Hitting the Ground Running

Some recent Loras College graduates are wasting no time moving on to the next stages of their lives.

From preparing diets for various animals to arranging blood tests and monitoring behaviors, every day is a new experience for Ike Bruns (’18). Since he graduated from Loras College this past May, he hasn’t taken a break from learning.

Bruns began his post-Loras work before he even left campus. Prior to walking across the stage at Commencement on May 19, he had already logged his first few days as an intern at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

“There have been a lot of incredible experiences, but some that have stood out would include learning all about the different training techniques and practices used,” Bruns explained. “This along with learning all about the different animals in our care here at Shedd has been amazing.”

Already interested in biology, studying at Loras helped focus on an interest that has led Bruns down his current career path.

“Freshwater ecology is something I have always been interested in,” he explained. “Marine life has always been my passion—birds, animals, fish. Loras offers an evolutionary science course, so ecology was talked about a lot. I found myself really liking all the material we talked about regardless of the kind of subfield. That really drove home the point that this is something I really want to do.”

Bruns spent the summer doing some of the routine work around the facility, but his internship has been anything but mundane. He acquired hands-on experiences with animals and focused his energies on a wide variety of aquarium and marine-life offerings.

The internship is just the start for Bruns, who will remain in Chicago to begin graduate studies at DePaul University. It was a friend who introduced that institution to him, so Bruns visited the campus and the pieces began to fall into place.

“Chicago is somewhere I always wanted to end up and I came across DePaul,” he said. “Dr. (Timothy C.) Sparkes caught my eye doing research on parasites with fish and how they alter behaviors. I emailed him and met with him over a weekend. He encouraged me to apply and here I am.

“He was very honest with me, saying that other undergrads had more experience around there and telling me it was very competitive. I was honored to accept one of the spots in the program.”Bruns has set his sights on a professional destination that he hopes these experiences will help him reach.“The endgame would be a leadership position either at Shedd or another Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited institution—that would be fantastic,” he said. “Once you have that position, you can get grants and funding to pursue things you are passionate about.”

Bruns is quick to acknowledge the role Loras has played in his ability to earn his internship and take his next steps at DePaul.

“I don’t know if you can narrow it down to just one thing,” he explained. “The best thing about Loras is the community. The people who you meet here, the connections you get to make. I know people come here for a lot of different reasons. We all have good days and bad days. The reason you stay on the bad days is because people here care about you regardless if you are their student, peer or faculty. You’re not really just a number. They take time out of their day to see how you are doing and want to help you succeed.”

Brun’s fellow graduate, Mary Sutarik (’18), is also taking the next steps in her career. A little over a year ago, a friend told Sutarik about her trip to India. With little knowledge of the country, she was intrigued, yet continued on with her daily routine, never thinking she would soon step foot in the country. Little did she know what God had in store for her.

Prior to this happenstance, Sutarik, known as “Smiley Catholic” on her blog, was given a book about Mother Teresa by her church. She finished the book quickly and was intrigued by the Catholic nun’s perseverance through all of life’s trials and her authentic joy that radiated so easily through those whom she served and encountered. A few months later, God placed a desire on Sutarik’s heart to go to Kolkata, India, where Mother Teresa created the Missionaries of Charity.

This desire meant joining 13 young adults on their Fellowship of Catholic University Students mission trip and traveling across the world to Kolkata in June. Once in India, she and the others realized God wanted to show them how to accept and embrace change, which meant getting outside of their comfort zones and truly enjoying the “City of Joy.”

Sutarik attended daily Mass and Adoration in the Motherhouse and prayed at Mother Teresa’s tomb. After Mass, the group met up with volunteers from around the world before they divided among the different houses in which the Missionaries of Charity sisters serve.

“One of my greatest joys was seeing the smiles of the kids at Shishu Bhavan, one of the orphanages,” Sutarik said. “We spent much of our time feeding, changing and singing/dancing to keep the children’s spirits high. It’s crazy to think that without Mother Teresa following God’s plan for her, this orphanage wouldn’t exist and so many kids would be without proper love and care.”

Sutarik found it easy to see Christ’s presence in every person who lived, worked and volunteered at the organization.

“Oftentimes, we disregard ourselves, doubting the person that God has created us to be,” she said. “Yet with the gentle care and uniqueness in which God created each person, we are meant to go out and to do ‘little things with great love,’ whether we’re in Kolkata or in the comforts of our own home.”

Sutarik will soon begin work as a Catholic missionary for Northern Illinois University (NIU)’s Newman Catholic Student Center.

As a missionary, Sutarik will work closely with students to draw them into a deeper relationship with Christ. Each day might include discipleship with students, talks over coffee, attending events and holding Mass and Adoration.

“A few friends and campus missionaries who were strong in their faith would reach out to me, allowing me to realize what a true friendship with Christ was like,” she said. “As a result, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a loving and faith-filled community while at Loras, one for which I am forever grateful.”

Sutarik sees the challenges of working with students to help them find the same assurances she did.

“Many students on the campus of NIU find themselves isolated and without true meaning in life; they need hope, encouragement with God and true friendships. It was for this reason the NIU Newman Mission Team was created,” she said.

Sutarik continues to savor the chance to talk to people who are different to grow in their own beliefs and to gain a better perspective of the world.

“Whether religious or not, I believe that each person is made uniquely by God and, therefore, has a story to tell that is so much different than the person next to them,” she said. “I love talking about how God’s changed my life and hope that others will be able to experience a similar joy and peace for their own life!”

One of Sutarik’s key duties is building a core of individuals and families to support the Newman Center through work and financial resources.

“I’m excited to see what God has in store for me during my time as a missionary at NIU,” she said. “I have an immense sense of peace about this opportunity and truly feel this is where I have been called to serve for the next year.”

Sutarik recommends students take advantage of any internship opportunity to learn more about possible careers and themselves.

She explained, “By embracing internship opportunities, I was able to develop relationships with colleagues who challenged me to become the best person I could be and who are still a part of my life!”