Just minutes into his tenure as associate professor and athletic training program director at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio, Trevor Bates '02 learned that another Millikin graduate was already working on the campus.Julie Stevenson O'Reilly '93, an assistant professor of communication and women's and gender studies, had been at Heidelberg since 2005."I was on campus all of 30 minutes before someone mentioned that there was a professor who went to the same undergraduate institution that I did," Bates says. Despite differing academic backgrounds (O'Reilly majored in communication and writing and found Heidelberg after an unfulfilling stint in the corporate sector; Bates majored in athletic training and that path led him to Heidelberg's program), the duo's paths crossed three years ago when O'Reilly joined Heidelberg's Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC).
What originally began as a common Millikin link between two committee members has evolved into professional respect forged from the desire to serve and educate. O'Reilly's path to higher education began with her doctorate coursework. Seeking an intellectual and creative challenge, she switched her professional focus from journalism and public relations to American culture studies. Ultimately, she found herself in a faculty position. "I ended up finding the professional environment I had been looking for in higher education Ð it just took me longer than expected," O'Reilly says. "My students are the best part of my job, but variety and creativity are next on the list. I had such a great experience at Millikin that I am an advocate of small, private universities. Helping students improve their critical thinking and writing skills are the things that motivate me the most."
Bates also found returning to a private college atmosphere to be attractive."The small college setting allows professors and administrators to be more involved in the development of the campus community," Bates says. "Whether I'm working with a student, colleague, administrator, coach or support staff member, I enjoy the opportunity to help others achieve their goals." While neither expected to work so closely with another Millikin graduate at Heidelberg's campus, the respect they have for each other is apparent.
"It is an honor to work with Dr. O'Reilly," Bates says. "She is a confident, engaged professional who mixes the historical and modern aspects of culture to provide students with an excellent educational experience. In the last five years, Heidelberg has validated her approach by honoring her with its equivalent of the ÔTeacher of the Year' award for her ability to connect with her students in a meaningful way." O'Reilly praises Bates' contributions as well. "Trevor models a high level of professionalism for his students and colleagues and is well-respected on campus," O'Reilly says. "In addition to directing the athletic training program and serving as the chair of the UCC, he was appointed to the Academic Priority Leadership Committee and recently named associate dean of health sciences. Despite all the responsibilities and stress that often accompany these positions, Trevor maintains a positive attitude and a great sense of humor."
And while both alumni are focused on educating the world's future leaders, Bates and O'Reilly are quick to point out that their own successes were cultivated at Millikin. Bates especially credits Millikin with teaching him how to think. "Millikin taught me to dream big and exposed me to more than just the information I needed to become a certified athletic trainer," he says.