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Spring Hill College Magazine

Alumni Spotlights

Sonia Burke ’01

Sonia Burke ’01 was a superstar on the basketball court during her time at Spring Hill College, and now she is taking her talents to the next level as the assistant women’s basketball coach at Fordham University, a fellow Jesuit institution in New York, NY.

Sonie Burke '01 Alumni Spotlight
Sonie Burke '01 Alumni Spotlight

While at Spring Hill College, Coach Burke led the Badgers to the Gulf Coast Conference championship and the NAIA tournament. After graduating with a degree in management, she continued to embrace the Jesuit tradition of magis, always seeking (and achieving!) a higher goal. She lead a record-setting, conference championship program at Manhattan College where she served in various roles for 13 seasons before she was offered the position at Fordham University. Fordham’s head coach Stephanie Gaitley spoke highly of Coach Burke, saying “She offers a great knowledge of the game and brings a wealth of experience. She is a kind and caring person who will be a great addition to the program and the Fordham community.”

Angele Davis ’90

Meet Angele Davis, President of the Spring Hill College National Alumni Association Board (NAAB) and member of the College’s Board of Trustees. A graduate of the Class of 1990, she is a dedicated public servant, a leader in her community and mom to a seven-year old.

Angele Davis Alumni Spotlight
Angele Davis Alumni Spotlight

Davis attended Spring Hill on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. She credits her educational and spiritual journey at Spring Hill College with providing an extraordinary foundation for what would later become a lifelong commitment of service to others.

After graduation, Davis earned a Master of Business Administration at Louisiana State University and went on to serve as Louisiana’s Commissioner of Administration, Chief Financial Officer to the Governor and Chief Administrative Officer for the State. She entered the private sector when she founded The Davis Kelley Group, where she serves as the President and CEO, leading the firm’s operations and working with clients to solve complex strategic and operational problems.

“Spring Hill College gave me the opportunity to become a leader and serve others while pursuing my education. My time on The Hill helped me to build upon and nurture my Catholic faith and continued to strengthen my relationship with God. The faculty gave me the knowledge and experience to succeed professionally — to become a responsible leader in service to others — this foundation prepared me well for my career in public service,”
Davis said.

Perhaps the greatest example of Davis’ characteristic leadership in service to others is her work with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, a journey that began when she and her husband adopted their son through the organization seven years ago. She fell in love with Catholic Charities’ mission to build families through adoption and worked to give back by expanding Sanctuary for Life, a haven for pregnant, unmarried women living on the streets. With Davis’ help, the organization doubled their capacity to care for these women in a home that keeps them and their unborn babies safe while providing medical care, social services and counseling.

When floods devastated southeast Louisiana last year, Davis was serving as chair of the Catholic Charities Board. Hundreds of thousands of families’ homes were flooded and many lost everything. Davis was instrumental in the disaster recovery efforts as Catholic Charities responded by coordinating volunteers and warehouse spaces, accepting and distributing donations and providing disaster case management services to those in need. She also rolled up her sleeves to gut houses and help her community recover from overwhelming loss.

Davis’ dedication to her community – both professionally and privately – is an example of what happens on The Hill each day. She said, “For me, Spring Hill College was an excellent choice for my spiritual and academic growth and for my career success. Hopefully, it will become a family tradition!”

Jennifer Scalici ’99

Jennifer Scalici, MD, graduated from Spring Hill College in 1999 with a degree in Chemistry and, without realizing it at the time, she absorbed the Jesuit educational experience. Over the years, this has impacted her perspective and helped guide her path toward medicine and cancer research.

Jennifer Scalici Alumni Spotlight
Jennifer Scalici Alumni Spotlight

“Looking back, I can clearly see the Jesuit influence specific to SHC every step of the way, and it is intimately woven into the fabric of who I am,” Scalici said. “My journey to this point has been absolutely what I needed it to be.”

This journey has gotten her where she is today: with a career in academic medicine as a Physician-Scientist, a practicing Gynecologic Oncology Physician, Associate Professor of Clinical Oncology at the University of South Alabama Mitchell Cancer Institute (USA MCI) and Director of USA MCI’s Basic/Translational Gynecologic Oncology Research.

While at Spring Hill, she questioned and re-examined her dedication to medicine. This time confirmed her desire to work in medicine and helped her prepare for her medical education journey.

“Spring Hill College taught me discernment. It taught me to be quiet. It taught me to listen. It taught me to analyze and approach problems critically, candidly and openly as they are opportunities to learn,” she said. “The rest I give to the people who supported me in the process.”

She attended medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, trained at Northwestern University in Chicago and completed fellowship training at the University of Virginia. She then interviewed at USA MCI at the encouragement of a fellow Badger.

Outside of treating patients and teaching, Scalici is involved in national societies for gynecologic oncology and cancer research and sits on a committee that evaluates new cancer prevention ideas and methods. Most recently, her team received a grant through the Department of Defense research program to test an ovarian cancer prevention therapy that was developed at USA MCI. Her team is also working to understand the racial disparity in cancer treatment outcomes.

Scalici has continued her relationship with Spring Hill College as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2013. “My hope from my time on the Board is to preserve and maybe even enhance the transformational experience that SHC provides students,” she said.

She also wants to challenge other alumni to reflect on their own Spring Hill experiences. “Without the tools that SHC provided me, I don’t think that I would have the same sense of peace and fulfillment that I am doing what I am meant to be doing,” she said.

Gabrielle Smith ’17

Gabrielle Smith ’17 was recently hired to teach Spanish and theology at St. Michael’s Catholic High School in Fairhope, Alabama. She graduated with two degrees from Spring Hill College, one in theology, the other in Hispanic studies, and was honored as the top student in both majors.

Gabrielle Smith '17 Alumni Spotlight
Gabrielle Smith '17 Alumni Spotlight

Asked about how Spring Hill College prepared her for her new roles, Gabrielle said: “My four years at Spring Hill were all about making roots. Much like the incredible above ground root systems of the trees that line the golf course of the college’s Dauphin Street entrance, my education has taught me that the roots of the tree are the most essential part: providing nutrients, sturdy support, and a humble anchor for the beautiful fruit and foliage that the tree will eventually bear. Spring Hill taught me to dig deep, to find Christ hidden within all things good, true, and beautiful, and to bear fruit for the world in the name of God! As I transition from student to teacher, I am filled with profound gratitude for the professors, advisors, and members of the Society of Jesus who helped me to plant deep roots both academically and spiritually. My position at St. Michael teaching Spanish and Theology has been an unforeseen gift and blessing to me, and I am thrilled to see the fruits of my time at Spring Hill come to life in the classroom. AMDG, and please pray for my students and me!”

Dana Wilder ’17

Spring Hill College alumni change the world around them everywhere they go. From serving underrepresented populations in local communities to greeting refugees on the shores of Italy, Badgers are making a global impact by fulfilling the mission of Spring Hill College. Dana Wilder ’17 is one such alumna — a recent graduate who assisted refugees landing in Brindisi, Italy, through an internship with the Spring Hill College Italy Center.

Dana Wilder Alumni Spotlight
Dana Wilder Alumni Spotlight

While many college seniors struggle with what to do after their final walk down the Avenue of the Oaks, Wilder departed The Hill with a plan for how to make a difference in the world.

Wilder unearthed a calling while studying abroad at the SHC Italy Center during her junior year of college. She explains, “The SHC Italy Center removed the glazed lens and showed us the raw world, both good and bad, beautiful and ugly. That set the spark within me. I saw that I could make a difference through service.” When the Italy Center directors established an internship program, they knew Wilder would be a great fit to begin this unique and revolutionary program upon her graduation. After prayerful consideration, she said “yes.”

Throughout the internship, Wilder assisted local activists at the Caritas community, an international Catholic agency that serves the poor and promotes charity throughout the world. There, she helped provide daily meals and various forms of assistance to migrants and low-income Italians. She spent the rest of her time with CARA, an identification center for immigrants seeking to stay in Italy or obtain political refugee status. These immigrants arrive without documents and Wilder, along with a team of psychologists, interpreters, cultural mediators, language teachers and legal facilitators, helped to meet their needs upon their entrance to Europe.

Wilder’s time on the frontlines was filled with the learning experiences that come from comforting a child whose brother did not make it through the long journey at sea; seeing young men with the skin on their legs peeling from the severe burns incurred while their boat was in flames; and watching people in town look upon these men, women and children as if they were not human. She saw personhood in its purest, rawest forms, and her hope is that people everywhere will begin to look for it too — to treat others with respect, regardless of circumstance.

Wilder believes that the most natural way to understand the refugee crisis is through human connection and experience. She said that, though being able to serve others doesn’t require a college degree or specific skills, she is grateful to Spring Hill College’s commitment to education and the Jesuit tradition of learning not what to think, but how to think. “By staying educated,” she explained, “we can better serve others.”

Wilder’s experiences propel her forward as she discerns her future. She remembers standing at the Brindisi port, watching with tears in her eyes as 402 migrants arrived and descended from the boat. She remarked, “These are moments that overwhelm me with the feeling of God looking down on me, reminding me that I am on the correct path of doing His will. I am constantly seeking more moments like this.”

For more insight into Wilder’s summer internship with the SHC Italy Center, you can read her blog at www.thechameleontale.com or follow along on Instagram @thechameleontale.

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