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Kokomo Alumni

School of Arts, Sciences & Education

  • Mallory Claypool, a 2012 graduate of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s Education program who now serves as director of the Lewis Cass Polytechnic Academy in Galveston, is being honored with the Ivy Tech Community College Distinguished Alumni Award for the College’s Kokomo Service Area.

    Each year, Ivy Tech Kokomo Service honors a graduate who exemplifies an appreciation of lifelong learning, a dedication to work, and a commitment to community. Claypool will be honored Thursday, Sept. 29, at a ceremony in Indianapolis that will recognize award winners from Ivy Tech’s 19 campuses around the state.  

    “Ivy Tech Kokomo is proud to call Mallory Claypool – teacher, husband, father, community volunteer, life-long learner – our 2022 Distinguished Alumnus, Through his efforts bringing together students, higher education and employers throughout north central Indiana, he is making tremendous contributions to our community.” 

    Ethan Heicher, Chancellor of Ivy Tech Kokomo

    Claypool is in his fourth year as the director of Lewis Cass Polytechnic, a part of the Lewis Cass School Corporation devoted to preparing high school students for jobs of the future focused on science, engineering and math. It’s a job he loves with a passion and one where he changes students’ lives for the better every day. But go back 10 years or so and it’s hardly a job that he ever anticipated filling.

    In those 10 years or so, Claypool became a “poster child” for the value of an Ivy Tech education in reimagining one’s life. In 2002, after almost 20 years in the food service industry, jobs that took him all over the country, he and wife Lori settled in Walton to raise their five children. Mallory made what he now describes as “kind of a radical decision.” He decided to return to college to become a math teacher.

    He chose Ivy Tech Community College in Kokomo and, in 2012, the veteran restaurant manager graduated with his associate degree in Education. In 2015, he earned a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Mathematics Education from WGU and started teaching math and industrial technology classes at Lewis Cass High School before moving to the new Polytechnic Academy. In the meantime, he has completed a master’s degree and nearly all his coursework for a Ph.D. in Technology, both at Purdue University.

    Claypool credits Ivy Tech with providing the basis for his new life. “Getting that two-year degree versuswaiting on a four-year reward probably made all the difference,” he said. “It was that milestone, a tangible result, that gave me the confidence to move on from there. Ivy Tech got me to a point I knew I could complete the next degree.”

    He now partners with employers and schools across north central Indiana to expand the offerings of the Polytechnic Academy. This includes a partnership with Ivy Tech that allows students to complete a variety of dual credit classes that can move right into jobs or further education.

    Claypool isn’t the only career-changing Ivy Tech alum in the family. His wife, Lori, also came back to Ivy Tech as an adult student, earning an associate degree in Early Childhood Education in 2011, the year before Mallory completed his first degree. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Trine University and completed her master’s degree in Social Work while Mallory completed his. She now is a family therapist working for Counseling Partners in Lafayette. Together, the Claypools have raised five children, all of whom have completed or are pursuing college degrees.

    To learn more about the Education program





School of Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Applied Sciences

  • Bodie Kitchel can’t say enough about the value of his Ivy Tech Community College degree, and neither can his dad, but it wasn’t always that way.

    Bodie comes from a family big on education – more specifically Purdue University education. His grandfather, Bob Kitchel, and father, Jon Kitchel, both were known for their basketball skills as students there; his uncle, Kelly Kitchel, played football there and continued as a Purdue sports commentator. The black-and-gold runs deep in these Boilermakers.

    But, Bodie says, “I kinda hated school” and when he graduated from Lewis Cass High School in 2009, he announced he wasn’t going to the big school in West Lafayette right away. He convinced his dad the Ivy Tech Pathway to Purdue Agriculture program would be his best option. Bodie was going to pursue a two-year degree in Agriculture at Ivy Tech with plans to transfer later to prepare to join the family’s farming operation on 1,200 acres in Cass County.  

    Bodie did go straight into classes at Ivy Tech Kokomo. He was taking a fulltime load of 15 credit hours a semester and working fulltime at what was then Brodbeck Seeds in Wabash. In February of 2011, just before completing that two-year degree, he married his high school sweetheart, Natalie. Fulltime classes, fulltime job, new marriage… He announced he was done with school.

    His father was sure Bodie was limiting his options in life, that he’d never achieve his life’s goals. At the time, who would have predicted that in less than 10 years, his son would be the national director of agronomy for BW Fusion, the premier distributor of Biodyne biological products, and part of the cutting-edge technology team that is applying their understanding of plant physiology, soil chemistry and crop nutrition responses to help farmers across the nation set new production records.

    Bodie’s experience at Ivy Tech changed his father’s mind.

    “Bodie received several scholarships at Ivy Tech, making his associate degree very affordable,” Jon Kitchel said. “While at Ivy Tech, he successfully completed an internship, and, at graduation, he had several offers for employment.”

    And then Bodie ran that Ivy Tech associate degree. He says the key was taking advantage of opportunities to advance his career as they came along, each stop helping him figure out his passions as he went. Through a quick succession of employers in the agricultural industry, he says, “every change I made was an advancement in my career, the next logical step, which led me to where I am today.” And every “next step” in jobs selling seeds, chemicals, and fertilizers helped him realize agronomy was where he could make his mark.

    “Looking back,” his father says, “I know success is based on your passion and Agriculture and Agronomy have always been Bodie’s passion. Today Bodie is very successful and works for a company that is changing agriculture.”

    As national director of agronomy for BW Fusion, Bodie is involved in research into new nutrient management products for a wide variety of crops – from corn and soybeans to peanuts and cherry trees – on farms across the United States and into Canada. He finds himself working with people in comparable roles at other companies who have master’s degrees and doctorates.

    “I came out of Ivy Tech with a two-year degree and two years of fulltime working experience,” Bodie says. “People gave me a chance based on that. It’s easy to place so much emphasis on the ‘paper’ but they looked past that and gave me the opportunity.”

    Bodie Kitchel

    Bodie believes the industry is seeing a paradigm shift in what employers value in an employee.

    “In the last generation, it was the degree – and where it was from a benefit,” Bodie says. “Now employers are looking for traits in people rather than a piece of paper.”

    Now, Bodie says, his father is Ivy Tech greatest cheerleader.

    “Bodie’s experience was my introduction to Ivy Tech and it changed my opinion about higher education, Jon says. “Due to his success, my daughter Laramie followed his path and got her Ag degree from Ivy Tech too.

    “I share the value of Ivy Tech any time I get a chance,” he continued. “Annually I invite Denver Muhs, an adjunct faculty member in Ivy Tech’s Ag program, to bring his students out to our family farm and I share with those students the success they can have with an Ivy Tech degree.”

    Bodie’s job takes him around the country – in person and via BW Fusion’s “Digging In” video series on YouTube, where he shares crop production insights with a broad audience. But his heart remains in Cass County – on the family farm where he can occasionally jump on a tractor and do some work and with Natalie and their three children, 5-year-old Oaklyn, 3-year-old Beckham, and 1-year-old Mila Jade.

    “I’m doing what I love, walking the fields and doing agronomy,” Bodie says. His advice for students today? “Find something you’re passionate about and then don’t make the mistake of racking up thousands of dollars in debt at a four-year school. Ivy Tech offers an affordable degree that allows you to mature as an individual and figure out what you want to do and where you want to be.”

    To learn more about our Agriculture program

  • Sometimes life takes a lot of turns before you finally get to that long, straight road to success. That was the case for Ivy Tech alumnus James Berry.

    James is the president of Berry It and owner of BerryComm, both Kokomo-based businesses. Combined, their offices have 150 employees and a subcontractor base of another 250 or so. But it wasn’t always that way.

    After graduating from Logansport High School in 1995, James took off for a year and worked different jobs. Then came a couple of years working with his dad at Jim’s Auto Sales, where his love for sales was brought to light. In time, he found himself back at square one in the game of life.

    A former co-worker told James about good jobs in the “drop bury” business, burying cables and fiber optic connections underground between houses and the street. James bounced around, working for several different companies as a subcontractor. In the meantime, he and his wife, Jamie, had decided to go back to Ivy Tech Kokomo – James in Industrial Technology and Jamie in the Licensed Practical Nursing program. Both graduated in 2002.

    For James, he said, the return to school came after the realization that he really needed to do something with his life.

    “I’ve always used my hands a lot so the Ivy Tech tool-and-die program was fun for me,” he said. “I was very proud of my degree. I got straight As; I was in Phi Theta Kappa (the national academic honor society for community colleges).”

    James decided he wanted to take his skilled trade degree to Caterpillar in Lafayette. He got hired but the week he was to start began with a big layoff and the job disappeared.

    “That ended up being a good thing. I started buckling down,” he said.

    “I thought – I can go out and make my own pay with what I was doing as a subcontractor. I’m a ditchdigger and what’s wrong with that? There is really good money in dirt,” he added with a laugh. “I was groomed to go to college, but I believe you need to understand there are other opportunities out there to make your own future.”

    And make his own future he has. In 2004, he incorporated Berry It, a play on his last name and one that aptly describes the company’s main business. With his last name, he joked, “It was either that or make jelly,” Little by little the company grew, weathering economic slowdowns and employment decisions by big companies they worked for, and expanded into waterline installation, aerial construction, fiber splicing, engineering design, vacuum excavation, and geothermal loops. Today, there are Berry It offices in Kokomo, Lafayette, and Indianapolis and a fourth is opening soon in Fort Wayne.

    At various times, his four brothers have worked with the company. Wife Jamie left nursing to raise their four children and then joined the company as well, credited with putting together the policy structure and running the Human Resources side of the business. James said the Berry It team, which now includes the executive directors, is the secret to success, “by finding the right people and putting them in the right seats and allowing them to do their jobs.” He added, “Great employees are the heartbeat of the company.”

    Since 2015, sister company BerryComm has been in the business of providing internet services along with the fiber optic networks constructed by Berry It. BerryComm now provides fiber optic internet services to the communities of Walton, Royal Center, Lincoln and Galveston, as well as Lewis Cass Schools, and has expanded into Cicero and Howard County. The company was recently awarded a contract to build a 55-mile fiber ring around Howard County that will provide fiber optic internet to residential and business customers as well as Howard County schools.

    “Rural internet service was my heart’s passion before it became the big issue it is now. We are transforming lives one community at a time.”  James Berry

    And that includes getting involved in local charities that have the same goal.

    If it sounds like a mission, that’s because it is. “I had been trying to find that kingdom-minded purpose,” James said, describing putting his faith into action. “I have been blessed in life and I want to support anything that is good in helping people.”

    He says that even though he didn’t pursue the career path promised by his Ivy Tech degree, he has continued to use the knowledge gained at the community college, whether it’s creating an Excel spreadsheet or outlining a business plan.

    “My accomplishments at Ivy Tech were more a question of self-worth,” he said. “It boosted my confidence. It wasn’t the industry I ended up working in life, but it helped me learn it’s important to like what you do, and I love what I do.” And today his businesses employ a number of fellow Ivy Tech graduates.

    James and Jamie’s family has grown to include Adrean, husband Cash and their 2-year-old son and new baby; 20-year-old Kyen, a student at Indiana University Kokomo; 17-year-old Koen, a senior at Northwestern High School where he plays basketball and baseball; and 15-year-old Kolten, a sophomore at Northwestern High School where he plays baseball. In his spare time, James says, he’s always ready for a round of golf.

    Learn more about the Industrial Technology program

  • Jared Boone of Wabash, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology (AART), was honored with the Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence.

    Boone was selected from those students honored with the Dean’s Award in each program who have a 3.5 GPA or higher. Other considerations for this award include leadership, community service, and school involvement.

    In nominating Boone for the top student academic honor, Deborah Ku, department chair of the AART program for the Ivy Tech Kokomo Service area, cited his accomplishments in and out of the classroom.

    “In his two years at Ivy Tech, Jared earned several certificates and technical certificates on his way to his associate degree and his academic achievements were matched with extracurricular activities that have helped him grow in many ways.”

    Deborah Ku, Assistant Professor, School of Advanced Manufacturing

    While at Ivy Tech, Boone served as president of the Alpha Phi Pi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa international honor society and was named to the National Society for Leadership and Success. As president of the Student Government Association, he represented Kokomo students as a student member of the Ivy Tech State Board of Trustees, bringing a focus on manufacturing. He also is an emergency medical responder, a certified firefighter and lieutenant in a volunteer fire department.

    After an internship through Ivy Tech Kokomo’s Ivy+ Career Link office, Boone has been hired full-time at Mid-State Engineering in Tipton. He has already been promoted to the position of controls engineer, a job that he says would not have been possible without the help he received from faculty and staff. Boone is configuring hardware parameters in robotic systems to effectively manage manufacturing processes in a way that is safe and efficient, a role one faculty member said is usually handled by bachelor-degreed engineers.

    To learn more about our Advanced Automation and Robotics program


School of Business, Logistics, & Supply Chain

  • Kokomo native Desmon Williams comes from a “factory family.” And following his father before him and three of his four siblings, his first stop after graduating from Kokomo High School in 1999 was the manufacturing floor of a Chrysler plant.

    “I graduated on Friday and started at Chrysler on Monday,” Williams says. He figured he’d make it a career, heading for the “30 and out” early retirement plan that made the United Autoworkers job so attractive. That wasn’t to be. He had worked there for about seven years when the Great Recession loomed. With his wife LaShaya happy in her job as a schoolteacher in Kokomo, he took a buyout and left Chrysler rather than relocating to a plant in another city.

    After a couple of “odds and ends” jobs, in 2010, Williams was hired by Haynes International for another factory floor position.

    “When I started at Chrysler, I was 19. I didn’t know much,” he says. Over the next seven years, he had learned about working in a UAW plant and now had to learn the ways of the United Steelworkers union. It didn’t take long for the vocal new employee to get involved; he soon became a shift committeeman. He got elected to the union local’s executive board and was tapped to be on the negotiating team.

    “That experience really opened my eyes,” Williams remembers. “There were a lot of aha moments as we negotiated employment policies. I felt I wanted to know more.

    “I decided I never wanted to leave my destiny in someone else’s hands,” he continues. “I decided I wanted a degree so I will never be in the position where I didn’t have something to fall back on.”

    LaShaya started filling out his Ivy Tech application as Williams wrapped up negotiations that summer. Once admitted, Williams met with Ivy Tech adviser Chad Lewis; together they determined Williams’s interest would lead to a Business Administration degree.

    “I was nervous,” he says about starting classes in the fall of 2018. “I was 38 years old and hadn’t been in school for 20 years.”

    But business professor James Fitzgerald, who became a mentor to Williams, says he never saw a hint of nerves. “Desmon walked in and he commanded the room,” Fitzgerald says. “He was the person who made sure group projects got done.

    “Desmon was a very smart, determined reliable and goal-oriented student who demonstrated leadership qualities. Determination, consistency, and focus are keys to his educational success.”

    James Fitgerald, Professor

    Williams was known for always being on time, taking seat at the front of the classroom, sharing his 20 years of experience in the workforce. “Sometimes I talked too much,” Williams says with a laugh. “I didn’t want to be the teacher’s pet, but I was interested. I enjoyed it.”

    Williams appreciated Ivy Tech’s small class sizes, the support of faculty and staff, and having teachers like James Fitzgerald who brought years of experience in the business world into his classes. Williams became comfortable discussing where the lessons from his textbooks diverged from his real-world experience.

  • Transformation. It’s more than a word at Ivy Tech. It’s a goal, a commitment … and for students like Lyndsey Stewart, a life-changing reality.

    Stewart will graduate from Ivy Tech Kokomo on May 12 and by her own account, “Ivy Tech has been the largest transformation I have ever had.” Along with an Associate of Science in Business Administration degree, she’s leaving with experience, confidence, accomplishment and prospects she could never have imagined when she began her Ivy Tech journey two years ago.

    A native of Logansport who now lives in Walton, Stewart is a 2015 graduate of Pioneer Junior-Senior High School in Royal Center. After high school, she joined the United States Navy, serving on the maintenance crew on the U.S.S. Nimitz, an aircraft carrier and one of the largest warships in the world, then stationed at Bremerton, Wash. Then came a stint in maintenance at the Tyson plant in Logansport. When she came to Ivy Tech, although she had never worked in a professional environment, she was interested in learning more about business careers. Looking for part-time employment on campus, she was encouraged to apply for an internship with Ivy Tech Kokomo’s Resource Development office. She was surprised when she was accepted, but it has meant the world to her future.

    Looking at her today two years later, you see a confident young member of the Resource Development team, one who eagerly communicates with donors; who can step in front of any crowd and share her thoughts; who helps plan and execute events; who has helped the Student Government Association create a new scholarship; and who, on her own initiative, has created a partnership with Valvoline that offers a 15 percent discount on services to Ivy Tech students, faculty and staff. Hard to imagine the shy, anxious woman she was, the one who broke out in hives when it was time to stand in front of her Public Speaking class and present.

    Without the Resource Development team of Kelly Karickhoff, Miriam Thomas and Patti Moore, Lyndsey says, “I wouldn’t be where I am today. They definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, in a positive way.” She also credits Kim King, her Public Speaking instructor, for “the new Lyndsey.”

    Kelly Karickhoff, executive director of Resource Development for Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Service Area, is excited to talk about Stewart’s transformation.

    “Every year, Resource Development selects one student to serve as a ‘student fundraising associate,’ a paid internship opportunity to work 10 hours a week with the Resource Development team to thank donors,” Karickhoff said.

    “Our donors love to hear from our students and Lyndsey has written hundreds of thank you notes sharing the impact of their giving from a student’s perspective. She has watched the generosity of so many donors who believe and invest in our students and will pay it forward in the future. “

    Kelly Karickhoff, Executive Director of Resource Development

    “My internship at Ivy Tech has truly inspired me for my future,” Stewart said, “and I loved raising money to help my fellow students afford a quality education.”

    While at Ivy Tech Kokomo, Stewart has racked up the accomplishments – selection for Phi Theta Kappa international honor society, which she served as vice president of communication, and National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS). She also has served as secretary of the Student Government Association (SGA).

    “Lyndsey has become an important part of our team,” Karickhoff noted. “We have watched her grow professionally in this role and we believe she is ready to transfer on to finish her bachelor’s degree, enter the workforce and have great success. “

    With her associate degree in hand, Stewart is looking at options in four-year schools where she can pursue a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a focus on Human Resources.

    “I wanted to pursue my degree to show that anyone is capable of anything regardless of their background,” she has said. “If you want something bad enough, you will push to get where you want to be in life.”

    She also credits her parents, Jimmy and Donna Stewart, who “never let me quit anything in life,” and sister Cami Stewart, “because I know I have always been a role model to her,” for pushing her to continue her education, along with her grandparents and “bonus family” inside and outside of Ivy Tech.

    “I give a lot of my success here to those around me,” she said. “I am forever humble for all that I have accomplished because I was never alone. People were always supporting me.”


    On May 12, Stewart will share her story as a student commencement speaker.

    “Without Ivy Tech, I know I would not have the steppingstones that I will need after graduation,” she says. “I had barriers that became accomplishments, and I am forever thankful for Ivy Tech.”

    To learn more about our Business Administration program



School of Health Sciences

  • When Heather Bartrum was a student at Ivy Tech Kokomo, the professor leading the Surgical Technology program knew she had a lot of potential.

    “Heather was a great student,” says program chair Jia Hardimon-Eddington. “She jumped right in. She worked hard. She helped other students and she contributed to everyone’s success. I knew she would be a great ‘surg tech’ and I’m so proud of all she is doing.”

    Today, nearly 11 years after graduation and certification, Bartrum does work full-time as a surgical technologist, serving as “private scrub” for Dr. Thomas Reilly, an orthopedic surgeon in Kokomo who specializes in the care of patients with spinal and nerve disorders of the neck and back, and working at the Indiana Spine Group in Carmel. It’s a job she loves … but not one she ever thought about before a life-changing mid-life accident and a spiritual “battle” that led her to Ivy Tech Community College.

    Bartrum was born and raised in Howard County. After graduating from Western High School in 1992, she attended Indiana University Kokomo for a year before going to work, first as an “eye tech” at New Vision Optical and then as a teller at First National Bank. Marriage came in 1996; a daughter arrived in 1997 and a son followed in 2000. She was a full-time mom, later working part-time at Northwestern Schools when the youngest went to kindergarten.

    Then, in 2008, came that life-changing accident. While washing her dad’s pick-up truck, she fell from the back and shattered her leg. “Surgery … and three months, no weight bearing. It was a humbling experience,” Heather remembers. “That’s when God first spoke to me. He told me to go into surgery. I was called to help other people going into surgery.”

    Bartrum says she fought the idea for months, but, she adds with a smile, God eventually won and her faith took her forward. She had been out of high school for more than 15 years; she says she didn’t think she was smart enough. She knew nothing about surgical technology or what it entailed, but she came to Ivy Tech to see what was available and was soon enrolled in the pre-requisite courses for the program.

    “The professors were all phenomenal,” she said, remembering among others a great math teacher and her English professor, Ethan Heicher, who is now Ivy Tech Kokomo’s chancellor. “I wasn’t just a number in the class. The professors helped me. I got into some great study groups.”

    With her pre-reqs achieved, Bartrum was admitted into the surg tech program, then located in one room in the Inventrek building on East Firmin Street. She recently visited Ivy Tech’s new Surgical Technology laboratory in the Health Professions Center on the transformed campus at 1815 E. Morgan St. and talked about her very different experience.

    “Oh, my gosh, it would be awesome to go through the program as a student in this new facility,” Bartrum said. “They get so much more hands-on experience. We had a big classroom but the lab was very small, just one bed to practice on …” The new Surg Tech lab includes four surgical suites fully outfitted in current technology that offer training opportunities to the same number of students that were in Heather’s class.

    “Jia helped me a lot,” Bartrum said. “When I started, I didn’t do very well testing. Jia would go over the tests with me afterwards. I could answer the questions when talking to her and she helped me figure out what I needed to do to capture the correct answers on the tests.” She also credits the partnerships Ivy Tech has with local medical facilities to offer clinical rotations and internships, particularly citing Joyce Hughes, now retired, who, as Heather’s preceptor at Dukes Memorial Hospital, provided great experience.

    Bartrum graduated from the program in 2012, 20 years after graduating from high school, earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgical Technology and passing her certification exam on the first try. She was hired as a certified surgical technologist at St. Joseph Hospital and within six weeks was working with Dr. Reilly.

    Bartrum offers two pieces of advice to those who follow her. First, always verify the sizes and dates of equipment and material used in the operating room; don’t rely on others. Second, “if you ever mess up, don’t beat yourself up. Write it up, think about how you can do it better and then don’t ever do that again.”

    She encourages others to follow their dreams. “By the grace of God, a lot of studying and determination, and pushing yourself, you can do it,” she says. In addition to her “day job,” Bartrum works with her father raising cattle and has been involved with 4-H in Howard and Carroll counties.

    “I just love my job. I feel like I’m doing something not just for the person going into surgery but also for my community. As I’ve told my kids, a job is something you get and have to go to. A career is something you don’t mind getting up and going to every day, something you enjoy and that is fulfilling to you. I love my job and I don’t regret anything. There are days that are hard, that you’re tired and worn out and your body hurts. But I am blessed.”

    Heather Bartrum

    Find out more about our Surgical Technology program

  • Catherine Hightower Valcke, a member of the Ivy Tech Kokomo Class of 1981 and a long-time leader in higher education in the Kokomo area, is being honored this year with the Ivy Tech Community College Distinguished Alumni Award for the College’s Kokomo Service Area. The awards will be presented Nov. 10 at a gala event at the J.W. Marriott in Indianapolis celebrating the College’s 60th anniversary.

    The awards are presented annually by each of Ivy Tech’s 19 service areas to honor a graduate who exemplifies an appreciation of lifelong learning, a dedication to work, and a commitment to community.

    “We are proud to honor Cathy Valcke as she truly has exemplified these values throughout her career. In her 25 years on the staff at Indiana University, she has distinguished herself in service to higher education and to the community.”

    Dr. Ethan Heicher, chancellor of the Ivy Tech Kokomo Service Area.

    As director of External Relations & Public Affairs at IU Kokomo since 2014 until her recent retirement, Valcke has been a vital figure in advancing the community through the State of Indiana’s READI grant process and other work on economic development boards, Heicher noted. She has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, including a recent effort focused on food insecurity in the Kokomo community. She is, he said, a great ambassador for higher education and a great partner to Ivy Tech, joining in many of the College’s community events.

    Ivy Tech played a pivotal role in Valcke’s long journey in higher education.

    As a child, Valcke’s family moved often, but she returned to Kokomo, the city of her birth, after graduating from high school in Mount Morris, Ill., in 1976 and completing a year of college in Chicago. She soon started taking classes at IU Kokomo.

    Among her goals was to earn her bachelor’s degree without student loans. So, while attending IUK, she also enrolled at Ivy Tech; she figured if she needed to work, she might as well get the skills she needed for a good job through a short-term program at the community college. In May 1981, she earned a technical certificate as a medical assistant and moved directly into working fulltime for the doctor’s office where she served her externship.

    For the next 13 years, she worked for Kokomo podiatrist Dr. Ted Clarke, who encouraged Valcke’s educational goals. While working for Dr. Clarke, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from IU Kokomo in 1989, 11 years after she began … and with no student debt. She later earned a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration & Student Affairs from IU Bloomington.

    Valcke began her career in higher education as director of placement at Indiana Business College from 1996 to 1998. She joined IU Kokomo as director of alumni relations and public affairs in April 1998, a position she held for 13 years, and served as the campus’s human resources director for three years. She has been honored with IU Kokomo’s Distinguished Service Award, IU’s Bicentennial Medal, and the IU Alumni Association President’s Award for her many contributions to the university and its students.

  • Jennifer Hindman, a 1997 graduate of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s EMT program who now serves as vice president and chief operating officer of Community Howard Regional Health, has been honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award by Ivy Tech Community College.

    Each year, the Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Service Area honors a single alumnus or alumna who exemplifies an appreciation of lifelong learning, a dedication to work, and a commitment to community. Hindman was honored Dec. 2 at a virtual statewide event that recognized award winners from Ivy Tech’s 19 campuses around the state and at a luncheon in Kokomo Monday, Dec. 6.

    “These individuals are examples of how Ivy Tech can change lives,” said Ivy Tech President Sue Ellspermann during the statewide recognition. “Whether they went on to pursue additional education or went straight to the workforce, our distinguished alumni make a difference in our communities every day. We are proud and honored to be part of their stories.”

    Asked to summarize in one word the impact Ivy Tech has had on her life, Hindman said, “For me, Ivy Tech was a catalyst. My degree was the accelerant that I needed to continue to further my education and complete my bachelor and master’s degrees.

    “Without the completion of my degree, I simply would not have had the professional growth opportunities in my healthcare career. And what I found was that Ivy Tech can be fuel for your personal change. And that they will partner with you to help you find a path to success that works with and for your future goals.” 

    Jennifer Hindman

    As vice president and chief operating officer, Hindman helps lead the hospital where she started as a paramedic in 1997. While working there, she returned to Ivy Tech Kokomo at the urging of her late aunt Peggy Hanes, who at the time was director of student success at the College, and completed an associate degree in Paramedic Science in 2006.

    Hindman went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University Kokomo and then a dual-major master’s degree in Adult and Community Education and Executive Leadership for Public Service from Ball State University.

    As she earned degrees and gained experience, she continued to move up at Community Howard, holding the positions of EMS coordinator and director of professional and organizational development, then business operations, and then human resources before taking the role of vice president and chief operating officer. She served as an adjunct faculty member for the College of Business at Manchester University and is a 2019 alumna of the prestigious Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series.

    As chief operating officer, her main responsibilities have included providing for and supporting a unified culture and infrastructure; coordinating between personnel, structure, and the organization’s strategic plan; providing necessary support for all operations; providing guidance to deliver on the vision for Community Health Network; and ensuring organizational business outcomes and accountability.

    The list of the community organizations Hindman serves includes the Howard County Chamber of Commerce Council, the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Business Council and Turning Point Systems of Care Board of Directors. Hindman has been connected to the Ivy Tech Kokomo Campus Transformation Project through her role at the hospital. In recognition of her contributions to the community and the hospital, she has been honored with the Kokomo Chamber Women’s Business Council Excellence in Leadership and the Community Howard Regional Health Leader of the Year awards.

    In nominating her for this award, Ivy Tech Kokomo Trustee and 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award winner Karen McLean described Hindman as “a remarkable woman who is an excellent representative of Community Howard Regional Health and all organizations where she serves as a volunteer,” with many talents and skill sets that she willingly shares.

    A native of Grant County, Hindman now lives in Tipton County with her husband, Cameron. They are the parents of Conner Hindman and the late Cale Hindman.

    To learn more about our Paramedic Science program...


School of Information Technology

  • Kokomo native Mike Dukes has two lifelong hobbies – comic books (Spiderman is his favorite super hero) and tabletop role-playing games (think Dungeons and Dragons) – but it wasn’t until he came to Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo that he found a way to turn those passions into a career.

    Now the “digital media specialist” for the City of Kokomo, Mike spends his work days taking photographs for use in print and web publications, videoing events and programs, designing motion and print graphics, creating video programs for both the web and broadcast, and maintaining all the city’s video equipment and related technology. It’s a long way from nearly 10 years working quality assurance for Tyson Foods and Delphi.

    Industrial work had seemed the thing to do after graduating from Kokomo High School. It was monotonous to the amateur artist but it paid the bills. It was a layoff from the factory that opened the doors to two years of college paid for through the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and Mike ran with the opportunity.

    Enrolling in Ivy Tech, Mike first thought he’d major in industrial technology but after he learned about the College’s Visual Communications program – and the chance to study graphic design – he was hooked on a new direction. “Both comics and role-playing games heavily involve graphic design,” Mike said. “I asked if I could change my major and it was approved. Ivy Tech offered the chance to learn the software that would allow me to create.”

    Mike said he loved being at Ivy Tech and took the advice of his TAA counselor at the unemployment office. “We had monthly check-ins. He told me to sit in the front row, always do the best I could do,” he said. “I took that to heart.” More than a dozen years out of high school, Mike ended up at the top of his class, earning Phi Theta Kappa honor society membership and the Outstanding Student Award when he graduated in 2010.

    He took advantage of opportunities for independent study, getting real-world experience that applied toward his degree and built his resume. In his first semester, he designed a 328-page book in support of a role-playing game developed by a friend. Mike served as a lab assistant as a student and as an adjunct instructor after his graduation. And, at the recommendation of program chair Kyle Wiley, Mike had his first official “visual communications” job as a prepress graphic designer at Humphrey Printing by the time he transferred to Indiana University Kokomo. There he completed a bachelor’s degree in New Media (where he also was named the program’s outstanding student) in 2013.

    Degrees in hand, Mike has been able to create a new career with every opportunity to exercise his imagination and creativity, becoming a one-person production crew. Among the credits on his resume: Creative director or art director for several design studios, photographer/videographer for the Kokomo Herald, and owner of his own production company that creates “Gaming on Geek Street,” live-action shows of people playing role-playing games shared on YouTube. His work is featured weekly in the city’s “Pet of the Week” project for the Kokomo Humane Society and his drone skills have resulted in valuable footage of the Seiberling Mansion and Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Campus transformation project.

    The COVID-19 pandemic offered even more opportunities. In his city job, Mike helped develop the technological capabilities that allowed city and county officials to share community-wide updates via live-streaming. “With everything shut down, we had to find new ways to get information out,” he said. “It involved a lot of IT (information technology) work, with computers and cameras and lights and microphones, to make that work.”

    Another product of the pandemic resulted in Mike’s credits as camera operator and producer for a an episode of the Amazon Prime series “A Toy Store Near You.” What became Episode 4 of Season 2 focused on Kokomo Toys, a mecca for toy lovers from all over the world found on East Sycamore Street in downtown Kokomo. When the professional film crew was blocked from travel, Mike was recruited to handle filming, lighting, drone piloting, capturing audio and arranging talent for the episode.

    “What do I like best about my job with the city?” Mike repeated the question and answered with glee: “I get paid to create.” Speaking about the impact of his experience at Ivy Tech, he said, “Every time I look back, I know I’m just barely scratching the surface of what I know I want to do.” And as he looks forward to advances in technology, to the promises and challenges of artificial intelligence, he sees a future with exciting possibilities.

    To learn more about the Communications program

  • Before he’d even completed his associate degree at Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo, Antonio Viera had moved into the full-time role of manager of Information Technology at Guardian Angel Hospice.

    With offices in Kokomo, Lafayette, Logansport and Carmel that serve about 30 central Indiana counties, gigabytes of sensitive personal and medical data about its patients, and a range of vendors, the hospice care provider’s IT needs pose a daily challenge. Thanks to his Ivy Tech education and experiences, Viera, who graduated from the College’s Cyber Security Assurance program in December 2020, has been starring in Guardian Angel’s “one-man IT show” for more than two years.

    College came later for Viera. After graduating from Kokomo High School in 2008, he went off to a four-year university but, burdened by the cost, soon came home. He followed his mother into the world of healthcare, working as a caregiver and cook at two different Kokomo nursing homes, including seven and a half years as head night shift cook at Golden Living. Long interested in technology, he found out Ivy Tech had one of the few Indiana cyber security programs accredited by the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA. Matching that quality with the affordability offered by Ivy Tech, Viera enrolled in the College in 2018.

    “Ivy Tech’s IT offerings are great programs in their own right,” Viera said. “but if you’re looking for a great education at an affordable price, you can’t beat Ivy Tech.”

    Viera excelled at Ivy Tech – dean’s list status, induction into the National Society of Leadership and Success, and, eventually, magna cum laude designation at graduation. He was the Dean’s Award winner as the outstanding student in Cyber Security Information Assurance for the 2020-2021 school year and participated in Ivy Tech’s Statewide IT Challenge, a daunting competition that tested his skills against other IT students around the state.

    “Antonio was such a good student,” said Robyn Schmidt, department chair for the School of Information Technology for Ivy Tech Kokomo. “He always came to class ready to learn. He came early and stayed late and helped fellow students who were struggling. He made the important connection with his teachers and we were able to help him on his path.”

    Viera’s classroom success opened doors to a four-month IT internship with Guardian Angel Hospice. As Brian Rude, chief operating officer and co-owner of Guardian Angel Hospice Inc., tells it, Ivy Tech was his first thought when he needed to replace a long-term IT manager. At his request, Professor Julie Byrd, chair of the Software Development program at Ivy Tech Kokomo, provided a shortlist of potential candidates. Adjunct professor Christina Williams got the job, but another candidate showed so much potential that he was offered an internship.

    Through the internship, Rude said, Viera had the opportunity to work with Williams on a number of IT projects, and “when Christina decided to move out of state, it was clear from our experiences with Antonio that he had the ability to step into the role of IT manager.”

    Viera was chosen as the one to step in, even if he still had four courses to finish to earn his associate degree. It was a dream position for him, tying together his love of serving people in the healthcare realm with his love of connecting people through technology. He sees it as an ever-changing field where no two days are the same, challenging enough for a life-long career.

    Rude says Viera has done very well at Guardian Angel Hospice and, as a member of the leadership team, has responsibilities beyond IT, working to enhance the company’s emergency preparedness program, training and safety.

    “Finding a local candidate with Antonio’s skillset and work ethic was very beneficial to Guardian Angel Hospice staff and patients. As a locally owned and operated Health Care Agency, we rely on high quality talent and are very grateful we have Ivy Tech Community College here as a resource to fit that need.” 

    Brian Rude, chief operation office, Guardian Angel Hospice, Inc.

    Viera became another example of students meeting one of Schmidt’s ambitious goals for her intern Program: to “be so good that they don’t want you to go.”

    He credits the College with his success and encourages others to follow in his footsteps.

    “I tell students to come to Ivy Tech because you get a dedicated staff that cares about your learning, fellow students who are just as engaged and want to learn as much as you do, and smaller class sizes so professors can focus more on you and your needs,” Viera said.

    “You get personal attention from professors who are very knowledgeable and care about the success of their students, professors who won’t move on until everyone understands, professors who are always taking classes themselves to be sure they’re on top of the latest developments,” he continued. He says he is particularly grateful to Schmidt, Byrd, and math instructor Archie Thomas for their contributions to his education. “Their exuberance, their hands-on approach, their focus on critical thinking and problem solving, their real-life class projects all help out tremendously when you are in the real world,” he said. “I’ve used every single skill I learned at Ivy Tech in my two years on this job.”

    Byrd said Ivy Tech is happy to now be working with Viera on a professional level. “As chairman of the advisory board for Ivy Tech’s School of Information Technology, Antonio now shares his technical and leadership skills in the workplace to help us continue to improve our offerings,” Byrd said. “He is a talented young man who will continue to excel in his career.”

    To learn more about the Cyber Security/Information Assurance program...



School of Nursing

  • Rachel Richter has discovered all the similarities between two very different careers, courtesy of a life-changing visit to Ivy Tech’s Peru office.

    Richter now is a surgical nurse, a “circulator” in the operating rooms at Parkview Hospital in Wabash. As one of her nursing preceptors told her, the job would be the hardest thing she’d ever done – and, as Richter says, “He’s right … and I love it.”

    As circulator, Richter stays outside the sterile field of the operating table where the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and the surgical technologists are plying their trades on behalf of the patient lying there. As circulator, Richter is there to handle any problems that arise.

    “Let’s say you have a surgeon and an open patient, and something isn’t working right with the equipment,” she said. “The circulator, the one outside the sterile field, is the one who assesses the problem, finds it, and fixes it quickly.” It’s a vital job that’s ever changing – and requires rapid problem-solving as if a life depends on it, because it does.

    Richter had spent 23 years working with the family business, Victoria’s Favorites Flowers and Gifts located in “a cool French mansard mansion on Third Street” in Peru, an unlikely place to gain experience she’s found helpful in the operating room.

    “At the flower shop, I wore all the hats. With a small family business, you handle customer service, ordering, delivering …,” she said. “I can remember many days where I’d start with something like putting a bouquet of roses together for a husband’s anniversary gift. Next up might be a baby’s casket spray, and then a wedding.

    “That flipping of the service that you provide, that switching up what becomes your ‘nurse face’ as you deal with people and where they are coming from, not only prepares you for nursing, it prepares you for life,” she continued, with a smile. “I think everyone should work at a flower shop to get that experience.”

    Then came the time the family decided to close the flower shop. After a year as a “housewife,” boredom set in and Richter decided to take a stroll down Main Street to talk to Cynde Lees, then an academic adviser at Ivy Tech’s Peru instruction center, who had been a Victoria’s Favorites customer for years.

    Then came the time the family decided to close the flower shop. After a year as a “housewife,” boredom set in and Richter decided to take a stroll down Main Street to talk to Cynde Lees, then an academic adviser at Ivy Tech’s Peru instruction center, who had been a Victoria’s Favorites customer for years.

    “I wanted to take some classes but had no idea of what I wanted to do,” she remembers. “I talked to Cynde about getting a certification in medical billing. You know, maybe something I could do at home.”

    Lees suggested Richter start with some science classes and, well, as they say, one thing led to another. While she was wracked with doubt about her abilities, Richter began building a 4.0 GPA, straight As. Lees’s next bit of guidance? “Rachel, you should be a nurse.”

    “I told Cynde she was crazy,” Richter said. “I was in my mid-40s. No one wants a new nurse that old.” The answer came back: “No, the nursing profession needs some older wiser nurses. Know now, we absolutely do.”

    Lees was just the first in a series of Ivy Tech advisers, instructors and mentors who helped Richter overcome “a constant state of denial.” Despite her doubts and fears at every step of the process, Richter passed the entry “TEAS” test, she was admitted into Ivy Tech’s highly selective Nursing program, she aced her classes, she passed the national NCLEX licensure examination. From that first conversation with Cynde Lees in 2017, Richter had completed an Associate of Science degree in Nursing in December 2019 and earned her designation as a Registered Nurse in January 2020.

    ” There’s not a day go by that I am not drawing on the knowledge I gained at Ivy Tech or taking one of my professors from Ivy Tech with me.”  

    Rachel Richter

    • There’s Dr. John Miles, her podiatrist when she was a child and her anatomy instructor at Ivy Tech in Peru? “That man … I hope I have just a few drops of the knowledge he has.” 
    • There’s Marian Henry, recently retired dean of Ivy Tech Kokomo’s School of Nursing. “Such a force! As an older student, I was the only person that got her joke about nursing being the second oldest profession for women.”
    • There’s part-time instructor Jill McCarty who, as a nurse at Parkview, presented the value and pride she found in working for the rural hospital system that helped Richter set another goal she has achieved.
    • There’s then-instructor Kelly Williams and Marian’s successor as dean. “The professionalism Kelly taught us … Nurses are part of the most highly esteemed profession in the world because of our advocacy for our patients.”

    By her own account, Richter now works in a job she really loves, a job that’s challenging, that allows her to pull all the information she learned at Ivy Tech together and apply it to achieve the best outcomes for her patients. “If you don’t have critical thinking, if you don’t know how to apply the skill set you have, you won’t be successful,” she said. “Ivy Tech’s instructors hone those skills as you go through the program. That’s what you’re going to pull on when you’re on the job.”

    She may be working the schedule of a full-time surgical nurse (five days a week plus 24-hour calls 10 days a month) but Richter isn’t done at Ivy Tech. After getting a call from Kelly Williams just two days after starting work at Parkview, Richter now spends off -duty time as a popular tutor for current students in Ivy Tech’s Nursing program.

    “Rachel was an outstanding student. During her time in the Nursing program, she demonstrated the attributes that make an excellent nurse, including caring, compassion, integrity and professionalism,” Kelly said. “These traits have served her well in her nursing career, so we were glad when she accepted the invitation to share her knowledge and skills with our current students.”

    And for Richter, it’s more than wanting to be “just a tutor.”

     “I want to be a mentor,” she says. “When students come to me and say, ‘This is so hard. Do you know how hard this is?’, I can say, ‘Yes, I went through it.’ As I am an advocate for my patients, I am an advocate for my students. I can remember what it’s like to be a student and when you never forget where you came from, you’re relatable.”

    Richter says her message to others about Ivy Tech is “Enroll in some classes. Try it!”

    “When I told my family I was in college in my mid-40s, they were surprised,” she said. “As I got going and ended up in Nursing, you could have knocked Mom and Dad down with a feather. How did I get from ‘taking some classes’ to becoming a surgical nurse?

    “Every person within this College wants you to succeed and they’ll do anything and everything they can to help you succeed. Is it easy? No. Will they do it for you? No. But they will give you all the resources you need to make it happen.”

    Learn more about our Nursing program


School of Public Affairs & Social Services




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