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Treviño stands with peers after winning the WIU-QC Student of the Year award.
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Kaple stands with her children, who were just three and seven years old at the time of her graduation.
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Fernandez stands with student emissary Amber Dicosola after receiving her degree.
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WIU-QC 10th Anniversary: Impressive Alumni, Impactful Stories

September 29, 2022

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Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of stories about the celebration of the 10th anniversary of WIU's Riverfront Campus. We will be highlighting other historical aspects, as well as students and community partners from the Quad Cities' community.

MOLINE, IL – Western Illinois University alumni have been making their mark on the world since 1899. WIU-Quad Cities has celebrated countless alumni and their achievements, which has left a lasting impression on the campus, and the Quad Cities community.

The WIU-QC community has an array of individuals with compelling stories, but we want to share just a few with you. The purpose of this series is to showcase alumni who were the first on the WIU-QC Riverfront campus and to share how their experiences impacted the community and shaped their lives.

Mariela Treviño ‘14 A Life of Dedication and Determination

Mariela Treviño, Bachelor of Business in Accountancy (BBA) ‘14 and Masters of Science in Applied Statistics and Decision Analytics (ASDA) '20 graduate, has lived a life of dedication and determination. After becoming a teen mom her senior year of high school, Treviño was determined to complete her degree for a better life for her children and that is exactly what she did.

"I completed my bachelor's degree in 2014, at WIU-QC and decided to come back for my master's degree in 2017," said Treviño. "The campus was not only beautiful, but offered the best opportunity for me to finish college while I raised my children, worked and got involved."

Treviño remains connected with a few individuals that impacted her college experience significantly.

"Curtis Williams, director of student services and Carmen Sandoval really impacted me in a meaningful way. I always knew I could count on them to advise me to be successful through student organization events and meetings here at WIU," said Treviño, "I still use their advice to this day. I would not be the community leader I am today without them."

Treviño was determined to remain active on campus and experience new things. In 2012, she became the president of the Association of Latin American Students and won the WIU-QC Student of the Year award. In 2013, she studied abroad through WIU's International Business class in London, England and Paris, France. In 2014, Treviño ended her educational undergrad career as the president of the WIU-QC Society of Accountants.

Treviño believes being involved on campus has taught her a lot about business, diversity, managing, budgeting, fundraising, event planning and building relationships and partnerships.

"I was able to implement what I learned at WIU to serve on the Board for LULAC Moline, LULAC Illinois, Floreciente Association, VIVA Quad Cities and the Illinois Migrant Council," said Treviño.

When asked what was one piece of advice she would give a WIU student, Treviño responded with "join a club, be passionate about it and have fun making connections."

"The connections I made in college, through student organizations have provided me with life-long friendships and networks. Being involved in college led me to pursue my passion in seeking opportunities to serve my community through the non-profit sector," said Treviño, "Now I work as a financial director for a non-profit agency and I am an avid community volunteer."

Treviño believes her determination and dedication to her children and her community has led her to a successful career and a life full of opportunities.

"When I was a little girl, I won a scholarship to attend WIU's Girls Plus Math Camp. I knew I wanted to pursue higher education and mathematics at WIU ever since then, no matter what, even after becoming a young mom. That's dedication."

Elaine Kaple ‘15 The Power of Hope and Higher Education

Elaine Kaple is a ‘15 graduate with a M.S.Ed. in Educational and Interdisciplinary Studies. She moved to Moline fifteen years ago and currently lives in the city with her husband and two children. Kaple works as an Administrative Aide in the Vice President's Office of Western Illinois University-Quad Cities. She often remembers her time as a Leatherneck and reflects on the student life balance and a professor that changed her way of thinking about research and education.

"As a graduate student, I had many hopes for the future including continuing my education, seeking opportunities for the future and ultimately elevating the quality of life for my family. At the time, I was in the midst of the demanding early years of child-rearing and experiencing financial hardship. It was a challenge to balance it all, but I chose WIU-QC specifically because I knew this campus would enable me to achieve the work/parenting/school balance that I needed, " said Kaple.

During her graduate studies, Kaple had several classes with a professor that taught her many valuable skills and lessons.

"Andrea Hyde became a valuable mentor and impressed upon me the importance of academic rigor in my research and writing. She opened the door for me to explore qualitative research, specifically how I could intersect my life as a mother, my identity as an artist and an educational researcher. I also picked up many valuable lessons on mindfulness, which I continue to use everyday," said Kaple.

Kaple reflects on how WIU has impacted her career.

"WIU reminded me how much I love higher education and how important it is to have local, high quality public education options available," said Kaple. "I am deeply invested in learning all I can about how to implement best practices for students, staff and faculty. I'm inspired to work towards the excellence of both WIU as an institution and the Quad Cities as my home community."

Looking back at a photo from her graduation day sums up the reward of pursuing her graduate degree. The image includes Kaple in her graduation robes surrounded by her children, who were just three and seven years old at the time.

"At this point I had worked so hard and sacrificed a lot of time away from my family for this degree to happen," said Kaple. "I didn't have the chance to walk across the stage for my undergraduate degree, so I felt at this moment, I was walking for both of my degrees. I'm glad our family has the memories from that day and remember that the hard work was worth it!"

When asked what advice she would give a current or future WIU graduate, Kaple emphasized job opportunities and making connections.

"One piece of advice I would give is to pursue a graduate assistantship if possible. I had valuable experience while working closely with faculty, all while easing the financial burden of school," said Kaple. "Also, there is no time like the present. If you are thinking about going back to school, go for it. I promise it will expand your life in so many ways, not only professionally but also socially."

Kaple values the relationships and experiences she had at WIU and hopes to inspire others through kindness and compassion to seek opportunities and not be afraid to face adversity head-on.

Claire Chouinard-Fernandez ‘16 Local Pride and Navigating Life

Claire Chouinard-Fernandez, Business Management (BBM) ‘16 graduate, lives an accomplished life. Born and raised in the Quad Cities, Fernandez feels the cards were set for her to attend WIU.

"I attended WIU-QC because it was my home community and offered the best scholarship opportunities to keep me out of debt," said Fernandez. "With the new campus, I was able to start a four-year program instead of transferring from a two year community college. The small class sizes allowed me more one-on-one interaction with faculty and a greater sense of community."

Looking back 10 years, Fernandez was still figuring out what opportunities were best for her life and she was pretty set on pursuing business.

"I was torn between wanting to be in the corporate world or wanting to be an event/wedding planner. I honestly wasn't expecting to move to Texas and be with the company I am currently with, but I believe I am where I am supposed to be," said Fenandez.

During her time at WIU, Fernandez was a student worker for Student Services and spent a lot of time with Director of Student Services Curtis Williams and Director of the Career Center and Student Engagement Audrey Adamson.

"I was so lucky to have them as mentors who helped me navigate college and my future plans following graduation. Not to mention, they are two of the kindest people I have ever met," said Fernandez.

Reflecting on memories from her time on the newly built campus, Fernandez remembers a specific spot that brought her a lot of joy.

"Sitting by the windows that look out to the beautiful view in the Riverfront Atrium was always my favorite place to study and relax between classes. You really cannot beat those views of the river," said Fernandez.

The small class sizes on campus allowed Fernandez to build relationships with faculty and led to more personalized letters of recommendation for her as she was preparing to graduate.

"I was fortunate to get the experience I did," said Fernandez. "I was able to meet with local businesses at the WIU Career Fairs without feeling like I wasn't being seen. I was able to make my first impression with Von Maur at a fair and I wouldn't be where I am today without making that connection."

A big motivational factor for Fernadez was serving as vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA) and planning events on campus.

"In SGA we always strived to host events that allow students and their friends and families to connect and have fun. It was rewarding to see how much everyone enjoyed themselves and how successful the events were," said Fernandez.

When asked what piece of advice she would give a current or future WIU student, Fernandez chose the act of opportunity.

"Get involved - Join a student organization, talk to your professors and the WIU staff regularly and get to know your classmates. It's always good to build strong connections," said Fernandez.

Fernandez values the idea of personal experience and believes she was provided many opportunities for growth on the Riverfront Campus.

"WIU allowed me with a greater sense of community and pushed me to seek avenues I didn't know were available to me," she said.

For more information about the WIU-Quad Cities Riverfront campus, visit

Posted By: Lexi Yoggerst (
Office of University Communications & Marketing