Homecoming 2020 – intense games and a royal ceremony


Newman University celebrated homecoming with a week full of activities and on Thursday night, Feb. 20, the homecoming games began.

The women’s basketball team kicked off the night by taking on tough competitor Emporia State University. The game was close from start to finish but the Jets pulled through at the last second — literally.

Madison Birnbaum sinks the winning shot for the Newman Jets women’s homecoming game.

With 1.2 seconds left in the game, Madison Birnbaum made a layup from an inbound play with .2 seconds left to give the Jets a 68-67 comeback victory over Emporia.

During halftime of the women’s game, high school senior Hope Strickbine was recognized with the St. John Henry Newman Scholarship. Strickbine will be attending Newman next year on the full-tuition scholarship and is excited to get involved on campus and meet new people.

After the women’s nail-biter game, the men’s team took the court. The team pulled through in the second half and defeated Emporia 71-61.

During halftime of the men’s game, the Newman University homecoming court was announced. Candidates this year were:

Lacey Colvin, a psychology major with goals to obtain her doctorate in clinical psychology while working to address the mental health needs of residents in Arizona. Colvin has been a member of the Newman University Psychology Club, Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences and softball team all four years.

Michaela Mack, an accounting major, who upon graduation, plans to study for the certified public accountant exam to achieve her dream to become a professional accountant. During her time at Newman University, Mack has been a member of the Black Student Union and the Newman University’s Women’s Basketball team.

Marisa Zayat, a biology major with a concentration in pre-medicine and a minor in Spanish. She plans to attend the University of Kansas School of Medicine to become a physician. During her time at Newman, Zayat has served as the vice president of the Newman University Medical Professions Club, she was an Honors Council Member of the Honors Program, community service chairperson for the National Society of Leadership and Success, member of the Gardening Club, Swing Dance Club, Recycling Club, and an actress in Newman University’s production of Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It.’ She also served as vice president and president of the Student Government Association. She’s been named to the Dean’s Honor List and has been named an ASC Community Leader Scholar, was the Surendra P Singh Outstanding Freshman in Biology, and the Sister Claudine Axman Award recipient.

Ashley Nguyen, who is studying biology with a concentration in pre-pharmacy. After graduation, she plans to attend pharmacy school. She also plans on taking a break from academics to take some time to explore. Her involvement at Newman University includes being an active member of the Asian Student Association, Multicultural Leadership Organization, the Newman University Medical Professions Club and vice president of Newman University Visual Arts Club. Nguyen has the designation of being an ASC Scholar.

Martina Viale is pursuing a degree in business management and marketing with a minor in entrepreneurship. She is an international student from Italy and hopes to begin her professional career in the United States. She would love to make Wichita her permanent home, perhaps even working at Newman University. Eventually, she plans to return to school to pursue her doctorate. During her time at Newman, Viale has been a member of the International Student Association and the Multicultural Leadership Organization serving as the community service officer in 2017, a Traditions & Transitions facilitator, a First-Year Experience Leader, and an Orientation Leader for the International Student Orientation. She sings with the Newman University Chorale and Newman University Troubadours. She is the bookstore brand coordinator and currently serves as the School of Business senator in the Student Government Association.

Andreas Agrell is majoring in business management. Upon graduation, he plans to return to Sweden to begin working on his master’s degree in business administration while working to play soccer at a professional level. Agrell has been a key member of the soccer team since his arrival at Newman University, serving as the assistant captain in his junior year and captain his senior year. In addition, he’s worked game management for Newman athletics and as a library assistant, and served as a representative on the Student Athletic Advisory Council.

Koby Nguyen, who is majoring in philosophy with a concentration in theological studies, plans to enter into the seminary upon graduation. He will spend the next two years at seminary in either Chicago or St. Louis working to obtain a master’s degree in philosophy. Throughout the summer, he plans to continue coaching high school traveling baseball teams. During his time at Newman, Nguyen played on the baseball team from 2016-2018, served as a liturgical minister, and has been an active member of Campus Ministry.

Koki Takemoto is majoring in biochemistry and plans to pursue a doctorate in either chemistry or biochemistry. He has received an official admission offer from the University of Kansas and has received an invitation to New York University’s (NYU) graduate candidate weekend. If selected, Takemoto plans to attend NYU. During his time at Newman University, he has been a triathlete, a mathematics tutor and an active member of the Campus Activities Board including serving as its treasurer. He was named the 2019 recipient of the Sister Margaret Knoeber Lower Division Chemistry Award.

Jose Rojas Montero, who is pursuing a degree in nursing, plans to work in a pediatric unit at a hospital in Wichita. It has always been his dream to care and advocate for young children and adolescents. During his time at Newman University, he has served as a peer tutor, an Admissions Ambassador, an International Student Orientation Leader, was the vice president of Kaleidoscope and president of the Multicultural Leadership Organization. He currently serves as the public relations chair for the Nursing Club, is a Newman University bookstore brand ambassador, a Diversity Round Table ambassador and a Nursing and Allied Health senator in the Student Government Association.

Claudius Ciecko is majoring in biology and his plans after graduation include attending the University of Kansas School of Medicine starting in July. While he’s not yet sure if he will be placed in Wichita or Kansas City, he is determined to meet his goal of becoming a doctor in sports medicine or orthopedics. During his time as a student at Newman University, he has been a member of the Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO), the Honors Program, and a campus tutor. He was the recipient of the 2018 Sister Margaret Knoeber Lower Division Chemistry Award and the 2019 Steven P. Outstanding Junior in Biology Award.

Ciecko was not able to attend the ceremony due to a HALO conference in Chicago.

(back l to r): Martina Viale, Koby Nguyen, Andreas Agrell, Lacey Colvin, Marisa Zayat, Koki Takemoto, Michaela Mack. (front l to r): Jose Rojas Montero and Ashley Nguyen. Not pictured: Claudius Ciecko.

Jose Rojas Montero was crowned homecoming king and Ashley Nguyen was crowned homecoming queen.

Both said they were surprised to hear their names called.

Nguyen said, “Everyone else was so deserving so it was a shock to me.”

The two said they’ve been best friends since freshman year and were so happy to have both been chosen by their peers.

When asked what this meant for them, they agreed it’s a testament to their four years at Newman.

Montero said, “I came here as an introvert. I mean, I’m from a whole different country, so it was like a huge experience and super nerve-wracking, but it’s just kind of like the representation of all the relationships I’ve built in the last four years. It’s crazy.”

Nguyen said she, too, came to Newman as an introvert and has become very involved and much more outgoing during her time here.

“I was very quiet,” explained Nguyen. “But now I’m like reaching out to people, I’m talking to people and it’s, it’s amazing.”

The king and queen, candidates, and students pose for a fun photo after the crowning ceremony.


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