college’s RSO during the upcoming SIU Day of Giving.

“It would be fantastic if we were able to purchase newer equipment. The equipment in our college is starting to show its age, and it can negatively affect your data. It is critical we have good equipment so we can compete with other universities,” he said.

To learn how you can donate to the SIU College of Engineering, visit on March 3.

Aspiring physician a perfect fit for new scholarship

Maryam Makhdoom receives first Thanu and Nongyao Kulachol Library Scholarship

Pictured left to right: Maryam Makhdoom, Jared and Maryann Dorn.

By Rebecca Renshaw

Maryam Makhdoom hadn’t heard of the Thanu and Nongyao Kulachol Library Scholarship. It’s a new scholarship with a specific focus, and that made Makhdoom its ideal first recipient.

Established in 2019, the scholarship supports students who want to work with populations in Southeast Asia doing public health projects, which aligns with her desire to go to Singapore for a semester to learn more about international public health.

Dean of Library Affairs John Pollitz contacted Makhdoom, a senior majoring in public health, to share the good news.

“I was thrilled to discover I was awarded this scholarship because it fits in so well with my desires to further my knowledge about public health in southeast Asia,” said Makhdoom, who is also the university’s 2020 Lincoln Academy of Illinois Student Laureate.

Makhdoom plans to devote her life to helping improve the health and lives of people however she can. She is particularly interested in the emerging interdisciplinary fields of global health diplomacy.

Her goal is to become a physician, focusing on health disparities and inequalities. She said she will likely specialize in the care of women and children.

She is also seeking a Fulbright scholarship for 2021-22 to expand her research into how cultural values affect health outcomes.

“Should I be awarded the Fulbright, I will use the Thanu and Nongyao Kulachol Library Scholarship I have received to travel to Singapore,” Makhdoom said. “I have been so blessed that this scholarship fits so well with my dreams.”

The creation of the scholarship was a collaborative effort between the SIU Foundation and Library Affairs, along with donors Jared and Maryann Dorn.

“Sometimes many students are not aware of scholarships that are available to them that align with their future plans,” Makhdoom said. “Donors really open up career paths for students and broaden their horizons. Such opportunities open their eyes and allows them to focus more clearly on their hopes and plans. I would encourage other donors to give so more students could benefit from opportunities such as the ones I have received here at SIU. I am so thankful for donors like Jared and Maryann Dorn, and I am excited about the future before me.”

Thank You from Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund Recipients

During the COVID-19 pandemic, generous donors raised more than $250,000 for the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund. That money has been distributed among hundreds of students, helping them with many financial issues. Here are some of their stories:

Bradley Brown – Bridging the gap

I am from West Bloomfield, Michigan. Both of my parents graduated from SIU, and this encouraged me to follow in their footsteps. I am finishing with a degree in hospitality, tourism & event management, and a minor in marketing. During my time at SIU, I was an active member in my fraternity and HTEM event planning club.

This support helped me tremendously during this time, as I haven’t been able to work either of my jobs anymore. I am saving up for my move to Atlanta in August where I will be working as a food & beverage manager in training with Marriott International. This gracious support is helping me further reach my goals for post-graduation. I can’t say thank you enough!

Brooke Buerck – Finishing strong

I would like to extend a gracious thank-you to the donors who supported me during this pandemic with funds from the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund during this pandemic. My family and I are very grateful for the funding that helped me cover my rent and water bill. That lifted a weight off of my shoulders during a very busy work week and last few weeks of school. Because of that, I was able to finish my semester strong and free from financial stress on myself or my family.

I am from Perryville, Missouri, and I came to SIU because I fell in love with the campus, and I knew that I wanted to attend law school after finishing my undergraduate degree. My major is English, and I am pursuing a minor in Spanish, and I am a part of the Pre-Law Scholars program through the SIU Honors Program. I am also the president of Women’s Club Volleyball, I coached a 15u team with the SMASH Volleyball Academy (which practices in Davies Gymnasium), and I also am a sports reporter at the Daily Egyptian. My time so far at SIU (I’ve been here for two years and have one more to go!) has provided me with more opportunities than I could have ever imagined, and I know that I will graduate with even more doors in front of me, ready to be opened, because of the connections I have made here. I have learned from my parents (and from their parents as well) that hard work is an important part of success. My father was the first of his family to earn a college degree (from SEMO) and my mother has worked as a dialysis technician for 15 years now and has only worked harder since the start of the pandemic. Both of them have helped me tremendously throughout college and have demonstrated to me how to work and support myself as well.

As someone who takes pride in the things I do, sometimes it can be hard to extend a hand and ask for help, but during this pandemic I have seen a tremendous amount of support offered by the university, and I’m extremely grateful for the SIU community and all it has done for me. So, again, I want to thank the donors and the SIU Foundation for making this support possible and all that it has done for other students as well during this trying time!

Tayler Goldtrap – Weight lifted

I am a senior majoring in forestry. I am the first person in my family to be graduating from college and earning a degree, which has been very exciting and an honor. I am from a small town near Kankakee, Illinois, called Chebanse. I grew up with a single parent, my mother, who is a cosmetologist and makes very little money. Her hard work and determination helped me make the decision to continue on in my education at SIU, and forestry has always been a passion of mine. I was involved in wildlife clubs on campus and participated in volunteering events off of campus to help out the environment. The support I have been given by the SIU Foundation has allowed me to study for finals and finish them with ease and has taken a weight off my shoulders since becoming unemployed.

My future plans consist of continuing job searching and eventually moving west to become a park ranger. I am very thankful for the assistance that was given to me through SIU and its supporters. I hope to one day be able to give back to this community just as it has given to me.

Jazmine Hawkins – Supporting my drive

I am from Mount Vernon, Illinois. I am the daughter of Christie and Trymon Hawkins. My mom is a general manager at McDonald’s, and my dad works at the Walgreens distribution center in Mount Vernon. I am very excited to graduate next year, and I’ll be be the first in my family to obtain a bachelor’s degree. That was has been driving me to succeed. My parents never got the opportunity.

I am studying health care management at SIU. I just wanted to thank you for the support during this pandemic. This helped me cover my rent expenses when due. I had been working 20-plus hours a week as a server at Red Lobster until we were laid off. So, this helped me out tremendously, and I cannot thank you guys enough. After graduation, I plan on moving somewhere down south to work manage an OBGYN clinic. I love Florida, and it is a happy place to be. Once again, thank you for the support!

Amy Kovarik – SIU cares, and it shows

I am from Sesser, Illinois, and went to Sesser-Valier High School. I have an older brother who attended SIU in the aviation program and graduated in 2007 and a younger sister who also plans to attend SIU in the radiology program in a few years. I have always wanted to attend SIU since my brother introduced me to the campus and shared his experiences. My parents have always encouraged my siblings and I to pursue a degree at a university, and I am thankful that I have made SIU my home. I am enrolled in the mathematics education program, and I am so thankful for the connections and friendships that I have made in this program. I am involved in two jobs – one in the New Student Programs office on campus and the other is off campus at the housing complex I live at. I have always enjoyed being a part of New Student Programs and have enjoyed welcoming the incoming students to campus and making them feel comfortable as they transition to SIU. By having rent and payments to make, having two jobs has always been something that I have done to make my payments on time.

Since the quarantine, it has been difficult to do so because my hours have been cut so drastically that making my payments has not been feasible. This gift that I received from the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund has made the stress of life during this difficult time much less. I have been able to focus on finishing my classes and work on my grades and being the best student I can be during this time. I plan to graduate in a year, and this gift has helped so much in looking forward to exceeding my goals this semester of making good grades and passing all of my classes. As graduation approaches, I plan to be looking for high school math education jobs in this area. I love this area and the people that make up Southern Illinois. I wish to always give back to this community and hopefully be an instructor at a college in the future.

This gift will be something that I will always remember and appreciate from my college experience. SIU cares about its students, and this is one example of the gracious and caring faculty and alumni that make SIU so amazing. I thank you so much for thinking about students such as myself and giving back to those in need.

Emily Nickelson – Assistance eases the burden

I am from Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. My mom is a single mother raising three children due to the loss of my father when I was at a young age. My mother is a cook at Ste. Genevieve RII School District and continues to provide for the community during this difficult time. She prepares breakfast and lunches through the school program for children in need of food. She has raised three children, all of which have some type of college or technical degree.

I am a student of the physical therapist program now entering my last semester for summer internships. My freshman track injury is what led me to pursue a degree in physical therapy. I was struck by a disc at a track and field event, and ever since I attended physical therapy it has inspired me. I want to give back and help people in my community by providing my knowledge and care.

My future plans are to finish summer internships and pass my boards exam to become a licensed physical therapist assistant. Then, I plan to continue to attend SIU for a bachelor’s degree in health care management. I plan on working a full-time job as a PTA while working on earning my second degree.

The support from the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund helped me with making a rent payment. Without this help I would have been incurring late fees daily due to recently losing my job, which makes paying my rent difficult at this time. I appreciate the support this fund has assisted me with during the pandemic. Thank you so much for the assistance!

Ethan Piekos – Keeping dreams in focus

Thank you so much for the support. My hometown is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The funds that you sent me help me out greatly. For myself and my parents, this pandemic is hard on us and paying for my rent helps out tremendously.

I am a biochemistry major at SIU, and I had a job at Traxx until we had to close due to the pandemic.  I found a passion in biochem in high school when I interned for my AP chem teacher, and I enjoyed being in the chemistry lab making solutions and working with chemicals for my teacher. It made me feel like I was in the right place. Currently, I am working in a biochem research lab on the crispr enzyme. For me, it is a very exciting time in my life to be working on this important project that can change the world one day.  Your funds will help me focus on my work inside and outside the lab and let go out the stress of paying my rent for a month, and I cannot say thank you enough for it.

As a student, I plan on obtaining as much hands-on experience in research labs that I can and hopefully be involved in publishing some sort of research. After graduation, I plan on finding a job in the biochem field, potentially being an analytical scientist. Then, after years of this, I plan on going to graduate school to get a Ph.D. in pharmacology.

I want to say thank you for the support and helping me focus on my dreams.

Matthew Santos – Soaring once again

I am writing to you to thank you for granting me financial support through the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund. I am from Chicago, and I am a first-generation college student. This is what mainly drove me to pursue an education past high school. I am a second-year undergrad student majoring in aviation flight and management. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was no longer able to fly or work to continue paying for my apartment in Carbondale.

The money that was used to pay my rent really relieved a lot of stress, and it helped me to finish the semester without worrying that I would have an overdue rent bill. I would also like to mention I am a part of the Flying Salukis, SIU’s national winning flight team. Unfortunately, this year’s national season got canceled, but I look forward to coming back in the fall for our regional competition. Once again, I would like to thank you for helping me out in these uncertain times.

Margaret Schlotter – Providing a guiding light

I am sincerely honored to have been selected as the recipient of funding from the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund. Thanks to your emergency aid, I am the first in my family to pursue a university degree. Growing up in a single-parent household has not only offered financial and academic challenges, but has also made me realize the importance of a college education. My family encouraged me to attend college from a very young age, and they inspired me to pursue a degree in psychology. My father has been unable to assist with the costs of school, and my mother has been paying for the costs of housing. However, due to the pandemic she has been unemployed and unable to help with housing costs.

Thank you for your generosity, which will allow me to further my research interests in counseling psychology. As I continue my education at SIU, I am very thankful for receiving your generous gift. Because of your funding, I am able to relieve some of the unprecedented costs of housing that have arisen as the result of the global pandemic.

I developed a passion for serving underrepresented populations after getting to know my boyfriend’s parents, who are both from Mexico. They showed me unconditional kindness, respect and love. I was able to gain cultural awareness by spending time with them and developed an admiration for Hispanic/Latino cultures. I was able to travel with them to Mexico and immerse myself into Mexican culture. In addition, I was fortunate to attend a study abroad trip to Costa Rica through the University Honors program. These experiences inspired me to learn Spanish as a second language and also pursue Spanish as a minor degree. I have been able to connect with organizations on campus that align with my interests. I am actively involved in the Hispanic Student Council as the vice president and the Psychology Student Association as the public service coordinator. I have also been able to pursue my interests in research through my involvement in the Southern Illinois Twins/Triplets and Siblings Study as a research assistant. I have been able to complete two independent research projects in developmental psychology. This summer, I will be participating in the McNair Program, conducting a research project on socioeconomic status and parenting on child problem behaviors. This fall, I will be working on an honors thesis focusing on minority children and social outcomes.

Upon graduation, I hope to be able to continue my education in a graduate degree program so that I can learn the training I will need to serve the community. This housing funding will allow me to focus on pursing my degree and provide stress relief in a time of uncertainty. Thank you for supporting this goal of mine.

Kristopher Taylor – Continuing the mission

First and foremost, I would like to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to all that donated to this cause. Your support for myself as well as many other students cannot go unrecognized. What you’ve done and are continuing to do is truly remarkable. I’m from Hartford, Connecticut and didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood. My older sister and I were raised by our mother in a single-parent household. My sister and I are the only ones in the family to ever go to college. Once my sister went off to college it was just my mother and I, and for most of my childhood we lived off government assistance. We weren’t really able to keep a consistent home, and we moved around a lot, especially throughout elementary and high school. These experiences drove me to want a better life for myself and my family.

I knew higher education would be my best opportunity at that, and Southern Illinois University gave me that opportunity. I’m currently trying to make the best that opportunity. I’m an industrial management and applied engineering major and student employee at the Recreation Center. I’m a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity here on campus. We pride ourselves on being engaged in the community. My biggest impact in the community was coordinating a school supply giveaway from local youth. Not only that, but I gathered over $200 worth of school supplies and donated them to the Head Start program at the Carbondale location. I would spend a few afternoons over there engaging with the kids trying to be a positive male role model.

Before this support, I wasn’t as focused on my education as I should have been. I was beyond stressed because I could no longer work and was in great fear I would fall behind on bills. The stress of potentially having to leave Carbondale and go home to Connecticut to find work was heavily on my mind. I knew if I went home there was a very small chance I would be able to come back for the fall semester and complete my studies. But your support relieved me of the stress, and I could focus on my studies without worrying if I would have a home here. Now that I can continue my studies, I hope to continue to make an impact in the community one way or another. I take pride in helping people when I can because I know the feeling of being hopeless and in need of help. After graduation, I hope to be a quality engineer somewhere in manufacturing. But my ultimate goal when I can afford to do it is to go to third-world countries (starting in Haiti) on a mission to provide clean water via irrigation system to those who would normally have to walk miles to get it. I feel I can achieve this goal as long as I finish my studies, which you all have made possible, and I can’t thank you enough. This truly a blessing, and I’m extremely grateful for what you’ll have done for me and other students as well.

Alexis Turner – Going above and beyond

My name is Alexis Turner, and I just wanted to start by saying thank you. Thank you so much for your generous donations that have helped a student like me in need. I am beyond grateful during these difficult times to be able to feel financially supported by alumni who genuinely care.

I grew up in Goshen, Indiana, and did my undergrad at Taylor University. My parents only ever obtained their high school diplomas, but I knew that I wanted to grow beyond that. My undergraduate BFA degree is in musical theater. I knew that I wanted to pursue higher education beyond this and wanted to work on being versatile in my field, so I pursued an MM in vocal performance at SIU. I graduated this spring and am so thankful for my time here, both in the professional industry and out. I’ve made many connections that I know I will take with me as I go out into my field from here. I’m currently waiting to hear back from Disney, as that is my first performing arts job that I want to check off of my “to-do” list! After some years dancing, singing and acting for Disney, I’d like to take on the adventure of performing opera. It takes longer for my classical voice to mature, so I think this is a healthy approach to my performing career as a whole.

These hopes and dreams are currently on hold due to our present circumstances, but my desire is that we will come out of this stronger than ever, ready to take on the world. People look to the arts as comfort in hard times, so I pray that we continue to see its importance after the pandemic ends. With an uncertain future, I am certainly glad for financial support to pay one month’s rent as I try to navigate my next steps.

Again, thank you so much for your financial help during these times. I am truly grateful for every penny!

Derrick Wash – Reaching new heights

I would like to tell you about me and how your fund will help my situation. I am from Westville, Illinois. My family and I grew up poor, government aid programs and assistance have been around my whole life. However, I had a great childhood despite the poverty. My parents are both GED graduates, and they both do their best every day to support their family, and we got by. I decided early on that I would want to make sure that my future children would live better than I did and help my parents out along the way. Thankfully, government aid and loans have let me pursue a college education. I have been studying computers for the past 10 years of my life now, and I came to SIU to get a degree in information technology.

Coming here at first was tough socially and mentally, but thanks to my fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi, I was able to grow and learn to better as a person. This support will help me get over the last hump in my education and allow me to graduate and transition into the real world without burden. After this transition, I plan on going directly into the workforce and perhaps later gain a master’s degree in IT. I appreciate all the school has done for me, and I can’t wait to show my appreciation in the future. Thank you!

Deidre Powell – A passion for law

Currently, I am a second-year law student at SIU. I am originally from East St. Louis, IL. I am a product of a single-parent home. Growing up in the inner city I had the unfortunate opportunity to first-hand witness many injustices. Exposure to these injustices led me to be passionate about the law and pursue a law degree. While attending law school I have been very successful; my class rank is number 14 and I have an overall GPA of 3.44. I am actively involved in the Black Law Student Association, Jackson County Bar Association, and Illinois State Bar Association. After law school, I plan to work at a law firm for 2-5 years then open my own practice. However, my overall goal is to become a federal judge. The support you have given me to cover some of my unforeseen expenses in light of the pandemic has lessened my financial burden during these unprecedented times. I look forward to the day when I can give back to a future Saluki. Again, thanks for your generosity as it is greatly appreciated.

Jazmin Katz – Her dreams become possible

Thank you for the donation you provided me with. I was raised in central Illinois after my family finally settled down there in 2000. There, I completed my primary education before deciding on pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at SIUC. I knew since my junior year of high school that I wanted to work in a profession that helped others, which is what led me to getting my BA in Psychology. I decided I wanted to pursue further education, so I applied for the Masters program in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling here at SIUC. I was accepted in fall 2017 and have been working on my career goal steadily, despite bumps in the road.

When I am not working, I am enjoying my hobbies, such as reading, writing, drawing, and singing. I have a small sticker and print shop that I am hoping to expand one day, but it is most definitely an “as-it-comes” endeavor at the moment, since schooling is my number one priority. The true goal is to one day be able to tie art and or music therapy into my counseling.

The support you have given me will help me meet my educational goals by allowing me to focus on my studies, especially during finals week, which is already a tough time on me due to family reasons, instead of having to worry about my expenses for the month. I had been worried about rent prior to this, since I had to go into quarantine toward the tail end of March and beginning of April. Being able to afford a living during that time was tough, and my attention span toward my academics had suffered, so I am forever grateful that you were kind enough to accept my application for help.

I am hoping that as I go forward, I will be able to continue to hone in my skills as a counselor and be able to provide others with the help and care they need, especially in trying times such as these. The goal is to try and get my academics completed here in the near future, so I can focus on internship hours and the licensing exam. None of this would be possible without the help that you have provided.

Thank you, once again, from the bottom of my heart.

Regan KinserRegan Kinser – Opportunity through connection

My name is Regan Kinser, I am from Joliet, Illinois. I graduated Saturday May, 9th with a degree in Animal Science from the College of Agriculture. I am currently a feed sales intern with the Posey County Co-op in Mount Vernon, Indiana. I have been blessed with this opportunity through the connections I made at Southern Illinois University.  Tomorrow I will assist Purina representative David Williams in giving a virtual Flock Talk and I am eager to share my knowledge and passion with the registered attendees. Thank you for your donation, because without it I would not have been able to accept this position to pursue my career.

Bonito Marks – Investing in his future

My name is Bonito Marks. I am an aviation flight and management major at SIUC. I am involved in the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Project Love and the honor society. I am from Chicago and I understand the importance of giving back. I plan to start a not-for-profit organization for aviation students after I become an airline pilot in the industry. I appreciate you taking your time and money and investing it into my future. It will be used to help me with my living conditions such as school, groceries, books and more during these hard times.

Nyja Jackson – On the right track

I am beyond thankful for you contribution. My name is Nyja Jackson. I am a Public Relations Major at SIUC. I am from Chicago, IL. Both of my parents deal with the public, so interacting with people comes natural to me. I plan to help the public in some positive way. I am a social media coordinator for a philanthropy-driven student organization called Black Women’s Task Force and I am a member of the Public Relation Student Society of America. I want to continue my education and with your help, I am on the right track financially to do so. I thank you all very much and I hope you all stay safe!

Herman Arce – Clear future

I am a full-time Junior in the College of Engineering at Southern Illinois University. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering after which, a Master of Science in Quality Engineering Management. I began my journey at Elgin Community College (ECC) where I received an Associates in Science in May of 2019. I came to SIU right after and began in the fall of 2019. In that fall semester I gained so much knowledge from my courses and overall about the program. The Industrial Engineering program offered at SIU specializes in Quality management and this was essential to me because that is the field I plan to enter. In my first semester here I joined a Registered Student Organization (RSO) called American Society for Quality (ASQ) which is all about quality in various industries but more specifically in manufacturing. Joining this RSO was perhaps the best decision I made because it introduced me to people, I now call friends who also share the same educational and professional aspirations as I do. Through this membership with ASQ I will attain my Six Sigma Green Belt certification which will open up many opportunities for me upon graduation. My future has now become very clear to me as to what I want to become and how I will get there. This clarity I have reached includes another passion I have which is for physics. Once I graduate, I will do all in my power to acquire a position as a Quality Assurance Engineer at Fermilab located in Batavia, Illinois. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Ever since my physics professor back at ECC who is a former Nuclear Physicist of Fermilab introduced me to the concepts used for experiments and work that is done there, I have wanted to work there. Additionally, this spring semester I have joined another RSO called Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). SHPE holds a conference every year where they offer a unique opportunity to engage, support, educate and advance the careers of Hispanic students and professionals. This year it was going to be hosted by none other than Fermilab and I was looking forward to touring their campus. Unfortunately, it along as everything else has been cancelled, due to this awful virus. Being where I am today makes me think back of a time when I was unsure of my future and whether I wanted to attend University or settle for any decent paying job. I am glad I took a chance on SIU because it has quite literally brought me closer to a career for which I am passionate. I say chance because I knew upon arriving to SIU that my funds would be insufficient each semester, without any additional financial assistance. I am beyond grateful for your generosity, as I know it will help get me closer to my life goals. As unfortunate as it may be, I am in a time in my life where any financial help does make a huge impact, especially coming from a semester where I was incredibly financially stressed on top of all my schoolwork. This money that was awarded to me and sent for past due rent is a huge relief on myself. My intent with this letter is for it be representative of the life that is being created with the help from Saluki Cares Emergency Fund. Thank you!

Madeline De La Cruz – Grateful for support

My name is Madeline De La Cruz and I am a graduate student in the Masters Public Administration program.  I would like to thank the donors for the funding that was provided to help cover my internet bill. I was laid off from work due to COVID-19 and am grateful for the money provided.

Once again, thank you very much for your financial support.

Maria Garcia – Financial relief

First, I would like to start by saying Thank You for the Saluki Cares Emergency Fund! My name is Maria Garcia and I am a first-generation Hispanic college student from Des Plaines, IL. I have two younger brothers. One goes to SIU with me and the youngest is in 6th grade. My father works in roofing/construction and my mother is a stay-at-home mom and both are illegal immigrants that have done so much to provide for my brothers and me.

Both my parents came here with nothing and have worked hard to get where we are now. I was excited to walk across the stage in May for my graduation and for my family to see and feel the same pride I was feeling. That dream was quickly taken away because of COVID-19, but quickly forgotten when I told my parents that I was accepted to SIU for my Masters in Architecture!

I used to travel often to Mexico and stay at my parent’s home village, but it would break my heart seeing the kind of living environment people in poverty were living in. Some of the homes in those villages were on the verge of collapse. I thought that maybe I could help out the people in the village by offering a helping hand and a better living environment. This has lead me to pursue the architecture field. My dream is to help those in need with a sustainable and affordable living environment. I hope to one day go back and design homes for people living in poverty for little to no economic constraint.

I was also influenced by my parents and seeing how they help out family and friends in need in Mexico even if it is by a little bit. They have taught me to help those in need and the value of family. In June, I will be starting my first semester of grad school. I plan to focus on sustainable design throughout grad school.

Throughout my undergraduate, I was part of the Marching Salukis for three years, which I enjoyed a lot. I was also a New Member Educator and Vice President of my sorority, Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, inc for two semesters. I studied abroad at TEC Monterrey, Mexico, and focused on construction management classes. I plan to be involved in my sorority as much as I can when the campus re-opens.

The Saluki Cares Emergency Fund has helped relieve a lot of the stress I was feeling throughout this pandemic. I lost my job, so I lost my only source of income. I wasn’t expecting for something like that to happen and it changed my plans for the semester and graduate school. Before the pandemic, I was making enough money to pay for my bills and groceries and I didn’t have to count on my parents financially anymore which made me feel proud.

Since I wasn’t working anymore I decided to fully focus on my academics, but little did I know that my senior project would cause me a lot of problems. Towards the end of April I started to notice the lack of income was affecting because I was running low on grocery money since I still had to pay for my housing bills. I had to start choosing between having enough money to pay for my bills or buying groceries. I couldn’t count on my family because my father was also unemployed and he was the only income of our household. I didn’t want to worry about my family with more problems, so I never told them anything.

The financial instability and stressful situation with my academics and online classes were taking a large toll on my mental health. That was when I had decided to place an application to Saluki Cares. When I received the call from Saluki Cares, a large sense of relief came over me! I was extremely happy about the financial relief that I was finally able to fully focus on my senior project non-stop. I passed my semester with A’s and B’s too!

During this summer I plan to start an internship and continue working on the internship as a grad student. I have been actively placing applications to architecture firms in Chicago, St. Louis, and all over Illinois and Missouri. I hope to get an internship in St. Louis because I want to live in the city and I feel that St. Louis is a great place to start. After graduating from my masters I hope to stay wherever my internship is since I do have to get work experience for at least two or three years and my master’s program is only two years long. While doing that I plan to make large payments to some of the loans I took out as an undergrad and grad school.

Once I finish with my internship and work as an architect I plan to start saving some funds to go to Mexico and start my goal of building affordable and sustainable housing slowly. I plan to also start saving some money with my brother, who is studying to be a mechanical engineer, to put our youngest brother through college.

My brother and I, both hope to help my parents the same way they have helped us. We hope to give them a better life and hopefully one day they will also be able to go back home and relax with their family in Mexico.

Once again, thank you so much!

Katya Saldana – Financial Distress Lifted

I would like to take this opportunity to kindly thank you for your generous donation to help me cover the outstanding housing cost for the Spring 2020 semester. I am honored to receive it!

I am a senior majoring in cinema. My areas of interest include cinematography, editing, art direction, screenwriting and directing. My goal is to pursue a career in those fields and produce independent films and television programs.

I have learned so much and have had great experiences at SIU’s Cinema and Photography program, and I’m excited to learn more during my senior year. I have been involved in a few creative registered student organizations during my time at SIUC. I have worked on a couple of films for Movie Camera Movement, a Hollywood-style short film production organization, as a storyboard artist, co-editor and boom operator. I have been involved in the Big Muddy Film Festival throughout the semester for our premiere that took place in February. Additionally, I have also worked as a transition producer for 26:46, which is a television program that airs on WSIU. With all these organizations, I have learned a great amount of hands-on experience which I have applied to my work in the classroom, all the RSO productions and my own personal projects.

With this donation from Saluki Cares, I am able to continue my education with the weight of financial distress lifted off my shoulders for this upcoming semester. Thank you very much, once again, for this kind donation and helping me return to SIU in the fall.

Brandon LynnBrandon Lynn – Forever Grateful

My name is Brandon Lynn, and I was born and raised in Marion, Illinois.  My father was a state police officer for 25 years and my mother works for the Unit #2 school board.  I have one sister who works in marketing in St. Louis.  I decided to pursue a degree in the field of accounting, because having a bachelor’s degree in that field opens countless doors.

I am a member of Beta Alpha Psi Accounting Society, and am a College of Business Student Ambassador.  In addition, I work on campus in the College of Business advisement, as a security guard at The HUB in Marion, and I hold a 4.0 GPA.  Receiving this emergency fund allowed me to pay the early termination fee on my lease, as I lost most of my income due to this pandemic.

Currently, I have job offers from Mueller Prost and Deloitte, both of which are accounting firms in St. Louis.  I am entering my senior year at SIU, and am undecided as to whether or not I will pursue my Masters in Accounting.  This emergency fund was very helpful especially because I did not receive a stimulus check.

I am forever grateful.


Donations for the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund can be made at

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Behind the scenes with an Emmy-winning Saluki: Adam Rowe found direction, support at SIU

Adam RoweBy Jeff Wilson

Adam Rowe ’02 has worked on some of your favorite TV shows, even though you probably haven’t seen his face.

Working as an art director on “The Good Place,” “Dexter,” “Criminal Minds,” “Mad Men,” “House M.D.” and “Parks and Rec,” Rowe gives viewers a glimpse of his creative vision. In 2019, his hard work was rewarded with an Emmy for his work on “Rent: Live.”

“Winning an Emmy is more than a dream,” he said. “I spent the next day thinking ‘What happened? I can’t believe it!’”

Wondering what an art director does? Rowe explains it as “the hub of the art department and the extension of the production designer.”

“The art director is often in charge of time, money and space,” he said. “How long will it take to build a set? How much will it cost, and where will we build it? When it comes together, it’s very rewarding.”

The road to SIU

After a stint studying engineering at the University of Wisconsin Platteville, Rowe started considering changing majors and switching colleges. His two older sisters had attended SIU Carbondale.

“I had been down to Carbondale a number of times for parent weekends,” said Rowe, who grew up on farm outside of Grand Ridge in LaSalle County. “I proudly wore a Saluki sweatshirt when I was 10.”

He reached out to SIU and was connected with Ron Naversen in the Department of Theater. While Rowe wasn’t sure a theater degree would lead to many job opportunities, Naversen convinced him.

“Ron educated me on the possibilities. He spoke about a designer who worked on ‘Sesame Street’ and some other career pathways,” Rowe said. “Plus, SIU offered the most flexibility as far as accepting my existing credits.”

It was also Naversen who encouraged Rowe to apply for scholarships. He eventually received the Archibald McLeod Award.

“I was honored to get it, and I felt a sense of pride and togetherness with the others who were awarded,” Rowe said. “The money helped me avoid more student debt, and it saved me interest on a loan. I had two jobs while on campus, so receiving a scholarship kept me from needing a third.”

One of those jobs was a resident advisor position in Mae Smith Hall.

“It was the fifth floor – the same floor my sister had been on,” Rowe said. “It was predominately the freshman football team. My floor only caused one fire drill, and that was because someone nuked their Pagliai’s pizza in tin foil.”

Rowe also acted as a defendant in the School of Law’s mock court proceedings and gave campus tours to prospective and incoming students.

“I loved the woods surrounding Carbondale. I remember walks in snow, rain and sunshine from Mae Smith to the theater department,” he said. “I love Faner Hall and its crazy, weird architecture. I went back on a few occasions to speak to students about the entertainment industry and also was invited as a designer to work for the McLeod Summer Playhouse.”

Life after SIU

After earning a bachelor’s degree from SIU, Rowe received his master’s in theater and set design from the University of Illinois.

“I’m proud to be Illinois-educated,” he said. “From Illinois, I went to Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, Indiana and eventually California working as a painter and assistant designer. Through an SIU connection, I was enticed to go to Los Angeles.”

Once he got on his feet, he found himself working as an assistant on the AMC drama, “Mad Men.”

“That TV show was about the best schooling I could get,” Rowe said. “It got me hooked on TV. I spent a large portion of my TV career bouncing between scripted and live events. They are still both theater to me.”

For someone who spent time as a teenager mowing lawns and listening to the soundtrack for “Rent” on CD, winning an Emmy for working on the live TV version of the play was a dream come true.

“That was my dream job,” Rowe said. “I could never have imagined I would be a part of bringing that show to the national stage on Fox. I had previously worked with Fox, but I was so proud to collaborate with that studio to make something so impactful. That will have a very special place in my heart.”

To learn more about Rowe’s career, visit his professional website

To learn more about how to support scholarships like the one that helped him reach his goals, visit


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