Name: Amy Bearden ’06, Pictured at far-left with members of The Marion Consort (from left to right) Molly Pufall-Brown ’05, Chris Henricks ’04, Hans Royal-Hedinger ’08, Kyle Shiver-Simpson ’07, Kristen Donnelly ’10 and Melissa Curtis ’06.
Current job position (or additional field of study) and where:
Elementary Music Teacher at Horizon Science Academy – McKinley Park, Chicago and Artistic Director of The Marion Consort, Chicago
Why did you choose MU?
I don’t think I could have articulated the reasons at the time, but I knew that I wanted to go to a small school. I had heard about Millikin because Chapter 6 had come to perform at my high school. I visited the campus in September of my senior year and felt right at home. I knew Millikin was the place I wanted to be.
What activities did you participate in as a student?
I was a member of University Choir and One Voice. I was also an orientation leader and worked in the Office of Student Programs.
Who was your most memorable MU professor and why?
I had so many wonderful professors at Millikin – it makes it hard to narrow down! I would say Dr. Hadi Gibbons, my voice teacher. I started with her my sophomore year. She whipped me into shape while giving me the freedom to explore different styles of music – one of the aspects that led me to explore early music.
What is your most memorable MU experience?
As a music education major, I student taught in the second semester of my senior year. The UChoir Homecoming tour concert in January of that school year would be my last real concert with the University Choir. During my final performance of “Praise to the Lord” as a UChoir member, Dr. Holmes stopped conducting, closed his eyes, smiled and just took in the music. I still get emotional thinking about that moment.
What is one concept you learned at Millikin that you use in your work regularly?
I believe that Millikin prepared me extremely well for my teaching career and for ensemble directing. The hands-on experience I got early on was so important in helping me get used to being in the classroom.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
There are so many enjoyable aspects to teaching elementary music. I love laughing and jumping around with my students, as well as experiencing the excitement on a child’s face when they finally learn what a quarter note is. It’s the little things! With The Marion Consort, I love being able to continue to make music with my best friends and to explore new, old music. [Editor’s note: The Marion Consort is an early music ensemble that specializes in choral music from the medieval, baroque and Renaissance periods. Learn more at: www.marionconsort.org.]
What have you done that you are most proud of since graduating from MU?
I am most proud of starting The Marion Consort, which had been a dream of mine for some time. I took the plunge and even went back to get my master’s degree in early music from Indiana University. Since then, highlights include being featured on Milwaukee Public Radio and singing at the Chicago Cultural Center. Come hear us! The Marion Consort will perform an a cappella Christmas concert Sunday, Dec. 15, at 4 p.m., at the Byron Colby Barn, 1561 Jones Point Rd, Grayslake, Ill. For information, visit the Byran Colby Barn website.
Where do you hope to be five years from now?
I would love to continue performing regularly with The Marion Consort, and maybe even link up with a school where The Marion Consort could be the artist-in-residence and we could give workshops about early music and a cappella music.
What advice would you give to current Millikin students about preparing for life after graduation?
Don’t leave everything to the last minute, but don’t always plan everything. Some things you just have to either let happen or wait out. Follow your heart, no matter what.
Want to be spotlighted as the "Young Alum of the Month?" We are seeking recommendations and self-nominations for outstanding young alumni who have demonstrated innovative and responsible professional leadership and have the potential for future success. Email Jaclyn Weisenborn '09, associate director of alumni engagement, with a short write-up of why you or your nominee should be considered for this profile. Please include a list of successes and achievements in your nomination, and attach a portrait or headshot (if available). One alum will be featured each month in MY Times.
Three current employees sign up for new positions on campus, while a 1993 alum works to fill some mighty big shoes.
Gina Bianchi ’93: Senior Director of Alumni & Donor Engagement
Gina Bianchi joined the Alumni and Development staff as the senior director of alumni and donor engagement in August after having been away from Millikin for 20 years. As a student, she was involved with the University Center board, a member of the softball team, an employee of the fitness center and a resident assistant. After graduating with a degree in communications, she worked at Illinois Wesleyan University for three years as a hall director, assistant softball coach and a conference coordinator.
From 1996-2013, Bianchi worked at Illinois State University, most recently serving six years as director of alumni relations. Her other roles at ISU included assistant director of the athletics study center, athletic development coordinator, director of the annual fund and director of development for the division of student affairs.
Although filling the shoes of her predecessor, Jan Devore, is a large task, she feels she is up to the challenge. Bianchi is most excited about returning home to serve the university she loves. Although she knows her classmates from 1993, she is eager to meet other alumni and play the "do you know?" game. Bianchi believes if a conversation lasts long enough, you can always find a Millikin connection.
Gail Crookshank: Director of PACE (Professional Adult Comprehensive Education)
Gail Crookshank was named director of the PACE program in June. She had previously worked as PACE’s marketing and recruitment coordinator, and most recently, as assistant director of marketing for extended programs. As director, her office is responsible for the academic advising of adult students entering the PACE program. This includes helping students select a major, develop a plan of study, register for classes and make academic progress through the program. In addition, the office coordinates student activities for PACE students and works with many offices around campus to provide student support services.
Looking ahead, Gail and her team hope to help identify new markets for PACE, which could include additional majors and/or specific series of courses that could be packaged in educational units to provide additional value to adults in the workplace. They also hope to explore alternative delivery methods for PACE courses. Gail believes there are several opportunities to partner with other academic departments at Millikin to create new opportunities for adults in Decatur and surrounding communities.
Paul Lidy ’04: Director of Residence Life
Paul Lidy joined the Office of Residence Life as director in June, returning to his roots after working for five years in the Office of Student Programs (now Inclusion and Student Engagement). As an undergraduate student, Lidy was very involved in the Residence Hall Association (now Student Housing Council) and in the Office of Residence Life. After graduating from Millikin, Lidy earned a master’s degree in college student personnel from Western Illinois University in 2006 before returning to MU in 2008.
Lidy works to continue building strong residential communities on Millikin's campus. His personal goal: for all Office of Residence Life staff members to know each residential student by the end of the academic year. Lidy’s future goal for his staff is to focus even more on each student's experiences inside and outside the halls in order to build a greater sense of community. He believes much of this work will be done through our active Living Learning Communities.
Jason Wickline ’94: University Registrar
Jason Wickline was named university registrar in August, replacing the retiring Walt Wessel ’69. A 1994 Millikin graduate with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems, Wickline spent the last 19 years working in the information technology field. He began his Millikin employment in 2003, when he joined MU’s Information Technology (IT) department and worked with technology to enhance student and alumni access to academic records. While in that department, he served in several roles, ultimately serving as senior systems analyst/team leader.
As the new university registrar, he notes that alumni and students can continue to count on the Registrar’s Office to provide quality service to the entire Millikin community, to send academic records (transcripts) as needed, to provide guidance about transferable courses for students returning to complete a degree or seeking a new degree, and to provide verification of degrees for alumni.Wickline is eager to work individually with faculty and students in his new role. He believes technology can only go so far in explaining the university’s requirements for graduation. He plans to continue the Millikin tradition of offering personal, face-to-face assistance to explain how specific courses can fulfill degree requirements.
At a recent alumni networking event in Chicago, discussion focused the ideal skills sought in a new hire, with solid writing and communication skills emerging as an absolute must. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you polish your professional writing and communication skills.
Know your purpose and audience.
Be clear on your audience and your reason for communicating. Carefully consider and choose the appropriate tone, including vocabulary and style, for your purpose and your audience.
Be aware of your organization’s brand.
As an employee, you are a representative or brand ambassador of that organization, so communicate in ways that positively reflect your workplace. Also, model your communication style on the styles used by leaders within your organization.
Be courteous and concise.
Be respectful of others in your professional communications. Give credit where credit is due, spell names correctly and use non-offensive language. Give top priority to the most important information in your messages and edit out unnecessary words so that vital content can be easily understood by the reader.
With all the online resources available, it has never been easier to present work by others as your own writing. Your discredit yourself and your organization if you use another communicator’s words as your own. In cases where you must present information from another source, be sure to give proper attribution.
Find a mentor.
Consult a communication expert, especially if you find yourself in a situation where proper communication protocol is unclear. Connecting to someone who is respected in your industry can provide insight to help avoid any communication faux pas.
Need help finding an expert? Visit Millikin’s mentoring network (accessible through collegecentral.com/millikin) or the Millikin group in LinkedIn to connect to some Big Blue assistance.
By Kristin Nisbet-White, assistant director of the Millikin Career Center
Tony and Amy Hettinger Marx, both ’08
Tony: Rockford, Ill.
Amy: Philo, Ill.
Tony: Commercial Music
Amy: Music Business and Flute Performance
When, where, and how did you first meet at Millikin?
Tony: Weck Hall at the First Week orientation meeting. We went around the room and introduced ourselves to everyone. We really officially met at our Vocal Jazz auditions later that week though, in PMC.
Amy: We first officially met during our vocal jazz audition freshman year for Vocal Jazz Company. But according to Tony’s amazing memory he recognized me from a Millikin vocal festival that occurred in 2003, our junior year of high school!
What do you remember about the first time meeting each other?
Tony: Thinking she was way out of my league!
Amy: I kept looking down the audition line and noticed this guy that kept glancing my way. Finally he spoke up and said, “You’re that girl! That girl from Millikin vocal festival a couple years ago!” Which was true, our high school choir attended that festival, and our choir was the guest choir. In one of the songs, I had had a solo. Tony must have enjoyed that performance to remember my face! It was definitely a conversation opener and we became good friends after that.
What did you do on your first date?
Tony: We didn’t really have a first date. I asked her to go with me to a party, but we ended up staying in our dorm and talking through the night. Much better. And cost me nothing!
Amy: It wasn’t until after sophomore year UChoir tour that we started to notice a connection. It’s so hard to remember back then because our friendship and relationship just started to snowball into a whirlwind of fun and college experiences! But I would say our first “date” was when Tony invited me to a UChoir tour after-party at the “Blue House.” He came to my dorm to walk me there and we just actually ended up hanging out and talking the entire night!
Where was your favorite place to hang-out together at Millikin?
Tony: PMC, or the caf. We lived across the hall from each other junior and senior year, so really, our apartments were the spot!
Amy: PMC, the caf … looks like we hung out in places that had anything to do with music or food!
What is your most memorable Millikin experience as a couple?
Tony: Traveling/singing together (Dominican Republic, Canada & China, among others)
Amy: I would say our favorite experiences were the traveling and tours we were so blessed to do together. From Miami to the Dominican Republic to Washington, D.C., and China! We were very blessed by Millikin’s musical organizations to provide great life and educational experiences with these tours!
Where has your relationship taken you since Millikin?
Tony: I moved to Nashville after graduation, and she went to grad school, also in Tennessee. After she finished school, she moved to Nashville, and we are now in the process of building our first home.
Amy: We have now been married for three years and live in Nashville, Tenn. Our relationship has grown through time apart in different cities, graduate school, new jobs, to now building our first home in Tennessee.
What advice would you give young couples in love at Millikin?
Tony: Cherish your time together there. It will be some of the most memorable you’ll have.
Amy: I would say enjoy your time together at Millikin and get involved any way you can. Give of yourself, your time and talents to create memories together that make you smile years after you leave campus.
Want to share your story of how you found love at Millikin? Email Jaclyn Weisenborn '09, associate director of alumni engagement, with your expressed interest. One couple will be featured each month in MY Times.