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.