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Recognizing Bronco Heroes

Bronco Heroes

Our Bronco Nation is full of heroes within their communities and always has been. We would like to take a moment to recognize their impact – how they keep us safe, healthy and growing. If you have a story to share about how you or someone you know are making a difference in your community as a medical professional, educator, food service worker, etc, please let us know!

Nominate a Bronco Hero

Check out the stories below to learn about how WMU alumni are making a difference every day. Are you wondering how to help? Many students are currently facing unexpected challenges that could hinder their ability to complete their degrees. We anticipate an unprecedented number of scholarship applications in the coming months, and by making a gift to WMU Student Scholarships, you are helping students who have been impacted. Choose your impact here.


Cindy Visscher, Ph.D. Cindy Visscher (Ph.D. Graduate programs advisor & Faculty Specialist II, Spirituality, Culture, and Health Programs in the Department of Comparative Religion at WMU)

Recently, Vice President of University Advancement Kristen DeVries reached out to our alumni community to see how they were doing and what they were doing within their communities. We received a number of heartening responses, the following is just one example:

I am the coordinator of the WMU graduate certificate and MA in Spirituality, Culture, and Health, which is aimed at preparing graduates to be leaders in reducing religious, ethnic, and racial disparities in health care and human services. The certificate started in 2012 and the MA in 2016. Most of the students are mid-career professionals. The most rewarding part of the program for me as a teacher is seeing students start making a difference in their own organizations even as early as the first semester for some of them.  

Personally, I am assigned to work with Allegan County as a contact tracer through the volunteer program for the State of Michigan.  I am assigned to a team that will start working together this week. I will be using my annual leave in summer II to devote as much time to the effort as I can. I am glad to have the opportunity to help with COVID 19 transmission reduction.

Miles McMahonMiles McMahon (B.S.’92)

Recently, Vice President of University Advancement Kristen DeVries reached out to our alumni community to see how they were doing and what they were doing within their communities. We received a number of heartening responses, the following is just one example:

I live in Kansas City, MO. In 1998 I started my own kids drama company called Theatre of the Imagination. For over 20 years I have taught kids acting, singing, dancing, improv and more. Since Covid started I have had to move all of that online. Happy to say it is going well. I teach acting and movie making classes and I offer online birthday parties.
It has been a great way for kids to stay involved in the arts and connected to one another. We have seen so many kids have such a positive reaction to staying engaged in the arts during these difficult times. For them to bond with other kids, to share stories, to socialize, to be silly. It is a joy to see their bright shining faces during this challenging time for all of us.
Since my classes are online any one can take them from anywhere. Learn more at

Karen MilczynskiKaren Milczynski (B.S.'06)

For the past 13 years, Karen has been teaching Life Skills at Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township, Michigan. She uses her passion for sewing to teach one of her classes, a Fabrics Sewing Class. Now through these virus troubled times, she's able to exemplify this passion even more.

Through extensive research, Karen adopted a unique fabric, washable mask which allows one to slide in a disposable mask. The mask has a unique fit: instead of fitting around the ears, one elastic loop goes across the back of your neck and one goes on top of your head (like a headband). Karen has designed a headband with side buttons to secure the elastic for masks that fit around the ears to ease the sores that one gets from having to wear these types of masks.

In all, Karen has made over 1,000 masks and over 100 headbands. She has donated masks to nurses, EMS, EMT's, paramedics and the homeless in downtown Detroit just to name a few; and has mailed them at her own expense all over the US and to Canada. There is a box on Karen’s porch with free masks for the taking.

She has unselfishly provided her knowledge, pattern and bolts and bolts of elastic to fellow sewers (some she has connected for the first time and has yet to meet in person). Several months ago a T-shirt company going out of business donated their elastic to Karen, who stored it for future use and is now passing it on to others.

Karen has managed to teach  five classes on-line during Chippewa Valley High School's closing, while dedicating her time and energy to making masks and headbands. She has turned her home basement into a classroom and mask manufacturing factory.

Josh CookJosh Cook (B.S.'12)

We’re not heroic, we’re just doing what’s right to try and help the community where I’m from. In a time of need, we chose to pivot vs closing our doors. We moved as fast as we could to make sanitizer with a focus on getting it to our community at-risk professional/ healthcare workers and all those front line people working to save lives every day. I call Kalamazoo home and have for over 30 years, and it feels good to give back and give our team a mission to be a part of.

Psychelia TerryPsychelia Terry (B.B.A.’03, Alumni Association Board Member)



Psyche has deployed some of her operating capital to make over 1 million units of hand sanitizer under her Urban Hydration skincare brand for a regional grocery store chain. She is a Bronco Hero because she continues to support Western Michigan University through a scholarship program and to give back to the community even while COVID-19 has many of her customers' stores closed.

Alison Jean-Julien (B.S.’09)

With the invasion of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, various professions have taken to the frontlines to fight this disease as a service to their country, in their own way. Healthcare workers, especially nurses, are one of the professions that has been thrusted to the forefront.

Nurses have always played an intricate role in the healthcare system. They serve in many capacities—caregivers, educators and advocates, just to name a few. And oftentimes, nurses are there at the beginning of life and at the end. So, it’s only fitting that the contributions nurses make to their profession and their communities are recognized nationally, with National Nurses Week, which is observed this year from May 6-12.

While they do get a week, they deserve a “Thank You” every day. Meet Alison Jean-Julien, a 33-year-old Unit Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Transplant at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, who holds several degrees in science, nursing and leadership. She told the New Pittsburgh Courier that taking care of people has always been part of her DNA. It was while in college, and after gaining experience as a caregiver, that she decided to go into the nursing profession.

“I think, ultimately, as a nurse, I like to help promote wellness and reduce health disparities,” Jean-Julien said. “Then, as a manager, in my role, I have a unique opportunity to help not only shape the future of nursing, but also to ensure that there’s good patient outcomes and set high clinical standards within my department and Presby, in general.”
In her role, Jean-Julien, who was only days away from giving birth to her first child at the time of this interview, manages the department that cares for patients in the heart and lung transplant center, and those who are on ventricular assist heart devices.

Read the rest of the article here

Cristian Veloz (M.S.’12)

Veloz is the current President of Club Active 20-30 in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. Active 20-30 is an international service club focused on helping children and developing leadership skills in younger adults ages 20–39. Currently, Veloz and his team are working in several activities as volunteers, donating food to poor neighborhoods, children's shelters and homes for the elderly. Club Active 20-30 will continue working hard with the community and other institutions as long as this situation remains.

 Dr. Stephen Quay (B.A.'71)Dr. Stephen Quay

Dr. Quay, 1981 WMU Distinguished alumnus, has invented the first drug to help patients get off of ventilators. “There’s a side port on the ventilator where you can put medication for these patients … basically they can breathe a mist while they are on the ventilator and the goal is to get them off the ventilator and once you are off the ventilator you’ll have an improved clinical course.” Read more here, here, and here.

Avery GreenAvery Green (B.B.A.’18)

Avery has pivoted his apparel business, House of Pariah, that he started thanks to winning the Brian Patrick Thomas Entrepreneurial Spirit Award from Starting Gate at WMU, to making masks. For every mask he sells, he is donating one to a local hospital. He is making all of the masks himself in his home in Kalamazoo.

Agarwal Vivek (B.S.’03)

Vivek, along with friends, started a GoFundMe fund that has to date secured 75k+ pieces of protective equipment for frontline health care professionals! These are being hand-delivered by volunteers to hospitals in the NYC area that don't have resources and access to a big supply chain.
Additionally, OOKIOH, a sustainable brand that he founded and is the sole owner, has joined Brands X Better alliance, and is donating 2% of sales to Mayor of LA's COVID-19 Fund to help the underprivileged who have suffered because of the pandemic.

 Kendall Owen ('19) Kendall Owen

Kendall graduated in the spring of 2019 with degrees in both Dance and Nursing. She runs a nonprofit arts organization supporting the Detroit community and is on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight as an ER Nurse at Beaumont Health, one of the hardest hit hospitals in Michigan.

Brittani Drummer (B.S.’11, M.S.'14)

Brittani is working on the front lines at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit as an emergency room PA. She is not only an alumna but the daughter of the Haworth College of Business's director of advising, Betsy Drummer, and a sister to two other WMU alumni.

Dr. Evan White (B.S.’14)Evan White

Dr. Evan White is currently in his second year of his ER residency at Detroit Receiving Hospital and was recently named a chief resident for his upcoming 3rd and final year of residency. He is working hard every day to save lives of the many patients who have inundated the hospitals in the Detroit area.

Cassandra Tracey (B.S.’13)Cassandra Tracey

After graduating from WMU, Cassandra was accepted into University of Detroit Mercy's Accelerated Nursing Program. Cassandra was ready and eager to help others as she was pulled from her floor and placed on the COVID-19 floor at Beaumont Hospital in early March.

As one of our very first front-line heroes she dove head first into COVID-19 before we even knew what was going on. After starting to display symptoms herself, she knew she needed to stay home and recover. By day 10 of 14 at home she was eager to get back to Beaumont and make a difference. That is exactly what she did, today (April 22) she is back working on the COVID-19 floor as a nurse.

Kiarra Lane (B.S.'17)Kiarra Lane

"I am currently working the front lines at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan as a lead medical assistant in the infectious disease clinic. The doctor I work with in clinic is the director of infection control at the hospital, and is leading the front lines seeing patients and initiating testing.

I have been helping with scheduling patients and abstracting charts in our EPIC system to make sure all of the patients’ medical history is up to date. I’m also making sure we have the supplies and PPE needed for clinics to run effectively. This has been a team effort and everyone has been working so well together, supporting each other through the difficult times. I am thankful for my undergraduate education from WMU. 

I hope all my fellow Broncos are staying well and standing resilient during this difficult time. Keep washing those hands and as always, it’s a great day to be a Bronco!"

Jordan Ladewig (M.S.’12)

Jordan is a WMU alum who works as an Occupational Therapist in an outpatient facility. When outpatient services were deemed non-essential she knew she still wanted to make a difference! Jordan started working in a hospital, in the hard-hit Metro Detroit area, not as an OT but rather as a nurse tech. She continues to put herself last and her patients first.

 Noam MorgensternNoam Morgenstern (B.S.'02)

Hospitals across the country are seeing an influx of patients related to COVID-19. In order to save lives and protect vital frontline health workers, they need supplies and professional reinforcements—and they need them now. Western Michigan University alumnus Noam Morgenstern is among the fleet of pilots helping to deliver.

As first officer for Alaska Airlines, Morgenstern has logged thousands of miles transporting critical people and cargo to more than 115 destinations across North America.

“The flights that I do operate carry badly-needed essential health care professionals and supplies that are critical to the communities we serve—in some cases more so than in the past,” says Morgenstern, whose routes take him everywhere from New York to Honolulu, Hawaii. “With that said, Alaska Airlines has always been an essential lifeline to many communities in the state of Alaska as well.”

Read the entire story here.

Jwana Player
Player on a mission trip to Guatemala.

Jwana Player (B.S.N.’11)

Jwana is on the front line working as an RN out in Los Angeles. I couldn’t be more proud to call her my best friend!!

-- Submitted by Tiffany Couturier (B.S’15, M.A.’17)

Dave Maurer (B.S.’01)

Dave Maurer owns Creative Products International; microfiber cleaning products that make up the trademarked 4-D cleaning systems you see today. Due to the current needs, Dave has repurposed his international cleaning supply-chain and focused on expediting large quantities of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) including much-needed masks, shields, and goggles into the US and Michigan for first-line responders, front line workers, and manufacturing plant workers that are essential to keep business running.

After getting the word out, Bronco alumnus, Eric Taylor was able to make some direct connections to donate a fresh supply of masks to a Michigan police department, where his brother serves and had previously been wearing the same mask for a week at a time. Other alumni mentioned getting supplies to donate to local hospitals. Since many supplies are being directed to first responders many essential services and manufacturers are hard-pressed to find much-needed masks to do their jobs. Alumnus Donn Fresard was able to provide masks for his team at the Detroit Wayne County Prosecutor's office so they may continue their essential services. They also offered alternative resources for Bronco food manufacturers whose plant floor workers require masks to safely do their jobs.

Katie Humphrey-FeatherlyKatie Humphrey-Featherly (B.S.’10)

Jordan is a WMU alum who works as an Occupational Therapist in an outpatient facility. When outpatient services were deemed non-essential she knew she still wanted to make a difference! Jordan started working in a hospital, in the hard-hit Metro Detroit area, not as an OT but rather as a nurse tech. She continues to put herself last and her patients first.

Tennile Chavous (B.S.N.’06)Tennile Chavous

Tennile, RN, is on the front line each day doing important work during this public health crisis. She is a unit coordinator in the oncology & hemodialysis unit at Bronson Hospital. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.


Jennifer DeMarco Buchholz
Jennifer DeMarco Buchholz

Jennifer DeMarco Buchholz (B.S.'11)

"My name is Leah Winn (B.A.'12), and I would like to tell you about my friend Jennifer DeMarco Buchholz. She is a 2011 WMU graduate from the College of Education and is now a 3rd-grade reading teacher for Kalamazoo Public Schools, as well as a figure skating coach for the Greater Kalamazoo Skating Association.

I have never met someone who is more passionate about their job (seriously – check out her teaching Instagram @skatingthroughliteracy). Ever since the stay at home order for Michigan schools was put in place, Jenn has been teaching her students by sending them activities they can do at home, while also recording herself reading books aloud for her students to listen to, plus probably a whole bunch of other things behind the scenes I don't know about. Now that an executive order has been signed to close schools for the remainder of the school year, she will begin teaching her students exclusively online. And as far as coaching her figure skating students, she has been hosting an online off-ice class she calls "Jumping with Jenn."

I know how much Jenn misses her students and I feel like she has gone above and beyond for them, just as she would if we were not facing a global pandemic. That's why she is my Bronco Hero!"

Lori Roof Racine (B.A.’91)Lori Roof Racine

Lori is the principal of a school in the Archdiocese of St Louis. As the kids are dealing with a lot of change in their lives since COVID-19, Mrs. Racine makes sure the students have some continuity in their daily lives. Though they are not getting their morning high-fives as they walk into school or her daily announcements over the PA system, they get them every morning on YouTube. Every day she lets them know how much she loves and misses them, takes time to say hi to individual kids by name every day, makes videos of teachers sending the kids messages, and shares in school-wide activities with them. They email her often to say thank you and send pics that she tweets out from the school. She believes in the power of staying connected.

Barbara Buehler (B.S.’13)Barbara Buehler

Barbara is working on the front lines exposed to COVID everyday faithfully serving her patients at St. John's Hospital in Detroit.

Ankit Kedia (B.B.A.'06)Ankit Kedia

Ankit Kedia is a 2006 graduate of the Food Marketing program who’s newest endeavor, Caremont LLP in Bengaluru, India is helping healthcare workers in his country: 

Along with me and my team, we are busy trying to help our healthcare workers fight this pandemic by sourcing and supplying COVID19 protective products. Our team is working 18 hours a day to ensure our PPE kits reach the frontline warriors, take a look at some recent coverage.

Dr. Michael Famiano (WMU Faculty)Bronco Heroes

"I'm currently organizing an independent charitable organization to develop transitional housing for young people who have aged out of the foster care system in Southwest Michigan and surrounding areas. Things went sideways pretty quickly with COVID-19.  Since I had a great team of people helping with our housing project, and that was effectively on hold, we decided to shift our efforts to helping WMU students in the interim. Many of the students we help are international, jobless, without transportation, and hungry. We are hoping to meet the IMMEDIATE needs of these students — some of whom are in my own classes!

We started off helping a small group of students that were brought to our attention by an on-campus church, but it quickly ballooned to over 400 students. We are currently working with Michelle Metro-Roland (Associate Director of Scholarships and Faculty Development), who is putting us in touch with students, and we are also in communication with Paulo Zagalo-Melo (Associate Provost), who is very supportive of us.

We've been delivering food to campus daily since March 26. We are getting daily donations of food, supplies, and money from faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and community members. Right now, we have an active team of roughly 25 people helping out (in addition to those donating). They are driving, picking up food, helping arrange pickups and deliveries, and shopping. We have a mixed group of volunteers, including those from on-campus and off-campus churches, individual faculty members, some local business people, faculty and staff, and even my teenage daughter!

Today (4/8) was our first day that we ran two food distribution points — one on campus and one off campus. Michael Worline (Marketing Manager for the College of Arts and Sciences) handled the off-campus point, and we will probably get additional drivers to help with that. The off-campus point will move from day to day. 

We are a shamelessly idealistic group. We operate on a few basic principles, including compassion, flexibility, and preparedness. Many faculty and staff have done an amazing job helping! I am behind in my record keeping, but we've received donations from Biology, Spanish, History, Health and Human Services, Business, and many other departments.

For more information, check out the WMU4students Facebook page.

Go Broncos!"

Shaun Robinson (B.S.'97, M.A.'05)Shaun Robinson

"I am currently the executive chef for Charttwells at Kalamazoo Public Schools. Our food service team is running an emergency feeding program (same format as our summer feeding program) for the Kalamazoo community, our KPS team is serving up to 40,000 meals (to cover a seven-day period) a week. We serve three times a week, have 20 sites for pickup and four congregate sites we have served since March 16, and will continue to do so through this crisis as needed."

Jarrod DeGroff (B.S.'09)Donations

"I graduated from WMU in 2009 with a B.S. in teaching with a major in Physical Education and a Minor in Industrial Technology. The Industrial Technology led me to being hired at Mattawan High School as a CAD teacher and then eventually moving into teaching Engineering. I got started working on making 3D printed masks when my administrator sent me a link to a story about a local high school doing the same thing through a Facebook group called Print Force, based out of Lansing. I joined in with them and have been following their model here locally in Southwest Michigan. 

WWMT interviewed me, and  things picked up considerably! We started a local group called the SWMI Print Squad on Facebook. It includes educators and individuals from around Southwest Michigan ranging from Allegan to South Haven to Battle Creek. We have 33 members in our group (at least 25 are WMU alumni!) and about 35 3D printers printing around the clock.

We are donating to any local Healthcare providers, and so far have donated 175 Face Shields to local hospitals in Kalamazoo. We are working with a few more health care providers, but are looking for many more to request our shields and masks. Right now, we are working by using our own filament, but we hope we can fundraise to purchase more and possibly some additional 3D printers to amp up production. We are also working with Print Force who is providing us with filament and plastic so we can continue to make the face shields.

We are looking for people and businesses who have 3D printers that want to help out, as well as people and businesses who may want to donate to help keep our supply of filament and plastic on hand. People looking to get involved can reach out to me through our SWMI Print Squad Facebook group and donations can be made through Paypal to"

Matthew Deller (B.S.'99, M.S.'02)Matthew Deller

"On the front lines fighting Coronavirus in Detroit. Stay safe everyone!"

Hunter Jurecki (B.S.'17)Hunter Jurecki

"My fiancé and I are ICU nurses in Michigan. I am a WMU nursing alum! We are trying to spread our personal COVID story with hopes it will resonate with members of the community. Our goal is to advocate and spread awareness. Read more about our story here."

Alemayehu Mekuria (B.S.'18)

"As an RN graduate from Western Michigan University, I am working to fight this pandemic in my community every day by providing care for my patients."