skip to Main Content

’91 grad to teach at international Jazzercise event

Stacie (Fleshman) Barnes ’91 fell in love with Jazzercise the first time she tried it more than 20 years ago, and now she is celebrating her 20th anniversary as a certified instructor along with the 50th anniversary of the dance-based fitness company. Barnes also is a Jazzercise franchise owner and will be part of the company’s international celebration in June as an instructor for its East vs. West program.

Barnes will be one of many presenters at the company’s 50 Years Strong Celebration in San Diego, Calif., which will include two full days of exercise classes for Jazzercise instructors and the public. She was selected after submitting a video of her instruction technique and is honored and thrilled to be a part of the event, she said.

“I’m just really excited,” she said. “Being up in front of thousands of people will be a way different experience than being in front of a class of 40 or 45 people.”

Barnes is confident she will be well prepared for the large class because Jazzercise will provide her with the music and choreography, just as the company does for all the routines taught at its 8,200 franchises worldwide. She also will receive free exercise wear and likely a pair of athletic shoes. She has attended several events for Jazzercise instructors over the years, but this is her first time to lead a class.

Barnes attended her first Jazzercise class in 1998 in New Albany at the invitation of her friend and classmate Tricia (Stiller) Kirchgessner ’91. Immediately, Barnes loved the dance-based fitness program. Within a year, she went through the training process and auditioned to become an instructor at the owner level because she saw the advantage of owning her own franchise.

After teaching in downtown New Albany for a while, she opened the first Jazzercise franchise in Corydon at the historic Leora Brown School. She taught classes three days a week as the site’s only instructor. After 18 months, though, she decided she wanted to return to college. Having previously received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University Southeast in 1995, she enrolled in the University of Louisville to study speech and language pathology.

While she was taking college classes, Barnes continued to teach Jazzercise as a substitute instructor. Then came an opportunity to become an instructor at a Jazzercise franchise in Prospect, Ky. She had moved to Louisville by that time, so she took on that role. When the owner wanted to sell the franchise, she realized she missed owning her own business and took advantage of the opportunity in June 2008.

In late 2011, she purchased a second franchise with the intention of merging the two locations. Operating two locations meant she had to hold classes on separate nights so that she could be at each location, even with other instructors to help teach. Merging, however, allowed her to increase the number of instructors and the number of classes offered. Additionally, the Prospect location was in a church basement, and signage ordinances prevented her from posting a sign on the exterior or in front of the building, so growth there was limited to word of mouth.

“It just made better business sense,” Barnes said.

With that purchase, she decided to lease space in the Holiday Manor shopping center on Brownsboro Road in Louisville. Signing a lease was a big step up from renting a room in a church basement and a bit intimidating, Barnes said. The lease was for five years and a commitment to build her business to make the monthly payment.

“I had to take a leap of faith, and I had to say, ‘I want this,’” she said.

Her Jazzercise Louisville East Premier Fitness Center has been a success from the beginning. It’s location in a highly visible and high traffic strip mall attracts plenty of new customers, she said

“That’s been a key component to our success,” Barnes said.

Three years ago, she bought the Jazzercise Jeffersonville Fitness Center, located on 10th Street next to Maxwell’s House of Music. She owned both locations for a little over a year until her husband lost his job and she needed to take on a second job to help out. She sold the Jeffersonville location but continues to operate the Louisville East location.

Barnes said she loves being a part of the Jazzercise company and being an instructor. The company provides marketing materials and administrative support as well as choreographed lessons and music. Each class is tailored to target various muscles and provide aerobic exercise in a fun atmosphere while offering low to high impact options as well as strength training. Thirty new choreographed lessons arrive every six weeks, which keeps the routines and music fresh for students and instructors.

During her two decades as a certified instructor, Barnes met and married her husband, Chad, and had a daughter who is now 11. For a time, her husband, who is a ballroom dance instructor, also was a certified Jazzercise instructor at her fitness center. She hopes someday her daughter will join her as an instructor and maybe even take over the business.

Barnes also is an assessment coordinator for the Jazzercise Training & Development Department. She views submitted videos of instructors around the world and offers coaching to help them improve their technique. Being able to talk with instructors from other countries, people she never would have met otherwise, is just one of the many things she loves about her business.

As for the 50 Years Strong Celebration in June, Barnes and her family are looking forward to making it a vacation. And she is looking forward to teaching in front of her peers. It’s the culmination of all her efforts over the years, doing a job that doesn’t feel like work.

“I absolutely love Jazzercise,” Barnes said. “I don’t know what I would do without it. It’s been with me 20 years. I found what I love.”

Thank you for reading the eVision. If you would like to receive the twice-monthly publication in your inbox, sign up here.

Ivy League grad schools feel like home for 2 alumni

Most of our alumni earn a bachelor’s degree within a few years of their Providence graduation, and many of them continue on to graduate school to pursue professional careers, from medicine to law. These alumni are just as discerning about which is the right school for their desired program as their parents were about choosing Providence. Two recent alumni have chosen Ivy League schools to complete their schooling, in part because of the community atmosphere that is similar to what they experienced as Pioneers. Corby Burger ’12 is pursuing a juris doctorate degree at Cornell Law School at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., and Derek Wenning ’14 is pursuing a doctorate in economics at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Question: How did your major evolve from pre-med at DePauw to law school?

Corby Burger: When I first got to DePauw, I planned on majoring in biochemistry. I wanted to go to medical school after graduation or maybe get into the research side of things. I enjoyed my pre-med courses and got pretty good grades. Things changed when I took a comparative politics course during the second semester of my freshman year. The course boiled down to a single question: “What is a State, and what purpose does it serve?” I loved the challenge of answering such a vast, all-encompassing question; a question with no “right” answer. In the hard sciences, you try to answer questions about how the world works. In the social sciences, you’re not only asking how the world works, but you’re often trying to decide how the world should work. What is fair? What is just? Who should make these decisions in our society? I was hooked on the ambiguity inherent to these normative questions, and eventually I changed my major to political science.

To me, political science is the ultimate liberal arts major. It required me to synthesize history, psychology, philosophy, economics, statistics, and a host of other fields in order to formulate and defend my arguments. I entertained notions of going to grad school for political science, but I didn’t want to stay in academia. I wanted to be closer to the action, I wanted to see the results of my work in the real world, I wanted to work on behalf of others, and I needed a career that would allow me to help support my family.

Law school was the obvious choice. 

Question: How did you choose your undergrad and grad school major?

Derek Wenning: I enrolled at IU-Bloomington as a physics major, which I quickly found out was the wrong decision. I had always loved math, so I switched my major to mathematics in my second semester with the intention of becoming an actuary. This route forced me to take an introductory microeconomics course. After doing very well in the course, I decided to challenge myself and enrolled in the honors intermediate microeconomics course the following fall semester. It was this class, taught by Dr. James Walker, my eventual thesis advisor and good friend, that really opened my eyes to what economics was and how it could be used to understand the institutions around us and rationalize the human behavior that these institutions incentivized. Dr. Walker, as well as a handful of other phenomenal professors, inspired me to work my way towards enrolling in an economics Ph.D.

Q: Describe the process of choosing your graduate school.

CB: After I graduated from DePauw, I worked as a legal intern in the Office of the Prosecutor for the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I helped put together a case against former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladić for genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws of war. I had a fantastic experience at the ICTY and was fortunate enough to befriend people from all around the world. I loved being a part of the prosecutorial team, and I left The Hague confident in my decision to pursue a career in the law. Now the hard part was trying to get accepted into a top-tier program.

I applied to a number of different law schools, but with only three weeks left before the beginning of the 2017 semester, I was still on the admissions waitlist at all my top schools: Cornell, Columbia, NYU, and Georgetown. I had offers from Vanderbilt, George Washington, UCLA, and a few others, but I knew I had to do something to get a spot at one of my top choices. Be it right or wrong, where you go to law school matters. Your choice of law school greatly affects the range of opportunities you’ll have when you graduate. I knew I wanted to work in New York when I graduated from law school, so I needed a law school that would allow me to break into the NYC legal market.

At the time, I was living with my parents in New Albany. I was working in quality control at Globe (a New Albany business with strong ties to Providence). I was thankful to have a job and for the opportunity to spend more time with my parents, but now that I was back in Southern Indiana, my goal of attending a top-tier law school seemed incredibly far away. I was tired of sitting around, twiddling my thumbs, waiting to hear back from these schools. I felt I needed to make my own luck, so I decided to visit each of my top-choice schools and see if I could somehow get myself off the waitlist. It took me two planes and two buses to get to Ithaca, N.Y., but when I finally arrived, I had the pleasure of meeting with the director of admissions. We talked about why I wanted to come to Cornell and the reasons why Cornell stands apart from other elite law schools. Cornell Law only has around 600 J.D. students, which is small when compared to a place like NYU, which has something like double the number of J.D. students. I wanted a place that would feel like home, in the same way that DePauw and Providence felt like home – a tightknit, collaborative community where I could forge friendships with my classmates and build relationships with my professors.

Fortunately, I received a call from the Cornell Law dean of students just three days before orientation began. She let me know that I’d been admitted off the waitlist. I packed my bags and made the move to Ithaca. I think I can safely say that, even before I knew where I had been admitted, Cornell Law was my first-choice school. But in all honesty, my final decision on where to attend law school was relatively straightforward: Cornell was the “best” law school that I got into. Cornell took a chance on me, and ever since then I’ve been determined not to waste this opportunity.

DW: I applied to a total of 11 schools: NYU, MIT, Northwestern, Princeton, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UCLA, Caltech, Brown, Cornell, and Stanford. I was accepted at Princeton, San Diego, Caltech, Brown, and Cornell, and waitlisted at NYU and UCLA (I removed myself from these after committing to Princeton).

In the spring, Princeton flew me out to visit along with the other accepted graduate students, and I got to meet several professors and current graduate students, as well as sit in on courses and seminars and tour the campus. I made my decision to commit before I even left to come back home, and for a couple reasons.

First, both professors and students had such a friendly and relaxed demeanor. From what I understand, this isn’t always common in top Ph.D. programs, as professors are heavily focused on their research and other graduate students are trying to outperform their peers to get the most attention from busy professors. This was not the case here. On the contrary, professors at Princeton are always happy to speak with you when you need them. The interactions between the students are less competitive than other schools and instead prefer to collaborate with each other. These are the kind of peers that are desirable both in research and in life.

Second, Princeton’s faculty encompass a very wide range of topics, and virtually anything one might want to study or research can be accomplished here. This was especially attractive to me, since my research experience was limited, and I knew my own future research agenda was likely subject to change (and, as it turned out, it has).

Q: How do you like the school? What is it like attending an Ivy League school?

CB: I have had a fantastic experience at Cornell Law thus far. I’m endlessly impressed with the quality of education I’m receiving. It’s been a privilege to learn from professors who are leading experts in their respective fields. More than a few times I’ve taken courses with professors who have actually written the textbook we use in class.

My fellow students are smart, ambitious, and passionate about what they do. I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime, and I’ve built relationships that are sure to be invaluable as I move forward in my career.

In winter, Ithaca, is cold. Really cold. But the harshness of the upstate winter is made bearable by the beauty of Cornell’s campus. A series of plunging gorges divide the campus, with waterfalls that stair-step down to Cayuga Lake. The campus is dotted with imposing siltstone buildings, with more than a few boasting rising bell towers. Ornate libraries provide some relief from the elements and make the long days and nights spent studying a little more tolerable. The law school itself is gilded with history and prestige, but it gives off an aura of openness and amiability.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to find success in my studies. I’ve been on the Dean’s List a couple of times, and I’m an associate on the Cornell Law Review. The Law Review is Cornell’s flagship legal journal, and it’s read by practitioners and academics around the world. I help to edit, refine, and source-check the articles published in the journal.

The real highlight of time at Cornell has been competing in moot court competitions. Moot court is a tournament-style competition centered around appellate-level oral advocacy. Basically, you get up in front of a panel of judges and present your argument as to why the law should be a certain way. During your presentation, the judges ask questions and pose hypotheticals that challenge your position.

During my first year, I was fortunate enough to win the 2018 Langfan First-Year Moot Court Competition. A majority of the first-year class competes in this tournament, and it was my first opportunity to put the skills I had developed in the classroom to use on a real legal problem. Winning Langfan meant so much to my family and me, as it reaffirmed my belief that I could find success in pursuing a career in the law.

This past semester, as a second-year law student, my partner and I won the 2018 Cuccia Family Moot Court Competition. Both second- and third-year Cornell Law students compete in the Cuccia tournament, and we faced some really outstanding competition from our classmates. During the final round of the tournament, my partner and I had the extraordinary honor of arguing before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. I argued for 15 minutes before a panel of five federal judges, led by Justice Sotomayor, who peppered me with questions during the course of my presentation. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I’m happy to say that my partner and I prevailed in the final round and won the Cuccia Cup.

DW: I love it. My expectations that formed following my initial visit have certainly been met and continue to be surpassed daily. The campus, which was founded in 1746, is full of life and stories, which I am fortunate enough to hear about (and see!) frequently. This adds a lot of value to living here. There are also many opportunities to enjoy the arts other than the gothic architecture, such as jazz recitals and theatrical performances.

The academics are the perfect level of challenging; not unbearable, but certainly a full-time job. Seminars, in which professors and researchers are flown in to give presentations on their frontier research, are especially useful and are perhaps my favorite part of the academic lifestyle. They have exposed me to new ways of thinking and state of the art research I may not have discovered otherwise.

Surprisingly, (attending an Ivy League school) is pretty similar to my experience at IU (minus roughly 30,000 students). There is the familiar bustling of life that IU had, with a fraction of the student body involved in sports, a portion involved in the community, and then the happy-go-lucky few that are just here for school and parties. Of course, I don’t notice this as much as I did when I was at IU since undergraduate life and graduate life don’t intertwine very often, but overall, it feels like a fairly normal place.

Q: What are some of the highlights of your education journey? Was there a teacher at PHS who helped you see that you could accomplish your goals?

CB: I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for my family. My parents – John and Sherrie Burger – worked tirelessly so that I could attend Providence. I’m a first-generation college student, and my parents were convinced that a quality education was my ticket to a better future. If you asked my mom and dad today, they’d tell you that their investment in my Catholic education was worth every penny. I wholeheartedly agree, because I know that I’m where I am today because of the lessons I learned – inside and outside the classroom – at Providence High School.

I had an incredible roster of teachers and coaches during my time at Providence. I could go on and on about almost each and every one of them. I have to credit Ms. Judith Manning with helping me become the person I am today. When I first met Ms. Manning, I was a restless, over-talkative, somewhat mischievous sophomore. I enjoyed school, but I didn’t give my classes the full attention they deserved.

Ms. Manning instilled in me a sense of agency, and she taught me to carry myself with pride in everything I do. She helped me to understand that anything done half-heartedly is only half-done. She taught me how to find joy in learning something new. She instilled in me a love for history and politics, and this ultimately blossomed into my interest in the law.

Most importantly, she taught me to dream big and she taught me to have faith. She helped me to see obstacles not as intimidating or limiting, but as challenges to be overcome. It sounds cheesy, but I actually remember a moment, one day after class, when Ms. Manning told me that I could do anything I wanted to in life. I laughed and jokingly rolled my eyes. She looked at me, not a shred of doubt in her eyes, and she said, “No, I’m telling you, you can be anything you want to be.” I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but something changed in that moment, and it still motivates me to this day. Why not dream big?

I’m proud to attend an Ivy League institution, and I’m proud of the work that I put in to get here. But with that said, attending Cornell is just another step in the process. I’ve got a lot of work to do if I want to realize my full potential as an attorney, and, more importantly, even more work to do in trying to be the best person I can be.

I’m thankful to have an opportunity to share my story. I would love to see more PHS kids go to Ivy League schools in the coming years. I don’t think Providence students shouldn’t see the Ivies as out of their reach. The students at these types of “elite” institutions are smart, they’re hard-working, and they’re ambitious; but I knew plenty of kids at Providence with these same characteristics.

DW: I certainly have many highlights along my path. At Providence, I can name a few, namely (a) having the second highest score amongst all seniors in the district on the Math Team, and (b) being awarded the Sister Joseph-Louise Mathematics Award my senior year.

At IU, my proudest moments came my junior year after I had done an independent study on auction theory, which culminated in a paper comparing the efficiency criterion of two auction designs as they related to spectrum licenses. I presented this paper at two conferences. For the first, held at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), I was awarded second place presentation, and for the second, the Jordan River Conference at IU, I was awarded best undergraduate paper. Presenting my work in front of a room of other economists really solidified my desire to do research.

Two PHS teachers in particular stand out to me. The first was Stephanie Mauk, who taught calculus at the time. Senior year was around the time I became seriously interested in academic work, and she pushed me that year to my full potential. The second was Scott Hutchins, from whom I took AP chemistry. While I didn’t go down the chemistry route, Mr. Hutchins was an excellent teacher and would always talk to me about interesting applications of the material we learned after class. He was a large influence on my interest in research.

Q: What is your expected graduation date and your career goals?

CB: I’m a second-year law student at Cornell. I’ve got three more semesters to go before I graduate in May 2020. I’ve decided to pursue a career in litigation. This summer, I’ll be working for a well-regarded law firm in New York City as a summer associate. Hopefully, if I can prove my worth as an associate, I’ll be asked to return to the firm for a full-time position after I graduate.

DW: The norm for economics Ph.D. candidates is slowly transitioning to graduating after six years – two years of course work, and four years of research. This puts my expected graduation date at May 2024. My hope upon completion of my degree is to work in academia, specifically as a professor, so that I can pursue a career in research. Of course, the academic job market is viciously competitive, so backup plans include working for the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, or Federal Reserve.

Thank you for reading the eVision. If you would like to receive the twice-monthly publication in your inbox, sign up here.

Alumnus starts think tank to help chaplains

As a freshman at Indiana University, Michael Skaggs ’05, Ph.D., could not have envisioned himself in the career he is in now. His goal then was to have a successful business career. He soon switched from business to history, earning his bachelor’s degree with a focus on Modern Europe. He followed that with a master’s in history (Modern Britain) from the University of Louisville and a second master’s in 20th-Century U.S. History from the University of Notre Dame, followed by his doctorate in history focusing on 20th-Century American religion, also from Notre Dame.

As he pursued his doctorate and in the year following his graduation in 2017, he took on various research projects, which led him to study chaplains working in various U.S. seaports. He soon realized that chaplains were in many more unexpected areas rathen than traditional locations like hospitals, the armed forces, and universities. They were working in airports, casinos, race tracks, and “anywhere where people are, where they might find themselves in need,” he said.

During his research, he also realized there was a need to bring chaplains, educators, and researchers together to focus on topics to elevate the profession. In early October, he launched the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, of which he serves as executive director. The lab, essentially a think tank, is under the auspices of Brandeis University of Boston, with Skaggs working out of his South Bend home.

Skaggs focuses on public relations, grant writing, and fundraising as he works to spread the word about the lab around the country. The lab’s purpose is to bring researchers, chaplains, and educators at seminaries and divinity schools together “for common conversations” about training, education, and other topics. The lab has already hosted a webinar led by an airport chaplain and has another this week with chaplains from a prison and from a psychiatric center.

During his various research projects, Skaggs became interested in the falling numbers of people who affiliated with formal religion and the growing number of those who claimed to have no faith. At the same time, people continue to grapple with “the big questions in life,” some from the perspective of faith or religion while many did not have that support system, he said. He found that chaplains are tending to fill that void where pastors once served.

In airports, chaplains may help passengers in distress over flight delays or cancellations as they try to make the funeral of a family member – or they may welcome the remains of a service member killed in action. At racetracks, they may work with stable staff members, leading religious services or simply being a listening ear. The same goes for chaplains in seaports, who welcome people of all faiths, including many non-Christians, after being isolated for months at sea.

“Anywhere where people are, where they might find themselves in need, a chaplain could be there,” he said.

As chaplains are working in more and more nontraditional locations, the need to train them for this versatile type of work is growing. At the same time, seminaries and divinity schools are realizing they can fill their declining enrollments by providing more chaplaincy education programs. The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab can help all of them – including those who may be wondering if chaplaincy is the right career for them.

The lab also is working to help improve the perception of chaplains as professionals. In the past, the perception was that those “who couldn’t cut it … in congregation work were dumped” into chaplaincy programs, Skaggs said. But the reality is far from that past scenario. And his lab is working with chaplains and educators to portray chaplaincy as a profession filled with caring people skilled at helping those of any or no faith in a variety of crises.

“We would like to see it recognized as the significant profession that it is,” Skaggs said. “Chaplains, even if they’re not doing really flashy grand work like trying to end racism or religious violence, their work is important.”

Michael Skaggs ’05 lives in South Bend, Ind., with his wife, Caroline (Wadsworth) Skaggs ’05, and their two sons, ages 3 and 4. They are expecting their third child in December.

Thank you for reading the eVision. If you would like to receive the twice-monthly publication in your inbox, sign up here.

Schmidts spend fall break on medical mission trip

Helping others is just part of who Dr. Toni (Sartini) Schmidt ’78 is. Whether she is working with a patient in her Palmyra dental practice or in the Dominican Republic on a medical mission trip, she simply wants the person to feel better. She has been working with patients in her office for nearly 30 years, and earlier this month shared her dental expertise on her fourth mission trip.

Schmidt started going on the trips when her oldest daughter, Peyton ’14, was a sophomore as a way to help her experience serving others in need in other countries. She later took her daughter Maria ’16, and her husband, Mike ’78, took their son, Manny ’18, a few years later. Schmidt also has gone on a medical mission trip on her own, and this was her first with her husband. They accompanied a group from Northside Christian Church in New Albany, which partnered with Casa por Christo, a group that built a home during the trip.

Mike, who helped in her dental practice in its early years, called on those dental skills once again and served as her dental assistant. Toni Schmidt was only able to perform tooth extractions, so she focused on dental hygiene education for most of the patients. The pair worked well together, even in the primitive conditions, with Mike having to kneel on the floor because the dental chair was so low to the ground.

Schmidt said despite the poverty of the area and the stark conditions, the pair felt richly blessed by the people they served. They prayed with every patient following their treatment, and were also blessed by that experience. In one instance, the medical team and some patients were in a circle praying when a young teenage boy asked to lead the prayer. When she asked for the translation, she learned that he had prayed for her, her helper, and their family at home.

“It just touched us so deeply,” she said.

Schmidt also was touched by the similarities that she shared with many of the mothers with whom she worked. She realized that many of the people often wait until they are in pain before seeking dental care. So she focused on education to encourage them to care for their teeth to prevent the need for pulling them. When she talked to the children and teenagers through a translator, she heard the same thing from their mothers that she does in Indiana – that they just won’t brush their teeth.

“We’re all the same,” Schmidt said.

Helping other organizations
Providing dental care in the Dominican Republic wasn’t the only service to others Schmidt provided recently. In September, she raised $15,000 in donations for Hosparus at its annual Dancing with the Stars fundraiser, a competition she almost had to cancel thanks to having broken her foot in May. After seven weeks using a scooter, she was healed in just enough time to begin dancing practice.

Schmidt said she was glad for the opportunity to help such an organization – and for an excuse to get back in shape after not being able to walk. Now she is back to running but regrets she will likely never run a marathon again since her foot can’t take the stress. An avid runner for years, she has run in the Kentucky Derby Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in her brother Gino Sartini ‘82’s name. Instead, she’ll focus on shorter races.

And now that she’s home again, she’ll focus on her family and her patients. She enjoys dentistry as much she has always since 1986, when she earned her dental degree while serving in the U.S. Army Reserves. Her first few years as a dentist were in active duty at Ft. Knox, but she has led her own private practice since 1989.

“I love it,” she said of being a dentist. “I like the artistic part of it. I like that I can make someone feel more confident and have compassion not to hurt them. Then they become a patient who likes going to the dentist.”

As for future medical mission trips, Schmidt said she likely will go but doesn’t know when – until she feels God calling her to it. She has taken a trip about every two years with a team from Northside and Casa por Christo. She likes being part of that group because the mission is well organized, and she has always felt safe no matter in which country they serve. And she is happy for the chance to share the Gospel along with dental care education.

“Everyone has something (medical expertise) they can bring,” she said. “For me, it wasn’t about how many teeth I pulled; it was about serving and educating. I wanted to let them know we all serve the same God.”

Serving God is the main impetus for each of her trips.

“I feel like I’m being obedient to God’s word when he says to go out and spread the Gospel to the nations,” she said. “If I can be a part of that, that’s what I want to be.”

Thank you for reading the eVision. If you would like to receive the twice-monthly publication in your inbox, sign up here.

Alumni couple finds new opportunity in far north

Dr. Erin Schroeder-Anderson ’04 loves being a dentist. She also enjoyed running her own practice in Floyds Knobs — except for the parts that had nothing to do with dentistry. She found herself working on the business side and with insurance companies into the evenings and taking time away from her young daughter and her husband, Christian Schroeder-Anderson ’05. So when an opportunity to practice dentistry without the hassles of business management came about, she realized it was something she couldn’t pass up, even though it meant moving more than nine hours away to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. And it meant her husband needed to find a new job as well.

Now almost six months in their new home, the Schroeder-Andersons said it was the best move their family could have made. Erin is the primary dentist in the St. Ignace Health & Human Services Center run by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of the Chippewa Indians. And Christian has a job with the tribe as well, as a foster care specialist with Anishnaabek Community and Family Services.

Erin heard about the job from a friend from dental school, who previously held the position but was leaving for a new opportunity. When Erin and Christian saw the dental facility and the natural beauty of the area, they said they knew they couldn’t pass up the chance.

Professionally, they both love their new roles. Erin is able to work in a state-of-the-art clinic that provides free dental care to members of the Sault (pronounced like Sioux) Tribe and dental services to all Native Americans. The services are paid for through a mix of government funding and Sault Tribe resources, much of it through casino revenue. Christian works with tribal families in the areas of foster care and adoptions.

Personally, they’ve enjoyed the best the Upper Peninsula has to offer – stunning scenery, beautiful lakes for kayaking and paddle boarding, and dense forests for hiking and rock climbing.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Christian said. “It’s a mix of everything, a lot of evergreen, birch … rolling hills to large fields. There are hay farmers in Pickford. To the west is Hiawatha National Forest, which has large forested areas spattered with lakes.”

Granted, they have yet to face a winter, which they’ve heard can be brutal – although shortly after they arrived last April there was a “rare” snowfall that brought the total to three feet of powder on the ground, Christian said. But the snow means easy access to snowboarding, something they both look forward to. And they’ve heard that the community is prepared for such accumulation and there are plenty of days above freezing.

“The tourists are gone by then, and life is slower,” Christian said. “It’s just slow living. That appeals to both of us.”

If they want city life, they can take a short drive to Sault Ste. Marie or Canada. If they want a tourist destination, they can drive south to Mackinac Island.

They both appreciate that Erin doesn’t have to devote so much time to running a practice and that they have more time together. Erin said she enjoys the benefit of running a multi-million-dollar facility that provides top-of-the-line care at little or no cost to most of its patients – without having to give time in the evenings.

“I get to run the clinic the way I want to,” Erin said. “And it’s so nice being able to shut the doors for the day and go home and see my family and not have more work to do.”

Christian enjoys his work in the foster care system, which is similar to what he did previously. He said like all foster care specialists, he still struggles with a shortage of foster families, but he does find it heartening how the tribe cares for all its members. Federal law requires the culture of the Native American children be preserved by placing them in homes conducive to immersing them in their history, but there is a stronger sense of protecting each member of the tribe. The children he works with also show great personal strength.

“Every day is a bit more humbling,” he said. “These children are not only facing historical trauma (as Native Americans) but also acute, complex trauma in their lives. Their resiliency in the face of that is unbelievably humbling.”

Christian also appreciates the resiliency of the Sault Tribe, which was one of the first to seek and win its financial independence. Its efforts and wise self-management allow for the free medical and dental services as well as other services. The tribe places an emphasis on preserving its cultural heritage, and the Schroeder-Andersons have enjoyed attending pow wows where that culture is on display.

Erin’s contract is for two years, and they plan to make the most of their experience during that time, Erin and Christian said. Being away from family and friends and the area where they lived their entire lives previously is difficult, but they love their work and the area so much, they may be tempted to stay longer, they said.

“We love Louisville and New Albany, and at some point we might end up back down there,” Christian said. “But the slower pace here is freeing and absolutely liberating,”

It helps that their families visit and that technology enables them to stay in touch otherwise, especially for their daughter to see her grandparents. So for now, they plan to stay and make the most of the experience.

“We miss everybody from home, but we’re having a great time up here,” Erin said. “It’s a great opportunity to provide a public service to people in the middle of nowhere.”

Thank you for reading the eVision. If you would like to receive the twice-monthly publication in your inbox, sign up here.

Local attorney helps physician stay in U.S.

As an attorney and Clarksville town judge, Jimmie Guilfoyle ’05 has heard many stories from clients and trial defendants. But few moved him like that of Dr. Ali, a Louisville intensive care pulmonary specialist and a native of Syria. The physician works at the same Louisville hospital with Guilfoyle’s wife, Casey, a nurse. Dr. Ali had heard her husband was an attorney and one day earlier this year approached her to see if he might be able to help him resolve his stagnant Permanent Residence Card application.

She immediately called her husband, and upon hearing his story, Guilfoyle picked up the phone and started calling anyone he could think of to help. Thanks to his efforts, Dr. Ali can now remain working in the United States and travel to see his family for the first time in years.

Prior to helping Dr. Ali, Guilfoyle had no experience in immigration law. In fact, he didn’t know where to begin to help him, but he knew he had to.

“I heard a story that pulled at my heart, and I took a vested personal interest in this man because of who I perceived him to be, and I was just not going to stop until we accomplished this,” Guilfoyle said.

Dr. Ali, on left, poses with his uncle, an Atlanta surgeon who has become like a father to him since he has been unable to return home.

Dr. Ali first came to the United States 10 years ago after earning his medical degree from the University of Aleppo. Under a student visa, he completed his residency and came to Louisville under a fellowship and opted to stay. In the meantime, the civil war in Syria broke out.

His family was scattered, his brother was killed in an air strike on civilians, and his parents’ home was severely damaged by bombs several times. His desire to return home to practice medicine after completing his fellowship waned the more he became accustomed to the freedoms and the acceptance he experienced in this country and as his home country was destroyed by war.

“From the first time I came to this country, they treated me with the utmost dig and respect,” Dr. Ali said. “I have an accent. I look different. But no one treated me like I didn’t belong. I always wanted to serve this country because it treated me with the utmost respect and dignity. I came from country where it is a dictatorship – I love my country. It was beautiful before the war – but on the other hand, the dictatorship was on our neck. To be able to come from that country and be treated like I was treated – I appreciate what this country gave me.”

The physicians’s application for his Green Card, as it is more commonly known, had been filed several years ago and despite efforts of immigration attorneys in New York, had yet to be processed and was soon to expire. That meant losing his job, losing his home, and even the potential of facing arrest or execution upon his return to Syria.

Guilfoyle started the process of helping him by reaching out to those he thought could make a difference. After several leads and attempts, he finally was able to speak to Rep. John Yarmuth and share Dr. Ali’s story – and the sense of urgency. If Dr. Ali were to be deported, he likely would be arrested in part because he did not comply with the country’s mandatory military service requirement, either by enlisting or paying the fee to defer it. And he has been vocal against the war and the regime. Those who are arrested for such crimes are never seen again, Dr. Ali said.

After Rep. Yarmuth heard Dr. Ali’s story, his office reached out to the U.S. Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington, D.C., and the application finally began to be processed – although with no guarantee of approval. Then in June, Dr. Ali finally did receive his Green Card and is now classified as a permanent resident. He can continue to work here and can now travel to see his family for the first time. A family reunion in a country neighboring Syria is already in the works.

Dr. Ali said he is immensely grateful to the efforts Guilfoyle underwent on his behalf – all without charge.

“He went above and beyond for no benefit except to help me,” Dr. Ali said. “He’s trying to help people. He’s trying to help his country. Not only me, but my family, my parents, they are so grateful.”

Guilfoyle said he was happy to help. He sees Dr. Ali as an asset to our community, as a brilliant physician, and as a person who needed his hope restored.

“He’s a son; he’s a brother; he bleeds red just like we do,” Guilfoyle said. “By all accounts everything he’s done in his life is either to improve his lot in life or improve somebody else’s. I don’t see why it makes it any diff where he was born. If that the kind of person you are, I want you in my community. As far as what I did, I don’t feel like I did a whole lot for him except making a lot of phone calls.”

Thank you for reading the eVision. If you would like to receive the twice-monthly publication in your inbox, sign up here.

Alumnus artist to create sculpture in China

Guy Tedesco ’80 has more ideas for blessing the world with beautiful sculptures than he has the funding to create them. But he continues to promote his work, his proposals, and his art in hopes he will be able to bring his ideas to life. He realizes he’ll likely always be a “starving artist,” he said, but he can’t help but create.

His next project will take him to south China to Chengdu, where he will create a life-size pegasus with a 20-foot wingspan as part of the city’s efforts to integrate art into its park system. Tedesco is still negotiating the details but expects to travel to China in a few weeks to create the original for the art piece that will become a bronze statue crafted by Chinese artisans.

Typically, such a project would take about three years, with Tedesco following the creation of the original with a mold, a wax casting, a second mold, and then the final metal casting. But Chengdu wants the project completed sooner and will have its artists do much of the creation under Tedesco’s occasional supervision with the target unveiling in November.

“This project is on China time,” he joked.

Tedesco is one of about 40 artists from around the world who were invited to submit projects as part of Chengdu’s sister cities program, which connects the city to Louisville. He said he chose the Pegasus because it is an international symbol of rebirth and advancing to the future, representing the ancient Chinese city’s recent modernization, and Louisville’s heritage.

The sculpture will be cast of stainless steel in order to give it a white look and to provide structural integrity as the horse’s small ankles support the long wings in all manner of weather, including wind. He will also use bronze accents on the mane and tail and resin in the feathers to create a rippling color effect. The base will contain relief images representing Chengdu’s and Louisville’s histories, including likely images of buffalo, American Indians, horseracing, and the medical field, Tedesco said.

As exciting as it sounds to create a project in China, like many of his projects, the payment he is negotiating will likely barely cover his costs. But he hopes that media coverage of his work will help him get future work and funding for his project ideas. He also is planning to start a speaker series as another way to pay his bills while he seeks funding and works on other projects.

“This is fitting in with my overall plan at the moment,” Tedesco said.

One upcoming project is a statue of the late Cardinal Joseph Ritter, who was born in New Albany, became a bishop of Indianapolis and St. Louis, and was named Indiana’s only cardinal. The project will represent Cardinal Ritter’s efforts to desegregate Catholic schools – decades before public schools – and unify people of different races and faiths.

That project will depict Cardinal Ritter with three children, one with the cardinal pushing over a glass wall, and the other two children burying the glass blocks engraved on one side with negative words to allow the positive words on the other side to face up. Tedesco said he hopes to involve Providence students on the project in some way. He often invites others to contribute to his projects, from a Louisville Presbyterian church whose members created small glass crosses that joined together to form one large cross to handprints that became part of the Stations of the Cross at Norton Audobon Hospital.

Fundraising for the project hasn’t started, but Tedesco said he is so confident that it will be financially supported that he plans to start work soon “on the faith that it’s going to happen.”

Tedesco said it’s a project that needs to happen for several reasons, the most important being the need to teach the world about Cardinal Ritter’s contributions, which also include his efforts with Vatican Council II. He hopes that project will have four reproductions in cities representative of Cardinal Ritter’s service, including at the Cardinal Ritter Birthplace museum in New Albany, Cardinal Ritter High School in Indianapolis, in St. Louis, where he served as cardinal, and at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., the founding of which he supported.

Tedesco also hopes to do another project for the Catholic church, one he has dreamed of since he was a child. This project would allow people to pray the Rosary while also encountering the humanness of Mary, the Mother of God. He would depict Mary at various ages for each of the four sets of mysteries – for the Joyful Mysteries, a young, joyful Mary; the Luminous Mysteries, a proud middle-aged mother; the Sorrowful Mysteries, “an intensely sad woman;” and for the Glorious Mysteries, “a beautiful old woman sitting quietly with wisdom in her eyes.”

The images of Mary, who despite living a simple life became one of the most well-known and thus “the most powerful woman in history,” would allow people to empathize, be inspired, and meditate, he said.

“This celebrates the entire life of this woman,” Tedesco said. “I want people to see how just living your life according to who you are is what makes you powerful.”

Tedesco hopes the images will one day be placed at the new St. Pope John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. St. John Paul II had a fierce devotion to Mary, especially after the failed attempt on his life, so Tedesco sees it as the perfect home for the sculptures. He hopes another set will go to the Vatican.

For now, the project – and several others – are simply ideas. Tedesco said he will keep talking to people who are likely to be able to initiate fundraising efforts. He knows these projects will be important pieces and touch many people for years and years to come, so he will keep creating, working, marketing, and speaking.

He looks to the inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi, who as a young man made poor choices and then became the world’s most well-known saint.

“He was a human person who decided to live an extraordinary life,” Tedesco said. “We can make those choices.”

Tedesco hopes he can convey the lessons he learned from studying the saint’s life in some way in all his artwork, especially his spiritual pieces.

“Those are teaching moments of artwork, allowing these figures to be human” so others can empathize and be inspired, he said.

Thank you for reading the eVision newsletter. To receive the eVision in your inbox, sign up here.

Grad forms nonprofit to help kids of jailed parents

Lee Ann (Knight) Meixell ’91 is an accountant by trade, but her heart is in volunteering with youth. She is a catechist teaching Christian Faith Formation for St. Augustine and Sacred Heart parishes in Jeffersonville and a former volunteer for the Y-NOW Children of Prisoners Program at the Louisville YMCA. She enjoyed her work with Y-NOW so much that she is working with other volunteers to bring a similar program to Southern Indiana. Their efforts have formed the nonprofit organization HEY Inc. (Help Empower Youth) to provide adult mentors to middle-school-aged children of incarcerated parents.

HEY Inc. is still in the formation stages, with the five members of its board of directors, of which Meixell is president, volunteering to develop the organization’s mission and plan its program launch. The board has developed the organization’s bylaws and will soon start a campaign seeking volunteers to become adult mentors, who will work one on one with the youth in the program. Originally the group had sought the donation of office space for a full-time program director but is moving forward without an office location.

Knight, who is a staff accountant for the City of Jeffersonville, said the goal is to have 25 adult volunteer mentors and 25 middle school youth by the fall. As the board begins working to recruit volunteers, some board members will work with area middle schools for referrals of youth whose parents are incarcerated.

Having volunteered in 2010 and 2012 for the Y-NOW program serving children of incarcerated parents in Jefferson County, Ky., Knight has seen how the program helps children find a sense of stability while their parents are jailed. She wanted the same type of program for youth in Southern Indiana and decided to start one herself when she realized there wasn’t one available.

“There is a need,” Meixell said, citing recent data that shows above average incidents for children with incarcerated parent to one day be jailed themselves.

Similar one-on-one mentoring programs exist in Southern Indiana, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, but there isn’t one exclusively for children of incarcerated parents, and that population has its own set of needs, she said.

“These kids think no one knows what they’re going through,” Meixell said. “We want to show them the community is here to support them.”

Mentors will offer support

Just as Meixell did when volunteering with the Y-NOW program, adult mentors will commit to meeting one on one once a week with the youth in the program for one year. They also will attend a monthly meeting that will bring all the youth in the program together for activities and a meal. HEY Inc. will seek volunteers to help plan, provide, and set up the food at those meetings.

Meixell said she used a lot of what she learned as a Y-NOW volunteer as a guide as the board developed its mission. The one-on-one mentoring program helps the youth, who may feel abandoned or experience a lack of trust, to see there are adults who want to be part of their lives and can provide solid support.

HEY Inc. is going a step further than the program in Kentucky because its goal is to have more community involvement. The board hopes to involve local companies and other programs to demonstrate to the youth that the community is a source of support.

“We want them to know the community doesn’t see them as bad kids just because their parent is incarcerated,” Meixell said.

Meixell said she is pleased with the community response the organization has received so far. When she pitched the idea to people in the community, she said, she was pleased with the positive response she received, including from fellow board member Dan Moore, a Jeffersonville attorney and past Providence parent.

Some people joined the board or offered skills because they knew Meixell from other volunteer experiences. One of those volunteers used to volunteer with Meixell as a Girl Scout leader. She read one of the several news articles published about the fledgling organization and offered to help Meixell develop the budget for the program.

With no funding, Meixell and the board work on launching the program in their spare time. Meixell said she works on it at least an hour a day, and the board members split the tasks, including starting social media pages for the organization, writing press releases, writing a grant for sound equipment for the monthly meetings, researching background checks requirements, and planning a booth for an event in May. Meixell researched information online and filed for the organization’s nonprofit status.

The board has been successful in spreading the word about the launch of the program, and the group hopes that continues as it plans future fundraising activities. The goal is to receive grants and hold fundraisers to support the hiring of a full-time program director. HEY Inc. is looking for more volunteers and for donations, from money to free printing. The organization needs volunteers to make phone calls and to be guest speakers at the future monthly meetings.

And one day, Meixell said, she hopes the organization has enough support that she could become its full-time executive director. She also sees many possibilities for more programming.

“This is just a start,” she said. “Maybe one day we’ll have a similar program for youth with an addicted parent. There’s a lot of potential to grow.”

Answering the call to serve

Meixell said she enjoys working with the middle-school age group. She teaches eighth graders in the Sunday morning CFF program at St. Augustine and has been a catechist for about 15 years, since her daughter, who is now 25, was in third grade. Meixell believes she has a fairly good understanding of middle-schoolers now, which will help with developing programming for HEY Inc.

“They want to be kids, they want to have fun,” she said, noting that she combines teaching with service and other activities to keep their interest. “It’s definitely helped me learn what will work.”

She started working with children as a Girl Scout leader with her daughter and some with her son while he was in Cub Scouts. Once she got involved, she kept answering the call to do more, including following up on a radio ad for Y-NOW volunteers in 2010.

“I’ve always wanted to work with youth after doing Scouts with my children,” Meixell said. “After they got older, I was looking for something else to get involved in. Ever since I did Y-NOW, it’s been on my heart to bring it to Southern Indiana. I just kept hearing, ‘You need to get that going here.’”

Thank you for reading the eVision. If you would like to receive the twice-monthly publication in your inbox, sign up here.

Act of kindness leads to nonprofit ministry

Matt Andres ’99 and his wife, Barb, have come to see firsthand how God can take one act of obedience and turn it into a greater work. Last year, Barb was inspired to organize her friends to help a friend prepare a nursery for her second child. Then, they did the same for a relative and next a family from their church in need, and Barb and her friends formed The Nursery Project, a non-profit organization helping families in crisis deal with the birth of a child.

The first nursery project the Andreses and their friends worked on was last year for a friend of Barb’s. Her friend had learned when she was pregnant that her second child would have Down syndrome as well as other physical challenges. As her friend tried to grapple with the diagnosis, she couldn’t bring herself to work on the baby’s nursery. When Barb learned her friend was heading to the hospital to deliver, she reached out and asked how much she had done on the nursery, the friend replied, “Nothing.”

Barb said she knew she had to do something to help her friend as she dealt with her child being in the neonatal ICU. She rallied her friends and planned to paint the walls and put up some decorations. But as they contacted the mother’s family and friends, the donations surpassed their expectations. The group of friends and family spent three days transforming the nursery into a beautiful, comfortable space for the baby when he would arrive home.

Then Matt learned of the difficult situation his cousin, Shawn Edelen ’05, and his wife, Alli (Stormes ’08), were going through. In November 2017 Alli gave birth to twins, but one was deceased and the other in critical condition. Shawn’s mom reached out to Barb, who is the First Impressions Minister at Northside Christian Church in New Albany, to see if she would help coordinate the friends and family who wanted to help the family with meals and other acts of comfort while they spent time in the NICU. One of the donations that came in was from a couple at Northside who wanted to help the Edelens finish their nursery, which at that point only contained two used baby beds.

Accepting help was difficult for the Edelens, Barb said, but she encouraged them to “let people be Jesus to you.” She asked the couple if they would keep their nursery door shut while friends and family went in and out to work on it. They agreed, and the work began. Barb and Matt led the project, and she created a secret Facebook page to coordinate volunteers to paint and do other work. She was amazed as the number of volunteers grew to 250 people, of family, friends, and friends of those friends and family members. The idea for a ministry began to take root.

“It just kind of grew into this huge thing,” Barb said. “Even then I felt like God was going to use this story to do something else, and I began praying to how to let it be bigger.”

Matt also was surprised at how quickly the number of volunteers grew.

“It was very cool watching it all unfold and watching those friends simply want to help their friends and watching it blow up as people joined,” he said. “It was such a simple way to show God’s love to people.”

Ministry takes shape
After completing the Edelens’ project, a family from Northside needed help with their nursery with their baby expected to be in the NICU for several months. So Barb rallied her friends again at the beginning of 2018. After completing that project, Barb and her friends wanted to turn their occasional help into a ministry. The group met, prayed, worked out a plan, and applied for nonprofit status. The Nursery Project was born.

The Matt Andres family in spring 2017.

The Nursery Project nonprofit is run by Barb and three of her friends. Of the four, three of them work full time, and one is a stay-at-home mom of four children. So their work is done in their spare time. Their husbands pitch in with their experience, including Matt, who is an electrician. When Matt and Barb are both working on a project, they turn to family and friends to babysit their three children, ages 1 to 4.

Matt said it has been incredible seeing God work through the many volunteers involved in The Nursery Project.

“It’s a very neat thing to see happen and to watch people be blessed by it,” he said.

Barb said she is grateful for the witness of faith expressed by people’s willingness to give and to serve a family in need. Some of the volunteers or family and friends of those served by the ministry might not have a relationship with Jesus, so seeing them witness God’s love expressed through the work of all involved with The Nursery Project is a blessing. And it’s brought people of all faiths together to help as well.

“It’s good to see people cross denominations to help,” she said. “It’s just about loving people because Jesus loves us.”

The Nursery Project’s first project after receiving its nonprofit status was for a refugee family from the Congo. The single mother of seven was expecting her eighth child, and the mother and her children were struggling. The ministry, which by then had a Facebook page, called on its supporters. The volunteers spent three days cleaning and transforming the family’s apartment and readying it for the baby’s arrival.

The next project
Megan (Wheatley) Mammolenti ‘08, a classmate of Alli Edelen, was one of the many people who attended “the reveal.” She had joined The Nursery Project page on Facebook after hearing what the group had done for the Edelens. Barb had invited followers of the page to attend, and Mammolenti decided to attend because she was touched by what the group had done for expecting families in crisis.

“I started following their page on Facebook because I thought it was such an amazing thing they were doing for the families,” Mammolenti said. “While watching the videos of the reveals, I just felt so much empathy and happiness. When they did a public invite to the Mukandengo family reveal, I knew I had to go.”

At the reveal, Barb introduced herself because she noticed Mammolenti was expecting. As they talked, Mammolenti shared that her unborn baby was diagnosed with significant heart problems and will require surgery immediately after she is born. Mammolenti and her husband, Scott, will temporarily relocate to Cincinnati for the delivery and expected surgeries by specialists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for their daughter, Norah, who is due in early May.

When Barb heard her story, she immediately wanted to help. Mammolenti, who already had a nursery set up, wasn’t expecting to get help from The Nursery Project. But the couple is facing financial need with their taking off work, their temporary relocation, and Norah’s anticipated medical bills. So Barb talked with her friends serving on the nonprofit’s board, and they adapted their mission slightly to help the Mammolentis. That project will kick off soon, and the group is working on a video to tell the family’s story.

Like the Edelens, accepting help from others – especially strangers – is difficult, Mammolenti said. But when it was offered with such love, it was easier to accept.

“It’s never been easy for me to ask for help in any situation, but especially this one,” Mammolenti said. “We have been so overwhelmed with the financial aspect of temporarily relocating to deliver and have Norah’s surgery. Every little thing adds up quickly. We are just forever thankful that The Nursery Project reached out to us and offered to help however they possibly could. I think God knew we had a hard time asking for help, and he delivered.”

For more information on The Nursery Project, click here.

Thank you for reading the eVision. If you would like to receive the twice-monthly publication in your inbox, sign up here.

Social media post gets worldwide attention

We’ve all heard stories about ordinary people posting a video or photo on social media and having the post go viral, such as the laughing woman in the Chewbacca mask. Kristin (Frederick) McGee ’07 experienced that sort of “fame” recently after posting a before and after photo to social media forum Reddit one night. Allure magazine then asked to use her photo, which was then picked up by several other media outlets and even shown in a clip on The Doctors. While she didn’t make any money from the experience, she enjoyed her short-lived time in the spotlight – and took the leap into starting a blog she had thought about for years.

The before and after post came about one day late last fall when she tried a redness and rosacea coverage product called Bye Bye Redness Correcting Cream by It Cosmetics. During maternity leave with her second son, who was born in August, she became interested in watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. A review of the product by YouTuber Casey Holmes, who also has rosacea, caught McGee’s eye. She bought some and was so pleased with the results, she sent the before and after photos to her mom. On a whim, she also posted the photos on Reddit.

Reddit is a public forum where users click Like or Don’t Like on photos and videos posted in various categories, known as subreddits. McGee posted to the subreddit Makeup Addiction and soon after was contacted by Allure to ask permission to use the photo. Within hours, the photo was picked up by other sites – without her permission—and earlier this month was used in a segment on the TV daytime talk show The Doctors.

Beyond her photo being seen around the world thanks to the international reach of The Doctors, McGee’s fame has been mostly limited to friends and coworkers reaching out to say they saw her photo. The Doctors segment showed her photo but used two other women to demonstrate the product, but she received no compensation for it, she said. It Cosmetics contacted her about using the photo on the company’s Instagram page, and when she asked for a free jar of the product in return, there was no reply.

“I haven’t profited from this in any way, other than the free cookbook signed by Dr. Travis (Stork) of The Doctors’” she said. “I gave it to my mom as a Christmas present.”

Making money or going viral was never her intent, but seeing herself on TV and on different websites was both scary and fun, she said. Mostly, she is happy to be able to share news about a product that meets its claims.

“I’m so thrilled that I was able to help other people find a product they love.”

Here is a Q&A with more about her experience:

Q: Why did you choose to post the before/after on Reddit?
A: I don’t frequently post on Reddit, but I enjoy reading interesting threads on Ask Reddit, and I love looking at makeup looks and reading tips on how best to apply makeup. I chose to post on Makeup Addiction because I was so astounded by and pleased with the difference after applying the product. I’ll be honest, part of it was a proverbial pat on my own back for my determination to find the perfect product for my skin, but I also wanted to help other people who may have skin redness and irregularities like I do.

What did you think when these media outlets — and The Doctors — started contacting you?
The only outlets that did ask my permission were Allure and The Doctors. I thought that Allure might be a scam, but I figured giving them permission couldn’t do any harm since the photo was posted publically anyway. It was on their main page within hours of me giving my permission! I was feeding my baby at 3 a.m., and when I saw it, I immediately felt anxious and vulnerable, but I decided to roll with it and laugh about it. Then it showed up on three other websites—Women’s Health, Glamour, and The Sun (UK.). I was shocked, but mostly amused. I joked that I became famous for having terrible skin and that I had become an “international celebrity.” When The Doctors contacted me, that was really the icing on the cake. My mind was blown! It was exciting and fun.

Have you seen your photo any place you haven’t expected to see it?
I was definitely surprised that it showed up on The Sun’s website since they’re based in the UK. I was also surprised to see it on Glamour and Women’s Health’s websites since they never contacted me.

How many reactions to the photo did you get? Would you consider it as going viral?
I couldn’t count. Between the responses on Reddit, Facebook, in person, and now on The Doctors, it was quite a few. I had a few people bring up the word “viral,” but I didn’t believe that photo was really “viral” until The Doctors contacted me. That kind of sealed the deal in my mind.

What social media outlets do you use on a regular basis?
I mainly stick to Facebook, but I do have an Instagram. I actually have two—a public one that’s attached to my blog that I started when all of this happened, and a private one that I mostly share pictures of my boys on. I don’t like the idea of random internet strangers looking at pictures of my boys, so I wanted to totally separate the two accounts.

How are you handling your 15 minutes of fame?
Like I said, it was mostly amusing to me. It’s been really fun. I think the hype is dying down, but it was fun while it lasted.

Do you still use the product?
Yes! I don’t use it every day because I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different products, but when I do use it, I am never disappointed.

What are your goals, plans or hopes for your blog?
I want to show other everyday women, moms in particular, that you can still have fun and have a hobby even when life revolves around your responsibilities. That’s what the blog is to me—a hobby, an outlet that is my own. That’s why I don’t hold myself to a schedule with it; I don’t want to take the fun out of it by making it a job. I like to write when I feel inspired to do so.

Had you thought of blogging previously?
I did start after being contacted by media outlets, but I’ve been wanting to start a blog for years. I could just never narrow down what my niche would be, and this provided an opportunity to discover one and focus down. I have always loved writing. I’m thankful that this gave me the push I needed.

Kristin (Frederick) McGee ’07 and husband Michael have been married for four years and have two sons, Declan, 2, and Bennett, 6 months. She says: “My family is everything to me. I also love working as a (part-time) NICU nurse; it’s a very fulfilling job that I’m absolutely passionate about.”

 

Thank you for reading the eVision. If you would like to receive the twice-monthly publication in your inbox, sign up here.

Back To Top
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux