From top left, clockwise: Viviana Jimenez, Riley Landenberger, Earnest Bickerstaff, Eric Thompson, Kris Rakestraw, Caitlyn Santiago

Congratulations to the Class of 2020! To celebrate this year’s Commencement, College of Arts and Sciences graduates shared their most memorable Roosevelt experiences, future plans, advice for incoming students and more.

Are you a Class of 2020 graduate? Share your photos and Roosevelt memories with the hashtag #roosevelt2020.

Earnest Bickerstaff, History

Roosevelt history graduate Earnest Bickerstaff

Favorite memories: Exploring the city of Chicago and participating in the University's academic programs, McNair Scholars and undergraduate honors.

Proudest accomplishments: Earning a bachelor's degree from Roosevelt.

Post-graduation plans: Graduate school at Western Illinois University.

Who do you want to thank? Dr. Erik Gellman, Dr. Margaret Rung, Dr. Sandra Frink, Dr. Celeste Chamberland and Dr. Peggy Valdes (director of the McNair Scholars Program).

Advice for the Class of 2024: Your education is important, but remember to make time for yourself.

Viviana Jimenez, Biology

Roosevelt biology graduate Viviana Jimenez

Favorite memories: Going to eat between classes with my friends and being able to bond with other students.

Proudest accomplishments: Being a part of McNair Scholars, which allowed me the opportunity to be part of the Summer Research Opportunities Program at The Ohio State University. As well as going to different conferences to network.

Post-graduation plans: I will be attending Rush University graduate school and working toward a PhD in integrated biomedical sciences.

Who do you want to thank? I would like to thank Dr. Norbert Cordeiro and Dr. Kelly Wentz-Hunter for always guiding me and seeing the potential I did not see in myself, allowing me to open doors to many amazing opportunities. As well as my family, who are my biggest supporters.

Advice for the Class of 2024: Don’t be shy and don’t be afraid to talk to professors, and ask for advice.

Riley Landenberger, Integrated Marketing Communications

Softball student-athlete and integrated marketing communications major Riley Landenberger

Favorite memories: The trips that my team took to play down south were always a blast. We had so many laughs, played some good softball and ate great food.

Proudest accomplishments: Getting two of my research papers published in “Publication of Perspectives” — the communications department’s journal. Maintaining high honors while being on the softball team and working a part-time job.

Post-graduation plans: Moving to Dallas, Texas and pursuing a career where I can apply my marketing communications knowledge to have a positive impact on society.

Who do you want to thank? Most importantly, I want to thank my parents for always supporting me and being by my side through each struggle I faced during college. I also would like to throw out a huge thank you to Coach Moore and the entire Roosevelt softball coaching staff for always encouraging me and always being my go-to people when I was having a tough day or just needed to vent. Lastly, I cannot thank our athletic trainer, Kelsey, enough for the countless hours she put in to work with me and help me reach my goals as I fought through injuries.

Advice for the Class of 2024: Be relentless in everything you do. Every experience you have throughout college — positive or negative — prepares you more than you could imagine for going off into “real life.” When times seem impossible and you just feel like giving up, grind even harder and prove to yourself you can do it.

Kristopher Rakestraw, History (Minor in English)

Favorite memories: Studying in the Auditorium Library’s quiet area and expanding my knowledge of history.

Proudest accomplishments: Being awarded the Dorothy and Paul Johnson Scholarship for outstanding work in history. Being presented with the Richard J. Hooker Award for outstanding work in history.

Post-graduation plans: I will be attending John Marshall Law School in the fall. During the summer, I will be taking a BARBRI Law Preview Scholarship seminar.

Who do you want to thank? My mother, grandmother and my professors who have helped me up to this point.

Advice for the Class of 2024: Study hard.

Caitlyn Santiago, Biology

Softball student-athlete and biology graduate Caitlyn Santiago

Favorite memories: Being a part of the softball team was the most rewarding experience for me. I got to play the sport I love surrounded by people who loved and supported me throughout my 4 years at Roosevelt.

Proudest accomplishments: Receiving departmental honors from the science department is one of my proudest accomplishments. It was definitely rewarding to have professors that I appreciated so much acknowledge the work I put in during their classes.

Post-graduation plans: Currently obtaining my Master of Science in Physician Assistant Practice at Rosalind Franklin University.

Who do you want to thank? Dr. Kelly Wentz-Hunter, Dr. Norbert Cordeiro and the entire science department. Also, big shout-out to Aaron Moore (head softball coach) and the softball staff!

Advice for the Class of 2024: Find passion and purpose in everything that you do during your time at Roosevelt. Four years goes by quickly, but in that time, you can grow an incredible amount and find out so much about yourself and what makes you happy. Pursue your passion.

Eric Thompson, Paralegal Studies

Eric Thompson, paralegal studies graduate

Favorite memories: My favorite memory was the time I spend at my internship site. Through the paralegal program, I was given the opportunity to apply to many different industries and areas of law during the process; I ended up in an area of law I had never thought about at a firm that was ran more as a small business than a large law firm. The experience helped open my mind and eyes up to many other areas of law in the future.

Proudest accomplishments: In my time at Roosevelt I was diagnosed with cancer; additionally, I was treated and went into remission, again all during my time at Roosevelt. During my treatment time, with the help of some professors and doctors, I was able to stay in all my classes and did not have to take any time off. Being able to beat cancer while still going to school and graduating will always be one of my proudest accomplishments in life, not just during my time at Roosevelt.

Post-graduation plans: I will be taking a year off and attending law school in the fall of 2021.

Who do you want to thank? I would like to thank Carrie Lausen and Chanita Britton from the paralegal department. They were very helpful through my few years at Roosevelt. Additionally, I would like to thank my mother; for an endless number of reasons, my education would not have been possible without her.

Advice for the Class of 2024: Be goal oriented; big or small, important or insignificant, it helps keep you on track and it always feels great to accomplish goals.


Join Roosevelt on Friday, June 26 for a special virtual Commencement ceremony to celebrate recent graduates. The Commencement website roosevelt.edu/commencement2020 will go live at 10 a.m. on Friday.

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