From classes and clinicals to research papers and capstone projects, earning a college degree may seem like an endless series of daunting tasks to check off on the to-do list.
More than 460 graduates from different walks of life celebrated the hard-earned finale of their education at Newman Friday, May 7. This may be only the beginning for some graduates from the class of 2021, but for these five, the hard work of earning a degree has paid off.
Graduate Matthew Hoang, a biology major with a concentration in pre-medicine, is a first-generation college student.
“My parents came to the U.S. from Vietnam and they never got the chance to get their college education,” Hoang said. “Going through the path and meeting a whole bunch of new people really helped me overcome the troubles that maybe first-generation college students go through, and hopefully I can pass that onto my kids.”
Hoang says Newman has prepared him to adapt to any circumstance.
“The professors did a really great job of implementing different pathways to help us. Seeing firsthand the example Newman provided for us helped me to hopefully one day help my patients with their ailments and sicknesses.”
Professor of Biology Sarah Evans, Ph.D., is one faculty member that Hoang says he will always remember.
“Dr. Evans looked out for me a lot,” he said. “She allowed me to be part of our research team this whole entire past year. She’s helped me with so many biology courses that prepared me for the MCAT. Ultimately she’s just someone I hopefully one day aspire to be like and emulate.”
Hoang is excited to learn even more about the world of medicine, and is set to attend the University of Kansas School of Medicine in the fall.
Full-time Catholic school teacher, ASC Community Leadership Scholar and Newman alumna Loretta Moody recently received her Master of Theological Studies degree.
“I’ve been teaching at my school for the past 10 years,” Moody said. “I’ve watched my first students from kindergarten learn all the way through middle school, and now they’re going off to Kapaun (Mt. Carmel Catholic High School). I felt like I needed to know a little bit more than what I knew before.”
As a full-time teacher, Moody appreciated the online graduate classes at Newman, even though it was a challenge to teach and learn online during the pandemic. Moody recalled reading and writing several materials throughout the master’s program, but a book written by William Faulkner stood out.
“(”The Bear’) spoke to me,” Moody said. “It was the story of a little boy who knew a mysterious bear that was plaguing the town, and he had to learn from an old Indian native about what he should do in the forest. It wasn’t until the boy put down his rifle and compass that he was able to see this illustrious bear.”
Moody added, “I realized that God was essentially speaking to me in the forest. Before, I thought, ‘I’m just going to get all these tools and all this knowledge, and I’ll be able to lead these kids.’ But it wasn’t that; I needed to put all that down and focus on my relationship with God.”
Moody is a recipient of the St. Maria De Mattias grant as well as the St. John Newman award given by the Diocese of Wichita, and makes volunteering a regular habit in her life. At her school, Moody volunteers every chance she gets, she says.
“The idea of servant leadership really inspires me,” she said. “I know that’s what the kids want, and it’s really transforming their little hearts. I got that from Newman.”
Donned in his SpongeBob SquarePants getup — complete with a button-down shirt, themed NBA sneakers and a “Four Years Later” graduation cap — Caleb Limes graduated cum laude with his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting.
“SpongeBob just brings me joy and laughter, and my friends and I always make SpongeBob references,” Limes said. “From there it just kind of blossomed into ‘I’m going to wear what I want and do what I want.’ So (in the words of SpongeBob), you could say, ‘I’m ready.’”
Limes started off as a biology major but decided it wasn’t the path for him. He moved on to chemistry as his major-of-choice, but eventually found himself switching to the business side. There, he found his niche for accounting.
“Newman has taught me who I really am, and it’s brought me the opportunity to meet plenty of people who help me while I also got to help them,” Limes said. “Being closer to your professors and smaller class sizes make the college experience feel more like a team effort rather than you being one of a hundred.”
The year of COVID-19 wasn’t without its challenges, Limes said — especially when it came to balancing an internship and maintaining both the grades and expectations of classes. However Limes is excited to be an official graduate, and for all that’s in store in his post-college career.
“My internship at Koch Industries is about to go full time,” he said. “I started in an accounting group and then from there, we’ll see where we go.”
“Four years of going to art school has really been a memorable experience,” said Yanni Martin, a graphic design graduate from Newman.
“I met a lot of people through Newman, both non-art majors and art majors,” he said. “It’s been very welcoming. It’s all about supporting each other to make sure that everyone can be the best they can be.”
Martin works two jobs and is currently vice president of Family Friend Outreach. Family Friend Outreach is a nonprofit that serves to feed the homeless, particularly in the Wichita area.
His next career goal is to attain a third job to put his graphic design skills to the test.
“I’m also going to audition for ‘Wheel of Fortune,’” Martin added.
“I grew up with the show and I’ve been watching it for years. I recently played ‘Wheel of Fortune’ with my friends and some of them had said how well I do at it. And so I figured, ‘hey, why don’t I audition for the show and do it for real?’”
Criminal justice and psychology double-major Brittani Magee says she is a better person after attending Newman University.
“The people who I’ve met have really impacted me and changed my beliefs for the better, and I’m really grateful for it,” Magee said.
Jill Fort, Ph.D., the dean of the school of business, and Kristi Barton Edwards, assistant professor of criminal justice, acted not only as professors and advisors to Magee, but also as mentors.
“I don’t think I’d be standing here graduating if it wasn’t for them,” Magee said.
Magee is also grateful to Head Bowling Coach Billy Murphy for the support she received both before and after she had surgery on her hand in her sophomore year.
“I’m really grateful to specifically those three people, but absolutely all the faculty that ever taught me, they were great. I think they all had an impact on me and got me to where I am.”
The complete spring 2021 commencement ceremonies can be viewed on the Newman University YouTube channel.