Five 2023 graduates soar into new chapters

Jun 07, 2023
Newman University graduates of the class of 2023
Newman University graduates of the class of 2023

Since May’s graduation ceremony, several Newman University 2023 graduates have begun an exciting new chapter of their lives — everything from jobs and travel plans to continuing their education.

Read on to find out where these five graduates of the class of 2023 are headed next.

A career in dentistry: Caroline Williams

Caroline Williams originally chose Newman for cross-country, softball and its prestigious science program, but graduated with much more.

“It was great having such a small school; everybody is super close-knit,” Williams said. “All of my classmates have been with me for all four years. And being able to have such close relationships with my professors and my classmates has been one of the main reasons that I’ve been so successful at Newman.”

Caroline Williams '23 waves to family members during commencement.
Caroline Williams ’23 waves to family members during commencement.

Associate Professor of Biology Michael Bradley is one of many professors who left a positive impact on Williams, encouraging her to complete the difficult tasks involved with entering dental school.

“On top of that, Joshua Prilliman (director of student activities) has been super encouraging, working with my schedule and helping me become a great leader on campus and off. They’ve both encouraged me to become the best graduate and version of myself I can be.”

Williams walked the stage at commencement having earned her degree in biology with a pre-dental concentration. Now, she’s headed to the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine in Aurora where she hopes to graduate as a dentist by 2027.

“I’m more focused on patients who don’t have access to the kinds of specialists in oral health that they need,” she said. “So eventually I might move back to southwest Kansas or maybe somewhere rural in Texas or Colorado in the future.”

Educating youth: Imelda Blackburn

Imelda Blackburn was one of several Newman elementary education graduates who took advantage of the Dodge City outreach program.

There, she gained experience as a long-term substitute teacher, which made her next step all the more tangible.

Blackburn is excited to begin her career as a preschool teacher in Dodge City in August — a job she can thank her time at Newman for solidifying.

Imelda Blackburn accepts her diploma from Newman University President Kathleen Jagger.
Imelda Blackburn accepts her diploma from Newman University President Kathleen Jagger.

“The Newman program has made me see how kids think and how to better help them with their learning, too,” Blackburn said. “I’ve gotten to grow with them as well.”

Earning a college degree is challenging enough, but Blackburn also managed to do so as an expectant mother.

“It was a big challenge to be pregnant while in college, but with the help of friends I was able to make it,” she said with a smile. “Don’t be scared to make new friends. By the end, I felt like we became such a good family and really helped each other along the way.”

Getting down to business: Khaleem Bennett

Khaleem Bennett’s path to an undergraduate degree was somewhat rocky. The Canadian graduate attended three different universities and switched majors multiple times simply because “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, exactly.”

When he discovered Newman’s interdisciplinary studies program, it allowed him to pursue multiple career interests in a streamlined way.

Khaleem Bennett played on the men's basketball team at Newman University.
Khaleem Bennett played on the men’s basketball team at Newman University.

“I knew I wanted to be in the business field, but I also wanted to help out communities and inner city kids,” Bennett said. “My counselor Teresa Wilkerson (director of adult and professional studies) suggested interdisciplinary studies. With that, I got to focus both on the social work side of it and the business side of it.”

Bennett met his wife in Kansas and played on the men’s basketball team at Newman, where the teammates were “like a family.”

“It’s a small private school, but it’s a big community,” he said. “Everyone is so friendly. They bring you in like a family and I just loved it.”

Recently, Bennett excitedly accepted a management information systems position at Textron Aviation.

Newman is a small private school, but it’s a big community.

Khaleem Bennett

“It’s basically for college students who want to get into management, and with my interdisciplinary studies degree focusing on business, I was able to get into that contract,” he said. “I’m very grateful.”

Off to medical school: Nkama Junior Kimfuema

For 2023 graduate Nkama Junior Kimfuema, the desire to pursue a career in health care stems from his childhood.

“Growing up in California, I used to have issues breathing a lot,” Kimfuema said. “My mom was given three different opinions from different physicians to analyze the actual diagnosis. One said it was just a cough, another said it’s asthma. But when we got the third opinion, we found out that it was bronchitis.”

Nkama Junior Kimfuema wears his academic stole during Newman commencement.
Nkama Junior Kimfuema wears his academic stole during Newman’s commencement.

He continued, “So this physician was pretty much our guardian angel. They found a way to treat it and give my mother peace of mind because for her it was hard having to raise me, sleeping right next to me and hearing me having trouble breathing. Sometimes I’d just stop breathing in the middle of the night. So it was terrifying as a parent.”

Kimfuema hopes to take these personal experiences and pay it forward using his biochemistry degree. He was recently accepted into the Master of Public Health degree program at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita and is spending his summer preparing for the MCAT, the medical school entrance exam.

In the future, he plans to be a pediatrician.

“I want to help diagnose children and not only help them but also their families as well and bring them closer together in that aspect.”

Kimfuema is certain that, combined with academics, Newman’s community-building opportunities like student clubs, theater, chorale and troubadours will benefit his ability to serve his patients in the future.

“Go out there, explore, try new things and find a way to bring yourself out of your shell,” Kimfuema said. “You grow more as a person and it allows you to transform society for the better.”

Diving into radiologic technology: Arturo Tena

Arturo Tena ‘23 is excited to make a difference in his hometown using his associate of science degree in radiologic technology.

“I’ve always wanted to work in the hospital in Dodge City, where I’m from, and I’m super excited to start,” Tena said. “I’ve always wanted to work in health care because it gives me a purpose. It just shows that if you put in the work, you’re going to get your reward.”

Arturo Tena, graduate of the 2023 radiologic technology cohort.
Arturo Tena, graduate of the 2023 radiologic technology cohort

Tena explained that the work of a radiologic technologist isn’t limited to X-rays.

“You can go into computed tomography, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), interventional, vascular, whatever the case may be,” he said. “This career isn’t stagnant. There is always something to learn.”

Tena described his Newman professors as “knowledgeable, 100%.”

He continued, “Jeskan McGovern (instructor/ clinical coordinator of the radiologic technology program) helped me so much. He’s knowledgeable in anatomy and positioning skills, and being around Jeff Vaughn (director of the radiologic technology program and allied health programs) and Sherry Ewing (instructor/ clinical coordinator of the radiologic technology program), they are great people and great techs as well. It’s impossible not to get even a little bit of the experience they have.”

Combined with the experience he received through his clinical site training at Wesley Medical Center, Tena is confident that the Newman radiologic technology program “shapes you to be the best tech possible.”

“It’s a great program for anyone who is thinking about it. I would recommend it wholeheartedly,” Tena said.

Find your degree fit at Newman University

Founded in 1933, Newman University is grounded in Catholic values and traditions, yet is respectful of all faith traditions. At Newman, you’ll find people, programs, organizations and activities designed to empower you to transform society.