February 18, 2022 at 1:00pm
Kendall Trump, Class of 2013

Student Panel: More than students

The term “student-athlete” is common in university settings, and these students are known for their hard work, determination and time management skills. However, at Millikin University, we have found that students across campus display the same dedication and face similar obstacles, just in different activities and pursuits. 

Throughout campus, we found five stellar examples of students being defined by their passions and working tirelessly to achieve their goals. We spoke with them about their experiences to see what it’s like to be a student-mentor, a student-volunteer and a student-researcher.

From their challenges and triumphs to what they consider an essential experience for Millikin students, these five students gave us an inside look at what it means to dedicate themselves to their activities both inside and outside of the classroom. 

Our students:





Brigid Duesterhaus, Class of 2022 - Athlete

Communication major and Design Thinking minor








Courtney Schudel, Class of 2023 - Volunteer

Art Therapy major and Psychology minor









Elexis Richardson, Class of 2022 - Researcher

Biology major and Gender Studies minor






Gerald Lenoir, Class of 2022 - Mentor

Criminal Justice major and Political Science minor






What extracurricular activities are you involved with at Millikin?

Brigid Duesterhaus: I am part of the women’s triathlon and swimming teams, as well as a Big Blue Ambassador.

Courtney Schudel: I am an active member of Pi Beta Phi, the James Millikin Honors Scholars (JMHS) program and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. Additionally, I have worked as a gallery watcher in Perkinson Gallery since 2019 and I serve as an intern at Macon Resources, Inc. (MRI), where I help facilitate art-making activities with developmentally delayed adults in the Decatur community.

Elexis Richardson: I am president of Spectrum, a student organization that provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ students. I am also a member of Tri-Beta and the JMHS program, as well as the LGBTQ+ student representative to the Board of Trustees. Lastly, I am a co-facilitator of SafeZone training for Millikin faculty and staff members.

Gerald Lenoir: I am an EDGE mentor and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Black Student Union and Brothers Moving Forward.


What does it mean for you to be a student-athlete/volunteer/researcher/mentor at Millikin?

Student-athlete (Brigid Duesterhaus): I am being pushed in mind and body. Being a student-athlete has helped me grow and develop useful skills for the future. I am better at time management and have learned the art of prioritization because of balancing classes, homework and workouts. 

Student-volunteer (Courtney Schudel): I think having an innate drive to help others thrive and reach their full potential is a necessary skill to have, not only as a friend, student, leader or colleague, but also for volunteer work. I personally feel like I’ve achieved something great when I can see the results inspire or impact someone else. 

Student-researcher (Elexis Richardson): Graduate-level research has helped develop my scientific skills. I feel like it sets me apart from other candidates, which is important because I’ve applied for veterinary school starting next fall. Graduate-level research has also helped me better understand how scientific research originates and evolves over time.

Student-mentor (Gerald Lenoir): Being a mentor means a lot because I want to be the type of person that I needed when I first came to Millikin. Helping students achieve the best version of themselves inside and outside of the classroom is what I thrive on as a mentor. 


How have your experiences helped shape your college career?

Brigid Duesterhaus: Being an athlete has helped me find a direction for my career. I like being part of a team and working with other athletes, which is something I want to implement into a job position in the future. Also, being a student-athlete has given me so many opportunities and allowed me to build many relationships and connections that I am grateful for.

Courtny Schudel: Volunteering my time and effort toward things that are bigger than just myself is necessary to my growth and is directly tied to my work ethic because I find motivation in learning about others’ passions. Surrounding myself with people who have a wide range of interests and ideas has impacted my college career because as a result, I know how to collaborate with different personalities, gain new insights and be an empathetic, active listener.

Elexis Richardson: Graduate-level research has shaped my college career because of how I’ve learned to find sources. This may not seem significant, but it’s made a huge difference in my writing. I’ve had to do quite a few research papers in my time at Millikin and I’m much more efficient at finding sources than when I started. 

Gerald Lenoir: Being a mentor shaped my experience for the better because I’m better at seeing other points of view now than I was before. 

What is the most challenging part of keeping up everything?

Brigid Duesterhaus: Finding the hours within a day and working out how I can be the most efficient and get the most out of those hours. At times I feel overwhelmed, but I get through the work one piece at a time. 

Courtney Schudel: Trying not to get overwhelmed and remembering to allow myself breaks or to schedule down-time. Sometimes I get wrapped up in needing to complete too many tasks at once that I fail to live in the moment.

Elexis Richardson: My biggest challenge is definitely time management and trying to make sure my mental health stays a priority regardless of how busy I get. 


What is the most rewarding part?

Brigid Duesterhaus: Being able to travel for competitions. When it comes time for me to travel, my professors work with me to establish dates for my school work. By staying on top of my work, I am able to perform well outside of the classroom. Seeing the hard work that my team and I put in pay off is the most rewarding aspect.

Courtney Schudel: Feeling proud of myself for accomplishing tasks and completing projects. I can take pride in the work I do, not only because I’m satisfied with the end product, but because I remained committed and saw something through despite the obstacles or mental barriers. 

Elexis Richardson: Getting feedback from my peers and professors that lets me know that my work isn’t going unnoticed is very rewarding. 


What is your most memorable experience at Millikin?

Brigid Duesterhaus: One experience that stands out is my Creative Concepts class, where I was able to combine my love of fashion with research on sustainability. For a class project, I created three sustainable and stylish clothing items. Outside of the classroom, I’ll never forget the triathlon team taking second place at the National Championship this in 2021.

Courtney Schudel: As an art therapy student, being able to intern in the Decatur community has been incredibly memorable. The hands-on experience and knowledge I have gained through applying what I’m learning in class to the real world has enhanced my appreciation for my studies and my passion for my future. 

Elexis Richardson: I’ve really enjoyed assisting with SafeZone training for Millikin faculty and staff and it makes me feel a lot more comfortable on campus knowing that all of these individuals want to help.I enjoy answering questions because I know that I’m helping them figure out how to help other LGBTQ+ students. I also have great memories of presenting my first big college-level project at the Honors Showcase my first year. We got to pick our own topics, so I picked something I cared about, which was the ethics of zoos. We spent almost the whole first year developing the topic, doing research, writing the paper and making the poster. 

Gerald Lenoir: My most memorable moment in class was when my Public Policy professor asked me to read my paper for the Celebration of Scholarship day. Outside of class, I will always remember joining the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.


What is an essential experience for all Millikin students?

Brigid Duesterhaus: Attending events that involve fellow students. I enjoy going to sporting events and seeing other athletes succeed in their fields. I also enjoy going to see shows and performances that students create or participate in.

Elexis Richardson: All students should see at least one School of Theatre & Dance production, because our peers put a lot of time and effort into them and they are impressive. I’d also say that all students should go to at least one pancake breakfast, because free pancakes and fun activities are a good way to de-stress before finals. Finally, all students should attend the Cookie Party, because it is a Millikin tradition and there are free cookies. 

Gerald Lenoir: All Millikin students should get the full experience of Homecoming Week and Weekend events. 


If you could give one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would it be?

Brigid Duesterhaus: Get involved. I think it’s important to fully immerse yourself into what Millikin has to offer. There are so many options like sports teams, intramurals, clubs and organizations to be involved in, so take advantage of those.

Courtney Schudel: Keep an open mind and make the most out of your short time at Millikin. Allow yourself to explore opportunities you may be hesitant about trying and don’t be afraid to reach out for support.

Elexis Richardson: Always ask for help if and when you need it. Whether from a professor, an advisor or anyone on Millikin’s faculty and staff, it’s always good to ask for help when you need it. Millikin faculty and staff want to help!

Gerald Lenoir: Get to know your academic advisor well and ask questions, because that is an important part of succeeding in the classroom.


How has Millikin supported you as a student and beyond?

Brigid Duesterhaus: Millikin has helped me develop skills that will benefit me when I enter the workforce. I’ve gotten experience as a leader on campus in sports and in the residence halls as a two-year Resident Assistant. I have also been able to do work and creative projects during my academic career that put me on the path to success once I graduate. Additionally, I have expanded my knowledge across many subjects to become a well-rounded individual.

Courtney Schudel: Through Millikin, I am able to pursue a degree in a rare area of undergraduate study: art therapy. More importantly, Millikin has allowed me to grow into a more experienced and confident version of myself because I have gained new skills and built a support network along the way, which I may not have had the courage to do otherwise.

Elexis Richardson: Millikin has supported me by providing faculty and staff that genuinely care about their students. I’ve made connections here that I will take with me into the professional field. Without such support, the transition to college would have been a lot more difficult for me. My first biology class didn’t start out great and I was doubting whether I could graduate with this major. However, I took some time and spoke to the professor, and with her support and encouragement, I was able to get the grade back up.

Gerald Lenoir: Millikin has provided me with professors who want to see everyone succeed and can open opportunities for you in the profession you want to go into.