08/15/2023 4:14 pm
By Sara Myers, Digital Media & Communications Specialist
The year 2013 became the start of a new chapter for Rockford University. It was the year that the institution announced its name change from Rockford College to Rockford University.
In honor of ten years since this milestone and their own graduation, multiple alumni from the class of 2013 shared their favorite college memories, and how RU prepared them for their careers.
Joanna Bares (now Mladic) said she was originally drawn to Rockford College because of the vast volunteer opportunities available. Mladic studied history and secondary education during her time at RU, and initially aspired to be a history teacher, she said.
As a student she wrote for RU’s student newspaper the Recensio and participated in volunteer projects through Rotary International. She said her time in Dr. Catherine Forslund’s history classes were some of her fondest memories. That’s where she said she learned to analyze and interpret historical documents.
“All my professors were wonderful,” Mladic said.
After graduating, Mladic decided that instead of pursuing a teaching career, she would use the skills she learned in Forslund’s history classes. In 2014, she worked at RU as a technical services assistant, serial manager and archivist. Later, she became RU’s Electronic Resources Librarian and Archivist.
Today, Mladic works at the North Suburban Library District, located in both Loves Park and Roscoe, as the Global History Librarian.
By the time Julia Halsted began studying at RU, she already had a family and a home in Rockford. She said she needed a bachelor’s program with flexibility since her family was the first priority. She enrolled in the Rockford University Degree Completion Program.
“I ended up being a ‘comeback kid’ as they call it around here and relocated back to the (Rockford) area,” Halsted said.
She said the program fit perfectly for her lifestyle. Halsted was able to finish her bachelor’s degree at her own pace. Halsted said she wanted to do something related to business so pursued the management studies degree. Since then, she has worked for RPS 205, the Rockford Park District, Winnebago County, and is now the Director of Operations of Administration and HR Finance at Region 1 Planning Council in Rockford.
When Halsted graduated from RU, she walked at commencement while pregnant with her second child, Anabel.
“I chose to have Rockford University (instead of Rockford College) on my diploma,” Halsted said on her degree. “I think because I’m so forward looking, I was really excited to be among the first to have that distinction.”
Alumnus Bill Newkirk was visiting friends who lived in the Rockford area when he heard about Rockford College for the first time. He said he was drawn onto the beautiful campus during that trip.
Newkirk received both his bachelor’s degree and MBA in accounting from RU, in 2012 and 2013, respectively. He credits his mother, who is a certified public accountant, for inspiring him to go into the accounting field.
During his time at RU, he was involved in student government and was even a resident advisor, he said. He recalls having many professors who made an impact on him, such as Bob Evans, Bill Lewis and Hank Epstein.
“It laid the foundation for my accounting knowledge,” Newkirk said.
Since graduating, he has taken over the family accounting firm, Newkirk and Associates, He said he has been able to use his foundation at RU in the real world and since 2016, has helped grow his family business.
Newkirk is now married to his wife Susie (previously Smith) who graduated RU in 2009. They have three children together.
This story was originally in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Catalyst.
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