Skip to content
Contact USI

The College of Liberal Arts Celebrates Our Student Workers

Haleigh Rynski, Gabriela Fernandez and Maura Kluesner

This week is Student Employee Appreciation Week at USI! In the spirit of the week, we thought that we’d take a moment to cast a light on three of the student employees we see almost every day in the Dean's Office; Haleigh Rynski, Gabriela Fernandez and Maura Kluesner.

Rynski is an accounting major with a minor in finance. She comes to us from Woodlawn, Illinois, a village of about 750 people. Haleigh chose USI because of all the campuses she visited, ours had the best vibe: “It was the prettiest,” she says.

When you see her sitting at the desk across from the elevators, she is probably studying. When she’s elsewhere, she enjoys hunting with her family, hanging out with friends or watching crime documentaries on Netflix. She will graduate next spring.

Fernandez is a junior in psychology from Panama City, Panama. She chose USI because of its international community—in her own words, “I wanted to feel at home far from home.”

She likes to draw, lift weights, and run, ride her bike on the trails and cook. When it comes to media, she considers herself a Marvel person.

Kluesner is a freshman from Princeton, Indiana who is studying dental hygiene. She came here because the campus felt “very homey” and because we have good sciences and dental programs. She lives in the “recreation and fitness” themed-living community and enjoys playing intramural soccer, volleyball and tennis. She also enjoys the current season of The Bachelor.

Thanks to Haleigh, Gabriela, and Maura for being with us. We’re glad you’re here. If you have student employees in your area, please share a little genuine appreciation with them.

Del-ving Deeper

Dean Del Doughty sits down one-on-one with members of the USI community

Isaiah Johnson outdoors, road, trees, rail guard

Isaiah Johnson, Master of Social Work 

Isaiah is a graduate student in the Social Work program who comes to us from Indianapolis via a stint in Virginia working with students there. He has a heart for troubled kids, a love of basketball and an easygoing sense of humor.

How did you decide to study social work?

Kids. It’s my love for kids. They’re my number one reason for doing this. I want to make sure every kid has every equal opportunity possible. 

What do you hope to accomplish with your degree?

First and foremost, I want to become a mental health therapist.

How would your peers describe you?

I hate to say class clown, so let’s go with “outspoken.” If there’s a conversation, I’m definitely involved.

What are your greatest strengths as a student?

Patience—I’ve learned that from working with kids. I think that my writing has come a long way, too, in graduate school.  I pay a lot of attention to details, word choices.

What programs, internships, clubs, or other opportunities have you been part of here at USI?

I’m currently reffing intramurals in basketball two days a week. I was “ref of the month” once last year, which was kind of neat.

What characteristics do you prize the most in your fellow students?

My cohort is one where people definitely speak their minds. I like that. My classmates speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

If given all the resources needed, describe a research opportunity that you’d love to be part of.

Off the top of my head, I’d say I’m interested in how we diagnose young children for ADHD.  I think that we don’t always take time consider that students are kids.  We might need to think a little more on how we go about that diagnosis.

What are one or two of your proudest accomplishments here at USI?

Just being in the master’s program is an accomplishment. The level of work that I’m doing, too, is something—the reading, writing and the grades I’m getting.

Describe your dream job.

Well, it’s not a job but a career.  I don’t see myself doing just one thing.  I do see myself becoming a mental health counselor and managing youth sports—I’d like to own a recreational center.  Outside of all that, I want to connect to whatever community I’m in.

Who made the biggest impact on you as a student prior to coming to USI?  Who here has positively impacted your success as a student?

A close friend of mine will be getting her PhD later this spring.  Just seeing her passion for her studies, seeing what she wanted out of it, that made me think that I should want more out of my studies for myself.  She definitely influenced me to evolve.  Here, Professor Dickerson has influenced me—seeing how he responds to my papers and my work has been eye-opening.

What are three essential strategies for students to succeed in college?

One, because it’s a big deal, take care of your mental health.  Two, managing your time is huge.  A flexible work and school schedule have helped me get things done.  Finally, use a vision board, or a goal board, to remind yourself of your bigger goals and put it in a place where you see it a lot.

David Huebner Sculpture

David Huebner,
Art Workshop Supervisor

David Huebner started at USI in 1993, making him the longest-serving member of the Art and Design Department. He’s also a regular in the pool at the Aquatic Center and a man with what some might consider Luddite tendencies. When invited to attend Outlook training, Huebner was unaware that it was a software product but instead assumed that he was being told to work on his attitude. 

What do you do?  What does a typical day or week look like?

I’m the art workshop supervisor. I maintain and repair equipment, support students and faculty, supervise student workers, and I make things that are needed like specialized tables and mailboxes.

When did you decide to work in the art world and/or academia?

I’m a sculptor. I like to work with metals and found objects—I really enjoy casting metals and mold-making. When I was an undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University, I first went for something more design oriented. I tried interior design and did that for a year to make sure that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Then I got the courage to go into sculpture, I asked the department chair what I could learn from studying sculpture and he said “resourcefulness.” That was attractive to me. After that, I went on to get my MFA in Fine Art Studio with an emphasis in Sculpture at the University of Kentucky. 

What other jobs have you had prior to this one—the first, the worst, or the most interesting?

I worked at a restaurant for a couple of years as a dishwasher and a cook. We got tips, and I was able to save enough money to go to Europe for three months. I have also worked in wood frame construction and metal fabrication.

What strategies did you use to be successful in college?

I spent incredible amounts of time in the studio. I became a federal work-study student so that I could pretty much live there my last two years.

What are your current professional interests?

I’m trying to angle myself for retirement with the hope that I can set up a professional studio practice for myself. 

What characteristics do you prize most in your colleagues?

We have the most collegial department in the world. People work together to do what’s best for the students. Rarely do we have to even take votes on issues. Over the years, new faculty have come on board, but that ethic of consensus has remained, which is remarkable.

What are one or two of your proudest accomplishments here at USI? 

I made a sculpture for the city of Ocala, Florida, in 2019 that is now on display at the Marion Theater there. It’s titled “Retro Reel.” It measures 40 feet across and took two years. (See photo.) Another highlight would be participating in the renovation of all the 3D studios in 2015 at the same time that my second daughter was born. I was involved in all aspects of the renovation.  We finished just five days before the semester began. It was an amazing, wrenching experience. Finally [editor’s note:  we said “one or two” of proudest accomplishments, but if you put in three decades here, a third highlight seems fair], I was a participant in the accreditation and re-accreditation of the art program here. I’m proud of that, too.

Faculty Achievements

Click here to see more achievements from the College of Liberal Arts.

Dr. Alexandra Natoli, Assistant Professor of French, was selected as one of 20 educators for the summer pedagogy seminar “Teaching in Troubled Times,” hosted by the Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI) in New York, NY. Dr. Natoli joins Drs. Todd Schroer and Oana Popescu Sandu as USI faculty members to have received this honor.

Drs. Stacer and Jalain standing with a projector screen with presentation titleDr. Caroline Jalain and Dr. Melissa Stacer of the Criminal Justice department presented their research on how Veterans Treatment Courts adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic at the Western Society of Criminology conference held in Vancouver, BC on February 2-4, 2023.

Stalking The Legacy: The Science and Art of John James Audubon is set to air on WNIN at 7:00 p.m. Sunday, February 26. Produced by Leigh Anne Howard and Dave Black, Department of Communication and Media, this documentary also features Dr. Tamara Hunt and Dr. Kristalyn Shefveland from the History Department.

Dr. Kristalyn Shefveland, Associate Professor of History and Interim Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, gave the keynote address, Old Florida: Yankee Settler Colonialism in the Land of the Aís and Seminole, at the 2023 Florida Conference of Historians in Stuart, Florida.

Dr. Matthew Hanka, Associate Professor of Political Science, appeared on WNIN Lawmakers to discus local, state, and federal governments with WNIN's John Gibson. See the Video

Dean Del Doughty
A Word From the Dean

Del Doughty, PhD
Dean, College of Liberal Arts

Some years ago, Steve Martin published a short piece, “Writing is Easy,” in The New Yorker.  It began like this: “Writing is one of the most easy, pain-free, and happy ways to pass the time in all the arts.”  As a writer and a writing teacher, I was amused.  If I recall, the upshot of Martin’s advice for writers was to write in sunny southern California, look at flowers and type away. Nothing to it.

Times have changed. Southern California isn’t what it used to be, and writing is actually even easier now thanks to the advent of artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT. (I know, I know, enough about that already. In the last month, ChatGPT’s writing has gotten more attention than Prince Harry’s, which is saying  something.) Now writing is so easy it doesn’t even involve any actual writing, or maybe even typing.

I don’t like that. One of things I most like about writing, in fact, is that it is not easy. It’s challenging. Writing well demands a lot of a person, sometimes all of a person—sometimes more than a person has to offer. Now that I think about it, the older I get, the more I seem drawn to things with high degrees of difficulty: playing golf, doing the Sunday crossword, keeping orchids alive. Those kinds of things engage the full capacity of my being and bring out the best in me.  (Well, you may disagree with that claim if you would happen to hear the kinds of things I’m liable to say after missing a four-foot putt.)

One of our colleagues, Dr. Sri Dandotkar, Assistant Professor of Psychology, recently made a similar point in an excellent paper that examines the relationship between a student’s belief about learning and their motivation to do so, specifically when it comes to critical thinking in the analysis of arguments. From Dandotkar’s conclusion: “If a student believes that you can learn everything there is to learn about a subject in a single setting, that student will not see the value in taking the time to learn critical thinking skills. If a student believes in singular truths, that student will not see the value in being open to multiple points of view, a key disposition in the critical thinking process. Indeed, if a reader is not willing to believe that the acquisition of learning is a super-complex process to be illuminated rather than solved, then that reader may not be willing to consider the multitude of ways in which we know, as both learners and teacher, how we think, and why we learn, are intertwined.”

It’s a fine point, but a sturdy one, and one worth remembering as we step further into the era of smart machines and automation. 

(Dandotkar’s article, “Knowing, Thinking, and Learning: Fostering Critical Thinking in Undergraduate Psychology Classes,” appears in The Journal of Effective Teaching in Higher Education 5(2), 123-141, and can be found online at View of Knowing, Thinking, and Learning (

Going On Now

Poster Art for A Decade of Opportunity  

Fun Home performance Poster  

February Events

USI Theatre Performance
February 23-26
USI Performance Center
Fun Home
Get your tickets here

Sociology Club Movie Night
6 p.m. February 22
Forum I
Stay after the film for a discussion about its sociological implications.

Queering the Memoir: Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
1 p.m. February 26
University Center East 2219-2220
A pre-theatre performance talk by Dr. Amy Montz, Associate Professor of English.

Liberal Arts Faculty Colloquium
3 p.m. February 24
Kleymeyer Hall
"On the Razor’s Edge: Exploring Gillette’s “We Believe” Prosocial Advertising Campaign" presented by Dr. Erin Dennis, Assistant Professor of Advertising & Public Relations

Mandela Social Justice Day - Multiple Events
February 27

Gender stereotypes, social expectations and career aspirations in STEM
11:00 a.m. | Location TBA

A Time of Crisis: Maternal Mortality in Indiana
1:00 p.m. | University Center 2207

Consent and Sexual Safety
3:00 p.m. | University Center 2207

Keynote Speaker
"Black Reproductive Health: Getting at the Root Cause of Inequity" featuring Dr. Rachel Hardeman
4:30 p.m. | Carter Hall in UC West

Save the Date

Spring Break
March 6-10
No classes, University is open.

Visiting Writer
7:30 p.m. March 15
Performance Center

Liberal Arts Faculty Colloquium
3 p.m. March 24
Kleymeyer Hall

Social Media Symposium
March 22
Time and Location TBA

Alumni in Residence
12 p.m. April 12
Kleymeyer Hall

Global Salon Series
12 p.m. April 12
Zoom ID: 990 1194 7122

Distinguished Scholar Series
2 p.m. April 19
Kleymeyer Hall

Interdisciplinary Colloquium
8 a.m. April 20
University Center 2217-2218

Image contains stills from 3 films in the festivalMandela Social Justice Day Information Flyer Image. Contains same info as event webpage