Class of 2018: Bright, BOLD & Big on Bradley


After snapping a selfie with Kaboom! to kick off Freshman Convocation on August 26, President Joanne Glasser encouraged students to flood social media with their own photos.

Photo by Duane Zehr

Teeing Up on the Hilltop

With a Georgia High School Association Class AAA golf championship under her belt, Gracie Henderson ’18 is looking forward to hitting the links for Bradley. 

“I wanted to go somewhere different for college,” commented the native of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, who has lived in the same house all her life. “That’s a big change for me. When I came for a recruiting trip, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. In addition to the opportunity to golf at Bradley, Henderson said, “The size is perfect, and it fit me academically.” 

Describing herself as outgoing, driven and focused, Henderson said music ranks just behind golf in her world. She uses her musical talents to serve at her church and other institutions. “I want to continue singing for sure,” she added. 

Photo by Duane Zehr.

Golf, however, is atop her leaderboard. She took up the game in sixth grade but admits to only becoming serious about it in high school. “My dad is a big golfer; that’s why I started.” 

After twice placing in the top four at the state championship, Henderson won medalist honors this season on the way to helping her team claim the overall title. Noting her younger sister, Nicole, was a teammate, she said, “It was great for her to be there with me.” 

She’s anticipating an active but fulfilled life on the Hilltop. “I’m involved in the Honors Program and athletics at the same time, so I’ll be busy,” explained Henderson. She said her status as the only golf team member from below the Mason-Dixon Line provides a unique perspective of the University and Peoria. 

The biology major hopes to become a physician assistant. She credits family for her interest in medicine. Her pediatrician grandfather built a large medical practice in Atlanta, and her mother is a nurse, offering Henderson a close-up look at the field. 

“Their careers kind of solidified everything,” Henderson said. “Helping others, especially kids, through my profession and changing someone’s life by helping them recover — I can’t see doing anything else.” 

Photo courtesy Kenneth Stevens ’18.

Learning the Language of Business

Counting on Kenneth Stevens ’18 to make the most of his first year on campus does not require much of a stretch of the imagination. The recipient of one of 15 Bradley University Fellow scholarships awarded to incoming freshmen, Stevens dove right into service projects his first week on the Hilltop. “Our group of Fellows worked on events for the freshman class, helping new students learn how to get around the campus and community,” he explained. 

The Fellows program seeks to instill leadership skills and civic responsibility through participation in service learning projects, in leadership development programs and on Fellows committees and student organizations. As a dining room server for the past two years at his local retirement home, Stevens already looks for opportunities to serve.

The New York Yankees and Chicago Bulls fan hails from South Elgin, Illinois, from a “family with a love for numbers and mathematics.” Since his favorite class in high school was accounting, Stevens is interested in Bradley’s 3:2 accounting program, an integrated bachelor’s and master’s degree. During his first three years, he will study the traditional undergraduate accounting curriculum. His final two years will involve a combination of undergraduate and graduate classes. “I’d like to be a CPA in a corporate business,” Stevens explained. “I was raised knowing I was going to college because my parents believe it’s the ticket to building my career. It was a mindset my parents always encouraged.”  

Stevens qualified for Bradley’s Honors Program and spent time during Freshman Orientation meeting with business and accounting professors whom he found “supportive and interesting as advisers,” saying his visit to campus made him feel that Bradley was like a close-knit family. “The Honors Program meeting was exciting. We were told we’d be learning in a smaller environment and have more opportunities to speak and communicate with others in our classes. I am looking forward to learning to be more communicative and social, and I hope to make a lot of close friends and enjoy the Bradley Experience that I always hear about.”

A former baseball player with hobbies including wake boarding and snowboarding, Stevens plans to find an athletic outlet in the intramural sports program. He said he is aware of only one other student attending the University from South Elgin, noting, “That makes me unique. I come from a different background than many other students; I am giving it my all to be true to myself.”

Photo courtesy Sarah Kuzy ’18.

Welcoming Change

After moving eight times and attending five different schools, Sarah Kuzy ’18 was more than ready for the Hilltop and her latest new beginning.

“I’ve met people from all different backgrounds and countries. I think that experience broadens my perspective on other people,” she noted of her open mind and welcoming approach to change.

In 2010, her family relocated from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Waterloo, Belgium, when her father accepted a company transfer. In two years abroad, Kuzy visited Switzerland, Spain, France, Bulgaria, Germany, England and the Netherlands. She also had the unique opportunity to attend an international high school, exposing her to other cultures.

“Any country you could name, there were people at my school from it,” she said. “Every class was taught in English, but when you went into the hallway, people were speaking all the languages you’ve heard of — and then some.”

Having studied Spanish since second grade, Kuzy is minoring in the language while pursuing an electrical engineering degree. “I’ve always liked computers, video games and anything electronic, so my brother, an electrical engineer, started teaching me how everything worked,” she explained. “I took a physics class with a big electricity and magnetism section that was so interesting I decided that’s what I want to major in.”

She also hopes to integrate a long-term high school project into her college life. The culmination of two years of research, writing and revision, Kuzy’s honors thesis argued that service dogs are the most beneficial form of impairment assistance due to the emotional bond between handler and dog. Highlighted by studies on mobility support, therapy and guide dogs, the nearly 40-page paper reflected both her dedication as a student and her lifelong love of animals.

“I sort of stumbled onto service dogs,” she admitted. “I researched the history and evolution of dogs and wolves to dogs. I found how the dog’s purpose changed from when it was first domesticated to how it’s used in modern times. … I noticed there were many studies about service dogs, but they weren’t compiled into one argument.”

Now, she may apply that work into a new role as a student trainer for Wags for Mags, a group that helps train future service dogs on campus. Joking it wouldn’t be an issue because her roommate loves dogs, too, Kuzy shared her excitement: “I thought Wags for Mags was really cool when I first heard about it and that it would be a good way to be involved with service dogs again. I definitely plan to seek them out and learn more.”

Photo by Visual Image Photography.

Firing Up for Teamwork

Before competing in his first college race, Bradley track and cross country runner Luke Versweyveld ’18 earned his first Missouri Valley Conference recognition — as winner of a drawing for two all-session passes to Arch Madness after voting in the annual MVC Mascot Madness tournament in July.

“I saw a lot on social media about it, and the coach sent us all an email asking us to vote for Kaboom! Because it represents all our teams, Kaboom! is kind of our poster child for athletics, so I wanted to help make sure we did as well as possible,” Versweyveld said of supporting the University’s mascot.

While he is not quite sure who he will share the extra ticket with, he is ready for the challenges and opportunities Bradley offers — both academically and athletically. Saying he specifically sought a Division I school with high academic standards, Versweyveld appreciates that his teammates value their educations: “We want to have really high GPAs, rank in the highest GPA for student-athletes on campus as well as in the MVC and be men and women of character who succeed in our sport.”

As the only cross county runner and track athlete at his high school, the Delavan, Wisconsin, resident mainly trained alone. Now, he’s anticipating all the benefits of being on a team. “I’m actually really looking forward to my teammates smashing me in practice,” Versweyveld admitted. “Just to be able to train with people who are much better than I … hopefully, one day I’ll be at their level.”

A health science major, Versweyveld has yet to settle on a career; however, he does stress it will involve helping people. “I am so passionate about training and how nutrition and other factors work together, but I haven’t quite decided if I want to pursue coaching or physical therapy. I’ll see how my classes go before deciding,” he explained.

In the meantime, he is ready to make the most of his four years on the Hilltop. Planning to join Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), Versweyveld intends to be involved on campus and meet many fellow students. “I know so often the people you meet in college are very good friends for a long time, and that was a big reason for choosing Bradley — because everyone was so welcoming and friendly here,” he said. “I know I’ll have lifelong friends when I leave.”

Photo by Duane Zehr.

Speaking of Bradley

After participating in the Summer Forensics Institute at Bradley as both a competitor and coach, Sarah Brashear ’18 is ready to speak out. 

“That’s what originally drew me here,” she said of the annual two-week camp. “I knew Bradley was where I belonged. I’m not afraid to talk to anyone and put myself out there. Plus, being from out of state, I automatically have something to talk to people about.” 

The Omaha, Nebraska, resident is already familiar with competing at the national level while attending Marian High School. She won humorous interpretation at the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions and also placed in that category at the National Forensic League tournament and in oral interpretation at the National Catholic Forensic League event. While competing at the George Armstrong Heart of Illinois Individual Events Tournament on campus in December, she won the top prize, a $15,000 scholarship, in the Janssen Oratorical Contest, established by Peoria lawyer and former speech team member Jay Janssen ’59

She was called on as a speaker throughout high school, serving on the school’s recruitment team, as retreat leader and newspaper editor, and in student government. “I was always up and talking in front of people,” Brashear recalled. “A background in public speaking is something you can use in any situation.” 

While planning to tackle the interpretation events for Bradley’s speech team, Brashear, a one-time basketball player, wants to turn her competitive nature towards intramurals, as well. “I’m usually in athletic shorts or a suit,” she remarked about the attire differences between sports and speech. 

A public relations major and marketing minor, she described Bradley as “the whole package.” Brashear eagerly looks forward to taking classes in the Women’s Studies program and is excited for this fall’s Big Questions honors seminar with Dr. Robert Fuller, Caterpillar Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

She views Bradley’s Hollywood Semester as a prime opportunity while anticipating interning in Chicago and possibly trying out for famed improv group The Second City. 

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Using the same persistence, patience and practice she brings to her forensics pursuits, Brashear taught herself to play the ukulele. She thought the Hawaiian-based instrument was interesting and received one for her 16th birthday. Learning to play through instructional manuals and YouTube videos, she focuses on alternative and indie music because “That’s what I started learning on.” 

But, she comes back to forensics as a key element in her life. “I think I have the ability to reach out to people I wouldn’t normally interact with,” Brashear explained, adding, “I don’t think I would be the person I am today without that ability.”

Bradley Hilltopics Staff