College of Arts and Sciences
Kristin Duffield ’12, Ph.D. ’18
Kristin is now a research associate entomologist for the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she works to improve sustainable protein production in the U.S. Her research primarily focuses on improving the health of mass-reared beneficial insects as well as increasing the efficacy of non-chemical biopesticides targeting agricultural insect pests.
She credits ISU’s School of Biological Sciences for many positive collaborative research relationships and opportunities to hone her communication, presentation, and mentorship skills.
Candice Halbert ’01
Candice is an Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientific associate. She is a successful scientist devoted to inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. So much so, she established the Youth Outreach in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (Yo-STEM). Yo-STEM has impacted over 3,000 students via after-school programs and community involvement. Seventy-four percent of these students are cultural minorities, and fifty-one percent are girls.
Because of her professional and personal work, Candice was named one of Knoxville News Sentinel’s 40 under 40 in 2018, was the keynote speaker at ISU’s 6th annual Charles Morris STEM Social for underrepresented students in 2019, and most recently, named one of People Magazine’s ‘Women Changing the World’ in 2023.
Alicia Bettes ’94
Alicia is a Peabody Award-winning journalist with more than 28 years of broadcast experience. She honed her broadcasting skills as an undergrad working for TV-10 News and WZND Radio.
Throughout her television journey, Alicia has been a reporter, producer, executive producer, media relations manager, communications instructor, and assistant news director. In 2016, she was named one of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s ‘Emerging Leaders.’ 2019 ushered in a new growth opportunity when she became the first broadcast manager for AccuWeather. Alicia coached meteorologists in the areas of presentation, image, and writing. She became the evening executive producer for News 12 Long Island in 2021 and was an inaugural member of the National Association of Black Journalists Mentorship Program. In 2023, she joined Spectrum News as the executive producer of national news for its newly launched streaming platform.
Chris Saksa ’16
Chris is currently a global learning and development manager at Aon, providing expert consultation, advice, recommendations and management of new and existing L and D programs. He creates engaging curriculum and develop training workshops that will assist Aon in navigating the ever-changing world of employee development and recruiting.
In 2020 Chris completed his master's in communication from Northwestern University with a focus on organizational development and team management.
Matt Tumbleson ’04
With almost two decades of experience as a public relations professional in the National Basketball Association, Matt has had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented stars in the history of the game, amplifying their stories and organizational messages through a variety of communications mediums.
From working with Kevin Durant on his acclaimed “You Da Real MVP” speech in 2014 to writing and directing the ‘Stache Bros.’ skits that were part of Russell Westbrook’s MVP campaign that trended internationally, Matt's approach has been anchored in a love for the game of basketball and a commitment to the organizations he has worked for. Recently, he started a new division within the Thunder organization called Thunder Films that has produced five Emmy-winning pieces and was featured at the arts and innovation conference, South by Southwest.
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Ryan Mulligan ’11, Au.D. ’16
Ryan is a full-time clinical audiologist at VA Healthcare Center in Wilmington, NC. Since graduating from ISU in 2016, he has provided comprehensive audiologic care to Veterans at VA clinics on both the east and west coast. His areas of clinical expertise include diagnostic assessment of hearing and balance, VA medicolegal evaluations, and amplification.
He also precepts and mentors third-year doctoral interns from Eastern Carolina University. His aim as an audiologist is to maximize the ability of his patients to hear and communicate so they can live life to the fullest.
Kimberly Pritikin, M.S. ’94
Over the past 25 years, Kimberly has worked in a variety of settings including geriatric home health, home-based private services, early intervention, clinic, school-based and telepractice. She is currently working for Pearson Virtual Schools providing teletherapy to students in multiple states.
As an invited speaker on topics regarding legislative/regulatory issues, Kimberly brings a sense of energy compelling the listener to take action. Serving as an advocate for both the profession and patients/clients she is an active member of ISHA on several committees.
Jeffrey Lewis ’15
Jeff a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, a Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®), and a Chartered Retirement Plans SpecialistSM (CRPS®). He is the fiduciary wealth advisor for high networth individuals and young professionals at Savant Wealth Management.
He serves on the board of directors for Rockford Promise, a local non-profit that offers full-tuition college scholarships to deserving graduates of Rockford Public Schools District 205. In 2022, he was recognized by the Rockford Chamber of Commerce as one of 40 Leaders Under Forty. Jeff is frequently interviewed by local TV stations and quoted by local and national publications, including The Financial Advisor Magazine, SmartAsset, Forbes, and the Rockford Register Star.
Alex Szerzinski ’13, M.S. ’15
Since his graduation, Alex progressively advanced within the ranks of Zurich North America. He was a strategy, innovation, and business development team member for seven years. Between 2019 and 2021, he served as strategy consultant in the CEO’s strategic planning group to develop and execute the organization's agenda. He is also the lead strategy partner for the Zurich North America transition business unit workstream and the national planning and strategy lead for EmergingLeaderZ.
Currently, Alex is the director of strategy and business execution for the U.S. Middle Market (USMM). In this role, he identifies opportunities and establishes action plans to improve business outcomes, leads cross-functional efforts to achieve strategic priorities, and supports the USMM leadership team in developing long-term business, financial and operational plans.
Sarada Duvvuri ’05
Sarada is a seasoned and visionary line producer who has earned her reputation as an expert behind the scenes in the film and television industry. With a career spanning nearly two decades, Sarada's passion and expertise have brought countless projects to life leaving an indelible mark on the entertainment world. Her ability to orchestrate complex shoots with precision and finesse has garnered the admiration of directors, networks, and crew members alike.
She has facilitated the production of over 240 hours of television for an array of networks, including Netflix, Disney +, Discovery Networks, and HBO. Most recently, she worked as a line producer for a feature documentary film scheduled to release in theaters nationwide and on Apple TV. Having worked on a diverse range of projects, from true crime documentaries to culinary reality shows, Sarada possesses a deep understanding of the intricacies involved in the creative process.
Riyan Jones ’18
Riyan is a youth civic engagement and development professional from Chicago with expertise in the issue areas of community safety and juvenile justice. Since graduating from Illinois State University in 2018, he has been deeply involved in the transformation of public safety in Chicago.
Riyan is currently the safety and justice council manager at Mikva Challenge, where he leads a diverse cohort of youth to develop policy recommendations for Cook County stakeholders and elected officials that discuss community safety, intersectionality, and restorative justices principles. As a council manager, he facilitates trauma-informed community engagement workshops, and supports youth to research the impacts of institutionalized violence and interlocking systems of oppression on Chicago’s marginalized communities.
Claire Lamonica, M.S. ’83, Ph.D. ’96
Claire retired from Illinois State University in May 2020, after serving eight years as the director of the University’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology. Prior to moving to the center, Claire served as associate director of writing programs in the English Department and co-director of the Illinois State Writing Project.
During her 45-year career as an educator, Claire taught at every level from ninth grade through doctoral students and served as president of the Illinois Association of Teachers of English (IATE) and chair of the National Council of Teachers of English Standing Committee on Affiliates. Her publications focus primarily on writing, the teaching of writing, and faculty development. In retirement, she serves on the board of the YWCA-McLean County and volunteers for STAR Literacy and the School Street Food Pantry. In 2020, Lamonica and her husband established ISU’s Claire and Tom Lamonica Outstanding Teacher Award.
Geography, Geology and the Environment
Trent Ford ’11
Trent is the Illinois State climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is an expert in climate and climate change and its interactions and impacts, especially as they relate to water. Trent leads climate monitoring and data collection and provision for the state of Illinois. He and his team provide information online, through traditional and social media, and by speaking to interested groups across the state. Trent also works with state agencies, Illinois communities, and special interest groups with climate adaptation, planning, and hazard mitigation. He has led or contributed to many planning reports including the State's Hazard Mitigation Plan and the State Water Plan.
He earned a bachelor's from ISU before completing his master's and Ph.D. at Texas A&M University. Before joining the Illinois State Water Survey, Trent was an assistant professor in the Department of Geography & Environmental Resources at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
Katie Lopez ’11, M.S. ’17
Katie is a local social studies teacher who has been teaching in Unit #5 schools for the past 12 years. She currently works at Normal West High School, where she teaches US history and AP psychology. In addition, Katie also teaches a course in the Teaching & Learning Department at Illinois State each semester.
Simon Rodriguez, Jr. ’13
Simon is a proud son of parents from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. As a Redbird student, he was an admissions ambassador, member of Phi Alpha Theta, Association of Latin American Students, Alpha Psi Lambda, National- Inc., and a Fulbright scholarship recipient studying abroad in Mexico and England.
Simon went on to teach bilingual social studies at East Aurora High School and is the current the youth services director for the City of Aurora, where he advocates for all the youth of Aurora. He is also on the board for the Boys & Girls Club Aurora, president of the Illinois State Latinx Alumni Network, mentor for Waubonsee Community College’s Triumph program, and US Army veteran.
Language, Literature, and Cultures
Paul Rebeiz, M.A. ’94
Paul currently teaches English as a Second Language and supports French-speaking English language learners at Urbana High School and Parkland Community College. He has been a champion of learning languages and cultures all his life and throughout the world with a variety of teaching positions, including teaching test prep classes to Saudi students at UIUC.
From 1998 to 2000 he taught ESL at Korea University in Seoul, and from 2000 to 2017, he lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates, where he taught English and also developed and advised a student-run Korean language and culture club.
Megan Wickstrom, M.S. ’09, Ph.D. ’14
Megan is an associate professor of mathematics education in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Montana State University.
Her recent research focuses on the teaching and learning of mathematical modeling with respect to teacher development. Working alongside classroom teachers, she strives to create spaces in which students feel a sense of community, are empowered as learners, and experience mathematics in creative and purposeful ways. The National Science Foundation has funded her research and she has written numerous articles from her findings appearing in journals such as The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, and The Mathematics Teacher Educator.
She has won several awards for both teaching and research including the 2023 Early Career Award from the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators.
Marty Murphy '94
Marty graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor's in physics and mathematics. From there he completed a math teaching certification at the University of Nebraska. In late summer of 1996, he found a job in the accelerator operations department at Fermilab.
Over the next 27 years he worked his way into the positions of operations crew chief and operations specialist & engineering physicist. His duties ranged from running anti-proton production, to operating the (at the time) world's highest energy hadron collider (Tevatron), to astrophysics observing/imaging (Dark Energy Survey) with the largest digital camera built (Dark Energy Camera), to managing a neutrino beam target station up to 360 feet underground (NuMI facility), and currently coordinating installation of the world's longest vertical atom interferometer/gradiometer (MAGIS-100).
Torrey Saxton '19
Torrey is an Arthur J. Schmitt Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, in his fifth year of his doctorate program in their Department of Physics and Astronomy.
His recent research focuses on high energy phenomena in the presence of extra dimensions, and what types of signals could potentially be observed at the Large Hadron Collider in searching for these extra dimensions.
Chloe Schmidt '19
Chloe received her bachelor's in civil engineering from the University of Illinois where she also ran track and cross country. She worked as a transportational engineer at Hanson Professional Services in Peoria for two and a half years.
She looked at a new career path and earned her bachelor's in the physics teacher education program at Illinois State. Post graduation she stayed home with her daughter, Claire, for a year and a half. She then found herself in the classroom, completing one year as a geometry teacher at Central Catholic, and is now currently in her second year teaching algebra and geometry at Normal West High School.
Politics and Government
Abigail Causer ’12
After graduating from ISU, Abigail attended the University of Illinois College of Law and graduated in 2015. She began working at the Champaign County Public Defender’s Office representing clients in criminal cases and continued trial work there until 2021. In 2021, she joined the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) as a managing attorney. In this role, she continues to work in Champaign coordinating pro bono efforts to assist people in need of civil legal services in Central and Southern Illinois.
Abigail is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and serves on the standing committee on delivery of legal services. Through PILI, she coordinates several judicial circuit pro bono committees in Central and Southern Illinois. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Ten Thousand Villages Champaign, a non-profit fair-trade store.
Casey Peterson, M.S. ’20
Casey is director of business attraction for the Bloomington Normal Economic Development Council. He previously worked for the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council in a similar role and had an internship at the McLean County Regional Planning Commission. A permanent transplant from California, his early career saw him working in Silicon Valley in various training and analytical roles including a solar energy systems designer for Tesla Motors.
He also volunteered as an English Second Language teacher at the Sacramento Food Bank and as a refugee vocational English Second Language teacher for the International Refugee Committee. From 2016 to 2018, Casey served in Peace Corps in Ukraine teaching English. His experience working in a developing country abroad led him to understand the value of community and economic development.
Casey is looking forward to using his previous experience in data analysis, planning, and community engagement to attract new business growth to McLean County.
Andrew Monroe ’05, M.S. ’07
Andrew is the director of experienced talent research at Veris Insights, a market research consultancy firm. After receiving his bachelor's and master's from ISU, he earned his Ph.D. in psychology from Brown University and became an award-winning tenured professor at Appalachian State University, studying interpersonal moral decision-making with over two dozen publications in peer-reviewed journals and popular press.
Today, he applies his ten plus years of experience in empirical research and behavioral science dedicated to helping talent acquisition leaders attract, engage, and recruit top talent.
Shona Vas, M.S. ’97
After Shona earned her master's in clinical psychology from ISU, she went on to complete a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Loyola University Chicago.
After training in several different settings, Shona found her professional home at the University of Chicago in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience where she has been employed since 2005. Currently an associate professor, she serves as director of the cognitive-behavior therapy program and director of clinical psychology training. Shona's clinical expertise involves the assessment and treatment of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, and trauma and stressor-related disorders. She provides didactic education and clinical supervision to advanced practicum students, psychology interns, and postdoctoral fellows.
Sociology and Anthropolgy
Ylanda Decarol Wilhite ’11
Ylanda is the youth and community partnership organizer within the Field Museum's Keller Science Action Department. She co-leads the youth and family centered conservation community of practice via the establishment of regional partnerships, recruitment, classroom and intern student activities, curriculum development, professional development opportunities, and communication with formal and informal organizations. She also serves as an appointee to the Field Museum’s DEAI Council to create a more equitable work environment and has served on the board of the Environmental Education Association of Illinois.
She has worked at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont as a teacher naturalist, teaching history and science themed programs as well as a facilitator specialist at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, facilitating formal and informal programs for the museum's multi-aged audience.
Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development
Susan Megy, M.A. ’03
Susan is a human rights and humanitarian affairs professional with expertise in conflict and post-conflict countries. With more than 22 years of expertise, Susan has spearheaded policy, research, and training initiatives for the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NATO, academia, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and philanthropy.
She co-launched a crisis mapping program/platform to predict and analyze conflict during the Liberian Presidential elections and guided cross-border mappings of disarmament areas between Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia. At the Stimson Center, Susan analyzed military effectiveness to protect civilians and helped formulate strategies for the US Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute and Harvard University’s Mass Atrocities Response Operations.
Susan is a Navy veteran having served in Pearl Harbor as photojournalist. She also worked as a photographer for the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Combat Camera, and Naval Criminal Investigation Service.