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Dak Kopec

Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” monthly series. Learn how our UI&U graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.
Featured this month: Dr. Dak Kopec

Education: UI&U Ph.D. graduate (2002), master’s degrees (Architecture and Community Psychology), and an undergraduate degree in Health Sciences.

Profession: Expert in human-focused design, award-winning author, consultant, designer, lecturer, former director of Design for Human Health in the School for Design Studies at Boston Architectural College, currently Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Q. What has your degree meant to you personally and professionally?

A. My Ph.D. has meant more opportunity to do what I enjoy; teaching and writing.
For a person who never really liked being a student, getting a Ph.D. was never on my radar. The Union model prepared me for success because it was all about being self-directed. This skill has enabled me to write books, and to remain focused on the development of a career in academia.

Q. What quality do you admire most about your alma mater?

A. It allows people like me who see and interpret the world in a more unique way. I think a more traditional setting might have stifled my creativity, and my ability to problem solve through innovation. Because Union offers a more interdisciplinary approach to education, I was able to identify and understand overlap and integration of assorted factors that contribute to the myriad of problems that our society faces.


National Police Week Spotlight on Criminal Justice Management Students Luis Martinez and Orrlando Mayes

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Q. What do you plan to do with your degree?

A. Luis – I hope that my degree will create more opportunities for me within my agency as well as other agencies. I also hope it will allow me to be more competitive in my promotional career path. It is also important to mention that my degree, will serve an example for my kids and their aspirations in furthering their education when they graduate from high school.

Orrlando – My degree will further my personal and professional development and create career options. My degree also completes a goal I set in the eighth-grade when a teacher encouraged me to go to college.

Q. What led you to this program?

A. Luis – This program is about my chosen career in law enforcement. It covers supervisory, managerial and administrative topics in the law enforcement field. Completing this program as an officer provides great perspective and insight in to a supervisor, and administrative positions in law enforcement.

Orrlando –Law enforcement has always been my calling. A degree in my chosen career will open opportunities that may not have been available without my degree. Union’s criminal justice management program is the right fit for me because of the flexibility of the schedule

Q. Why did you choose Union for your studies?

A. Luis – Union provides the support one needs to accomplish your goal. I had the pleasure of speaking with people from the financial aid aspect, career planning, teachers, administrators, and counselors, and they always told me and they meant it, “Please don’t hesitate to call me for any help.” More important, I was helped each and every time I called. The Union community dedicated its time to help me in reaching my goal. Union provided a very convenient and doable schedule that worked with me, my job and household.

Orrlando – I chose Union because of the flexibility of the classes. I have a lot of personal and professional responsibility and I had to have a college that respected my schedule. Being able to take classes online and work around my busy timetable makes Union the right choice for me.

Q. If you could give a piece of advice to your 20 something, what would it be?

A. Luis – At age 49, I returned to school to finish my degree. There is no excuse not to get a degree in today’s busy world. Union really understands your needs and is committed in helping you achieve your goals. Having a degree is a must today, if you want to be competitive and advance in your career.

Orrlando – Never quit. Focus on your goal and you will achieve your objective. I decided in the eighth-grade to get a college degree and I never lost sight of that end.

Q. Who has influenced you the most in your life, and how have they influenced you?

A. Luis – My father and mother with their hard work and support when they were alive. My dad obtained a Doctorates Degree in Law, and also became an accountant in Cuba. My mom really taught me the difference between right and wrong. My wife and daughters for their support always and especially while I was in school.

Orrlando – The person who has influenced me the most is my grandmother. She has always encouraged me to go after what I want and never give up. I have a wonderful family that served as role models and taught me anything is possible.

Orrlando Mayes

Criminal Justice Management

Union Institute & University’s major in Criminal Justice Management is your path to a rewarding career in law enforcement. Learn more by clicking on the button below.

UI&U and Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science Partnership Kicks Off

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Union Institute and University (UI&U) and the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science (CCMS) are answering the call to graduate more students in the mortuary profession.

The agreement will provide students in the Union Pre-Mortuary Science concentration the first two years of general education for the transfer into the CCMS Bachelors of Mortuary Science program.

“This new partnership is an excellent opportunity for both schools and our region as we facilitate a pathway to the mortuary profession,” said Donna Gruber, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Academic Center.

CCMS is the oldest mortuary science program in the country. CCMS students have an 80% pass rate on the national board exams and 94% are offered employment upon graduation. Real world instructors include licensed funeral directors, certified funeral celebrants, and business owners. (Source: CCMS web page)

UI&U is proud to offer students’ credit for their experience through our articulation agreements set up with other regionally accredited colleges and universities. Learn more about each of the agreements UI&U has in place to aid students in getting one step closer to a degree.

Learn more about UI&U and its many academic programs by clicking on the button below.

National Police Week Staff and Faculty Spotlight on Sandra Lee and Larry Hansen

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Q. What excites you about being a part of higher education?

A. Larry – Tom Bodett said, “In school you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” As a life time learner I love the opportunities to interact with students who can share some of their lessons learned in life. In the university classroom most of the students want to be there and are anxious to learn and I thoroughly enjoy that environment. I learn as much from my students as they, hopefully, learn from me. It is the give and take process that enables all of us to expand our level of knowledge. I have learned that each class has its own personality. I try to champion what is truly valuable and important for my students.

Sandra – My passion is working with Public Safety (law enforcement officers and firefighters) and seeing them reach their education goals. As a mother of a police officer, my recruits’ accomplishments mean as much to me as my own children’s successes!

Q. What excites you about being a part of higher education?

A. Larry – I teach, or have taught, at six different colleges and universities. I have taught classes in police academies and classes for Peace Officers Standards and Training. I teach in both the criminal justice and emergency services programs and I enjoy interacting with students who have a heart for public service. Thirty years in law enforcement has given me the opportunity to see firsthand how dedicated the men and women are that strives to serve their communities. I jumped at the opportunity to work with street cops and fire fighters and I love to share their experiences and knowledge. The collaboration format allows great opportunities to learn from each other.

Sandra – I was attracted to furthering my own education because learning is important to me. In 2004, I started in 2004 as a secretary at the Sacramento Academic Center, moving up to enrollments; achieved my B.A. and later my M.A. both from UI&U. I also enjoyed teaching for a short duration.

Q. If you could have any job in the whole world, what would it be?

A. Larry – I teach a class in critical thinking and this is one of the questions I ask my students. When I was 18 years old I made one of the three most important decisions I have made in my life time, when I enlisted in the Navy. I am very patriotic, I love my country. If I could have any job in the world I would be a fighter pilot in the United States Navy stationed on an aircraft carrier. I had an opportunity to briefly serve on an aircraft carrier and marveled at the men and women who fly those planes. I have absolutely no regrets about my career in law enforcement and would do it again without hesitation. But if I could live life again and have any job in the world, it would be a Navy fighter pilot.

Sandra – If I was young and spry, I would do something in the CJ field (my education background is Criminal Psychology).

Q. What surprises people about you?

A. Larry – People are often surprised to learn how much I love to cook. I look up recipes on the internet, and I enjoy perusing cook books. Sometimes I follow the recipe to the letter and sometimes I improvise. Two of my favorite recipes are crab stuffed mushrooms covered in white cheddar cheese and baked in garlic butter. Also, I like to make garlic infused prime rib coated with olive oil and rock sea salt and then slow roasted. I make a great gazpacho soup with baby shrimp and small chunks of avocado. I enjoy preparing entire meals from appetizers to dessert. Sometimes I will take two or three days to research recipes, shop for the ingredients, and prepare the meal. My favorite dessert is made from scratch brownies with Ghirardelli chocolate served warm with homemade French vanilla ice cream.

Sandra – People may be surprised to know I have an excellent memory that serves me well. Recently I ran into a FBI investigator and he was amazed that I remembered him, after meeting him only once before!.

Q. What is your favorite book, and why?

A. Larry – I love almost anything written by John Grisham. I have read at least twenty-four of his books but my favorite was a novel he wrote in 2010, “The Confession”. I read the book quickly and could not put it down. The great thing about this book is it really helped me analyze how I feel about the death penalty. Although the work is fictional, it is based on real life cases. In typical Grisham fashion it was a page turner that kept me on the edge until the last page.

Sandra – My favorite books center on my graduate studies in criminal psychology. The book that I reflect on most is “The Dark Side of Human Behavior” written by a forensic psychiatrist. Not very joyful, but very enlightening!

Larry Hansen

Sandra Lee

Criminal Justice Management

Union Institute & University’s major in Criminal Justice Management is your path to a rewarding career in law enforcement. Learn more by clicking on the button below.

Union Institute & University Celebrates Employees

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UI&U is thankful for the many dedicated employees that make Union a special place to work. The contributions of employees celebrating milestone anniversaries were recognized on April 20.

President Sublett expressed his thanks to staff with the following tribute.

“I express appreciation to each of our colleagues celebrating this year, and am happy Union can recognize their contributions to the university today.

Each of the people we recognized has an amazing story of commitment and service to our students and to their fellow employees. It is inspiring for me to serve with you each day. Honestly, I really enjoying walking into this beautiful building each morning, and into our centers in Florida, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Brattleboro on my visits, and celebrate the accomplishments of all who have served before us.

You have heard me say, ‘We all drink from wells we did not dig and warm ourselves by fires we did not build. Each of you has picked up the mantle of service of those who served before us, and you do a GREAT job each day!”

Congratulations to our colleagues celebrating milestone anniversaries across the country. They include:

Five Years
Name Position Location
Rebecca Carr Financial Aid Counselor Cincinnati
Renee Cave Receptionist Cincinnati
Susan Grace President’s Executive Administrative Assistant Cincinnati
Allison Kurre Program Advisor Sacramento
Shawn McCollum Assistant Director for IT Cincinnati
Theresa Warren Application Analyst Cincinnati
Ten Years
Name Position Location
Jonathan Eskridge Instructional Designer Cincinnati
Kathleen Fryman Academic Records Data Coordinator Cincinnati
Bill Lax Dean, Psy.D. programs Director, MSOL program Brattleboro
Barbara Lynch Administrative Assistant to Dean Brattleboro
Gary Mueller Network Admin Cincinnati
Michael Raffanti Dean, PH.D. program Oregon
Fifteen Years
Name Position Location
Neal Meier Director, Alumni Relations Vermont
Matthew Pappathan Director of Library Services Brattleboro
Sharon Sprague Program Director, Bachelor of Arts program Vermont
Twenty Years
Name Position Location
Carolyn Krause VP, Advancement & Executive Assistant to President Cincinnati
Twenty-five Years
Name Position Location
Angela Byles Assistant Dean Florida
Thirty Years
Name Position Location
Jean McKiernan Associate Registrar Cincinnati
Jean Pohlman Director, Financial Aid Cincinnati
To learn more about UI&U and its mission, please click on the button below.

National Police Week Spotlight on Alumna Michelle Lim

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Michelle Lim

Q. What has your degree meant to you personally and professionally?

A. Achieving my degree has meant a great deal to me. It was a long time goal, which was so fulfilling to achieve. My degree process challenged me and I learned new skills. I also formed wonderful friendships and bonds with fellow classmates and the instructors. I was able to work and study with others who were working in my field. Collaborating with the other students and the instructors made this a great learning experience. It has also made me more confident in my own abilities at work and in my personal life.

Q. What quality do you admire most about your alma mater?

A. I discovered that UI&U had a combination of online and on grounds classes held at a local police department. I liked the fact that I could be in class once a week, interact with my classmates, and complete assignments the rest of the week online.

Q. If you could give advice to a Union student, what would it be?

A. Don’t put your dream on the back burner. I had always had the dream to further my education and obtain a bachelor’s degree, however, life happens and I had to place that dream on hold. I began a career in law enforcement early on, started a family, and decided to take a year off before transferring and working on my goal. That year turned into a sixteen year break. I was fortunate that I was able to make a successful living in law enforcement, however, I noticed if I wanted to advance in my career, eventually I would have to return to school.

Q. What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?

A. Aside from achieving my degree through UI&U, my greatest accomplishment is being a mother to two beautiful children. Without them, I would not have strived to do and be more and complete this degree.

Q. What is your passion away from work?

A. We all know that working in law enforcement can be stressful and also cause burdens at home. You need to have an outlet outside of work. For me, my passion is spending time with family, traveling, hiking, fishing, and doing anything outdoors. One thing I learned early on is that we deal with and see things on a daily basis that the average person does not want to or could not handle, so having an outlet after work is extremely important for your health and mental well-being.

Union Institute & University’s major in Criminal Justice Management is your path to a rewarding career in law enforcement. Learn more by clicking on the button below.

Union Leaders – Randy Danielsen

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Dr. Randy Danielsen

Union Institute & University’s historical commitment to ethical and creative leadership and the insights gained over the past 50 years as a leader in adult learning is the inspiration for the monthly series, Union Leaders.

This month Randy Danielsen, Ph.D. is featured. Dr. Danielsen is the President of the Union Institute & University International Alumni Association Board and Professor & Dean at the Arizona School of Health Sciences.

Q. How do you define leadership?

A. Leadership, I believe, is the influence of a person who moves others to do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons. To be an ethical leader, you need to pay attention to who you are, what you do, what goals you seek, your honesty, the way you use power, and your values. I am a big believer in resilient leadership (also known as stubborn leadership). This is a personal quality that predisposes leaders to bounce back in the face of loss. In fact, resilient leaders do more than bounce back—they bounce forward.

Q. Share an example of how you’ve put leadership in action.

A. As Professor & Dean at the Arizona School of Health Sciences I was asked to solve a serious accreditation issue in 2012 of one of the professional programs as well as a serious rift between administration and faculty. I consider my style that of participatory leadership. Within a week I had met with faculty, created a small work group to address the accreditation issue, and met with students. Within a month the accreditation issue was managed and the relationship with faculty was on the mend. How did that happen? This happened by sharing the “power” with those who care about an issue, that will almost always result in success.

Q. What leader do you admire most and why?

A. I just finished reading the autobiography of Stanley A. McChrystal, a retired four-star General in the United States Army, best known for his command of Joint Special Operations Command in the mid-2000s, entitled “My Share of the Task.” He is widely admired for his hunger to know the truth, his courage to find it, and his humility to listen to those around him. Even as the commanding officer of all U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, he stationed himself forward and frequently went on patrols with his troops to experience their challenges firsthand.

Q. What is your favorite inspiring leadership quote?

A. “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

Q. When did you first feel that you were a leader? What was the experience?

A. Leadership was foreign to me as I grew up. With self-esteem issues and poor academic performance, there was no room for me to be a leader of anything. It was the United States Air Force that turned that around for me. It has been said that the military “tears you down” then “builds you up.” This was true in my case. Three weeks into basic training I was appointed squad leader and responsible for eight other new recruits. It was certainly a “sink or swim” moment and because of a drill instructor’s mentorship, I was able to step up to the plate. Knowing that you can make a difference gives you new energy. Then you have to learn resilience.

About Dr. Danielsen

Dr. Randy Danielsen, (Union Ph.D. 2003) is a Professor & Dean at the Arizona School of Health Sciences. He is also the President of the Union Institute & University International Alumni Association Board. Dr. Danielsen began his healthcare career as a medical corpsman in the U.S. Air Force in 1970 serving 28 years with the Air Force and the Army National Guard, retiring in 1998 as a Desert Storm veteran with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

He is a graduate of the University of Utah, receiving his MEDEX PA Program degree in 1974 and Bachelor of Science (cum laude) in 1978. He earned a master’s in PA Studies (MPAS) from the University of Nebraska with an emphasis in Internal Medicine in 1997 and his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences with an emphasis in Medical Education from the Union Institute & University in 2003.

Dr. Danielsen has served in a number of leadership positions throughout the PA profession. He has participated on a variety of publication advisory/review boards and has been a prolific writer. He has published over twenty-five peer-reviewed articles, twenty journal editorials, and four book chapters. In 2011, Dr. Danielsen published his first book entitled “The Preceptor’s Handbook for Supervising Physician Assistants.”

To learn more about Union’s leadership programs click on the button below.

Staff spotlight on Dr. Elizabeth Pruden

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Dr. Elizabeth Pruden

Dr. Pruden and her husband are retiring on April 30, which also happens to be the weekend of their 40th wedding anniversary. They are embarking on a new journey and moving to Portland, Oregon along with their two daughters and their families. Lib’s future includes working as a personal fitness trainer and enjoying the lives of her children and grandchildren. We wish her happiness and farewell.

Q. What excites you about being a part of higher education

A. I find great satisfaction working with faculty and administrators who are committed to broadening the perspectives and experiences of students who are seeking to learn more and reach further.

Q. If you could have any job in the whole world, what would it be?

A. It would be the job I am going to – fitness training. I realized two years ago that I want to focus the next chapter of my life on helping people be healthy and fit, particularly as they pass age 45 and their bodies change. I enrolled in community college classes, passed a national certification exam, and shadowed trainers in preparation for working with individuals. Evenings and weekends I have begun teaching body sculpt classes and training individuals so I am prepared to do more after I retire. As you can see the goal is to never stop learning!

Q. What surprises people about you?

A. That I lived in Dachau as a child. It was only twelve years after World War II and I knew it only as a military installation, but learned in high school of the camp’s original design and intention. I believe that is when I began my life-long fascination with and commitment to history and social justice.

Q. What is your favorite book, and why?

A. “To Kill a Mockingbird” – this book had a significant impact on me as an adolescent. I loved teaching it to other adolescents and sharing it with my children. It has so many lessons for all of us about community, parenting, social justice, racism, and compassion.

About Dr. Pruden

Dr. Pruden has been with Union Institute & University since 2003. She served as Dean of the Cincinnati Undergraduate Center and Associate Provost/ Vice-president of Institutional Effectiveness. Her role as Vice-President of Institutional Effectiveness included the challenging task of overseeing Union through two HLC accreditation visits.

Dr. Pruden also worked with the American Council on Education (Washington, DC) on Women in Leadership and coordinated the efforts in Ohio for furthering leadership opportunities for women. For a time, she also directed Union’s Women in Union Program.

She received her undergraduate degree from Mount St. Joseph University and her master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

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