Stacy Jacobson Engebretson, Ph.D. ’05 just might be a dog’s best friend. This resident of Kalamazoo, Michigan, is the Director of Canine Enrichment and Behavior at the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) of Southwest Michigan. Her journey to this career is an interesting one.
After graduating from Mercy, Stacy began her undergraduate studies at South Dakota State University. She loved Psychology and her professors encouraged her to apply to graduate school. In 2009 she was accepted to Western Michigan University's Applied Behavior Analysis Program and began studying in the Behavioral Psychopharmacology Lab.
“While working on my master's degree, I became heavily involved in teaching the Applied Animal Behavior Analysis Practicum. In short, it is an undergraduate course that uses the principles of behavior analysis to train dogs at local animal shelters. I was enthralled and began devouring as much information as I could that would benefit the shelter dogs. I sat for my certified pet dog training exam and became a CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed).”
Stacy finished her master’s and began working on a doctorate. During her doctoral research phase, her interest shifted to applied canine behavior. She wanted to understand how stressful environments, like animal shelters, were impacting animals physiologically. Working with her advisor, Stacy began investigating the effectiveness of music as an enrichment tool for lowering both physiological and behavioral indicators of stress in shelter dogs. She earned her Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis in 2018 and shortly thereafter started working at her current job.
“At the SPCA, I oversee the canine enrichment program and develop behavior modification programs for dogs that are exhibiting concerning behaviors or need a little extra work before they are available for adoption.”
She also holds private training sessions for owners dealing with issues typically not addressed in an obedience class.
Stacy feels that Mercy was instrumental in helping her achieve her personal and career goals: “Mercy introduced me to critical thinking and how other published works support your topic. I knew how to write research papers before going to college, which helped me immensely towards my dissertation.”
The mother of two also uses her experiences at Mercy to motivate her to exercise: “I was involved in cross country and soccer while at Mercy. Whenever I need motivation to exercise, I remind myself of the person that would wake up early and attend conditioning, weightlifting, extra practices and remind myself that I am still capable of that dedication.”
Stacy continues to have connections with her classmates and both of her sisters Angela Jacobson Weiss ’99 and Rebecca Jacobson ’02 attended Mercy.
“Some of my best memories are from Mercy and my friends and I have a list of ‘remember when’ experiences that my classmates that still make us laugh. I still have the letters I received on my senior retreat and treasure them. All the teachers were so accepting and encouraging.”
Stacy also found that she grew in her faith, and she feels the impact of that today: “Teachers encouraged us to ask questions, find answers and not be satisfied with shrugging and saying, ‘that’s just what Catholics do.’ Faith transitioned from storytelling, nativity plays and church on Sunday to something that truly belonged to me. I learned that social justice is not an intellectual debate, but a responsibility to fight for peace.”
Stacy and her family have enjoyed living in Michigan for the past 10 years because of the variety of things they can do there. She describes the state as both agricultural and nautical, and she loves discovering new things every day.
For this alumna, Mercy has been an anchor as she navigates her life.
For Barbara A. Young ’57, her journey to Mercy was just that, a journey. For two years, she took the bus from her home near St. Benedict the Moor Parish in North Omaha to St. John’s on Creighton University’s campus. In 1955 when Mercy moved to its current location, Barbara added an additional bus transfer to and from school. In her words, “Mercy was worth it!”
Her parish pastor, Fr. John J. Killoren, S.J.,was a family friend and was considered almost an uncle by Barbara and her siblings. He encouraged her to attend Mercy. She skipped a year in grade school so was a very young high school student, but that did not stop her from being involved in everything the school had to offer including speech, drama and theatre. She met many good friends, including her friend to this day, Maureen McGrath ‘57.
Barbara matriculated to the College of St. Mary and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Record Library Sciences. She turned that into an extended career when, in 1968, she began to work for the Veterans Administration as Chief Medical Information Section at the VA Center in Manhattan. While there, Barbara embarked upon graduate studies by attending evening classes at Baruch College/City University of New York from which she earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree. She continued her Veterans Administration position until her retirement in 1999.
She then got her feet wet in politics by working as a Policy Analyst for Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields. During that time Barbara researched healthcare programs for uninsured persons throughout the country. Subsequently, when Ms. Fields ran for mayor of New York City, she hired Barbara as her Coordinator of Campaign Volunteers.
Ms. Fields did not win the election, but this experience motivated Barbara to continue working, so she was hired as a Career Specialist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY where she counseled students and shared her knowledge of and experience with career issues as a manager and a staff member. She continued in this capacity for ten years.
Barbara, her younger sister Audrey, and older brother Webster still own and maintain the house they grew up in and return to Omaha every August to gather with friends and family. They make sure that the adjacent yard where a home garden was maintained (the pride and joy of their father) is cared for during the spring and summer months. Barbara remains active in the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She was initiated by Omaha’s city chapter, Gamma Beta, when she was a sophomore at the College of St. Mary Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Kayla Thomas-Haire ’93, Media Relations Coordinator at Nebraska Medicine, is the Mistress of Ceremonies for FIESTA 2021. The long-time communicator worked in television news as both a reporter and producer for 21 years before joining Nebraska Medicine in 2018. One of her fondest Mercy memories is being named state speech champion her junior year with an entertainment speech that focused on not stereotyping blonds and their abilities. Those skills led her to a successful career in broadcast and communication. Her mother, Lynda Lacoma Thomas ’65, went to Mercy and her sister, Holly Thomas, graduated in 1992.
As part of her emcee duties, Kayla will be navigating new terrain as FIESTA goes virtual for the first time in the school’s history because of COVID-19. Her communication acumen will be instrumental in presenting taped and live segments during the event’s live-streaming broadcast. Learn more about these new FIESTA arrangements at mercyhigh.org/fiesta.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in Communications from Loyola University Chicago in 1997. Kayla began her television news career in Illinois, went to several other states as a producer and anchor at other television stations and spent eight years as executive producer of Omaha KMTV’s “The Morning Blend.”
A recipient of numerous awards for her news reporting and collaborative spirit, she serves as a board member for the Douglas County Historical Society. The mother of two tries to attend as many Mercy events as she can and also supports the school by sharing her love of Mercy through social media.
“I will always be a Woman of Mercy at heart. Mercy helped shaped me into who I am today,” she said.
This year, all of Mercy’s basketball teams will be coached by Mercy alumnae. The three graduates not only share a love of basketball and coaching, but they also feel honored to give back to their alma mater. The coaches are Nicole Lenczowski ‘06, Head Coach, Varsity; Becky Markey ’06, Head Coach, Junior Varsity; and Laura Salerno ‘18, a volunteer who helps with both teams.
Nicole got involved with coaching right after she graduated in 2006. She volunteered as Scott Stara’s assistant for the Freshmen and Junior Varsity basketball teams for seven seasons. When Scott took the head Varsity job in 2014, she remained his assistant until he stepped down.
While at Mercy, Nicole was involved in many activities. She ran cross country and track and played basketball. She was a class officer for multiple years, a Student Ambassador and a member of Pastoral Council.
She currently works at Union Pacific Railroad as a project manager in the Fuel and Environmental group, managing projects related to industrial wastewater treatment plants and fuel systems across the network.
“I wanted to be part of the Mercy community, and I love the sport of basketball especially being a part of the girls’ high school careers,” said Nicole.
Nicole and Becky, the JV Head Coach, were one of only two members of their class who played basketball during their four years at Mercy. Becky also played soccer all four years and was involved in journalism, serving as the yearbook editor.
She had already been hired as Mercy’s Junior Varsity soccer coach when the JV basketball coaching position opened, so she jumped on it.
“Since Nicole and I played together, It seemed like a natural fit,” Becky said.
The soccer standout played at Dominican University in River City, Illinois. She also coached at an all-girls school in Chicago and with the Bennington Soccer Club in Omaha. Becky played for three years on a women’s recreational soccer team while attending Notre Dame de Namur University in California.
Becky is currently an underwriter for an insurance company. She is a third-generation Mercy graduate. Both her grandmother, Patricia Doughtery Markey SM ’54 (deceased), and mother, Mary Jo Cumberland-Markey ’74, attended the school as well as her sisters Rachel Markey Andersen '04 and Ruthie Markey Stirewalt '09.
“The spirit of Mercy has always been part of my life,” she said.
Laura Salerno is not only a full-time student; she works two jobs while volunteering for the basketball program. She is a part-time therapy tech and nanny.
The 2018 graduate played basketball and volleyball, was a class officer, Student Ambassador and member of the National Honor Society. This is her second year of volunteering with the basketball teams. Her sisters Marie Salerno ’18, Katherine Salerno ’15 and Anna Salerno ’18 also attended the school.
“My dad coached me throughout my childhood, which gave me a great view of both the coaching and playing side of sports. I love sports and enjoy working with people. If I am able to help one girl on our team, it would be an ultimate accomplishment.“
Laura holds the school’s rebounding record, was named to metro and state all-star teams her senior year and was the Most Valuable Player that year.
Kimberlyn Yolanda Oliver, Ed.D., ’98 was appointed by the Mercy Education System of the Americas to the Mercy High School Board of Trustees effective January 2021. Mercy is a sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy the Americas.
Kimberlyn, a Mercy graduate, currently serves as Assistant Principal at Holy Name Catholic School and has been an educator for 13 years. The majority of her career has been as a classroom teacher, but she was also a Program Director and Grant Manager for Upward Bound and an Education Specialist for a local nonprofit. She also served as an Admissions Counselor for two local colleges. She received her Bachelor of Science in Sociology with a Criminal Justice emphasis from Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, a Master of Science in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and her second Master of Science in Educational Administration and Supervision from Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska. In 2019, she earned her Ed.D. in Professional Leadership, Inquiry and Transformation from Concordia University, Portland, Oregon.
Kim has been married to her husband Ray for eight years, and they are the proud parents of three boys, Malachi, Micah, and Matthias. Kim is actively involved in her church, Solid Rock Christian Center, and other professional and community groups which include the Diversity and Equity Committee of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Undoing Racism subcommittee; American Educational Research Association; American Federation of Teachers; and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
“Being part of this ministry for Mercy allows me to be a strong advocate for education, for young women and their families, and for policies that impact students,” said Kimberlyn.