Graduates reflect on commencement day

May 24, 2018
Collin Loutensock

Part of the Newman University mission statement is to “empower graduates to transform society.” According to these graduates, the programs and opportunities provided by Newman do not disappoint in doing so.

On Saturday, May 12, friends, family and fellow classmates gathered to celebrate the Newman Commencement ceremony. For the 2017-2018 academic year, a total of 56 associate degrees, 273 bachelor’s degrees and 201 master’s degrees were awarded.

Some smiled, some cried and some kindly shared their reflections on the Newman experience — and what it means to them to finally graduate.

Undergraduate Reactions

Kenneth Kent, biochemistry (Cum Laude)

Kent describes his experience at Newman as “fantastic. I can’t say it any other way — it was fantastic.

Kenneth Kent
Kenneth Kent

“I learned a lot of great basic skills to take with me into the workforce, as well as continue on in my pursuit of further knowledge in graduate programs like pharmaceutical school,” he said. “All the professors are wonderful, and they’re very approachable. Not once did I ever feel put down.”

After graduation, Kent plans to take a year off and will be applying to pharmacy schools soon after. During his gap year, he will be shadowing to get a better idea as to which route he wants to pursue — nuclear pharmacy or nutritional pharmacy. He also hopes to gain job experience in the pharmacy as a technician, he said.

“If all that fails then I’m going to focus on keeping my lab skills sharp, probably at Quest Diagnostics,” Kent said. “I just want to find something that I can specialize in that I feel will make an impact in my field later in my career and in my life.”

Lexy Cochran, biology — concentration in pre-medicine (Summa Cum Laude)

Cochran only took three years to graduate, and it was “kind of an accident,” she said.

Lexy Cochran
Lexy Cochran

“I didn’t really know that I took a lot of high school credits,” Cochran said. “After meeting with my advisor, Dr. (David) Shubert, he told me I could be done in three years, so I decided, ‘Three years it is!’

“My family has had ties to Newman my entire life,” she added. “It’s something I’ve loved, and I’ve spent years thinking, ‘Newman might be my place, it may be where I belong.’ I got here, and I was thrown into sophomore classes — O-Chem (organic chemistry) and microbiology — and I thought, ‘No way in the world am I actually going to make it through this.’ I did, however. My teachers were incredible, they made me love my subject even more and the Newman science department is the best.

“If you want to do science and love science, you need to go to Newman. It’s the best. I am so happy and this is the best choice I’ve made. I love all of my professors and I’m just so blessed to have gone to this school.”

Cochran is in the process of applying to medical schools.

“I don’t think I would feel prepared had I gone anywhere else,” Cochran said. “My Newman professors are always behind me. They are always helping me, pushing me, saying it’s OK and believing in me when I sometimes forget to believe in myself, and I think I’m ready to go on and change the world in the ways that Newman prepared me to do.”

Emily Harvey, communication (Summa Cum Laude)

“I’ve been here for four years now, and in those years I’ve had lots of trials and tribulations, some really tough stuff, but also some really high points — and I got to share it all with my roommate of four years (Delaney Hiegert).

Emily Harvey and Delaney Hiegert
Emily Harvey (left) and Delaney Hiegert

“Playing volleyball and being a communication major was the best decision I ever made,” Harvey said. “I couldn’t have asked for college to go any other way, and now I’m excited to see what opportunity Newman has given me for the future.”

One of the last conversations Harvey had with Suzanne Berg, Ph.D. , who died unexpectedly in the spring 2018 semester, was that Dr. Berg wanted Harvey to attend graduate school.

“That was never my dream, but I have been offered to get my master’s while playing volleyball overseas, and it just seems like the right thing to do for me and for Dr. Berg,” Harvey said. “My next step is in the works, and I’m excited to see where it takes me.”

Collin Loutensock, sports communication (Magna Cum Laude)

Loutensock sported a unique homemade accessory at graduation — a Salt Lake City tradition for graduates.

Collin Loutensock
Collin Loutensock

“Sometimes people will make you leis out of candy, other times it will be money — all sorts of different things,” he said. “My family came out and they wanted to keep the tradition going.”

Loutensock said he loved his experience as a student and baseball player at Newman. After transferring from a junior college, he especially enjoyed the community feel and small classroom sizes at Newman.

“I was just trying to find the perfect fit for me and Newman was that fit,” he said. “I eventually want to be able to work in a recreation department and help kids enjoy sports the way I did as a kid. Without sports, I wouldn’t have been able to go to school, so I want to be able to give that opportunity back to the youth.”

Daniella Buedden, sociology and psychology (Summa Cum Laude)

Buedden is excited to begin her next chapter as a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma Tulsa’s Master in Social Work program — a dream she has had since the beginning of her college career.

Daniella Buedden
Daniella Buedden

“I’ve always wanted to be in an area where I could help people, and I really found my calling through shadowing and interning different social workers,” Buedden said.

“I think every school has its good and bad, its ups and downs, but I really appreciated Newman for all the opportunities I got, especially with leadership roles and being engaged in so many different things,” she added. “I think sometimes in a bigger university, I would have gotten kind of lost in the shuffle. So I really appreciated that and how personal people were all the time — getting to know professors, administrators, and everyone from every department. I really loved that and I don’t think I would have gotten that elsewhere.

“I feel very prepared for the next step,” Buedden said. “I’m ready to go.”

Katie Detmer, biology — concentration in pre-medicine (Summa Cum Laude)

Detmer, who was the 2017-2018 recipient of the Leona J. Ablah Award, said she was completely surprised, yet honored to receive the award.

Katie Detmer
Katie Detmer

“It’s just a token of my appreciation for everyone that’s really gotten me to where I am today,” she said. “Here at Newman, and in my family and my friends, they’re the reason that I could even be up for this award.”

To Detmer, graduation day means that her time at Newman was all worth it, she said.

“All the hard work, for the people who got me here, and all the people who believed in me and still believe in me to go on more — it’s all for them,” she said.

Detmer officially starts medical school in July.

“I’m very nervous but also excited,” she said. “It feels like I just started here as a pre-med student who didn’t really know what she was getting herself into, and now all of a sudden, it’s two months until I start and it just feels like my dream career. The stuff that I really want to do is right around the corner, and I’m really excited.”

Graduate Reactions (master’s program)

Daniel Murphy, concentration in business analytics

Earning an MBA has been a longtime goal, Murphy said, and Newman University made it possible to achieve.

Daniel Murphy
Daniel Murphy

“I think that the small class size and the very professional faculty and staff were just a tremendous asset to the degree,” he said. “The business analytics program has been phenomenal. Dr. (Luke) Simmering teaches the business analytics concentration and he brings a lot of experience inside the classroom. We use hands-on technology with a lot of industry software to help analyze big data.”

Murphy said he hopes to expand his opportunities beyond his pre-existing skill set.

“By expanding that knowledge beyond business analytics, which is a hugely demanded skill, not only does it help me in my current position, but later on down the road,” he said. “And who knows when that might be? Other doors may open within my current organization or elsewhere.”

Rachel Greene, Master of Social Work

Greene has a 10-year-long history of serving the Hispanic community — both in Wichita and in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She received her undergraduate degree from Newman and had a very positive experience, so when she was ready to return to school to continue her education she looked to Newman right away, she said.

Rachel Greene
Rachel Greene

“The graduate experience has been a stressful, but very rewarding ride,” Greene said. “The journey has been so emotional in all senses. It’s been taxing, it’s been tiring, but it has also been paying off in the sense that we are showing that we formed really good relationships with our cohort, our professors have been amazing, they’ve poured so much energy and work into our curriculum, and I just feel like I am very well prepared for the future.

“Today means the end of a very long journey, but the start of another,” she added. “I am so thankful to be at this point, but I realize that this is the launching pad for what is to come, so I am very emotional and sad, but also excited.”

Greene said she looks forward to finding employment as a clinical social worker, where she will then work toward her clinical social work license to eventually become a mental health therapist.

Noel Torres, concentration in business analytics

Torres said he went into the graduate program with no expectations.

Noel Torres
Noel Torres

“I started my master’s so that I could wrestle and finish my career there, but I learned a lot about the business world, about how corporations work, how they are run, the financials, and prior to that I had no idea,” he said.

“(Graduation day) is more for my family. I graduated from my undergrad last year, so it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal but it kind of is, so that’s for my family. It’s special for them to watch me walk.”

After being hired as an IT intern at Koch Industries two years ago, Torres was offered a full-time position last summer. He plans to continue working for Koch while incorporating his new knowledge of business into the workplace, he said.

“We’ll see where it takes me,” he added.

John Newcomer, Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia

Newcomer describes the graduate program as being very demanding, and “requiring 100 percent of your time and effort.

John Newcomer
John Newcomer

“I think that if you give that to the program, it gives it back to you,” he added. “I was very happy with the amount of effort it demanded and the amount of ability it gave me.

“Next for me, I’m going to take a position as a staff anesthetist in Garden City, Kansas. I’m going to start there and my goal is to slowly expand to a multi-site, which will be anesthesia practice from there.”

Newcomer was a registered nurse for many years, he said. Before he started the anesthesia program, he was commissioned into the Air Force.

“Both of those things started about the same time,” he said. “So while both (anesthesiology and the Air Force) are newer to me, they’re exciting. I want to serve with good people and that’s where good people are, so that’s where I’m going to go.”

Aleisha Weimer, concentration in English for speakers of other languages, curriculum and instruction

Weimer, a member of the Coffeeville cohort, said she is excited to have earned her master’s degree in ESOL, or English for speakers of other languages.

Aleisha Weimer
Aleisha Weimer

“We chose the program because (we were asked), ‘Would you like to expand your education?’ When an opportunity like that comes along, it’s once in a lifetime and you jump into it when you can — especially when you know that (those who are asking) are some of your lead professors.”

Weimer said she is extremely grateful to her parents for pushing her to continue during her undergraduate and eventually graduate education.

“I don’t think I would have gotten through it without them,” she said. “That’s why my graduation cap says, ‘Because they believed in me, I could keep going.’ We do it for our families and we do it for our kids. And I believe we’ve made them proud.”

That’s a Wrap

No matter the major, concentration, background or walk of life, graduates of Newman consistently recall the convenience of small classroom sizes, one-on-one assistance from professors and the various strong relationships that are built with professors and peers throughout their time at Newman.

Commencement marks the celebration of each and every student’s journey as a college student — the collection of struggles and achievements, defining moments and personal experiences to be carried on with them to their next step.

The Newman experience is what the students and faculty put into it, and the results often lead to direct job opportunities or even the option to continue one’s education. Graduates are equipped with the coursework, skills and experience needed to leave the university world feeling prepared, and in doing so they empower themselves and one another and continuously transform society.