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For many grads, IU Northwest commencement is a family affair

University's 42nd annual graduation exercises feature many family connections

At first, East Chicago resident and former Lake County Chief of Police Miguel Arredondo was uncertain whether to march in Indiana University Northwest's 42nd Annual Commencement May 8, even though he is receiving his Master of Public Administration degree from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA).

But Miguel made up his mind to attend after a close friend of his explained to him the true significance of graduation exercises.

“He said, ‘Remember, commencement has got nothing to do with you,'” Miguel recalled May 2 following the SPEA graduation reception in Savannah Auditorium. “He said, ‘It's about those people who went out and suffered, the people who sacrificed in order for you to get your degree. Such as a wife who had to do extra (work) or boys who didn't have a father or mother at home to help them out with something because they were in school. It's about those people, who you owe it to to walk across that stage.'”

So Miguel Arredondo will be among the hundreds of IU Northwest graduates who participate in commencement exercises at the Gary Genesis Center on Thursday, May 8. Graduation exercises begin at 4 p.m. IU President Michael McRobbie will join IU Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland in awarding diplomas to IU Northwest graduates.

The university will graduate 797 December, May and August degree candidates. Nineteen percent of this year's grads have earned master's degrees, 52 percent have earned bachelor's degrees, and 29 percent have earned associate's degrees. Women make up approximately 70 percent of the 2008 graduating class, and roughly 21 percent of all graduates have earned a grade-point average of 3.6 or above.

Miguel Arredondo, who served for 28 years with the Lake County Sheriff's Department, said it's important for his two sons to see him walk during commencement and receive his diploma.

“We tell our boys, ‘Neither one of us drinks, neither one of us smokes, neither one of us uses drugs,'” he said. “I can look at them and tell them, ‘You don't smoke, drink or do drugs. I can tell you that because I don't.' I can also tell them, ‘Continue your education, and I can tell you that because I did.' I'm not one of those people who says, ‘Well, you should go to college,' but I have no intention (of going myself). I have received (a master's degree) so far, and so has my wife.”

Letty Arredondo will graduate later this year from Purdue University Calumet with a master's degree in educational administration. For the Arredondos, she said, education is definitely a family affair.

“Education is number one in our family. We support each other,” she said. “It's something that our family has done so that we can achieve our goals.”

The Arredondos are not alone in their familial commitment to higher learning. The 42nd Annual IU Northwest Commencement could easily be subtitled “A Family Affair,” considering the many graduates whose siblings, spouses or children have already received IU degrees.

Hobart resident Gjon Nikollaj and his wife, Allison Trusty-Nikollaj, will graduate together on May 8, he with a bachelor's degree in computer information systems and she with a bachelor's in health services management.

The couple made the decision to return to school several years ago, after Gjon lost his steel-mill job and was presented with an opportunity to study for an associate's degree through a federal re-training program. With three children and one car, and with the support and assistance of family and friends, the Nikollajs persevered and will receive their degrees together on May 8.

“We've had wonderful opportunities, we've had good luck, and I'd say we've been a little bit blessed, as well,” said Gjon, who was able to complete his bachelor's degree with the help of academic scholarships. He also cashed in his 401K to help meet the couple's expenses.

“I would do it all over again the exact same way,” Gjon said.

Allison said that her and Gjon's accomplishments would help instill in their three daughters a love and appreciation for school and learning.

“I enjoyed it so much, I am planning to go back and do it again,” said Allison, who plans to return to IU Northwest to study for her graduate degree in hospital administration. “I think it's a good example for our daughters. They can all see how important it is to get an education and to finish that degree, even if takes you years to finally go back and do it.”

Siblings as well as spouses will graduate from IU Northwest on May 8. Brothers Tony and Michael Brown, alumni of Calumet High School, will receive degrees together, a bachelor's degree in health administration for Michael, of Gary, and a master's degree in public administration for Tony, who is now living in Florida.

Michael said they both chose IU Northwest because it was a convenient and economical place to earn an IU degree.

“We can get the same degree as people who go down to Bloomington, and it's half the price,” Michael said. “We figured we might as well stay at home, and all that extra money we can save.”

Michael said he and his brother enjoyed spending time on campus together and found the convenience of attending the same local university beneficial. He also praised the SPEA program for its excellent faculty and thorough preparation of students.

“One thing that they really helped me improve on was my writing,” he said. “I am able to express myself on paper much more clearly now.”

For other graduates, as well, IU Northwest has become a family tradition.

Kathryn and Joshua Eyermann, of Valparaiso, will follow in mother Linda's footsteps when they walk across the stage at the Genesis Center to receive their diplomas from the IU Northwest College of Arts and Sciences. Linda graduated several years ago with a bachelor's degree in fine arts; she now works as director of education for South Shore Arts.

Linda's love of learning, according to daughter Kathryn, served as an inspiration to her children.

“For years, she took care of us and even sacrificed some things that she wanted, to make sure we had everything we needed,” Kathryn said. “Then, to see her go back to school and get straight As, because she really loved learning so much, was very inspiring. As a kid, nobody likes school, but watching her enjoy herself so much in college made me excited about going, too.”

Joshua agreed, describing the Eyermanns' educational journey as “a family endeavor.”

SPEA grad Rachael Reed, of Highland, is one of three Reed triplets to attend IU campuses. Sister Stephanie studied nursing at IU Northwest, and sister Julie attended IU Bloomington to study business. Their mother, Kim Reed, also graduated from IU Northwest.

“I chose IU Northwest for its criminal justice program,” said Rachael, who is graduating with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a minor in sociology. “Besides … I like that it's so close to home. I like this campus.”

For Gary Police Cmdr. Bruce Outlaw, earning an IU degree is not only tradition but perhaps a bit of friendly competition, as well. Bruce, who is earning his master's degree in public administration, joins several family members who have already graduated from IU, including two sisters, Linda and Dorothy, and his stepdaughter, Monique, who earned her bachelor's degree in education from IU Bloomington.

“Now I can claim sibling bragging rights as the first one of us to possess a master's degree,” Bruce said.

Although many of this year's graduates followed the traditional four-year path to commencement, others took much longer to complete their educational journeys.

Lori Mendoza, of Merrillville, began her studies in 1992 at IU Bloomington but paused for nearly a decade while she raised five children who are now ages 4 to 18. Several years later, Lori came to IU Northwest to complete her bachelor's degree in general studies, with a concentration in fine arts.

“I want to be a good role model for my children,” said Lori, who plans to pursue oil painting as a secondary profession. “My family is the center of my life, next to God, and I just want to set a good example for them and show them that you can go to school and get your education, even if you have to go back years later to finish.”

As many of IU Northwest's graduates prepare to enter the workforce, others have plans to continue their academic careers here or elsewhere.

Performing-arts graduate Bryan Conger, of Portage, will pursue his Master of Fine Arts in Directing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Bryan received a full scholarship and full assistantship in this acclaimed program.

Bryan credited IU Northwest's strong theatre program and dedicated faculty with giving him the knowledge and opportunities to develop his skills on the stage and behind the scenes.

“I never would have been able to direct a main-stage play at a larger school,” Bryan said. “Undergraduates just don't have those opportunities there. And a smaller program forces you to become involved with every aspect of the production. So you develop many different skills and receive a more rounded education.”

IU Northwest congratulates all 2008 graduates on their commitment, perseverance and achievements in education, and wishes them great luck in all of their future endeavors.

By Christopher Sheid/IU Northwest Office of Marketing and Communications
IU Northwest Assistant Professor Ellen Szarleta-Yancy places 2008 SPEA graduate Miguel Arredondo's hood around his neck during the SPEA honors program on May 2. The hood symbolizes Arredondo's receipt of a master's degree in public administration. Arredondo is among the 797 IU Northwest graduates who will be honored at the 42nd Annual Commencement at the Gary Genesis Center on May 8.




Media Contact:

Christopher Sheid
Specialist, OMC

Michelle Searer
Director, OMC

Related Links

2008 Summer/Fall Schedule (PDF)

IU Northwest Registration

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