The Echo 25’s inaugural class features 25 exceptional alumni under the age of 40. Recipients of The Echo 25 were selected based on the ways they live out Truman’s characteristics of graduates. Truman graduates are creative, socially responsible leaders and engaged world citizens. They are responsible, informed, and compassionate. They have the characteristics that enable them to be active, successful participants in their worlds.
Babajide “BJ” Adio ’12
Internal Medicine Physician, MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center
Dr. Babajide “BJ” Adio graduated from Truman State University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and was an Honors Scholar (High Distinction in the Liberal Arts and Sciences). During his time at Truman, he was the lead academic tutor at the multicultural affairs. He also tutored and mentored students in the SPECTRA and SEE Programs. He was an orientation leader for upcoming Truman freshmen in the summer. He was actively involved in research and presented at various student research conferences. He had a passion for sports and won numerous intramural soccer championships. He was fond of acting and won the outstanding educational event of the year (Sights and Sounds of Africa) as president of the African Students Association in 2012. He was active in various honors societies including Phi Sigma Pi National Co-Ed Honor Fraternity, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.
He won the outstanding biology teaching assistant award in 2012 as well as the outstanding undergraduate student leader award in 2012.
He went on to earn his medical degree at AT Still University, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2017 with a scholarship and won the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award and the Gold Humanism Honor Award. He also won the distinguished organization award for service and leadership as the student national medical association president.
After medical school, he completed his residency in Internal Medicine at MercyOne North Iowa in 2020. In his final year of residency, he was the chief resident and was awarded the Resident Educator of the Year award for his commitment to teaching of medical students and his fellow residents.
He was recruited and stayed on as faculty after his residency training. He is a board-certified internal medicine physician and is also a critical care provider. Most importantly, he is a core faculty member for the internal medicine residency in North Iowa where he continues to train resident doctors and teach medical students. His passion includes medical education, wellness, point of care ultrasound, simulation & procedure training as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion in academic medicine. He has been awarded the Faculty Educator of the Year for his commitment to the medical education of residents and students. He is currently an assistant professor of internal medicine at Des Moines University. He is involved in medical research and has multiple publications spread across all internal medicine subspecialities. He is the Iowa Wellness Champion of the American College of Physicians and is a Fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Internists (FACOI). He holds active leadership roles in different medical societies at the state and national levels.
Deanna Barger ’14
Director of Development, Missouri Girls Town
Deanna Barger has been working in the nonprofit and health care sector for the last 8 years since graduating from Truman State University in 2014. She lives in Columbia, MO with fellow Truman Alumni, Eric Vander Weerd and their 5.5 lb, 6 year old cat.
Deanna is a member of the Columbia Kiwanis International Club that recently celebrated its 100th anniversary of serving children and is also a member of the Columbia ACA Business Club. As the 2013 Philanthropy Director for Sigma Sigma Sigma, working in charitable giving and service became a logical next step. Deanna obtained her Master’s of Public Affairs with an emphasis in Nonprofit and Public Management in 2018.
Deanna currently serves as the Director of Development for the statewide public nonprofit Missouri Girls Town Foundation where she is responsible for collecting donations for the organization that provides mental health services for neglected and abused children.
Pascael Beaudette ’05
Executive Director, Research & Business Intelligence, Technical College System of Georgia
Pascael Beaudette is the Executive Director of Research and Business Intelligence at the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG). TCSG oversees the state’s technical colleges, adult literacy programs, and a host of economic and workforce development programs. In her current role, Pascael works with TCSG’s research and business intelligence teams to ensure the agency produces high quality BI reporting and research that inform practice and policy.
Her team has played a vital role in the rollout of TCSG’s eCampus, which offers an innovative model for expanding student access to courses, leveraging instructional capacity, and supporting students in a resource-constrained environment. Along with the CIO, Pascael is launching a new research & development framework at TCSG that will procure external funding to support innovative technical education throughout the state. As part of these efforts, TCSG has been awarded more than $26.6 million in the past two years. In 2021, she was named was selected as the Data and Analytics Leader of Year for Innovation by the Leadership Excellence Awards committee.
Prior to joining TCSG in December 2018, Pascael was the Deputy Director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA). In this role, she was responsible for research and evaluation, innovation grants, and academic auditing. Her team developed and implemented Georgia’s Financial Efficiency Star Rating for K-12 schools and designed and launched the Georgia School Reports website. She also served as the research manager at GOSA and as a research analyst with the Missouri Department of Labor.
Pascael has a master’s degree in Political Science from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Truman State University. She was the recipient of two scholarships from the US Department of State (Critical Language and Title VIII) to improve her language skills in Russian and Kazakh. She serves on the President’s Advisory Council at her local elementary school and the national CALDER Policymakers Council, which helps inform the CALDER research agenda to be more closely aligned to the needs of policymakers. She resides in Decatur, Georgia with her husband and two sons.
Grant Berry ’10
Assistant Professor of Spanish Linguistics/Director of Language Use and Variation Lab, Villanova University
My work is dedicated to understanding how people from various linguistic and
sociodemographic backgrounds adapt to variation in the world around them. My
interdisciplinary training, which spans linguistics, mathematics, and cognitive
science, was developed as Spanish and mathematics double major at Truman. Since
graduating from Truman in 2010, I’ve taught English in Argentina through the
Fulbright program, conducted research on bilingual speech at the Max Planck
Institute for Psycholinguistics, and completed a dual-title Ph.D. in Spanish and
language science at Penn State.
I spent two years working with Amazon on Alexa,
where I collaborated with research scientists and engineers from disparate
backgrounds to tackle complex challenges in the construction of natural language
understanding technology that is robust to language variation, and I was
responsible for managing the data quality for training Alexa to recognize new
languages. Now, as a faculty member at Villanova University, I have established my
own lab (the Language Use and Variation Lab), training undergraduates, promoting
visibility of language science on campus, and starting several new research
projects. My hope is that I inspire undergraduate students to discover their
passion in the same way that I was inspired as an undergraduate while helping them
develop essential skills for their future careers. I also like cats and baking.
Jennifer Blank ’11, ’12
Gifted Education Teacher, Raytown School District Challenge Gifted Program
Jennifer Blank is a passionate educator and advocate for gifted students in public education. She was a Truman Leadership Scholar, completing her Bachelor of English in only 3 ½ years and graduating in December of 2011. She then continued on at Truman to earn a Master of Arts in education in December 2012. Jennifer’s first job in education was with the Walt Disney Company as a Conservation Educator. Her photos can still be found as the face of the Wilderness Explorer program at Animal Kingdom park at Walt Disney World. She has spent the last 10 years teaching for the Raytown School District as a Gifted Education Specialist with the Challenge Gifted Program. Through her voluntary role as the Director of the Kansas City region of the Gifted Association of Missouri, she advocates for the equitable identification of gifted students. She is a frequent presenter at conferences and professional development workshops. In April, Jennifer’s students won the Battle of the Brains competition, winning a $50,000 grant, along with the opportunity to transform their proposal into a $1 million permanent exhibit at Science City. They will spend the next school year collaborating with engineers from Burns and McDonnell to make their science center exhibit proposal, titled “Riveting Robotics,” into reality.
Theo Dean III ’12, ’14
Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Truman State University
The 2022-23 season marks the start of year four as the Head Coach of Truman Women’s Basketball for Head Coach Theo Dean.
Dean has been a part of the program in some capacity for over ten years. He was a student manager and graduate assistant from 2010-14; Dean then returned to Kirksville to become the full-time assistant and recruiting coordinator from June 2016-August 2019. Dean was promoted to interim head coach on August 23, 2019, and on January 13, 2020, after a 9-3 start to the season, including a school-record five-game winning streak to start Great Lakes Valley Conference play, the interim tag was removed, and Dean became the 11th full-time head coach in program history.
Increasing fan and alumni involvement with a fast-paced style of play, Dean’s impact on the program was evident very early, and fans of Truman Women’s Basketball have seen continued success for the Bulldogs’ program.
Since his return to Truman in 2016, Dean has coached 18 All-GLVC performers (eight being named to the First Team), two Freshman of the Year selections (Katie Jaseckas-2018 and Hannah Belanger-2020), five Players of the Week, three 1,000 point scorers, one WBCA All-American (Hannah Belanger-2021), two CoSIDA Academic All-District selections (Hannah Belanger-2021 & 2022) and one D2CCA All-Midwest Region selections (Ellie Weltha, 2nd Team-2022). Dean has also coached over 55 Academic All-GLVC players and has coached two WBCA Academic Top 25 teams (2019 & 2021). Overall, Dean has been on the sideline with the Bulldogs for four of the program’s seven 20-win seasons, one Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament title, two Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament championship games, three NCAA Tournaments appearances, and one NCAA Tournament victory.
A Chicago, IL native, Theo Dean came to Truman in 2008 as a freshman and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications degree from Truman State University in 2012 and his Master’s degree in Leadership, with a concentration in Coaching and Sport Management, from Truman in 2014.
Dean, his wife, Presley (who also holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Truman), and their son, Theo IV, reside in Kirksville.
Michelle (Carter) Failla ’07
Research Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University
Dr. Michelle Failla (Carter) is Research Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University. Her research focuses on understanding the role of social communication in pain responses and management. She is particularly interested in studying pain in populations with differences in social communication, across the lifespan, from autism spectrum disorder to Alzheimer’s Disease. She works to understand how altered neural processing of pain may contribute to differences in expression or experience of pain. Dr. Failla’s work aims to improve pain management for populations where pain communication could potentially impact care. Dr. Failla earned a B.S. in Biology from Truman State University. She earned her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Neuroscience and completed her postdoctoral training at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science.
Shari (Fieser) Foglesong ’15, ’19
Associate Director of Admission, Truman State University
Shari Jane (Fieser) Foglesong, originally from Ankeny, Iowa, graduated from Truman State University with her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration – Marketing in 2015 and Master of Arts in Leadership – Higher Education in 2019. She started full-time in the Truman State University Office of Admission in 2016 as an Admissions Counselor. Shari currently serves as an Associate Director of Admission, where she continues to combine her passion for serving students and their families through Admission, where she continues to combine her passion for serving students and their families through the recruitment process with her love for the Truman and the Kirksville communities. She finds it an enormous honor to work with the university’s talented faculty, dedicated staff and administrators, and amazing students on a daily basis.
Shari is on the Board for Kirksville KLIFE, serves at Rehoboth Baptist Church, and has held multiple leadership positions for the Collegiate Information and Visitors Services Association (CIVSA). She is also an officer for Truman State University’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi and the campus advisor for Delta Zeta and Kirksville KLIFE. She and her husband, Caleb, also look forward to welcoming their first child in December.
Rachel Greer ’15
Sustainability Transitions Researcher and Consultant, Dutch Research Institute for Transitions (DRIFT) – Erasmus University, Rotterdam
Rachel Greer is a global citizen who was inspired by the opportunities for philanthropy work, volunteering, and studying abroad at Truman to move to Europe and work and learn at the epicenter of sustainable innovation. Her leadership experiences at Truman as Study Abroad Ambassador and Intramurals Chair (Sigma Sigma Sigma) motivated her to live in a combination of Austria and the Netherlands, where she ran a marathon and completed a Master’s degree in Industrial Ecology: a study of climate change physics, corporate social responsibility, and environmental impact assessments. Since then, she has worked as a Sustainability Consultant at a biodynamic winery in Spain, and for the last four years, she has been conducting sustainability research on transitioning to a circular economy. The latter resulted in presentations of her research findings in Portugal, Canada, China, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and at the scientific conference she co-organized in Bulgaria. Relatedly, she has published three articles in high-impact scientific journals and has earned a doctorate degree on the topic of “Governing the transition to a circular economy,” exposing paradoxes and pitfalls in navigating towards a more sustainable world. In the future, her goal is to work more closely with nature and wildlife restoration to translate her learnings into a more tangible impact on the earth.
Ellie (Glenn) Harmon ’07
Director of Government Relations, St. Louis Children’s Hospital
In 2014, Ellie Glenn Harmon joined the BJC HealthCare system team as the Director of Government Relations for St. Louis Children’s Hospital. In this role, she advocates for children’s health care issues on behalf of the hospital, their providers and staff, and their patients and families in Washington, D.C. and in the Missouri and Illinois Legislatures. As the former Director of the Office of Governmental Policy and Legislation for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Harmon helped shape and advocate for evidence-based public health policies that improve the health and lives of Missourians across their lifespans.
Prior to this role, Harmon also served two years as the Legislative Director for former Missouri state Senator Joan Bray, working on a myriad of public policy initiatives from health care to tax policy to transportation issues. Harmon is a native of Louisiana, Missouri, and enjoys giving back to the communities around her. She is the board Vice President of Lydia’s House, a transitional housing program for battered and abused women and their children; volunteers as a Legislative School teacher at Missouri Boys State; is a guest lecturer for various political science and law courses at Washington University in St. Louis and St. Louis University; and is a founding member of the Missouri Women’s Policy Network. Harmon served as the co-chair for Children’s Hospital United Way campaign in 2018, 2019, and 2021 raising over a quarter of a million dollars for the St. Louis community during that time. Harmon is a graduate of both the FOCUS Leadership St. Louis class of 2016-2017 and the State Chamber Leadership Missouri class of 2017.
She has also served as a faculty affiliate with the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life and was their 2014 Amethyst Award winner. She will join the board of Citizens for Modern Transit in September of 2022. Harmon graduated from Truman State University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and received her Master of Public Affairs degree with an emphasis in Public Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2011. Harmon lives in South St. Louis City with her husband, Eric, and their adopted toy poodle, Gus. When not working or volunteering, Harmon enjoys reading, cycling, running, and occasionally jumping out of airplanes.
Pete Howe ’06
Research Scientist, Corteva Agriscience
Pete is a scientist at Corteva Agriscience in Johnston, Iowa where he leads high throughput molecular testing laboratories. Corteva is the largest global pure-play agriculture company and is dedicated to delivering innovation to farmers and consumers. He graduated with a BS in Biology from Truman State University in 2006 and with a PhD in Genetics from Iowa State University in 2011.
He has spent more than 11 years in the seed industry as a people leader and scientist. The work of his team enables innovation in biotechnology, plant breeding, trait discovery, and commercial seed testing.
During the COVID-19 pandemic he used his molecular knowledge and experience in regulated testing labs to help establish a COVID-19 diagnostic facility. The Corteva team partnered with several Iowa hospital systems, universities and sports teams to fill critical testing needs. He also co-led the development of a high throughput COVID testing platform with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Pete lives north of Des Moines, Iowa with his wife Sara Kate (Truman ‘06, ‘07) and their 3 children.
Joshua Kappel ’07
Attorney, Vicente Sederberg LLP
Josh Kappel is a founding partner of Vicente Sederberg with a passion for helping entrepreneurs and visionaries build human-centric and regenerative companies in the cannabis and psychedelic industries. Passionate about policy, Josh also loves helping advocates draft legislation and build sustaining vehicles that will forever influence these emerging industries.
In addition to policy work, Josh focuses his corporate practice on risk assessment for multinational corporations and financial transactions in the highly regulated cannabis industry. He also routinely provides advice to patients, caregivers, and businesses about cannabis, licensing, regulatory compliance, general business, and transactional law, and the intersection of state and federal law. Recently, Josh has focused his time on the two largest cannabis markets in the world: California and Canada.
In 2023, Josh was recognized by his peers in the “Best Lawyers” list for his work in cannabis law.
Josh previously served as associate director of Sensible Colorado, a nonprofit organization that advocated for medical marijuana patient rights and played a key role in opening the door for the state’s regulated medical marijuana system. Josh also contributed to the drafting of Amendment 64, which legalized cannabis for adult use in Colorado.
Josh is a founding board member of the International Cannabis Bar Association, Simplifya, and VS Tech Ventures, and a founding member of the Council for Responsible Cannabis Regulation. He is also a member of the Psychedelic Bar Association. Josh is a sought-after thought leader in cannabis and psychedelics policy, contributing writings, presenting at local and international conferences, working on psychedelics reform initiatives, and testifying at public hearings on marijuana-related issues. He was named one of “Denver’s Top Lawyers” by 5280 Magazine from 2016–2020.
Robert Kelchen ’07
Professor and Department Chair, University of Tennessee, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Dr. Robert Kelchen (’07) is a professor of higher education and head of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His research interests include higher education finance, accountability policies, and student financial aid. Kelchen is the author of Higher Education Accountability (Johns Hopkins University Press) and regularly publishes in top education journals. He has been recognized as one of the 25 most influential faculty members in education by Education Week. Kelchen holds a PhD in educational policy studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Sara (James) Kurovski ’07
President/CEO, Make a Wish Iowa; Mayor, Pleasant Hill, Iowa
Sara is passionate about those that she serves. In 2013 she became the first female mayor for the city of Pleasant Hill, Iowa. That journey was a result of her career starting out at a local government agency, Metro Waste Authority, and obtaining her master’s in public administration; while serving on local boards such as the Board of Adjustment, Plan and Zoning, and Polk County Conservation. Sara’s story landed her on the Lean In website and then in the second edition of Lean In: for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg.
While Sara’s service to Pleasant Hill grew (re-elected for her third term in 2021) her mayoral role also landed her on numerous boards such as Bravo, D.A.R.T., Metropolitan Planning Organization, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Metropolitan Advisory Council, Iowa Municipal Worker’s Compensation Association and Wastewater Reclamation Authority. Sara’s career path evolved as well during this time. She worked as a sustainability manager for Kum & Go Corporate and then transitioned to the non-profit world in the role of the Tocqueville Society Director for United Way of Central Iowa.
Sara’s passion and leadership in both worlds resulted in the joining of the Business Record’s 40 Under 40 class of 2015 and the Business Record Emerging Woman of Influence in the same year. Then in 2016 Sara was selected by the American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) to take part of a seven- member delegation to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Through strong participation and leadership on that delegation, Sara was selected to lead a delegation for ACYPL to SE Asia in March of 2018. Global impact, translating to the local connection is an area of interest for Sara, which resulted in her being nominated to the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy Spring Fellowship in spring of 2018 at the Center for Strategy and International Studies in Washington DC. Sara is a member of the 2022 -2023 Leadership Iowa Class and was honored by Truman State as a member of the inaugural class of ECHO 25 under 40 leaders in 2022.
In Spring of 2021, Sara set her sight on a career transition that would be a blend of heart and strategy; to become the next President and CEO for Make-A-Wish Iowa. She now leads the team to strengthen their statewide efforts and ensuring that every eligible child fighting a critical illness in the state of Iowa can receive their wish.
Outside of Sara’s public service and career, she has a lot of fun with family and friends. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Todd; they met at Catholic Youth Camp. The two of them are raising two boys who love to keep them very busy. Sara especially loves to continue global travel adventures, reading, enjoying music, a good movie night, and family time. Sara received her undergraduate degree from Truman State University and was a member of the ultimate frisbee team, Alpha Gamma Delta, and marching band in her college years.
George Patrick Lee ’15
Program Director and Vice-President, Board of Directors, Indigenous Rights Advocacy Group
G. Patrick Lee is the Program Director and a staff attorney at the Indigenous Rights Advocacy Group, a nonprofit legal organization based in Boulder, Colorado. IR Group specializes in providing pro-bono legal and consultancy services to indigenous governments, organizations, and individuals to help them find creative methods for incorporating emerging human rights norms into both their domestic and traditional governance systems.
Mr. Lee received his J.D. and Certificates with Honors in International Law and American Indian Law from the University of Colorado Law School. He is also licensed to practice law in Colorado. He has worked closely with indigenous governments and organizations in Australia, Belize, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and the United States and has a personal academic interest over the gaps in intellectual property protections over indigenous traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and access to their genetic and biological resources. To help further IR Group’s mission, Patrick asks anyone who is able to donate or volunteer at indigenousrightsgroup.org.
Brianna Lennon ’07
Boone County Clerk
Brianna Lennon serves as the County Clerk in Boone County, Missouri. As such Brianna is responsible for administering voter registration in addition to all federal, state, and local elections within Boone County. Prior to her service as County Clerk, Brianna served as Assistant Attorney General in the Missouri attorney general’s office and as Deputy Director of Elections in the Missouri secretary of state’s office. Brianna is active in the field of American election administration where she volunteers to serve on the boards of the United States Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center along with the Missouri Association of County Clerks and Election Authorities.
Adam Lowrance ’05
Entrepreneur, Apply with Success
Adam Lowrance, MM, MA, PhD earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Truman State University. He went on to earn a Master of Music from Northern Illinois University where he studied composition while working as a recording engineer. Adam journeyed next to the University of Northern Colorado where he worked in admissions and student affairs while earning an MA and PhD, both in Education Leadership. While he attended Truman for its reputation in music, the broader liberal arts education ended up impacting him the most.
After developing a focus on medical school admissions and the many complexities inherent in the student selection process, first at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, and then at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, Dr. Adam founded Apply with Success, where he now works with students and families, helping them navigate their own paths to medical school.
Adam lives in the mountains of Northern Maryland with his wife, Dyane Tower (‘05) and their Rhodesian Ridgeback, Frankie.
Stephanie McGrew ’12
Assistant Director – Department for Diversity & Inclusion at A.T. Still University; Entrepreneur; Lone Star Physiques, TheVille Escape Room & Axe Throwing, McGrew Properties, TruColors Properties
Stephanie McGrew is the Assistant Director for Diversity & Inclusion at A.T. Still University of Health Science (ATSU). She collaborates with campus and community constituents to advance diversity department initiatives. Her responsibilities include student recruitment, strategic partnerships, and campus programming. She oversees the soon-to-be trademarked “Dreamline Pathways™” program that provides access and opportunity for prospective students through campus and community touchpoints. Due to the initiatives and programming of the Dreamline Pathways™ program, Stephanie is the recipient of the Inspiring Programs in STEM for 2021 and 2022.
Stephanie provides Safe Zone For All and Cultural Proficiency education presentations and workshops for students, employees, and community organizations. She is the ATSU lead for the ATSU/Truman State University (TSU) Healthcare Academy partnership. She also serves as a program manager for the Graduate Health Professions Scholarship (GPS). Stephanie sits on various boards and committees. She sits on the Advisory Council on Diversity (ACOD), Diversity Enrichment Committee (DEC), Diversity Enrichment in Education Committee (DEEC), and the Diversity Enrichment in Education California Committee (DECC). She is also the co-chair of the ATSU Staff Council committee. Stephanie is a member of professional organizations like the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) and the National Association of Minority Medical Educators (NAMME). Stephanie is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
Stephanie is a native of Texas but moved to Missouri to earn a Master of Healthcare Administration from ATSU in 2017, a Bachelor of Science, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Truman State University. She is currently working on her Ph.D. from ATSU in Health Sciences.
Stephanie is also an entrepreneur, and has owned, and maintained several businesses in the Kirksville area since 2013. She is the owner of Lone Star Physiques, a fitness facility that provides one-on-one personal training and group, fitness classes. She also is the owner of The Ville Escape Room & Axe Throwing. She owns and manages commercial and residential real estate properties throughout the Kirksville area. Stephanie and her sister created the non-profit 2315 ELM to help assist her community with educational, leadership, healthy living, and cultural proficiency initiatives. She also had her first published article in 2012, “Tetrodotoxin-resistant voltage-dependent sodium channels in identified muscle afferent neurons” in the Journal of Neurophysiology. Stephanie has been published four additional times. Stephanie is also the Vice President of Fairy Godmother, a local Kirksville non-profit organization. She is also on the board of NAF for University City High School. She was the co-campaign chair for the Kirksville United Way in 2021. She is also on the board for the Kirksville City Wide Martin Luther King Jr. Citywide Celebration.
Ms. Stephanie McGrew enjoys multi-day endurance races, ultra-marathons, hiking, and camping. She has completed several 100-mile ultra-marathons. Stephanie has helped to raise over $100,000 for various non-profit organizations across the country. She is also a fitness instructor and teaches Yoga in her spare time. She has a dog named Riley and Jazz who are her pride and joy.
Katie Cooper Nix ’06
Lead Pastor, Grace United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Katie Nix is an ordained elder in the United Methodist
Church and currently serves at Grace UMC in St. Louis,
MO. Proud to be “back home” in the city that shaped her call,
Pastor Katie has a heart for bringing the message of God’s love
to the neighborhood and to young families in the community.
Always seen with a Dr. Pepper, Pastor Katie is a visionary leader
who has demonstrated the ability to discern situations utilizing
socially relevant and theologically grounded research to analyze,
enhance, and implement change. She is passionate about worship
and draws together creativity and ancient practices to
communicate God’s truths and inspire participation in God’s
ministry. Having experience in children and youth ministry, urban
ministry, and international ministry, Pastor Katie is a motivated
teacher who creates and sustains a culture that equips disciples of
all ages to embrace God’s call and participate in God’s Kingdom.
Pastor Katie holds a Master’s in Divinity from Princeton
Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Ministry from Fuller
Theological Seminary where her emphasis was on the
intersection of worship and missions. In addition to her
ministerial work, she is the current Vice President of Young
Clergy Women International, an organization of over 2,000
female clergy from across the globe that creates a holy and
authentic community that sustains generous collaboration for
Christian clergy women under 40. She is also an adjunct
professor at St. Paul School of Theology and teaches the course
“Mission in the Contemporary Church.”
Jessica (Chaney) Rooks ’05
Attorney, The Rooks Law Firm
Jessica Rooks runs a thriving Elder Law and Estate Planning firm in rural Northeast
Missouri. After receiving a BS in Political Science with honors from Truman State University, she went on to pursue a law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law, graduating in the top 15% of her class. While in law school, Jessica helped shape Missouri Guardianship reform Law. Continuing her lifelong determination to chart her own course, Jessica chose to open a solo small firm after law school and focusing on the specialty areas of Elder Law and Estate Planning with the aim of serving the needs of rural Missouri.
Since opening her practice in 2012, Jessica has served as the first circuit Juvenile attorney, has been profiled in Missouri Lawyer’s Media, and was named an Up and Coming young attorney for the Missouri Bar Weekly in 2018, and has held numerous community seminars and information sessions on Estate and Long-Term Care Planning. Outside of her practice, Jessica has worked extensively with local charities, been nominated for the Kirksville Young Professionals Top 5 under 40 award and has served on the board of her local chapters of the Chamber of Commerce, HUD, and YMCA. She is currently on the board of the Missouri chapter of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
Alafiya (Nasrulla) Sachak ’09
Head of Therapies, Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust
I’m extremely good at one thing and that’s making people talk! I got my undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Truman State University in 2009. I then went onto getting my Master of Science in Communication Disorders in 2011 from the University of Texas at Dallas where I also worked as a Research Assistant for Dr Rollins in her Social Communication Lab. After graduation, I worked in Dallas as a Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) for two years before moving back to India. In India, I worked as a SLP for a reputable non-profit organization called Ummeed (which means ‘Hope’), helping children from underprivileged communities access speech and language therapy services.
I got married and moved to England where I have been working for the National Health Service since 2014. Currently, I work as the Head of Therapies at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, heading a department of approximately 200 staff consisting of physical therapists, occupational therapists, SLPs and orthotists. I am also studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Management from Henley Business School, University of Reading in the UK. I have completed several leadership courses and was awarded the Clinical Achievement Award in 2016 and nominated for the Most Inspiring Allied Healthcare Professional award in 2020 at the Royal NHS Foundation Trust. I am a proud mom of two little boys and whilst I am not busy working or being a mommy, I enjoy cooking, dancing, playing tennis, and traveling with my family.
Sarah Saheb ’06
Senior Staff, Service Employees International Union
Sarah Saheb is a veteran labor movement organizer and leader and a Truman State University alumnus (2006).
For nearly two decades, Sarah has organized mostly low-wage, immigrant workers in the private and public sectors across the country, including Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver and Los Angeles, among others. She’s led successful policy and organizing campaigns to win contracts, higher wages and expanded rights for workers at airports, in health care, and other industries nationwide. Most recently, Sarah led the successful campaign to win collective bargaining rights for 30,000 Colorado public sector workers.
Sarah has worked extensively in progressive electoral politics. Getting her start in organizing at Truman State, Sarah worked as the Midwest Regional Director for Rock the Vote, leading the campaign to register thousands of students on campus ahead of the 2004 presidential election. She also worked on SEIU’s campaign for President Obama in Ohio 2008, for Obama in Wisconsin in 2012, and for the Ohio Democratic Party, running local elections and developing candidates. Working for SEIU’s political department, Sarah has helped build one of the largest political action committees in the country.
Passionate about urban farming and food security, Sarah helped develop the City of Cincinnati’s carbon reduction plan, and led a committee that passed legislation to expand urban farming in the city. She founded Cincinnati urban farm OTR Homegrown, for which she won several awards and received attention from National Public Radio.
A Michigan native, Sarah is now a member of SEIU’s national senior team. When she isn’t on a picket line, she can be found gardening, cooking, and traveling with her dog, Kabir.
Darius Taylor ’12
Strategic Data Project Fellow/Data Associate for Student Success, Harvard/American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC)
Darius D. Taylor is a scholar, artist, and activist from North Chicago, IL currently based in Springfield, MA. He is an alumni of Truman’s HES department where he received his B.S. in Health Science with a minor in Biology & Statistics in 2012. Darius went on to obtain his MPH in epidemiology and biostatistics from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in 2014. His background intersects the fields of education, epidemiology, biostatistics, evaluation, research, psychometrics, theater production and performance. Darius intersects these disciplines with the overarching goal of healing and empowering historically marginalized youth and young adults. Currently he is the Deputy Director of Equity, Education Innovation & Research at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, a Harvard Strategic Data Project Higher Education Fellow and PhD Candidate within the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, Research, Educational Measurement, & Psychometrics program.
Daniel Tucker ’07
Daniel Tucker is a union and labor movement organizer. He has been organizing and working with fast food workers in Stand Up KC for the last 10 years to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour and to help ensure that poor people and workers have a voice on their jobs, in our government and in their everyday lives. He has led workers out on more than a dozen strikes, organized civil disobedience protests and helped pass legislation to raise the minimum wage as well as a Right to Counsel law in Kansas City which guarantees that anybody facing eviction has a right to free legal representation. Recently, Daniel co-founded a new statewide organization called the Missouri Workers Center which aims to advance the fight for economic justice and racial equality across the state of Missouri.
Geoffrey Woehlk ’14
News Editor, Maryville Forum
Geoffrey Woehlk is an award-winning journalist at The Maryville Forum, a weekly newspaper in Maryville, MO. While at Truman, Geoffrey was heavily involved with KTRM radio, serving as station manager for two years. He enjoyed his time at Truman so much that he decided to take five years to earn his undergraduate degree in communication, graduating in 2014. During his final senior year, Geoffrey received a Senior Leadership Award and was inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa Student Hall of Fame. Following graduation, he worked for four years at KTVO-TV in Kirksville as assignment editor and managing editor, and has worked at The Maryville Forum since 2018 as a reporter and news editor. While at The Forum, Geoffrey has received numerous awards for his investigative reporting and as a columnist and editorial writer, including the Missouri Press Association’s Tilghman Cloud Memorial Editorial Award in 2021 and the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors’ Golden Quill award in 2022 for editorial writing. In 2021, Geoffrey received the Missouri Press Association’s William E. James Outstanding Young Journalist Award for weekly newspaper reporting.