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Stritch Alumni Reflections

Divine Osephode

Divine Osephode, '20

Hi everyone! My name is Divine. As an international student from Nigeria, I chose to study at Stritch because it was a small community that felt like home. They also had/have a great nursing program which I am glad to have been part of because it has shaped me into who I am today.

I loved the diversity, the environment, the core Franciscan values that Stritch was built upon, and the various opportunities for students to grow. I definitely gained a lot of leadership experience, and I not only grew spiritually but professionally and academically.

At the end of it all, I am proud to say that I can confidently answer to the question "What is your mission?"

I currently work in the Medical Respiratory Intensive Care Unit (MRICU) at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee. I am also taking classes for medical school prerequisites, and I plan on going back to Stritch for my Master's in Nursing in the meantime.

Fabio Perasso

Fabio Perasso, '18

I decided to go to Cardinal Strich University because of the great location (just 10 minutes from downtown Milwaukee), the tennis team and the small class sizes. As an international student at Stritch, I got to know so many people from different states and countries and learn about their cultures, values and ideas.

Through my time at Stritch, my transformation was exponential. I started this college experience as the “baby of the family” and ended up being the most independent person in my household. I learned how to cook and take care of basic chores, but more importantly, I learned how to socialize, entertain, and aware of other people beliefs and cultures. I learned what it takes to be an ethical worker and person.

Now, I am the general manager and tennis director at Lifesport Tennis Club in Kenosha and head coach for women’s tennis at Alverno College in Milwaukee. I am also working on getting my master’s degree in business administration.

Anna Schmeling

Anna Schmeling, '10

The person I was when I started at Stritch versus the person I became by the time I graduated were two very different people. When enrolling at Stritch, I was hesitant to declare a major but finally settled on accounting. To be honest, I wasn't overly fond of my first accounting course and started to second guess my career choice. My professor for that class encouraged me to not give up or change my major. She saw something in me that I did not see in myself, and she is a huge reason for where I am today. That encouragement from her and many other professors stayed with me throughout my Stritch education and continues to drive me in my career today.

What I loved most about my Stritch experience was the learning environment. I felt "at home." The smaller class sizes allowed for more interaction with professors on a daily basis. As a result, the professors had more time to answer questions and also evaluate my work and provide constructive feedback. They constantly challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone to help me reach my full potential. 

After graduating, I worked at Rockwell Automation for nine years in a variety of finance/accounting roles, such as investor relations, corporate development and internal audit. During that time I also had the opportunity to live in Austin, Texas, and Rotterdam, Netherlands, while working for Rockwell. In 2018, I accepted a role at Microsoft as Internal Audit Manager and relocated to Seattle. I get to travel the world and visit different Microsoft locations as part of my job (pre-COVID-19 of course!) but currently adjusting to being "grounded" until this settles a bit. I love the Pacific Northwest, but Milwaukee will always be home! 

Mark Quistorf

Mark Quistorf, '07

When I came to audition for the music program at Stritch, I was taken by how many people said hi to me and my family. The faculty were so warm and gracious. I knew that I could really thrive as a singer here…little did I know that by coming here I’d also thrive as a person.

While at Stritch, I was a music and theater major. These departments taught me a lot of about music and theater. More importantly, however, they also taught me discipline, the importance of all hands on deck to get the job done, collaboration, compassion and working hard. I loved performing here.

I also really loved being a part of the Residence Halls, Student Government Association, Residence Halls Association, and Campus Ministry. During those 5 years, I grew in my faith and confidence. It was at Stritch that I found my voice. I found the courage to be myself, and the drive to try and spread joy wherever I could.

Now, I am the Director of Financial Aid at Stritch. It is a joy to help other students experience the transformation that I did at Stritch. I love being around the students and hearing about their journeys. Financial Aid helped ensure that I could stay and thrive at Stritch. My mission is to make sure others can too.

Dr. Marquita Taylor

Dr. Marquita Taylor, '12, '18

I chose Stritch, but in many ways it chose me. A two-time graduate, once in 2012 and for the final time in 2018, I value my Stritch education. Aside from my very own resilience, work ethic and desire to impact the lives and well-being of those I encounter, my doctoral education at Stritch further prepared me as a leader. The academic work was effective, but the inner work that was encouraged was life-changing. As both a scholar and practitioner, Stritch fostered the agency to own my journey. Benefiting from phenomenal professors, I never once considered quitting. The expectations from my professors were matched with the expectations that I had of myself. Now here I am two years post-Ph.D., exceeding expectations from the society also. I am a Black woman, and I completed a Ph.D. when I was 30.

Currently, I am the Director of Inclusion and Leadership Development at Yale University. I am also an equity and leadership consultant for colleges and universities. I hold several fellowships, and I am intentional about pursuing opportunities for further professional and personal development. In addition, I am the Executive Director of nonprofit 3E Programs, Inc., and The Woman Doctor.

Post-Stritch, I was accepted into the Morehouse School of Medicine where I pursued an executive Master of Public Health (MPH) in the program's inaugural class. I made this decision intentionally because the health of the members in the community, doing such pivotal work, is of significant importance. I care about people, and this is reflected in all that I do. I recently helped draft an ordinance declaring racism a public health emergency in New Haven, I hope to help do the same in Milwaukee.

Doug Clemons

Doug Clemons, '12

I randomly found Stritch in a “Catholic Colleges and Universities” book in the guidance counselor’s office waiting area of my Catholic high school in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was one of many campus visits I took around the country, and it quickly became my first choice.

Being a voice major, I instantly clicked with my voice teacher and loved Stritch’s accessibility to Milwaukee’s performing arts scene. Intimate class sizes created relationships with professors that still exist a decade later. Being so far from home was not easy, but the welcoming nature of Stritch quickly eliminated any homesickness.

Stritch helped nurture me as a community-minded person, while also encouraging me to always independently step outside of my comfort zone. While at Stritch I was able to start performing professionally with Milwaukee arts groups, forming connections that have kept me working to this day.

Since then, I’ve performed all over in Opera, Musical Theatre and Cabaret, winning a few awards along the way. Between contracts, I’ve utilized my communications experience from Stritch to keep me afloat with fulfilling day jobs. I’m blissfully married with two fur-babies and live right down the block from Stritch, in a house that I bought from a Stritch professor.

Ashley Chapa

Ashley (Zdrojewksi) Chapa, '12

Stritch was the first college I toured, and I fell in love with it! I visited a couple more schools, but I knew almost instantly that Stritch was the right fit for me.

I loved how everyone was friendly and helpful! I especially loved how professors would take the time to meet with incoming freshmen and discuss their programs in depth before you were even formally accepted!

Being the first in my family to go college was definitely intimidating at first, but Stritch helped me grow more independent and more confident in my abilities. I couldn’t be more thankful to all the professors that pushed me to be my best.

One of my favorite parts of my college experience was working in the Admissions Office. It was a great college job that I also helped my sister and brother get. This experience led me to lifelong friends that I am grateful for.

I am now the Circulation and Resource Sharing Library Supervisor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I have been in my position for the last seven years! Fun fact: on the day of my interview, I saw one of my history professors from Stritch at UWM. I knew it was a good sign, and I was where I was supposed to be.

Jake Zdrojewski

Jake Zdrojewski, '15

After two years at a previous university, I followed my sisters’ footsteps and transferred to Stritch. I always felt supported by everyone at Stritch. Whether it was advisors, professors, financial aid counselors or coaches, someone was there to guide you.

The transfer process was smooth, and I hit the ground running in both my major and athletics, feeling like I never skipped a beat. 

After working in the Admissions Office, I was persuaded into taking advantage of the Study Abroad program. I spent a semester in Norway, and it was hands-down the best experience of my life. This was another way for me to witness the support of Stritch. The finances, preparation, journey and everything in between was so easy because of the team effort of everyone there.

Leann Zdrojewski

Leann Zdrojewski, '13

I transferred to Stritch my sophomore year after not feeling like my first school was a good fit. Meeting with the Education department immediately reassured me that this was the right place.

The connection you build with your professors is something that makes Stritch stand apart. They care about you as a student and a person. I am also so incredibly grateful for the professional experience I received in my classes. They make it a priority to get you in classrooms right away. I was able to explore almost every grade level, along with a variety of communities, through my fieldwork. I can confidently state that the Stritch education program went above and beyond to prepare me for becoming the teacher I am today.

The Franciscan values are something that have stayed with me even after graduating. I learned the importance of each value and how to implement them in my own way every year with my students.

My time as a student-athlete at Stritch also plays a big role in who I am today. It taught me community building, teamwork, communication, resilience, time management and so much more. I always feel so grateful I was able to pursue opportunities inside the classroom and on the field!

I am about to start my fifth year teaching at University School of Milwaukee. Last summer, I started the Master's of Language and Literacy program at Stritch to earn my 316 and 317 licenses. It feels so good to be back!

Casey Renn, '06

Casey Renn, '06

I wanted to move to a 'big' city but wasn't ready to be in the thick of things. So the location and safety of Stritch was a welcome change of scenery from the farm life. I could still do all the city things! I was blessed that Cardinal Stritch University gave me an affordable financial aid package, as I was on my own to pay for schooling. Not going to lie, the fact that my sister also went to Stritch didn't hurt...and my younger brother also followed :-)

There are so many things I liked about my Stritch experience. Of course making lifelong friends as my peers but also lifelong friends in the faculty and staff. One of my professors, and now close friends, is going to be the officiant at my upcoming wedding. There were so many activities offered that you couldn't NOT get involved. I worked on campus jobs, I was a part of the Student Government Association Executive Committee and in the Residence Hall Association. I served two years as a RA (Residence Assistant) and on the committee that books the on-campus entertainment.

I had such great faculty and staff that pulled the leadership out of me. They pushed me and supported me when I probably didn't believe in myself.

Of course I got the education to succeed in life. I have worked for some of the biggest brands and traveled the world: The YMCA, American Express, Miller Brewing/MillerCoors, Mars, Accenture, Johnson Controls and United Way. I'm currently employed with United Way where I oversee raising roughly $3 million per year for our community through our young professional programs LINC (Lead. Impact. Network. Change) and Emerging Leaders. Combined these networks have nearly 2,000 members. Our local Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County LINC chapter is one of the top three programs in the United Way system - the world's largest nonprofit and most successful nonprofit brand.

As I'm now in my 30s I continue to reflect on my experience at Stritch. I grew up in a small town where the Catholicism I experience didn't align with me personally. Cardinal Stritch brought me back to the Catholic Church through the Franciscan values. I've enjoyed giving back through financial contributions and my time. For a few years I sat on the Alumni Board and I am always happy to come back and give a speech or two whenever needed.

Kristen Landaal

Kristen Landaal, '16

After stepping foot on campus, I instantly felt right at home with the Stritch community. People were so friendly and genuinely interested in helping me pave the way to achieve whatever I wanted to in college.

I loved the diverse experiences and people I met. I got involved in so many different things that allowed me to meet so many incredible people both right in Milwaukee and from other countries, many of whom I still keep in touch with. It’s the relationships you build with your peers, professors and other support staff that made Stritch so special for me. Another thing was opportunity. By having those relationships, I was able to experience so much in a short amount of time.

I attribute much of my growth to the Franciscan values that Stritch focuses on. It was something that resonated with me right away on my campus tour because those were values I wanted to continue to live by. It was important for me to choose a field that allowed me to live those values and I work towards living the Franciscan mindset each day.

I valued the opportunities and support I had in college, and it led me to want to give back and serve others. It’s not always easy, but having the support I had from staff and faculty at Stritch is what motivated me to continue pursuing my passion and goals. Working in student affairs is such a privilege and a rewarding role to have at a university. I’m blessed that I can make an impact and empower other students each day by showing compassion and creating a caring community.

Dulce Gutierrez

Dulce Gutierrez, '20

As a working mom, I needed to find a university that was flexible yet still cared about their students. I choose Stritch because of its online options.

I am so thankful to everyone at Stritch because, with their help, I was finally able to achieve my goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. As a student from Stritch I was able to grow as a person and really value education.

I currently am a college counselor at Cristo Rey High School in Milwaukee where I am able to help our youth reach their college goals.

Shabreka Chapman

Shabreka Chapman, '12

To be completely honest, I did not choose Stritch. Throughout high school, I never considered college. It wasn’t a goal of mine to be a college graduate — I wanted to enter the US. Navy and work in communications.

For various reasons I never enlisted, however, my cousin encouraged me to apply. I graduated high school in 2006, and entered as a freshman at Stritch in 2007. Stritch offered me things that weren’t listed in the brochure. The orientation leaders didn’t prepare me for it, nor could I ever have researched “things one experience as a college student at Stritch.”

I lived on campus and made my core friendships while living on campus. Stritch fostered that caring community on all levels and supported me during some of the darkest moments of my life. During my time at Stritch I worked in Student Development and traveled the states with the women’s basketball team led by the late, great Coach Rich Panella. I majored in English and Creative Writing. No, I am not working in my field, however, I am in pursuit of my Master's in Mental Health Counseling.

After graduating Stritch, I served in AmeriCorps to test some of my skills and dabble into unfamiliar territory. During my years serving in AmeriCorps, I witnessed a lot of good, and I utilized the majority of my skills as a writer (of grants) and my listening ears as a person to help vulnerable communities with measurable results. In time, I hope to become a therapist to encourage mental health among communities that aren’t so quick to seek help for themselves.

Sarah Rose Werner, '16

Sarah Rose Werner, '16

I chose to study at Stritch because of the immediate community feel when I toured. The small class sizes and the ability to speak with professors I would come to have for several of my classes showed me that not only do they care about their students, but that they are still heavily involved in their field.

I was given many opportunities at Stritch, including studying abroad in England, partaking in the Franciscan Pilgrimage, meeting some of my closest friends for life, and honing my passions for my life. Stritch was the perfect place for me as I went from a young girl to a woman, and I'll always be thankful that I called Stritch home for 4.5 years.

I came to Stritch feeling very lost and a longing of trying to find out the kind of person I wanted to be, and I was given the space and ability to explore that. Through my faith walk, what I wanted to pursue as a career, and ultimately, who was the kind of person I wanted to be. I was heavily influenced by the Franciscan values and credit much of who I am to that and the professors who allowed me the space to ask the really hard questions about life through my work.

I currently work at an ad agency as a content creator, focusing on copywriting, photography, social media marketing and email marketing. I get to pursue my passions and put my degree to use in an extremely fun environment while helping businesses make a difference in their community and develop their brands. I also have my own photography business and am currently undergoing a brand refresh to fully encompass my vision and passion for the arts.

Liset Vazquez, '11, '15

Stritch alumna Liset Vazquez, '11, '15, reflects on her Stritch experience. "I knew that if I received my diploma from Stritch I would be receiving a quality education. I grew as a person by learning so many facets of what the business world would look like."