Defining Excellence — The Campaign for SIUE isn't just a campaign for an institution; it's a campaign for the SIUE community — the students, faculty, alumni and donors who make this University such a special place. The stories below show how SIUE students grow as intellectuals and citizens, how faculty improve our region through instruction and research, how alumni are taking advantage of their degrees to make the world a better place, and how donors have made it all possible.
SIUE students are the next generation of civic, health care and business leaders who will guide our region and our state into a new era of growth and prosperity. Your gifts not only prepare our region for a better tomorrow, they make our students’ dreams come true.
The decision to attend SIUE was an easy one for Brandon Rahn when he was a high school senior.
"It's a beautiful campus, there's incredible faculty, and the vibrant student life offers more opportunities for me to get involved than at a larger school," Brandon said.
From the day he stepped on campus, Brandon took advantage of those opportunities, improving himself and his university. During his four years at SIUE, he has helped revise curricula for the University's honors programs. As a past president of Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow, he’s helped connect his on-campus peers with alumni for career networking. And, he’s performed hundreds of hours of community service as a member of his fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi.
But Brandon is most proud of his accomplishments during two terms as the Student Body President. Not only did he work with University administration to improve the student experience, he also lobbied the state legislature to restore $200 million in funding for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) Grant, which provides need-based assistance to students across Illinois.
None of this would have been possible without the financial assistance that Brandon received through the Meridian Scholar Program, which covered tuition, fees and room-and-board during his four years at SIUE. The Meridian Scholars Program offers 20 scholarships each year to 20 students with strong academic ability and a record of personal achievement, leadership and service.
Two-thirds of the student body receive financial aid. Donor support of scholarships such as the Meridian Scholars Program helps keep SIUE's excellent education affordable.
Without the scholarship, Brandon said he would have needed to spend his time outside of class working and worrying about paying for school. The scholarship allowed him to give back to his fellow students and discover his true calling. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics and political science in May 2011, Brandon plans to build his record of achievement. He will attend law school to pursue a degree in international human and civil rights.
"There are some exceptional individuals who may not have come to SIUE without the Meridian Scholar Program," Brandon said. "It's an opportunity to get some of the best and brightest students with diverse backgrounds and interests to attend this University. We are all giving back to campus in our own ways. The scholarship allows us to concentrate our efforts toward work that benefits students. We're working to leave a great legacy on this campus."
For Ali Downing and the SIUE Softball team, the pursuit of excellence is achieved not only on the field.
The senior pitcher and her teammates work together on the diamond scoring runs, turning double plays, and winning games; they also lean on each other to make the grade in the classroom, earning a 3.451 team GPA — tops among the University’s 16 teams.
“Our coach (Sandy Montgomery) makes sure that we know we’re students first before we are athletes,” said Downing. “If someone doesn’t understand a subject, we tutor each other and help each other study.”
But success on the field and in the classroom wouldn’t be possible for Ali without the generous gifts from donors who fund her athletics scholarship.
To save money, Ali attended Indian Hills Community College for two years in her hometown of Ottumwa, Iowa, before transferring to SIUE in 2008. Downing is a triplet (her sister, Karie, plays volleyball at SIUE, and her sister, Erin, plays volleyball for Morningside College in Iowa), and, with a brother just 18 months older, Ali’s family has had four children in college during the last five years.
After completing her studies at Indian Hills, Ali knew she wanted to earn a four-year degree. She was drawn to SIUE for a combination of factors — the softball team’s winning tradition, the University’s excellent School of Business, and career opportunities that come from attending college in a major metropolitan area.
Like most of the 300 student-athletes who are part of SIUE Intercollegiate Athletics, Ali does not receive full tuition reimbursement. As the University enters its second year of NCAA Division I play, it’s critical that SIUE have the resources that meet or exceed its competition in attracting the best and brightest student athletes. Ali’s partial scholarship allows her to pursue two dreams: pitching for the Cougars and pursuing a career in advertising.
Since Kirsten Jolivette was a child, she knew she was going places — specifically, to Spain. But before Kirsten could travel across the Atlantic, she had one stop to make: SIUE.
Through SIUE's Center for International Programs, the international business major was able to fulfill her lifelong dream. In 2008, she took part in the University's study abroad program, spending a semester at a university in Seville.
Even for someone who long dreamed of spreading her wings and traveling halfway around the world, the experience was outside Kirsten's comfort zone. Very little English was spoken in Seville, and Kirsten had to quickly adapt to her new surroundings.
But with the help of her new friends and teachers, Kirsten found herself at home with the culture and the language. The entire experience was transformative. Upon returning to the United States, Kirsten was inspired to take a summer study abroad trip to Columbia and to pursue a master's degree from an international university after she graduates from SIUE in May 2011.
"It's been two years since I was in Spain, and I haven't stopped talking about it," Kirsten said. "It opened my eyes to how the world sees the United States and how the United States affects the rest of the world. Not only did I learn more about the world, I learned more about myself and more about my own country."
The Center for International Programs is part of SIUE's Student Success Center — one central location for the support services students need to thrive in the classroom and in their post-collegiate careers. Gifts that support the Student Success Center and its services help integrate the university experience, aiding in the retention and recruitment of students who seek a strong academic support system, state-of-the-art learning resources, and active campus life.
Kirsten's transformative experience wouldn't have been possible with the generosity of donors who contributed to the Ambassador Scholarship she received. Although it provided just $1,000 in financial aid, the scholarship paid for Kirsten's roundtrip ticket to Spain.
Students who study abroad can use their traditional financial aid on the courses, fees and room-and-board at international universities. But sometimes, just the nominal travel costs of studying abroad can prevent students from taking their own life-changing journey.
"The scholarship made a world of difference," Kirsten said. "It helped make my dream come true. It would have been terrible if the cost of a plane ticket had kept me from studying abroad."
Heather Long always thought she would become a speech pathologist dedicated to serving children, just like the woman who made a difference in the life of her brother, who has Down syndrome.
Instead, a chance encounter during a class assignment in the SIUE School of Education’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic changed Heather’s outlook and her future. The experience gave a new focus: helping adults affected by life-altering afflictions.
During her fifth year in the speech pathology program, Heather began working with a 47-year-old woman who had had a stroke. As a result, the client suffered from aphasia — an inability to speak — that caused the woman to withdraw from friends and family.
In SIUE’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, Heather was able to help her client find her voice again and reconnect with family and friends through supported communication techniques.
“She was very involved with her family and friends, but the stroke took her down a notch,” Heather said. “In addition to having aphasia, her right side was paralyzed. She can still move and walk with a cane, but it limits her mobility. To give her something back like language really meant a lot to her.”
Contributions to the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic — a community resource that provides diagnostic and speech-language therapy to individuals of all ages — help SIUE students such as Heather prepare for careers of the future.
“Without the clinical experience here on campus, I would be lost,” Heather said. “It helped me get a feel for everything I need to know when working with clients.
“A gift to SIUE means so much — it’s not just one person who benefits. A donation benefits the lives of students and patients. Everything we use makes us better therapists and results in better outcomes for our clients. The more we do here, the better therapists we are when we go out into the community.”
Working in a retail pharmacy in his hometown of Perryville, Mo., Mark Hotop enjoyed interacting with customers to help them understand how to safely and effectively take their medications. But it was the pharmacy’s manager who had Mark’s prescription for success — he encouraged Mark to pursue his doctoral studies through SIUE’s School of Pharmacy.
For Mark, SIUE offered the perfect combination of education, opportunity and service — all aspects he’s been able to explore at greater length thanks to the Charles Dragovich Scholarship, which offsets the cost of Mark’s graduate studies.
“Scholarships give students more drive to do well in school and to contribute to their community,” Mark said. “The Charles Dragovich Scholarship encouraged me to work hard to become a competent pharmacist. It feels good to be recognized for my hard work.”
Gifts that endow scholarships in the School of Pharmacy help students such as Mark focus their energy on their studies, allowing them to use their education to improve the Edwardsville community.
In addition to doing his doctoral work, Mark is active in community outreach through the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the Student Society of Health System Pharmacists. He’s volunteered in local grocery stores helping customers learn how to manage and avoid heartburn; and through the APhA’s Operation Immunization, he’s helped educate the public about the benefits and safety of vaccinations. Mark also has spoken to groups of young students about the dangers of abusing prescription medications.
Mark’s scholarship also allowed him to explore the variety of specialties in his field. Although he’s planning to pursue a career in a clinical setting, he’s also learned more about academia, retail and research. He said his SIUE education has helped him become well rounded and better prepared for wherever his future in pharmacy takes him.
“Now that pharmacy has moved away from the traditional role of dispensing drugs to patient-centered therapeutic careers, it’s important to be extremely competent and prepared to help patients,” Mark said. “Donors to the School of Pharmacy should know their money is not going to waste. Professors at SIUE really care about helping their students succeed and preparing them to make an impact in their communities.”