Saint Spotlight: Tom Jeffries ’18, ’20

Tom Jeffries is an Alumni Board member and president of the Business Alumni Network (BAN).

Why did you choose USF and what degrees have you earned? 
I chose USF to pursue a finance degree and to also compete on the USF Fighting Saints baseball team as a pitcher. I earned a BBA in Finance and also a MBA in Finance from USF. My mother, Jennifer (Glovack) Jeffries ‘90, ‘13, is also a USF graduate. 

Where are you currently employed and how are you applying your major?  
I am currently employed at Freddie Mac working as an associate in the multifamily loan division. I underwrite multifamily loans in all 50 states for apartment buildings ranging from 5 to 100 units. I am applying my finance background every day at work. 

What are you excited for in your new role as the Business Alumni Network (BAN) president? 
I am excited to continue to give back at USF and hope to grow the BAN group and number of members. I am also on the Alumni Board and have been a mentor in the SAM program for a number of years. 

What have you accomplished since graduating from USF? 
Since I graduated from USF I have continued to grow personally and professionally. My background at USF has given me an edge in the banking industry and finance world.

How did attending USF change your life? 
Attending USF was a chance to attend a local university and earn a college degree. USF gave me a chance to attend a college with smaller class sizes and be able to play baseball collegiately and give back to the community. 

Who was your favorite professor and why? 
My favorite professor at USF was Dr. Steve Morrissette. He opened my eyes to a career in finance and banking, and to this day we still stay in touch. 

What is your lasting impression of USF? 
My lasting impression of USF is that it is a great university in Joliet and the college
provides ample opportunities to grow and make a difference in the world.

Favorite quote: “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”


About the Values-Based Management Degree

Communication & Media Arts major Shayna Griffith interviewed COBHA’s interim dean, Dr. Shannon Brown, about a grant received from longtime USF donors Patricia ’67 and Robert Wheeler through the Wheeler Family Foundation. Thanks to the generosity of the Wheelers, USF’s College of Business and Health Administration (COBHA) is following is offering a spiritually-focused curriculum, centered on Catholic, Franciscan values that will be integrated into academics, service to others, and faith-based values.

What is the new Values-Based Management degree and how is it different from the previous Management degree? Why was it changed? 

Dr. Brown: It was changed for a couple of reasons. The management degree had not been revised in a number of years, so it just needed to be updated in terms of content to match contemporary management theory. There are no other undergraduate VBM majors in the country, so it provides a niche market. We also got the Wheeler grant, which supports a curriculum that is more Franciscan in nature, so it did support the grant’s objectives. The truth is, managing based on values is the right thing to do, and is in alignment with USF’s mission.

Q. How will the grant help to make the College of Business and Health Administration a more Franciscan-based program?

Dr. Brown: The Wheeler grant has three separate areas or “phases”… academics, service, and faith. So the shift in this major was the first step in the “academic” part of the grant. We then focused on the “service” area and started a variety of initiatives, the largest being the Servant Leaders program. Servant Leaders are a group of students whose job it is to spread Franciscanism to the USF community. They do service projects, host events, etc. Finally, in the “faith” component, we hired Fr. Michael Jennrich, OFM, as the COBHA college chaplain. He is working with faculty to bring Franciscan values and teachings into our courses, he’s serving as a guest speaker in the classes, he’s recording video lectures on a variety of topics, he’s working with the Servant Leaders on activity ideas, etc.

For more information on USF’s Values-Based Management major and curriculum, visit

Composition by Dr. Michael Compton Performed by Iowa Symphony

Michael Compton, director of bands, was honored to have an orchestral arrangement of one of his jazz chart medleys performed in September 2021 by the Des Moines Symphony (Des Moines, IA).

“I was commissioned by a gentleman named Richard Hinson to arrange music. He dabbles in composition—basically making out a rough sketch of ideas—and then has me orchestrate it for him,” explained Compton.

Hinson, a board member of the Des Moines Symphony for many years and a major donor to their foundation, was so enamored with Compton’s jazz band arrangement that he had another acquaintance of his use it to create setting for a symphony orchestra.

The piece was performed by the Des Moines Symphony on their opening concert for the post-COVID season, and Compton attended.

“It was interesting to hear my creation reimagined by another person for an altogether different performance setting,” he said.

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New Pep Band is Pepping Things Up

The University of St. Francis “Band of Saints” pep band has been adding value to this year’s Fighting Saints athletic events. They’ve progressed quite well compared to last year, due to all of the COVID-19 regulations at that time… this year, they’ve been able to play at multiple football and basketball games with more hopefully to come. Just being able to perform has been a huge success in itself.

Some band members talked about their experiences. Band president, Sarah Deffenbaugh, shared, “I really love the community we have built ever since our start. We have grown so much as friends and as a musical group. We love bringing pep to games, and we are able to laugh and have fun doing so.  I love being able to not only watch the games but also play a part in providing spirit and cheer. I am so glad I met this amazing group of people, and I am so proud of how far we have come!” 

Another student, Vanessa McLean (the band’s social media coordinator), shared her reasons for joining the pep band. 

“I personally love being able to play music and impact the school. A lot of people have been enjoying us being at games and it is nice that they are enjoying our presence,” McLean said. 

There are currently 23 students in the band, with more to come in the spring. It has provided a close-knit environment of students that share a love for music and the University of St. Francis. Scholarships are also available. If you are interested in joining, visit or contact Paul Laprade, chair of USF’s Music & Performing Arts Department, at or 815-740-3219.

USF Adjunct Instructor Lauren O’Connor Publishes Book

Lauren O'Connor

Looking for something new to read? Take a look at a new book published by USF adjunct instructor Lauren O’Connor: “Robin and the Making of American Adolescence.”

In O’Connor’s first semester at  USF, she teaches College Writing I and Introduction to Literature. Even though she is new to the university, she says she “already feels so at home!” 

She shares that her book is about the social and cultural history of superhero Batman’s sidekick Robin, and how Robin was both a product and producer of the idea of the “American teenager.” The book looks at how adolescence intersects with a variety of identities, like race, gender and sexuality—all the while using Robin as a case study.

When asked why she chose this topic for her book, O’Connor responded, “I started my career as an adolescent counselor, and I felt really strongly while working in this field that the way we are taught to understand teenagers was not very accurate.”

She further explained that the stereotype of teens being dramatic, poor decision makers or overly emotional seemed reductive to her. She said that she chose to research Robin, in particular, because he is the oldest comic book teenager that is still around today, and many different characters have filled the role of Batman’s partner, so interesting comparisons can be made. 

O’Connor also says the book was a revision of her doctoral dissertation.

“It was very long and involved,” she explained. “I spent about four years total conducting this research and writing the book.”

O’Connor mentions that she had a wonderful group of advisors and a great editor assisting her. Even though the process was long and time-consuming, she says she can’t complain because she “got to read lots of fun comics!”

The book has been described as entertaining and funny. O’Connor worked hard to make it accessible and compelling, while also delivering lots of information about teenagers in society today to the reader.

You can learn more and order O’Connor’s “Robin and the Making of American Adolescence” on Amazon, or on the Rutgers University Press website.

Student Presenters Share & Learn at USF Writers’ Conference

USF’s Mary Kate Hynek and MaKenzie Munson were recently interviewed by sophomore Hannah Mitchell about their experiences as student presenters at the November 13 Writers’ Conference. The conference, hosted by the USF English Department, took place on Saturday, November 13. Poet Naoko Fujimoto gave the keynote address.

Q. What was it like creating your own graphic poem during the workshop with Naoko? 

MH: Creating a graphic poem with Naoko Fujimoto was an experience like no other; I’ve never worked with graphics and poetry in combination before (although I am a huge advocate for graphics and writing working together), so the process opened my eyes to new ways of thinking that I can incorporate into my creative writing process. Naoko’s energy and passion really inspired me to create, and she made me feel part of a creative community of writers. 

Q. What was your presentation about? 

MH: My presentation, titled “Dying Rose,” was a work of short fiction and an adaptation of a graphic novel scene set to appear in a future collaborative project. This piece is the result of seven years of collaboration and character development. The main character of this piece, a young man named Briar who struggles with an ancestral curse that causes irrational insanity, will be one of the main characters appearing in the graphic novel. My collaborative partner made an appearance during my presentation, and we emphasized the benefits of images and words coming together to create something amazing. My presentation won best overall performance at the SFWC. 

MM: My presentation was a paper I wrote for my foundations II class that focused on analyzing the movie The Social Network.

Q. How did it feel to present your work in front of a group of people?

MH: Presenting something that I put my heart and soul into was a nerve-wracking experience. Never before had I presented such a treasured piece of writing outside of a classroom setting. My parents, professors, and peers were all watching, and I was hoping my reading would be clear and concise. I made sure to read with emotion, and the nerves I felt before reading my piece disappeared. It was rewarding to hear the applause (and to applaud my fellow presenters) as I finished; the SFWC was such a positive, supportive environment. Presenting in a conference setting boosted my confidence and gave me valuable experience as a writer. 

MM: I have experience with public speaking but have not been able to do it for a while, so it felt great to be in front of an audience again! 

Q. Overall, what was your takeaway from this experience? 

MH: Overall, the SFWC was an incredible experience. It allowed me to make connections, share my work, and appreciate the work of other writers. Perhaps, most of all, I learned so much at the SFWC. I’m so glad that the University of St. Francis has a safe, supportive environment for writers.

MM: While I loved sharing my own work, the most inspiring part of the conference was hearing from others and being part of a space that included so many other talented and passionate writers.