WIU Alumna Balances Professional Life, Family

By Caitlin Meyers
University Relations Intern

Western Illinois University alumna Julie Foy (1990) is a model for WIU graduates and current students endeavoring for success in sales, marketing and human resources, while balancing a family and continuing to serve the community.

Foy has held three major positions in the retail/wholesale fashion industry since she left WIU. Foy joined Dansko Footwear’s staff in April 2014 and is currently the national accounts manager.

Prior to her current job with Dansko Footwear, Foy was the divisional merchandise manager of footwear and accessories for Lands’ End. She also worked for a privately held Midwest based retailer, where she managed multiple product categories, excelling in her many roles, and was promoted to general merchandise manager.

“It is unusual for someone to move from a successful retail career to a wholesale career. Dansko Footwear was looking for a new approach to their business and felt someone with a retail buying background would be a fresh approach,” said Foy.

As the national accounts manager, Foy manages many large retail accounts including Amazon, Dillards, Nordstrom, QVC and Zappos, just to name a few.

“I am always representing Dansko Footwear–from wearing the product every day to presenting the new products each season–partnering on a retailers Dansko sales plan to executing a marketing plan we help our retailers sell Dansko Footwear products from start to finish,” said Foy.


QVC is one of the national accounts that Foy manages for Dansko Footwear. She is on air at QVC when the brand is being offered for sale. Upcoming QVC appearances include Monday, Nov. 9 and Monday, Dec. 21 at 1 a.m. CST.

Foy says she attributes much of her success in her early years to her time at WIU.

Foy attended Griggsville High School in Pike County, Ill. with a graduating class of just 28.

“Being involved and attending a medium sized university was essential for my future success. I needed a balance of academic and campus involvement,” said Foy.

The desire for a medium-size student body led Foy to Macomb.

The student body was around 13,000 when Foy attended WIU in the late 1980s. According to Foy, this was perfect size to be involved in campus activities, prepare for a future career and build lifelong friendships.

Foy received a bachelor’s degree in communication, with a minor in marketing. While attending WIU, she was involved with the University Union Board, Student Government and Delta Zeta Sorority. Foy served as the Delta Zeta chapter secretary and chairperson for the Delta Zeta Illinois State Meeting, hosted at WIU in 1990.

“Like many students I worked multiple jobs to pay for my education. My campus job was working for Darrell Negley at the University Union Sign Shop. In May of 1990, I was awarded the University Union Employee of the Month. I also worked off campus as a waitress at a local restaurant,” said Foy.

Balancing work and extra-curricular activities, along with academic accomplishments was the just the beginning of what Foy needed to balance a successful career and a family.

She married her husband Jason in October 1994, and is mother to two sons, a 19-year-old named Jake and a 16-year-old named Justin, who is a junior at Rockridge High School. Foy is excited her son Jake will be transferring to WIU in Fall 2016.

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“I am able to work from home in this position but that also means I spend a lot of time on airplanes. Each week I am traveling somewhere either to work with accounts or attend meetings in our corporate offices in West Grove, PA. I have to work on balancing all aspects of my life,” said Foy.

Although the position is demanding at times, the job also comes with many perks.

“During my career in retail buying and wholesale I have been exposed to people and brands I really never imagined. I have traveled to New York City (Manhattan) over 175 times in the last 20 years. I have crossed the street alongside of Donald and Ivanka Trump. I have sat and talked with Russel Simmons for 45 minutes and didn’t even realize who he was. I was able to see Ralph Lauren in person and was surprised to see his stature was quite small. I even once ran into Hulk Hogan in the lobby of my New York hotel. I am often times mistaken for Tina Fey, Sandra Bullock or Sarah Palin. It really just depends their current look and if I am wearing glasses or not,” said Foy.

With a busy lifestyle, Foy wanted to find a meaningful way to give back to her community using the knowledge that she has gained from her career.

“I currently manage the “Rocket Shop” for the Rockridge Boosters Organization. This means designing screen prints, ordering merchandise, managing the inventory and marketing the products. Each year we are able to keep the school spirit strong, our fans excited about ‘what is new’ at each game and raise money to support all extracurricular activities,” said Foy.

The Foy family had a scare this past year and learned that its oldest son, Jake was diagnosed Hodgkin Lymphoma. Foy said her Dansko family was very supportive and provided her with time off necessary to travel with Jake to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for treatments.

“I can’t say enough about the support, care and flexibility Dansko provided as we were managing the unexpected,” said Foy. “Jake is now cancer-free and is looking forward to attending WIU and majoring in agricultural business. As a WIU alumna, I am ecstatic about his choice and know that his experience and career opportunities will be limitless.”

WIU Ski Trip on Lincoln’s Birthday Doubles in Size

Kickstart (Ski+Jump)


A collaborative project between Western Illinois University’s Campus Recreation Outdoor Pursuits program and International Studies program offered 130 members of the campus community a ski trip during Lincoln’s birthday Thursday, Feb. 12.

A combination of 128 WIU students, staff and family members traveled to Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park in Andalusia, IL, by bus.

According to Pat McGrath, the assistant director of Aquatics and Outdoor Pursuits at Western, the trip included a mix of first-time and experiences skiers.

“Despite the daily high temperature of 16 degrees, everyone had a great time on the slopes and warming up in the lodge,” said McGrath. “We plan to continue growing the trip next year, potentially adding the opportunity for participants to snow tube, as well as ski and snowboard.”

The trip’s $30 registration fee included transportation, ski rental, a lift ticket, a one-hour ski lesson and a voucher for pizza and a drink. Students also had the chance to sample new products from Kickstart and Ubr Water, provided by Pepsi.

The number of participants in this year’s trip doubled last year’s Lincoln birthday event, which had 62 participants.

For more information about the annual trip, contact Campus Recreation at (309) 298-1228.

WIU Biology Alumnus Appears in LEGO Form

By Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Writer

Western Illinois University alumnus Aleshia Kenney, who received her master’s degree in biology in 2004, was recently turned into LEGO form through the concept of “LEGO Ideas.” This is a platform where LEGO fans can submit new design ideas and, if approved by a popular vote, the designs will be created and sold.

Kenney is a fish and wildlife biologist at the Rock Island Ecological Services Field Office in Moline, IL. Through the Rock Island Ecological Services Field Office, Keeney works with private landowners to develop habitat restoration plans for their properties.

The recently approved design series using Kenney’s likeness is c

WIU Alumnus Aleshia Kenney, a fish and wildlife biologist, appears in LEGO form as part of a new series of scientific sets.

WIU Alumnus Aleshia Kenney, a fish and wildlife biologist, appears in LEGO form as part of a new series of scientific sets.

alled “Research Institute,” and was created by Ellen Kooijman, a geochemist and a LEGO fan, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Midwest Region. The plan created designs around five female scientists in an effort to get more women interested in scientific fields.

These sets are part of a series called “The Building Blocks of Women Scientists.” Kenney’s likeness and details of her career are now in LEGO form on the FWS website, Facebook, and Twitter.

A picture of the design and article can be found at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/WomenInScience-AleshiaKenney.html. To see the other four women scientists that were also turned into a LEGO, visit http://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/WomenInScience.html.

WIU Students, Alumni Part of Macomb Roller Derby Team


1900092_695094153847319_350306090_nBy Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Writer

When Macomb’s roller derby team, the Macomb Bombshells, take on the Midwest Derby Divas Saturday, April 26, several Western Illinois University students and alumni will be part of the local team.

The event, which will benefit the McDonough County Special Recreation Association (MCSRA), runs from 6-9 p.m. at the Outskirts Fun Center in Macomb. The MCSRA provides positive, personal and purposeful recreation to people with disabilities in the McDonough County area.

Natalie Lister, a graduate student in psychology from Macomb, is a member of the Macomb Roller Derby team.

“I would also say that being a member of the derby team has done so much for me personally,” Lister said. “I have missed sports since I was in high school and never thought I would play on a team again. Derby has fixed that. I love the intensity of the sport and the fierce competitiveness of the teams. Even better, we play hard on the rink, but show support to the opposing team as well, getting to know them after the bout is over.”

Lister added that she enjoys giving back to charity through this upcoming event.

Participants and spectators are invited to dress as a favorite superhero, and a costume contest will take place during halftime. Kids are invited to dress up as well.

Tickets are $10 at the door; $8 for veterans, seniors and students (with an ID). Children ages 12 and under are admitted free. Concessions and merchandise will be available for purchase.

WIU Music Professor Earning Art Degree

CaldwellBy Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Worker

Jim Caldwell, a professor in the Western Illinois University School of Music since 1985, is pursing a completely different dream that is now becoming a reality. Caldwell will graduate with a bachelor of fine arts in art degree in May after not taking an art class since sixth grade.

Caldwell teaches music theory, composition and electronic music at WIU. He is also a composer, and specializes in computer music. He is a co-director of the annual New Music Festival.

In his professional world, Caldwell is the chair of the University Personnel Committee, a former president of the WIU chapter of UPI Local 4100, was named the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer in 2009, and received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2005.

However, Caldwell sparked a new interest in simply learning to draw in 2004 when he began taking studio art classes in the art department. He had no art experience other than what is required in grade school and middle school. After the first few classes, Caldwell just kept going and eventually realized that he had accumulated enough credits to pursue a degree in art.

After meeting with Professor Jan Clough for advising and figuring out what courses he had left to take, Caldwell is now taking his last course requirement, an art history class. Caldwell will graduate in May and take part in undergraduate commencement while wearing his doctoral regalia. He will even have his own graduation party.

“My experience in the Art Department has been meaningful to me, and I think of myself as a visual artist, as well as a musician now,” Caldwell said. He adds that teaching has been wonderful and inspiring, and his traditional-age classmates have always made him feel welcome.

Inspired by WIU Classes, Alum Opens Her Own Business

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 1.22.11 PMBy Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Writer

A recent Western Illinois University alumna was inspired so much by her classes at WIU that she has created a new organization called Real Women of the Quad Cities to help women with their self-image.

Stephanie Hoover graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences in Fall 2013 after transferring from Scott Community College (SCC) to the WIU Quad Cities campus. In the midst of her studies at WIU, she continued taking classes at SCC and took on two internships and two independent studies.

Hoover was inspired and motivated to develop her organization from within her WIU classrooms. First, she watch a video from her gender and society class, called “Killing Us Softly 4” by Jean Kilbourne, which discussed how the media and society negatively affect women and their body image. The following fall, Hoover took a women’s health class, where she began to realize how accepting herself and others was a topic that needed attention. So, Hoover began to write her ideas on what could be done and how she was going to do it, which evolved into Real Women of the Quad Cities (later shortened to Real Women LLC).

The organization began with local women replicating photos of models and actresses who had been digitally altered.

“(This is) who we are told we are suppose to look like,” Hoover said.

The images were shared over a Facebook page Hoover created. Eventually, she began receiving many messages and page ‘likes,’ and she began to take names of women who wanted to model for the organization. Women were interested in blogging for the organization as well.

Hoover hired five local photographers to take pictures of women who had volunteered. The idea was to compare the images of what society says women should look like to how they actually are.

Assistant Professors Tammy Werner and Nancy Schaefer from the classes in which Hoover was inspired helped her create an independent study on body image for Spring 2013, which won first place at the Macomb campus Undergraduate Research Day in sociology.

Now, after graduating, Hoover has written a business plan and is pairing with Mando Murga, a former WIU business graduate, to apply for grants in hopes of renting an office and hiring staff.

Hoover is fulfilling her dream of being her own boss and plans to put her strong and personality to good use in standing up for the beliefs that she and others hold. She is currently editing her third book, which she won an award for from WIU in Spring 2012.

To learn more about Real Women of the Quad Cities, visit realwomenofthequadcities.com or visit the organization’s Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Real-Women-of-the-Quad-Cities/438737702829430.

Graduating COFAC Students Go Out with a Bang…. Or a Flash

By Kolette Herndon
University Relations Student Writer

Seniors in the Western Illinois University College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) who will graduate this spring said their goodbyes with a whole new twist this year. At the beginning of every semester, theatre majors attend a unified audition where they present a song and monologue for all the directors who are directors of that semester’s shows. Students are then called back for specific shows.

But during this year’s audition, Nate Curlott, of Long Grove, IA, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in theatre, stepped forward and parodied the song “One Day More” from the musical “Les Miserables,” singing “One Term More” instead.

Shortly after, a flash mob began including all of the graduating seniors in theatre and musical theatre and all of the third year graduate students from the University’s acting program.

This idea was sparked as the students returned from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Saginaw, MI, a week prior to the audition. This idea “brought the house down” as Assistant Theatre Professor Lysa Fox said. She expressed how the production spoke volumes about this “truly phenomenal group of students who will be missed when they graduate in the spring.”

To see the video of the flash mob, visit youtube.com/watch?v=aCW9HyzYRXE.

Students Open Dance Studios in Macomb

A few WIU students have taken on some big responsibilities in the past two months. Lauren Krohe, a junior broadcasting major from Table Grove, IL and Kimmie Nott, a senior exercise science major from Macomb, have recently become business owners of Project Dance Company, a new dance studio in Macomb. They also have another location in Keokuk, IA. With the help of Kolette Herndon, a junior journalism major from Macomb, the young women have developed a new dance team and recreational classes for children ages 3-18.

The dance studio offers styles such as jazz, hip-hop, ballet, tap and contemporary. The Project Dance Company competition team plans to travel all over the tri-state area to participate in regional competitions. Krohe and Nott have developed a fun and inspiring atmosphere for students to learn and share their love of dance.

An article was recently published in the Western Courier with more information regarding these students’ accomplishments as new business owners and how they were able to open up their own studio: http://www.westerncourier.com/news/western-students-new-business-owners/article_172395f2-0ea9-11e3-b1bb-001a4bcf6878.html

Also taking on a new challenge in the dance world is Karmyn Dorethy, a freshman theatre major from Colchester, IL. This young woman has also opened her own studio in Macomb. “Drive” Studio of Dance is located on the Macomb Square where the former tavern, Top of the Town, once was.

Dorethy has hired Emily Rhein, a senior musical theatre major from Des Moines, IA, and Hope Zegiel, a senior political science major from Montgomery, IL, help her teach her classes. Her studio offers styles of jazz, hip-hop, contemporary and tap. The “Drive” dance team had their first performance at Colchester’s Labor Day celebration in early September. Dorethy hopes to provide a place for her students to do what they love.

Dorethy’s new journey was also featured in the Western Courier. Check it out here for more information about how and why she started her new business in Macomb: http://www.westerncourier.com/news/student-s-passion-becomes-business/article_9944b5c0-15a7-11e3-a00e-0019bb30f31a.html

WIU Alumna, Employee, Wins Top Prize at Illinois State Fair

StateFair_01Western Illinois University graduate and office manager Deb Lutz, of Good Hope, has mixed art and geometry into a project that won first prize in the digital imagery division at the Illinois State Fair.

Lutz received her bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and justice administration from Western in 1984 and a second bachelor’s degree in graphic communication in 2005. She is currently the office manager in the WIU Department of Geography.

Lutz’s winning artistic piece is a fractal, which is a representation of a geometric math equation. Fractals are often endlessly repeating patterns, which vary according to a set formula. The winning project is titled “Swirlfrost” and this is the first time she entered one of her pieces in the Illinois State Fair.

“A fractal is a pattern that reveals greater complexity as it is enlarged and is a computer-generated image that graphically represents the behavior of a mathematical equation,” Lutz said.
Fractals are actually geometric figures, just like rectangles, circles and squares, but much of fractal geometry represents a particular symmetry of scale, called self-similarity, which can visually model natural phenomenon like coastlines, ferns, ice crystals, snowflakes and mountains.

Using a computer program to generate the images from a variety of equations, the fractals are considered “math equations expressed in form and color.” Once rendered from the generator, she can then make adjustments in Photoshop.

Lutz has copyrighted more than 200 fractals and loves the fact they are “infinitely varied and never get boring.”
“I brag about them without shame because I feel as if all I’ve done is take a photograph of an extremely beautiful natural phenomenon that’s ‘out there’ but unknown,” she said. “All I’ve done is stumble across the exact equation that each image represents. I love bringing them to the world at large and feel they belong as artworks so wish to present them as such.”

More of her work can be seen at http://www.facebook.com/deblutzfractals. She will also be exhibiting in the upcoming “Perspectives” show at the West Central Illinois Art Center in downtown Macomb and one of her pieces has been accepted to the national juried show, “64 Arts,” at the Buchanan Center in Monmouth.

Lutz is also one of the artists chosen for “Rocky on Parade,” a project that will result in numerous fiberglass “Rocky” mascot dogs being artistically decorated and placed around Macomb.

WIU Grad Works on “Sharknado” Movie

Ryan Budds, WIU Alum in Sharknado in SyFy

Ryan Budds, a 2008 Western Illinois University graduate with a degree in English, bills himself as a comedian, writer, trivia host and superhero on his website. Photo by Syfy (Syfy Media, LLC)

Ryan Budds, a 2008 Western Illinois University graduate with a degree in English, bills himself as a comedian, writer, trivia host and superhero on his website. The Midwest native, who now lives in California, recently added actor to that list, working as an extra in the science fiction movie, “Sharknado.”

Budds played a “beach victim” in the recently aired television movie from the SyFy channel that has created quite a buzz. He also worked as a production assistant on the film.

“I got to be killed in the first few minutes of ‘Sharknado,’ he told the website, ‘UPROXX: the Culture of What’s Buzzing.'” (uproxx.com/tv/2013/07/i-was-killed-by-a-shark-in-sharknado-this-is-my-story/) “We started filming in January, and the days were long and hard. Lots of hauling stuff, unpacking/packing trucks and driving people around on errands. Not exactly glamorous, especially on a low budget movie. But I learned a lot about how to make a movie and eventually the day came where I got to drop the equipment and get in front of the camera for my cameo.”

Budds earned the right to act in the movie by winning a comedy contest at Flappers in Burbank, CA.

“I was to play Beach Victim #1,” he said. “They put me in beach clothes and covered my leg in prosthetics and makeup to make it look like a shark had chomped it off.”

Budds he has worked as a comedian, opening for comics such as Dennis Miller, Zach Galafinakis and the Wayans Brothers.