Illinois Tech Class of 2017

Boldly Into the Future

By Marcia Faye

Commencement speaker Geraldine Richmond, Presidential Chair in Science and professor of chemistry at the University of Oregon, gave five pieces of advice to the students who graduated in Illinois Tech’s 148th Commencement Exercise on May 13: Be willing to take risks. Embrace diversity in your life and work. Up your game. Remember that no one makes it alone in this world. Have the courage of your convictions. Read about six achievers from the Class of 2017 who have already taken Richmond's words to heart:

Winner of a 2017 Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award

Maya Al-Khouja

Name Maya Al-Khouja

College/Degree Lewis College of Human Sciences/B.S. in Psychology

Hometown Chicago

Memorable Illinois Tech experience I had the privilege of having Dr. Patrick Corrigan as my mentor while studying at IIT. During that time, I gained valuable research experience that most students aren’t expected to learn until graduate school. I’ve contributed to many studies that have been published and presented at conferences. My favorite project has to be creating and testing the Honest, Open, Proud (HOP) on College Campuses program. HOP is a peer-led program that aims to replace the stigma of mental illness with beliefs of recovery, empowerment, and hope. Participants consider costs and benefits of disclosing their mental illness, learn strategies for disclosing relatively safely, and learn how to tell their stories in a way that best represents their personal goals.

Fun fact I lead a Chicago-based book club called Books & Brunch. We now have 50 members and a long wait list!


  • First-place winner of Illinois Tech’s 2015 Psychology Undergraduate Research Day
  • Student Research Award for participant support
  • 2017 Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award for academic achievements and leadership

Assistant Professor of Naval Science

Alexander White

Name Alexander White

College/Degree Stuart School of Business/M.B.A. with a Concentration in Strategy and Leadership

Hometown Newport, Rhode Island

Military background I started my Navy career after commissioning through Boston University NROTC in 2010. On my first ship, the dock-landing ship USS Whidbey Island, I deployed in support of U.S. interests in Libya and counterpiracy in the Gulf of Aden, and conducted many bilateral training exercises with our regional partners. I then moved to Japan to serve aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam, where we conducted several patrols in the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan, and trained with our regional partners and treaty allies. I’ve been an NROTC instructor at Illinois Tech since fall 2014.

With my life as a book, the name of the chapter that begins the day after Commencement “Rediscovering Work-Life Balance”

Future societal contribution I’d like to develop an organization that uses mentorship and community outreach to reduce recidivism, and open up new opportunities and provide stability for those at risk.

What I would do with a $1 million graduation gift I’d dump it into an S&P 500 index fund and let it grow!

Next steps I will be coordinating summer training for Illinois Tech’s NROTC midshipmen and turning over with my relief, who arrives in August. In September I’ll begin a year-long career intermission from the Navy to complete a Master of Arts in International Relations through the University of Chicago Committee on International Relations.

Children’s Book Author and Illustrator

Cindy Xie

Name Cindy Xie

College/Degrees School of Applied Technology/Bachelor of Information Technology and Management and Master of Information Technology and Management

Hometown Chicago

Why I came to Illinois Tech I was tired of hearing people talk about my limitations. I graduated with a bachelor’s in English and creative writing from University of Iowa and kept being forced into one of three possible boxes: writer, teacher, or journalist. I wanted to have unlimited choices of what I could be in the future, so I decided to supplement my skills with an IT background. 

Cool personal project I wrote a children’s book entitled Daniel the Daring and His Traveling Circus. I didn’t have a specific inspiration behind it; my imagination was my inspiration, I guess. I do have a second book in the works and just have to finalize some illustrations. It’ll be entitled The Tall & Twisted Tale, about a gender-bending knight who doesn’t fulfill the gender roles we normally see portrayed in children’s books.

How college changed me Going back to school the second time around made me appreciate how valuable (both literally and figuratively) my education is. I’ve grown a lot since I started school at Illinois Tech and challenged myself to the fullest.

Illinois Tech honors

  • Dean’s List recipient every semester
  • Participant in the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation grant-funded Ethics Code Collection Redesign Project
  • Lewis College of Human Sciences Edwin H. Lewis Prize for Nonfiction—First Place (2015) and Second Place (2016)
  • Graduating summa cum laude and with the 2017 Outstanding ITM Student Award

Genentech Research Associate

Veronica Ibarra

Name Veronica Ibarra

College/Degrees Armour College of Engineering/B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and Master of Chemical Engineering

Hometown Chicago

Memorable Illinois Tech experience Being able to be part of Eric Brey’s research lab at Illinois Tech defined a lot of my future plans and goals since I was able to expose myself to different project collaborations and develop many laboratory and project-planning skills. I also had the opportunity to travel to different cities in the U.S. and abroad to present my research in oral and poster presentations, which made my years at Illinois Tech more rewarding. I could share what I was contributing and could collaborate with people from even outside the U.S. All of the experiences I obtained during this time have been extremely useful to where I am working now. 

My inspiration My family motivates me to continue working for my dreams and looking for new opportunities since I know they want the best for me and they are always supporting me. I also find a lot of motivation in God because I know that he has a plan for my life.

What I would do with a $1 million graduation gift First, I’d take a very long vacation and travel. Then, I would invest the money in research and/or help children in need.

Commencement message Always be thankful to the people who help you, enjoy time with your loved ones, and try to get a lesson from every situation that life puts your way.

Member of Top U.S. Team and Among Top Four Worldwide in the 2017 Ian Fletcher International Insolvency Law Moot Competition

Jeffrey Michalik

Name Jeffrey Michalik

College/Degree Chicago-Kent College of Law/Juris Doctor

Hometown Oak Forest, Illinois

Why I came to Illinois Tech Chicago-Kent provided me with a better opportunity to begin my life and my legal career in Chicago than any other school.

Honors in addition to moot win During my time at Chicago-Kent, I received Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction awards for Legal Writing 1, Property, and Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. I was inducted to the Bar and Gavel Society and was also an Honors Scholar.

My inspiration My parents. My dad is a lawyer and my mom is a dentist. Both worked very hard to succeed in their careers but still had time and energy to focus on raising a family. They’re incredible.

With my life as a book, the name of the chapter that begins the day after Commencement “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained”

Member of Top U.S. Team and Among Top Four Worldwide in the 2017 Ian Fletcher International Insolvency Law Moot Competition

Maxwell Eichenberger

Name: Maxwell Eichenberger

College/Degree Chicago-Kent College of Law/Juris Doctor

Hometowns Lakeville, Minnesota, by way of Fargo, North Dakota

How college changed me Now I actually keep a running to-do list. Crossing off items is one of the most gratifying feelings. 

What I would do with a $1 million graduation gift Put it into Bitcoin!

Summer plans This summer I get to go to my happy place: Crane Lake. A quiet oasis on the border of Minnesota and Canada, Crane Lake has some of the best walleye fishing around. If the fish are not biting, there are always friends, family, and beers to keep me busy! After taking the bar exam in late July, I will head to Germany with my family to drive fast and kick back before the real world comes calling. 

Next steps I am going into the litigation department at Reed Smith in Chicago and plan to work with the data privacy team. I know that this group will be a great fit for me and allow me to dive into the world of high-stakes data-focused litigation. This area of law is growing and changing rapidly, and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and becoming part of that transformation.