30 Under 30

School of Education

Hello! 30 Under 30 is a program created to recognize outstanding young alumni who are making an impact in their professional and personal lives. Alumni are recognized for academic & professional achievements, leadership and/or university engagement. We begin the process by requesting nominations from our alumni community. Once nominations close, we reach out to the nominees and invite them to fill out a short application. From the completed applications, 30 individuals are selected by a panel. This year we are slightly changing the process and would like feedback about applicants from the colleges they graduated from.

Each candidate is listed below. Please take the time to review each individual. At the end, you will be able to rank them based on response strength. Just as a reminder, this program is a chance to provide recognition to Coyotes who are making an impact in their community. Strong candidates will highlight academic & professional achievements, leadership and/or university engagement.

Bailey Lagge

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): ELED/SPED, December 2018

LinkedIn/Resume: https://docs.google.com/document/d/161bvh1EE_WzA3owRY0uSgmJRjmd-YRmk0WjEDO8l6lA/edit?usp=sharing

Occupation: 4th Grade Teacher/ Boys Basketball Head Coach 

Company: Avon School District

Location: Avon, SD

Describe your current professional or educational pursuits. (What does your position entail? What skills do you use in your current role? What are you hoping to accomplish with your education? etc.)

I am currently a 4th grade teacher at the Avon School District. I teach all the subjects for that grade level in my everyday schedule. I have also piloted the STEM program which builds on skills such as coding, engineering, typing, and math data projects. I am also the varsity boys basketball head coach, junior high track head coach, varsity track assistant coach, and the coach of the 1st/2nd grade flag football team in town.

At the school I am currently involved in a variety of programs such as: PBIS, RTI, Accelerated Reader, and summer school.

Skills that I use every day in the school system include: communication, adaptability, collaboration, leadership, critical thinking, and conflict resolution.

I have many goals I am hoping to accomplish with my education. First and foremost, I want to make a positive impact on the lives of the students and athletes I work with daily. I am trying to prepare them to succeed in and out of the classroom. With my education I am working to be the best educator, colleague, and coach I can be to each person I have the privilege of working with. 

How did USD influence your personal and professional experiences following graduation?

USD provided me with great relationships and real world experiences. The internships and field experiences equipped me well for my profession after college. It showed me what can be accomplished with collaboration, hard work, and a plan of action. USD gave me the confidence and comfortability through these experiences I needed to advocate for my students, players, and myself. I sincerely think there is no place to help you reach your goals like the University of South Dakota. 

How have you demonstrated success and influence in your profession and community? 

I have intertwined community resources and businesses to help promote the education of students. This was accomplished by working with the local meat locker to create a hands-on anatomy lab using materials from cows. This also meshed well with the fact that I teach in a rural, ranching community. We have also written cards and letters to the local nursing home. I donate fireworks to former students every Independence Day. I created an off season basketball program where I work with student-athletes in the summer and take team trips. This has helped improve our program and the relationships between them. I provide additional learning experiences through implementing a summer school program. I have supported and participated in homecoming festivities, skits, and parades, along with the Avon Community Chamber of Commerce activities. 

Dallas Doane

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): B.M.A. in Musical Arts, 2015; Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Leadership, 2023

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dallas-doane/

Occupation: Associate Professor of Practice in Higher Education Administration

Company: University of Kansas

Location: Lawrence, KS

Describe your current professional or educational pursuits. (What does your position entail? What skills do you use in your current role? What are you hoping to accomplish with your education? etc.)

I am a newly appointed professor of higher education administration at the University of Kansas where I coordinate the master's degree in educational leadership and policy studies. My role is to teach future college administrators who go on to serve in roles such as academic advisors, financial aid staff, and student services professionals. I teach diversity/equity/inclusion in higher education, assessment and evaluation, and law and policy. Prior to this, I was the director of a 5-year, $1.25 million federal grant program for low-income/first-generation/students with disabilities ensuring persistence and success in college.

I am particularly interested in supporting rural students and providing an affordable access to college education. I am very thankful for USD’s School of Education for encouraging and supporting me through a doctorate in educational administration and leadership for this endeavor. Getting a job as a professor is immensely competitive and not easy; the support through the Department of Educational Leadership and Dr. Karen Card prepared me for the next step. 

How did USD influence your personal and professional experiences following graduation?

Believe it or not, my career trajectory into higher education administration actually started as a Student Ambassador (tour guide) my sophomore year at USD! As a recipient of federal work study, I spend the academic year talking with prospective students and sharing the benefits and opportunities the college provides. This, coupled with a supportive community and mentorship in the College of Fine Arts made graduating as a first-generation student easy. Following graduation, I spent another year working in USD's admissions office and enjoyed connecting with students each day.

I returned to USD after completing a master’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I worked in the Honors Program. In this role, I had immense mentorship from USD staff and faculty. As a new graduate interested in higher education, USD was the perfect place for me to explore what I was interested in and gain leadership experience. Prior to joining the University of Kansas, I worked in Student Services at USD, as director of TRIO Student Support Services. TRIO has been an amazing program at USD and the chance to work with first-generation, limited income, and students with disabilities was one of the most rewarding experiences. It surely prepared me for a career as a professor and building the next generation of mentors that I experienced in college. My supervisor, Dr. Kim Grieve at USD, had been an great supporter of my professional development at USD. I was able to advocate at the national level for TRIO and USD and learn about federal policy affecting current students. USD is integral to shaping my career in higher education, and in turn, the next generation of higher education professionals.

I have been particularly interested in volunteering and giving back to the university. I have been active with Unite for USD and fundraising for important initiatives such as the on-campus food pantry, student emergency grant, and the great work being done at Native Student Services. As a mentor, I have worked with USD students who are first-generation college students and supporting them applying for scholarships and internships. It was been immensely rewarding. 

How have you demonstrated success and influence in your profession and community? 

I owe much of my success to my experiences and mentors at USD. I have been able to participate in the national Executive Leadership Institute for College Access professionals and USDs President’s Executive Leadership Institute. I am also active with the Center for First-generation Student Success in Washington, D.C., where I have presented nationally at annual conferences on supporting students and my current research. I was recently accepted to help write a book on first-generation college professionals, and have two publications in manuscript for national journals. Being passionate about working one-on-one with college students, the Student Government Association at USD named me its most recent “Advisor of the Year” in 2023.

I am most proud of my work in federal advocacy for college access and persistence programs and working with members of congress this past spring. This work led to a 4% increase across the board to federal education programs, including TRIO, pell grants, and federal work study. 

I would say the greatest reflection of my work can be seen in my students. While I can take no credit in their accomplishments, I have worked with hundreds of college students now at USD, UNL, and now in Kansas. Many of whom are first-generation, low-income, and underresourced students. It was been my most successful experience helping them graduate and make an impact in the world. 

Elizabeth (Liz) Pekas

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): BS (kinesiology); BM (music performance); Honor's program, 2017

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/liz-pekas/

Occupation: Manager, Medical Affairs

Company: American Diabetes Association

Describe your current professional or educational pursuits. (What does your position entail? What skills do you use in your current role? What are you hoping to accomplish with your education? etc.)

liz.j.pekas@gmail.com (605) 695-8053 08/07/1994 12:00AM Omaha NE https://www.linkedin.com/in/liz-pekas/ 2017 BS (kinesiology); BM (music performance); Honor's program American Diabetes Association Manager, Medical Affairs I recently completed my PhD in Biomechanics & Kinesiology (Physiology of Exercise) and spent the last 6 years performing clinical and basic research in cardiovascular and metabolic disease populations. During this time, I realized that my passions lie within scientific communication and engagement with the purpose of bettering patient care. My passions pushed me to pursue a career in medical affairs, and I started with the American Diabetes Association nearly 3 months ago. In my current role, I build and cultivate relationships with leading experts in diabetes care and participate in the development of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and consensus reports. I aspire to continue growing in my new role, refining my current skills, and adding to my skillset as we push the field forward to better diabetes prevention and care. 

How did USD influence your personal and professional experiences following graduation?

USD provided the community I did not know I needed, and that culture has extended well past graduation. No matter how many students these faculty members come across in their careers, they are always excited for opportunities to re-connect with students. They are always welcoming if I am seeking advice, and they are the career cheerleaders we never deserved. As an undergraduate, I knew I was getting a great education, but I did not know I was building a professional network with some of the greatest mentors I’ve ever come to know.

USD also taught me to work hard. I double majored (two very contrasting majors) and was in the Honor’s program. I was told it would be difficult, but if I worked hard and stayed organized, I could accomplish my goals. USD helped me foster strong translational skills that transferred into my master’s and PhD programs as well as my current position. Overall, my time at USD was critical to my personal and professional development, and I attribute that to the culture and the faculty I had the privilege of learning from while I was there.   

How have you demonstrated success and influence in your profession and community? 

About 2% of the US population has a PhD. While I was attending USD, I knew I was going to pursue a master’s degree. However, I never thought I would end up pursuing my PhD (yes, I went all the way up to 23rd grade). During my graduate schooling at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I first-authored and co-authored 25 peer-reviewed publications in several top physiology journals, produced > 30 conference abstracts, and received 9 presentation awards at scientific conferences. I hope I continue to make this type of impact as I continue my career pursuits in the medical affairs space, ultimately coming back to my goal of bettering patient care for those affected by cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. 

Jessica Winterringer

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): B.S. Elementary Education, 2017; Masters in Educational Leadership & Administration, 2019

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessicawinterringer/

Occupation: Study Abroad Advisor

Company: University of South Dakota

Location: Vermillion, SD

Describe your current professional or educational pursuits. (What does your position entail? What skills do you use in your current role? What are you hoping to accomplish with your education? etc.)

Currently, I am the study abroad advisor for the Gallagher International Center at USD. I have worked in this role for over four years and my first year was by hard the most challenging; not because of responsibilities, but because of COVID-19. I have learned from this role that without grit, I wouldn't have survived. My role focuses on advising students on the study abroad programs, processes, and opportunities our office offers. From the initial spark of interest all the way through the student's return to USD, I advise the student on travel logistics, health and safety, and program-specific details. I also support faculty who would like to teach a course internationally or take a group of students abroad as part of their course. So when COVID turned the world upside down, it also turned my field upside down. We were helping students get back to the US in record fashion and working with country lockdowns. Once things settled, our office had to adapt to a new study abroad era where most programs/countries weren't operating. During those first few years, there wasn't a lot of time for creation and future thinking. Now, in the last year or so I feel I am finally hitting my stride in what my education at USD prepared me for.

My USD faculty-led program experience in 2015 in Ireland focused on building leadership skills and showed me that I can do more with education beyond teaching in a classroom. Combining both my love of education and travel, I have created my own faculty-led program, specifically for incoming freshmen at USD. I believe students who have an international experience of some kind while they are in undergrad give them better tools and resources to graduate and get a job or into graduate school after college. I created the incoming freshmen faculty-led program called Fostering First-Year Resiliency in England; the main objective of the faculty-led program is to provide a low-cost international experience for incoming first-year students to promote resiliency, culture, and globalization. Students feel uncomfortable at times in a new environment like an international location or college setting; showing them how to get involved in the culture, develop relationships, and embrace the customs gives them tools they need in other aspects of their life, such as moving away from home or starting a new job. In order to get this program running, I applied for funding with the World Learning and US State Department IDEAS Grant. I am happy to announce that I and USD are the 2023 recipients of this prestigious grant and rank among 30 other universities chosen this year. Using the grant, I will be able to fund the program for two years gathering research on the effectiveness of studying abroad and building retention on campus.

How did USD influence your personal and professional experiences following graduation?

USD has in every way possible influenced my personal and professional life following graduation. When I was an upperclassman, I had the opportunity to participate in a faculty-led program in Ireland over winter break. As a first-generation student, I didn't know much about studying abroad but USD supported my interest and encouraged me to go. I had never traveled internationally before, but that one trip changed my career path. After graduating with my bachelor's degree, I pursued a master's degree in Educational Leadership with hopes to enter the international education field. I took an internship position with the study abroad office which turned into a full-time position as an advisor; I've been working at the Gallagher International Center since. That one trip changed the course of my career path for the better and now I get to do what I love every day. USD continues to influence me beyond my professional life too; I get to live in a small town that feels big, but comfortable. I can live near my family but have access to travel out of state when I want. For me, Vermillion has become the best of both worlds and not just a pit stop to get a degree.

How have you demonstrated success and influence in your profession and community? 

I demonstrate success and influence in my profession and community by showing up. I show up to a job that influences our next cohort of leaders. I show up and put the work in to better my field. Researching, proposing grants, and creating experiences for my international education community not only helps me, my students, and USD, but it also contributes to the larger global world. For my community, I demonstrate success by getting involved. I joined the Vermillion Chamber, the Vermillion NEXT, Young Professionals Network for Emerging Leaders, and I support community initiatives (including USD events and athletics!). 

Katey Ulrich

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): BS - Psychology, 2015; MA - Educational Administration, Adult and Higher Education, 2019

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kateyaulrich/

Occupation: Director of Admissions & Marketing 

Company: USD Knudson School of Law

Location: Vermillion, SD

Describe your current professional or educational pursuits. (What does your position entail? What skills do you use in your current role? What are you hoping to accomplish with your education? etc.)

I currently serve as the Director of Admissions and Marketing for the USD Knudson School of Law. I create, implement, and oversee the recruitment and marketing strategy for the law school. I supervise two staff members – one in recruitment and one in marketing. While they are responsible for more of the day-to-day tasks, I am evaluating the strategies we have in place and working with the two of them on any changes to make us more productive, efficient, and able to meet our goals. I keep certain daily tasks in my office, so I can be in tune with the current wants and needs of prospective and current students. My first passion was in recruiting, so I still like to get out on the road and attend recruitment fairs and do presentations for pre-law students because that really fills my cup in the recruitment world!

The skills that my role requires are primarily in the realm of customer service: responsiveness and clear communication, friendly and helpful attitude, and a passion for what we are “selling.” That is why I love my role at the University – I genuinely believe that the Knudson School of Law is providing a world class education at a fraction of the price of other law schools. Our staff, faculty, and students genuinely love our community, so it is a great place to be!

I am also opening a small business in Vermillion – XIX Brewing Company. I serve as the Marketing and Taproom Manager, while my business partner will oversee the brewing and finance. I get to bring my developed skills in marketing to a small business, do more event planning (which I love!), and continue to provide exceptional customer service in the form of cold beer and friendly bartenders, which I am so excited for. Some of the greatest connections I have made at USD or in Vermillion are in these informal, social settings and I am so excited to be a part of that community in Vermillion.  

How did USD influence your personal and professional experiences following graduation?

USD has impacted every part of my life since starting college in 2011. Most of my closest friendships were formed at USD and the student experience I had developed me more as a student, person, and professional than I could have ever imagined. I worked as a Leadership Development Consultant for Pi Beta Phi for a year after graduation and would have never joined a sorority had it not been for a USD alumna who encouraged me to go through recruitment. I decided to move back to Vermillion and work for USD because I knew that the people who would surround me at USD were people I wanted to work with and for. I have held four different roles at USD and all were opportunities afforded to me through connections and people I have met through the USD network. Now, that may sound obvious since I work at USD, but I genuinely believe these connections wouldn’t happen in every company. USD invests in people who invest in USD and allowing me to grow as a professional at USD has been an invaluable experience.

The three most important mentors to me – Steve Miller, Scott Pohlson, and Neil Fulton have all been introduced to me through my USD network. From shifting career aspirations to the many roles that I have held at USD, they have supported and encouraged me in those goals and put me in positions or experiences to further my personal and professional development.

I am opening XIX Brewing Company with a fellow USD alumni and the support I have received from my friends (most from USD), family (big Yotes fans now!), and the USD and Vermillion community has been incredible. I don’t think you find that community everywhere and that is exactly why we are opening a small business in Vermillion – because the USD and Vermillion community are so supporting and encouraging. 

How have you demonstrated success and influence in your profession and community? 

I define the success I have achieved in my current profession by recruiting 3 of the largest and most qualified classes at the Knudson School of Law, and more importantly, that the students have found success and enjoyment in their experience at USD Law. We survey students periodically throughout their career to ensure I am “selling” the experience that they can come to expect, and their feedback has demonstrated that. I take pride in my ability to recruit students authentically and make a difference in their admissions experience, and I love when they come to Vermillion and love the community and USD like I do.

I believe my influence in the profession and community has been demonstrated through my selection for the USD Strategic Planning Committee in 2019-2020, the President’s Executive Leadership Institute in 2021-2022 and my appointment to the Vermillion Area Chamber and Development (VCDC) Board of Directors as USD’s appointed chair in 2023. In the community, I was asked to serve on the Vermillion Community Foundation Board of Directors and am currently serving in my third and final term as VermillionNEXT Young Professionals Network Steering Committee Chair. This Spring, I was named the Young Professional of the Year at the VCDC Annual Banquet. More fun, I have been asked to co-host the Vermillion Standstill Parade of Lights and GatheRED for the past three years!

Lastly, I think the opening of XIX Brewing Company influences the community. I am excited to give back to the community in the way of being a small business owner and continue to show young professionals the opportunities and support Vermillion can offer. As our marketing and taproom manager I will have opportunity to be an ambassador for USD and Vermillion through different partnerships as a small business. 

Lara Boman

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): BS (Physics, Minors: Math & Interdis. Sci.), 2018; MA (Kinesiology & Sport Mgmt., Spec.: Exercise Science), 2019

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lara-boman-19b776a2

Occupation: KSU: Graduate Research Assistant, Teaching Fellow, Grad. Student Trustee. USD: Adjunct Instructor.

Company: Kent State University, University of South Dakota

Location: Ashland, OH

Describe your current professional or educational pursuits. (What does your position entail? What skills do you use in your current role? What are you hoping to accomplish with your education? etc.)

I currently work as a Graduate Research Assistant in the Motor Control Laboratory at Kent State University. I am pursuing my PhD in Exercise Physiology, specializing in the use of exercise in improving health outcomes of people with neurodegenerative disease. I have a particular interest in the use of resistance training (e.g. lifting weights) and in the experiences of women with neurodegenerative disease. Alongside research and my own coursework, I also serve as Kent State’s Graduate Student Trustee on the Board of Trustees and as a Kent State Graduate College Teaching Fellow.

I rely heavily on skills learned at USD to perform well in my current work. My roles require clear communication, critical thinking, a strong work ethic and creativity. My degree in physics taught me an appreciation for science and trained me to problem-solve effectively. As a soccer and track student-athlete (and later, volunteer assistant coach) at USD, I picked up a love for exercise that I’ve carried into my professional career. Finally, my experience as a TA and instructor at USD inspired me to pursue my PhD to continue a career in higher education.

After finishing my doctoral degree, I plan to complete a postdoctoral fellowship focused on clinical applications of exercise before pursuing work as a university faculty member. I intend to produce research illustrating the benefits of exercise and designing effective training protocols for people who are aging and/or experiencing neurodegenerative disease.

How did USD influence your personal and professional experiences following graduation?

USD has steered almost every part of my life.

After graduating with my BS in Physics, I chose to finish my MA in Kinesiology and Sport Management and work as a Teaching Assistant during my fifth year of eligibility on the track and field team. I had initially played soccer at USD, and walked on to the track team and found success throwing hammer.

I then made the choice to train post-collegiately for the hammer throw at USD, first while working at the Wellness Center and then as a Visiting Assistant Professor within the Kinesiology and Sport Management department. Athletic highlights included a Top-40 world ranking in the women’s hammer throw, a bronze medal at the 2022 USATF Indoor Championships, and a spot in finals at the 2021 US Olympic Trials. I served as a Volunteer Assistant Coach with the USD Track and Field team during this time.

In 2022 I found myself at a crossroads. I had thoroughly enjoyed my experience teaching at USD, and knew I wanted to continue a career in higher education. I decided to hang up the hammer throw and combine my two interests of sport and health into a PhD in Exercise Physiology at Kent State University. And here we are!

On a personal note, many of my closest relationships can be traced to USD. I met my fiancé (husband as of 9/9/23!) through collegiate track and field, and he eventually moved to South Dakota to train post-collegiately in Vermillion. One of my favorite memories is competing together at the Olympic Trials in 2021, both in the hammer throw. Some of my best friends were fellow athletes at USD – track, soccer and swimming.

I’ll always be thankful for the people I met at USD and for the professors, mentors and coaches who pushed me to do more than I thought I could do.

How have you demonstrated success and influence in your profession and community? 

I’d like to start my sharing more about my work at USD post-graduation. As an instructor and coach, I worked with hundreds of USD students in and out of the classroom. I taught classes like Biomechanics, Intro to Research and Stress Management; and I still work as an adjunct instructor teaching Stress Management. I think that influence can best be traced to the experiences of my students and the athletes that I worked with. I did my best each day to provide the most valuable education possible, centered around a supportive, positive and challenging environment.

I also believe that my current roles demonstrate a positive trajectory in my career.

Returning to school to start my PhD after a few years focused on athletics and teaching was a bit intimidating. I did my best to hit the ground running like I learned at USD, and it’s gone well so far. This year I was appointed to the Kent State Board of Trustees by the Ohio governor’s office for a two-year term. In this role, I represent all KSU graduate students in Board of Trustees discussions. I also am serving as a Graduate College Teaching Fellow, where I collaborate to train new TAs across all graduate programs to teach effectively and well.

My influence in the future will likely be centered around the populations that my research will focus on, as well as students and mentees. I engage with all of those groups now, and do my best to provide the same supportive, positive and challenging environment that USD showed me.

Matt Decker

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Bachelor of Science in Education- Secondary Education History, 2019

LinkedIn/Resume: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Bqc_trPeItrtsfJrnI_gmQKEb-h7udLP/edit?usp=sharing&ouid=115886842387155765009&rtpof=true&sd=true

Occupation: Teacher/Coach 

Company: Yankton School District

Location: Yankton, SD

Describe your current professional or educational pursuits. (What does your position entail? What skills do you use in your current role? What are you hoping to accomplish with your education? etc.)

I am currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Education Administration and Leadership: PreK-12 Principal. I am also a first-year head girls basketball coach for the Yankton High School Gazelles basketball team. Effective communication, leadership skills, and the ability to form relationships have been skills utilized in my role. Being in education means forming relationships with all students. I want to be able to continue to develop my leadership skills with my education and lead my teams and classrooms to be the best students they can be so they can reach their full potential!

How did USD influence your personal and professional experiences following graduation?

USD influenced what I wanted to pursue in my life. The USD School of Education supported all of my dreams to be a teacher/coach in South Dakota. The teacher development program helped me develop the skills needed to be a successful teacher and focus on student growth in the classroom. The Education Leadership department has helped me develop my leadership skills in the field of education and helped me gain more knowledge about education administration. USD has been the foundation for my growth in learning about education leadership.

How have you demonstrated success and influence in your profession and community? 

I am in my fifth year of teaching and coaching students and athletes from various backgrounds. I get to teach and coach every day. It is a dream come true. USD gave me the knowledge, leadership skills, and experience to be the best teacher and coach I can be. 

Candidate Ranking

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