Alumni spotlight: Embracing possibility
Discovery — of self, of interests, of direction — is at the core of higher education, especially at liberal arts colleges where it’s not only encouraged but woven throughout. This month we’re happy to share the stories of several alums who embraced this opportunity to chart their own paths.
- Abigail Vance, Bethany Lutheran College – Major: Psychology
- Aaron Nissen,The College of St. Scholastica – Major: Exercise Physiology
- Jimmy Mireri, Concordia University, St. Paul – Major: Elementary Education
- Briana Turnbull, St. Catherine University – Major: Apparel Design
- Rick Palermo, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota – Major: Public Relations
- Sarah Millholland, University of St. Thomas – Major: Physics
What inspires you? I was first drawn to psychology just because I knew it generally had to do with people, and I'm a people person. I want to have a career where I can help people, and I figured psychology would be a wonderful field of study with that in mind. I wanted to learn to understand people better, and therefore understand how to help them. As Prof. Wiechmann said once in a class, how can you fix people if you don't know what makes them broken?
How you want to make a difference? I hope to have a career in human and social services - I love working with all sorts of people from elderly, children, people with disabilities... they all interest me. Overall, I want to take my education, skills, and compassion for people and combine them into a career where I can help people change for the better.
It's tough to know where a person might find the passion for their future profession, but for Exercise Physiology (EXP) graduate Aaron Nissen, ’16, he can trace it back to a physical therapist's office back in high school.
“I was a pitcher back in high school, and I injured my rotator cuff and had therapy done,” he said. “I began observing a physical therapist, and she kind of got me rolling and really interested in the field.”
He's come a long way since high school. In fact, Nissen is the fourth St. Scholastica graduate in three years to gain admission to the prestigious Doctor in Physical Therapy (DPT) program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Love of learning
Many students change majors during their time in college, but from start to finish, Nissen was resolute. And once he became immersed in courses, his aspirations crystallized into a clear vision for the future.
Jimmy Mireri is a 4th-grade teacher at Stevenson Elementary, in the very district where his own education began (Fridley). Jimmy recognizes his unique position as both a male and a minority educator and embraces the opportunity to be a role model for those who need it.
“Race is a really big thing in the US right now and I think it’s important to have representation from all races in education. Some kids who have never had someone like me as a teacher are going to be able to relate to me and trust me just because of what I look like.”
Jimmy came to Concordia to play football and thought he would major in kinesiology or sports management. Financial setbacks kept Jimmy out of college his sophomore year, but during that time he did some reflecting and came back to CSP knowing that he was meant to be a teacher.
When Briana Turnbull ’17 discovered 3M’s Scotchlite™ reflective material, she contacted the company to ask how to buy it to use in her senior project. Next thing the St. Catherine University apparel design major knew, she found herself with a professional mentor: Silvia Guttmann, 3M apparel designer and textile engineer. Months later, Turnbull took first-place in the Fabric Graphics category of the 2017 Fabric Graphics Association Student Design Challenge.
“I wouldn't have been able to achieve this contest win without the incredible support of 3M and my mentor Silvia,” Turnbull says. “I was surprised by the win because the contest focuses more on innovative industrial textile uses in such high tech fields as medicine, military and aerospace engineering” — while her project, on the other hand, was focused on functional clothes for cyclists.
While Turnbull may have been surprised, her mentor Guttmann points out that the recognition is well-deserved.
For Rick Palermo ’16, nothing beats the excitement of play-by-play sports action.
Although a recent graduate, Palermo has already broken into the competitive sports broadcasting and producing world — and he’s loving every action-packed minute of it. As a production assistant at Fox Sports North and a freelance broadcaster, Palermo is pushing toward his dream of one day broadcasting for a professional baseball team.
Palermo landed a job at Fox Sports North in Minneapolis, Minn., one year ago, and his main job is to edit and produce video. Whether it’s the Minnesota Twins, the Wild, or the Timberwolves, Palermo probably had his hand in the pre-game highlights. Although he isn’t in front of the camera at Fox Sports North yet, Palermo is keeping his skills sharp by broadcasting for two other stations.
“The thrill of performing is the coolest part,” he said. “You do all your homework, prepare for the game, look up stats, memorize names. And then you get one chance to perform it in front of a live audience.”
The stars and the way Earth fits into the universe’s bigger picture intrigue many people. It’s pretty rare, though, for someone to be on the cutting edge of finding the planets that fill out that picture.
That’s exactly what Sarah Millholland ’15 started at St. Thomas and now continues at Yale University. She recently contributed to the discovery of some 60 new exoplanets; known as hot Jupiters, these bizarre planets have temperatures that can reach above 2,000 degrees and orbit around stars found far outside our solar system.
“It’s really exciting,” Millholland said. “This project in particular was introducing a new method of finding exoplanets: We were looking at reflected light from the star. People have been proposing that for seven years or so, but no one had undertaken it. It’s cool to be at the forefront of this development.”
Using images from the NASA’s Kepler telescope to base their searching, Millholland’s work helps put our planet into perspective.
Interested in more alumni stories? Check out these past spotlights of alums whose studies cover a wide range of academic disciplines:
- Alumni entrepreneurs: Farm fresh food to craft brewed, June 2017
- Alumni spotlight: Tapping into talent, Mar. 2017
- Alums find career success by pursuing their passions, June 2016
- Recent grads find their niche, Dec. 2015
- Alumni turn dreams into goals into careers, Oct. 2015