30 Under 30

School of Health Sciences

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.

Arielle Wolterman

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Major: Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Minor: Communication Studies, 2019

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/arielle-wolterman-80626115b

Occupation: Emergency Department RN, BSN

Company: The United States Department of Veterans Affairs 

Location: Des Moines, IA

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.)

My name is Arielle Wolterman, and I am a graduate of the USD School of Nursing Class of 2019. I am currently an emergency department nurse and nurse preceptor for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA Hospital) in Des Moines, Iowa. I love my job and USD played a very integral part in getting me started in this profession. I am a proud USD alumni.

My goal is to become a primary care nurse practitioner and a nursing professor. I am currently pursuing my Doctor of Nursing Practice through the University of Iowa. As a registered nurse in the emergency department, I provide care and treatment to patients in acute and chronic settings. I am confident that with my continued education and development as a healthcare professional, I will have an even greater impact on patient care as a nurse practitioner.

I utilize critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills to do my job effectively. I must quickly assess a patient's condition and determine the appropriate course of action. Communication with patient's families, inter faculty communication, and teamwork with staff are crucial to my emergency department nurse role. 

There is a continued need for more primary care providers in today's health care. Growing up in a small town with limited healthcare access, I experienced this firsthand. I aim to be part of the solution of affordable, accessible, and preventative health care. As a nurse, I care for the entire person; as an advanced practice nurse, I plan to do the same. Each person is an individual and deserves my attention and understanding. 

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

My time with at University of South Dakota was the beginning of my personal and professional confidence. 

In high school, an academic advisor expressed I would not do well in health care or at a large university. That same advisor encouraged me to look outside of health care and explore other avenues. I disagreed and followed my heart.

I attended a University of South Dakota college visit, hoping to understand more about myself and what I wanted to do and become.

My academic advisor at USD helped build my confidence and ensured I belonged there and would succeed in whatever I put my mind to. I declared my major in nursing that same week. After semesters of challenging coursework, I applied to the BSN program among many other students. I was accepted on my first try. During my entire course of study at USD, I worked hard and always knew each professor would be there for me when I needed help. I made several connections with professors who still remember me when I visit Vermillion. 

As a freshman, I went through rush and joined the Alpha Xi Delta sorority. As a member, I worked on projects benefiting our non-profit mission, Autism Speaks. Being heavily involved on campus from day one, I began formulating my network. This network lead me to Dakotathon.

I was named Dakotathon chair for my sorority to push for further fund-raising and and more participation efforts for the women of Alpha Xi Delta. 

I participated in Dakotathon my first year at USD. The following year, I became a morale captain. I was named “Most Valuable Morale Captain” that year for my fund-raising and group leadership efforts. I then applied to the executive board for Dakotathon. I was selected to serve as High School Events/Fund-raising Chair, then the following year as Sponsorship Chair. I continue to stay involved with Dakotathon fund-raising efforts and attendance as an alumni. 

I joined the University of South Dakota mentoring program as an alumni because of the experiences this school has given me and the confidence I developed in myself.  

I am where I am today because of my time at USD. I look forward to providing other students with the same advice and push to accomplish what they set their minds to. 

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

I have demonstrated success as a nurse through my care of those who have served our country. I have a significant family history of military service, this is my way of giving back. Each veteran I care for has a unique story and experience that I honor with the utmost respect and empathy.  

The Des Moines metro community has a large number of homeless veterans; I seek out opportunities to volunteer my time to give back and donate to be part of the solution.

My first job as a Pediatric Oncology/Hematology nurse brought rewards and trials. Working with children with chronic illnesses such as cancer was a challenge, but I am grateful I experienced it. I provided empathy and a friendly face as my patients and their families received treatment for days, months and years. It was an experience I will never forget.

My five-year plan is to become a professor and a family practice primary care nurse practitioner. I plan to give back to my profession by teaching and mentoring students in the same way I have been taught and mentored.

I am very honored to be nominated. Thank you!

Go 'Yotes! 

Ashley Jensen

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Bachelors Degree in Social Work, 2016; Masters Degree in Social Work, 2023

LinkedIn/Resume: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G54m2rQ3kbsH9ak4ALVbXGlaVStqWjbT/edit

Occupation: Licensed Social Worker and Addiction Counselor Trainee 

Company: Lifeways

Location: Rapid City, 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 an addictions counselor trainee and a licensed Social Worker and will be taking classes to obtain my license in addictions counseling this spring. My position right now entails working at a high school where I meet with high school students on a variety of different things including mental health counseling and helping students achieve their goals and aspirations in life. I also provide all of the drug and alcohol screenings to students who may be struggling or were referred to me by administration, the courts, counselors, and parents. I provide addictions counseling and also teach classes utilizing evidence based prevention curriculum to all freshman students and also provide groups for students who have been struggling with addiction. I have been utilizing all of my social work knowledge in what I do by gaining rapport with students and their families and utilizing difference scopes of practice from cognitive behavioral therapy to strengths based therapy. USD and the curriculum it taught me while in my classes has provided me with valuable knowledge for me to be successful not only in my workforce but in my everyday life. 

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

USD influenced my personal and professional experiences in a major way. The staff were a huge asset for me to be able to gain not only knowledge but valuable advice that I use every day. Vermillion felt like home to me and I was involved in so many different things including Social Work club. I have such a big heart for USD and the community there and still go back and visit any time I can and attend the USD games to support my fellow Yotes. I have also been involved in the Alumni association and became a mentor to students along with coordinating the events here in Rapid City for the watch parties so Yotes can come together to support one another, socialize, and cheer on our team from afar. Without the wonderful experience I had at USD, I wouldn’t have been able to find my true calling in life and help others. I enjoy giving back to USD and my own community and making sure that everyone knows this girl graduated from USD. 

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

I demonstrate success and influence in huge ways in my community and in my workforce. I volunteer with Feeding SD, I’m a board member for the National Association of Social Workers, I received the Fern Chamberlain Scholarship last year for my role in my profession and my community service work. I am a trainer for Enough Abuse that focuses on ACE’s and childhood sexual abuse. Not only all of that, but I also do community work where I put on a huge event called AMP (art, music, and performance) with my coworkers for students around the Rapid City area to submit art work and also perform to showcase their talents and to promote positive coping skills instead of turning to unhealthy coping skills such as drugs and alcohol. It has made such an impact in our community and with my workplace, we are always volunteering and spreading the word about prevention and intervention. We are the only nonprofit in Rapid City that has addictions counselors in the schools. We reach tons of students every school year and help them to understand and know the dangers of substance use and to help them achieve their goals of getting sober. Without my social work background that I got from USD, I wouldn’t be able to have all these skills and I am also wanting to delve into the legislation world since I also volunteer to go to the Capitol during legislation and sit in during committee meetings. One day, I will run for office to become a legislature and I wouldn’t have ever thought about doing that if it wasn’t for USD and the well-rounded program they have for not only social work students, but for everyone in general. 

Ember Smith

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Doctor of Physical Therapy, 2021

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

Occupation: Physical Therapist

Company: Well Balanced Physical Therapy

Location: Sioux Falls, 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 recently founded and opened my own physical therapy practice, Well Balanced Physical Therapy, in March of 2023. As the sole owner, I am responsible for all business management as well as patient care. I use foundational physical therapy skills to prevent and treat orthopedic concerns but have also taken courses to specialize in women's health and wellness including pregnancy and postpartum as well as functional dry needling. I hope to continue furthering my education through continuing education courses to offer high quality and the most up-to-date evidence-based physical therapy services in the Sioux Falls area. Some of the most important skills I use on a daily basis are communication and connection. Whether it is conversing with a patient to understand their situation and goals, educating a patient to empower them to take charge of their health and wellness, or networking with other health and wellness professionals and businesses, I enjoy connecting with people every day. I also value sharing my knowledge with the community in a way that is understandable, digestible and can be used to better their health and wellness. My ultimate pursuit is to assist individuals to move better and feel well-balanced. 

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

University of South Dakota’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program gave me much more than a doctorate. I felt my experience developed foundational knowledge and hands-on skills necessary to succeed as a physical therapist in any setting I chose. Not only do I have a large network of USD alumni that practice physical therapy locally to look up to as mentors, I know that although I am no longer a student, I still have access to the expert instructors and faculty. The physical therapy program has been supportive and dedicated to my success since beginning my education and continue to be throughout my career as a physical therapist. My experience at USD set me up for success and confidence in my personal and professional life and I recommend USD's DPT program every chance I get. 

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

By opening my own physical therapy cash-based practice, I have been able to offer easier access to high-quality PT services within my community. My number one goal in my PT practice has been to influence my patients by empowering them to achieve their maximum performance potential. Not only do I offer education to each patient, but I also provide education to the community via content on social media, email and in-person small group workshops. I value managing and restoring their health and wellness, but I prioritize prevention. I collaborate with other health and wellness professionals to ensure a holistic approach to prevention and healing. Outside of one-on-one sessions, I also teach weekly private and small group fitness as well as offer free workshops to educate and empower members of my community. Within 6 months of operating my small business, I have a 5-star rating on Google with 16 reviews, 38 workshop attendees, 640 organic followers on Instagram, 131 email subscribers, hired 2 USD PT student to assist with educational content, and recently began the process of hiring a second PT. I look forward to continued growth personally, professionally and within my locally-owned small business. 

Jennifer DeJager

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Social Work and Anthropology, 2015

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-d-727358aa?trk=contact-info

Occupation: IHH Care Coordinator 

Company: Four Oaks

Location: Cedar Rapids, IA

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.)

Since graduation from USD in 2015 I have had continued to be involved in the Social Work field being a Youth Counselor, Juvenile Corrections Officer, Family Preservation Specialist, and currently an IHH Care Coordinator. I completed my Masters in Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2020. As a Care Coordinator I work with clients that have Medicaid to assist with their mental health; referrals to therapy, primary care doctors, psychiatrist, and other needed providers, complete assessments for habilitation services, and help members receive home based habilitation services, live in habilitation homes, RCF’s or IRSH homes. I am hoping to work at the macro social work level to make positive impacts in my community. 

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

USD influenced my experiences professionally by creating a network of friends and colleagues and teaching that even small gestures to others can have meaningful impact. My teachers in Social Work and Anthropology utilized their roles as teachers to provide educational opportunities that allowed me grow in my leadership skills, empathy, and patience. 

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

I have been a mentor to colleagues at work to help them better understand the position and how to meet their clients needs. I am actively collaborating with other providers in the area on a regular basis and sometimes state wide for clients to meet their needs in all aspects; mental, physical, emotional, and social.

Katie Nour 

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, 2016; Doctorate of Physical Therapy, 2019

LinkedIn/Resume: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XeogQ6YZ8Z6cz_9PPzbIslij0b7RAj5A/view?usp=sharing

Occupation: Physical Therapist 

Company: Avera McKennan Hospital

Location: Sioux Falls, 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 working as a physical therapist at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD. I joined Avera’s team in 2019 shortly after graduating from USD’s Physical Therapy program. I work in an outpatient setting and specialize in diagnosing and treating patients with neurological conditions. Some of the common diagnoses I encounter include strokes, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Early on in my career I found a passion in caring for these individuals. The patients that I see and interact with on a daily basis are truly incredible and helping them achieve their goals is what continues to inspire me to live my life to fullest!

I recently achieved the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Neurological Specialist Certification (NCS). This makes me one of 7 Neurological Clinical Specialists in the state of SD, 4 of which work for Avera McKennan. I’m extremely blessed to work with such an awesome dedicated team! I would say that this pursuit was extremely challenging for me and my family at times. In order to sit for the examination I was required to obtain >2000 face to face treatment hours of neurological clinical practice. Followed by a rigorous 6 month guided study course which prepares you for the 6 hour exam. I likely averaged 8-10 hours of studying per week on top of working full time which meant time away from family and other responsibilities. It was an extremely difficult yet rewarding experience. I gained so much valuable knowledge from going through the process, and I am looking forward to continuing to use the knowledge and skills acquired to improve the care and outcomes for my patients and their families. My future aspiration is to continue being actively involved in growing Avera’s neurologic therapy department too one day being a regional leader in neurologic care.

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

I achieved my bachelors and doctoral degrees from USD and can truly say those were some of the best 7 years of my life. It was during this time that I met some of my closest friends and started dating my now husband. In undergrad, I was a member of a sorority which allowed me to meet so many wonderful people. I was able to grow both personally and professionally and I enjoyed participating in both local and national philanthropic events.

One of many rewarding opportunities that USD provided me was a tutoring position at the Native American Center where I served as their main academic tutor for 4 years. Many of the students that I worked with were first generation college students. I’m really proud to know that some of these students went on to attend USD’s Medical, Law and other post-graduate programs. Although this was a job for me it was far more than just that. Seeing students who truly cared about being better in their personal and academic lives instilled a renewed passion for my own studies and work ethic. This experience still influences me today to strive to be my best in everything I do. I also try to instill these same ethics in my patients by encouraging them to never give up even when it seems all odds are stacked against them.

Avera has also provided me with many opportunities to give back to the community by supporting my involvement in organizations such as Girls on the Run, local MS and Parkinson's support groups, exercise classes and retreats. Additionally, they highly encourage and support active involvement in USD’s Physical Therapy program through adjunct professing and/or assisting with labs and practicals. Most recently I assisted in grading the 2nd year physical therapy students neurological practicums. I’m extremely grateful to be able to stay actively involved in USD’s PT program which has supported me throughout my academic and professional career. 

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

Earlier this year my colleague and I planned and organized Avera's first ever "Living Well with MS Retreat". This 4 hour event featured a wide variety of speakers and topics including the latest medical advances in MS medications/treatments, speech and physical therapy's influence on the MS patient and social workers' role in advanced medical planning. Other career opportunities I have been involved in include speaking at South Dakota State's health career camp, being a clinical instructor for 3rd year Physical therapy students (many of whom are from USD!), speaking at the Annual Parkinson's retreat at the Abbey of the Hills, speaking at quarterly Parkinson's education series hosted by Avera, volunteering at Sioux Falls community Parkinson's and MS walks, assisting with Avera's contribution to the Sioux Falls Harvest of Hope campaign, coaching Girls on the Run at a local elementary school and most recently volunteering for a new ministry outreach through my church called God Behind Bars. This new campus of Embrace will be inside the Mike Durfee Prison in Springfield, SD and will involve a group of volunteers going down weekly to put on a worship service for the men of the prison. Again, many of these opportunities that have presented themselves in my personal and professional lives would not have been made possible without my experiences at USD and the constant support of Avera. I hope to continue making a lasting impact in the field of physical therapy and the Sioux Falls community. 

Kendra Dale 

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Social Work, 2016

LinkedIn/Resume: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1COyGC7XbO-aiIfRA6N2_gjipYZajhcUf/edit

Occupation: Owner/Operator & Licensed Clinical Social Worker  

Company: Therapy Solutions By Kendra Dale LLC 

Location: Chippewa, WI

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.)

As of November 2022, I started a mental health practice in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. As the owner and operator of Therapy Solutions By Kendra Dale LLC, I provide psychotherapy to the Great Chippewa Valley Community. I partner with several local organizations to help reach a wide verity of people. My current clinical practice goal is to become certified in Tension & Trauma Release Exercise (TRE).

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

While attending USD I recognized my passion of helping others that lead to my pursuit of owning my own business and providing psychotherapy. I feel my time at USD provided me with leadership opportunities that helped shape me into the person I am today. As a proud USD Alumna, I have had the opportunity to build close friendships that I continue to cherish to this day. 

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

I hope to continue to grow my practice and help others reach their potential through supportive and comprehensive mental health therapy. 

Lilly Nettles

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): BS of Health Science, 2019

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lilly-nettles-ms/

Occupation: Clinical Outreach Manager

Company: Charlie Health

Location: Athens, GA

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 hold the position of Clinical Outreach Manager at Charlie Health, where I have embraced a significant role in elevating awareness about therapy resources within my community. A key focus of my role is addressing the pressing mental health challenges faced by young individuals nationwide. The sad reality is that a mental health crisis has taken hold of our most vulnerable population—leading to record levels of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and self-harm. My primary objective is to foster partnerships with clinical stakeholders and facilitate admissions to intensive outpatient therapy for numerous at-risk youth. The networking skills learned at University of South Dakota, have been a contributing factor as my career has progressed as a young professional with enhanced effectiveness. Moreover, my experiences as a Yote have ignited a passion for leadership within me, equipping me with the capabilities to contribute meaningfully to my community.

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

The University of South Dakota (USD) has played a pivotal role in shaping both my personal and professional journey after graduation. The skills and knowledge I acquired during my time there have been instrumental in propelling me forward in various aspects of my life. On a personal level, USD provided me with a nurturing and diverse environment that fostered personal growth and self-discovery. Interacting with a wide range of individuals from different backgrounds and cultures expanded my perspectives and enhanced my ability to connect with people from all walks of life. This has proven invaluable in my role as a Clinical Outreach Manager at Charlie Health, where I engage with a diverse community and build relationships with clinical partners. As a west coast native, the midwestern culture at USD provided me so much hospitality and kindness that really can only be duplicated by spending time there.

Professionally, USD equipped me with a strong educational foundation and practical skills that have been indispensable in my career progression. The networking skills I acquired while at USD have enabled me to establish meaningful connections and partnerships. The passion for leadership that was ignited during my time at USD has driven me to excel in my responsibilities, especially in a field as crucial as mental health awareness. Overall, USD's influence continues to resonate in my personal and professional endeavors. The education, experiences, and values instilled by the university have not only enriched my life but also positioned me to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the well-being of at-risk youth in my community.

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

In my profession as a Clinical Outreach Manager at Charlie Health, I have been dedicated to making a significant impact and fostering positive change in both my field and community. My success and influence can be seen through various accomplishments and initiatives. I have played a crucial role in increasing awareness of therapy resources in my community by developing targeted outreach campaigns, organizing educational events, and collaborating with local organizations. This has resulted in improved access to mental health services for young individuals. Through strategic networking and relationship-building, I have successfully established partnerships with clinical stakeholders, therapists, and mental health organizations. These collaborations have led to more effective and comprehensive support for at-risk youth in need of intensive outpatient therapy. Additionally, I have taken an active role in advocating for mental health awareness through presentations, workshops, and seminars. By sharing knowledge about mental health challenges and available resources, I have contributed to reducing stigma and promoting open discussions about well-being.

Beyond my professional role, I have a passion for engaging with the community by volunteering, participating in local events, and supporting initiatives related to mental health. This active involvement demonstrates my commitment to the well-being of the community. Overall, my success in my career has really been driven my a passion of service and leadership 

Maisy Kleinschmit

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Social Work, 2022

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maisy-kleinschmit/

Occupation: Community Program Coordinator

Company: Transformation Project

Location: Sioux Falls, 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.)

My current professional journey has been deeply rewarding. Having graduated in 2022, I stepped into the role of a Community Program Coordinator at the Transformation Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering the transgender community and fostering understanding among families and society. In this role, I employ a range of skills, including community outreach, program development, and advocacy, to provide vital support and education. One of the most fulfilling aspects is my involvement with interns, where I act as a mentor, imparting knowledge and nurturing future social workers. Additionally, I have the privilege of being a guest speaker in the very classes that once shaped my path, aiming to inspire and contribute to the growth of aspiring social workers. Through these efforts, I am driven by the belief that education will shape the future of this field, and my goal is to contribute meaningfully to this transformative process.

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

During my time at the University of South Dakota (USD), my path took an unexpected turn that ultimately led me to a fulfilling career in social work. Like many students, I entered USD with a sense of direction, believing I knew exactly what I wanted to pursue. However, everything changed when I enrolled in the Intro to Social Work course, and the words of an exceptional professor reshaped my entire perspective. In that classroom, my professor uttered a statement that resonated deeply within me: "Social work isn't about sitting at a desk waiting for change, but instead, it is going out and making the change." These words struck a chord, challenging my existing notions and sparking a profound transformation. Suddenly, the concept of social work wasn't just a profession; it was a call to action, an opportunity to engage actively with communities and individuals to bring about meaningful, tangible change. This powerful realization prompted me to reevaluate my educational and career aspirations. I made the bold decision to switch my major to social work, embracing each course with unwavering passion. I was determined to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to effect positive change in society. The idea of being an active catalyst for change became my guiding principle.

Upon graduating, I embarked on a journey to embody the very spirit that professor had instilled in me. As a Community Program Coordinator at the Transformation Project, I dedicated myself to supporting and empowering the transgender community. My role involved not only providing vital assistance but also advocating for understanding and acceptance within the broader community. In addition to my work at the Transformation Project, I remained connected to my alma mater, the University of South Dakota. As a proud alumnus, I found fulfillment in mentoring and training new interns, sharing my experiences, and inspiring the next generation of social workers. The words of that professor continued to reverberate, reminding me that education is a potent tool for shaping the future of social work. Looking back, I am profoundly grateful for that pivotal moment at USD and the decision to embrace social work as my true calling. The professor's wisdom became the foundation upon which I built my career—a career dedicated to making a tangible, lasting impact on the lives of individuals and communities. In every step I take, I am reminded of the power of a single statement to ignite a lifelong passion for positive change.

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

Throughout my professional journey, I have demonstrated remarkable success and wielded substantial influence in my field and community, leaving an enduring impact through various initiatives. At the heart of my efforts are programs I've crafted and sustained, each designed to address distinct aspects of support and empowerment for the transgender community.

Notably, I've been a driving force behind impactful support groups that provide safe spaces for individuals to share their journeys, fostering a sense of unity and understanding. My commitment extends to the organization of dynamic community events that celebrate the vibrancy of the transgender community while educating the broader public about gender identity issues, thus nurturing empathy and acceptance.

Youth mentorship occupies a significant place in my contributions. By guiding and empowering young individuals, I am not only shaping their personal growth but also ensuring the perpetuation of advocacy endeavors for years to come.

Marty's Closet, a project I have nurtured, underscores my dedication to tangible support. Providing a week's worth of free clothing to those in transition, this initiative directly addresses immediate needs, promoting comfort and self-assurance during a transformative period.

Importantly, I have championed gender-diverse legislation as a key aspect of my advocacy efforts. By engaging with policymakers and advocating for equitable rights and protections, I am actively contributing to systemic change that benefits the transgender community on a larger scale.

Furthermore, my role as an alumna is an embodiment of my commitment to future social workers. This May, I was awarded Alumni of the Year at the Bachelor of Social Work cord ceremony. Through mentorship and training, I'm equipping aspiring professionals with the skills and insights needed to shape the future of social work. By guest speaking in classes, I share my journey and experiences, motivating students to recognize the power they hold in effecting positive change.

As I embark on the journey to establish South Dakota's pioneering 2SLGBTQAI+ Community Center, I am pushing boundaries further. This undertaking reflects my unwavering determination to create a physical space that not only provides essential resources and support but also fosters a deep sense of community and belonging.

In sum, my multifaceted endeavors, ranging from grassroots support initiatives to legislative advocacy and mentorship, collectively embody my commitment to fostering understanding, empowerment, and tangible change within the transgender community. Through each effort, I aim to contribute to a more inclusive, empathetic, and equitable society.

Olivia Hughes

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): B.S. Psychology, B.S. Addiction Studies, 2016; M.S. Administration with Human Resources Specialization, 2019

LinkedIn/Resume: https://www.linkedin.com/in/olivia-h-72110415b/

Occupation: Human Resources Director

Company: Silverado Franklin Historic Hotel & Gaming Complex

Location: Spearfish, 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.)

For the past three years, I have worked as the Human Resources Director with the Silverado Franklin Historic Hotel & Gaming Complex. While working with the Silverado I became a national member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and obtained my SHRM-CP (SHRM Certified Professional certificate). I am also an active member of our local Black Hills SHRM chapter. Our local chapter meets monthly to discuss relevant HR topics for continuing education.

In my role as Human Resources Director, I am responsible for a number of day-to-day and big picture tasks that assist in the operation of the organization. I hire and onboard all new employees, lead recruitment efforts, maintain state and federal compliance, process payroll for 200+ employees, administer benefit and 401k programs, organize and execute annual open enrollment and semiannual 401k enrollment, assist with performance improvement, and maintain an open-door policy to assist our employees with any needs that arise.

In the next 30 years, I hope to use my education and experience to help draft policy in issues relating to employment to continue to improve the workplace for all employees. 

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

The connections made and relationships built at USD have been so influential. While at USD, I was the President of a club lead by Dr. Sevening. I was able to travel to Washington D.C. with Dr. Sevening and a classmate to advocate for mental health and addiction policies at the U.S. Congress and our national conference. This trip led to my interest in policy work, which led me to obtain my Master’s Degree in Administration.

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

My success comes from helping others. In my profession, I demonstrate this by actively listening to my coworkers’ and colleagues’ opinions, ideas, and desires on how to make improvements to our workplace and profession. I keep an open door and an open mind when addressing issues or challenges.

I demonstrate success in my community by volunteering my time, ideas, and Notary Public services to causes and groups that advance the betterment of the local community and the State. I serve as a State Central Committee Person with the Lawrence County Democrats. In my role, I am also a member on our Lawrence County Democrats Executive Board. I am especially proud to work on our semiannual Highway Cleanup project. We gather as an organization in the spring and fall to clean up a stretch of highway in Lawrence County.

In addition to volunteering with the Lawrence County Democrats, I attend monthly professional development events with BH SHRM. There I am able to network and create relationships with leaders in other organizations and community leaders. 

Ryan Davis

Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): Bachelor of Science in Social Work (B.S.S.W), 2021; Master of Social Work (MSW), 2022

LinkedIn/Resume: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IjhtOXVUhV8eRBbxoxbmjzRxKoYM2eRo/view?usp=sharing

Occupation: Clinical Research Coordinator

Company: Department of Veterans Affairs

Location: Westland, MI

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 lead clinical research coordinator for the VALOR (VA Lung Cancer Surgery or Stereotactic Radiotherapy) clinical trial at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and work in conjunction with physicians from the University of Michigan Medical Center. I screen and recruit veterans throughout the Metro Detroit area who have been diagnosed with Stage 1 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. I help veterans navigate through their medical appointments and remain by their side every step of the way as they receive either surgical resection or radiation to treat their cancer. I originally enlisted in the South Dakota Air National Guard and now currently serve as a non-commissioned officer for the Michigan Air National Guard. I am charged with maintaining effective communication with joint forces in Germany and throughout Africa. The faculty at USD motivated me to continue my pursuit of higher education, as I am now working towards a Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Educational Psychology. My hope is to return to USD as an adjunct faculty member to help prepare up-and-coming Social Work students to become agents for social change and inspire them to become lifelong learners. 

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

The genuineness of my professors, classmates, and the overall environment of USD gave me the confidence to present my most authentic self. The faculty at USD helped me embrace being a first-generation American and first-generation college student. I always felt supported throughout my academic journey. The education I received at USD gave me the skills to serve as an advocate for change, regardless of my formal occupational title. My experiences in the undergraduate and graduate social work programs gave me the ability to be an effective case manager for veterans and provide them with trauma-informed care. I was also taught the skill of “meeting people where they are at.” This has helped me build rapport with veterans from diverse backgrounds as I assist them in meeting their needs. The social work education I received at USD also equipped me with the skills to serve as a victim advocate and suicide prevention specialist in the Michigan Air National Guard.

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

I was appointed as the lead clinical coordinator within two months of starting my position at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. Since I assumed my current position, I have helped facilitate streamlined lung cancer care for a multitude of veterans in the Metro Detroit area. The education I received at USD prepared me to work with thousands of veterans in local communities throughout Southeast Michigan and help them receive the exceptional healthcare they deserve. I have been able to present my successes at national study conventions and have been asked to virtually mentor clinical research coordinators from various VA locations across the United States. I owe my success to my experience at USD because the faculty provided me with the competencies necessary to effectively serve those who served our country. 

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