Friday, April 12, 2019

Laura Vanderslice is Impacting the World of Education


Laura Vanderslice is impacting the world of education as head of the language arts department at Desert Hills Middle School in St. George, Utah.

Originally from Delta, Utah, Laura graduated magna cum laude from SUU in 1996 with a major in English, a minor in Spanish, and a certificate in secondary education. In 2004, she earned a master’s degree in education from SUU.

Laura is a 22-year veteran of the Washington County School District, and taught 17 years at Dixie Middle School and is now in her fifth year at Desert Hills Middle School.

While there are many rewards for being an educator, Laura says she always experiences a “proud moment” when she receives a thank you note from her students. Her students are a great source of pride.

Growing up, Laura had dreams of becoming a biologist or a veterinarian, but she quickly changed her mind once she discovered that working with animals would require, on occasion, putting then down.

“I have always loved school so it was a good fit,” she says of her career choice.

Dannielle Robinson and Laura, freshmen
year roommates and still best friends.
Laura has always been independent, but while a student at SUU she learned, out of necessity, the valuable lesson of budgeting her time and money. As a result, she earned good grades and still had plenty of fun while a fulltime student.

She loved her campus experience and how her professors knew her on a first name basis. Her literature classes were a highlight because she could read and discuss books, which she loves. Favorite professors included Dave Lee, Kay Cook, and S.S. Morty.

Laura has three sons and is married to Kurt Vanderslice. She enjoys traveling, and looks for opportunities to be outside, particularly if she can read a good book on the beach. A fierce competitor, Laura has competed in the Ironman, St. George Marathon (twice), Ragnar and Spartan competitions, and multiple half marathons.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Neal Marchant Discovered the World of Finance at Southern Utah University


Neal Marchant always figured he would become a dentist, but finance classes at Southern Utah University changed his mind and today he is the co-owner of Vantage Advisors, a CPA and financial advising practice in St. George, Utah.

Neal studied both accounting and finance at SUU and graduated in 2002 with a double major, and earned his master’s degree in accountancy the following year.

After graduation, Neal accepted a public accounting position at Deloitte in Las Vegas, Nevada, and later worked for a regional accounting firm before focusing on financial advising.

“I really enjoyed finance classes a lot more than I did my accounting classes,” he says of his SUU experience. “I knew I wanted to do something in finance when I started my career in accounting.”

Neal has many fond memories of his time as a student at SUU, but his favorite was watching the 2000-2001 Thunderbird men’s basketball team. That year the team beat Valparaiso, 62-59, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and won the Summit League Tournament Championship, which qualified the team for NCAA Tournament. SUU nearly pulled off the upset over Boston College, but were narrowly edged out 68-65.

He also has great memories of professors Joe Baker and Steve Harrop, and thoroughly enjoyed watching accounting professor Jeff Barnes spar with the humanities department.

Neal and wife Megan Larkin Marchant, a 2002 SUU graduate, are the parents of six children. He enjoys hiking, fishing, and watching his children participate in athletic and dance activities.



Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Softball Champ Jessica Heineman Tringham


According to her teammates, Jessica Heineman Tringham spent 2000-2004 keeping the Southern Utah University softball team edgy and cool, and did it with a flair for fashion and style. However, Jess truly became fierce when it was time to don that Thunderbird red uniform and compete for SUU. She walked away with a regular season championship in 2003 and a degree in physical education with a minor in nutrition and food science by 2005.

After graduating from Layton High School in 2000, Jess headed to Cedar City, and the first lesson SUU taught her was achievements are dependent upon the right team of people and she learned that the key to success is surrounding herself with amazing people.

Like many freshmen, early college experiences included some growing pains.

“My first year at SUU was rough,” she says. “I didn’t realize how hard being away from my family and friends was going to be. I also didn’t realize how hard it was being a student-athlete. If it weren’t for the support of my family, SUU teammates and coaches, I might not have made it through.”

Jess did much more than just survive. SUU provided her an environment to truly thrive and begin her quest for adventures outside of the box.

“SUU set me up for success,” she explains. “I believe that going to a smaller school helped me get my feet wet. After graduating from Southern Utah, I attended and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) with a fashion merchandise marketing degree and I would not have been as successful without my previous experience at SUU.”

In 2012, Jess embarked on her next great life experience when she married marrying Thomas Tringham, a US Navy Deep Sea Diver. The couple has been have been married for eight years and we have two children, Millie will be six in June and Tommy who turned four at the end of February.

Jess, along with her sister, founded a clothing company for children. But motherhood and the opportunity for her husband to be stationed overseas gave Jess the chance to focus on her family.

“I currently live in Yokosuka, Japan, and about to head to Oauhu, Hawaii, in April,” Jess explains, “I am a full-time stay-at-home mom. I decided to take step back from working at this time due to the constraints of my husband’s career.”

Through her student-athlete experience at SUU, Jess got a taste of what managing life on the road would be like, but even that does not compare to the military lifestyle. She brings a strong spirit and example to her children who are her best accomplishments.

“I am most proud of my marriage and my two kiddos,” she says. “Marriage and raising a family are hard, now throw in the military lifestyle including deployments, long trips away from each other, and living across the world from family.”

Speaking of family, Jess is still able to keep in touch with some of the members of her support group from her days at SUU.

“I keep in touch with a bunch of pals including my former coach, Laurel Simmons – thanks to social media making it so easy,” Jess says. “My former teammate Dusti Winward Puliz and I actually got married the same year and had our first borns within two weeks of each other.”

Along with her teammates, Jess lists some of her SUU favorites as sports Psychology and kinesiology classes as well as Professor Christopher Topher. She was able to make it back to campus in 2015 for homecoming weekend and an alumni softball game.

The cool and edgy freshmen who first stepped on SUU’s campus in 2000 is still setting trends 19 years later. By overcoming separation from family and immersing herself in the college experience, Jess has been able to seek out many big life adventures including raising two children in Japan.



Tuesday, February 5, 2019

SUU Provided Keith "Shaggy" Berard with an Educational Jump Start into a Successful Coaching Career


If you were a Thunderbird in the nineties and attended the annual Basketball Bash, you might recall the night “The Jackson 5” made a cameo. Once the starting five on the men’s basketball team traded their uniforms for bell bottoms, one thing became clear: Keith “Shaggy” Berard’s rockin’ robin performance endeared himself to the T-Bird faithful.

The Houston native and St. Thomas High School Graduate made his Cedar City debut in 1993 as a point guard for the men’s basketball team. After some early hankerings for Texas, Berard soon found that SUU had become his home away from home. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996, majoring in communications and minoring in physical education.

“Southern Utah University taught me how to adapt to being far away from home,” he says. “Once I came to SUU, I rarely - if at all - was able to go home. But being around my teammates every day made them family and took away any thoughts of being homesick. I still keep in touch with these guys because we are brothers, just from different mothers.”

While it may have been Keith’s epic dance moves that first put him on the T-Bird map, it was his performances as an all-conference basketball player, DJ on Radio 911, and stints on SUTV that connected him to students from all different backgrounds.

“I loved the hands-on experience we had as students at SUU,” he says. “I was a part of a great communications department, TV studio and radio station. I was able to have my own radio show and produced the Coaches Corner on SUTV. I really enjoyed those opportunities.”

Berard anticipated extending his love of basketball into a sports journalism career, but his playing experience and physical education classes gave him the sideline bug.

“I always knew I wanted to be involved with basketball, but I thought it would be in front of a camera,” Berard explains, “But once I graduated from SUU in 1996 and played professionally in Switzerland, I knew I wanted to coach.”

Through coaching contacts at his high school and junior college, Berard pursued his first coaching job at Howard College in Big Spring, Texas.

“School had already started, but I called the head coach and he told me if I could get out there by Wednesday, the job was mine,” he says. “I packed my things as soon as we hung up the phone, loaded up my Ford Ranger, and headed out to West Texas.”

Berard credits his coaches and teammates at Southern Utah University and beyond for providing inspiration in his coaching career.

“The coaches I played for were mentors and helped guide me as a player and now as a coach,” he says. “It meant a lot to me being named team MVP because that let me know the extra work I put into basketball was noticed. All of my teammates I played with, and even some of the guys who came after me, are some the friendships I value the most.”

Coaching has even brought Berard back to Utah with stints at the former College of Eastern Utah (now USU Eastern) and Weber State, including a chance to coach against his alma mater during the 2012-13 season. Today he is back on the sideline in his hometown of Houston serving as an assistant coach at Houston Baptist University (HBU).

“This is actually my second stop at HBU,” he explains. “Head Coach Ron Cottrell has been here for 28 years and restarted the program from scratch in 1991. What really drew my attention to the job was in 2007, HBU was returning back to Division I. Playing at SUU in the early 90’s as an independent school gave me the background to be able to relate to recruiting student-athletes who would be playing in a similar situation to myself.”

Basketball is not the only arena where Berard has excelled as he has put together a stellar support team that guides him in his life when he steps off the basketball court. He and wife Sabrina McNair have been married for 18 years and have two daughter, Katelyn Dion (age 16) and Khloe Dion (age 12). Being the minority gender in the household, his wife gave him a special gift.

“Since we didn’t have a boy, Sabrina allowed me to give both girls my middle name.” 

These days Berard has traded his MVP trophies for a spectator seat watching his oldest daughter follow in his foot steps on the basketball court, while his youngest daughter dances hip-hop, tap, and ballet.

He has also taken on a father-figure role with several of the student-athletes he has been fortunate enough to coach. And as someone who counted on his Southern Utah teammates as brothers, he understands the important connection and mentoring opportunities coaching provides.

“Professionally, I am in my 21st year of coaching and enjoy every moment of it,” he says. “But what I am most proud of is when one of my former players calls or texts just to keep in touch and let me know how they are doing.”

Berard credits SUU professors Art Challis (’72) and Dr. Steve Lunt (’57) for helping him diversify his experiences and establish himself as a college basketball coach. He regularly reunites with teammates from his SUU playing days to reminisce about the glory days.

Southern Utah served as the spotlight for his moonwalk (which is still on point) as well as the educational jump start into a successful coaching career.



Friday, December 28, 2018

"I still get butterflies every time I pass or visit Cedar City," says Molly Moss


When Molly Moss enrolled at Southern Utah University in the fall of 1987, little did she know that a lasting bond would be forged with a group of friends that would remain close and come to count each other as family.

“Because I don’t have a family of my own, my SUU friends are my family,” she explains. “Some of my closest friends are my former roommates and sorority sisters, and I still keep in touch with a lot of people from my student government days.”

Originally from Evansville, Indiana, Molly graduated from Castle High School and came to SUU to study advertising and public relations. Drs. Suzanne Larson, S.S. Moorty, and Eugene Wolfe made lasting impressions, but Molly points to Dr. Sterling Church as her all-time favorite person at SUU.

“I still have a letter he wrote me years after SUU that is framed,” she says. “I adore that man.”

Molly’s career path started in the advertising world where she worked for some of the best agencies in Salt Lake City. She was coerced by a good friend to enter the recruiting world with the promise that she would be a natural fit. At first Molly was apprehensive but that all changed when she received her first commission check. She has not looked back since.

Today, she owns her own business and contracts with agencies and corporations on the West Coast to help them attract and retain talent within the tech space.

“I specialize in start-ups who are ramping up their director/leadership roles,” she explains of her business.

Molly has many fond college memories including when Southern Utah State College became Southern Utah University in 1991. She still remembers the entire week of celebration like it was yesterday and proudly calls it a remarkable “achievement for little ol’ SUSC!”

Another favorite college memory was Phi Alpha Beta being picked up by Alpha Phi for colonization. The Betas had tried multiple times to align themselves with a national organization but were repeatedly told there was not enough interest on campus. Yet Phi Alpha Beta continued to attract smart and motivated women who thrived and contributed to the SUU community, as well as in their own communities after graduation. She describes that colonization as a proud “mama moment.”

Molly lives in Salt Lake City and is a proud dog mom (essentially a dog butler!) to a Corgi named Sundance. She is a die-hard Broncos fan, loves Real Soccer games, and still gets butterflies every time she passes Cedar City on I-15.



Friday, December 14, 2018

Matt Yardley is Leading the Southern Utah Market for Chartway Federal Credit Union

Matt Yardley, who today thrives as the southern Utah market director for Chartway Federal Credit Union, is a prime exemplar of SUU graduates who live varied and fulfilling lives sparked by their Thunderbird experiences.

A 1996 graduate of Kearns High School in the Salt Lake Valley, he envisioned a life in law, and intended to enter law school after earning his SUU degree in political science with a minor in criminal justice. The University’s pre-law program prepared him well to pursue law school studies and following his 2003 graduation, he enrolled in the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, where he completed the Master of Science in Legal Administration degree, with plans to gain his Juris Doctorate later.

“However,” he says, “after getting my feet wet in the legal field through a variety of internships, I determined that I was better suited for an administrative career, rather than practicing law directly.” He says he fell into a career in banking and finance and could not be happier.

His position with the Virginia-based Chartway entails the oversight of all aspects of the credit union for the southern Utah market, which currently includes five branches from Cedar City to St. George. From member experience to branch production and profitability, he ensures that member’s lives are “truly made affordable through value added products and service.”

It’s a demanding job, but he is quick to credit his SUU education in immensely helping to prepare him for his life’s work.

“At SUU, I learned the importance of effective communication and the value of hard work, and had outstanding staff and faculty members to aid me in my pursuits,” he says, and he has praise for Dean Rodney Decker and Diane Werber of the HSS College staff, and for professors Michael Stathis and Lee Trepanier, each of whom, he says “were dedicated to helping me achieve my goals.”

And, he says, SUU prepared him with many of the leadership and communication skills necessary to run his business. He has fond memories of engaging with the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service, which helped build his all-around abilities and awareness of the larger world.

He and his wife of 19 years, Whitney, are parents to three sons, and his family forms the foundation of his life. His leisure time affords him the opportunity to man the drum kit in what he calls his “makeshift band,” and for Jeeping with his eldest son in the southern Utah wonderland surrounding the family’s Washington City home.




Friday, November 16, 2018

Ryan C. Van Woerkom Launched His Career as a Cardiologist and Assistant Professor at SUU


Ryan C. Van Woerkom credits SUU’s stellar pre-med program for launching his medical career as a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine and director of interventional echocardiography at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas Texas.

“It solidified my first official summer research internship at the University of Utah,” he says of his Southern Utah University education. “I wasn’t particularly skilled or qualified for the position, but SUU provided the opportunity. This launched me for my next summer research internship at the Mayo Clinic, and the rest is history.”

Following his 2006 SUU graduation with majors in Biology/Zoology and Chemistry, Ryan graduated from the U of U School of Medicine in 2010 and finished his internal medicine residency at the Oregon Health & Science University in 2013. He completed two fellowships at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, one in cardiovascular disease and the other in advanced echocardiography, and then completed a third fellowship in cardiac advanced imaging at the Oregon Health & Science University.

While several SUU professors influenced Ryan’s academic experience, one in particular (who recently passed away) had a special impact.

“Suzanne Larson taught an instrumental and widely applicable class on the topic of critical thinking that still benefits me every day,” he says. “She was such a great mentor!”

Ryan liked everything about SUU, including meeting life-long friends and learning from roommates, flatmates, classmates, friends, and neighbors.

“I have such deep respect for not only these folks, but my professors and administrators,” he says. “I loved that there was such a push for involvement, and a niche was created for nearly everyone to become involved in one facet or another.”

Ryan’s niche included serving as a Presidential Ambassador, and participating with SUUSA, Institute, Rural Health Scholars, Thai Food Club, Honors Program, and singing in OPUS, which afforded him the unique (and terrifying) opportunity of singing at Carnegie Hall.

SUU also gave Ryan financial, social, spiritual, and academic independence.

“I learned the necessity in community for learning independence,” he explains. “I learned that while my independent goals and means for achieving the goals may be different from those around me, SUU was small enough that through my close-knit interactions with others, we could always lift each other towards those goals.”