Spring Summer 2019
Hometown: Belleville, Mich.
Class: 2019, bachelor’s degree
For some people, it takes years to figure out their purpose in life, wondering if they have a destiny. For TU graduate MacKenzie (Mac) Butler, he realized his calling was to serve others.
During his sophomore year at TU, Mac contracted with the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) through Bowling Green State University. In three years, he completed all necessary training, scholastic courses, soldiering skills and physical requirements.
With his outstanding efforts in ROTC, Mac was recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate. Distinguished Military Graduates are those who rank in the top 20 percent of all cadets in a year group. This is based on three major categories: academics, leadership and physical fitness. Mac was in the top 20 percent of 5,526 cadets nationally.
“Earning the award is one of my greatest accomplishments,” said Mac. He is the first student at Tiffin University to earn the award and is the first African American in Bowling Green State University’s history to earn the Distinguished Military Graduate status.
Mac graduated from TU in May with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology. He earned the medal of Academic Distinction which is given to baccalaureate degree students who have earned a grade point average of 3.50 or higher.
Mac found out about TU from being recruited to play for the men’s varsity soccer team. “That was my initial interest in the school,” he said. “But when I found out about their range of criminal justice-related majors such as forensic psychology, homeland security, etc., it became apparent that this was the move for me. And it was the right move because I remained focused at TU and was not as distracted as I think I would have been had I attended a larger school.”
Upon graduation, Mac was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He is contracted for four years of service.
While in the Army, one of his major goals is to be selected for the 75th Ranger Regiment. He also plans to try out to be a Green Beret later in his career. When his service is completed and he returns to civilian life, Mac hopes to work with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Detroit where he worked as a student intern during the summer of 2018.
When asked what he likes most about the career path he has chosen, Mac said, “I will have the opportunity to always be physically active and make a difference in people’s lives by going after people who are threats to the common good.”
At TU, Mac loved playing varsity soccer and that he stayed on course with his studies and succeeded.
Hometown: Tiffin, Ohio
Minor in Intelligence Studies
Class: 2019, bachelor’s degree
“Everyone has their bad days and everyone has their challenges,” said Tiffin University senior Halie Copley. Halie faced typical trials that every college student encounters – sickness, injuries from sports, broken-down cars and the overwhelming sense that a class is unpassable. But nothing compares to the challenge Halie went through the summer of 2018.
“Within 24 hours, I was accepted into my dream internship at Quantico, and I received news that my mother had breast cancer.” Halie’s mom was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of triple-negative breast cancer. “Most people would break, but I smiled and talked with my mom about how we were going to move forward.” Halie’s mom strongly pushed her to chase her dreams and do the internship at Quantico. “I knew she would have a great support system of friends and family, so I left for ten weeks for my internship while my mother started chemotherapy.”
Halie ventured to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia to fulfill her dream. She conducted research projects, gave presentations, trained new agents and other field workers and attended meetings that taught her more about forensics, the FBI and fingerprints. “I could describe my experience at Quantico in two words: a dream.” After Quantico, she moved back to Ohio to continue her internship part-time in Cleveland at the Violent Crime Unit. Halie helped with case-work, excavated a body for a 20-year-old case and investigated bank robberies.
Coming home from her tremendous internship brought Halie back to reality. Halie returned in August a week before classes started. Her mother had five chemotherapy treatments left, as well as a lumpectomy and radiation. “I had to take care of my younger sister since my parents traveled to Columbus every day for radiation and chemotherapy. I had to make sure my sister had a ride to and from school, a ride to her after-school activities and that everyone was fed.”
Although Halie had these challenges, she never faced them alone. “When I was in a dark place, I had a great support system that pushed me through.” Halie continues to balance school, clubs and supporting her family. Although life has thrown obstacles her way, she never lost sight of her dreams. “You just have to constantly remind yourself: who do I want to be in the future and what do I need to do to push myself there?”
Halie just graduated in May with a bachelor’s of science in forensic science and a minor in intelligence studies. She is involved in the National Society of Leadership and Success, is co-president of TU’s American Chemical Society, an athlete on the STUNT team, a tutor and a teacher’s aide for science labs. She received a forensic science award for her excellence in the field of study. Halie also earned the medal of Academic Distinction, which is given to baccalaureate degree students who earned a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.
Halie plans to work for a high-level forensic lab and pursue her dream job as a scientist at the FBI lab in Quantico.
WHEN LIFE GETS TOUGH, SOLDIER ON
Hometown: Erie, Pa.
Living: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Homeland Security and Terrorism
Expected year of graduation: December 2020
“Every day is a new page in the book of life, and who wants to read a boring book?” said Jamie Wagner, Tiffin University online undergrad student. Jamie’s path to success is full of plot twists. He enlisted in the military at a young age and was discharged because of an injury. He fought to get back in the Army for 16 years and finally got his chance to reenlist in the National Guard. Jamie took the risk of going through it all again, from basic training to starting over in a combat unit. All the while, Jamie took care of his family and pursued his education at Tiffin University.
“Failure is your greatest teacher in life,” Jamie said. “It can be hard to stay motivated when times are tough, but I remember how long it took to get to this point. Failure is never an option. When I had to come home the first time, it nearly crushed me, but I never quit. Putting the uniform back on after 16 years, I felt like myself again – a soldier.”
At Tiffin University, Jamie studies homeland security and terrorism. “I have always felt a need to serve. I am a soldier and I understand how to stop terrorism.” A goal of Jamie’s is to become a commissioned officer. Commissioned officers are the managers, problem solvers, key influencers and planners who lead enlisted soldiers in all situations. A requirement to become commissioned in the Army is a four-year degree. “Being that the United States is still involved in the long-standing War on Terror, I could not think of a better course of study to assist my country.”
In the civilian world, Jamie works as a National Construction Project Manager for one of the largest retailers in the country. He manages new store construction and remodels stores. In the military, Jamie is a 12B Combat Engineer in a Sapper Unit for the Ohio Army National Guard. He constructs fighting positions, places and detonates explosives, conducts operations that include route clearance of obstacles, prepares and installs firing systems for demolition and explosives and detects mines.
“My favorite part of working in the military is that it is not a job, it is a lifestyle. Serving my country is the greatest honor that I have been given.”
Jamie will graduate with a bachelor’s of criminal justice in December 2020. After graduation, he plans to enter into Office Candidate School to gain his commission and pursue a master’s degree from Tiffin University. “Being a Tiffin University student means the world to me,” said Jamie. “I am the first in my family to attend a traditional four-year college. To me, it is more than just an education. A degree is the start of my next chapter.”
A DRAGON IN THE WHITE HOUSE
Hometown: Ross, Ohio
Living: Washington, D.C.
Luke Niederhelman received his diploma in May of this year. He interned at the White House during the spring semester of 2018 and was hired full time just a few months later as Director of the Presidential Gift Office.
Luke is a fraternal twin. He and his twin, Ben, and their sister, Traci, grew up in a small rural town in southwest Ohio. In 2012, Luke tripped and fell down the stairs carrying Christmas decorations. His mom found him unconscious on the floor, and he was rushed to the hospital and informed just a few hours later that he had a brain tumor that needed to be removed immediately. The tumor was located in his left temporal lobe which is responsible for memory. After the surgery, he lost nearly six months of memory. After countless recovery methods, Luke found he was finally able to contribute to a discussion without forgetting details. With the support of his family and peers, Luke was able to pursue his academic career.
“Admission representatives from Tiffin University contacted me weekly,” Luke said. “After receiving countless calls, I decided to visit and I chose TU about a week later. With the new criminalistics major, an offer to compete on the men’s soccer team, a partnership with the Washington Center and only a three-hour drive from home, I thought TU was a perfect option. The campus has a small and close-knit family environment where faculty and staff are actually interested in their students.”
Aside from personal growth, Luke believes his experiences within the criminalistics curriculum at TU opened the door to his future. “The curriculum is specifically designed to educate students to comprehend the scientific and legal methods of entering a crime scene,” Luke explained. “Within the classroom, I have practiced the collection of evidence, examining a mock crime scene, interrogation techniques, polygraph examinations and much more.”
Luke says the greatest accomplishment is graduating with a 4.0 GPA. “After I earned a 4.0 during my first semester, I pushed myself to continue it,” Luke said. “I am proud of my grades, especially since I was very involved on campus which included two internships, maintaining a full-time job and more importantly, having fun.
One internship, in particular, has paid off for Luke. Not many college students get the privilege to brief the President of the United States.
As Director of the Presidential Gift Office, Luke is responsible for processing all gifts intended for the First Family or White House staff. He must also report to the President on the gifts received. “It is a great privilege to work directly with each office and White House staff, regardless if it is the Press Secretary, National Security Advisor or the President of the United States.”
Reflecting on his experience, Luke explained that he had to keep pushing himself when applying for the White House internship. Many of his peers questioned his odds of getting accepted. Luke had to write an extensive number of essays and compete with thousands of applicants, but that did not stop him from reaching his goal. He placed the negativity aside and completed the application.
“Because I applied myself, I am experiencing a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Luke said. Luke advises students to push themselves to any and all opportunities ahead. “If you do not apply, you will always be denied.”
Luke graduated with a bachelor’s of criminal justice degree from Tiffin University. He received the F.H. “Cap” Wilkinson Award, which is given to a student who embodies the best of the entire School of Criminal Justice and Social Sciences. Additionally, he earned the medal of Academic Distinction, which is given to baccalaureate degree students who earned a grade point average of 3.5 or higher.
Luke describes Tiffin University as an institution of opportunity. “I do not believe I would possess the knowledge, skills, and experience I have today if I had not enrolled at Tiffin University. As I create my own path and venture on to new goals in life, I will always remember how I got where I am through the support of those at Tiffin University.”