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History and Political Science

Alumni Biographies

Emily Borchardt, History, 2012

I began my undergraduate education at SXU in 2008 as a history/art history major (I quickly dropped the art history major). It was the school’s location that first caught my attention. Like so many other students from small cities and towns, I was thrilled by the idea of relocating to a big city. Also, I knew that Chicago would be a fantastic place to study history.

As I began taking courses at SXU, I realized that the benefits of SXU extended far beyond its location. The faculty and staff were particularly helpful in shaping my academic course. Membership in the undergraduate honors program was particularly helpful because it provided more challenging coursework and highly invested professors. During my sophomore year I was hired as the honors program student worker, and became a member of the honors program student advisory council, which allows students to play a hands-on roll in the formation of the program. With help from the anthropology department and campus life I was able to start the Anthropology Club with a few of my classmates. As I continued my career at SXU, I sought to become more involved in campus activities and daily life. I became a RA my junior year and worked a writing tutor in the Learning Center my senior year. All of these opportunities provided rewarding challenges and allowed me to shape my own academic and extracurricular path.

My favorite part of my undergraduate education began when I finally completed all of my core classes and was able to focus on my history major and political science and anthropology minors. Every semester I looked forward to choosing my history classes from a wide range of subjects. I was thrilled with the opportunity to take a course about Mexican history one semester and a Modern Japan course the next. History courses at SXU were always surprising and challenging. I did not expect to take part in the production of a biographical documentary in an Illinois History course, nor did I expect to gain so much interest in modern city development from an urban and suburban history course. These courses have stayed with me, largely because of the amount of time and effort professors have put into these courses and their willingness to work closely with students.

The primary research required for upper level history courses had the largest impact on my current graduate school plans. By spending time in archives and libraries I discovered my interest in archives and research, and fostered a great admiration for research librarians. I am just about to begin my dual MA in history and library science at Indiana University. I hope to become a research librarian so that I may help other students with their research ambitions. I definitely wouldn’t mind finding myself back in Chicago.

Kenya Morris, History, 2011

I graduated from SXU in the Fall semester of 2011. I am now studying Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, concentrating on community development. This is a two year Masters program that covers a broad range of urban topics such as environmental, land-use, economic development, transportation, and overall planning to improve the quality of life in urban areas. While studying history at Saint Xavier, I was always interested in a variety of subjects in addition to history; specifically sociology, political science, geography, and urban studies. While taking the seminar course Urban and Suburban History in the United States, I was introduced to Urban Planning which is an interdisciplinary field that covers all of these subjects. We also learn technical skills such as mapmaking and spatial analysis using Geographical Informal Systems (GIS). Although people from a wide range of undergraduate fields are admitted into the program, I find my history background extremely useful and I am still able to use the skills acquired from my history training. It is a great field for liberal arts students looking to expand their career options.

Erin Slifka, Social Science Education, 2009

I graduated from St. Xavier University with a degree in Social Science Secondary Education in 2009. After graduating from National Louis with a Masters in Urban Education, I joined Eric Solorio Academy, a new school located at 55th and Saint Louis in the west Gage Park neighborhood. So far we only have freshman and sophomores in our school and we are looking forward to adding new classes in the upcoming years. The kids are absolutely wonderful and teaching them is a joy everyday. Like with every urban school we have our own unique problems but we don’t let any of them slow us down! Our ultimate goal is to have ACT scores that will open up real opportunities for our kids and their futures. Keep an eye out for great things to come from Solorio.

The single most important thing that urban students need is a fully dedicated teacher who will go the distance. That is why it is so important to stress to good students that they should bring their talents and enthusiasm to the city. Kids are kids no matter what their zip code and every one of them needs a good teacher. I would love to talk to any candidates SXU has that would consider going into urban education!

Ana Rodriguez, Social Science Education, 2007

"After graduating from Saint Xavier in 2007, I began my teaching career with the UNO Charter schools as a sixth grade teacher, and subsequently I joined the Chicago Public Schools system. I now teach at Ruben Salazar Bilingual Center, where I teach Social Studies and Language Arts to middle school students. I have been able to adapt and implement what I learned at Saint Xavier into my curriculum, such as teaching students about the Pullman community in South Chicago. It will be amazing to lead my very own group of students to this site, much like Dr. Peck did a few years ago during an Illinois History course.

"I am most grateful that the faculty at Saint Xavier helped me to give back to my community. I grew up in Little Village, but because of gangs and violence my parents moved to the West Eldson area in my adolescent years. It was a difficult transition, and the language barrier between some unfriendly neighbors and my Spanish-speaking parents made circumstances even more difficult. But these experiences made giving back to my community one of my major goals in life, and now I am able to work towards that goal as a teacher."

Tony Sosnowski, History Education, 2007

"I graduated from Saint Xavier in 2007 with a major in history education and minor in secondary education. Encouraged by Professor Peck and the SXU history department to continue my studies, I quickly enrolled in the master of arts in teaching history program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, majoring in U.S. historiography and minoring in teaching history and progressivism. I have put my education to good use at my alma mater, St. Rita, where I teach a wide range of courses, including Early U.S. History, World History, Geography, English 1 and 2, and Honors Geography. I have also developed four new courses at the school, including AP World History, AP Human Geography, African-American history, and Global Studies. I am proud that 80 percent of the students in the AP World History course successfully passed the AP exam in 2010.

"I also enjoy coaching St. Rita student athletes. One of the freshmen football teams I coached won the conference championship, and a number of athletes I have trained were state qualifiers and conference champions. I currently reside in the southwest suburbs with my wife, Jill, and our dog, Mustang."

Eric Dykstra, Social Science Education, 2006

"I came to Saint Xavier as an excited, yet undecided, freshman. After taking a few courses, I decided to major in social sciences for secondary education and to minor in Spanish. I quickly realized that Saint Xavier was an excellent place for me because of my interest in a career in education. I was also passionate about learning Spanish. I continued taking extra Spanish courses and in my third year I studied in southern Mexico as part of the University's Oaxaca Project. This life changing experience gave me the skills and the confidence necessary to lead a successful career as an educator. I currently teach upper level high school Spanish in the South Suburbs of Chicago and also teach Civics and Geography during the summer school sessions.

"Thinking back, Saint Xavier prepared me well for my career. I still remember being pushed and encouraged to raise my level of performance. The first essay that I submitted in a history course was painted in red ink from all the corrections that needed to be made. After getting over the initial shock, I took the professor's advice, improved the essay and resubmitted it. Those corrections showed me what a good essay should look like and also that more was expected of me. There were times when I thought that the work was too difficult, but with the guidance and support of my professors I was able to work to a higher standard. I now seek to do for my students what my professors did for me: guide me to success."

Jeremy Mancilla, History, 2004

History is a passion of mine, thanks in part to my family vacations as a child where we always found something historical in every place we encountered. The problem for me was that I never knew how I could use history in my everyday life. That was until I enrolled at Saint Xavier University. As a young student-athlete, I quickly learned the values of putting education first. I received my undergraduate degree is History with a minor in Secondary Education. The small class sizes provided me an opportunity to build better relationships with my peers and professors. This was the optimal situation for me to not only learn academics but also how to collaborate with peers. I welcomed the rigorous and challenging curriculum and appreciate it now that I am an educator myself.

Over the past seven years I have been employed at Palos South Middle School in Palos Park, Illinois. I have taught many different subjects including Ancient Civilizations and World History, but currently I am an instructor of Applied Technologies and United States History. One of my goals as an educator is to provide my students with the same quality education, rigor, and values that I experienced at Saint Xavier University.

I currently reside in Plainfield, IL with my wife Elizabeth and daughter Sophia.

Jon-Pierre Bradley, Political Science and Organizational Communications, 2006

I came to SXU from Jones Academic College Prep High School  in Downtown Chicago, IL. SXU was in the same city in which I was born and raised, but I had heard virtually nothing about this relatively small private institution on the south side of Chicago. However, from the moment I first stepped foot on the SXU Chicago campus I knew that this was the place for me. After just a few weeks I came to know many of the faculty and staff who would become pivotal in my academic success, many of whom I have remained in contact since Graduation.  At Saint Xavier I learned the importance of community, service, academic excellence and the importance of purpose.

I chose political science as a major to study political systems and how they affect the everyday lives of citizens. Within my coursework I met professors who showed personal interest in my success and gave the attention I would need to succeed. Many of my professors encouraged me to seek out opportunities to give outreach to fellow students. This inspired me to begin a student organization entitled "Barrier Breakers." The purpose of the organization was to encourage students from different socio-economic, political, racial, religious, sexual preferential backgrounds to come together to exchange cultural ideas and appreciate the diversity within Saint Xavier. As founder and president of the Barrier Breakers Club, it was my honor to plan many thought provoking events which exposed many stereotypes and brought people from various backgrounds to better understanding.

The work I started with the Barrier Breakers Club was the pivotal reason I was selected to become Assistant Director of Alumni Relations here at SXU. Within my current position it is my job reach out to alumni in many different region through events, program, social and conventional media. The goal is to bring alumni back to SXU to see what great things are happening at their alma mater. With the foundation I received at Saint Xavier University, I am fully prepared to continue outreach to those from various places in life. I am proud to be a part of one of Chicago's oldest south side traditions.

John Naisbitt, Interdisciplinary Social Science, 1991

The effects of my time at Saint Xavier are woven throughout my professional and personal life. Whether I look at the rich experiences in and out of the classroom with professors, classmates and teammates or consider the academic and communication skills I developed in order to succeed, the impact of the time and effort I put into St. Xavier and the time and effort the people of Saint Xavier put into me resonate throughout my classroom, my team and my family.

As a student of history at Saint Xavier I participated in meaningful discussion of other cultures and time periods, debating the merits of decisions made by leaders and examining the record for the patterns and themes that make up our shared human experience.  As part of a history award Saint Xavier granted me I traveled to Germany just after the fall of the Berlin Wall and was part of a meeting with the German economic reunification leader.  As a high school teacher I have found that examining these patterns of history with students both in the classroom and at the site of important historical moments can have a significant impact on a student's connection not just with history but with their academic career.  Through the years I have had wonderful personal experiences traveling throughout Europe and the U.S with my students and family. Weekly meetings of the Citizen Club my students and I formed result in lively discussion that clearly connect history with current politics and policies and remind me of my time with Saint Xavier professors.

I greatly enjoyed the role I was able to play on the Saint Xavier basketball team. Our strong connection and camaraderie as teammates was a great support on campus and resulted in lifelong friendships and even professional opportunities.  The fun my Saint Xavier team had together while putting in tremendous effort and time impacts my coaching of high achieving high school tennis players.

At Saint Xavier I experienced an academic setting with engaged instruction and support given to me as an individual.  We tackled historical material with enthusiasm and examined current events for historical relevance and future implications.  This experience is what I hope my students receive when they step through my classroom door today.