Stories from the Class of 2020

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Graduates at the commencement ceremony

From the moment the academic year began, it was bound to be unique. The commencement ceremony in the year 2020 will be Rockhurst University’s 100th, a milestone worth celebrating.

While 2020 will likely be remembered for the global pandemic that forced the closure of college campuses across the U.S., including Rockhurst, this year’s seniors have earned their moment to shine. Congratulations to all members of the Class of 2020. Here are a few of their stories.

 

Nicole Floistad

Throughout high school in her small town, Floistad was interested in a range of different careers — from health care to journalism, film acting to geophysics. Naturally, she’s finishing Rockhurst with a degree in finance and economics.

“My first semester, I was enrolled in an honors microeconomics class and I knew I really found my niche,” she said.

Speaking of finding one’s niche, Floistad said she definitely found hers at Rockhurst University, confirming a feeling she had when she came to campus as a high school senior for Competitive Scholars Day.

“I was able to see firsthand the interconnectedness of Rockhurst, the commitment the University had to its students and the value faculty and staff placed on ‘cura personals,’” she said.

As a student, Floistad has put that value into practice, as president of Delta Sigma Pi, member of Zeta Tau Alpha, and an orientation leader, among others.

As for the future, Floistad said she will stay in Kansas City, with a job at SS&C Technologies as an associate financial analyst and hopefully starting MBA courses in the fall.

 

Logan Tarter

This molecular biology major entered college with a career in medicine in mind. And a global pandemic has done little to change his mind.

“I don’t know about everyone now, but I feel as though this current situation has strengthened my decision for my desired field of study,” he said.

At Rockhurst, Tarter said he learned more than just the workings of the body — he’s also earning a philosophy degree in the bioethics track, complementing his study of the physical aspects of medicine with an understanding of the complex issues that play out in the health care field.

“I kinda fell into the philosophy major after having taken my two core philosophy classes,” Tarter said. “The bioethics discipline was a whole new perspective on things and it was highly interesting and very relevant to what I wanted to do after I graduated.”

He credits his faculty and advisors for helping guide him through his undergraduate experience, as well the additional opportunities Rockhurst offered that enriched his academic experience, such as his service at a local health clinic and the research he was able to do in a course taught by Joanna Cielocha, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, focused on tapeworms — a project that led to a presentation at a parasitology conference last year.

In addition to his academic work, Tarter is a member of Alpha Delta Gamma, Phi Delta Epsilon medical fraternity, and the Order of Omega Greek National Honors Society. In the fall, he will start medical school at A.T. Still University.

 

Melea McRae

As an already established professional in her field who had started her own business, McRae had a lot of experience under her belt when she decided to enroll in the Helzberg Executive MBA program.

But she said there’s always room for growth, and in her program, she found it through interactions with faculty and her fellow students.

“Everyone on the faculty was excellent. I had more interaction and therefore more opportunities for those ‘aha’ moments,” she said. “What I ultimately learned was the importance of understanding the business of my business, and the difference between a leader and a manager — and how to be better at both.”

McRae is the founder and CEO of Crux KC, a local marketing and business strategy firm. Through the EMBA program, she said she stretched her thinking in new ways that helped her grow professionally and, importantly, forged new relationships with peers in her cohort.

Thinking back on a most unusual end to her EMBA experience, she said, has only underscored the qualities that she saw in those classmates — she said she believes that work ethic, determination and perseverance define this EMBA cohort and the Class of 2020 as a whole.

“There will come a day when we can look back and say, ‘We survived the COVID-19 crisis of 2020 and came out stronger on the other side,’” she said.

 

Kathryn Eilerman

A secondary education, English and theology major, Eilerman has long dreamed of becoming a teacher.

But her experience as a student here helped her realize that she wanted to have an impact on the lives of young people during a critical time as they prepare for adulthood.

“I admired my teachers who took a personal interest in my success and well-being, and I hope I am able to build similar relationships with the students in my classroom,” she said.

That’s why she chose secondary education and also why, following graduation, she will join Creighton University’s Magis Catholic Teacher Corps, earning a master’s degree while teaching freshman English at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic High School in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

One of Eilerman’s favorite experiences as a student is one that she said discovered early when she joined Joyful Noise, the contemporary musical group, helping lead student and campuswide liturgies. She said the welcoming, enthusiastic people around her have provided lifelong friendships.

Eilerman said her experience at Rockhurst has taught her the value of jumping at those kinds of opportunities — a lesson that she said doubles as advice for incoming students.

“Whether that is taking a class that will broaden your worldview, saying yes to a new adventure, or taking on new leadership positions, don’t be intimidated by these kinds of life-changing experiences,” she said.

 

Karli Reichert

Reichert’s identity has been largely shaped by two forces — one a group she was born into, another she chose.

Born with unilateral hearing loss, she said she was exposed to the field of audiology from early on. Being around audiologists inspired her to dedicate her career helping others with hearing impairments.

She chose Rockhurst University’s communication sciences and disorders program to kickstart that goal, complementing that work with a psychology degree and heading to the University of Kansas audiology program in the fall.

But Reichert also chose Rockhurst to join a team of a different kind, helping lead the Hawks volleyball team to two NCAA Division II Final Four appearances, two straight Great Lakes Valley Conference titles, and earned numerous awards, including two straight GLVC Scholar Athlete of the Year awards. Her experiences as a member of the team taught her invaluable lessons, she said.

“Coach (Tracy) Rietzke, Brian Tate, and Brett Ferguson foster a team culture based on mental toughness, the ability to withstand high pressure situations, and the drive to succeed as a team,” she said. “While in the moment these skills were great because they created a winning team that was so fun to be a part of, they are also valuable because we can take them with us as we move on to face whatever we encounter in life.” 

 

Lily Lutz

Lutz said she knew a smaller educational environment would be best for her as she entered college. But she said she found so much more during her time at Rockhurst.

She not only fell in love with the study of criminal justice — she will graduate with that and psychology degrees — but also with a campus environment that pushed her to take on leadership opportunities among a tight knit community.

“I truly believe that attending a smaller university has allowed my class to grow closer in ways other schools may not have the opportunity too,” she said. “We have been so lucky to grow closer as individuals along this journey through college.”

Lutz said she also prized the leadership opportunities provided to her. In particular, she said she is proud of her membership in Rockhurst Respect Life throughout her college career. Through that group, she said, she experienced one of her proudest moments — helping bring Sister Helen Prejean to campus in fall 2019 as part of the Visiting Scholar Lecture Series.

As she moves on to her next chapter — a career advocating for youth or for victims in the criminal justice system — she said she can’t imagine what her experience would have been like had she not taken advantage of those opportunities.

“You truly won’t know what you want to be involved in, where you’ll find your passions and so forth if you don’t allow yourself to be adventurous and try everything,” she said.