Feature Article

Campus supporters to the rescue of this Michigan City grad student

Asst. Vice Chancellor for Advancement/University Relations

When Alex B. Criswell left for campus early last Oct. 31 from his Michigan City home, he had had no idea the harrowing trick that was in store for him.

Likewise, little could he imagine the heartfelt, life-inspiring treat that subsequently embraced and transformed his life.

Alex Criswell
Alex Criswell

Criswell, 26, is a graduate student pursuing a double degree in communication and instructional technology & design. He also holds a hospitality and tourism management baccalaureate degree from our campus, where he works in the Office of Instructional Technology as a graduate assistant.

Bedroom fire destroys possessions

Soon after he arrived at his campus job that ill-fated morning of Oct. 31, his mother phoned him with the poignant message that his bedroom had caught fire. Though no one was injured, the fire—electrical in nature—destroyed virtually all of his possessions.

Clothes, computer, textbooks and . . .

“When I drove back home that morning,” he said, “one of the first things I recalled seeing was the burned remains of my graduate research blowing all over the front yard. It was difficult encompassing the thought that everything I owned and had worked to obtain was gone.”

He considered dropping out

He said he considered dropping out of school, but his Purdue Calumet support team of faculty, staff members and classmates  would not hear of it.

“(Prof.) Cathy Gillotti in our communication department told me I was too good a student and to hang in there,” he said. “Another professor told me not to worry, that we’d work it out. To deal with some emotional anxiety issues, I visited our Counseling Center on campus. Colleagues and classmates were there for me and got me to talk instead of keeping things bottled inside.

“I was consistently told to remain focused, which was all the encouragement I really needed.”

Clothes, food, funding & more

His supporters also provided him clothes, food, funding and more encouragement. He responded by earning grades of “A” and “A-“  in the two fall classes he initially planned to drop.

A challenging spring semester of three courses got off to a rocky start when he injured his back in a car accident. Nonetheless, he has continued persisting and eagerly looks forward to a post-graduate career in which he says he hopes to combine knowledge from all of his degree fields—as a creator of distance training materials for the restaurant industry.

Lengthy list of supporters

But his ambition, he believes, would be a dead dream were it not for a lengthy list of campus supporters, including  Professors Theresa Carilli, Lynda Willer and Gillotti in the Department of Communication & Creative Arts; Emily Hixon, Janet Buckenmeyer and Anastasia Trekles in the School of Education; former advisor Sue Finke and Pitparnee Stompor in Hospitality and Tourism Management; and Heather Zamojski, Ningchun Han and Katherine Mysliwiec from the Office of  Instructional Technology.

“I was reading the Purdue Calumet strategic  plan on the (university) web site and was struck by one of the points that faculty are committed to helping students succeed,” he said. “Well, I can tell you that they were committed to my success. I’m really grateful; I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Purdue Calumet.”