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Carving Careers

By Trista Lutgring

Carving Careers

Like water coursing through a canyon, tens of thousands of careers have been shaped or redirected at USI. Three alumni share moments in their lives that led to where they are today. 

Following Instincts

The morning of February 6, 1992 started off clear and unseasonably warm, as a five-member crew from the Kentucky Air National Guard ran practice drills at Evansville Dress Regional Airport. The crew was wrapping up the touch-and-go landings of the C-130 Hercules, when tragedy struck: at 1,300 feet, the craft stalled, then plummeted. It crashed into the Drury Inn and the east side of JoJo’s restaurant along Highway 41. All five crew members, along with 11 civilians on the ground, died in the disaster.

Around the same time, Jim Beck ’92, a senior and editor of USI's newspaper, The Shield, should have been heading across campus to class. When news of the crash reached him, however, his instincts told him to go. He trusted himself, ignoring a faculty advisor telling him he should probably go ahead to class, and headed to Highway 41.

“I’m willing to admit now that I skipped a class or two to go to the scene of the crash with a few fellow student journalists,” says Beck, “against the better counsel of our faculty advisor, who later was effusive in his praise for the in-the-moment learning, although a tragic situation.”

Though the tragedy of the crash and the events that day were impactful in many ways, Beck noted the experience was something that solidified his pursuit of a career in journalism and in helping inform others. “While the coverage from myself and my fellow student journalists was rudimentary (we were still learning), it was impressive to cover a story like a pro,” he says. “The news helped inform many on our campus, as this was a time before the internet. The responsibility of accurate and timely news reporting caused me to pursue journalism as a career, which I was fortunate enough to begin in my hometown.”

His work while at USI landed him an internship with the Evansville Courier newspaper upon graduation. It launched his career in communication and journalism. For almost 16 years, Beck worked as a journalist and metro editor for the Evansville Courier & Press paper, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at USI for almost four years. In 2008, he transitioned into the role of Public Affairs Manager for an international manufacturing company and now serves as its Vice President of Corporate Communications.

One Closed Door Leads to an Opening

For many University students, campus resources are essential. For Stephanie Buchanan ’97, those resources were just as important to her at the end of her USI journey as they were when she first stepped on campus.

“Oddly enough, it was a setback that became my big break after USI,” Buchanan explains. “I had an internship at a company, which led to a job offer. Two weeks before I graduated, the company rescinded the offer, which left me scrambling for a job.”

Unsure of what she should do next, she turned to USI Career Services.

“Most resources available were postings in the Career Center, papers on bulletin boards and quite possibly the most important were the instructors and staff,” says Buchanan. “These resources were instrumental in my ability to find opportunities to advance my career search while at USI.”

Arriving more than a little panicked, she said, the staff were eager to help the struggling student find other avenues for employment. “I absolutely feel like the USI Career Services staff offered as much support as they could,” she says. “I found a job opening at a little telecom company run by John Steven Johnson ’86, a USI alumnus. He hired me and I entered an amazing field of technology that I never would have otherwise.”

Buchanan worked as a sales rep for that company for nearly 14 years, selling fiber services to carriers. In late 2019, she was recruited by a national fiber-optic communication infrastructure, where she continues her fiber-sales career as a Carrier Account Director.

The Right Footing

Starting a new journey can be as full of doubts as opportunities. For nursing graduate Verena Sink Bailey ’19 M’21, the people she met when she first came to campus quieted her fears that, at 40 years old and after raising seven children, she could have the professional career she dreamed of.

“Starting an educational journey is anxiety inducing at any age. USI stood out to me because not only were the [advisors] I talked to incredibly friendly and helpful, but they made it easy for me to navigate the enrollment,” says Sink Bailey. “It felt like family from the beginning.”

That acceptance helped Sink Bailey find a path she had not considered before. While in high school she'd dreamed of becoming a physician, her plans changed when she enrolled at USI after raising her family. Her eldest child was born with multiple disabilities and the nurses who cared for him opened Sink Bailey’s eyes to the role of nurses in healthcare.

“As a young person, I had no idea what the role of nurses was in the care of a patient,” she says. “As an adult, I learned my passion for medicine actually stemmed from the role nurses play.”

Her nursing professors solidified her choice, showing her they were invested, devoted and dedicated not only in teaching but in their students as well. Those qualities helped Sink Bailey finish her nursing undergraduate degree and convinced her to earn her master’s at USI.

“I’m very proud to be a USI alumna. I have referred several students and will continue to do so for anyone wanting to begin their journey of secondary education,” says Sink Bailey, who works in a major hospital. “Maybe, one day, after I obtain my doctoral degree, I will come back to USI as a professor to give back all the support and love I have received.”

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