Two USF Alumnae Earn 2024 Golden Apple Award Excellence for Teaching

Alicia Carlisle
Alyssa Milano

Joliet, Ill. 鈥 Earlier this spring, the University of St. Francis (USF) announced that four alumnae had been named finalists for the 2024 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching through the Golden Apple Foundation. The University is proud to announce that Alicia Carlisle 鈥22 (Turner Drew Language Academy in Chicago, Ill.) and Alyssa Milano 鈥11 (Central Elementary School in Plainfield, Ill.) have officially been named 2024 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching recipients. Carlisle and Milano are two of ten 2024 Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching recipients.

Award recipients receive a $5,000 cash award and become Fellows of the Golden Apple Academy of Educators.

听鈥淭he College of Education is immensely proud to celebrate the outstanding achievement of our alumnae who have been awarded the esteemed 2024 Golden Apple Award for Teaching by the Golden Apple Foundation. Their recognition not only highlights their individual excellence but also reflects the high caliber of education provided by the University of St. Francis. We are honored to have played a part in their journey and look forward to witnessing their continued success in making a positive impact on the students and communities they serve,鈥 said John Gambro, Ed.D., Dean of the USF College of Education.

Click to read the Golden Apple Foundation鈥檚 official press release on Alicia Carlisle.

Click to read the Golden Apple Foundation鈥檚 official press release on Alyssa Milano.

USF alumnae Alicia Hays 鈥23 (Central Elementary School in Plainfield, Ill.) and Amanda McMonigal 鈥16 (Edgar Allan Poe Classical School in Chicago, Ill.) were also named finalists for the 2024 Golden Apple Award for Teaching.

About Golden Apple

According to their website, 鈥淕olden Apple鈥檚 mission is to inspire, develop and support teacher and school leader excellence, especially in schools-of-need. Our leading-edge preparation delivers exceptional teachers who make an impact. We help students thrive in the classroom and in life. Since our beginning, we have recognized master educators annually; and, these master educators help prepare the next generation of teachers. Our vision is one in which every classroom has a great teacher and to realize this, we are committed to making a material difference in resolving the teacher shortage. Visit for more information.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 3,300 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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U.S. News Names Three USF Online Programs Best Among Private Schools in 2024

Joliet, Ill. 鈥 U.S. News & World Report recently released its 2024 Best Online Programs rankings, and the University of St. Francis (USF) is proud to announce that five of its online programs – including three named as the best private programs in Illinois – were honored this year.

Recognized USF programs included:

  • Online Graduate Business Programs (excluding MBA) 鈥 #1 ranked private program overall in Illinois (46th percentile nationally);
  • Online Graduate Education Programs 鈥 #1 ranked private program in Illinois (12th percentile nationally);
  • Online MBA Programs 鈥 #1 ranked private program in Illinois (40th percentile nationally);
  • Online Nursing Programs 鈥 #4 ranked private program in Illinois (41th percentile nationally), and;
  • Online Bachelor鈥檚 Programs 鈥 #3 ranked private program in Illinois (27th percentile nationally).

As online education programs gain in popularity and demand, USF continues to leverage its comprehensive history of offering quality options that meet the changing needs of students interested in earning undergraduate and graduate degrees. Visit stfrancis.edu/admissions-aid/online for more information on USF鈥檚 online programs.

For more information on U.S. News & World Report鈥檚 2024 Best Online Programs rankings, click .

About U.S News & World Report鈥檚 Ranking Methodology

U.S. News has been publishing school rankings in the education sector since 1983 and has done so specifically for online degree programs since 2013. At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, U.S. News calculates rankings based on a variety of factors, which hold different weights depending on the ranking category. A program鈥檚 score for each factor, or ranking indicator, is calculated using data that online programs report to U.S. News in an annual survey. The rankings methodologies for online programs are separate from those for U.S. News鈥 Best Colleges and Best Graduate Schools rankings. Ranking methodologies are typically updated on an annual basis.

Additional details are available .

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Two USF Online Programs Recognized in 2024 Rankings by The Princeton Review

Joliet, Ill. 鈥 The Princeton Review, a national ranking agency that provides admissions resources for college and graduate school-bound students, recently recognized two online programs offered at the University of St. Francis (USF). USF鈥檚 online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and its online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership programs were included in The Princeton Review鈥檚 Best Online Doctor of Education Programs for 2024 and Best Online Nursing School Master鈥檚 Programs for 2024 listings, respectively.

Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Program

Advanced practice nurses are often called on to assume leadership roles in the profession and in health care delivery. Graduates of the USF MSN program will incorporate their education and research into a practice that is reflective of the dynamic needs of a diverse population.

鈥淥ur Master of Science in Nursing programs offer knowledge, skills, and resources to enhance careers available to members of our community across Illinois and the Midwest by using online learning platforms. The competencies developed in our programs are evident by the care that is given back to the community by our graduates. However, we do not prepare our students just for a career. Our MSN students enhance their passion to actualize the core values of serving others as advanced practice nurses. Besides being well-trained, skilled, and confident in their areas as advanced nurse practitioners, they are compassion-rooted providers at all times, most especially during the most vulnerable times,鈥 said USF Leach College of Nursing dean Yeijin Yeom, Ph.D., RN, CNE.

Visit stfrancis.edu/msn for program information and options. Visit and search the keywords 鈥渙nline Master of Science in Nursing鈥 to view The Princeton Review鈥檚 Best Online Nursing School Master鈥檚 Programs for 2024 listing.

Online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership Program

The online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership program at USF brings together practitioner-scholars to support doctoral candidates in learning and scholarship. The program is a combination of research, experiential learning, and shared knowledge about the key skills needed to lead, inspire, and educate. The program degree is designed for master鈥檚 prepared professionals from every career path.

鈥淥ur online programs are designed to provide students from all over the country exemplary learning experiences that equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary to advance their careers and contribute to the world in a meaningful way.听 The courses challenge and support the students in the learning process and offer them an opportunity to interact with other professionals and exceptional faculty members. To have our online doctoral program recognized in this manner is an indication and a validation that we are realizing our mission to develop high quality leaders who can have a significant positive impact on their communities,鈥 said John Gambro, Ed.D., dean of the USF College of Education.

Visit stfrancis.edu/educational-leadership-edd for program information and options. Visit and search the keywords 鈥渙nline Doctor of Education鈥 to view The Princeton Review鈥檚 Best Online Doctor of Education Programs for 2024 listing.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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麻豆传媒高清 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Winners

Joliet, Ill. 鈥 The University of St. Francis (USF) recently honored five outstanding alumni through the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards program in San Damiano Hall on Saturday, September 30, as part of the University鈥檚 2023 homecoming festivities. Five awards were presented to USF alumni, including The Presidential Alumni Award, the most prestigious of the Distinguished Alumni Awards, and one award from each of the university鈥檚 four colleges in highlight of the diverse disciplines of a comprehensive university. The event also included the recognition of this year鈥檚 honored year alumni (the classes of 2022, 2018, 2013, 2008, 2003, 1998, 1993, 1988, 1983, 1978, 1973 and before) and celebrated the University鈥檚 50th reunion alumnae as they were inducted into the USF Assisian Club.

The 2023 USF Distinguished Alumni Award winners include:

Mike Brennan

Presidential Alumni Award – Mike Brennan 鈥81

Mike Brennan transferred to the University of St. Francis back when it was the College of St. Francis. He majored in Business Administration and was a member of the basketball team, where he made many lifelong friends and was lucky to have Pat Sullivan as his coach and mentor.

After graduating in 1981, Mike got a job at First Options of Chicago working on the Chicago Board of Options Exchange trading floor. In 2000, First Options was acquired by Goldman Sachs where Mike worked as a vice president until he retired in 2016.

Mike served as a trustee at the university for six years, co-chairing the finance and investment committees for two years. He experienced firsthand the collaboration and dedication that trustees bring to the university.

Mike is most proud to have contributed to and championed the capital campaigns in the naming of the Pat Sullivan Center and the Pat Quigley Court.

Currently, Mike is enjoying retirement by splitting his time between Arizona and Illinois with his wife Laura. They enjoy hiking, spring training baseball games, and any chance to see their sons, Joe, Dan and David.

College of Education Alumni Award – Dr. Abir Othman 鈥21

Dr. Abir Othman is currently the principal of Andrew High School in District 230, after serving as associate principal for 11 years and dean of students prior to that. She has been an educator for 26 years, serving the last 20 in District 230.

Dr. Othman was named Assistant Principal of the Year by the Illinois Principals Association in 2020 and the IPA South Cook Assistant Principal of the Year in 2019. She received the Illinois High School Theatre Festival Administrator Support Award in 2017, and the Outstanding Activity Director Award from the Illinois Directors of Student Activities in 2016.

Prior to joining District 230, she was an English teacher, academic advisor and administrator at Universal School in Bridgeview. Dr. Othman also served as head dean of students at Stagg High School in Palos Hills.

Dr. Othman is passionate about helping the community and making a difference for all students. Given her background as an immigrant looking to empower others, Dr. Othman has served for over ten years on the Board of Directors for Arab-American Family Services in Worth, an organization dedicated to helping families improve their quality of life. She is recognized as an emPower10 Women leader by the Arab American Business Professionals Association as one of ten most inspirational and empowering women in the state. She is also the first Arab American public high school principal in Illinois.

Dr. Othman earned Doctorate in Educational Leadership with Superintendent Endorsement from the University of St. Francis. The opportunity at St. Francis changed her life. She feels blessed for her wonderful experience at the College of Education. Additionally, the strong relationships fostered in her cohort with her peers and professors are unparalleled. Servant leadership is not just a token word used but was emulated by everyone in the College of Education. Dr. Othman also received a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from Lewis University and a Bachelor of Arts in English Secondary Education from Governors State University.

Victorio Pellicano

College of Arts & Sciences Alumni Award – Victorio Pellicano 鈥04

Victorio Pellicano is the founder and CEO of Avianna, the most revolutionary AI software on the planet today. Born out of his relentless pursuit to make robots smarter and humans safer, Avianna is the world鈥檚 first autonomous artificial intelligence software for robots that enables full autonomy and natural language communication between the robot and its operator. Avianna is revolutionizing how AI can be used for good, creating a transformative impact on our world through the intersection of robotics and AI.

Victorio is a veteran in software manufacturing whose path to founding Avianna was shaped by overcoming personal loss and navigating the founding, growth, and eventual sale of his first company to Oracle. Today, Victorio stands shoulder to shoulder with his team dismantling preconceived negative notions surrounding AI and actively enhancing the power of robots, data collection and surveillance, human safety, and the future of work. Beyond envisioning this future, Victorio is a devoted father of four (and counting), a loving husband, serial investor and active philanthropist.

Drew Wolfer

College of Business & Health Administration Alumni Award – Drew Wolfer 鈥17

Drew Wolfer came to USF in 2015 when he was offered a soccer scholarship by Coach Ko Thanadabouth. He participated as a student athlete for the next two seasons before graduating in 2017.

While a student, he participated in Student Government Association as the CFO of his class, as well as being the economics and finance tutor. During his first year, Dr. Shannon Brown, now dean of the College of Business & Health Administration, invited Wolfer to work with her to assist a local company in better understanding their corporate culture and values utilizing SPSS software. He received the Support for Research Excellence 鈥淪URE鈥 Grant. In the following year, he worked at Providence Advisors with another esteemed professor, Dr. Steve Morrissette. Wolfer advised a surgicalist group based out of Arizona on whether to expand, merge, or allow itself to be acquired. Both of these opportunities, as well as experiences he had through organizations and activitied he participated in at USF, helped Wolfer acquire countless skills that supported his growth as a soon-to-be entrepreneur. He graduated Summa Cum Laude and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa and Delta Mu Delta honor societies.

Upon graduation, Wolfer was hired by Liberty Mutual. He eventually transitioned to a position in cyber security and technology at the IronShore division of Liberty Mutual in Chicago. In 2018, he started an e-commerce business and expanded it to over eight figures within the first year. That afforded him the ability to gracefully exit Corporate America to pursue his passions in entrepreneurship. He founded a wholesale and distribution company in the suburbs of Chicago that serviced clients across the United States, importing products from Europe.

When the COVID-19 outbreak happened in 2020, Wolfer鈥檚 import/export and wholesale/distribution companies took a backseat to e-commerce, which sparked and funded his entrepreneurial entrance into the blockchain industry in 2021. Since that time, he has founded multiple social media brands and channels, as well as a blockchain infrastructure company called Wolfer Finance in 2022. He was then approached with an opportunity to create and found a Silicon Valley-style technology startup company, PreSend, that now has a pending patent for transaction security processes inside the blockchain sector.

鈥淢y dream is to leave an impact on the world where my name will live on far after I have left this Earth, while also leaving a legacy and roadmap for my next generation of Wolfers,鈥 he says. 鈥淧reSend and Wolfer Finance might just be that opportunity for me, and with the help of the countless people that love and support me鈥攚hether present or past鈥擨 will continue to build and innovate where I see fit, as well as attempt to provide the best life I am able to afford for my family along the way.鈥

Kayla Worley

College of Nursing Alumni Award – Kayla Worley 鈥17, 鈥19

Growing up in the greater Joliet area, Kayla鈥檚 grandparents and mother always instilled the value and importance of education. Upon completion of her bachelor鈥檚 degree from Illinois Wesleyan University, she knew there was no question that she wanted to continue exploring her educational trajectory. She spent her early years as a nurse working on medical, telemetry, and post-operative units in Bloomington/Normal Illinois. In time, she was fortunate to have a once in a lifetime opportunity when she was relocated as an ER/trauma nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Windy City. It was during this time that she found herself surrounded by colleagues and patients that continually whispered 鈥渒eep going!鈥

She enrolled in the nursing program at USF with the intention to 鈥渢est the waters鈥 in online learning. 鈥淚鈥檝e always loved learning,鈥 Kayla shares, 鈥渂ut I still wasn鈥檛 convinced that I could be successful in a primarily asynchronous educational learning environment.鈥 Despite initial hesitations, Kayla did surprisingly well and quickly took a liking to the often despised 鈥3 P鈥 courses. Through the encouragement of some of the greats (Dr. Prince, Dr. Nardi, and Dr. Terrell), she quickly learned that she wanted to be active; not only on the education side of the nursing profession, but also clinically. This decision is what ultimately led to her to applying for the MSN-FNP track. A 鈥渇ew courses鈥 eventually turned into a master鈥檚 degree, and that turned into a prestigious doctorate! Kayla beams: 鈥淚鈥檝e never had any regrets on becoming a USF Saint!鈥

Because of USF, she鈥檚 enjoyed career opportunities in both primary care and urgent care settings over the last five year. She also served as a university faculty member in various online learning communities over the last two years. Kayla presented her USF doctoral thesis on 鈥淪tructuralized Racism in Health Care: The Impact on African Americans鈥 during the Doctors of Nursing Practice Conference 2019 mini podium presentation series in Washington D.C. She currently is embarking on a new journey as a complex chronic care provider in correctional medicine. This which has inspired her to revise her doctoral thesis and focus on the health of incarcerated African American males. She adds,鈥淭hanks to USF, the support of my family, and loyal standardized patient (now husband), I have been blessed with many opportunities to unapologetically explore my passions and shine my inner light in health care communities around me!鈥

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit .

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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USF Offering Future Educator Academy 2023

Future Educator Academy 2023
Joliet, Ill. 鈥 High School students considering a career in education and who are interested in a unique, on-campus leadership experience are encouraged to participate in the University of St. Francis (USF) College of Education鈥檚 (COE) Future Educator Summer Academy 2023 in June. The USF COE Future Educator Summer Academy 2023 will take place on June 13-14, 2023, on the university鈥檚 main campus in Joliet. The experience will provide opportunities for participants to:
  • explore careers in education and learn what it takes to be a GREAT teacher;
  • network with educators and other high school students interested in teaching;
  • enjoy USF’s challenge course and discover team building as a tool for learning;
  • spend two days and one night in a USF dorm, supervised by adult program facilitators;
  • leave inspired and focused on a plan to become a successful educator, and;
  • earn college credit for participating in this learning experience (credit is optional, parent/guardian approval required).
The program is open to high school students who have completed at least their sophomore year of high school. The cost per participant for the program is $80 and includes accommodations, meals, and a t-shirt. A limited number of scholarships are available to qualifying students. To register, visit stfrancis.edu/real. Space for this program is limited. Contact program coordinator Amy Schroeder at aschroeder@stfrancis.edu with any questions. : : The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 52,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu. University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose. # # #
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Faculty Members Present at Annual AACTE Meeting

75th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
Joliet, Ill. 鈥 University of St. Francis (USF) College of Education (COE) faculty members Karen Blaha, Ed.D., and Erin Evans, Ed.D., presented at the 75th Annual Meeting of the . Their presentation, Supporting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Candidates in Undergraduate Teacher Education Programs at a Predominately White University, was part of the three-day event, which took place from February 24-26, 2023, in Indianapolis, Ind. The team鈥檚 presentation disseminated the findings of a research study conducted across three focus groups to qualitatively examine the perspectives of BIPOC teacher candidates at a predominantly white, private institution in the Midwest. The research focused on factors that BIPOC candidates consider when choosing a university, perceived challenges faced during their experience and the supports that participants believe are most helpful in boosting retention in teacher education programs. Additionally, the presentation was designed to allow attendees to analyze the perspectives of BIPOC teacher candidates, teacher education alumni, and in-service teachers regarding the challenges faced in pursuing teacher education at a predominantly white institution and the supports necessary to overcome those challenges, and then apply the recommendations from the presentation to their current teacher education programs for curricular and cultural improvement. 鈥淭he USF COE is passionate about equity and inclusion, and being able to develop and implement a research project that allows us to improve our programs is one of the reasons I am most proud to be part of the COE. Sharing our findings on a national platform with 800+ other teacher preparation providers and engaging in collaborative discussion helps us all to move forward in best practices to recruit and retain a diverse group of teacher educators to inevitably make an impact on the field of education in the years to come.听 Working with Dr. Blaha and the rest of our research team, including Dr. John Gambro, COE dean, and Ms. Amy Schroeder, COE instructor, to discuss supports for BIPOC candidates across all COE programs was an honor and I look forward to seeing where our research will continue to lead us in the future,鈥 Evans offered. 鈥淲e were truly blessed to be able to share our research with other educators who also feel inclusive and equitable learning environments are a priority.听 We experienced some wonderful discussions with the participants, and were presented with possible extensions for future research,鈥 Blaha added. About the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education According to the AACTE website, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) is the leading voice on educator preparation. AACTE represents more than 800 postsecondary institutions with educator preparation programs dedicated to high-quality, evidence-based preparation that assures educators are ready to teach all learners. Visit for more information. : : The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu. University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose. # # #
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