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What dreams may come: Governor, WGU honor scholarship recipients

INDIANAPOLIS – Sandra Bishop never had any doubt that her granddaughter would someday do great things.

Tears of pride and joy welled in Bishop’s eyes as she watched Brittany Mitchell shake the governor’s hand and pose for a photo alongside the director of the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), among other notable dignitaries.

“I’m really, really proud of her,” Bishop said, drying her eyes with a tissue. “She’s wanted to do this for awhile.”

‘This,’ in this case, is returning to school to further her education.

Ten State of Indiana employees can take the next steps toward pursuing their dreams thanks to WGU Indiana. Gov. Eric Holcomb and WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber presided over a special ceremony honoring the 10 employees Sept. 12 at the governor’s residence in Indianapolis.

Taking it to ‘the Next Level’

All this took place on a late summer morning at the historic Indiana Governor’s residence, at an event presided over by Gov. Eric Holcomb and WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber; and all this happened because Mitchell and nine other State of Indiana employees believe some of the best chapters in their careers – and lives -- have yet to be written.


  Department of Child Services family case    manager Brittany Mitchell (center) was       supported by her grandmother, Sandra   Bishop, at a recent reception for WGU       Indiana Public Service Recognition   scholarship winners. DCS Director Terry   Stigdon (far left) was at the event to   congratulate Mitchell and fellow DCS   scholarship recipient Amanda Hartman.   The school gave $5,000 scholarships to   10 State of Indiana employees.




Three years into her job as a DCS family case manager, Mitchell is hoping to take her career to the next level by helping bring change to DCS policies and procedures that she hopes will eventually impact Hoosier children and their families in positive ways.

DCS Director Terry Stigdon has touted just such a philosophy since she took the reins of the agency in December 2017, so it was only natural that the two found much to talk about during a brief ceremonyy in September that saw a total of $50,000 donated to the employees.

WGU Indiana received more than 100 applications for its Public Service Recognition Scholarship, but only 10 employees could be selected.

Among them, they represent seven state agencies, and collectively they work to ensure Hoosier children are safe, maintain roads, protect the environment, assist families in need, promote healthy living, boost the workforce, and enforce the rulings of the criminal justice system.

With this boost from WGU, the group of top-tier state workers got a vote of confidence from the online university, Gov. Holcomb, state agency administrators and others. And, as anyone who has vowed to chase a dream can attest, the support of others can make a world of difference.

Mitchell has plenty of that in her grandmother, who has always believed in Brittany’s talent and work ethic.

Stigdon, a career nurse, broadened her educational horizons by working and taking classes simultaneously. She believes that effort helped open the doors that led her to her latest administrative role.

Mitchell, like her agency’s director, knows the work involved in making the commitment to balance a full-time career with college classes, but she’s more than ready to get started.

The next step for Mitchell will be earning her MBA. An IU Bloomington grad, Mitchell finished her first round of college in 2011 with a degree in kinesiology and psychology. All along, she’s set her sights on making things better in her Marion County community.

“I’m trying to be a true advocate for change,” Mitchell said.

Her goal with WGU is to continue on that road.

“I want to stay with DCS and move into policy and practice,” she said.

Mitchell’s experience working directly with kids and families coupled with her educational background should be a solid foundation to pursue that dream.

Opening doors

Similarly, Tamara Havics sees new possibilities in her career.

An environmental engineer with the permits branch of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) Office of Air quality, Havics’ return to school was partially inspired by her daughters’ educational pursuits.

Two are in college now and she hopes to, in turn, inspire them by continuing to pursue her dream.

A graduate of Georgia Tech, Havics believes her studies at WGU will help her in her present career by potentially moving into management – an area in which she has previous experience.

No matter what, she’ll be ready.

“I hope I’m prepared for whatever life gives me next,” she said.

Same goes for David Grider, who hopes to take his career with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to what Gov. Holcomb might call “the next level.”

Grider believes his work as an INDOT highway technician can only improve by focusing on gaining new math skills via WGU. Having earned his associate’s degree in construction technology, Grider’s greatest dream is to be an educator in Jennings County.

Along the way, he’s part of a team building literal roads, and he’s enjoying his job and the impact it has on the Seymour area.

Flanked by his wife Becky, David said he one day hopes to change the lives of students in his classroom. For now, he’s more than happy making a difference in the Crossroads of America.

“I want to continue to give back to my community,” Grider said.

David’s dream is similar to that of Josh Peltier, a fellow scholarship winner who has worked for the State of Indiana for more than a decade.

Peltier’s work with the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) is about as wide-ranging as a single job can be. He’s worked in the prison system directly with inmates and recently transferred to maintenance. It’s been a welcome change.

INDOT highway technician David Grider (pictured at right) hopes to take his career to ‘the next level’ by taking courses at WGU Indiana this fall. Gov. Eric Holcomb met with Grider and the nine other Public Service Recognition scholarship recipients in September. The governor encouraged the State of Indiana employees to continue pursuing their dreams.

Like Grider, Joshua hopes to be a teacher someday, possibly working with people with special needs.

An Eagle Scout, Peltier volunteers as a coach in his community. He enjoys working with kids in those aspects and believes his “day job” at DOC has helped put some offenders back on the right path. In those ways, he’s already making a difference.

Studying at WGU can only make Peltier’s future even brighter, and he’s grateful for the financial assistance helping make it all possible.

“I’m hugely relieved,” Peltier, joined by his wife Michelle, said of the scholarship. “It makes things a little easier.”

Words of encouragement

WGU Chancellor Allison Barber said the scholarship, which is among the largest ever offered by the university, was intended to do just that by removing some of the financial burden of going back to school.

With some financial concerns alleviated, the students can focus on their goals.

“We’re trying to give Hoosiers a chance to achieve their dreams,” Barber said. “The team and I got together and we said, ‘how can we give more support and a shout-out to people who choose to work for our state?’”

The answer was the Public Service Recognition scholarship.

Gov. Holcomb said WGU students are helping the state’s workforce, and he offered a “shout-out” of his own – heartfelt words of encouragement directly from the occupant of the highest elected office in the state.

“A lot of doors are going to be opened because of this next big step,” the governor said. “It’s truly inspirational and I’m fortunate to be on the same team. I’m proud of you all.”

Learn more about the scholarship and the event by visiting https://indiana.wgu.edu/about_WGU_indiana/scholarships_state_employees_9-12-18#.

Story and photos by Brent Brown, INSPD


2018 WGU Public Service Recognition Scholarship Winners

Diana Augustine (FSSA)

James Brackin (FSSA)

James Brewer (Indiana State Department of Health)

Joshua Galyan (FSSA)

David Grider (INDOT)

Amanda Hartman (DCS)

Tamara Havics (IDEM)

Brittany Mitchell (DCS)

Joshua Peltier (DOC)

Larry Upchurch (DWD)