THE DUHAWK DOZEN CLASS OF 2022

 

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JANUARY

Jonathan O'Brien ('18)
Computer Science & Mathematics 
Dubuque, Iowa


Your Friendly Neighborhood IT Guy

From IT intern to software engineer to owner of JOB Technologies, Jonathan O’Brien (’18) has already compiled a long list of professional achievements. After graduating in 2018, Jonathan wasted no time making his mark in the world of technology.  “It’s definitely a journey for how I got here,” Jon started. “It’s always been changing and adapting, but I’ve always kept my foot in about everything.” Although he began work with JOB Technologies as more of a hobby, it was with the help of a Facebook post from President Jim Collins (’84), that Jonathan saw his passion project become a business.

“It was only residential and homes at first. Two or three months after that, is when I landed my next job at command security through President Collins’ Facebook review. That helped me grow JOB technologies and go full-time on it.

Jonathan began working with Dubuque businesses including Kramer Family Dental, Command Security and Clarity Clinic and more.  JOB Technologies’ reputation as your friendly neighborhood IT guys, proved to be increasingly accurate. Local business owner, Kim Hackett, recalled Jonathan going “out of his way to make sure [she] understood all aspects of the technology he helped with, and that helped [her] business run smoothly and securely.” All these accolades were not handed to him. He put in countless hours to earn his spot as one of Dubuque’s best and brightest technology businesses.

Although Jonathan describes his work life as sun-up to sun-down, his dedication to working through late nights and early mornings started back in the Rock Bowl as a member of the Loras College football team. Jonathan recalls how much mentors like Coach Helminiak and his whole coaching staff helped along his journey. “I was pretty close with a lot of them. They each helped in unique ways. They showed me and guided me – you have to keep grinding and you’ll eventually get there.”

Since graduating, Jonathan continues to live out the notion of Duhawks supporting Duhawks as he attends events like the Cubby Bear Social in Chicago and the Football Alumni Golf Outing. “We get to meet the players from 30 years ago and hearing funny stories from them,” Jonathan said of the Football Golf Outing. “There’s definitely people from every age group that I talk to occasionally, but I call them friends instead of just ‘teammates.’”

In addition to attending events off-campus and staying in touch with classmates, Jonathan is getting ready and excited to celebrate, unite and support with his fellow Duhawks on March 9 for Duhawk Day.

   

 

   

FEBRUARY

Estherjoy (Est) Mungai ('14)
Politics
Washington D.C.

Loras. Lakers. Familia.

For the better part of eight years, Estherjoy (Est) Mungai (’14) has spent her professional career educating and informing young people across the country. From podcasts to written articles, she has been using the full reach of the world wide web and face-to-face conversations to help others. About her use on the internet, Est said ‘we have had to switch to a lot more digital organizing: hosting digital town halls, Twitter storms for different campaigns, creating flyers and posters digitally. It’s been really huge!” After graduating in 2014, Est wasted no time making her mark on the world. Working with AmeriCorps, the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, and now the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Est can trace her drive to help others back to a placement she had through a class at Loras. “I had a mentee in the sixth grade that I met with weekly,” Est started. “One thing that became obvious, even though I came and was a support for the student… a lot of the larger issues that they delt with were outside of their control.” Her work has grown and expanded since then, not only to cover a lot of physical ground in the South, but to educated on countless important topics to the young people of the region.

There’s a very thorough research process that goes into her work and time is key. Not only does she work with local and state officials, community members and councils, but she takes a new approach and strategy into every group of people and project that she works on. All the hard work that Est puts into her job does pay off. “In Charleston, we had pushed for greater transparency and accountability from Police Departments in Charleston,” Est started. “After a long campaign where it failed in city council… a couple months later, we were able to turn that vote around unanimously in our favor and were able to do that again for North Charleston a few years later.” For every victory Est has accomplished, though, there’s always another opportunity around the corner. “We’ve definitely won several victories, but we are on to the next thing.”

Though she never had a chance to play on the newly renovated tennis courts on campus, the courts as they were, and still remain, Est’s favorite spot on campus. With all the fun that came with tennis, one of her most memorable moments comes with a bit of a twist. “My first-year,” Est started with a laugh. “Someone came into my residence hall and threw a water balloon at me. I chased them down and as I chased them down, I broke my foot.” Est and her coach were both ‘stupefied’ but that didn’t stop her success with the program. Between tennis, Black Student Union and her studies, Est found great success with all she did at Loras.

Since graduating, Est continues to live out the notion of Duhawks supporting Duhawks through a love of both Loras and the Los Angeles Lakers. “We used to play pick-up basketball together and the few of us that were Lakers fans stuck close together.” That bond kept Est connected through a Loras Lakers Familia group chat, trips to Los Angeles and more! “The connection is very deep there and it will for the rest of our lives.” Between her classmates, professors, members of the Intercultural Programs Office staff and more; Est’s ties to Loras remain strong eight years after graduation.

Her legacy continues at Loras today through the revitalization of the Black Student Union, and across the country with her work in the field. Est left with a great piece of advice. “What I put in tends to be what I get out. Always give 100-110%, but you have to pick and choose your battles otherwise you’re going to burn out.”  

 

MARCH

Nick Coleman ('15)
Business Management & Marketing
Des Moines, Iowa

The Reigning Homecoming King

 

Mission and dedication are two key themes at the heart of all that 2015 graduate, Nick Coleman, has been up to since graduating from Loras. Aside from his dedication to memorizing The Office quotes and supporting the Chicago Cubs through their ups and downs, Nick’s efforts in giving back to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals shows the true nature of just how dedicated he can be. He’s spent most of his professional career with the same organization, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a feat that isn’t too common for most graduates of the last decade. When looking back on how he found success in sticking to one company for over six years, Nick recalled advice from Assistant Vice President of Student Development at Loras College, Kim Walsh. “Leverage your life in a way where you can focus on things that are really important,” he recalled Kim saying. “I found a huge passion of mine in Dance Marathon and I was able to put that into a career.” Though his day-to-day work has shifted from when he was President of Dance Marathon his senior year, he still serves the same mission: helping the children who need help.

Outside of working with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Nick recalled his long list of professional accomplishments as being broad but rewarding. “I loved working at the state fair, probably the most fun job I had,” Nick started, “but the most rewarding was an internship I had in Dubuque with Gronen Properties and Restoration.” The experience working with St. Mary’s parish in its conversion to Steeple Square helped Nick give back to and collaborate with other civic leaders and influential figures in the Dubuque community. “It really influenced my outlook on wanting to get more involved in my neighborhood and community,” Nick added.

With a focus on community, Nick referenced his Loras community through his memories of time spent in The Pub. “We’d spend a ton of time and get some work done. I feel like we were there until 10:00 p.m. every day.” He had also recalled Dance Marathon being a common thread with their time in The Pub. “Loras does a great job at providing great opportunities and educating you on how to get involved.” Outside of his community of Duhawk friends, two of his siblings followed the trail that he blazed and have joined the Loras community. His sister, Ellie Coleman (’25) started at Loras this past semester and his brother, Jesse Coleman (’18) shared a similar experience to Nick. “We both played tennis for the first semester of college, were both involved in Dance Marathon and so many different college experiences; it was really pretty fun.”

From a shy first year to the last reigning homecoming king of Loras College, Nick influenced countless classmates and set a high standard for what it meant to be a Duhawk. From weddings to international vacations, Nick has kept in great touch with his friends and classmates and plans on making it back to campus Homecoming this year on October 7, 8 and 9, 2022.

   

 

APRIL

Jessica Douglas ('16)
Public Relations 
La Grange Highlands, Illinois

More Than Your Typical 'Every Day Hero'

2016 graduate, Jessica Douglas, has caught the attention of more than just her friends, family and classmates. Just one short year after graduating, the Chicago Blackhawks named her one of their Every Day Heroes. “I was shocked, honestly,” Jessica started. “I was given the opportunity to tell my story and explain why I give back. Service has always been a big component of my life.” Her heroism through service is a common thread that ties together Jessica’s professional accomplishments. Through her work at Holy Family Catholic Schools in Dubuque, Iowa and her current work with One Million Degrees in Chicago, Illinois, centers around giving back to the communities she works with, Jessica’s drive for service began years earlier. “In High School, I completed countless service hours and my mom always said, ‘remember to give back to the community that gave to you.’” That led Jessica to serve in all the ways that she could with her time, talent and treasure.

Using her strengths in the digital realm, Jessica has also been working hard running her own business, Jess Nicole Visuals. “I want to make someone’s vision come to life through photo or video — so I help any way that I can.” Jessica has managed to weave her creative mind and navigate the professional realm with a great deal of purpose. With her work on A Love Letter to Black Women and Community Kitchen, two pieces centered around people in her communities, Jessica has cemented herself as a serious talent with important stories to share. “Some of my work were assignments in my master’s degree program, but I always think outside of the bubble with the projects I create.” She often utilizes her community to be a part of her art and creativity, allowing others to share their stories as well. Her company also seems to blend her Loras and work worlds together. Duhawks often find their way to being the subject of Jessica’s work, from engagement photos to studio shoots.

Jessica’s Loras experience was far from average; she was involved in Greek life, Black Student Union, Dance Marathon and more all while being an incredibly accomplished student in the classroom. When looking back at her experience, she has several mentors to thank: Craig Schaefer (’89), Cindy Behnke (’12) and Anthony Davis to name a few. “They helped me navigate Loras and made it feel like Home.”

Jessica has shared her Loras experience with countless individuals in her time after graduation, but she shares some connections with the previous Duhawk Dozen as well. She was a dancer in Dance Marathon while March recipient, Nick Coleman (’15) was President and followed in the footsteps of February recipient Est Mungai (’14) as President of Black Student Union. Jessica learned countless lessons after spending her four years at Loras being so involved. “Stay involved and stay in-touch with the people you graduated with, because it’s definitely a shift.” That trend of staying involved with Loras has continued to her alumni experience as well. Jessica is eager to make it back to campus for Homecoming on October 7, 8 and 9, 2022.

 

MAY

Kevin O'Brien ('11)
Spanish, International Studies & Politics 
Virginia

Pro Deo et Patria: A Motto to Take to Heart

The blog aptly titled, in all caps, “I’m Kevin! Iowa Native, Loras College Grad, and now Peace Corps Volunteer Headed to Mozambique!” perfectly sums up 2011 graduate, Kevin O’Brien. Kevin’s love of Loras has been building for a lifetime. He was born in Davenport, Iowa and grew up with frequent visits to the Loras campus. Following in the footsteps of his father, Kevin O’Brien (’72), and other family members, Kevin found success as a Duhawk. “I had a lot of examples in front of me,” said Kevin. “It was a long journey to end up at the school I had always known was the right fit for me.” Following his time as an involved student, Kevin started his professional career as the Special Projects Manager in the Loras College Admission Office. In this position, Kevin was able to find a great deal of success as it was positioned at the intersection of his love for Loras and his love of helping others.

Though Kevin announced the phrase “DCU: Dubuque, center of the universe,” in a Loras College video years ago, he has had the great joy of traveling far and wide for his studies and his professional career. He has spent time learning and helping others in Spain, Honduras, Mozambique and Jerusalem; just to name a few places he has called home since leaving Loras. There were countless lessons learned and opportunities taken advantage of along the way. “I didn’t see myself traveling to so many places while I was at Loras,” Kevin started, “but after the amazing study abroad opportunities and service trips, it whet my appetite for more travel for my work and personal life.” While spanning the globe, the pillars of health and community have been his guiding light from job to job. “Having a lot of connections through service work and Campus Ministry helped me see how service and giving back could be incorporated to my professional life.” Kevin has had a great deal of depth on his resume and has learned a lot from his experiences. One of his greatest takeaways has been “always lead and find the adventure.”

Kevin and our March recipient, Nick Coleman (’15), have something in common: their younger siblings followed in their footsteps as Duhawks. There was one key difference, Kevin and his brother, Tim O’Brien (’15), never had any overlap as students. Being the older brother and seasoned Loras veteran, he did have some sage words of wisdom that he shared with Tim and was able to follow along his journey from a distance. As previously mentioned, Loras was always a part of Kevin’s life and his family. Purple and Gold were woven into generations of Duhawks including his dad, uncles, brother and most notably his grandfather. “Having the opportunity to retrace my grandpa’s footprints at Loras was really special to me,” Kevin shared of his late Grandfather. “It would hit me that I was sharing in the experience of so many different relatives.” You can see the passion that Kevin has for Loras across the personal, familial and professional spheres of his life. He summed it up best in his 2015 blog post, A Motto to Take to Heart: “what I hold as important to me, starts in small moments, and they all bring me back to Loras.”

Kevin has spent his time as a Graduate Of the Last Decade (GOLD) staying involved and giving back to the Loras community. He worked at Loras, was a member of the Young Alumni Advisory Board (YAAB) and served on the Class of 2011 Reunion Committee this past Fall. As he gears up for Homecoming 2022, he had some advice to share with those preparing for their own reunions: “Try to invite everybody on an individual basis because that direct invite means a lot to people that were so formative in your life.” Join Kevin back on campus for Homecoming on October 7, 8 and 9, 2022.

 

JUNE

Kellie Klein ('13)
Elementary Education 
Dubuque, Iowa


Teacher of the Year

2013 grad, Kellie Klein, is doing nothing short of amazing work in the classroom, on the softball field, and in the entirety of the Dubuque community. Kellie started her work with the Dubuque Community School District in 2014, and ever since she has adapted and grown to an ever-changing education system. “I started there right after I graduated from Loras. I love it and I see myself working there for years to come!” Since then, she has helped countless students both as a teacher and coach. Through all of this, she has been able to keep calm but stay excited with the help of some other Duhawks. Kellie said, “My teaching partner, Annie Kashmar (’18) was awesome in hyping me up for this and she would keep me humble too.”  Her work in the classroom didn’t start after graduating, though. She had spent time working at Resurrection, Irving, Audubon, and St. Marks Elementary schools during her time at Loras. In reflecting on her time in the classroom and the impact she had made, she realized that ‘younger Kellie’ had some great insights during her senior year while creating her portfolio for Elementary Education. “Good job, younger Kellie!” Klein said before she went on to solidify that her success has come from the mutual respect that she shares with her students.

All of Kellie’s strong work ethic dates to her days working at the Hy-vee Bakery when she was younger. Now, in addition to her full-time teaching job, she has helped coach softball at Wahlert Catholic High School, Loras College, and more. “I always assumed I would coach,” Kellie started. “I naturally slipped into that position because my passion is Softball and helping kids do what they love.” Long before she had known she wanted to be a coach, she had more of a love-hate relationship with the sport. “I remember specifically, I was the worst player on the team,” Kellie started. “I told my dad, ‘No. This isn’t happening I need to get better.” However, as she and her sister Holly Klein (’16), grew up they both found a healthy level of competition and were constantly improving together with the help of their dad who drove them both to practice perfecting their craft.  

Kellie and Holly both went on to play softball at Wahlert High School and then at Loras as well. Kellie became Loras’ first softball All-American as well as the only member of the softball program to earn All-IIAC recognition all four years of her career as a pitcher, designated hitter, and first baseman. Looking back on her experience, she felt a great deal of excitement about the current successes of the program. “I was so happy, smiling ear-to-ear the whole season. I am proud of coach Ashley Winter and the program she has continued to build.”  Affectionately known as “Fun Aunt Kellie” to her classmates, Kellie has stayed incredibly connected with her network of Duhawk alumni. “Any time that all of us Loras girls get together, it’s so much fun and exciting to see how successful everyone is.”

She had some pretty simple but helpful advice for other young alumni who are in similar stages of life, trying to stay connected. “It’s very easy to get caught up in everything that you have going on,” Kellie started. “My recommendation: if you’re thinking about them, big or small, reach out to them.” Kellie is hopeful to make it back for the Alumni Softball game during Homecoming Weekend: October 7, 8, and 9.

 

JULY

PJ Fricano ('17)
Computer Science & Mathematics 
Dubuque, Iowa

For God and Country

 

PJ Fricano, a 2017 graduate, never envisioned himself spending over 20 years in the classroom, but after his time at Wahlert High School in Dubuque, Iowa, Loras College for his undergraduate degree, and finally Notre Dame for his law degree; PJ has a litany of academic achievements to be proud of. “Going from not liking school too much, to loving school at Loras, it was all hard but rewarding,” Fricano said. Since graduating from law school, PJ has become a Lieutenant in the United States Navy JAG Corps.

PJ has found a great balance in all aspects of his life within his line of work, from his physical regimen to his work-life balance. However, his inspiration and drive came from a unique place. “I saw A Few Good Men, a popular movie with a very young Tom Cruise,” PJ started, “and ever since I saw that movie, I knew that I wanted to join the Navy.” Looking back at his career, though, it seemed fitting that PJ ended up serving his country through his work with the military. He began interning at the House of Representatives, watching countless political systems working together first-hand. He worked with various constituents, bills, and processes to build his resume before clerking with the JAG Corps. “Getting to see how the JAG Corps operates within the Navy but with the larger community itself helped me realize that it was the right fit for me.”

PJ spent his entire academic career in Catholic institutions. Looking back on it, he always knew that he wanted to remain learning at Catholic institutions throughout his whole educational journey. “I have been able to be in many classrooms where religion was approached from an academic standpoint,” PJ Started. “I’ve been able to see how many different religions interact with government systems and the law and that is something that really contributes to a holistic analysis of the different aspects of my work.”

PJ didn’t know right away that Loras was the right fit for him. In fact, he hadn’t decided until the August after graduating from Wahlert High School, that he wanted to attend Loras. “Getting to know my professors and classmates well was really beneficial to me,” PJ started. “Dr. Andrew Auge (’78) was just one of so many great Loras professors that I had.” In addition to a wide array of classes with countless top-tier faculty, PJ stayed very involved outside of the classroom as well. From DuBuddies to his Honors group, PJ made the most of his Loras experience. After all of those experiences, PJ remains in contact with his Duhawk friends. A theme that has become common with our Dozen, staying in touch is something that PJ very much echoes with his advice to young alumni. “I don’t have Facebook, so I put my friends’ birthdays in my calendar. I send them texts. It’s just important to keep in touch.”

As PJ gets ready to return to campus for his 5-year reunion on October 7, 8 and 9 — he leaves our listeners with his greatest piece of advice: “You can’t be anybody else but yourself. So, the only way you’re going to be successful is by being true to yourself.”

 

The views presented are those of the speaker or author and do not necessarily represent the views of Department of Defense, the United States Navy, or its components.