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Message From the President Dear Friends,

a commitment to lifelong learning. Many of you are like Mike Powers, who after working with the Department of Defense for many years returned to school for a master’s degree in business, or Emily Bennett who spent several years as a classroom teacher before pursuing her law degree. She now hopes to combine those two passions to serve as an advocate for students. Both credit their NLU experience for where, and who, they are today.

It is with great pleasure that we bring you our second edition of the “30 over 30: Alumni in Action” themed magazine. As with the first edition published in Winter 2013, we are introducing you to 30 NLU alumni who are making a difference and going above and beyond to impact their communities.

An education – no matter when or how you receive it – is a valuable asset. I hope you will join me in recognizing the accomplishments of the alums in this magazine, as well as all of our alumni and current students working hard everyday.

I personally enjoy this issue’s theme because it affords us the opportunity to showcase so many of our alums in one publication while expressing our commitment to serving adult students.

Best Regards,

As you will read in the following stories, many of our alumni have earned their degrees later in life or have returned to school to pursue a dream embodying

Nivine Megahed, Ph.D., President

Institutional Advancement Staff John Bergholz, Vice President of

Jennifer Keller, Director of

Institutional Advancement


Mark Donahue, Web

Brian Kush, Communications Manager

Communications Editor

Danielle LaPointe, Associate Director

Matt Douponce, Associate Director

of Advancement Services

of Corporate and Foundation Relations Karen Galea, Director of External Funding & Grant Development

Mark Loper, Research and Prospect Analyst Kimberly Michaelson, Director of Alumni Relations

Jason Givan, Director of

Carey Smith, Special Events

Advancement Operations


Mallory Hitt, Administrative Assistant

Kaitlin Weiss, Annual Fund Manager

Alumni Relations

Make an Estate Gift

Contact Kimberly Michaelson at

Contact Jennifer Keller at

312.261.3159 or

312.261.3958 or


Table of Contents The First Word ..................... 3 Alumni Spotlight ........... 4 – 5 Letter From the V.P. of Advancement ..................... 5 NLU 30 Over 30 Alumni Profiles ............ 6 – 11

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The First Word A MID-CAREER GAME CHANGE By Marvin Childress ’10


believe that one of the greatest gifts is the ability to teach someone how to do something that will forever enhance his/her life. Being an educator affords me to do exactly that; teach someone how to do something. I had always envisioned myself as the next big screen/television writer, and after a failed attempt at a fashion design career, I reflected upon a conversation with my college English Teacher, Tony Del Valle, from Columbia College, Chicago. He told me to pursue a career in writing rather than fashion design. I had been tried to break into the writing world for a long time. I was fortunate enough to have a brother in advertising who introduced me to the art of writing copy. That, coupled with my being raised on late 80’s/90’s hip hop, helped me with advertising wordplay. After years of writing copy and informational packets, my brother and I decided to write a film. It was an anime film titled “This Day.” We came very close to getting a deal, but ultimately, we did not. I became disenchanted with writing, until I was asked to write copy and character dialogue for a new and popular video game franchise. At the time, it was great. However, the game was not the most positive game, and it catered to some negative stereotypes. I remember my wife asking me how I could write “that” content when we didn’t al-

Photo courtesy of J.Geil/Wednesday Journal

NLU alumnus Marvin Childress ’10 reads to his first grade class at Oak Park Elementary.

low our son to play such games. My immediate response was, “the money.” I decided to try and alter the content, making it more palatable, but it was already too late, the work had been submitted. I continued to write copy for rap artists, but I decided to walk away because I struggled with the morality. I took a job doing actuarial work that I despised. One day, after a year of working in a job I hated, I called my wife, a teacher, and I said, “I can’t do this anymore.” She responded, “quit.” So with an extremely supportive wife, I quit my job and enrolled in National Louis University’s M.A.T. program. I immediately found my place. A place where my mother had been


for more than 30 years, her mother, her sister, and so-on; a place where my wife had found her calling as well. Education: teaching someone how to do something. As an educator I feel so much more accomplished. I am proud of myself, and proud of the profession I’ve chosen, or that chose me. I look out into the environment and realize someone was taught to plant a tree, design a building, write a book, compute an algorithm, give a speech, etc., all at the hands of a teacher. National Louis University taught me how to be better, so that my students can be better. National Louis University taught me how to think differently, respond differently, and ultimately teach differently.

30 Over 30

Amy Bastuga ’97 is the Vice President of Human Resources at Radio Flyer in Chicago, IL.



my Bastuga (M.S. Human Resource Management & Development ’97) has had a passion for fun her whole life. An active gymnast in grade school and high school, and currently a big fan of photography in her free time, Amy has spent her life crafting warm memories, especially with her husband and three children. It’s no wonder then, that Amy’s passions have transferred into an exemplary career as Vice President of Human Resources at Radio Flyer.

were looking to establish their own childcare departments. It was through learning what HR promoted, that she began to realize that Human Resources was a “vehicle to help adults learn and grow.”

Looking to NLU to further her career and education, Amy’s interest in NLU began in the National College of Education before quickly switching to human resource management & development. “It was almost like the doors were next to each other. I looked at both A graduate of Northern Illinois University with a de- doors and the Human Resources program caught me gree in corporate communications and child devel- from the side of my eye,” Amy said. opment, Amy’s start was in childcare at Fel-Pro Inc. “Fel-Pro at that time was a 90 year old company that Crediting NLU with helping her accelerate her career, was one of the best places to work in America. They Amy, who was only a year out of undergrad, says she were early promoters of work-life balance and pro- most benefited from learning from other students in her class who had job experience. “I got to be in an viding on-site childcare,” Amy said. environment learning the technical skills and pracWithin that role, Amy joined the Work-Life Director at tical skills for my profession from people who had Fel-Pro in reaching out to vice presidents of HR who been doing it for years,” she said.


Alumni in Action 2014 Fast-forward to 2013 and Radio Flyer has become known as one of the best places to work in Illinois. “The first thing people say when they describe why they love their job is ‘I love the people that I work with.’ Then they say, ‘I love the work I do (in my job). I feel valued for what I do, and I am passionate about what I’m doing,’” Amy said, “that is the framework that leadership is responsible for putting in place.” Hired into the position as a partner in creating the atmosphere of fun, creativity, and empowerment that Radio Flyer now boasts, Amy described her career as being an “HR dream come true.” Given the freedom to build an HR department that would empower employees, Amy recognizes Chief Wagon Officer Robert Pasin who “fundamentally believes in the power of treating people well so that they can thrive and business can thrive.” With Radio Flyer’s employees excited to come in each day, Amy too feels that connection with her work. “In terms of me being a teacher at heart, our mission completely connects with who I am – we promote outdoor active play and help children grow. We are also a brand that wants to bring smiles and create warm memories.” So does Amy love her job?

Greetings! Everyone loves a comeback story. Last year our alumni magazine made a comeback, and this year we are glad to repeat what was a very popular second issue for us, the topic of “30 over 30.” This year, as last, we go around the country to profile National Louis University alumni who left NLU armed with a great education, faculty encouragement and a powerful degree. One thing that strikes me as I meet with alumni from a variety of graduation years, is that many of them made a conscious decision, as an adult, to take charge of their own life, study at NLU, graduate and then make a change. Some of the change is reflected in the story of one alumna who moved from childcare within one company to running HR in one of the Chicago’s most iconic businesses. Her change also included a move from studying Education to HR. All of this put her in the driver’s seat of a little red wagon. Another alumnus moved from writing ad copy to teaching elementary school.; a change he describes as moving toward a more meaningful life. Institutionally, we have had some changes at NLU. Our dean of NCE, Alison Hilsabeck has taken on an important new role of Executive Dean in an effort to advance our strategic initiatives. Stu Carrier has come up from our Tampa campus to serve as the interim dean of NCE. CAS and CMB will be combined into one college under the direction of dean Chris Cassirer – more on that in the months ahead. Our P.A.C.E. program (a program for adults with developmental disabilities) has a new executive director in Selima Hargadon. Finally, our REACH Awards Gala has made a comeback! Please hold the date of May 20, 2014 and join us as we celebrate the lives and achievements of more of your fellow alumni.

“Yes. I love my job!” She says.

John Bergholz V.P. of Institutional Advancement




eing an attorney was something Emily Bennett (M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction ’05) always wanted to do, but her passion for education led her in a different direction after she graduated from high school in Louisville, Kentucky. Before working for Howard & Howard, a law firm that specializes in business, Emily was a teacher at Pullman Elementary School on Chicago’s south side from 2003 to 2006. Emily’s years working as a teacher helped prepare her for some of the unexpected obstacles that can come up during litigation. “Teaching taught me so much about thinking on my feet,” Emily said. “As a teacher you can plan and plan, but once the kids show up, you never know what might happen that day. Teaching taught me to work with whatever surprises come.” As a young teacher just starting her career, Emily wasn’t prepared

ning’s lesson plan. “It’s hard sometimes to be in the classroom teaching all day, then go to class at night, and have to transition from the day-to-day things that happen in the classroom to academic learning,” Emily said. “The mentors were really wonderful at connecting what happened in the morning to the big picture, more theoretical ideas.”

Emily Bennett works for the law offices of Howard & Howard in Chicago.

for how much of an impact outside factors would have in the classroom. She learned how to deal with those challenges through experience and the help of mentors from National Louis University. The mentors were NLU instructors who would come to the classroom, watch their students teach, and tie their observations into that eve-

Emily handles a wide range of commercial litigation at Howard & Howard, but hopes one day to use her expertise to be an advocate for students who don’t have a voice. While in law school Emily was published in a law review for an article on students with autism and how some of the laws that are currently in place may not best serve higher functioning students with autism. Emily’s passion for education still comes through, even though she has transitioned to the courtroom.

PRINCIPAL HELPS KIDS PLAN FOR FUTURE By Mallory Hitt Future planning happens early for children at Woodbury Elementary School thanks to Principal and NLU alumna Dr. Shirley DeCorte (Ed.D. School Leadership ’04). Recognizing many of them have never heard of college, Shirley Shirley DeCorte says, “We feel that children should know that college is an option.” That’s what sparked her idea for college-themed classrooms.

asked what they would like to be when they grow up. “Half the boys want to be football players,” Shirley says, “but that’s ok… we’ll work on this… So it’s just planting the seed at this point.” A believer in individualized instruction, Shirley isn’t straying far from her own educational background. According to Shirley, all of her professors at NLU were top-notch quality. More importantly, “[they] gave you options for learning.” Access to these options is just what DeCorte is giving the next generation.

Woodbury Elementary students are also frequently


Alumni in Action 2014 Dr. Susan Malekpour ’03 Ed.D. Adult Education National Dean of the College of Arts & Liberal Sciences, DeVry University

Christopher Simler ’04 B.A. Applied Behavioral Science Corporate Disability Consultant, Social Coaching Institute

Dr. Susan Malekpour has had a successful career in higher education, having held several key positions at American International University. Her experience there has led her to DeVry University as the new National Dean of the College of Arts & Liberal Sciences. Susan is a member of several groups, including the American Society of Microbiologists.

Christopher Simler has dedicated his career to helping people with autism. As a Corporate Disability Consultant for the Social Coaching Institute, Christopher helps provide training and support to businesses and school districts that serve people with autism. Christopher also serves as a member of the Autism Speaks think tank.

Michael Cobb ’92, ’98 B.A. Applied Behavioral Science M.S. Management Executive Director, Hesed House

Susan Stover ’92 B.A. Business Management Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Centurion Research Solutions

Hesed House, located in Aurora, is the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois. Michael Cobb was recently named the Executive Director of the facility. “There have been times and events in my life that I consider to have great significance. Becoming the Executive Director of Hesed House is clearly one of them for me,” Michael said.

Centurion Research Solutions provides business intelligence and analytics to clients in order to win government contracts. Susan Stover plays a key role in this fast-growing company as its Vice President of Sales & Marketing. One of Susan’s primary responsibilities is creating strategic marketing campaigns aimed at driving brand awareness.

Stephen Cummins ’12 Ed.D. Educational Leadership Director of Public Events, Chico State University

Mary Forristall ’01 M.B.A. President, Forristall Enterprises Mary Forristall is the President of family-owned Forristall Enterprises. Established in 1990, Forristall Enterprises specializes in various types of demolition in the state of Florida. Over the years, Forristall Enterprises has become one of the top demolition contractors in the Gulf Coast Region. Mary runs the business with the help of her husband, Steve (Vice President), her two sons and her daughter-in-law.

Stephen Cummins’ passion for the arts has taken him all the way to Northern California, where he is the Director of Public Events for Chico State University. Stephen manages Chico’s performance programs and the university box office. “I’m really happy to be working for a university that is so committed to serving the community,” Stephen said.

Brenda Lewis ’88 B.A. Business Management Director, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District Brenda Lewis kept her seat on the board of directors for the Monterey (California) Peninsula Water Management District by winning an election last November. Brenda is responsible for the water concerns of residents and businesses of the Monterey Peninsula. Brenda credits NLU for her success. “NLU provided a strong foundation on which to build my life and career,” Brenda said.




am Reilly (M.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction ’99) starts the school day by having her second grade class answer a few questions. When Pam asks, “how do you become a better reader?” The kids reply, “read!” When Pam asks, “how do you become a better writer?” The kids reply, “write!” And when Pam asks, “who is in charge of you learning?” The kids reply, “I am!” Pam believes children need to have choices and be in charge of their own learning. She keeps them engaged with a variety of activities throughout the day to help them become better learners. Methods like this are what led the Illinois State Board of Education to name Pam the Illinois Teacher of the Year for 2014.

Pam Reilly prepares to read to her second grade class at Woodbury Elementary in Sandwich, Illinois.

“The children need to know that college is important. I am teaching my students about ways to get through college even if you can’t afford it,” Pam said. “It is never too early to instill the importance of a college education.”

“I don’t think I can express in words what an honor it is to be recognized for something I truly love,” Pam said. “I am witness to teachers’ dedication every day; doing what’s best for students. I am beyond proud to represent and be the voice for our Illinois teachers in 2014.”

As part of the college program at Woodbury, each classroom has a local college that they represent. National Louis University is now proudly represented in Pam’s classroom. Pam has fond memories from her time at NLU. She remembers how professors challenged her and how it made her a better teacher. Pam is now doing the same with her class. And, hopefully, they will follow in her footsteps.

Pam has been teaching at Woodbury Elementary School in Sandwich, Illinois for the past five years. Woodbury’s school motto is that “College is not just a dream, it’s a PLAN.” Pam gets the message across to her students everyday by wearing a pink shirt with the motto written on it.


Alumni in Action 2014 Ryan Rasske ’02 B.S. Management President, RiskGap Advisors, LLC

Gabriel “Asheru” Benn ’04 M.Ed. Interdisciplinary Studies Hip-Hop Artist,

After serving his country as a Federal Law Enforcement Officer for the United States Secret Service, Ryan Rasske received his management degree from NLU and broke into the world of business. Today, Ryan is the President of RiskGap Advisors, LLC., an operational risk management firm that provides strategic advice to small and mid-size businesses.

An artist, educator, and youth activist, Gabriel “Asheru” Benn is best known for his work on the popular TV series The Boondocks. Asheru has written and performed several songs on the show, including the opening theme song. His work on The Boondocks earned him the Peabody Award for Journalism in 2006.

Elizabeth Gelman ’08 M.S. Written Communication Executive Director, The Florida Holocaust Museum

Kevin O’Connor ’98 Ed.D. Instructional Leadership Program Consultant, Broward County, LGBTQ Advocacy, Student Behavior Management, HIV/AIDS Education

At the beginning of 2013, NLU alumna Elizabeth Gelman accepted the position of Executive Director for one of the largest Holocaust museums in the United States. “The work the museum does is enormously important,” Elizabeth said. “I am honored to assist in ensuring the museum’s future growth, relevance, and vitality.”

Kevin O’Connor has a long and distinguished career in education. Currently, Kevin plans and provides training at school, district, state and national level seminars and conferences in the implementation of K-12 LGBTQ policies and practices.

Carol Simler ’91 B.S. Management Executive Director, DuPagePads

Russell Arms Jr. ’94 M.Ed. Interdisciplinary Studies Teacher, Lexington Elementary School (St. Louis)

Carol Simler’s goal is to end homelessness in Illinois’ DuPage County. As the Executive Director of DuPagePads, the area’s largest homeless shelter, she is attempting to do just that. Founded in 1985, DuPagePads provides housing and other support services to help those less fortunate become self-sufficient.

Russell Arms Jr. was recently named a 2013 Emerson Excellence in Teaching nominee. Russell was also named Physical Education Teacher of the Year in 2012 by the St. Louis Public School District. “The thing I like the most about teaching is seeing kids have a great time and get in shape,” Russell said.

Diana Moore ’81 B.A. Education President, Orange County Classroom Teachers Association

Farheen Beg ’12 M.A.T. Elementary Education Teacher, Churchville Middle School Farheen Beg is a computer literacy teacher at Churchville Middle School in Elmhurst, IL. Farheen originally worked in tech support for a large accounting firm, but she felt that teaching was her true calling. Teaching is a way for Farheen to do what she loves, while still utilizing her wealth of experience from the world of technology.

Teaching in the classroom for over 20 years thoroughly prepared Diana Moore to take on the duty of leading the 6,000 member Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. After being elected in 2012, Diana had a simple goal, “I want to make things better for teachers.”




ike Powers, Ph.D. (M.S. Management ’97) had been a working professional for many years before his education at National Louis University began. Directly after graduating high school, Mike began working for the Department of Defense. He had several jobs working for the DOD; including moving to England to be a signals engineer. He had the opportunity to study Arabic full-time with the government and transferred over to the Foreign Service to become an Arabic linguist during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. After leaving the government, Mike spent some time working for defense contractors, doing some management consulting. As he began his career working in the private industry, Mike saw value in pursuing a Master’s degree. Mike came to NLU like many other students because of the “emphasis on adult education.” He knew

Mike Powers is currently the Technology Director for Chase and teaches part-time.

he would be working full-time and after doing research on other programs; NLU was the right fit. After Mike received his Master’s degree in Management from NLU, he got a position at Chase in the program management field. He worked his way up the ladder and now is a Technology Director. He runs a retail staff application farm – Mike says “it’s big data, high end statistical analysis and operations.”

Mike gives a lot of credit to NLU, not only for his career at Chase, but for opening doors to his career in teaching. In 2000, Mike began teaching at a college in Ohio. Mike states “he always had interest in education” but really thought teaching “would be an outstanding resume builder.” What he found from his first teaching experience was that he “absolutely loved it, and what started out as a resume builder quickly became a passion.” He now teaches at 3 colleges while working full-time at Chase. Mike is a busy person and is certainly enjoying the life he’s made with the help of NLU; “Most people are watching TV in the evenings; I’m grading papers and interacting with students and I simply love it.” When Mike does have some free time, he enjoys watching his beloved Boston Red Sox. Surely, he enjoyed watching his favorite baseball team win the World Series this past October.

A CAREER THAT HAS HAD ITS SHARE OF UPS By Brian Kush Born and raised in the blue-collar town of Flint, Michigan, Richard “Rusty” Tebo (M.B.A. ’06) knows the meaning of hard work. Rusty started his career at UPS as a part-time seasonal driver right out of college. Today, Rusty is the Vice President of Enterprise Sales, Industrial and Automotive at UPS.

ed his M.B.A. in two years. His NLU education helped him better understand the business world beyond UPS. “My M.B.A. really helped me look at business in a whole different way,” Rusty said. “It helped me look at Richard Tebo things from a customer’s point of view.” Rusty currently resides in the Dallas, Texas area with his family.

When Rusty was working at the UPS Addison, Illinois location, National Louis University held an on-site M.B.A. program. Rusty took full advantage of it and complet-


Alumni in Action 2014 Dr. Sally Stone ’04 Ed.D. Curriculum and Social Inquiry Writer, Photographer

Julie Chase ’01 M.Ed. Interdisciplinary Studies Teacher, St. Ann Catholic School Julie Chase was recently named a 2013 Emerson Excellence in Teaching nominee. Julie teaches fourth grade at St. Ann Catholic School in Normandy, Missouri. In her 28 years of teaching, Julie has taught all grades from kindergarten through fifth. She has been teaching at St. Ann for the last 15 years.

Dr. Sally Stone has a passion for photography and she specializes in taking photos nature photos that inspire. Her “Healing Images” can be viewed on her website, “Nature is such a generous teacher: both profound and entertaining. Nature’s creation calms the mind.”

Rabbi Howard Bogot ’61 B.A. Elementary Education Author, “Gates of Wonder: Prayers for Young Children”

Kathleen Harris ’05 M.Ed. Administration & Supervision Director of Collective Impact, Go Great Oakland Public Schools

Rabbi Howard Bogot is the author of several books including, “Seven Animal Stories for Children” and “My First 100 Hebrew Words: A Young Person’s Dictionary of Judaism.” Howard also conducts various workshops in his home state of Pennsylvania. His most recent was “Continuing Jewish Education.”

Kathleen Harris recently joined Go Great Oakland Public Schools with the task of ensuring that all children in her district receive the best possible education. Kathleen is the right woman for the job as she has spent her career being an advocate for education equality. Kathleen remains an active volunteer as well.

Lynn Westerlund ’95 M.Ed. Interdisciplinary Studies Principal, Parker Junior High School

Charlene Blockinger ’07 Ed.D. Adult Education Professor, DePaul University and Northwestern University

Lynn Westerlund’s teaching career began in 1990 as a second-grade teacher in Flossmoor, IL School District 161. Lynn will remain in District 161 as she was named principal of Parker Junior High School this past June. “I’m excited about the journey we are embarking on with 21st Century Learning and the opportunity it will open up for our students.

With 18 years of experience working in the international business world, Charlene Blockinger’s students greatly benefit from her expertise. Charlene teaches several classes, including Intercultural Communication, Global Leadership, Foundations of Leadership, and Critical Thinking.

Janice Pratt ’93 B.S. Management President, JP and Company Marketing Communications

Matthew King ’07 M.Ed. Administration & Supervision Principal, EPIC Academy Matthew King started his teaching career over 10 years ago in Chicago Public Schools, where he taught history and economics to his students. Matthew is now the Principal of EPIC Academy Charter High School on Chicago’s south side. EPIC Academy serves 450 students.

Janice Pratt took her 20 years of marketing experience (17 of those years were spent with JP Morgan Chase) and has started her own marketing communications businesses. JP and Company serves business that do not have the budget to hire their own marketing and communications staff.



Reach Awards


Save the Date May 20, 2014 • 6:00pm The Field Museum

Please join us for this special event that celebrates the success and accomplishments of alumni and friends of NLU. Cocktails, dinner, silent auction and access to museum exhibits! Contact 312.261.3809. Please go to for more information.

NLU Alumni Magazine: Winter 2014