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michael gibbons
Blog

Alumni Spotlight: Dragon Proud

Fall/Winter 2018

Michael Gibbons

BA 2014

In high school, Michael Gibbons, class of ’14, didn’t like reading or studying. Then he joined the Marine Corps. Soon he found himself on foreign soil realizing how little he knew about the world.

“Going to Iraq really jolted me,” he recalls. “Growing up, I never had dinner table discussions about U.S. foreign policy or much outside of Ohio. My own ignorance scared me and motivated me to pursue a college education.”

He chose TU because the degree programs suited his interests and ambitions. “TU faculty all had real-world experience in their fields, which I liked,” he said. Gibbons graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and National Security. He valued that education so much, he went on to Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, where he earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy focusing on international security policy and conflict resolution.

“Being a first-generation college student placed me in a slightly different position for my pursuit of a degree and a career. Tiffin provided me the confidence and knowledge to assess and provide solutions to real-world events that are forever impacting our national security,” he says.

“I have fond memories of being in small classes with my professors, almost all of whom were incredibly approachable and had so much enthusiasm for my success. I think Tiffin University is a place that will take you and build you up into whatever you wish to be, just as long as you are willing to throw yourself into it and put in the time.”

“Some of my best memories as a student were with TU’s Global Affairs Organization (GAO) and the model NATO simulations in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “It was fun and proved to be a great experience to meet senior policymakers on the Hill and the Pentagon, in addition to numerous foreign embassies. Being a part of GAO not only gave me the confidence to engage senior policymakers but also brought me closer to my classmates and my professors. GAO members were my closest friends at TU, as were the faculty advisors that managed the trip. They had a huge impact on my education and professional development during undergrad.”

Recently Gibbons has been working at a cybersecurity firm, Flashpoint, in New York City. As an analyst focusing on counterterrorism and cybercrime, he authored intelligence reports from the information pulled from the Deep and Dark Web.

“I assessed al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other large terrorist organizations’ financing, propaganda, recruiting, and the development of different weapon systems,” he says. “A lot of the counter-terrorism work I do is in Arabic, so I am always using the language skills I started learning at TU.”

To those who want high-level national security jobs, Gibbons advises, “Don’t just expect to have a career in the CIA, FBI or the National Security Council right after graduation. You need to set a four-year plan that allows you to shoot for the stars with these agencies, but also allows you to work in a field that complements the agencies and provides you the ability to enhance your skillset.”

“You need to hit the books hard, challenge yourself, and travel abroad to experience whichever part of the world you wish to become an expert in. You need to have a solid understanding of the region’s political, economic and security climate and you have to master your language,” he said. “Being able to read and assess text in its native form is very crucial. Broadly speaking, having a decent grasp of the technical side of cybersecurity is a huge bonus. Not too technical, but be able to translate what the engineers and hackers are saying into easy to digest reports for senior management and policymakers to act on.”

“There is a huge market for people to fill this middle ground between the tech gurus and the policymakers, but the skills don’t come overnight,” he concluded.

Mircea Handru

BBA 2007 and MBA 2011

CHALLENGE MOTIVATES ME

Addiction is more common than many realize. There are over 20 million people in the United States over the age of 12 with an addiction. Most people don’t get the treatment they need, and hundreds of people overdose daily. Tiffin University alum, Mircea Handru, strives to help the community as the Executive Director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties.

The Board’s role is to plan, implement, monitor and fund mental health and addiction services. Mental health and addiction are not easy tasks to tackle; at times, it is challenging due to the severity of some cases. “Mental illness and addiction continue to be seen as a sign of weakness instead of an illness,” said Mircea. “But facing these challenges is what motivates me in what I do. It’s a great feeling when you know that through your help, a person is alive, regained their self-worth, and now is a productive citizen of our community.”

Mircea believes this was the right career path for him. “What I like most about my job is the challenges; I get to work with elected officials or local politicians and with society’s most vulnerable clients in very complex cases. Additionally, the significance of the services our organization provides for the community is really important to me.” Some of his accomplishments include the execution of the 24/7 crisis text line, creation of the Critical Incident Stress Management Team and the implementation of the Seneca County Drug Recovery Docket (PIVOT).

On a personal scale, Mircea thinks that becoming a dad, husband and U.S. citizen are other great achievements. Mircea received his bachelor’s degree in 2007 and MBA in 2011 from Tiffin University. He traveled from Romania to play soccer and earn an education.

Mircea’s experience in the United States and at TU reassured him that he could be successful. “The opportunities available in this country are what motivated me the most. I came from an eastern European country where opportunities are limited.” Mircea explained that Americans offered him more help than his home country, Romania. “I don’t like to admit it, but this is the reality. Any young individual has all the opportunities in the world. The United States offers all of us tremendous opportunities. Often, young people choose to not see the opportunities, even when they are right in front of them.”

Mircea’s perseverance and willingness to learn guided him to his success today. He advises students to be committed. “Once you have a career goal, plan for the necessary actions to give you the best chance to accomplish that goal and commit to the plan. Dream positive, look for opportunities, accept assistance and commit to your plan.”

Dr. Carolyn Lawrence

MH 2008

I ACCEPTED THE CHALLENGE

Carolyn Lawrence holds a Bachelor Degree in Media Studies, a Master of Humanities from TU (in 2008), a Doctorate of Education, and recently published her first novel, “The Mess We’re In,” but the process was not easy.

“A major challenge I encountered was that I didn’t have any interest from traditional agents and publishers,” said Carolyn. When every agent and press she queried rejected her book, she realized that her style of writing didn’t fit the specific criteria of the publishing industry. Carolyn didn’t let that stop her, rather it encouraged her to become a self-publisher. “I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my story by making it fit someone else’s regulations. I am in complete control of how the book is marketed, received, sold, etc. No one is telling me what I can and can’t do, and I appreciate that freedom.” Despite having little experience within the publishing world, she accepts the challenge of learning how to market and sell her book.

Tiffin University played a big role in Carolyn’s success. “Tiffin University means so much to me and my career. TU gave me a great deal of confidence in my intellect and enough to be able to say, ‘I can self-publish this book.’ I blossomed while studying at TU; I truly developed a great depth of knowledge of storytelling, characterization and good writing, as well as a deeper sense of psychological analysis and internal philosophical examination. Anything we discussed in my courses contributed in some way with my writing. The humanities program also helped me be better equipped to dive into the heritage and history for my book.”

Publishing her first novel is Carolyn’s greatest accomplishment. She never thought she would see it happen, but she pushed herself to achieve her goal. “I am proud of my degree and the work I completed at TU. I am a better person, academic and writer because of TU and its professors. And I can now proudly say I am a published author. I was timid about starting a graduate program. Was I too old? Too out of the loop? But I did it. I was scared about self-publishing, but I did that too. I found I loved the challenge of pushing myself to see what I could accomplish.” After TU, Carolyn went on to obtain her doctorate and began teaching the subjects she loves the most. In her mind, everyday holds some test, some challenge which remind Carolyn why she did all this: to be her best and highest self.

Carolyn is a Humanities and Literature Instructor at Chattahoochee Technical College and an author.

Fran Paschall

MBA 2001

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Tiffin University alumna, Fran Paschall, was appointed the Chief Nurse Executive for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA).

As the Chief Nurse Executive, Fran leads strategies to enhance patient care, quality and safety. She represents the voice of the nursing staff and provides leadership to obtain and sustain Magnet Recognition, the most prestigious distinction a healthcare organization can receive for nursing excellence.

Fran joined CTCA because of her alignment with the company’s mission and vision. “Providing powerful and innovative therapies to heal the whole person, as well as providing hope and trust, are vital to the care of our patients and their families,” she said. “Nurses are central to this commitment, which is why I want to prioritize inspiring nurses to stay motivated through challenging times and ensure they believe in what they are doing to ensure meaningful and impactful work.”

Becoming the Chief Nurse Executive for the CTCA is one of her many achievements. Fran also served as the Chief Nursing Executive for Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) East Florida Division, and the Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services/Chief Nursing Officer for HCA’s Riverside Community Hospital in California. In 2017, Fran was appointed by the Florida Governor to serve on the State Board of Nursing and authored articles that appear in the Journal of Nursing Administration.

“My greatest accomplishment is leading by example and mentoring nurse leaders into achieving management and executive leadership roles that drive the quality of care and experience for patients and families.”

Fran advises current students to be a life-long learner. “Make the most of every single learning opportunity and interaction.”

Fran holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Executive Leadership from American Sentinel University, a Master of Science in Acute and Critical Care Nursing from Case Western Reserve University and a Master of Business Administration from Tiffin University.

Steve Werling

Class of ’77

San Antonia, Texas

When Stephen E. Werling, ’77, returned to Tiffin from the military he had no idea that events would jump-start an academic and human resource management consulting career that would last more than four decades and change the direction of his entire life. “I would have never guessed I’d be doing this,” said Werling. “If it wasn’t for Tiffin University, I would be doing something completely different. I’d have a completely different life.”

While his path into academics was a perfect fit, it wasn’t quite so direct. After graduating from Tiffin’s Calvert High School in 1968, Werling started college at Kent State University. That lasted two semesters before he dropped out and joined the Air Force, where he was stationed in Vietnam, and became a supervisor of a telecommunication center and taught English to South Vietnamese soldiers.

In 1974, when he returned to Tiffin, Werling registered for classes at Tiffin University with no real plan or career goal. That changed when he stumbled across a job at Tiffin University. He was hired as the Veterans Coordinator, recruiting and managing the large influx of veterans to TU. In 1977, Werling graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in management.

Within months of graduation, he was given the opportunity to teach FORTRAN, an old computer language, to some of the same students he had studied with. Eventually, he also taught introduction to business, marketing, and business math. “The things that happened at Tiffin University shaped who I became as a teacher and how I developed my commitment to students,” he said. “I had an instructor, Mary Jane Brakeall, who was the most important influence in how I teach – applied, structured and difficult – and in the success of my students.”

Inspired by academia, Werling went on to earn an MBA from the University of Dayton and a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. Over the years he taught management courses at Brescia College, St. Mary’s University, Tiffin University, Troy University, University of Kentucky and his current employer the University of Texas at San Antonio.

In 1993, Werling turned to full-time consulting. Today, in addition to teaching, he manages Werling Associates, Inc., a human resource management consulting firm specializing in designing compensation systems. He has worked with more than 250 clients, mostly in Texas, but as far away as Alaska.

The consulting business, however, did not distract him from his true passion for his students. His consulting business has allowed Werling to provide employment opportunities to students to begin careers similar to his experiences at Tiffin University. The consulting business hires several interns a year.

In addition, all of the current and previous employees, except his wife, are former students. Many of his former students are now peers, clients, and, in some cases, consultants at competing firms.

Because Tiffin University shaped his path to success, Werling has set up three endowed scholarships at TU. The scholarships represent a continuation of his commitment to students. The first two scholarships recognize the influences of his father and father-in-law on his career.

Werling’s father, Edward Werling, Jr. worked at National Machinery and raised six children. Three of Edward’s children graduated from Tiffin University: Stephen, ’77; Margret Werling, ’85 and Madeline Scheger, ’08. “The support and activities that National provided for the employees showed me at an early age that organizations can treat their employees well and be highly successful.”

Werling’s father-in-law, Michael Gaietto, was a small businessman who owned a grocery store with his brothers near Tiffin University and several taverns. He inspired Steve to start several small businesses, including his current consulting business. It is also important to note that Michael’s grandson, Scott Stiverson received an MBA from Tiffin University in 2006.

The most recent scholarship, in Werling’s name, was established for first-generation students.

This year, Werling was the keynote speaker at TU’s annual Scholarship Donor Recognition Luncheon where he reminded scholarship recipients of the importance of giving and supporting students at Tiffin University.

He noted that donors understand that “the only value of money is what you do with it. At some point, giving it away is more valuable than making more money or buying more stuff. The value increases if the donor has a passion for the cause or recipient.” He supported this idea with a reference to the early history of the University. Franklin Miller, Alfred Reichard and later Eugene Huth owned Tiffin Business University as a for-profit organization. In 1939 they gave away their ownership, establishing Tiffin University as a
ot-for-profit organization. This allowed the University to focus on student success without being burdened with a concern for profits.

He also noted that TU’s alumni and friends magazine, Challenge, provides numerous success stories of alumni, friends, neighbors and businesses who continue the legacy of supporting the university and students. In explaining the reason for establishing his scholarships, he stated “I just want the help the students get what I have: a good family, a successful career that I enjoy and the chance to make a difference to others.

At age 68 he’s not sure when he’ll stop. “I’ve been talking about retirement,” he says. “One of the reasons I can’t stop is the students. I enjoy being around young people more than people my own age because there’s a vitality there that is difficult to give up.”

When asked, he tells his scholarship recipients to get good grades and dream bigger. “There are really no limits to what we can do. We put more limits on ourselves than others put on us,” he said. “Think beyond your normal options, take some risks and have fun.”