Scholarships helped these alumni: Where are they now?

From 1978 to 2015–

Darrel Burnett1977-8: Darrel Burnett, recipient of the WSSR Radio Scholarship

Darrel Burnett graduated from UIS (then SSU) in 1978 and went on to distinguish himself, first, through a 15-year career in sports broadcasting at national and international levels, and second, through a career as a business executive. He is this year’s recipient of the University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award. Read more of Darrel’s story here.

catherine-cioffi1979: Catherine Cioffi, recipient of the Cornelia S. Hodges Zonta Scholarship

Catherine Cioffi earned BA in Family and Community Service from SSU in 1976 and an MA in Gerontology in 1981. An economic turndown made a job in gerontology hard to find following her master’s degree, so she took a 9-month course at a technical school and quickly found work at Electronic Data Systems. She has worked in the tech field ever since. Currently, she is a Project Manager at Diebold Nixdorf, an international technology and services company headquartered in Canton, Ohio, managing projects related to ATM software.  “All the skills I gained during my degrees transferred to my career in project management,” she said, “because I have to deal with all kinds of people—managers, customers, IT staff and many others—in my work.”

Christal Schrof1986: Crystal Schrof, recipient of the Maurice W. Scott Scholarship

In 1988, Ms. Schrof completed her master’s degree in Legal Studies, and in 1991, she earned her Doctor of Law degree from the University of Tennessee. While at SSU/UIS, she worked on Illinois Issues, which she says sharpened her writing skills. She also spent a year working at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).  “The contacts I made at the IPA enabled me to secure a position clerking for two summers with the agency’s Office of General Counsel,” she said. This led her to her practice environmental and administrative law. Currently, she serves as the manager of the Scientific and Program Services Office of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Neutron Sciences Directorate (NScD). During her time at ORNL, Crystal has served as the Directorate Operations Manager for NScD, a regulatory analyst in the Laboratory’s Environmental Protection Division, an associate general counsel in the Office of General Counsel, and manager of the Independent Oversight organization in the Audit and Oversight Directorate. ORNL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest basis energy sciences laboratory.  NScD operates two world-leading neutron sources, the Spallation Neutron Source and High Flux Isotope Reactor.

Catherine Wells1992: Catherine (Chrietzberg) Wells, recipient of the Rotary Scholarship

After earning a master’s degree in Psychology in 1994, Catherine Wells has had a number of counseling opportunities and taught a course Instructor of Child Development at UIS in 1996. Since 2009, she has been a counselor in private practice in the Springfield IL area. “My time as a graduate student at SSU/UIS,” Catherine said, “was both the best time of my life and the beginning of the best time of my life!  The professors’ dedication to teaching and life-long learning helped me to build my knowledge base and gave me the skills and the thirst to keep on learning and honing my practice.  Thank you, SSU/UIS!”

heather-wickens-022007: Heather Wickens, recipient of the Nelson and Mary Howarth, Margaret Wepner Scholarship, Nancy Lanphier and Charles Armstrong Chapin Endowment Fund

Heather Wickens earned her master’s degree in History in 2008. Currently, she is Program Manager for the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, which works with local, state and national partners across the Abraham Lincoln Heritage Area. In 2016, with two colleagues, Heather received a Director’s Partnership Award from the National Park Service. “I enjoyed studying history at UIS,” Heather said, “especially my classes with Robert and Deborah McGregor.  My time at UIS helped prepare me for my job in the field of history.”

Krystal Langford2009: Krystal (Cheung) Langford, recipient of the Melinda and Alfred LaBarre Midstate Student Support (MSS) Scholarship; 2010: recipient of the Ralph and Betty Hurwitz Midstate Student Support (MSS) Scholarship, Leona Stanford Vollintine Scholarship

After graduating with both a bachelor’s in Psychology and a teaching certificate in 2013, Krystal (Cheung) Langford taught English for a year in China and then taught in school throughout Illinois, including Chicago, Barry and Springfield. She is currently teaching science in Mason City, IL. “I had a great experience at UIS,” she said. “I got a lot out of my classes that helped prepare me for life outside of school. I am so thankful for the support I received from scholarships because I couldn’t have attended college without them.”

Evelyn Ivy2007-2008: Evelyn Ivy, In 2007 recipient of the Anna May and Charles C. Smith Scholarship, Joe Wilkins Veterans Scholarship, and in 2008 the Anna May and Charles C. Smith Scholarship, Joy Kimler CPA Accountancy Scholarship, Gilbert N. and Frances G. Stein Scholarship

Evelyn Ivy earned three master’s degrees from UIS: the Individual Option in 2005, an MBA in 2008 and in Accountancy in 2009. She has her CPA and is a Certified Value Analysis. The owner of Financial Keepers LLC in Springfield, Illinois, she is a predictive accountant, using key performance indicators to help clients make good business decisions. She has written a book, Lifestyle Entrepreneurship: A CPA’s Perspective, about her approach to business and entrepreneurship.  Of her time at UIS, Evelyn said, “My education at UIS has meant a lot to me. I was very blessed to be surrounded by professors who supported me and believed in me and encouraged me to be more. My professors gave me an additional set of lenses to view the world. This has allowed me become very explorative in my life pursuits.”

Luke Runyon2008, 2010: Luke Runyon, recipient of the IL Legislative Correspondents Scholarship/Miller & Heinecke Scholarship and the Global Experience Scholarship

Luke Runyon earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication from UIS in 2010 and a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting in 2011. For the next two years, he was a reporter for Aspen Public Radio in Aspen, Colorado, where he filed stories with NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. He is now Harvest Public Media’s reporter based at KUNC in northern Colorado. He frequently writes about the business of food and farming and the people involved. Luke said, “I count my decision to join the ranks of the Public Affairs Reporting program at UIS as one of the best I’ve made in my career so far. Charlie Wheeler is an institution in the world of political reporting and journalism. He truly cares about his students and their successes. I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of Charlie and the experience I got during the PAR program.”

Ritesh Uppuluri2010-2013: Ritesh Uppuluri, recipient of the Joan and James Stukel Scholarship in 2010, 2011 and 2013; and the Fred J. Patton Scholarship in 2011-2013

Ritesh Uppuluri graduated from UIS in 2014 with a chemistry degree and went immediately to Penn State University to begin work on a Ph.D. in Materials Chemistry, which involves studying properties of new materials, especially solids (like glass, metals or plastics). He says frequent interactions with faculty at UIS and the opportunity to do undergraduate research gave him a solid foundation in chemistry. He says, “I would like to extend special thanks to my undergraduate advisor Dr. Keenan Dungey, who gave me constant encouragement and support while doing undergraduate research. I had the opportunity to present my undergraduate research at the 246th ACS National Meeting held in Indianapolis, IN and to attend research talks from professors of international caliber. Dr. Dungey introduced me to a few professors there and his advice following my trip helped me in narrowing down my choice of universities and professors for graduate school.” Following his doctorate, Ritesh would like to pursue a postdoctoral position at a university or national lab, but he’s also open to industrial research and development positions.

Adam Warda2015: Adam Warda, recipient of the Pamela McClelland Accountancy Scholarship

Adam Warda played second-base for the Prairie Stars while at UIS. He was named first-team All-Conference for the Great Lakes Valley Conference as a junior, and as a senior had 21 RBI’s, scored 30 runs and finished with a slugging percentage of .547. The first in his family to graduate from college, he finished a degree in Accountancy in 2016. Following an internship at Crowe-Horwath the previous summer, he already had a job lined up at graduation. He is working at Crowe-Horwath in Chicago now as an Audit Staff