Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jackie Wittke-Thompson Publishes Papers

Dr. Jackie Wittke-Thompson

Dr. Jackie Wittke-Thompson had two articles published in notable journals in the biology education community. She is a member of FlyCURE and the Genomics Education Partnership.

“FlyCURE is a group of geneticists from across the USA that are working to locate specific mutations that were created in the fruit fly by Dr. Jacob Kagey (PI). All the research work is done by undergraduate students under the supervision of a faculty member. USF students in my BIOL151 Beginning Investigative Experiences in Biology and BIOL255 Genetics courses have been part of this project,” she explained.

“The Genomics Education Partnership is a group of geneticists, bioinformaticists, biochemists, and more that are working together to annotate genes in different eukaryotic organisms (such as fruit fly, parasitoid wasps, and the Puerto Rican parrot). All the work is done by undergraduate students under the supervision of a faculty member. USF students in BIOL255 Genetics, BIOL322 Molecular Biology, and BIOL375/376 Advanced Investigative Experiences in Biology have been part of this project.”

Both publications are focused on the impact of these course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) on undergraduate students.

Read “Fly-CURE, a multi-institutional CURE using Drosophila, increases students’ confidence, sense of belonging, and persistence”

Alumni Spotlight: Molly Gunning-Scordo ’19

Molly Gunning-Scordo '19

Molly Gunning-Scordo, B.S., RTT graduated from the USF’s Radiation Therapy program here at the University of St. Francis in 2019 and is continuing her studies as a Saint by pursuing a master’s degree in Health Administration.

Molly ended her clinical internship at University of Chicago Medicine at Silver Cross Hospital and was hired as a staff therapist there following graduation. She took part in the Student Alumni Mentoring (SAM) program at USF both as a student and alumna. She is very involved as a clinical instructor for current USF radiation therapy students.

Molly plans to utilize the Health Administration graduate degree to pursue additional leadership roles and teach classes to radiation therapy students.

Molly’s advice to current radiologic science students: “Being able to help patients every day is a gift. Show them compassion and love with everything you do. Work hard and soon you will be taking the radiation therapy world by storm.”

Click here for or more information on the Radiation Therapy program at University of St. Francis!


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 stfrancis.edu/management.

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.

male headshot

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 stfrancis.edu/band or contact Paul Laprade, chair of USF’s Music & Performing Arts Department, at plaprade@stfrancis.edu or 815-740-3219.