Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Lewis Mission Moment: Michael Phipps ’13 – Life through "Eyes of Faith"

Although unable to always discern the big picture, Michael Phipps ’13 continued to turn to his faith and took comfort in the fact that he was being led by the wisdom of the Spirit, similarly to De La Salle. There have been twists, turns, and long winding roads throughout his journey which, in a way, have all brought Michael back to the place where his journey started.

Michael graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado in 2009. Not entirely sure of what the future held, he took a leap of faith and applied for Lasallian Volunteers (LV). Soon after, Michael made the move to Providence, Rhode Island where he began living in community and working at The San Miguel School as Director of Graduate Support.

His journey after LV continued right here at Lewis University where he worked as a Graduate Assistant for University Ministry and pursued a M.A. in School Counseling.

“In undergrad, I wanted to pursue a career in forensic psychology, but I felt inspired by my LV experience to switch gears and pursue school counseling. After helping to support the students in my volunteer program, I knew I had to find a way to make a career out of that. The counseling program at Lewis stood out to me because it taught you how not only to be a great counselor, but also how to infuse the Lasallian mission into your work. It was the perfect fit and shaped me into the counselor I am today,” says Michael

After graduating from Lewis in 2013, Michael was called to serve in a different way; he entered into the formal formation program and began living in community with the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Although this experience allowed him to open his heart and mind in many ways, Michael ultimately discerned away from brotherhood and continued working as a counselor.

Which all leads us to the here and now. Michael was recently appointed as Recruitment Coordinator with Lasallian Volunteers, the same program which he entered nearly a decade before in 2011.

“I have always approached my work as my vocation, which is essentially what led me to this career choice!” says Michael. “This program changed my life completely, even in some ways that I still cannot see or understand. Having the opportunity to grow up emerged in Lasallian heritage, be in formation with the Christian Brothers, and serve abroad, I feel that I have a unique perspective. These experiences will allow me to walk with and help others discern. I do not take lightly the place and space that discernment has in helping young people.”

Michael was born in Haiti but grew up near Yakima in Washington state. Throughout his life, he heavily relied on reflection and guidance from his support system, including his mother and twin sister, to openly discern. He always made it a priority to continue to grow and figure out how he could best meet the needs of the world.

“This is not just my job; it is my way of life. I like to consider myself a ‘lifetime Lasallian’, as many would call it. My new role, as I am learning, is embedded in so many aspects of the Lasallian world. I believe I have been called to exercise the ministry of presence in this role, which is so cornerstone to the Lasallian mission,” Michael adds.

Michael’s journey has brought him a deeper awareness of his vocation and the ability to continue to see the world through “eyes of faith.” Michael is confident that everything that happened in his life, happened for a reason – which is to be here in this new role guiding young men and women through their own journeys.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Lewis Mission Moment: Nia White '17

What seemed like a fun trip to the Philippines, turned into a very exciting chapter of life for Nia White ’17.

After graduation, Nia took a trip to the Philippines with other college students from the surrounding area; but when she returned home, felt lost and confused about the next chapter in her life. She worked in a few different roles for the next year or so, but nothing seemed to be the right fit. Nia decided to take a second trip to the Philippines in 2019 where she visited an orphanage run by the Blessed Virgin Missionaries of Carmel. After that trip, she knew in her heart that she had more to offer. Nia asked the sisters if she could come back to stay and volunteer – and one week later, she had booked a one-way ticket to the Philippines.

Since then, Nia has been responsible for looking after and caring for the children who live in the orphanage. From early childhood development and physical therapy to tutoring, cooking, and bathing – Nia did it all. Now, she also serves as an English teacher for grades 1, 4, 5, and 6, as well as helping other teachers prepare lesson plans and creating curriculum for a college course. Although her role at the orphanage has changed throughout the years, one thing always remained constant – the love and passion for her work.

“I am a missionary at heart. I love it. I really could not imagine myself in any other kind of work. I could never work in retail, a bank, in politics, or media. I have always wanted a simple life and to serve people as I do here. My favorite part is the kids. They are bad for the ego and good for the heart. Most importantly, for me, they are the face of God. They crack me up. They stress me out. They make me happy. I learn a lot about humanity and its beauty from them,” says Nia.

Nia had many unique experiences and opportunities at Lewis that not only allowed – but also encouraged – her to learn, grow, and explore. She was surrounded by people that motivated her and inspired her to pursue this type of rewarding work.

“It is hard not to leave Lewis without doing some type of mission work. Lewis does a great job at opening our minds and hearts to the world around us. Being surrounded by that energy made me want to find it elsewhere, as much as I would have loved to stay at Lewis. The Lasallian network extends to so many countries, even here in the city I live in. Bacolod City has the University of St. Lasalle, and Manila has De La Salle University, both of which are connected to Lewis.”

While at Lewis, Nia was I was involved heavily in ministry and International Student Association, traveled abroad, served as a peer minister, and worked in the Lasalle House with the Christian Brothers.

“The Brothers taught me a lot and continuously supported me throughout my time at Lewis, and even after. I would talk about campus and my experiences as a student often with Br. James. Br. Tom would help me with my math homework on my work breaks. Br. Phil and I would have very meaningful conversations about vocation and life. Before I left for the Philippines, I had dinner with them, and it was like saying goodbye to my family. It was also the last time I saw Br. Bernard, who was always so kind to me.”

Nia feels blessed to be able to wake up every morning and do the work she loves. This opportunity has allowed her to reflect and be grateful for all that she has and, more importantly, made her eager to share it with others.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Lewis Mission Moment: Liz Anderson '19

Having grown up with a Catholic education and a strong sense of community, Liz felt that the Lewis Mission was a true reflection of her personal values and beliefs from the moment she stepped foot on campus.

“It was the perfect fit for me! I was a few classes away from earning my associate degree somewhere else; however, I took the risk and jumped into the Radio-TV Broadcasting program right away, because Lewis truly felt like home,” said Liz.

Although she was a transfer student and only spent a few semesters on campus, Liz quickly became involved on campus. This motivation to get involved was fueled by her eagerness to strengthen her spirituality and her drive to create change. Liz was an active member of University Ministry, through which she traveled to the Philippines and participated in several retreats. She also was a member of the Black Student Union, worked for Lewis University Police Department, served as the Promotions Director for WLRA, and was the Executive Producer of Lewis Life – a segment for LUTN that highlighted students across campus.

Liz felt supported by so many members of the Lewis community, which only served as affirmation that she was in the right place. She had many unique experiences and opportunities at Lewis that not only allowed – but also encouraged – her to learn, grow, and explore. One in particular was the day she was invited to participate in the Faith Behind Bars service-learning course with Dr. Christie Billups in order to capture some highlights for a Lewis Life segment.

“Being a part of that class really opened my eyes and put things into perspective for me,” Liz said. “It really brought the Mission to life and allowed me to see that we have a personal and social responsibility to respect one another. I was able to connect with these inmates, listen to their stories, and realize that no matter what their past looks like, they are human beings and should be treated as such.”

This class and other community-based experiences were just the beginning for Liz. “I am just getting started! I want to stay at Lewis and do more – make a bigger impact.”

And she is doing just that! Liz graduated from Lewis and recently accepted a position to work as a graduate assistant in the Office of Community Engaged Learning while pursuing her master’s degree in Organizational Leadership.

“Being part of the Lewis community, and the Lasallian network as a whole, has been a great opportunity for me. One that I never went looking for, but one that had been looking for me. I feel like this is the path I was meant to be on. I treat the Lewis Mission as a personal guideline and use it as a foundation in all that I do. I know I can make a difference in the world, and Lewis is giving me a chance to continue to do that starting right here on campus.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Lewis Mission Moment: Jay Savsani ’07 – Changing the World, One Meal at a Time

After many years working in technology, Lewis alumnus Jay Savsani ’07 has completely transformed into a thought leader in the sharing economy space.

In 2012, Jay founded Meal Sharing - a global platform that connects people to home cooked meals. Fueled by his experience in technology and inspired by all of the traveling he did after graduation, Jay made it his goal to create a website that would bring people together from all around the world via food.

Fast forward to eight years later…

Jay’s start-up company has recently been acquired by Traveling Spoon, one of the world's largest travel culinary companies. The company now has meals from over 150 countries and 450 cities.

“It has been a crazy experience and I owe it all to Lewis University,” said Jay. “I was just a kid that started as a pre-health student, and now I get to travel around the world doing work that I love!”

At the beginning of his journey, Jay was nervous. This was something that had never been done before, but he took a chance and worked hard to be the best he could be. Lewis provided Jay with a strong foundation, and he continued to grow and gain confidence throughout his experiences after graduation.

“The people that I met at Lewis were inspiring – especially professors Robert Bergman and Arthur Regal. Anything I wanted to explore, whether that be music or switching my major and joining the College of Business, was met with open arms in a way that was not at other universities! I had the confidence to jump into things; to get in there, explore, and make a difference for the world. Lewis inspired me to think big and do things larger than myself,” Jay added.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Marketing in 2007, Jay began working with a portfolio program advertising agency and had the opportunity to travel all around the world. From Paris to Brazil, he did it all. A few years later, Jay decided it was time to settle down and start his next adventure. As fate would have it, this adventure begins with a fellow Lewis alumnus. Jay and his good friend Justin Kempiak ’07 ’12 reconnected and, in 2010, they made the decision to build their own marketing agency company.

“It was a great experience to work with another Lewis Flyer!” said Jay. “We were definitely early players in the digital marketing scene in Chicago, and our work was ahead of our time. We brought something new to the table and it was exciting!”

Jay then opened his own agency which was a combination of advertising and marketing for clients and building startups for others. He had a team of designers and developers who helped their clients’ dreams come true – which is what ultimately inspired Jay to build Meal Sharing.

“I wanted to build a tech company for people to travel and try new food – a complete cultural exchange. I noticed a trend during my time abroad, gained confidence through my previous work, and just continued to build upon that. I was ready to change the world.”

Jay hopes that students will read his story and realize their full potential. “I want to be able to give back to the university that gave me the foundation to do some really exciting things in my career. But more importantly, I want to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs coming out of Lewis!”

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Lewis Mission Moment: Kevin Davenport '11 Answers Call to Empower Black and Brown Youth

From the time Kevin can remember, his mother spent most of her time mentoring youth at her performing arts school and provided workshops to teach them soft skills. Kevin mastered the curriculum in her program and was teaching classes by age 15. Fast forward to 2015, at age 25, Kevin decided to carry on his mom’s vision with her blessing and The Ideal Candidate was born.

Compared to every major city in America, Chicago has the highest out of school, out of work percentage for black and brown youth, ages 16 to 24. Kevin and his team at The Ideal Candidate have devoted themselves to changing that narrative.

At its launch, Kevin and his team focused only on soft skill development. Since inception, they have added onto the existing curriculum and grown more than 35% year after year. The Ideal Candidate is now an award-winning non-profit organization that certifies students with: Financial Literacy, Soft Skills, Etiquette, Corporate Integration, Sales & Communication, etc. As of January 2020, The Ideal Candidate has added to its operations to start placing students in positions and act as a diversity and inclusion pipeline for corporations and small businesses.

“The Ideal Candidate equips youth with skills they can use forever,” says Kevin. “I designed the curriculum to address all the skills needed to excel and thrive in the workplace that are not taught directly in a traditional high school curriculum; many of which are typically taught in the household. And when it is not being taught in the household, and they are not teaching it in school, some students enter adulthood with zero exposure to these skills. We address these issues head on. The Ideal Candidate program prepares an individual for getting the job, keeping the job, and knowing what to do with your new stream of income. We’ve impacted 600+ students to date.”

This organization services black and brown youth from all over the Chicagoland area, and many of these youth are dealing with major issues. Some have to cross gang territory to get to and from school or have had a classmate or family member that has died due to gun violence. At The Ideal Candidate, a necessary aspect of their job and commitment is to build a relationship with the students, and that involves listening to them so they feel heard and know that they are in a safe and open environment for learning.

For Kevin, it is important that each “Ideal Candidate” graduates with a new sense of confidence and truly believes that they are equal, and that they add value to any room they walk into, and that their value will continue to compound over time.

Kevin is very grateful to Dr. Ayers and Dr. Enyia of the Lewis Communications Department for being amazing teachers and going above and beyond to support him throughout his journey at the University.

“I really took advantage of their open-door policy, and I gained so much knowledge in creative thinking and problem solving just from seeing how they think and dissect problems to recreate solutions. Lewis University taught me grit, time management, problem solving and creative thinking, which have all laid the foundation for my professional career.”

Lewis’ Mission statement is a guiding star for how Kevin chose to design his life after graduation. He created a non-profit [The Ideal Candidate] to provide resources to a diverse student population and provide education. He then created a for-profit company [The Ideal Training Academy] to help with the diversity and inclusion issues corporations have when hiring new diverse talent.

“Every day, I wake up fulfilled, humbled, grateful that I can live and work in my purpose. I feel like I am doing the work I was put on earth to do. Very challenging work, but simultaneously very rewarding work. And I’m just getting started,” says Kevin.

He isn’t kidding about just getting started. On August 1, 2020, Kevin and another partner are launching a new company: Ideal Digital (ID). ID is a digital marketing, advertising, and branding company that will hire directly from The Ideal Candidate.

“This is a very exciting time. For the first time ever, I will be able to directly hire my own graduates from The Ideal Candidate. Allowing a student to complete our full cycle (Training - Job Placement – First check) 100% under our guidance.”

Kevin recently received two awards for his outstanding work: FWD (For Women & Diversity) Award – Chicago 2019 and the Mayor’s Award of Excellence – City of Aurora 2020. In addition, The Ideal Candidate was recognized in 2019 by the Chicago Community Trust – Young Leaders Fund with the Community & Economic Development Award and in 2020 Chicago Housing Authority CHCS recognized The Ideal Candidate with the Community Impact Award.

Kevin works with a team of dedicated volunteers, including fellow Lewis alumna Olivia Estrada '16 who serves on the Board of Directors for The Ideal Candidate.

“The Ideal Candidate is a great resource for the youth in black and brown communities. We, as board members, are proud to step in and help our little brothers and sisters succeed because EVERYONE deserves a mentor, but not everyone shows up for our black and brown brothers and sisters. It is our hope that we can propel our mission and continue to mentor the young leaders of the future," says Olivia.

To learn more about The Ideal Candidate, visit

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lewis Mission Moment: Theresa Marten '15

As a student at Lewis, Theresa Marten ’15 was a very familiar face on campus. She led retreats, worked as a Peer Minister in the dorms, served as captain of the dance team, and took part in many other organizations and activities. After all the love and support Marten had received as a student at Lewis, she realized how important it was to give back and knew that her next steps involved serving others. And now, she continues to live out the Lewis mission in her work every single day.

Marten works as Program Manager for SAME Café – a donation-based, fair exchange restaurant that serves healthy food to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. At SAME, you can volunteer your time to help out in the kitchen, bring in fresh produce, or contribute a fair monetary donation in exchange for a tasty meal. This is based on a dignified dining model developed by Brad and Libby Birky, founders of SAME Café. Every single guest who enters SAME is treated equally and has access to an ever-changing menu of local, healthy, and organic food.

There are no set menus or set prices, but Marten says the philosophy is their one constant.
“SAME Café is the first non-profit restaurant in Denver!” says Marten. “Our mission is to create community through healthy food access. We believe in healthy food, community, and dignity for everyone.”

Marten joined the café staff after spending several years volunteering her time and talents at various non-profits.

Just one day after walking across the stage at graduation, Theresa moved into the Nativity House in Lockport, Illinois – a hou

se of hospitality complete with an on-site farm that supports first-time mothers through the principles of the Catholic Social Teachings. 

Soon after, Marten moved to Denver to volunteer with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers for one year where she worked as Case Manager at Urban Peak Youth Shelter. She lived in a community with nine young adults and helped them find work, provided the mental health services they needed and assisted them in reaching their education goals.

Marten found the SAME café right after completing her volunteer year at Urban Peak.
At SAME, Marten says she encounters a diverse and unique group of people daily who help her relate to her community in a more important way. One of those special people is SAME Cafe Head Chef and Operations Officer, Letisha Steele.

“As I began working at the café, I started to understand the beauty in regular customers and the joy new guests experienced as they were able to participate in the way that made sense for them,” says Marten. “I am motivated by the leadership of Letisha Steele. Her ability to invite our team and volunteers to appreciate, take care of, and reduce waste of all the food that comes through our doors is inspiring.”

Marten says with the help of donors, guests, and leaders like Letisha, SAME Café was able to recently purchase a food truck to continue to bring healthy meals to the greater Denver area. SAME has also received funding for its Cook-To-Work Program, a free program for underserved citizens in Denver looking to develop their culinary skills and then find a job in the industry.

Just as SAME Café remains firm in their mission, so does Theresa.

"I have been lucky to have built such a wonderful community through Urban Peak, Colorado Vincentian Volunteers, and SAME Café. Through all of these experiences, I have been given a lot, taught a lot, and seen a lot. I just feel grateful. Life can be really difficult and I hope our work helps make it possible for people to feel needed and human."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Lewis Mission Moment: Julia Mach '18

Julia Mach ’18 earned a double bachelors from Lewis in Secondary Education and English. Believe it or not, English is not her first language.

“I decided to go into the teaching field because I struggled with learning English after being adopted from Russia,” says Julia. “I was academically behind when I came to the United States. I wanted to help others students who struggle with comprehending the English language and the things that go along with that, like comprehension and writing.”

Julia wants to get working in the classroom as soon as she can, but for now, she’s opted to transform lives in a different way as a Lasallian Volunteer. As a volunteer, she performs service projects and outreach for a community she is assigned to work in.

Julia turned to a life of service after participating in multiple Lewis University Ministry Alternative Trip Experiences (LUMINATE). During LUMINATE, Lewis students enter a weekend long or week-long service trip during Spring break or after finals are completed in May. LUMINATE service projects include tasks like building houses or gardening all while learning about the importance of social and cultural justice. This year, her volunteerism has taken her to Oregon, Nevada, Washington, and Alaska.

“I was amazed at what could get done in a week, and I liked the idea of being able to live in a new place and meeting new people while helping those who need it most. I liked that I was filling a need.”

Julia calls to mind one young boy who made a lasting impact on her during a volunteer experience at DeLaSalle Academy in California. The boy, a fifth-grade student who struggled with the English language, had the academic comprehension level of a child in the third-grade. Julia worked with him one-on-one for a year to help him improve his reading, writing, and speaking skills. At the end of one year, the boy reached a comprehension level of a fourth-grader and was eligible to remain in his school.

“These experiences are meaningful to me because I like knowing that my skills are being used somewhere that they’re actually needed. It makes me want to do my absolute best for those left to my care.”

Right now, Julia is in Concord, California working to improve the lives of underserved residents and children in the area.

“It has been a great experience to live in California and to be a part of the group. My community gets along really well with each other and we’ve become a small family over the past year. I will miss them, but I’m looking forward to joining a new community next year.”

Julia plans to remain with the Lasallian Volunteers for a bit longer, but looks forward to coming back to the classroom to earn her master’s degree in Social Work to help children. When Julia isn’t performing service, she enjoys traversing the Concord and San Francisco areas of California, attending festivals and making new friends. While the travel is fun, she says it’s really about bringing joy and service to where she is assigned.

“My goal is to make as much of a difference as possible for the people I serve. I’m not just there to fill a job, I’m there to fill a need.  I want to make an everlasting impression on others.”