Alumni News

Universities across the nation recognize the need to help students go from graduation to their next steps: graduate school and entering their professions.

Elizabeth Sweet ’14 loves her work and wants to make a difference in the world. She enjoys the extensive travel associated with her position as the Executive Assistant to the Co-Founder of the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Founded in 1984, Starkey Hearing Foundation has expanded from its base in Minnesota across the U.S. and around the world. Helping economically disadvantaged people, Sweet is privileged to be part of the process of giving them the gift of hearing.

Alumni Spotlight: Joyce Soule

September 28, 2017

Currently enrolled in Graceland University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program with an anticipated graduation date in 2018, Joyce Soule ’09 has already experienced incredible success in the health care industry.

Ioseb “Soso” Gabelaia ’10 is originally from the Republic of Georgia. He was born in Sukhumi but raised in Batumi because of the dangers of war.

Coming to Graceland University was a last minute decision for Jalen Brown `17. He was offered a scholarship to play basketball for the university only a couple months before classes began. Brown says what really drove him to come to Graceland was the thought of being on his own, away from the big city lights of Chicago.

Phillip Rogers `01 graduated from Graceland University with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and went on to become the Creative Arts Pastor for Gateway Community Church in Austin, Texas and is active in commercial, television, film and live production.

Chad Elliott `96 comes from a long line of Graceland alumni: he is the fourth generation to graduate from the university. While attending Graceland, three of his grandparents worked on campus, which made being away at college really feel more like home. The fifth generation of family, Elliott’s son and niece, currently attend Graceland.

The decision to attend Graceland University was made for Jennifer Craig-Blakeley `02, a member of Community of Christ, when her older sister, Catharine Craig, made Graceland her college of choice a few years earlier. When Craig permanently moved to Iowa following her college graduation, Craig-Blakeley wanted to be closer to her.

Dwayne Melton ’11 has gone from good to great! Graceland’s supportive coaches, staff and faculty made all the difference in Dwayne’s life. He came back to campus a few weeks ago to say thanks…

When Joe Nicholson ’97 graduated from college, the market was tight. He chose to attend Graceland because of the Commercial Design major offered, proximity to home, small class sizes and soccer program.

Success: Julie Filbeck

May 16, 2017

Julie Filbeck `03 is thankful each day of her life for the experience she had at Graceland University. Upon completing all her prerequisite work through the Kansas City Community College system, Julie was ready to transfer to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. After an unsuccessful stint at a big university right out of high school, Filbeck was looking for a small learning environment where she felt connected when she found Graceland.

Grant Kouri ’06 has chosen a career of service and steps out courageously to act on his convictions. Graceland’s mission and values are lived out in Grant’s passion for global humanitarian work.

Amanda Deering Jones ’01 believes she made one of the best decisions of her life when she decided to become a theatre major at Graceland University. With an already developed interest in film, the Sarasota, Florida, native grew up in the Community of Christ and aware of Graceland. When it came time to choose a college, she knew she wanted to go somewhere with smaller classes and better access to faculty. A visit to Graceland offered a feeling of comfort and familiarity.

Showcased in galleries and private collections around the U.S., Patty Kochaver ’84 credits Graceland for her artistic beginnings. She has perfected her calling and has a studio at the Midwest Clay Guild, north of Chicago. Her unique ceramic work has evolved to an exquisite, recognizable style. Currently, she exhibits in an international juried show called Materials, Hard and Soft, in Denton, Texas. Represented by Blue Gallery in Kansas City, her website is pattykochaver.com.

James Thomas Jr. '09 has created a life he never thought possible. And now he's giving that same chance to high school football players who might otherwise believe they can't do the same.

Peoria, Illinois-born Tommy Ratkiewicz-Stierwalt ‘12 knew at a very young age he wanted to be involved in the arts in some capacity and began performing in the third grade. He was first involved with local theatre in 2007 when cast in the ensemble of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dream Coat at Quad City Music Guild in Moline, Illinois where he grew up.

Keely Cardwell graduated from Graceland in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). After working as an RN for seven years, she is currently finishing a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) at the University of Kansas. Horizons caught up with Keely to hear about her burgeoning career and Graceland memories.

Attending college in a small town on the southern Iowa border was not in the plan for California native, Angel Monroy. But then, in the summer of his junior year in high school,...

Mike Davis ’10 samples the pizza everywhere he goes. It is all part of the cultural immersion that Mike includes in his research. His time at Graceland included managing the Pizza Shack, and he considers himself a connoisseur.

There is a reason why people choose to be on one side of the camera and not the other. Peering through her Nikon D810, Tara Shupe ‘11 shies away from being in a photograph and struggles to reveal her accomplishments, but she is finding success capturing the world from the other side of the lens. Freelance photography careers are not very linear, and success comes in surprises. Tara is open to gathering creative energy at every turn and thankful for the broad artistic base she received during her Graceland years.

There is a reason why people choose to be on one side of the camera and not the other. Peering through her Nikon D810, Tara Shupe ‘11 shies away from being in a photograph and struggles to reveal her accomplishments, but she is finding success capturing the world from the other side of the lens. Freelance photography careers are not very linear, and success comes in surprises. Tara is open to gathering creative energy at every turn and thankful for the broad artistic base she received during her Graceland years.

When Andrew Murphy '14 started at Graceland, he had seen little of the world beyond the Midwest. In Lamoni, "the center of everywhere," he became friends with Hawaiian volleyball players who inspired him to travel. After a summer in South Korea with World Service Corps, he was on his way to being a global citizen serving the less fortunate.

Graceland graduate Paloma Ortiz ‘15 is a busy woman with a plan to move justice forward. She is excited about her career and the direction her life is going. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Spanish/Chemistry minors, she was accepted to Emporia State University’s Master of Science program in forensics.

Graceland prides itself on an enormous level of alumni interaction and support, as there is constant work to provide opportunities to current students to better advance them both academically and professionally. Knowing the financial toll internships can require, an anonymous alumni donor recently provided $1,000 to go directly to students enrolled in internships.

Mentors can be extremely helpful to college students. In order to help Graceland students gain the most from their education, Enactus has collaborated with the Graceland Alumni Board to offer GU4U, a mentorship program that will pair current students and recent graduates with alumni and friends in their field of study.