What To Expect In Purdue Fort Wayne’s Honors Program

Purdue Fort Wayne’s Honors Program assists qualified students in maximizing their college education. The program helps students expand their academic horizons.

“We are here to support those students that want to get extra out of their education that they’re doing here,” Assistant Director Michele Shawver said.

Any courses that students are taking in a semester can be elevated to Honors classes. There are no restrictions on the members’ classes that can be boosted.

While their approach is different in terms of who they accept into the program, Farah Combs, Honors director, says that a high GPA is a must have to qualify. 

“They need to maintain a minimum of a 3.3 GPA in order for them to be eligible,” Combs said.

Once eligible students become members of the program, their membership becomes tentative on a semester-by-semester basis. Their membership length depends on their ability to consistently satisfy the program’s requirements.

Combs said that maintaining their required GPA each semester keeps members eligible. However, they must also successfully complete a 300 level or higher class towards their major.

For any semester, students who are not able to meet those requirements become temporarily ineligible.

Combs said these unqualified members are put on Honors probation. While on probation, students cannot continue to take Honors classes.

Members who meet these requirements for the initial semester can start applying for Honors scholarships. Multiple scholarships of up to $1,000 are available for Honors members to apply, including study abroad and internship scholarships. 

Members can only apply for one scholarship per semester.

Members will get certificates and medals with their names on them once they graduate. Both will be given out if they have met all the qualifications throughout their membership.

“They have to complete 18 hours of honors credits by the time they graduate,” Combs said.

The number of program members in a semester varies. Its size is dependent on members’ eligibility status. Combs said there are approximately 300 members in the program each semester. 

Program members meet daily in the Honors Center, located on the second floor of Helmke Library. 

How Career Services Helps Students Go Above And Beyond

Career Services is an organization at Purdue University Fort Wayne that supports students and alumni to reach their career goals by providing opportunities to connect with employers through their high-quality programs and events.

“The vision statement for career services is to be recognized nationally for its service throughout the Midwest,” Courtney Sullivan, a counselor at Career Services, said. “We will be an innovative leader in educating, developing and connecting our university and the communities we serve.”  

Career Services’s most important event happens once a semester, the Mastodon Job and Internship Fair, where students get the opportunity to build a network and market themselves in the workforce.

This year the fair will take place March 14 at the Lutheran Fieldhouse on Purdue Fort Wayne’s campus.

Career Services also administers Handshake, a platform that Sullivan said is very useful for students who are looking for job opportunities.

“We can see our students make appointments,” Sullivan said. “We have jobs posted every week, so every Tuesday we send out emails to students through handshake about different jobs in their career field.”

Sullivan talked about other events that happen more often like the Lunch & Learn’s and the Immersion Excursion.

“Immersion excursion is where you actually go to the employer. They will sometimes do a tour where you get to ask them questions. The Lunch and Learn’s are when the employer comes to campus,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan described the Career Services website as very informative for students. It has many templates for important documents that a student might need when looking for a job.

“Our website has a sample resume, how to write a cover letter, and interviewing strategies,” Sullivan said.  “Also, you can look at ‘What can I do with my major?’” 

Career Services has an Endorsed Program, which Sullivan said was not as rushed as other services they offer.

“Based on the test that you complete, you get points, and after you get so many points you’ve completed the program,” Sullivan said.“You get a certificate and then you get a recommendation from our office on LinkedIn.”

For more information about Career Services, call  260-481-0689 or visit their website at pfw.edu/career.


Purdue Fort Wayne Begins Planning for Annual Student-led Service Day

Purdue University Fort Wayne is set to hold their eighth annual The BIG Event on April 13. The day-long event is intended for students and faculty to show their appreciation to the community by volunteering a few hours of their day to partake in community work.

According to Purdue University Fort Wayne, The BIG Event is the largest student-led, one-day service project in the nation. The university has set their own goal for the year of getting 1,000 volunteers signed up to participate in this year’s The BIG Event.

The university began The BIG Event in March 2012. According to Purdue University Fort Wayne, the primary focus has been to thank the over 50 local not-for-profit agencies.

You don’t have to be a current student to get signed up. Kasey Price, assistant vice chancellor for Student Life and Leadership, said as long as the appropriate paperwork is filled out in time, anyone in the community is welcome to participate.

“Over the years we have had staff committees and groups of students organize the event,” Price said. “As part of the plan for The BIG Event, we are working more and more each year to have students be responsible for the planning and organization of the event. This year we have volunteers, interns, student workers, alumni and staff who are all part of the planning process.”

Planning consists of finding locations for improvements and getting all the volunteers free shirts. In order to afford this kind of improvement, there are sponsors from within the community that donate money to help with expenses. Volunteers have a variety of tasks that include painting, planting plants and cleaning assigned areas.

The event not only helps show appreciation to the community. Naomi Zipay, Purdue Fort Wayne senior, said it helped her meet new people during her freshman year. Zipay has volunteered for three years since then.

“It’s extremely rewarding to just give back to the community and to do it in a way that is so direct with hands on work,” Zipay said.

“It’s so fun,” Julie Miller, organizer and active volunteer, said. “It can get messy, but it’s a good way to get outside of your head for a few hours and do some good.”

The BIG Event first began in 1982 at Texas A&M University. Joe Nussbaum, vice president of the university’s Student Government Association, created the event as a way for students to thank the surrounding community for their support.

Since the first The BIG Event in 1982, the student-led community workday has expanded to over 100 universities nationwide and according to the Student Government Resource Center, each year there still is significant growth following the event. Universities in Italy, Spain, Germany and Pakistan have even adopted the tradition.

“Signing up on the website is easy,” Price said. “Student Leader applications are available now and volunteer sign-up will be available in a few weeks. You can sign up as a group or individually.”

Application sign ups are available on www.pfw.edu/big-event and must be submitted by March 1.

A Woman of Many Hats

It’s a nice house. Bright yellow. Well-kept yard. It’s on a busy road–so every time you drive by it you think how many wrecks might happen on it. Inside, the smell of cooking chicken fills the air. Even though you just ate, you find yourself growing hungry. You don’t necessarily notice how clean the house is, but rather how un-dirty it is.

Around the corner, in the dining room is a woman. She’s in her 50s. She’s Hispanic. She’s drinking coffee. Doing paperwork. On her screen she cycles through blueprints. A gas station. A hospital. A school. She’s bidding work.

Then it all comes together: the clean house, the blueprints, the bidding––she is the owner of Bixler Interiors, a final construction cleaning company. She calls out to her son to check the dinner in the oven before making her daily phone calls.

When a construction company like Weigand or LBC builds a high rise or a hospital or anything else, they make a mess. They are primarily concerned with constructing the building and moving on, so they leave their mess when they’re done. Someone has to clean that. Someone has to make sure the windows are spotless and that the bathrooms are shiny. That someone is Deb Bixler, owner of Bixler Interiors.

Bixler Interiors has been a steady company for the last ten years. Now, Bixler is working toward establishing herself as a minority woman in business. The Indiana Laborers Union Partnership is responsible for doling out these achievements by carefully selecting those that accurately fit the requirements. Bixler currently has her WBE, or Women’s Business Enterprise.

This year, she also won the 2018 Influential Women Owned Business Award for the State of Indiana, according to the Local 81 Laborer’s Union. Bixler said she is happy about winning the award, but it doesn’t change her outlook.

“I work hard and I’m honest with people. I feel work should just be that easy. Everything in between is just someone making it harder than it has to be,” she said when asked how she tries influence people in her field.

As Bixler further detailed her work life, it became very apparent that this positive attitude is a common theme.

The origin of Bixler interiors is an ever-evolving path of choices. Bixler’s first management position was at a Johnson Junction gas station in Decatur, IN. She then moved on to running an Angela Bridges Fitness center before eventually opening her own fitness center for six years. After closing the fitness center, she got a job at GMS construction as a “runner,” or “gofer,” as they called it.

“But I called it a go-for-it-girl,” Bixler said with a big laugh. She then moved on to start her own cleaning company, but there was another pit-stop before then.

Her mother opened a furniture company and had Deb manage it. Like most things Bixler is a part of, the furniture business evolved into something greater.

“We decided to start picking up our own furniture, so we decided to get out own semi. From there we ended up owning—within five years—a fleet of semis,” Bixler said.

Bixler’s mother then opened her own trucking company. Deb worked dispatch and accounted for payroll. Eventually, Bixler had something of a falling out with her mother, forcing her out of a job. She had nothing. She had no way to provide for her family. She was lost. Until she started Bixler Interiors. While she had dabbled in cleaning once or twice for side money in the past, her first big job was Vera Bradley. At 205,000 square feet, Bixler ambitiously bid the job and won. She said she didn’t have time to doubt herself.

“I was too excited. Cleaning big jobs is no different than the small ones, just more time consuming,” Bixler said. “You take it one room at a time and eventually, you’ll be done.”

Bixler didn’t do it alone, though. She enlisted the help of her family. Her children Jordan, James and Sayge worked for her. Since then, the business has always been a family owned company. While Vera Bradley was a big job to start with, that didn’t stop Bixler from chasing bigger and better things. She went on to win jobs like the Ash building downtown or the recently finished Parkview Cancer Center.

Bixler said working with her family is a great experience. Sayge, her daughter, said working with her mom is great because you don’t have a stranger yelling at you.

“We all appreciate and love each other,” Sayge said. “So it’s not stressful.”

Bixler said her life has been a busy one. She has met a lot of people and done a lot of things, but her biggest priority has always been being a mother and grandmother. She homeschooled her two youngest children and has worked with them at Bixler Interiors for the last ten years. Now that her two youngest children are starting their college careers, Deb is trying to let them go.

“I think it’s really sad,” said Sayge, “We’ve always worked a lot together. So it’s sad that we can’t be together all the time like we used to.”

Sayge started working with her mom at age 15. It’s work that she doesn’t mind, in fact she said it can be meditative.

“It’s nice to get out of the house and work hard sometimes,” she said.

While Bixler interiors will never truly end as her children have vowed to help whenever they can, it must begin its descent. But that’s okay with Deb Bixler.

“No matter where you’re at money-wise, you can choose to be good and happy with it or you can be miserable. I choose to be happy wherever I’m at.”

After a full day of school for her two youngest children and a hard day’s work for the oldest, Deb has finished the night’s dinner. With proper seasoning and another contagious laugh from Deb Bixler, the family sat down and enjoyed a meal together. There is no “switch” for Deb Bixler. She is always a mother. It doesn’t turn off when she’s working. It doesn’t turn off when she’s had a hard day.

“I enjoy being a mother,” Bixler said, with a confident smile.

New Micro-Brewing Trend Has Fort Wayne Hopping

Fort Wayne has more than a dozen breweries, with over half being locally owned businesses. In recent years, the trend of micro-brewing and craft beers has skyrocketed throughout the United States with Fort Wayne noticing the effects of this national trend.

Overall U.S. craft brewer sales continued to grow, reaching 12.7 percent of the U.S. beer market in terms of volume. Retail dollar sales of craft beer increased 8 percent, up to $26 billion, and now account for more than 23 percent of the $111.4 billion U.S. beer market, according to BrewersAssociation.org.

The Brewers Association also revealed there are now over 6,000 breweries operating the in the U.S., which is more than double the number from just four years ago. And in 2018, brewers and craft beer could have had their biggest year yet. Locally, since January 2018, four new breweries have opened in Fort Wayne.

Ashley Spranger, Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s stakeholder engagement and experience manager, said the trend has only just begun in the city.

“At the rate we are going, Fort Wayne has the potential to be viewed as a ‘brewery hub.’ I see people coming from outside the city, region and maybe even the state to experience what our breweries have to offer,” Spranger said.

The first brewery in Fort Wayne, Mad Anthony’s Brewing Co., was founded in 1998, according to Linda Lipp, writer for the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly. While this local craft brewery is still operating in Fort Wayne today, additional locations have popped up in other parts of Indiana, including Auburn, Warsaw and Angola. According to VisitFortWayne.com, there are now more than 14 breweries in Fort Wayne –– with more to open in 2019.

Several months ago, 17 brewers from Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana came together to form the Northern Indiana Brewers Association. The organization, founded to help strengthen relationships between brewers in the area, expects to grow as more breweries open in Northeast Indiana.

Thea Spielman, a local self-declared craft beer enthusiast with a love for Mad Anthony’s dark Harry Baals Irish Stout, was excited about all the options and the growth of local brewed beers.

“I love that I can go to a different spot every weekend, and each place has their own vibe and specialty,” Spielman said. She explained that for her it is important to support the Fort Wayne economy, so she chooses local breweries instead of national ones.

Aside from selling beer, many businesses are offering brewery tours, allowing guests to learn more about the brewing process and to see the inner-workings of the beer they are consuming. Hop River Brewing Company, which opened last February, is a 15-barrel production taproom in downtown Fort Wayne, and offers several tour times throughout the day. 

Taylor Miller, shift supervisor at Hop River Brewing Company, is passionate about representing the product they create.

“Most of us local breweries all support and interact with each other, and we love to help each other grow. More breweries, more growth,” Miller said.

And to keep the trend up and expanding, a new program has begun to help support all the local breweries and encourage the exploration of the city’s craft beer offerings. The Northern Indiana Beer Trail passport program is a multi-brewery collaboration that will offer rewards once a person has visited a certain number of breweries throughout the city.

“We get a couple handfuls of people solely coming in trying to fill their passports with stamps,” Miller said. “It gets people out of their comfort zones, getting them to new breweries.”

The launching of the passport, along with several breweries expected to open in 2019 and the “Brewed IN the Fort” craft beer festival, suggests the trend is not likely to fizzle out anytime soon.