and Alumni Spotlight
(posted January 7, 2022)
Jill Owen Cornish (SCATS 2002-03; Travel 2003, 2004, 2006; Counselor 2008) graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2011 with a BA in French and English literature, from the University of Kentucky in 2013 with an MA in French and Francophone studies, and from Indiana University in 2019 with a doctorate in French literature. She was recently married and is currently a lecturer in French at Baylor University.
Walter Ecton (SCATS 2001, VAMPY 2002) graduated from Emory University in 2010 with a BA in political science and theater studies; from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, in 2012 with an MLitt in peace and conflict studies; and from Vanderbilt University in 2021 with a PhD in educational leadership and policy studies. He is now a visiting assistant professor in the education policy division at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. His research work primarily focuses on students who take nontraditional pathways through education, with particular focuses on high school students in career and technical education, students who attend college, and students who return to education later in life. He was selected as a 2021-2022 Emerging Education Policy Scholar by the Fordham Institute and American Enterprise Institute. He writes. “My time with The Center was hugely impactful for my educational and career trajectory.” He is on Twitter as @WaltEcton.
Sarah Kennedy (SCATS 2012-13) graduated from WKU in 2021 with a BS in computer science and a BA in French. She is in her first year of pharmacy at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy.
Caleigh Meeks (Super Saturdays 2005-08, SCATS 2010-11) graduated from the University of Louisville with a BS in dental hygiene in 2020. She writes, “I’ve transitioned into ‘adult life’ and have been working at a dental office as a hygienist in Louisville for almost two years. Time has flown by! Lately, I have been planning my next big adventure and looking into grad school opportunities. Teaching seems to run in the family, and I could definitely see myself stepping into an educational setting in the future.”
Tyler Meeks (Super Saturdays 2005-08, SCATS 2009-11, VAMPY 2012-12, Gatton 2015) earned a BS in computer science and mathematics in 2018 from the University of Alabama-Huntsville and an MEng from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2021. He writes, “After graduating from college, I started work with the Department of Defense as a government employee, where I worked on a variety of computer-science problems. After I got my master's degree, I transitioned to contracting. It's a different experience compared to working as a government employee, but I am having the time of my life on my current contract. I plan on staying in the intelligence community for the foreseeable future.”
Jennifer Clark Vogel (SCATS 1992-94) earned a BS in environmental policy and public policy from the University of Miami in 2002, an MBA in marketing and human resources from the University of Tennessee in 2004, and an MS in occupational safety from Eastern Kentucky University in 2018. She writes, "I relocated back to Owensboro in 2010 to begin working for my family's company. I am now co-owner with my parents and brother of three separate companies all related to industrial level fabrication and installation and am an authorized outreach trainer for OSHA standards. Also, I have just completed a term as chairperson of the board of directors of the Foundation for Daviess County Public Schools. In 2023, I will become the president of the Junior League of Owensboro. At home, I have a seven-year-old daughter who plans to attend Super Saturdays, two cats, and two lizards (a bearded dragon and a leopard gecko). I still keep in touch with a friend from SCATS — we can go a long time without talking, then just pick up the phone and talk like no time has passed."
Erin Walch (VAMPY 2009-10, Gatton 20012) earned a BS in biological sciences from Smith College in 2016 and a PhD in biomedical sciences from the University of California-Riverside in 2021. Her dissertation research involved studying volume regulation in the brain cells of mice. She is now a scientist at Eurofins Discovery in San Diego in the field of drug discovery, focusing on in-vivo pharmacology.
Spotlight on: Violet Martin Robb
Violet Martin Robb (VAMPY 2005-07, Counselor 2010) earned a BA in political science and psychology from Vanderbilt University in 2013 and an MS in nursing as a family nurse practitioner from Vanderbilt’s School of Nursing in 2017. She worked in sleep medicine at a private practice for three years and is now studying for her doctorate in nursing practice and starting a new job in Seattle, WA, in the sleep medicine department at Harborview Medical Center, which is affiliated with the University of Washington.
What do nurse practitioners do?
Nurse practitioners are clinicians who can diagnose, treat patients, and order studies and tests. You can see them for your primary care, specialty care, and acute care needs. They work in a variety of settings, from clinics to hospitals, and they have completed either a master's or a doctoral program.
What interested you in becoming a nurse practitioner?
I was part of the pre-nursing society during my undergraduate studies. I really loved health and helping people identify their health needs so they can lead a better life. I chose to become a nurse practitioner because of the emphasis the profession places on the holistic care of patients. I wanted to focus on the emotional, spiritual, and mental aspects of a patient’s care in addition to the disease process. I explored the career more by setting up informational interviews with nurse practitioners I found through the alumni network at my school. Through those conversations and shadowing opportunities, I realized becoming a nurse practitioner was the perfect fit for me.
What drew you to sleep medicine?
I have family members who have had a variety of sleep issues, and I've seen what a significant impact getting better sleep has had on their lives and overall health. Their experiences made me want to look into this practice area, and once I started, I fell in love with this patient population. If you can help someone improve their sleep, it has a cascading effect on all other areas of their life. It’s very rewarding to be a part of that process. In sleep medicine, we treat a variety of conditions. One of the more common conditions we help manage is sleep apnea, which is where someone has difficulty breathing while sleeping and needs a CPAP machine or oral appliance. Another condition we often see is insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Some of the other conditions that we manage that aren’t as common are narcolepsy and hypersomnia syndromes, which cause excessive amounts of daytime sleepiness to the point that a person’s ability to function is impacted.
Has the pandemic impacted your work?
It has impacted it tremendously. I never thought that I would work in telemedicine, but overnight our clinic converted itself to being a fully virtual office. Until that point, we had seen patients strictly in the office; we'd never done telehealth, but once the pandemic began, that was all we were doing. It was a big adjustment, but I really enjoyed it. I found that for a lot of people, it was easier on their schedules to do a virtual visit.
Transitioning from in-person appointments to telehealth changed the dynamics of appointments, especially at first, as we all — patients and providers — learned how to navigate this sudden change. I had to learn how to build rapport with patients without sitting in front of them. It's important, even in person, to set aside time to ask patients about their interests or what they do, finding out about them as people rather than just saying, “What'd you come in here for today? Okay, here's your sleep study results. See you in three months.” It's important to slow down and connect. It leads to better patient outcomes. One of the primary things I’ve learned as a provider during the pandemic is the importance of taking this time to connect with my patients.
Are you focusing on a specific area in your graduate work?
When I went through my master’s program, my area of focus was as a primary care provider. In my doctorate program, I had the option of getting a post-master's certificate to encompass another specialty area, such as pediatrics or psychiatric mental health. I decided not to focus on a new specialty area and elected instead to study nursing leadership. Some of the curriculum is leadership management — learning about leadership styles and personalities, learning more about yourself as a leader, and developing your strengths. Other topics include informatics and health care finance. It's important for nurses to have a seat at the table during discussions about the future and vision of their institution. Learning the language and the inner workings of healthcare organizations empowers nurses to pursue board and leadership positions withing their institutions, which is one of the primary objectives behind the doctorate of nursing practice degree.
What goals do you have for the future?
I'd like to join the faculty at a nursing school. I've been taking a nurse educational course series during my doctorate program to build my knowledge, and I'd like to start teaching within the next five years.
Did you always know you what professional path you would follow? How important is it for young people to know now what they want to do?
My path wasn’t clear cut. There was a period where I was considering being a nurse or a physician and bouncing between the two. I also was planning at one point to go to law school. At the core was helping people. But as a student, I felt like I was supposed to know exactly what I wanted to do and what that path was going to look like. Gifted students can feel like they are supposed to be shining examples for their peers, and it can feel like you're letting people down when you don't have the answers about what you are going to do with your life. But you’re not supposed to have those answers at that young of an age. It's great if you do, but there's nothing wrong if you don't — it just shows that you're exploring, which is what you should be doing.
What do you remember about VAMPY?
It brings a smile to my face because some of the best experiences of my childhood happened at VAMPY. It was all phenomenal — the people and the classes. I went to VAMPY for three years, and the course that stands out most is Dr. Tracy Inman’s Humanities course. It was incredible. We took field trips to a synagogue, a mosque, and a Catholic monastery. I grew up in a rural community in Tennessee that was very homogenous. Going to VAMPY, and especially taking that course, broadened my perspective and deepened my curiosity for other cultures and gave me a greater appreciation for the human experience.
That mindset of curiosity and the ability to be a compassionate and understanding person are critical for all professions, but especially for a healthcare professional. VAMPY had such a profound impact on me. I feel forever grateful to have been able to experience it.
(posted September 13, 2021)
Richard Chandler (Super Saturdays 2014, SCATS 2015) is a freshman at Morehouse University studying biology. He is on Facebook as Richard Chandler and on Instagram as @1.rac.
Jack Clark (VAMPY 2017-19) is attending the University of Mississippi where he plans to study music. He writes, “My years at VAMPY were some of the best I've ever had. I made long-lasting friends that I still talk to. I spent three years at WKU learning important lessons about my classes and life in general. I will always be grateful to the teachers, the counselors and most importantly the Center for allowing me to be a part of that exciting experience.” He is on Instagram at @boomer6j
Maureen Flynn (SCATS 1995) earned a BS in marketing at Xavier University in 2003 and an MBA in marketing from DePaul University in 2013. She writes, “I have worked in a variety of marketing roles across industries, including several Fortune 500 companies in Chicago as well as a startup. I currently manage marketing for Aetna’s Student Health business on a national level. I remember having so much fun at The Center. SCATS brought kids together from all over, and I made so many great friends there. It was fun to be around others who wanted to learn and grow as individuals.” She is on Facebook as Maureen Flynn and Twitter and Instagram as @moflynn2002.
Morgan Giles (VAMPY 2001-04) graduated from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2009 with a BA in Japanese language and culture and in linguistics. From 2017-2019, sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education, she did research in contemporary and modern Japanese literature at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. She now works as a translator of contemporary and modern Japanese fiction and lives in London, England. Her translation of Yu Miri's Tokyo Ueno Station won the 2020 National Book Award for Translated Literature and the UK Translators Association's First Translation Prize; it was also shortlisted for the 2021 PEN America Translation Prize. She says, “I'm really struck as an adult by what a vital and encouraging atmosphere VAMPY was for me and by how many lasting friendships I made there.”
Kara Hodges (Super Saturdays 2002-08, SCATS 2008-10) earned a BA in political science and sociology from WKU in 2018 and an MA in Sociology from WKU in 2019. She writes, “I just got married in July to Jon Warren (Gatton 2012, Counselor 2013-15), who was a counselor the year after I went to SCATS (so we just missed each other!). We met in 2017 and moved to Nashville after I graduated.” She is on Facebook as Kara Hodges and Instagram as karahodges.
Genevieve Jean-Pierre (Super Saturdays 2009-10, VAMPY 2016) is attending Duke University and plans to major in biomedical engineering and computer science. She has “developed an interest in app development and AI and its applications in the health and finance fields and hope to create applications that increase equity within these fields.” She is on Facebook as Gigi JP.
Story Miller (SCATS 2016) is attending the University of Kentucky, where he plans to major in finance and economics. He is on Instagram as @storybookmiller.
Becca Mitchner (Super Saturdays 1999-2002, SCATS 2003-05) earned a BS in 2013 from Murray State University with a double major in recreation & leisure studies and nonprofit leadership studies. Sheearned an MS in 2015 from Murray State in human development and leadership with a dual emphasis in outdoor education and special education. She is the co-director of summer and respite programs as well as the client services manager at the Nuhop Center for Experiential Education in Perrysville, OH. She explains, “I direct a summer camp program that serves neurodivergent youth and young adults, including includes autistic individuals as well as those with learning differences, mood disorders, and other differences. During the school year, I assist with our outdoor education program, which helps elementary and middle school-aged students create a safe connection with nature and their peers.” She is on Facebook as Becca Mitchner.
CJ Sadler (SCATS 2012-12, VAMPY 2014-15 ) earned a BS in human nutrition from the University of Kentucky in 2020 and is now working on a PharmD at the University of Kentucky Pharmacy School.
Finn Shirley (VAMPY 2016-19) is attending East Tennessee State University.
Nikki Shoulders (SCATS 1990) earned her BS in accounting from the University of Kentucky in 2000. She works as an accountant for Davies, Goldstein & Associates and lives in West Jefferson, NC.
Kaitlyn Potzick Slugg (Super Saturdays 1998-2000, SCATS 2000-01) graduated from the University of Louisville with a BA in English and earned a JD from the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law. She is a commercial real estate attorney at Stanley Esrey & Buckley in Atlanta, GA. She and her husband just welcomed her first child, Sophia Marie, on May 25.
Carol Carneal Turse (VAMPY 1989-90) graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1998 with a degree in chemistry and from Washington State University in 2009 with an MS in environmental science. She has taught undergraduate general science courses and conducted research for NASA's astrobiology program, and she currently teaches chemistry as a professional teaching associate at Cornell University.
Elizabeth Page Velasquez (Super Saturdays 1998, SCATS 2001) earned a BS in marketing science at MIT in 2011: “Being from Kentucky and not studying a hard science, I wasn't the typical MIT student, but going to school with people from all over the world who were way smarter than me taught me tons about how to communicate and fit myself into the world. Now I work for a research consulting firm that helps clients become more obsessed with their own customers' needs. I currently manage a newly-formed team of data analysts who translate our scads of consumer and business data into valuable insight for our clients in a range of industries and across the globe.” She and her husband, Josh, live in Minneapolis where they work from home and raise their four-year-old daughter, Ava.
Alice Whitaker (VAMPY 2017-18) moved with her family from Bowling Green to Wellington, New Zealand, in 2018. She is studying speech and language pathology at the University of Canterbury. She writes, “VAMPY was an incredible environment that taught me it’s possible to spend quality time with friends while also focusing on your studies and enjoying learning.” She is on Facebook as Alice Whitaker and on Instagram as alicewhitakerr.
Taylor Young (Super Saturdays 2010-11, SCATS 2011-12, VAMPY 2013-15, Gatton 2017) graduated from the University of Louisville with a BS in chemical engineering in 2021. He lives in Louisville.
Past interviews can be found in our Alumni Spotlight Archive.