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IU Northwest celebrates grads’ achievements

Diverse interests, backgrounds, goals characterize Class of 2011

Gustavo Morquecho

IU Northwest
Class of 2011 graduate Gustavo Morquecho.

From the seasoned professional who returned to school at nearly 50 years old, to the accomplished young woman graduating at the tender age of 20, the Indiana University Northwest graduates celebrating their achievements this spring come from all walks of life. Their individual journeys have been as diverse as their fields of study.

Ask these grads what drives them to succeed and their answers are equally diverse –the pursuit of personal satisfaction, a means of overcoming obstacles, and a love of learning.

But their educations have implications more substantial and far-reaching than they may realize, as pointed out by Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie in his address May 12 at the Northwest campus’s 45th Annual Commencement.

“Each one of you came to Indiana University to improve your prospects for the future. But the education you have received here, at one of this nation’s finest public state universities, has enormous value beyond your own lives,” McRobbie told the graduates. “By virtue of your education, you will immeasurably enrich the communities in which you live.”

Perhaps most impressive is the collective character of this year’s graduates. Those who crossed the stage at commencement display a hefty amount of ambition, desire and fortitude.

Take Gustavo Morquecho, for instance. The 51-year-old Highland resident returned to school after 20-plus years spent in the real estate profession. When the industry suffered in recent years, Morquecho suffered a financial hit and started working the midnight shift at a housekeeping job to make ends meet.

Soon after, he added college courses to his already busy life. Selling real estate by day, cleaning at night and somehow fitting classes and studying in between, Morquecho earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice this spring, as well as an associate’s degree in fine arts.

“Every waking moment I have, I have to do something that is productive in my life,” he said.

The obstacles, tragedy and life events that Morquecho’s dealt with over the years seem to fuel his passion for achievement. He intends to pursue a law degree at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago and work towards the implementation of tighter educational requirements for real estate professionals.

Stefanie Mockler, a 24-year-old from Valparaiso, earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology. Named an Outstanding IU Northwest Senior, Mockler is an avid researcher with aspirations to pursue a doctorate in industrial organizational psychology.

Mockler’s work was so impressive that Assistant Professor Frances Daniel, Ph.D. nabbed her to join a research project. The pair will work this summer to explore inference generation while speed reading versus normal reading. Mockler is hoping to take on her own research this summer, as well, studying the relationship between a healthy lifestyle and productivity. She hopes her research will serve as a springboard to implementing future wellness programs for workplaces.

Mockler served as president of the IU Northwest chapter of Psi Chi, a psychology honor society. She accomplished all of this while raising her young son.

Ummaima Sadaf of Dyer is barely out of her teen years, yet she has already earned her bachelor’s degree in computer information systems with a minor in chemistry and biology.  Born in India and raised in Saudi Arabia, Sadaf, 20, began her formal education at the age of three.

She cited a strong personal desire for achievement as her motivator. Taking 17 credit hours each semester put her on the fast track to earning her degree. A little healthy sibling rivalry doesn’t hurt either, apparently. She recalled nabbing a scholarship from her closest contender, her own brother, by only one point.

As for her future, Sadaf is weighing whether to pursue a master’s degree in information technology or to embark on a career in the healthcare field.

Robert Blumenthal, 30, of Porter, earned his master’s degree in educational leadership this May. The pursuit led to the precise job he’d been seeking even before he finished the coursework. The former Highland High School social studies teacher is now an administrator there.

He credits his achievement to the depth and diversity of the courses offered at IU Northwest.

“There are other grad schools in the area that have an internship for teachers to get their administrator’s license, but none of them are as long or as detailed as this one,” he said.

Blumenthal managed a 4.0 grade point average while working full-time and parenting two small children.

Ashley Jones, 22, also landed her first job even before she crossed the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in communication on May 12.

When the Office of Career Services at IU Northwest helped the Crown Point resident nab an internship as a promotion assistant with CBS Radio 670 The Score, she was just learning the ropes and finding her way around the place when the unexpected happened. The folks at the station liked her so much that she was offered a permanent position after only two months. Her job entailed fulfilling station promotions and planning events with The Score and Chicago sports teams in the NHL, NFL and MLB.

“I am currently part of the CBS Corporation Team and hope to keep climbing the (corporate) ladder,” Jones said.

Heather Mason, 37, of Cedar Lake, teaches at Bloom High School in Chicago Heights. Though she already holds a master’s degree in special education, her desire to become director of a special education program prompted her to pursue a second master’s degree in educational leadership.

Mason’s personal struggle with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological condition, has led to her desire to help children with special needs. As a child, she struggled along with the help of tutors, barely able to hold a pencil and sit still. As a college student, she still needed tutors. Mason admitted that it still takes her longer to perform some tasks.

“Things just don’t come very easily for me, which is why I wanted to be a special educator,” she said. “I can empathize with the kids and understand what they are going through.”

Mason credits her husband and two boys, ages 4 and 10, with running the household while she’s been in school. She is looking forward to the first summer in 10 years that hasn’t been spent studying.

“We congratulate all of the members of this year’s graduating class, and their families, as they prepare to build successful futures on the intellectual foundation that an Indiana University education furnishes,” said Chancellor William J. Lowe at IU Northwest’s 45th Annual Commencement on May 12.  

IU Northwest’s Class of 2011 consists of 822 individuals, one-fifth of whom earned a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. There were 126 associate’s degrees, 546 bachelor’s degrees and 150 master’s degrees conferred at the May ceremony.


Media Contact

Emily Banas
Office of Marketing and Communications

Erika Rose
Office of Marketing and Communications

Additional Article Photos

IU Northwest
Class of 2011 graduate Stefanie Mockler.

IU Northwest
Class of 2011 graduate Heather Mason.