Class of 2019: From Bulldogs to Red Wolves

Indiana University East serves students from Wayne County, that’s obvious.

portrait of Mitch Burelison in front of Whitewater Hall

Mitch Burelison

But, what often isn’t so obvious is the amazing variety of ways it serves as preparations for careers.

These new IU East graduates — and Centerville High School students before that — stand as bright examples in business, criminal justice and education.

Mitch Burelison is ready to pursue a career in law enforcement after completing his degree in criminal justice and the Indiana Law Inforcement Academy. He has built experience as a part-time police officer at IU East. He also took part in four seasons of track and field, where his 4X400 relay teams gathered top three finishes in the indoor and outdoor conference meets.

Tyler Pearson played championship golf for the Red Wolves, took a full load of classwork and did an internship — all while completing his courses through IU East’s online degree completion program. He already has started taking classes in real estate, which fits his entrepreneurial inclinations, and also works part-time at the Forest Hills and Elks country clubs in Richmond.

portrait of Katelyn Groff on campus with fall trees

Katelyn Groff

Katelyn Groff fully immersed herself in the campus environment — working at the Campus Library, being the project assistant for Herstory Camp and taking part in the Honors Program — as she earned her degree in elementary education. She has been hired to be a third-grade teacher at Centerville-Abington Elementary.

Destiny (Maitlen) Haist discovered a love of science — and a future that could include becoming a physician’s assistant. She also discovered that a student can graduate from IU East with no school-related debt. That’s hard to do in today’s higher-education world. “I was fortunate enough to graduate a semester early and was able to land a job quickly,” she said. “I have been working full-time at a research and development lab in Ann Arbor (Michigan) since January.”

That job is in a research and development lab.

The soon-to-be graduates say that IU East was undoubtedly best for serving their all-around needs. Haist wanted a smaller school where she could make personal connections and where the cost was affordable. “I knew I wanted to go to an IU campus,” she says. “The day I visited IU East was like I was meant to be there.”

portrait of Destiny Haist on brick wall backdrop

Destiny Haist

Pearson transferred to IU East after his freshman year of college but returned to Wayne County, in part, to help his mother after his father died. “It was everything I needed,” he says about IU East and the flexibility of the online program. “The other bigger schools are more expensive. There are living costs. You can do it here with a lot more freedom and it’s not as costly.”

Groff discovered quickly that IU East matched her needs. “I was looking for a college that had a great elementary education program. Paired with the chance for scholarships, I knew that IU East was the right fit for me. On tours of the campus, I enjoyed the comfortable atmosphere and the chance to get to know other students as well as the professors. It had everything that I was looking for in a college.”

Following are more details about the successes and dreams of the new graduates:

Mitch Burelison, Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a minor in entrepreneurship
Burelison is a December graduate and will walk with the Class of 2019 at the Commencement Ceremony this Friday (May 10).

Tyler Pearson

He added when he first started college as an incoming freshman from Centerville High School, he expected college to be about earning a degree, but he received much more than a diploma.

“I enjoyed how determined the faculty and staff were to educate me. You go in thinking that this is all about a piece of paper but the faculty pushed me to think differently, and to really know your area of study,” Burelison said.

Burelison is working part-time officer with the IUPD-East. He first joined the department in fall 2017 as a cadet. He completed the IU Police Academy in August 2018. At the academy graduation, Burelison received the inaugural Randy Williamson Scholarship for Excellence as well as high marks in academics, physical fitness and firearms proficiency.

The scholarship, endowed by Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie and Laurie McRobbie, is in honor of Randy Williamson who served as McRobbie’s driver and security officer before he retired.

Burelison said receiving the scholarship is a great honor. The cadet program and working as an officer is offering hands-on experience and real world preparation for a career in law enforcement.

“The cadet program has offered me an extraordinary opportunity,” Burelison said. “It’s more than just a tier one academy for Indiana law enforcement. It’s an experience that incorporated with many different backgrounds and advanced training opportunities all in a higher academic setting.”

In addition to working with the IUPD-East, Burelison has been a four-year member of the IU East men’s track and field team. He earned all-conference honors as part of 4×400 relay teams that finished in the top three in the conference indoor and outdoor meets. He was part of five school-record relays during his time as Red Wolf, he won several individual events and he appeared on the academic all-conference list.

Burelison has had his days packed with academics, as a student-athlete and working part-time on campus.

“This experience has really helped me with time management and to look ahead,” he said. “It’s prepared me for more than just one activity a day and to accommodate for a change and how to handle it.”

Following graduation, Burelison hopes to work full-time in law enforcement.

Katelyn Groff, Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
Gaining her teaching license — and working with children — has been a longtime dream of Groff’s.

She said her time at IU East “has been irreplaceable in helping me prepare to be an elementary teacher.” For as long as she can remember, Groff has wanted to be an elementary teacher. She said teaching is her life’s passion.

“At the end of high school, I was looking for a college that had a great elementary education program,” Groff said. “Paired with the chance for scholarships, I knew that IU East was the right fit for me. On tours of the campus, I enjoyed the comfortable atmosphere and the chance to get to know other students as well as the professors. It had everything that I was looking for in a college.”

One reason was the opportunity for early placements in classrooms through the School of Education.

“My degree program has helped me to learn the skills an effective educator needs in the classroom,” Groff said. “The professors I have had not only work to teach the most relevant classroom practices, but they also ensure that I can apply these practices in the classroom through lesson observations.”

Groff said that faculty and staff have made her four-year “experience truly memorable and enjoyable.”

She has worked for three years at the Campus Library in Hayes Hall and has high praise for Director Frances Yates. “With her help, I have learned so much about research and history. I was able to use collected information in helping to create a Herstory camp in the summer of 2017,” Groff says. “I also helped with the summer Third Grade Academy classes. These are some of my favorite memories from the past four years.”

She also praised the direction and inspiration of several professors: Brenda Buckner, retired faculty member from the School of Education, Denice Honaker, assistant professor of education, for helping her to develop an interest in reading instruction; and Alisa Clapp-Itnyre, professor of English, whom she worked with on her Honors thesis project on children’s literature.

Groff was inducted into the Honors Program as a freshman. She was a member of the Student Government Association for the 2016-17 school year. She also assisted service-learning camps and community projects for children.

Destiny Haist, Bachelor of Science in Human Life Science
It was a strong positive for Haist that IU East had a nurturing, focused and fun atmosphere.

“I knew I wanted to go to an IU campus. The day I visited IU East was like I was meant to be there,” Haist said. “Centerville was a small school, so I was used to having a smaller number of people in my classes. I knew IU East would be the perfect school for me because my classes would be smaller, there weren’t as many people on campus, and it seemed like it was a nice, tight-knit group that always had a fun event on campus.”

Haist said it helped that she was able to earn some scholarships, and the campus was a cost-effective choice. As incoming freshman in 2015, Haist and Mackenzie Spurrier were named the Lingle Scholars. The Lingle Scholar award was established by Paul and Pat Lingle in 2005. The scholarship is given to two incoming freshman students who have also been accepted to the IU East Honors Program, an academic program that provides an intellectually enriched curriculum for highly motivated students.

With planning and the help of her parents and IU East scholarships, she is graduating free from student debt.

Haist originally started in the nursing program, then everything changed after taking a job in the labs for the School of Natural Science and Mathematics.

“Through this job, I found a love for science. It was intriguing learning how to make different media and mixing chemicals,” Haist said.

Haist praised the professors in the School of Natural Science and Mathematics. “All … were approachable if I ever had a question, and most of them knew how to explain things perfectly, so I had little confusion. The professor/instructor can make or break a course. I was fortunate enough to have amazing people teaching me the ins and outs of chemistry, physics, and biology.”

Those included instructors Wes Tobin, assistant professor of physics, and Yu Kay Law, associate professor of chemistry.

Haist said she will put off graduate school, at least for a while.

“I learn something new every single day (at her job),” she said. “… I plan on enjoying not having quizzes and exams to study for or homework to finish.”

Haist says she was antisocial coming out of high school, but made many close friends from her years at IU East.

“I came to IU East as an antisocial person,” Haist said. “Alicia Thompson (graduating senior biology major from Richmond) and Bre Nowak (graduating senior majoring in biochemistry) have been my rocks through this whole experience. Also, Kaylee Cox, B.S. ’18, could light up a room with her presence. These are the kind of friends that last a lifetime.”

The honors student and Lingle Scholar also was involved in campus activities, including working with service-learning and the Circle K Club. She was a member of the Pre-Professionals Club and the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society.

Tyler Pearson, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
Pearson says he never looks for awards but he is proud to have been named the Outstanding Student in Entrepreneurship. He also won another high honor in the sport he loves by qualifying as conference champion to play in the NAIA National Championship for golf, starting May 21 in Mesa, Arizona.

Pearson did so by winning the individual title with a three-day total of 218 at the River States Conference Championships in mid-April.

He shot an event-low 71 and rallied from two shots down on the last day to win by two strokes. IU East finished fifth as a team.

He was named conference player of the year and was selected to the all-conference first team for the second consecutive year. He also is an NAIA and River States Conference scholar-athlete.

Pearson sees a strong future for Red Wolves’ golf.

“I think it is building. We’re seeing some positive things,” Pearson said.

He put his love of golf to good use (he’d play every day if he could) by doing an internship at the pro shop at Forest Hills Country Club. That was done after a suggestion by Tim Scales, who is director of the Center for Entrepreneurship.

“That went really well,” Pearson said. “Tim said, ‘You already work there, so do it there. Learn new things.’ I learned more of what a pro does, more about the sales side.”

Scales also suggested during a recent brainstorming session that Pearson had the personality, the drive and the new ideas to work in real estate.

“That piqued my interest,” Pearson said. “It falls in line with entrepreneurship. I thought I’d give it a shot right out of the gate.”

He will receive a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.

Pearson said he usually did his school work from the morning until about 1 p.m. and then another hour in the evening.

“I am very blessed to have success in school. I’ve worked hard at it,” he says, but he doesn’t have plans to attend graduate school. “I am ready for a little break from school.”