Featured Alumni

Sara McElmurry

Sara McElmurryDegree/Year: B.A., Spanish and Communications, 2002
Current Employer: Latino Policy Forum
Title: Communications Manager

I arrived at Bradley a wide-eyed freshman from a small town in central Illinois. Though I had greatly enjoyed my Spanish classes in high school, I had never taken a course with a native Spanish speaker, nor had I ever been out of the country. I was justifiably a bit nervous as I took my first Spanish classes at Bradley.

But the faculty’s enthusiasm for the language and corresponding cultures sparked an enthusiasm in me. This interest led me to study abroad in Mexico in the summer of 1999, to return to Mexico again in the spring of 2000, and to ultimately live and work there from 2008-2010. I wholeheartedly attribute my ongoing personal interest and professional successes with the Spanish language to the guidance, encouragement and instruction I received at Bradley.

The flexibility of the Foreign Language department allowed me to complete a second major in Communications during my four years at Bradley. The combination of a solid communications background with a proficiency in a second language has proven to be invaluable, opening many doors as I have advanced in my career in marketing communications. I have carved out a professional niche in Hispanic marketing, helping both for-profit and non-profit organizations engage one of the country’s fastest-growing communities. I am currently the Communications Manager at the Latino Policy Forum, a Chicago-based shop that is equal parts policy think tank and community advocacy organization. Solid Spanish language skills are invaluable in my day-to-day work with the Latino community and Spanish-language media.

My experiences as a language student also helped me succeed as a language teacher, work that allowed me to fulfill my dream of living and working abroad in both Asia and Latin America. My Bradley professors constantly provided examples of what it takes to be a great language teacher, building lessons that taught more than simply language. My Spanish classes at Bradley introduced me to the Latin American authors and musicians that are still among my favorites. I was also exposed to the politics and socioeconomics and of Latin America, realities that prepared me to live in Mexico and travel throughout Central America. The ideas of social justice, carefully woven through numerous syllabi, inspire my current work in community advocacy.

In this increasingly interconnected world, being comfortable communicating in multiple languages is a critical skill. Bradley is great place to not just develop one’s abilities in a new language, but to also learn, and love, a new culture.

Lauren Finaldi

Lauren FinaldiDegree/Year: B.A., Spanish, 1986
Current Employer: Joliet Catholic Academy
Title: Spanish teacher

Back on Bradley’s campus in the early 1980’s, I was Lauren Finaldi, a Spanish major earning her secondary teaching certification. I was an editor of The Broadside literary magazine and an active Chi Omega sorority member. I also spent a semester of my junior year studying abroad at the University of Granada, Spain.

My favorite professor, hands down, at Bradley was Dr. Glen Dille of the Spanish department. One of my fondest memories is when I invited him to a dinner event to at my sorority house, where we all enjoyed his charm and sense of humor. He served as a mentor to me during my four years at Bradley, and even after my graduation.

Today, I am known around the campus of Joliet Catholic Academy simply as “Profe.” I teach Spanish II, III and IV, Honors, moderate the Spanish Club and am in charge of our local Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica chapter. The best part of my job is organizing our short-term student exchange to Spain. We have been traveling back and forth to the same school in Catalonia for the past two years, staying with host families and hosting them when they come to Illinois. Turning this opportunity into a reality for my students is the fulfillment of a life’s dream. I’m confident that this exposure to another culture will ignite their desire to study abroad in college, as I was able to do at Bradley so many years ago.

I am also active in professional organizations, such as the Illinois Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ITCFL). I am currently serving a two-year term as secretary, and am a regular presenter at their fall conferences. I participate in activities sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), such as their annual poetry contest. Offering the National Spanish Exam at our school was also my initiative.

Combining my passion for teaching Spanish with my love of music is something I use regularly to enhance my lessons. In order to share these ideas with fellow language teachers, I maintain a blog at www.profeTUNES.blogspot.com.

I thank Bradley University’s foreign language department for the role it has played in my professional life.

Diane M. Hardy

Diane M. HardyDegree/Year: B.A., International Studies and Spanish, 1992
Current Employer: Milwaukee Public Schools (Rufus King International School)
Title: Spanish Teacher

I started studying Spanish as a high school freshman because some of my friends were Latinos, but I had hoped for a career in Washington, D.C., when I graduated from Bradley. Before doing that, though, I wanted to serve in the Peace Corps. I needed volunteer hours to be accepted, so I started tutoring immigrant children and soon realized education is my calling. I returned to college to get my teaching license.

I am fortunate that I go to work every day in an incredibly diverse school named Rufus King International School. It is an International Baccalaureate school that takes an international approach to education. Our school includes primarily African-American students with significant Caucasian, Asian, Arab, and Latino populations.

Having a liberal arts degree has given me tremendous flexibility in my career. While at Bradley, I was encouraged to study abroad, take classes from other departments and intern in Washington, D.C. Between the BU classroom and its extra-curricular activities, I was able to further my knowledge and even challenge long-held beliefs.

Watching Bradley grow and progress has been a thrill for me. As a forensics coach, I have brought students to BU’s great tournaments. When I started at BU, there were limited opportunities for study abroad, but now students can go all over the world and study languages and cultures of countries that are less traveled.

Never close yourself off from any different path. Most students going into IS plan a career in the foreign service. While some of my BU friends have gone to work for the State Department and on Capitol Hill, others went into education, journalism and business. There are so many ways to use our skills in IS.

Michael Carl Budd

Michael Carl BuddDegree/Year:  B.A., International Studies and French, 2008
Current Employer: Institute of International Education
Title: Program Officer

Since I was little, I’ve been interested in other cultures and trying new things. When I was ten my dad let me tag along on a business trip to Paris and I was hooked. My love for travel led to an interest in the history and the politics of other countries and how they connect to and affect the U.S. and Americans. When I enrolled at Bradley, I knew that the Institute of International Studies was the right fit. During my freshman year, Dr. Sconduto of the French department convinced me to add a French major and I’m really glad I did. I started studying French at age ten and it made sense to continue focusing on it in college.

One of the things I most appreciated about Bradley, and especially about both of my departments, is the flexibility toward and the encouragement of studying abroad. Spending my junior year in France was highly formative and connected me with other opportunities such as interning at the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Making study abroad work financially and with regard to class requirements and grading, Bradley stands head and shoulders above many other schools.

As a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, I represented the Rotary Club of Peoria while attending the American University in Cairo, Egypt. I gave speeches, attended fundraisers and volunteered alongside Egyptian Rotarians. I also taught English in the Sudanese refugee community. Here in New York, I’ve worked for the American Society for Muslim Advancement as a writing and editing consultant for its women’s initiative. What I enjoy most about the work and volunteer experiences I have had since Bradley is the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds. Being exposed to other cultures and other ways of thinking has helped me grow as a person.

Bradley has continued to support me. The rapport I developed with several of my professors has proven lasting. From pep talks while I finished my thesis to ideas for other alumni to contact in my job search, my Bradley professors have continued to be a great source of help.

Anyone considering a degree in international studies shouldn’t worry about it being a narrow field. In an increasingly globalized world, it’s important to know how political and economic systems function on a global level. Careers in fields from international business to diplomacy to humanitarian work all build off of this. For similar reasons, a degree in foreign language is useful, too – having a second or third language is a major asset in employment.