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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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
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
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.