Richard J. (Rick) Hardy is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centennial Honors College at Western Illinois University. He received his undergraduate degree with honors in political science at Western Illinois University and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He has served on the faculties of Northern State University, Duke University and the University of Missouri-Columbia, and has taught a wide range of courses in American Politics, Constitutional Law, and Civic Leadership.
Rick believes that “free government requires active citizens.” To that end, he has been actively engaged in civic affairs. He helped lead several political reform drives, served on numerous government commissions and boards of directors, volunteered in civic organizations, consulted on dozens of political races at all levels of government, and served as a presidential elector in the Electoral College.
His administrative positions at the University of Missouri included: Assistant Director of the Honors College, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Director of the Masters’ Program in Public Policy, Director of the National Institute for Advanced Civic Studies, Director of Internships, and Founder and Director of the Institute for Leadership in Civic Education. Most recently, he completed a four-year term as Chair of the Political Science Department and two years as Interim Director of the Honors College at WIU.
Rick has also served as a political analyst for numerous media outlets (e.g., CNN, NBC News, FOX News, Associated Press), and has been quoted extensively in various outlets (e.g., Newsweek, USA Today, New York Times, US News & World Report, Kansas City Star, Parade Magazine, St. Louis Post-Dispatch). To date, has garnered over 60 significant teaching and civic leadership awards, including the University of Missouri’s four-campus Burlington Northern Faculty Achievement Award, the prestigious William Kemper Award, the Missouri Bar Association’s Civic Education Award, and two campus nominations for the Case National Professor of the Year Award. At Western Illinois University, he won several campus awards and was selected to deliver the John Hallwas Lecture in the Liberal Arts.
Finally, Rick has published or edited seven books and his articles have appeared in a number of professional journals. Rick is a native of Burlington, Iowa. He and his wife, Linda, have two grown children, four grandchildren, four dogs and two cats. His lifelong passion includes playing the plectrum banjo, 5-string banjo, and guitar. And for the past seven years Rick has been a member of the WIU’s Endnotes musical group.
Dr. F. Erik Brooks is a Professor and the Associate Director of the Centennial Honors College at Western Illinois University (WIU). He is originally from Montgomery, Alabama.
Dr. Brooks earned a Doctor of Philosophy from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2002. He holds three Master’s degrees. He earned a Master of Science in Counseling and Human Development from Troy State University in 1992, a Master of Public Administration from Auburn University Montgomery in 1998, and a Master of Education from Alabama State University in 1999. Dr. Brooks earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Art from Troy State University in 1989.
Previously, he was the Chair of the Department of African American Studies and the interim Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Cultural Center at Western Illinois University. Prior to coming to WIU, he taught Political Science and Public Administration at Georgia Southern University from 2002 to 2012. Also while at Georgia Southern University, he served as the Director of the Master of Public Administration Program from 2004 to 2008, Interim Chair of the Department of Political Science, and an Assistant to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences from 2011 to 2012. He has held teaching positions at the University of Richmond from 2001 to 2002 and Alabama State University from 1992 to 1999.
Dr. Brooks is a renaissance man and a holistic academician, having served on both the academic and student affairs sides of the academy. Dr. Brooks has held mid-level administrative positions in student affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University from 1999 to 2002 and Alabama State University from 1992 to 1999.
Dr. Brooks has served as a media analyst for the Savannah Morning News, the Jacksonville Sun Times, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the Montgomery Advertiser. A sought after speaker, he is often called upon to speak at public events discussing African American History, popular culture, multiculturalism, and diversity. Dr. Brooks has written extensively in the areas of African American history, public administration, and American politics with his work appearing in scholarly journals, encyclopedias, academic guides, and books. Since 2006, he has authored or edited ten books. Currently, he is working a manuscript about the Obama presidency.
Dr. Brooks is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. When not working, he enjoys watching sports, traveling to sporting events, and traveling to Civil Rights and Civil War museums.
Alexandra Geisler serves as the Assistant to the Director for the Centennial Honors College. Within her role, Alex is responsible for assisting the Director with the recruitment, selection, supervision and promotion of students for international and national scholarships and fellowships. She is also the development officer for the Honors College and coordinates fundraising events, alumni relations and other fundraising components. Alex works cooperatively with a variety of campus offices including the Foundation and Alumni Programs. Additionally, she represents the Honors College on campus wide committees such as Homecoming Committee and University Marketing Committee.
Alex received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Western Illinois University in 2009 and followed with her Master of Science in College Student Personnel in 2011, also from Western. She earned her Certificate in Fundraising Management from IUPUI in 2013. While at WIU, she held graduate assistantships in Undergraduate Admissions and Greek Life. After graduation, she worked in Greek Life and Housing and Residence Life at Illinois Wesleyan University. Alex began her development experience while working as the Director of Development at Wesley Village, in Macomb. Most recently, she served as the President & CEO of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce. She continues to advise the alma mater chapter of her sorority, Sigma Sigma Sigma, at Western.
Alex resides in Macomb with her husband, Jerad, their daughter, Zoey and son, Braxton (and dog, Sophie). In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, running, visiting the Lake of the Ozarks and crafting.
Dr. Homer grew up in Ames, Iowa. She received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematical and Computational Sciences from Stanford University and then worked for three years as a database designer for a computer graphics company in Salt Lake City that built flight and submarine simulators for the military. She then moved to Champaign to pursue graduate work in Linguistics at the University of Illinois, where she received a master’s degree and Ph.D. Before coming to WIU she taught linguistics, phonetics, and phonology at several universities including the University of Alberta, UC San Diego, Brown University, and the University of Pittsburgh. In 2003 she became the Honors Advisor at WIU, and she advises honors students on how to meet their honors requirements. In October of 2014 Dr. Homer was nominated by a student and selected as Western Illinois University's Academic Advisor of the Month.
Michele Aurand is the newest Academic Honors Advisor in the Honors College. She is responsible for advising honors transfer students on how to meet their honors requirements, and will also be coordinating the honors program at our WIU-Quad Cities campus. Michele is also the faculty advisor for the Student Honors Association and Tau Sigma National Honor Society for transfer students. After receiving her B.A. in Speech Communication from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, Michele completed her M.S.Ed. degree in Counseling from the WIU-Quad Cities campus.
Michele has worked as an Admission Representative at Marycrest International University and then as an Admissions Counselor at the University of Illinois-Springfield. She came to WIU in 2001 as an Admissions Counselor in the Undergraduate Admissions Office where she worked for 8 years before moving over to the Honors College in 2009 to be the Advisor and Program Coordinator for the Interdisciplinary Studies Program. In September 2012, Michele was nominated by a student and awarded Western Illinois University's Academic Advisor of the Month. Then, in August 2014 ISP moved to Horrabin Hall to be housed in the same office as the Bachelor of General Studies Program, and Michele transitioned into her new role as Academic Honors Advisor. More recently, she has also been teaching various courses in the RPTA department as well as University courses in Personal Growth for freshman and Career Internship for seniors. Michele is a Building Connections mentor on campus, as well as the chair of the COAA Awards and Recognition committee.
Originally from Dixon, Illinois, Michele enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, skiing, canoeing and kayaking. She also enjoys traveling all over the world, but is especially fond of visiting the Hawaiian islands. She also loves to attend live music and comedy shows and is an avid Chicago Bears fan.
Angie Louden joined the Centennial Honors College staff in June of 2016 as an Office Support Specialist. She is responsible for managing the day to day activities in the office as well as assist in recruiting students to the Centennial Honors College. Prior to working in the Honors College she worked in the Office of Student Activities, Educational Studies, and Educational Leadership.
Angie received her bachelor’s degree in Recreation, Park & Tourism Administration from Western Illinois University in 1998. She grew up in Macomb and has lived in Stowe, VT; Galena, IL; Burlington, IA and finally back to Macomb where she and her husband, John, hope to stay and raise their children. They currently have 4 children at home and enjoy many outdoor activities and spending time with family.
Kimberley Sedgwick, originally from Burr Ridge, Illinois, graduated with an Art Degree from Western Illinois University. She fell in love with the Macomb area and all that WIU has to offer and decided to remain here as a member of this community. She has held several graphic art and advertising positions throughout her career as well as a number of positions at Western Illinois University. She enjoys illustrating with pen, ink, and pencil and portraying her world through photography. She also has developed a greeting card business, using her original illustrations and favorite photographs. As an avid environmentalist, Kim enjoys nature and its creatures immensely. She loves hiking, bird watching, canoeing, creating natural respites, and taking in all that nature has to offer.
Her passion for the environment extends beyond personal enjoyment to a roll of active involvement in local, state and national concerns. She promotes wind and solar energy whenever possible. She has worked to protect natural habitats for the Indiana Bat, a State and Federal Endangered Species, as well as protecting habitats for the many migratory birds that frequent this area. She also brought to the forefront major water pollution issues by the coal industry in McDonough County. In doing so, she has worked closely with the Heart of Illinois Sierra Club, Macomb’s Prairie Land Conservancy, Prairie Rivers Network, The Environmental Law and Policy Center of Chicago, and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
Being a friend to all creatures, Kim and a handful of people were instrumental in facilitating the construction of a much-needed safe and humane animal shelter facility in our community. The hard fought battle took years of fundraising and debates with the county, but proved to be well worth the effort. This same small group went on to establish the current Humane Society of McDonough County whose goals are to promote the welfare of all animals and educate the public in these matters. Kim has personally worked to rectify local domestic animal abuse cases as well as bring attention to the protection and monitoring of entertainment animals that travel through the area.
Kim has had many devoted and loving animal soul friends throughout her life. All were rescued from shelters or abandonment. Her latest, a Border Collie mixed breed named “Laddy Winky Bear,” was deemed un-adoptable but turned out to be her beloved kindred spirit for over 15 years of his life.
Vasudha Jasti joined the Centennial Honors College staff on January 17, 2017 as a Graduate Assistant. She is responsible for assisting with the office day-to-day activities as well as the Honors College monthly newsletter. Vasudha received her bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from PVP Siddhartha Institute Of Technology, Affiliated to JNTU Kakinada in May 2016.
During her undergraduate career, she worked as a Research Assistant under Prof Dr. B. V. SubbaRao and published her research work at IJARCSSE
She did a research project on expert systems and developed a project “A Fuzzy Expert System Based On Human Disease Diagnosis.” She developed an ANDROID Application PVPSIT-Phone Book and dedicated that work to her undergraduate college as a token of gratitude. She served on several organizational committees such as THE HINDU- EPlus Club as Coordinator and AIESEC-Vijayawada, an International youth based non-profit organization as TEAM LEADER, organized events for orphan children and youth festivals based on the awareness of Entrepreneurship.
Currently, Vasudha is a graduate student in the Computer Science Department with an emphasis in the Web Development. Prior to joining the Centennial Honors College team, she served as the student assistant in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Western. During her free time she enjoys watching movies, playing badminton, sleeping, spending time with family and friends.
Nathan Bettenhausen is a first-year graduate student in the College Student Personnel program at Western Illinois University. He graduated from Millikin University (Decatur, IL) in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a minor in Theatre. Between undergraduate and graduate school, he worked at Walt Disney World Resort, completing the Disney College Program and later working at various locations as a Merchandise Coordinator. He currently holds an assistantship in the Office of Student Activities with Greek Life Programs and serves as the House Director for Delta Upsilon Fraternity.
Apefa Pedanou is a first-year graduate student in the College Student Personnel program at Western Illinois University. She is originally from Ghana, West Africa and has lived in the United States for six years now. She currently calls San Antonio, Texas home. She graduated from Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2016. She also earned a certification in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She currently holds a graduate assistantship in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation and will serve as a practicum student in the Honors College for the Spring 2017 semester. During her time in the Honors College, Apefa will advise Pre-Honors students and work with the Honors Mentor program. She enjoys meeting new people and is excited about being a part of the Centennial Honors College.
Yasmeen Ivory is from Peoria, Illinois. She is the oldest of three siblings. She is currently pursuing her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. She is very passionate about teaching and being able to impact the lives of young children. She has volunteered in the Macomb area for the Macomb after school program, as well as the America Reads program. She is also a member of Chi Omega sorority. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family and friends, rollerskating, singing, and watching Netflix.
Jessica Negley joined the Centennial Honors College staff in January of 2017 as a student assistant. She supports the Honors College in day to day activities. Jessica serves as a bridge between Honors students and their advisors by scheduling advising appointments. She returned to higher education in the summer of 2016 after nearly a decade of being in the workforce and a stay at home wife and mother. She has returned to pursue her bachelor’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and plans to attend WIU for her master’s, resulting in a career as a Speech Language Pathologist. She is an advocate for non-traditional students looking to return to higher education, describing higher education as an “invaluable asset to ourselves and our community”.
Randolph “Randy” Turkington joined the Centennial Honors College staff on January 17, 2017 as a student worker. He is responsible for assisting the Honors College with day to day activities such as setting up appointments for honors students with their honors advisor. Randy is currently majoring in Psychology and will receive his Bachelor’s degree in May 2019.
Randy was born in Malaysia. As a result, he can fluently speak 5 languages. Moving to the United States two years ago after completing high school in Malaysia, Randy has been adapting to all the changes in his environment. One of which is the drastic weather change from daily 100 degree temperatures to Illinois’ ever changing indecisive weather cycle. This means that you probably will not see Randy out and about much in the winter.