2024 Alumni Award Recipients


Jamal Ward '00

2024 Distinguished Alumnus Award

Jamal Ward persevered to overcome life's obstacles. His career choice is dedicated to helping individuals reach their own goals and potential by attaining improved mental and behavioral health.

Raised in Flint, Mich., Ward found a passion for playing basketball that gave him the drive to pursue his dreams and achieve success. Ward played just one semester for his high school career. He seldom attended school and rarely went to class. Ward went on to obtain his GED and play basketball at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Junior College.

Ward transferred to Sandburg for his sophomore season and graduated in 2000 with an associate in arts. He then signed a basketball scholarship to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After completing his collegiate career, Ward played professionally in Europe, Canada, Asia and Africa.

Once his playing career was over, Ward obtained his master’s in clinical mental health counseling from Concordia University Chicago. He’s currently the director of operations and clinical oversight for a psychiatric residential treatment facility for Thompson Child and Family Focus in Charlotte, N.C., and owns his own counseling group practice. Previously, Ward worked as a dean of discipline at Farragut Career Academy High School, as a counselor and as director for the McLeod Addictive Disease Center.

“My life has been shaped through community college and my experience at Sandburg in many ways. Community college became a gateway to both academic, professional and personal growth,” Ward said. “Community college exposed me to a diverse range of people, perspectives and experiences, broadening my understanding of the world while challenging me academically and nurturing my intellectual curiosity. I can remember having to pass an additional 13 credit hours in the summer of 2000 to graduate. Without this, I would not have been able to sign an athletic scholarship. Community college is what fueled my ambition and resilience, propelling me to pursue my dreams. In essence, my journey through community college and Carl Sandburg College was a defining chapter in my life. Upon leaving Sandburg, I was prepared to navigate future academic challenges with both confidence and determination."



Dr. Stephanie Saey '15

2024 Pacesetter Award

It’s fitting to name Dr. Stephanie Saey the Pacesetter Award recipient, as she is an avid runner with a long list of personal and professional achievements.

At age 11, Saey was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. Her struggle led her to unenroll from college after her first semester. She spent a year in residential treatment, working diligently to regain her life. In 2014, she enrolled at Sandburg, and graduated a year later.

After graduating from Sandburg, Saey earned her bachelor’s in biochemistry and biopsychology from Monmouth College. She then began her medical education at the University of Iowa. In 2023, Saey graduated with distinction in both teaching and research along with membership in two prestigious medical honor societies, Alpha Omega Alpha and Gold Humanism. She’s since entered a residency program in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

In her community, Saey has extensive volunteer experience, from hosting STEM activities that help educate youth to supporting other students in medical school. She served as co-president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness on Campus, was a neurology clerkship student reviewer, organized a monthly support group of Carver College of Medicine students and was an ambassador leader for prospective medical students.

“Oftentimes in medicine, community college students are underrepresented vs. ‘traditional’ applicants who have connections through larger universities and research experiences,” Saey said. “Community colleges may not offer the same preparation for medical school, but Sandburg did strengthen my community ties, reinforced my focus on humanity in medicine and provided me with a personal sense of resilience and gratitude by lessening my financial burden and allowing the prioritization of personal/family life for the initial steps of a long career.”

Saey finished her prerequisite courses at Sandburg debt-free and hopes to fund a scholarship for students who follow a path like hers. She wants to expand the pipeline of community college-to-medical school students to increase diversity among medical providers and train physicians who address health disparities.

“Attending a community college is not a limitation to pursuing a graduate degree,” Saey said. “My life was affected financially and culturally in a positive way that allows me to be a more well-rounded physician. All community college students should feel they have the same opportunity.”


Prior Alumni Award Recipients

Carl Sandburg College Distinguished Alumni Award

2023 - Anya Pshenychny '10

2022 - Stacy Bainter '00

2021 - Tina Burgland Veal ‘92

2020 - Kiley Quinn ‘99

2019 – Darci Heap ‘08

2018 - Craig Willis ‘90

2017 - Dr. Karmen Hopkins ‘00

2016 - Robert Mason ‘72

2015 - Dr. Judy Glaser ‘75

2014 - Judge Thomas Keith ‘87

2013 - Jim Purlee ‘70

2012 - Susan Swartwout ‘87

2011 - Cynthia Fitch ‘98

2010 - Cynthia Kiffer '70

2009 - Joshua D. Gibb ‘00

2008 - Brenda Stewart Clevidence ‘89

2007 - Bonnie Smith-Skripps '71

2006 - Sandra Gavin ‘95

2005 - Tara Miller ‘97

2004 - Dave Burns ‘88

2003 - Dr. Lori Sundberg ’77, ‘15

2002 - Dr. Christine Baumgardner ‘88

2001 - Dr. Lannie Cation ‘85

2000 - Sharon Graham ‘91

1999 - Linda Foster ‘85

1998 - Victor Miller '83

1997 - Betty Thal

1996 - Rose Stockman ‘76

1995 - Larry Schwartz '68

1994 - Daniel Baker ‘75

1993 - Ann Murdock ‘83

1992 - Jan Lundeen ‘86

1991 - No award given

1990 - Louis Gamage '86 & Mary Louderman '86

1989 - Janice Champion '77

1988 - Donna Medina ‘78

1987 - Gerald Strom Jr. '74

1986 - John Delawder III '71

1985 - Russell Orwig ‘82

1984 - Daniel Bailey

1983 - Jerry Latherow '71

1982 - F. Dale Cozad '69

1981 - Maren Kay Carlson '78

1980 - Daniel Baker '75

1979 - William Campbell '70

Carl Sandburg College Pacesetter Award

2023 - Angel Peterson '16

2022 - Dakota Hicks '17

2021 - Cassandra Sherwin ‘14

2020 - Becca Schwieter ‘14

2019 – Kassie Karssen-Schoon ‘13

2018 - Krista Winters ‘06

2017 - Matthew Wolford ‘08

2016 - Elvith Santoyo-McNaught ‘10

2015 - Travis Nesby ‘03

2014 - Trevor Davies ‘06

2013 - Naomi Wai ‘01

2012 - Ashley Swick ‘05


2023 Alumni Award Recipients



2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

From an early age, it was evident Anya Pshenychny had a passion for pursuing her ambitions, a determination to succeed and a positive outlook to make her dreams a reality. Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, Pshenychny and her family came to the United States in 1994. At age 15, Pshenychny began work in the food service industry to support herself. She later worked more than 40 hours a week while completing her studies at Carl Sandburg College. In 2010, she graduated form Sandburg with an associate in applied science in marketing/mid-management with no student debt. 

After graduating from Sandburg, Pshenychny earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing communication from Columbia College in Chicago. Pshenychny has been employed with Paramount since 2012 in various roles, currently as a Senior Account Executive. During her employment, she has continuously met or surpassed sales goals that included exceeding the 2020 sales quota by 400% in just nine months during a challenging marketplace.

Last November, she returned to the Carl Sandburg College campus for an in-residence program where she connected with current students and participated in a panel discussion. She has volunteered time assisting at animal shelters and additional humanitarian organizations. In 2022, Pshenychny was named a Chicago Advertising Federation Rising Star Recipient, which honors the difference makers propelling the communication industry forward.

“My life has been shaped by a community college education by providing me the opportunity to transfer to a four-year college debt free. I worked 40-plus hours a week as a waitress while completing my studies at Carl Sandburg College. The affordability and flexibility at Sandburg allowed me to have the opportunity of balance and financial security, which was important to me when I was selecting a school. I was initially interested in nursing, then dental hygiene, but ultimately decided on marketing/mid-management. Having the flexibility to explore these options made it much easier for me to find what I was most passionate about while pursuing my education. Sandburg prepared me with general education courses (math, science and English) and courses more aligned with marketing and business (economics, marketing, management), giving me a well-rounded education. Sandburg was a great foundation for general education courses before I transferred over to Columbia College Chicago. By focusing on marketing/mid-management, I was able to get my credits transferred and finish my BA at Columbia in two years. Today, I regularly mentor young professionals and college students interested in the media industry and with younger students, I emphasize the value and impact my experience at Carl Sandburg provided me.” 



2023 Pacesetter Award Recipient 

As a Carl Sandburg College student, Angel Peterson fell in love with education and the process of learning. She continues to carry that same passion in to her own classroom as a teacher striving to push students to new academic heights.

After graduating from Sandburg in 2016 with an associate degree, Peterson transferred and earned her bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Northern Iowa. Today, she is a third-grade teacher at Silas Willard Elementary in Galesburg. She’s also working to complete her master’s in education in curriculum and instruction at Western Illinois University with an anticipated December 2023 completion date.

Along with her time devoted to teaching, Peterson serves on various school committees including Social Emotional Learning, Curriculum Leaders and the Family Event Planning. In late 2022, Peterson was one of 16 selected nationwide to participate in the highly competitive and prestigious Fulbright-Hays Program that gave her the opportunity to travel to the Philippines for a one-month dimmers culture and educational experience.

In her community, Peterson serves as president of the local Prairie Players Civic Theatre. She has tremendous compassion for all and has opened her own home as a foster parent to children in need of a loving home. She has cared for youth ranging in ages 3-16, children with limited English proficiency and children working through traumatic situations.

“Originally, I did not intend to do more than the minimum at Sandburg to get on with my college and career life. However, a friend pointed out my dislike for the college stemmed from this attitude. She challenged me to join one thing just to see what would happen. This one thing snowballed into many opportunities including: Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, TRIO Support Services, Women of Character, student ambassadors and work study programs. The community I was building also translated into the classroom. While I knew I wanted to be a teacher due to my love of working with children, it was not until Sandburg that I fell in love with education and the process of learning. Most distinctly, it was my class led by Kylie Price, assistant professor of developmental English, that influenced my trajectory. She inspired me to consider a world where I took myself seriously through pursuing higher degrees, prestigious programs and lofty career goals. I also took advantage of the travel opportunities available. I enrolled in classes that paired with field research experiences in New York, China, and Europe. Sandburg got me my start in traveling the world! Today, I am a third-grade elementary teacher working to complete my first master’s degree. I owe a great deal of appreciation to Sandburg who invested in me and provided the opportunities to truly find who I am as a person.”