Meet the 2019 class!

Sarah Aker

Deputy Director, South Dakota Medicaid
Pierre, SD
Chemistry, Political Science, 2012

"Say yes. Take every opportunity that comes your way. So often, I think we get caught up in thinking about all of the reasons we shouldn’t do something. It’s always easier to take the planned path – it’s much harder to forge your own way. "

Hillaree Biddlecome

Therapist/Social Worker, Keys Counseling
Goshen, IN
Social Work, 2014

"Have a kind heart, fierce mind and brave spirit. Don't ignore your own potential."

Lindsey Boyd

Wealth Management Advisor, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management
Wheatridge, CO
Business Administration, 2014

"My advice would be to pay attention to what is controllable in your path and have a relentless attitude when pursuing your goals. Be thankful and utilize the University of South Dakota Alumni Association and connect with previous alumni as they can be some of your biggest advocates."

Ryan Boyd

Funeral Director/Deputy Coroner, Bittner Funeral Chapel
Mitchell, SD
Psychology, 2015

"Some of the best memories of my life were made during my time at USD. I can only attribute this to my involvement with different organizations on campus. People make the difference! Get involved in several organizations and get to know the people in them. The connections you make will last a lifetime."

Kiley Coyne

Head Director of Bands, Washington High School
Sioux Falls, SD
B.A. Music Education, 2013, M.M. Conducting, 2015

"My advice to current students is take a couple moments each day to walk through USD campus, especially Shakespeare Gardens! It's so easy to be stressed in college and I have found that many problems can be solved by some exercise and taking a moment to breathe. Remember that whatever stress you feel now is helping you be better equipped to handle life after college."

Brianna Cutright

Deputy State's Attorney, Minnehaha County State's Attorney's Office
Canton, SD
Law, 2017

"My advice is to not be afraid to speak up and present yourself, your ideas and your thoughts. There’s never going to be a right moment to speak, share or take a chance. Don't let thoughts of 'I can’t' or 'I’m going to fail' get in the way of your career. Don’t let your misconception of perfection get in the way of moving forward and conquering your dreams."

Nicole Decker

Madison Central 6-12 Director of Bands, Madison Central School District
Madison, SD
Music Education, 2014

"Reach out and make connections! Make connections within your major, on your dorm floor and in outside organizations. I had to get out of my comfort zone, but it was completely worth it."

Kari Foss

Manager - Corporate Immigration Law, KPMG Law
Frankfurt, Germany
Law, 2014

"Know what you’re worth and always negotiate your salary. Your time and talents are valuable, and the truth is, most people earn lower than what they deserve. Everybody wants a discount, and everybody wants to save – make it your mission to decipher your worth and make sure you are remunerated for it!"

Jackson Freidel

Manager of Business Development, Learfield - Bobcat Sports Properties
Bozeman, MT
Business Administration, 2012, Kinesiology and Sport Science, 2015, Graduate Certificate - Nonprofit Management, 2015

"Go to class! The biggest mistake you can make is skipping class. Not only for the information you won’t receive, but teachers pay attention to who is there and who is not. If you show up and pay attention, you will thrive."

Nicole Griese

Owner & Lawyer, Griese Law Firm, P.C.
Sioux Falls, SD
Criminal Justice, 2011

"The more people you connect with and have relationships with, the better for you professionally in the long run. Also, take as many classes that peak your interest as you can, and then throw yourself wholeheartedly into them. You’ll retain more and enjoy yourself. Working and succeeding is great but enjoying yourself while working is better. I’d add take naps too. You’ll miss those later!"

Josh Hayes

Assistant Director of Operations, Faith Temple Food Giveaway
Sioux Falls, SD
Media and Journalism, Psychology, 2018

"Give back to the community—even when nobody is looking. I have found that most of the time someone will receive credit for the things they do, but it shows much more character when someone is able to do something and not expecting to receive praise in return."

Alayna Holmstrom

Law Clerk to the Honorable Karen E. Schreier, U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota
Sioux Falls, SD
Criminal Justice and Political Science, 2015, Juris Doctor, 2018

"Focus on your time at USD as not only a time to build a resume, but to learn to love people better and to seek compassion in your day to day work. When you get involved in classes and campus activities that you are passionate about, you will learn to love people better."

Dawn Marie Johnson

21st Century Community Learning Center Director, Summit School District
Watertown, SD
Social Work, 2012

"Take risks, cheer extra loud, try a new class, make friends in the drive-through “walking” line, be that kid who becomes the professor's right-hand man or woman, let out your inner nerd or release stress at the wellness center. Do all the things that may have made you uncomfortable and take the time to find yourself among the chaos of life."

Josh Jorgensen

Legislative Aide, Senator Mike Rounds
Washington, D.C.
Political Science, Journalism, 2016

"My advice would be to get involved. Whether its Greek Life, the journalism department, debate or through the political science department, being involved in activities makes you more involved in your studies. It helped me figure out what it was I wanted to do for a living."

Katie Kroeze

Journalism and Speech Teacher/Newspaper Adviser, Lincoln High School
Sioux Falls, SD
Secondary Education - Speech and English, 2011

"Current USD students should take every chance they can get to be involved. I truly believe that it's what makes the experience at USD unbelievable. If it wasn't for USD, I wouldn't have met my best friends or my husband."

Cally Larsen

Corporate Social Media Specialist, HDR
Sioux Falls, SD
Contemporary Media & Journalism - Public Relations, 2011

"Don’t feel pressured to choose a major right away or accept your first job offer. Take it all in, learn as much as you can and be patient. And when you’ve submitted countless job applications and only see rejection emails, don’t lose hope. Wait for the opportunity that will set you up for success, teach you the most and will give you the best experience."

Clara Merriman

Senior Engineer, Splunk
Campbell, CA
Mathematics, 2012

"Work-life balance is important. It’s something I struggle with every day, but it’s important to know that work will always be there in the morning. When you’re at work, work hard, work efficiently, work effectively, be productive. When you get home, leave work at work and enjoy your life."

Erik Muckey

CEO/Executive Director, Lost & Found
Saint Paul, MN
Economics, 2014

"Never stop investing in yourself and your passions. What drives you may be something right in front of you, but at times, pursuing your passions may require hard work and commitment to things that are entirely unclear or unrelated to what you love. Stay grounded in what you know, who you are and where you came from by maintaining relationships with your family, friends and mentors."

Kim Nelson

Preschool Teacher, Bishop O'Gorman Catholic Schools
Sioux Falls, SD
Elementary Education - Early Childhood Endorsement, 2013

"My advice would be to enjoy every moment. Even when you feel the most overwhelmed, take it all in and just breathe. You only get to experience this once. For recent grads, know that the education you received will take you far and make you prepared for your job ahead. It won't always be easy, but it will be worth it."

Crystal Oberle

Physician Assistant, Midlands Clinic
North Sioux City, SD
Psychology, 2011

"For current students, be involved as much as possible. Whether this is getting to know your professors, volunteering, clubs, intramurals, supporting Coyote Athletics – there is something for everyone. For new graduates, do not be afraid to network; the Coyote Nation is spread across the United States and the world."

Gabrielle Richard

Implementation Manager, Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System
Chandler, AZ
Addiction Studies, 2012

"Explore your community, and utilize your professors not just for their teaching, but also for their wisdom and contacts. I got my start in the state government prevention field by talking to my professors and telling them about my aspirations. They truly paved the way for me."

Sarah Ridley

Senior Audit Associate, Eide Bailly LLP
Sioux Falls, SD
BBA - Accounting, 2014, Master of Professional Accountancy, 2016

"Work hard and never give up on your dreams. You can do anything if you have passion for it and work hard to make it happen!"

Mary Schaefer

Occupational Therapist, Folsom Cordova Unified School District
West Sacramento, CA
Health Sciences, Psychology, 2014, Occupational Therapy, 2016

"Continue to seek opportunities by taking on a leadership role, joining a new organization, volunteering on or off campus, or spending time with students who may have different backgrounds or ideas. The world is yours and the Yote family is behind you!"

Kirsten Schaffer

Director of Marketing and Business Development, Simon Property Group
Sioux Falls, SD
Marketing, 2011

"Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, support you and your goals and encourage you to pursue your dreams. Don’t forget to show these people you value them. You may not realize it now, but these individuals significantly shape who you are and who you will grow up to be."

Eric Schlimgen

Associate Attorney, Clayborne, Loos & Sabers
Rapid City, SD
Political Science, Criminal Justice, 2013, M.P.A., J.D., 2016

"Trust yourself and the education you received. Do not ever sell yourself short or fear rejection. USD provides students a world-class education and graduates can compete against anyone. Rely on the knowledge you gained, do not be afraid to take chances and reach out to alumni for help along the way."

Amber Simon

Attorney, Polsinelli PC
Kansas City, MO
Political Science, Spanish, International Studies, 2012

"Be authentic and compassionate. My profession is often combative and frankly, ruthless. Remembering your South Dakota roots and that every human being needs someone to be genuinely compassionate in high-stress situations will always be remembered in the long term."

Kelly Stewart

Host, Analyst, Reporter & Producer, Midco Sports Network
Sioux Falls, SD
B.S. Media & Journalism, 2014, M.A. Communications, 2016

"Get involved. Meet people. Learn from people. Be professional. Get out of your comfort zone. If there’s any place to do it, it’s at USD. The people are incredibly nice and welcoming across all groups. Don’t be afraid to fail or put yourself out there. Even if you fail, you’ll have countless Coyotes right there to support you and help you succeed."

Revathi Truong

Immigration Attorney - Vriezelaar, Tigges, Edgington, Bottaro, Boden & Ross, LLP
Sioux City, IA
Juris Doctor, 2015

"You earned your seat at the table, so show up for it. And in the event you don't like the table at which you're seated, build your own."

Thomas Vierhout

Secretary and Co-Founder, Dakota Research And Consulting Organization
Sioux Falls, SD
Biology, 2013, Biomedical Engineering, 2017, MD, 2022

"Explore outside your major. The future of South Dakota innovation does not depend on only one discipline. Working with scientists, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and many others will help you see problems from new perspectives and provide many opportunities to learn and develop professionally."

Jessa Waters

Program Coordinator of Student Services, University of Oregon
Portland, OR
Contemporary Media & Journalism, International Studies, 2012

"My advice to current students is to cultivate meaningful connections. It's at USD that you will create lifelong friendships, find mentorship from your professors and advisors and engage in a community that will allow you to find yourself, trust yourself and be yourself."