Alumni Spotlight: Madison Blackwood ‘15

Alumni Spotlight: Madison Blackwood ‘15

female headshotUSF SAM Mentor of the Year is a multi-talented businesses owner with big dreams and an even bigger heart.

Our Student Alumni Mentoring (SAM) Mentor of the Year, Madison Blackwood ‘15, is a Jane of all trades. Not only is she a full-time real estate agent for Baird & Warner, but also runs her own photography business, Madison Paige Photography, and is an adjunct professor at USF, teaching Speech classes. She credits USF, in part, for her success.

“USF has allowed me to meet people and expand my professional circle, leading me to more opportunities. Being a small campus, alumni are always willing to help their own and hire them because they know the type of education that was received,” she said.

Even with all this on her plate, Madison had time to volunteer in the Student Alumni Mentoring (SAM) program and earned the title of SAM Mentor of the Year. She genuinely enjoyed working with her mentee and helping reach her goals.

Madison reflected on her experience with the SAM program, saying, “I loved the SAM program this semester. My background and experiences meshed perfectly with where she wanted to see her career and future go. I was able to offer a different perspective and allow her to feel more comfortable with the choices she was making when coming to her internship opportunities. Talking through choices with someone who has been there before makes the decision easier, and I’m glad I could be that sounding board for her.”

Although Madison’s wisdom benefited her mentee, giving back to USF via the SAM program was rewarding for the Madison too, who in hindsight wishes she would have been involved in the program as a student.

“I really enjoy getting to help a student plan for their future. When I was a student, I didn’t get involved in the program and wish I would have. To have someone who had been there before to lend an ear and listen to what I was thinking would have been beneficial. It’s so easy to get inside our own heads and what we want the future to look like; it makes it easier to have someone there to reel us back in to reality and realistic expectations,” she stated.

Regarding the honor of being the SAM Mentor of the Year, Madison said, “This was CRAZY to me. I feel so honored to be awarded this title, because I was just doing what I would do anyways. I am always happy to help a current student. My mentee was incredible and really made the program this year very memorable.”

Looking Forward

Madison loves to come back to visit the MCOM/CMMA department, and she hopes to continue to give back to USF and grow professionally.

“I am really looking forward to next semester and future semesters on campus helping students in the classroom, but also in the SAM program. Plus, if the year continues the way it is, I am hoping to be in the Top 200 Agents within my real estate company which would be a huge honor,” she said.

We know Madison will continue to achieve great things, and we are so proud to call her a USF alumna.

Student Alumni Mentoring Program Award Winners Announced

Joliet, Ill. –  The University of St. Francis (USF) Alumni and Family Services Office announced today the winners of its annual Student Alumni Mentoring (SAM) program.

Through the SAM program, alumni mentors serve as a guide, friend, and resource who shares educational and professional experiences to provide career guidance and professional contacts with their student matches. Mentors are partnered with students based on similar career paths, interests, and goals and commit to two events per academic year – an induction reception in November and an etiquette dinner in February. Additionally, mentors commit to a minimum of one conversation per month with their mentees. The program runs for a six-month period (November through April) during each academic year and partners with the USF Career Success Center to create a robust, professional program for both students and alumni.

This year’s SAM program award winners include:

  • Mentor of the Year Award: Madison Blackwood ’15 – Manager for Membership Services & Events at the Bolingbrook Area Chamber of Commerce (nominated by her student match, Liz Badalamenti, a marketing major with minors in communication, media arts and finance at USF);
  • Mentee of the Year Award: Cameron Moore – senior marketing major at USF (nominated by her alumni match, Carol Sheetz ’18, ’19);
  • Superstar Mentor Award: Sue Smith ’04 –Assistant Director of Graduate & Degree Completion Admissions at USF (nominated by her student match, Nicole Kulon, a management major at USF);
  • Superstar Mentor Award: Sharon Dalinis ’04 – Director of Client Services at All Campus (nominated by her student match, Clarissa Barkley, a marketing major with a psychology minor at USF);
  • Superstar Mentee Award: Andriana Acosta – junior-level international business and marketing major at USF (nominated by her alumni match, Keith Schomig ’13, ’17);
  • Superstar Mentee Award: Danny Griskell – senior management and marketing major at USF (nominated by his alumni match, Keith Schomig ’13, ’17), and;
  • Superstar Mentee Award: Fran Zarate – social work and psychology student who is beginning her master’s degree in social work degree at USF (nominated by her alumni match, Heather Poma ’02, ’11).

“We are incredibly proud of this program. Students learn beyond the classroom from alumni who graciously share their professional experience. We look forward to another great year,” said Aubrey Knight ’04, ’07, USF Director of Alumni and Family Relations.

Knight added that USF alumni interested in applying to be a mentor for next year’s program can do so now at Applications are due by Friday, Sept. 25.

The Student Alumni Mentoring program was established in 2012 as a way to bring students and alumni together to help to pave a path for students to succeed at USF and beyond. It also provides our alumni with great reason to stay engaged with their alma mater. Since its inception, the SAM program has graduated close to 1,000 student participants. Visit for more information on the program.

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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