Jarrod Dalton, '02
Jarrod Dalton, a 2002 graduate with a computer science and business degree, came to Muskingum from his hometown of Conneaut, Ohio for two primary reasons. First was value: “I could get a top-quality private liberal arts education for a very reasonable tuition.” Second was the “knowledge and friendliness of the computer science faculty I had interviewed with.”
As an undergraduate student, Jarrod was looking for a career direction that involved “real-world” situations. He found his answer when he took a couple of statistics courses at Muskingum, but he knew he wanted more training.
Upon graduating from Muskingum, Jarrod decided to pursue a master’s degree in statistics at the University of Michigan thanks to encouragement from Dr. Richard Daquila in the Mathematics Department.
Jarrod now lives in the Cleveland area, where he works as a collaborating biostatistician at Cleveland Clinic. In 2013, Jarrod completed a Ph.D. in epidemiology and biostatistics at Case Western Reserve University. He was also chosen for a highly competitive mentored research training program through the National Institutes of Health.
Jarrod attributes his success since graduating from Muskingum in part to the mentoring that he received from Dr. Daquila, as well as other faculty members. Jarrod has also found that his liberal arts education gives him an advantage over his peers who went through more specialized undergraduate programs.
Jarrod is married to 2002 Muskie alumna Jamie Kocinski.
Sasha Eby, '11
Sasha Eby, ’11, came to Muskingum University from Zanesville, Ohio. She majored in neuroscience and minored in psychology and chemistry.
Eby is now in the Doctor of Dental Medicine program at Midwestern University in Illinois; she moved to Chicago the summer after she graduated from Muskingum.
Currently a third-year dental student, Eby has transitioned from the classroom to spending five days a week at the dental clinic where she treats patients. In between her work and studies, she finds time to appreciate the art and culture that Chicago offers: live music performances, trips to the Shedd Aquarium and deep dish pizza.
Eby isn’t just an observer of the arts; she has also plunged in as a full-fledged participant herself. She has acted in the Civil Rights Opera Project, which “consists of a series of plays done mass meeting style where the audience is immersed and participating in the portrayal of actual events during the civil rights movement.” Eby played “a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in performances of Prelude in both Chicago and Washington DC for the 50th anniversary of the March.”
Of the Civil Rights Opera Project, Eby says, “These shows are special in their commemorating the bravery and contribution of people who aren't exceptionally well-known for their involvement in the movement. The performances, of course, convey the progress our nation has made in civil rights but also the strides we still have to make.”
Eby feels her Muskingum education prepared her well for graduate school. “The education that I received at Muskingum was very comprehensive, and, though my courses in graduate schools have primarily been sciences, I've still been able to draw from skills fostered in the classes that I took to fulfill liberal arts essentials; there is a surprising amount of essay writing in dental school, not all of it confined to hard sciences. Pertaining to the science courses I took, the instructors conveyed dense information in accessible ways, and because of that, I had much less ‘learning’ to do in dental school. The one-on-one accessibility of the professors and its importance in my post-Muskingum success can't be overstated. From their encouraging words to counsel on the application process, I can say without doubt that I probably would not have gone to dental school as soon after graduation as I did if I had not had their individualized attention. Of course, it’s up to each student how much they're going to take away from their experience at Muskingum. There are abundant tools and resources for you if you're willing to utilize them.”
Caitlin Schultz, '10
Caitlin Schultz, ’10, graduated from Muskingum with a degree in journalism. She hails from Central Ohio. Schultz chose Muskingum because “I wanted a small, close-knit college community where I could make a difference and get involved right away as a freshman.”
Since graduation, Schultz has been working as a video producer for state government in Ohio – a job that began through a post-undergraduate fellowship with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission. She is now Assistant Producer for the Supreme Court of Ohio with Ohio Government Telecommunications.
Explaining her current role, Schultz says, “I broadcast official court sessions, lawyer and judge training courses, and video messages from the Ohio Supreme Court justices. My work in Ohio's judicial system inspired me to attend law school in addition to working full-time. I began pursuing a juris doctorate at Capital University Law School in 2012, where I am International Law Society President and am also involved with pro bono (volunteer) legal services to the community.”
During her undergraduate days, Schultz decided to study abroad in China because “I believe that taking the opportunity to do so is essential to understanding the human experience. I wanted most of all to learn about a different culture, but also to learn about being a global citizen. I chose to study in China specifically because I felt I would learn the most in that country; China is quite misunderstood. I wanted a more immersed experience than I felt I would have received in the Western world.”
Schultz studied abroad in China not once, but twice, spending two separate semesters at Lanzhou University. She articulates what set the two semesters apart: “During my initial trip in 2008, I intensely studied the language, learning to speak, read, and write Mandarin with fluidity. Two thousand eight was a defining year for China: not only did it host the summer Olympics, but it also was shaken, literally, by the Wenchuan earthquake, by Tibetan riots, and by other national crises. During my second trip in 2009, I again studied the language and also used those skills to interview Chinese journalism professors and students about government control of media in China, using the recent national events that I experienced along with China in 2008 as case studies.”
Because of her study abroad experiences, Schultz says, “I view the world differently. I am open to new ideas. I actively seek out and argue for opposing viewpoints. Working in the midst of state politics can be challenging and disheartening if one is not able to compromise and to understand a polar-opposite point of view. Studying abroad taught me those skills, made me more confident in my abilities, taught me what it means to work hard and study hard, and allowed me to be comfortable with independence.”
Schultz advises students considering study abroad: “Any college student hesitant to study abroad should simply throw his or her fears aside and go for it. Have an open mind by not comparing your host country to your home country; just accept the differences for what they are and learn from them. Don't translate to and from English; just open your mouth and mind and speak the language. It will come to you if you don't hold yourself back! Also, allow yourself room to change, because you will change - into a more wonderful person.”
Emily Cole, '13
Emily Cole, a recent 2013 graduate and an economics major from Pataskala, Ohio, chose Muskingum because "in the end… that’s where I felt most comfortable. …It was a small, friendly community of people. I was offered scholarships that made it affordable, and I liked that I was away from home but not so far that I couldn’t drive home if I needed to."
As a student, Emily was involved in Student Senate, eventually serving as Vice President. She was also the president of the Philosophy Club.
Emily knew she wanted to study abroad during college, and she wanted "a unique cultural experience." Although Muskingum University has exchange programs all over the world, Emily did her research and chose to study in Cameroon, Africa, where Muskingum does not offer an exchange program. (Muskingum University encourages all students to study abroad, whether they participate in short-term, faculty-led programs, exchange programs, or non-exchange programs. All credits transfer as long as the student's participation is pre-approved through the Study Abroad Office.)
During her time abroad, Emily studied Pidgin (the local language), learned to cook Cameroonian dishes, learned the movements of a Bakwarian tribal dance, and had the opportunity to attend both a traditional funeral service and a wedding – both important cultural mores.
Emily spent four months in Cameroon this spring and summer, during which time she studied at the University of Buea in a program focused on community development in Cameroon. She took classes in the Agriculture Department to "better understand farming in developing countries." Additionally, Emily volunteered with Trees for the Future, a nonprofit training Cameroonian farmers in sustainable agroforestry techniques. "I work alongside the nonprofit's director to develop, implement, and evaluate sustainable agriculture initiatives to not only improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers."
Emily returned to the U.S. in July to take a position as an Americorps volunteer at Jones Valley Teaching Farm in Birmingham, Alabama.
Heather (Menarchek) Hughes, '11
Heather Menarchek Hughes, a native of New Philadelphia, Ohio, graduated from Muskingum in 2011 with an English degree. Shortly after graduating, Heather and her husband (Tad Hughes, ’09) moved to Geochang, South Korea, where both of them spent six months teaching English. Upon returning to the U.S. in December 2011, both were hired at the University of Akron English Language Institute as ESL (English as a Second Language) instructors.
Of her job, Hughes explains, “We teach international students from various countries daily. In October 2012, we were asked by Kent State University if we would join their English Language Institute as well, and of course we agreed. I do what I love every single day of my life. I am fortunate that I had such an awesome start to my career.”
Hughes’ interest in and exposure to ESL began at Muskingum, where she spent three years working with Meri Linn McCollum, Director of International Admission and ESL instructor. “I helped with class organization, sharing cultures, and grading papers, all things I do now in my own classes. Secondly, my journalism experience…helped me to develop good writing skills that I can now pass on to my students.”
Hughes appreciates the liberal arts education she received at Muskingum, and says she often puts it to use in her classroom experiences. “Since I work daily with international students, many different types of topics come up during in-class discussions. It is a wonderful feeling to know that something you learned in history class from Dr. Hilton, or a current events topic that you learned in a journalism class from Dr. Wagner helped you in your career in some way, even if it is as simple as helping to hold an educated conversation with a student from Saudi Arabia.”
Hughes has advice for college students looking toward the future and the job market: “I advise that they begin networking if they haven't done so already. Talk with people within their majors to ask what they are doing. Make connections with professors, and ask them who they know that can help them within their careers. Make a collection of their work, whatever it is, to show during an interview. I advise that they push themselves, go to every career fair they can attend, and apply for as many positions as possible. Also, I highly suggest that each senior be willing to move around the country. Not only will they gain valuable experience in both living and working somewhere out-of-state, but it shows employers that you are dedicated, hard-working, and willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.”
Troy Gessner, '10
Troy Gessner, ’10, studied chemistry and molecular biology while at Muskingum. The Canfield, Ohio native is now in his third year in The Ohio State University’s College of Dentistry. Additionally, he joined the United States Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) to help fund his postgraduate education.
Gessner chose Muskingum “because I liked the feel of the campus. It is extremely rare to find a school with such warm, engaging people and I knew I could leave Muskingum with a great education.”
Gessner didn’t know exactly what direction he wanted his future to take until just prior to his senior year of college. “I love learning about sciences and enjoyed research, but I knew that I wanted to help people on a more personal level. Aside from teaching, I feel healthcare is the best method to do so. My father is a general dentist in Youngstown, Ohio, and after observing him for a couple of days I felt that dentistry fit my personality really well. I couldn't be happier with my decision.”
Gessner is grateful for “the study habits that my teachers and close friends at Muskingum instilled in me,” also stating that “the material does not get harder after undergrad, it is simply more material; but the extracurricular activities that I was involved with at Muskingum forced me to develop time management skills.”
Gessner feels that “the small class sizes [at Muskingum] were perfect for someone as unfocused as I was entering Muskingum,” allowing him to get to know his professors and other students.
For college students trying to decide what they should do after graduation, Gesnner advises, “Take time to smell the roses. Your days at Muskingum are numbered. Don't rush the process and enjoy the here and now. I know that is easier said than done, but trust me, time flies. As for your “next step,” make sure to choose wisely...and pray about it. Choose a field that will make you happy day in and day out. I've been learning year round about teeth and medicine for two years and I can't wait to learn more...and someday, get to put this knowledge to good use and help improve the health of others.”
Seth Barrett, '11
Seth Barrett, ’11, came to Muskingum because “all students, staff, and professors I met during visitation days were extremely friendly and helpful. Professors were actively engaged in teaching and advising their students, and they discussed past graduates in the program and the many extracurricular and leadership opportunities available to the students.”
Barrett, a chemistry and art major, is now enrolled in the Chemistry Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina, studying inorganic chemistry. “Specifically, I design, synthesize, and characterize materials for alternative energy applications (ex. harvesting and utilizing solar energy).” Barrett chose to further his education after discovering – “through tutoring, teaching, and committee work at Muskingum” – that he wanted to be a college professor.
Barrett is already making a name for himself in the world of chemistry, taking advantage of many research opportunities available to him. “I was able to start researching in the UNC chemistry labs the summer before my first year of graduate school and was fortunate enough to complete a research project that was published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry last year. In this paper, I developed oxygen-sensing inorganic materials using metal-organic frameworks (MOFs).”
“Muskingum helped prepare me for graduate school,” Barrett explains, “by giving me the tools needed to perform research at the graduate level. I gained theoretical understanding of chemistry from class, and laboratory techniques from lab courses at Muskingum. Graduate school is most certainly different from undergraduate life, but Muskingum helped prepare me … by giving me the chemical knowledge and people skills necessary for success.”
Jendy Weppler, '13
Jendy Weppler, who graduated just this past May, is now enrolled in medical school at Wright State University. The Gahanna, Ohio native double majored in chemistry and molecular biology. The late Donna Newberry recruited her to play softball at Muskingum. In addition to playing softball for three years, she played basketball for three years as well.
In addition to being a varsity athlete, Weppler was also a member of three academic honoraries: Lambda Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi and Omicron Delta Kappa.
Weppler appreciates the one-on-one interaction she received in the Chemistry Department. “My growth as a student would not have flourished as it did without that,” she asserts.
As for why she chose to pursue a career in medicine, Weppler explains, “I've been working toward medical school since high school. I picked a goal that I knew would be difficult and therefore require focus and dedication, but not be too far out of my reach.”
Chris Dague, '13
Chris Dague walked across the graduation stage just this past May, receiving his Bachelor of Science in Biology. Chris, a Cleveland, Ohio, native, chose Muskingum for the “small, friendly, and close-knit community.” He saw the campus as a place where he could be involved and cultivate lasting relationships. He was also attracted to the small class sizes.
Chris was involved in Beta Beta Beta, the biology honorary, as well as Omicron Delta Kappa, the Junior/Senior honorary. He was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity and worked as a tour guide on campus.
For six months (following graduation until early November), Chris is interning as a research technician with Midwest Biodiversity Institute. Although based in Hilliard, Ohio, Chris has been traveling for several weeks at a time to upstate New York, where he has performed river and stream surveys as part of a four-person crew subcontracted by the EPA. Chris and his team are responsible for sampling at 58 of the 1800 sites in the country to help complete the National Streams and Rivers Survey (done every five years to assess the condition of our nation’s rivers and streams).
“Essentially I have been collecting and recording macro invertebrate, fish, and other biological indicators to determine the water quality of the surrounding area. I am wading and boating on bodies of water for the majority of my internship.” Chris found this opportunity through the Science Division Newsletter.
Chris’s long-term goal is “to work in environmental compliance or the monitoring of water quality/natural resources. I want to better protect and serve the surrounding environment and the people that recreate within it. With that being said, my dream job is to work as an Environmental Scientist for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.”
Chris strongly believes that without the support of his Muskingum faculty, “I would have not had the necessary skill set and experience to earn this position.”
Gretchen King, '12
Gretchen King, ’12, majored in Intervention Specialist, Mild/Moderate Needs while at Muskingum. A native of Caldwell, Ohio, King transferred to MU from a larger school that just wasn’t a good fit.
King chose to spend her student teaching semester abroad in Ireland. Several of her family members had studied abroad during their college careers, and King knew she wanted to do the same. “I couldn’t think of a better time to go than during…college,” she explains.
King describes her experience overseas: “I decided to teach abroad because I couldn't think of a better time or reason to go abroad than to teach students of another culture. (It also helped that I was able to get funding!) Plus, it had always been my dream to go to Ireland, so why not go and live there for three months when I had the opportunity? That semester was definitely the most amazing semester I had. The host family that I was put with was just awesome. My Irish mother was so warm and welcoming and anything I needed or was worried about she was there for me. I think she was just happy to have a girl around, as she is the mother of three boys who all still live at home!”
Discussing the school where she taught, King says, “My students were the best. I taught in a public, all-boys’, Catholic school in the middle of Bray. It had classes (or grades) 1-6. I worked with small groups from almost every grade. I got to know whole second grade classes because I co-taught with their teachers. I also got to work a lot with students who were learning English as a second language.”
About cross-cultural education, King says, “Their schools are a lot different than ours, but no matter where you go in the world the people are all the same. We all have worries and feelings, so it’s not hard to relate to someone just because they're from a different country.”
King’s trip wasn’t all work and no play – she also had the opportunity to travel, taking day trips to Dublin and the Cliffs of Moher. “The entire country is beautiful,” she says. “Everything is green and lush and just gorgeous. There are old castles and so much history….”
King shared about some of the lessons she learned that she will bring into her own classroom: “I think student teaching abroad gave me a wider view of education. No education system is perfect, but we can all learn from others to improve what we have. I think that student teaching abroad may give me an edge when applying for jobs, especially with the way the job market is now. Also, I learned how to work with different people and assimilate into a culture enough to be productive and useful. Those are good skills to have for any job. In the school where I was, there seemed to be innate sense of respect for the teachers and each other, and it seemed like they all at least understood why education was important. I felt like there was also a lot of parent support and staff collaboration that helped with the school’s success.”
King is passionate about study abroad and encourages anyone considering it to take the opportunity. “You may never have a chance like this the rest of your life, so why not do it now? With as much technology as everyone has, it isn't that hard to stay in touch with friends and family. I Skyped with my family almost 3 times a week while I was in Ireland. It almost felt like I never left sometimes! You may get a little homesick, but if you pass up your opportunity, you will probably always look back at your time at MU and wonder how things could have been different if you had decided to go abroad. Don’t take the chance on that regret. I know that studying abroad isn’t for everyone, but if you’re even considering it, don’t give up because you’re worried about how things will change at home. Change is going to happen regardless of where you are, but there’s a whole big world out there just waiting for you to come explore it. Why not?"
Chelsea Ferguson, '09
Chelsea Ferguson, an early childhood education major from Cincinnati, Ohio, graduated from Muskingum in December 2009.
Chelsea chose Muskingum because she liked the personal feel and individual attention available, while still offering the activities and student organizations of a larger university.
After graduating, Chelsea took a job with an international ministry, planning short-term trips to Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, where participants taught English and did humanitarian aid projects. “My job included all steps of a trip process, from coordinating trip logistics to leading teams of [anywhere from six to 25] people to these locations.”
After visiting Central Asia, Chelsea says, “I liked [it there] so much that I decided to return to that region to live there. I accepted a job in Afghanistan as a third grade teacher. I lived there for nine months, teaching a group of 27 Afghan students at a private school.”
Of her experiences since college, Chelsea says, “Muskingum University prepared me well in so many ways. The field experience required by the education department can be very demanding, but it really is one of the best programs I've come across for preparing teachers well. I graduated feeling experienced and ready to be a leader and a teacher, which helped me in both of my jobs.
“I was also able to spend a semester studying abroad in France through Muskingum. Since all of my classes and most of my conversations were in French, my fluency increased greatly, which prepared me for the translation work that I did for French-speaking African partners with my last job.
“Finally, Muskingum gave me the opportunities to be involved in ways that furthered my friendships, maturity, leadership experience, and courage to pioneer new ideas. Muskingum University helped mold me into who I am. The relationships I had there opened my eyes to a literal world of possibilities, giving me a passion to go into the world and help others. …Muskingum began my adventures.”
Olivia Meyer, '13
Early childhood education major Olivia Meyer spent her last semester of college in Australia, where she fulfilled her student teaching requirement. Meyer, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, chose Muskingum in part because her older sister was a student; any time she visited, she felt at home.
Meyer had long dreamed of student teaching in Australia and decided to take the leap because “I knew I would forever regret not going if I let the chance pass me by.”
Meyer spoke enthusiastically of her experiences while abroad last spring: “I am grateful to be teaching in a fantastic school right in the heart of Sydney. Outside of school, I have done a lot of exploring. I walk around the city and take in the sights and sounds as much as possible. I have been to the Opera House, Sydney Harbor Bridge, Darling Harbor, Sydney Olympic Park (home of the 2000 Sydney Olympics), and Customs House, just to name a few! The weather has been gorgeous, upper 70's and low 80's, perfect for venturing around the city!”
Meyer hopes that her experiences student teaching abroad will set her apart from other applicants, expanding her future career opportunities.
For students considering study abroad but nervous about leaving the familiar, Meyer is both honest and encouraging: “Studying abroad is definitely a large undertaking. It can be stressful and overwhelming, but it is also the chance of a lifetime. Being away from family, friends, and loved ones gives you an opportunity to explore the world and discover yourself. It is a very rewarding experience and one that will stick with you forever. My biggest piece of advice would be to go into the experience with an open mind. Yes, there will be ups and downs, but the trip will be what you make it. Be open to learning about the culture you are living in, trying new things, and stepping out of your comfort zone!”
Scott Chappuis, '12
Scott Chappuis, of North Canton, Ohio, graduated from Muskingum in May of 2012 with degrees in Communication and Mathematics. He is now living in Akron, Ohio, where he is studying at the School of Communication at The University of Akron.
Chappuis is a Teaching Assistant working on several lines of research, and plans to apply to Ph.D. programs in the near future, with the intention of becoming a college professor. In addition to his graduate studies, Chappuis is an adjunct faculty member in the math department at Stark State College in North Canton.
Chappuis’ has found his experiences at Muskingum very helpful since entering grad school. “In the communication department at Muskingum, we had a great deal of focus on theory and academic research. The senior seminar project was the most academic research that I did at Muskingum. Upon entering grad school, I realized that I was already farther ahead than the other grad students in my cohort. Many of them had never worked with theory, written a literature review, or completed an extensive academic research project. Being at Muskingum definitely helped me develop my skills as an academic researcher. In fact, because of my research at Muskingum, I was asked by a professor to become a research co-author on different studies that she was working on.”
Chappuis appreciates all the on-campus activities he was involved with during his undergraduate years; he was particularly involved with WMCO, the campus radio station. “…When I was in high school, I was a bit quieter. Being at Muskingum really opened me up to people in so many different ways.”
Among his Muskingum highlights, Chappuis includes the opportunity to interview both John Glenn and John Tesh for WMCO.
Although not a history major, Chappuis credits Dr. Laura Hilton with much of his academic success: “If she would not have challenged me as much as she did during my first semester, I don’t know if I would have done as well as I did during my four years there.”
Becka Lash, '06
Becka (Hackett) Lash graduated from Muskingum in 2006 with a history major. She headed to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she attended Middle Tennessee State University, completing her M.A. in Public History with a concentration in Museum Studies.
Lash then went to the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she wrote descriptions for significant objects in their collection that became part of an online collections catalogue.
Following her stint in North Carolina, Lash went to work full-time for the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, where she led curriculum-based field trips.
She is currently in her third year as the Assistant Site Manager for Historic Zoar Village. Of this position she says, “I write, plan, and schedule all the programming for Historic Zoar Village, as well as planning events, curating exhibits, designing marketing materials, and managing our volunteer corps.” In October of 2012, Lash received the History Outreach award for Excellence in Public Programming from the Ohio Local History Alliance for a program she implemented, “Saturdays in Zoar FREE Speaker Series.”
Lash is grateful for professors such as Bil Kerrigan, who encouraged her to pursue real world experiences during her undergraduate years; such experiences became “the building blocks of a great résumé.”
“I researched and wrote the first chapter of the Arcadia Press book Images of Cambridge, Ohio under his guidance, and completed a collections internship at the Massillon Museum between my junior and senior years due to his influence.”
Lash advises students trying to discern a career path to “Talk with your advisor and other professors in your fields of study. Tell them what you like and don't like about what you've heard about careers in your field. They will be able to confirm or contradict your fears, and discuss other options you may not have known or thought about.”
During her undergraduate years, Lash was involved in choir, football cheerleading, several honor societies, and she held a part-time job in the Academic Affairs office.
Sarah Olexsak, '05
Sarah, Olexsak, ’05, of Butler, PA, graduated Muskingum University with a B.S. in biology and a sociology minor. Olexsak chose Muskingum because of good experiences during her campus visits, as well as the chance to conduct research at The Wilds, which she did during her senior year.
After graduating, Olexsak realized that “my true interest in science lies not under the microscope but rather in applied science.” Now a resident of Washington, D.C., Olexsak has been involved in “initiatives to bridge the gap between research and development and the real-world deployment of renewable and efficient energy technologies.”
Now employed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Olexsak has been working on “programs to help build our country’s advanced energy manufacturing capacity.”
In 2012, Olexsak began “working on the plug-in electric vehicle deployment efforts of President Obama’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge.” In early February, the launch of Olexsak’s latest endeavor, the Workplace Charging Challenge, was announced. The goal is to increase employee access to electric vehicle charging stations at workplaces around the country.
While working, Olexsak completed a Master’s Degree in Energy Policy and Climate from Johns Hopkins University.
Olexsak spoke highly of her experiences at Muskingum, citing both her in- and out-of-classroom experiences as formational. While on campus, she was Vice President of her sorority, Chi Alpha Nu, and served in other leadership roles within the Greek community. “I developed management skills that have certainly aided in my ability to assume leadership roles in my career,” she explained.
Olexsak was even able to use an alumna connection from her sorority to help her find her footing upon moving to D.C.
Matt Harris, '08
Matt Harris, ’08, began his postsecondary career at Muskingum University as a history and political science major. He went on to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Harris’ interest in the law stems from his commitment “to advocate on behalf of working men and women. I figured the best way to hone my advocacy skills was law school. And of course, without a law degree and a license, it's impossible to advocate on behalf of individuals who may need legal assistance.”
In law school, Harris worked as a TA for a legal writing professor. He also held internships with the U.S. Department of Education and Communications Workers of America (CWA), which is an international labor organization that represents hundreds of thousands of workers in many fields worldwide. Since passing the Bar Exam, Harris has been employed by CWA in their Cleveland office, “handling the legal matters affecting the rights of union members throughout the states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.”
Harris believes that “having a liberal arts background helped me tremendously in understanding how to think analytically and better understand issues from multiple and varying perspectives.” He is thankful for “the devoted staff and faculty at Muskingum who are entirely committed to their profession and to assisting students.”
For students considering law school, Harris said, “While the legal field can be very stressful at times, it's a very rewarding career path. It also gives you the freedom to represent diverse individuals and entities, and practice in any number of fields, from labor law to environmental law. Plus, as a Muskingum graduate with a liberal arts background, you already have the proper foundation.”
Crystal Koroza Miller, '04
Crystal Kozora Miller, ’04, graduated with a B.S. in neuroscience and English. She went on to study neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University, where she completed her Ph.D. in January 2011.
Of her decision to attend grad school, Miller says, “I decided to pursue graduate school because of my experiences in the Neuroscience program at Muskingum. I had originally had a difficult time deciding on a major, but once I discovered neuroscience, at the intersection of biology and psychology, I was sold on learning more about the molecular mechanisms of the brain.”
Miller currently works at The Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, where her current research involves assessing the contribution of inflammation and the immune system on the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease and tauopathies.
Miller chose Muskingum for its small class size and the promise of faculty interactions, as well as for the beautiful campus and extracurricular activities available. Looking back, she says, “Muskingum actually exceeded my expectations. Even though Muskingum is a bit remote, the ability to be involved in a club for just about anything was great. I was able to live with new friends in the Lighthouse, a program house on Lakeside; helped to found Lambda Chi Omega; and took part in a number of departmental clubs and honoraries.”
Of her classroom experiences, Miller says, “I am so thankful for the encouraging and devoted faculty I was able to have throughout all four years at Muskingum. Unlike larger schools, I repeatedly had the same professors for different classes. I could see how this may have been a problem if they were not good teachers, but I was lucky to have them as mentors, friends, and good teachers.”
Miller advises students considering graduate study in the sciences to “Find out exactly what the requirements are at each stage of progression, how many of the faculty have funding and room to take a student and think about what you'll do once you have the degree you are seeking. If you think you might want to teach - choose a school where you can do some TAing! Also check out the graduation rates and average time to your degree. Science isn't like Law School - it can take quite a few years to get results, get published, and graduate!”
Kari Hoying, '08
Russia, Ohio native Kari Hoying, ’08, chose Muskingum in large part because of its excellent reputation in women’s softball. Hoying, a PE and Health major, also appreciate the safety of the campus and the relationships she formed with faculty members.
Hoying’s experiences at Muskingum exceeded her expectations. “I was never 100% sure that Muskingum was going to offer the experiences that come along with going to a bigger school in a bigger city. Oh, how I was wrong! …I met my best friends on this campus. I laughed harder and have more memories from Muskingum than one wishes they could have in a lifetime. I realized how important it was to be true to yourself and to persevere through times of struggle. Growing up and starting my adult life wasn't always easy, but if it wasn't easy, it wouldn't be worth doing.”
Hoying, who became head coach in 2011, never anticipated, “coaching under Coach Donna Newberry and carrying on the legacy of Muskingum softball,” but now says she can’t imagine coaching at any other institution.
Hoying adds, “I’m thankful for the relationships that I built with my professors. Most of Muskingum’s professors are about more than just teaching. I love seeing them on and off campus knowing that it won’t just be a quick hello, but that it will be a genuine conversation. I’m a people person and now call some of my professors, friend. It’s a great feeling knowing that they cared and still care after all these years.”
Eli Morris, '13
Eli Morris, a middle childhood mathematics and science major, graduated earlier this month after completing his student teaching. He is from Milford Center, Ohio.
"I chose Muskingum because of the hometown feel, beautiful campus layout, and small classroom sizes. I enjoy any activity that involves the great outdoors and Muskingum's surrounding area has a lot to offer. Also, I knew at Muskingum I would be recognized by a name and not a number," Morris explains his decision to attend Muskingum.
Morris was a resident assistant (RA) on campus and also participated in one year of golf and basketball. He was a member of Lambda Sigma and the Collegiate Middle Level Association. Morris decided to become an RA after one of the resident assistants in his building reached out to him his freshman year. "I knew I wanted to provide the same influence," he says.
Morris is most thankful for "being surrounded by an unselfish group students [on campus]. Whenever I needed help on specific academic materials, there was always someone I could contact. Without their help, I would not be in the position I am today."
Morris offers good advice to high school seniors searching for that "perfect fit" when it comes to college: "The perfect college fit comes from your ability to adapt. You determine the outcome of your college experience. So make the most of it and don't run away from change, embrace it."
Andrew Kincaid, '12
Andrew Kincaid, a recent graduate from Newcomerstown, Ohio, majored in biology and business at Muskingum University. Andrew now works as a freelance writer for the Cleveland Science News Examiner, an online news source. He has written a novel, which is he is currently working to get published. He has also finished his teaching certification and works as a substitute in several school districts.
Andrew works as an Examiner, a local news reporter, for examiner.com. He writes, on average, about two articles a day for the science portion of the site. The job is one that requires self-motivation. Andrew said, “Typically I try to find cool new findings, or really weird stuff, and break it down into layman's terms.” The job also helps him to keep up with current events in science.
Andrew has recently reported on “how enzymes found in fungi that live in horse's digestive tracts could assist in production of biofuels. A couple of days ago, I reported on a study where scientists studying rats found 36 genes linked to motivation to exercise. Basically, they were able to breed rats to either be couch potatoes or exercise freaks. Another cool one I did recently was about how the heart, lungs, and blood have scent receptors, like what you find in the nose. Nobody is quite sure why they're there, but the data seems to suggest that they are, for whatever reason.”
Melanie Cox, '12
“…Muskingum did a great job preparing me for veterinary school. While Muskingum is a smaller institution with a more limited variety of classes [than larger schools], the classes I did take have allowed me to succeed in vet school. I have been familiar to a certain extent with at least 50% of the material covered in my classes this semester. This is not to say that I knew all of the material well enough to pass a test without learning it again, but it did make the transition from undergrad to vet school less intimidating and easier since I already knew some of the basic terminology. After hearing some of my classmates’ complaints about struggling with the material, I realized how lucky I was that I had the opportunity to learn some of the material in a smaller environment with faculty who were willing to review it with me one-on-one when I struggled with difficult concepts," says Melanie Cox, '12.
“The high expectations that my professors had for me also forced me to apply myself and work at a high level of academic excellence that has served me well…. I developed good study habits and self-discipline.
“In addition to academic benefits of attending Muskingum, the school’s location and connection to various facilities created professional development prospects that helped me solidify my chances of getting into veterinary school. The small school environment also fit my personality well and my professors knew who I was instead of a number in an auditorium. I was able to grow as a person as well as a student with the opportunities presented to me at Muskingum University.”
Kate McFadden Smith, '09
Kate (McFadden) Smith, ’09, studied history and political science at Muskingum University. During her time at Muskingum, Smith completed an internship in a museum and found that she loved that area of her field. Post-graduation, she took a job as the Assistant Site Manager at the Fort Laurens Museum in Bolivar, Ohio. Shortly afterward, an opportunity to work with the Ohio Historical Society and AmeriCorps came available. In that position, Smith helped to plan “Civil War 150” commemorative events. She explains, “I covered twelve counties in Eastern Ohio and got to work with the leaders in over sixty organizations. …I also helped develop an award-winning program called the “T-County History Patriot Youth Rally” …that brings over 2000 kids each February to the mall for a hands-on encounter with history.”
Smith now works as Director of Spring Hill Historic Home and Museum in Massillon, Ohio, where she has been for about a year and a half.
Smith, who chose Muskingum because of its small size, feels that her experiences on campus have greatly aided her professional life. “Through Student Senate and my involvement with Student Life at Muskingum, I got to work with many different types of people. That has been a great benefit to me in my professional career. No character traits surprise me anymore! You will always be surrounded by those who are supportive, speculative, helpful or a hindrance to what you are trying to accomplish. I was exposed to many different people and experiences at Muskingum and I believe that, as well as additional practice through my previous positions, has helped me learn how to find something positive out of every circumstance.”
Smith is thankful that her coursework was challenging, but she also appreciates the opportunity she had the summer after her freshman year to travel with the history department. A group of students, led by faculty, visited Civil War landmarks, battlegrounds and museums. “There is nothing like seeing [first-hand] the places you talk about every day,” she says.
Smith’s advice to college graduates trying to determine their next step is “Volunteer! Expose yourself to different things and meet lots of people. Creating a network, in any field, is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself.” And, she adds, “Don’t be too proud to do dirty work,” even with a college degree and some experience.
Jillian Von Guten, '09
Jillian Von Guten, a Zanesville, Ohio native, graduated Muskingum University in 2009 with a degree in political science and theater. She also minored in history and English. After graduating Muskingum, Jillian enrolled in Capital University Law School.
She passed the Ohio Bar Exam in 2012 and began working as an Associate Attorney at Allen, Baughman, and Martin, Attorneys at Law, back in her hometown. Working at a general practice firm, Von Guten is able to practice real estate law and title work, estate planning, banking and commercial law, juvenile and domestic relations law, some criminal work, and municipal representation for several villages.
Of her decision to attend law school Von Guten says, “Practicing law was something I could easily see myself doing based on the things I enjoyed – reading, researching and writing. It just seemed like a natural next step after undergrad.” Her high school experiences in Mock Trial also piqued her interested in law.
“My experiences at MU,” Von Guten said, “have proven to be invaluable to my life since graduation. The skills I learned as a student helped me succeed both in law school and in preparing for and passing the Bar Exam. My experiences…helped me grow into a poised, confident and articulate person, positioned to deal with diverse people and situations.”
One part of her undergraduate experience that stands out is the opportunity she had to co-author and present a paper at the Midwest Political Science Conference in Chicago during her senior year. “I felt so grateful for the faculty who believed in me and trusted me with this responsibility.”
Mary Ann Siefke, '06
Mary Ann Siefke, ’06, graduated with a degree in music education. She came to Muskingum as a transfer student at the urging of a mentor and a few close friends. Of her first visit to campus, she says, “From the moment I stepped foot on campus for my audition, I knew MU was the right fit for me. I was treated as a unique individual with important gifts to share with the entire community. It felt like ‘home’ and I was one of the family.”
In 2007, Siefke enrolled at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, where she began work on a Master of Arts in Church Music. Of her decision Siefke says, “I am a lifelong Lutheran and have always felt called to serve the church. Serving as a Minister of Music simply seemed to be the best use of my gifts – gifts that were brought to light and nurtured during my time at MU. Through study in music and religion classes, during my undergraduate work, I knew I wanted to attain an advanced degree with a theological emphasis. I chose Seminary because of the values of character and service I learned and witnessed at MU. It was at MU, from peers, faculty, and staff, that I experienced daily what it was to be a person of faith and integrity.”
Siefke feels she is currently “living my call as a teacher and leader.” She serves as a Minister of Music at two Lutheran churches, and she is actively involved with the Association of Luther Church Musicians. She also teaches General Music at St. Boniface Catholic School, where she also has a private voice and piano studio. Additionally, Siefke directs an adult community choir.
At MU, Siefke learned “the importance of setting high professional standards and lofty personal goals.” She also learned the value of networking as more than making acquaintances, but building “interpersonal relationships based on integrity and mutual growth.”
Of her experiences at Muskingum, Siefke says, “MU can be compared to a small global community filled with entrepreneurs, teachers, and leaders ready to change the world one Muskie ‘Hello’ at a time! I never expected to feel so accepted, loved, and understood as I did at MU. I expected to meet peers focused on education for personal gain. I did not expect to collaborate with peers focused on changing the world!”
Siefke appreciates that “Muskingum professors are not only passionate about their art but its discovery and advancement through teaching others. These are lessons that I learned from many music professors, however, the late Dr. William Schlacks truly embodied these words.”
Amanda "UB" Unklesbay, '08
Amanda “UB” Unklesbay, ’08, teaches high school math in Ahoskie, North Carolina, where she is also the head softball coach, a Student Government Advisor and a volunteer with Special Olympics. She has been teaching in North Carolina since her graduation from Muskingum.
UB speaks enthusiastically of her experiences on campus: "Muskingum played a huge part in directing my life to what it is now! The first thing that Muskingum did for me is to help me figure out that I wanted to coach softball in some capacity. Playing...and student coaching under the late Donna J. Newberry was just the beginning! She taught me so much about the game of softball, but most importantly [about] life, that I wanted to pass on to future generations!
"The second thing Muskingum did for me was help me determine what I wanted to do with my life! I started taking math classes and loved them and the professors that taught them!" Unklesbay’s math professors encouraged her to explore a career in education, which she did. After spending some time in a local classroom during her assigned field experience, she knew she wanted to teach.
“The last thing Muskingum did for me [was] give me a great circle of friends that I still keep in contact with and see whenever I can, even though we live in different parts of the country. Muskingum help make me into the person I am today…and I am grateful for the time I had there!”
Carson Hill, '12
Carson Hill, ’12, entered Muskingum University planning to study Education. However, he switched his major to Political Science – a degree now serving him well.
Hill works for Mission Essential Personnel as a Retention Specialist. His company deploys Pashto and Dari linguists overseas for the U.S. military. Although he works in the Columbus, Ohio corporate office, Hill spends some of his time overseas; he is currently traveling from base to base in Afghanistan.
Hill credits Muskingum with preparing him "to communicate in different ways when dealing with different people and situations." He feels that what he learned at Muskingum prepared him for success in the workplace.
Hill credits MU soccer coach Seamus Reilly as one of his "main influencers" on campus. "He has always believed in me and told me that with my work ethic I will achieve whatever it is I want to do in life. He treats his soccer team like they are his sons and looks at them as men. He knows soccer is just a game and there is more to life than a game.... He has also prepared us extremely well for the real world. I couldn’t thank him enough.”
Amy (Atkinson) Pettigrew, '76
Amy (Atkinson) Pettigrew, ’76, graduated with a double major in Physical Education and Health Education. She received her Master’s degree in Physical Education from Kent State and is currently in her 37th year of teaching. She is an adjunct professor at Ashland University. She serves as a mentor for academically at-risk freshmen athletes. Of mentoring students she says, “I still use every strategy and tip taught to me by my beloved Muskie profs, trying to help these young athletes find a way to succeed.” Pettigrew names Donna Newberry and Jim Burson among those faculty who influenced her.
Angela Weimer, '08
Angela Weimer, ’08, was a Journalism and Speech Communication major from Brook Park, Ohio. She chose Muskingum because of the uniqueness of the journalism program, which allowed students to "thoroughly learn and develop skills in three mediums: print, TV and radio. The program offers foundational theories as well as practical application for how a journalist can build a career by having a well-rounded skill set and an understanding of how these mediums converge in the workplace."
Angela now works at Cleveland State University as the Coordinator for Outreach and Business Centers. She plans and markets continuing education courses in business and IT.
Weimer feels she was well-prepared by Muskingum for graduate school and the working world beyond. "Muskingum helped me develop the critical thinking and leadership skills I needed to be successful in the working world and graduate school. I have been selected for internships and jobs because my skills extend beyond the classroom. I fostered design, video, writing and editing skills while students from other schools are limited to one concentration. I studied Communications Management in graduate school and felt very prepared for the course work."
In addition to her classroom educational experiences, Weimer adds, “I am most thankful for my awesome group of Muskie friends that encouraged me and helped me grow during my time at Muskingum. I am even more thankful that the friendships continue today."
Hugh Martin, '09
Hugh Martin, ’09, was recently honored with the William Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. Currently completing his MFA at Arizona State University, Martin was one of ten selected from a pool of 1700 to be a "working artist," focused on honing his craft for the next two years. Martin is excited about the time and money provided to allow him to focus so exclusively on writing. "It’s daunting but exciting," he said.
As an undergraduate English major at Muskingum, Martin was prepared for his graduate studies because "I was exposed to a lot of writing from different eras and had to learn how to engage with those texts and of course, write analyses on different books/stories/poems. ...All of this reading and writing laid a strong foundation for me to continue studying and understanding literature as I spent time in grad school." In addition, Martin appreciates the opportunities he had to "dabble in a variety of subjects and activities: the newspaper, the TV station, theatre, the literary readings, and more. This allowed to me to become more well-rounded and develop better interpersonal skills…."
In addition to having a writing routine, Martin recommends that students interested in pursuing an MFA "just need to read more. Too many have no idea that when they're putting words on the page, they are not alone – they're entering a conversation that has been going on since the beginning of written thought. They should spend a lot of time reading the 'classics,' which are hard to define, but ask your English teacher and you should have no shortage of lists. But at the same time, they should be reading contemporary work from today."
About writing poetry, Martin says, "I think many people who are outside of writing communities think the act of writing poetry is some spiritual, esoteric, delicate act - it's not at all. It's messy and difficult and takes extreme patience and solitude."
Martin recently published a book of poetry, Stick Soldiers, available online on pre-order.