06/26/2020 1:55 pm
COVID-19 has changed everything. Teachers needed to deliver teaching and learning online, healthcare workers face unprecedented changes and challenges in caring for their patients, and small business owners are reinventing their business models to prevent closure. During the past several months, Rockford University alumni have proven their dedication to their professions. Though their avenues of service may vary, the Regents Heroes highlighted below share a passion for service and a desire to make a positive impact on the individuals they serve. We proudly recognize these alumni who are making an effort to help others in these unprecedented conditions.
Katie Hart ’18: Registered Nurse, Port Charlotte, Fla.
Katie Hart ’18, a Registered Nurse at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Florida, exemplifies how nurses are more than just essential workers during this crisis. “We get the opportunity to help people get their lives back, but it is important to remember that when you are entrusted with the care of a patient, they are someone’s family member,” said Hart. “There is a good chance that this is a scary time for the family and patient. Sometimes our job is being their support system, looking at a hundred pictures of their pets or grandchildren, or even just giving them a hug.”
On the hardest of days, Katie finds it helpful to remind herself why she got into nursing in the first place. “There are days where you have to rely on knowing you got into this profession to change lives and let the patients change yours as well,” she added.
Erin (Filak) Stoffregen ’11: Small Business Owner, Loves Park, Ill.
Small business owner, Erin Stoffregen ’11, found herself facing the same hardships that many small business owners are experiencing when her traditional business model providing flowers, linen and décor for special events was rendered inoperable in the midst of stay-at-home orders. She is overcoming the challenges by continuing to find new ways to service her customers while building and maintaining strong community partnerships.
Erin said that being a part of the business program at Rockford University helped her reason through problems and make projections for real-world situations, ensuring that her business stays the course and continues growing post-pandemic.
“It’s comforting and helpful to be able to continue conversations and virtual meetings with industry peers both as emotional support and as a sounding board during these times of difficult business decisions,” said Stoffregen. “Be prepared, do your homework, and plan as much as possible, but then trust your best decision-making to lead you. While there may be periodic decisions that don’t pan out as planned, in the long run, you will succeed with a strong work ethic and logical reasoning behind your instincts.”
Christopher Morrison ’97: Operations Manager, Poplar Grove, Ill.
Christopher Morrison ’97, an operations manager at Hickory Springs, is experiencing this pandemic from a unique perspective. Working in a manufacturing company has presented unexpected positives, such as access to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gowns and face masks. “My company is evolving into this new niche, and I am excited to help meet this need,” Morrison said. He added that previous experiences working in food manufacturing translated well to implementing sanitation processes in his own work environment. “Teaching effective hand-washing, cleaning the machine controls at the end of the shift, wiping down doorknobs at specific intervals, and installing hand sanitizer stations all became standard protocol,” he said.
Christopher retained life coaches in recent years, and he credits that work with helping him prepare for the the situations we face today. “Ironically, the resources I invested in that effort helped me prepare for the pandemic,” he said. “Reaching out with kind words, or acts, listening to people’s stories, and assuring them that this will pass has helped. I’m blessed to be a part of helping people with this healing process.”
Christine Wilson ’15: Advanced Practice Nurse, Spring Grove, Ill.
As an advanced practice nurse at the Women’s Healthcare Group of Illinois, Christine Wilson ’15, is experiencing the COVID-19 crisis on the front lines. “During times of crisis, I find it helpful to talk things through with friends, co-workers, or family,” she said. “It helps me lay out all the facts and prioritize my needs, my family’s needs, and the needs of my community.”
Wilson came to Rockford as a freshman with dreams of becoming a nurse, knowing that smaller class sizes and a reputation for producing outstanding nurses would suit her well. Looking back, Christine notes that her time at the University primed her for what she is dealing with now. “The rotations throughout the many health systems in Rockford, along with the sense of community you feel on a small campus, helped me realize that even in small communities, there are major differences from patient to patient,” Wilson said, adding, “being able to recognize this has helped me better understand people in treating their individual needs”.
Jacqueline (Marks) Porchia ’96: K-12 Education, Clarksville, Tenn.
As the spouse of an active-duty U.S. Army soldier, Jacqueline Porchia ’96, credits her Rockford University education for helping her continue to grow her career during several changes of station (PCS) moves. “My education aided in my ability to face many challenges and helped me learn to be resilient during life and employment changes,” said Porchia.
Those same life-lessons have also prepared Jacqueline to face the challenges brought on by a global pandemic. Working in K-12 Education at Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, Jacqueline is proud of her school district and the services they continue to provide, including delivering meals to students. During these times, she reminds students to continue cherishing each moment. “I continue to reflect on tools and strategies I learned at RU,” she said. “They have proven beneficial throughout my life and career path.”
In addition, Porchia shares that her family support, belief in God, connection to co-workers and friends, and her church family are helping her remain grounded and connected.
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