More alumni stories

Van A. Schroeder

Bachelor's degree ('74):
Majors in psychology and sociology with minors in English and zoology

Current occupation: Lawyer

What sparked your interest in your major(s) or area(s) of study? High school classes in sociology and biological sciences; I was further intrigued by an introductory course in psychology my sophomore year, and inspired by Prof. Whipp to take more English courses, which I knew would be valuable while pursuing a degree in law.

Please provide a quote on the value of your major(s) or area(s) of study: The study of law is the pinnacle of the social sciences; majors in sociology and psychology together with a minor in English were stepping stones to law school and a career in law. The study of human physiology as part of my zoology minor has been valuable in understanding the nature of injuries suffered by my clients who have been injured by others.  

Tell us about the path you took to get to where you are today. How did you apply your education to get there? I completed my bachelor of arts degree in 4 years. I applied and was accepted into the College of Law, and received my juris doctorate degree 3 years later. Upon passing the bar examination, I have been in private practice for the past 42 years.

What experiences at the university helped you get to where you are now? When the going got tough, I got going.

Moe Bidgoli
Computer science

“I am Moe Bidgoli, an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science & Information Systems at SVSU. I received my Master’s Degree in Computer Science from University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1979. After some course work with Mathematics and EE departments, I headed to Northland College to start a new CS program and after two years I join SVSC College to establish a new department with CS and IS programs. My time at UNL gave me a solid foundation of Computer Science, a strong work ethic, and an excellent preparation to be an academician.  

I remember Ferguson Hall, programming with FORTRAN 66, Lipsky’s open book exams, IBM S/360(SLT), and punched card machines clearly. I won’t forget my professors. Professors Lipsky(my advisor), Nagy, Seth, Surkan, Kartashev, Magliveras, and Perry thank you for teaching, scholarship, engagement, dedication, expectation, guidance, care, inspiration, and encouragement. You are the best because you brought out the best in us.”

Julia Moore
Communication studies

The Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Utah, has won the National Communication Association’s Gerald Miller Dissertation Award. The association-wide Miller Dissertation Award was endowed in 1971 and honors top dissertations across the Communication discipline. Dr. Moore is the first Nebraska graduate to win this award (and we know more awards are in our future).  

The faculty in Communication Studies. her committee, and Dr. Moore’s Advisor, Dr. Dawn O. Braithwaite, are extremely proud of Julia and her work. Dr. Moore has also been named the winner of the National Communication Association Interpersonal Communication Divisional Dissertation Award as well.

Marlan Downey

Marlan was a former President of the AAPG, an elected Fellow of the American Associates for the Advancement of Science, a Senior Fellow of the Institute for the study of Earth and Man at SMU, and a fellow of the Geological Society of the United Kingdom. Marlan was knighted by President Biya of Cameroon for his service to that country.

He was honored by the world’s largest geological society as “A Living Legend in the Oil and Gas Business” and was a distinguished lecturer for several geosciences organizations. Marlan had a thirty-year career with Shell Oil in management and research, retiring as President of Shell (Pecten) International in 1987.

After a brief retirement during which he founded Roxanna Oil Company, he joined ARCO, serving as President of ARCO International for seven years. After retiring from ARCO, he became Bartell Professor of Geoscience at the University of Oklahoma, and Chief Scientist at the Sarkeys Energy Center.


In 2000, he organized and chaired the Presidential Energy Policy Symposium in Washington, DC. In 2002, he received the R.H. Dott award for best geologic publication, and in 2003 he received the Hedberg Medal for outstanding scientific achievements. In 2005, he was honored as a “Legendary Oil Finder” by the Petroleum History Foundation. In 2008, Marlan received the Sidney Powers Memorial Award, the highest honor bestowed by the AAPG, for his outstanding contributions to oil and gas exploration.

Marlan led exploration teams in 62 countries, has an extraordinary record of consistent successes in his sixty-year career and showed no signs of stopping.

Mr. Downey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry in 1952 at Peru State. He entered graduate school at the University of Nebraska and received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1956 and a Masters degree in Geology in 1957.

Reid DeSpiegelaera
English, history, political science

"Over the past year I have had an amazing professional ride with a job that is excites me and puts a lot of what you taught me into practice. I am working directly for the CEO of United Way here in Phoenix, as he tapped me to lead an education-technology startup company we are spearheading out of our United Way umbrella. We built an online tutoring program called Vello, which seeks to make volunteering easy for workplace professionals, while having an amazing literacy solution for student in low-income classrooms. I've been able to oversee the custom development of a web application, creation of a company brand/marketing plan, assembly of technology partners, and creation of a literacy curriculum to make education the forefront of the Vello experience.


"I am truly honored to be in this position, but I could not have made it this far without you in my life early on. I always felt like you empowered me to be a great leader and instilled me with professional values that are ever-present in my daily life. A couple months ago, I found myself referencing the old Disney customer service VHS in a meeting about user experiences – it was the perfect example of what I was discussing at the time. I think about the management and team building skills that [New Student Enrollment] gave me, which are now present as I lead a team of business senior leaders within our organization. I also reflect upon the mindset that you and NSE gave me about solving problems and that together we can work through anything – when hurdles come up, we get through it, reflect, and make it better tomorrow!"

Benjamin Miller

Miller is a supervisor in the water permits division of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in Lincoln, Nebraska. He was recently accepted into the seventh class of the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy.



Lynnette Kelly
Urban studies

The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board announced today that Executive Director Lynnette Kelly was named a Freda Johnson Trailblazing Women in Public Finance 2016 honoree. The award—presented by the Northeast Women in Public Finance and The Bond Buyer—is given annually in recognition of the recipients’ commitment to public finance and for the contributions they have made to the field.

During an interview with The Bond Buyer, Kelly stated that over her 30-year career in public finance, the most rewarding aspect for her is the people she’s worked with. “It’s been a fascinating career since I’ve had the opportunity to see the market and the issues from many different perspectives,” said Kelly. “We often think of career paths as being deliberate, but for me, the path included a series of lucky breaks and help from several wonderful mentors [for which] I feel very fortunate.”

Kelly, who has been MSRB’s executive director since 2007, leads the day-to-day management of the self-regulatory organization. During her tenure, the MSRB developed and launched the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) website, which has fundamentally changed the level of transparency in the municipal market.


She also has overseen expansion of the MSRB’s mission under the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 to protect issuers of municipal securities, entities whose credit stands behind municipal securities and public pension plans, in addition to investors. Kelly oversaw the MSRB’s development and launch of MuniEdPro℠.

In 2012, Kelly received the Municipal Forum of New York’s Public Service Award for her leadership in the municipal market and in 2006, she received the Industry Contribution Award from the National Federation of Municipal Analysts. Kelly graduated from the University of Nebraska and Tulane University School of Law. She is an accredited National Association of Corporate Directors Board Leadership Fellow.

David Allen Lindsey

I grew up on a rocky farm in Cass County, where I became interested in geology at an early age. By the time I enrolled at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, there was no question that I wanted to become a geologist. I graduated in 1963 with at B.S. in geology and went directly to graduate school, earning my Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins four years later. My professors at Nebraska, especially Sam Treves and T.M. Stout, set me on a career path in research. At Hopkins (that’s what we call it), Francis Pettijohn taught me how use sedimentary structures to reconstruct paleoenvironments and paleogeography. Ernst Cloos drilled us weekly in field techniques in structural geology, and Cliff Hopson taught us to write entire essays on a single thin section of igneous rock. My experiences at Nebraska and Hopkins prepared me for my lifetime job: field research in minerals and mapping at the U.S. Geological Survey. Few jobs could have been more rewarding. Early projects varied from tracing the source of placer gold in Tertiary alluvial fans while living in wilderness horse camps to mapping stratiform copper in the Belt rocks of Montana with a helicopter. Next came beryllium in volcanic rocks in the desert of western Utah.


I had to teach myself volcanic processes, clay mineralogy and economic geology. Two years at headquarters in Reston, VA gave me a front-row seat to congressional hearings, the budget process, and working with other agencies--I called it “serving time in the big house.” Back in Denver, I mapped thrust sheets in Pennsylvanian redbeds in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, researched uranium in volcanics, and travelled in the U.S. and Communist Poland to study sedimentary copper deposits. The price for all that fun was five more years behind the desk, but as director of a program of field surveys and minerals research, I enjoyed seeing some amazing research by other scientists. After that they turned me out to pasture, meaning I mapped beautiful and interesting places along the Rio Grande rift and studied gravel deposits of Pleistocene rivers. In retirement, I still volunteer for the USGS. Old geologists never really die.

When you use our maps, listen for our footsteps: we are still out there mapping the mountains.

Katie Czapanskiy
Philosophy, political science

Katie Czapanskiy graduated from Marquette University Law School, where she was named the Wisconsin Bar Association's Public Interest Law Student of the Year, and is now an attorney at Human Rights First. "I'm a two-time Public Interest Law Society Fellow and President of the Public Interest Law Society. Through events I participated in at Nebraska, I knew I wanted to use my law degree to assist underserved and at-risk communities.


I loved the Big Event and other philanthropic events I participated in with Phi Sigma Pi. The opportunities I had at Nebraska gave me the necessary skills and character traits to be a successful and happy law student.

More about Katie

Janet Goldenstein Ahler

As a UNL undergraduate in Anthropology, my first advisor was John Champe until he retired when Preston Holder became my advisor. For several summers I participated in archaeological field work in Kansas (as Goldenstein and later as Krause) and supervised an all-female crew one summer near Cawker City. In 1968, I participated in a field project led by Edwin Hall at Yale on the North Slope of the Brooks Range in Alaska.. There I discovered while living with a Yu'pik family that I was more interested in the living people, especially how they transmitted and learned their culture. That took me to the University of Missouri for an interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree in education and anthropology. Since then I have worked with numerous (mainly native Plains people) many tribes in the U.S. I am now a professor emerita from the University of North Dakota where I did educational anthropological research and taught for more than 33 years.


I taught courses in Native American Education, Multicultural Education, Educational Anthropology, Bilingual Education, and Qualitative Research Methods (for which there is now a "Gershman/Ahler Distinguished Lecture Series" at UND). I have long been a Fellow of Sigma Xi and the Society for Applied Anthropology in addition to membership in the American Anthropological Association where I had served on the board for the Council on Anthropology and Education. I attended my first Plains Anthropology Society Conference in 1962, and as a member, also served on their board of directors. I have conducted bilingual research in Guatemala and have traveled with my native students to the Amazon in Venezuela and the Pantanal in Brazil. I have given presentations at Oxford and have traveled through much of Europe. I am now retired and have the honor of having been elected to UNL's Emeriti Association.

Molly Merrell

After graduating in December 2004 with a degree in English and the ever present question of whether or not I was going to teach, I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and spent nearly six years working in professional sports as a Public Relations representative. I enjoyed my time in NASCAR and professional hockey, but lost my love for sports along the way. It wasn't until I took a temp job with DC Comics in New York City that I found my true passion for entertainment. I returned to Charlotte in 2012 and began working on various films and television shows and have been working behind the scenes ever since.

I started at the bottom as a Costume Assistant on a film starring Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler and written and directed by "Mad Men" creator, Matthew Weiner. I moved over to the Production Office and worked my way up to Travel Coordinator for hit TV shows such as "Homeland", "Banshee", and the upcoming HBO miniseries starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, "Big Little Lies", as well as the feature film, "Paper Towns", based on the novel by John Green.


My work on these shows has taken me to Morocco, New Orleans and Central California to work on location. Currently, I am the Locations Coordinator for a new FOX drama "Shots Fired" and will soon be doubling up to prepare for the second season of Cinemax's new hit, "Outcast".

When I took Intro to English Studies with Professor Bergstrom, we had to do a group project showing why teaching wasn't the only option for English majors. I did mine on 'Film and Literature' not expecting to be working in the film industry, but always loving the idea of merging the two. What amazes me the most when I tell people in this industry that I have an English degree is the fact that the first response is no longer, "Why aren't you teaching?", instead, more often than not, it's "ME TOO!"

Theodore Wheeler

Theodore Wheeler has books forthcoming in each of the next two years. A collection of short fiction titled BAD FAITH will be published by Queen's Ferry Press in July 2016. A novel titled KINGS OF BROKEN THINGS was acquired by Little A to be published in Spring 2017.


KINGS OF BROKEN THINGS is the coming of age novel of two immigrant boys caught in a political scheme to incite a race riot and lynching, and is based on events surrounding the Omaha Race Riot of 1919.

Mary Ann McDowell
Biological sciences

Mary Ann McDowell is an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame and the past chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Eck Institute for Global Health. She obtained a B.S. and M.S. from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and another at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. McDowell joined the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in 2001.

Dr. McDowell’s research interests focus on vector-transmitted diseases. She publishes in a diversity of international journals and has received funding from a wide variety of federal and foundation sources. A combinatorial approach provides the conceptual basis of her work to investigate immunology, host cell-biology, pathogen diversity and insect vector biology, using both laboratory models and field-based studies. Her current research program focuses on leishmaniasis and insect vectors that transmit human disease.