IU Southeast recognizes top alumni

20th April 2023

As part of the annual IU Day festivities on April 19, IU Southeast honored seven alumni with the Alumni Awards of Excellence and Distinguished Alumni Award.

Distinguished Alumni Award

The IU Southeast Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes outstanding IU Southeast alumni who have made significant contributions to their communities or professions. This is the highest award given annually to an IU Southeast alumnus.  The Distinguished Alumni Award is also recognized each year annually at Commencement.

The recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award is Dr. Marty Pollio, superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) in Louisville, KY.

Pollio who was appointed superintendent of JCPS in 2018, had served as acting superintendent since 2017. Prior to that, Pollio had dedicated his career to serving the students of JCPS as an administrator and educator for 20 years, focusing on improving the culture and climate across the district, increasing student achievement, and implementing deeper learning strategies to make lessons come alive for students and teachers.

Pollio began his career with JCPS in 1997 as a social studies teacher at Shawnee High School. He went on to serve as a teacher and assistant principal at Waggener High School before taking the helm as principal of Jeffersontown High School from 2007-2015. Pollio was the principal of Doss High School when he was selected as the acting superintendent.

In July 2021, Pollio was named the Kentucky 2022 Superintendent of the Year by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA). KASA is the largest school administrator group in Kentucky, representing more than 3,200 education leaders from across the Commonwealth.

Dr. Pollio received his undergraduate degree from Indiana University and his master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University. He completed an Education Leadership Licensing requirement at IU Southeast in 2007. He earned his doctorate from the University of Louisville in 2012.

Dr. Pollio and his wife, Jessica, are the parents of one daughter who is a JCPS student.

(L to R) Brooke Stewart, Morgan Szabo, Aimee Frakes, Dr. Marty Pollio, Dr. Heather Hardin and Jesse Rasmussen.

Alumni Award of Excellence

The Alumni Award of Excellence is given to alumni from each academic school at IU Southeast who have made outstanding contributions in one or more of the following ways:

  • Exceptional accomplishment in their chosen field.
  • Exceptional service in local, state, or national affairs.
  • Exceptional service in support of the advancement and continued excellence of IU Southeast.

Each of the winners was selected by the Dean and faculty of their respective schools.

The winners of the Alumni Award of Excellence include:

Jesse Rasmussen, School of Arts & Letters – Jesse Rasmussen grew up in southern Indiana graduating from New Albany High School, and then attended the School for Film and Television in New York City to pursue his dreams of becoming a television and film actor. After a few years, Rasmussen’s dreams shifted and he decided to move back to southern Indiana to attend IU Southeast where in 2013 he graduated with a bachelor’s in communications. While attending IU Southeast, Rasmussen took an internship at WDJX radio. Over the next 10 years, Rasmussen worked as a commercial copywriter, cohost of the Lambert and Lindsey Show on 102.3 The Max, and most recently as the cohost of the Morning Play with Jesse and MJ on Mix 106.9. 

Rasmussen now works for Leadership Southern Indiana, a non-profit whose mission is to engage, develop and mobilize regional leaders who will serve and transform our community.

Chris Ratterman, School of Business – Chris Ratterman is the Founder and CEO of Shady Rays – one of the nation’s fastest-growing lifestyle eyewear brands. Shady Rays recently opened its new corporate headquarters in Simpsonville, KY. Ratterman holds a BSBA in Marketing and Finance from Xavier University and an MBA from Indiana University Southeast.

Ten years ago, Ratterman set out to solve the problem of lost and broken sunglasses – it was something that always frustrated him…spending a lot of money on sunglasses, just to lose, break, or scratch them.

It took many early mornings and late nights working around his existing full-time job, and his MBA studies, but Ratterman bootstrapped Shady Rays from a side bedroom of his parent’s house, enlisting the help of his father Tom to ship out every order from his living room “fulfillment center.”

Today, the Simpsonville fulfillment center ships thousands of orders a day to Shady Rays’ customers around the world.

Ratterman’s company also supports philanthropic efforts. Since the company’s inception, Shady Rays has supported meaningful nonprofits around the world with every purchase. Most recently, Shady Rays hit a milestone of 25 million meals donated to their partner, Feeding America, and its network of food banks around the country.

Today, Shady Ray’s remains one of the most sought-after, independent sunglasses brands in the country. Ratterman has been recognized by numerous publications in the past few years, most recently being named to the Business First 40 Under 40 class of 2022.

Brooke Stewart, School of Education — Brooke Stewart began her teaching career at South Central Jr-Sr High School in Elizabeth, IN. She’s taught a variety of courses at South Central including biology, dual-credit biology, environmental science, animal science, integrated chemistry and physics, and introduction to engineering and robotics. Stewart has also taught courses at both Indiana University and Ivy Tech Community College as an assistant instructor.

In 2022, she was awarded the Clyde Motts Memorial Award for Innovative High School Science Teaching from the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. She was also awarded the Indiana Biology Teacher of the Year award by the National Association of Biology Teachers.

Stewart earned her bachelor’s degree in 2017 and a master’s degree in 2020 from Indiana University Southeast in secondary education with a concentration in biology. She completed her master’s with assistance from the Growing Tomorrow’s STEM Teachers Grant (GTST) program through IU Southeast and continues to stay active with the grant committee by attending and presenting at GTST conferences. She is currently working on completing an Ed.D. in curriculum & instruction with a focus on science education from Indiana University.

Stewart currently serves on the board of directors for the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc. She is also an editor for the organization’s journal, The Hoosier Science Teacher. In the summer of 2021, she became a writing consultant through the IU Southeast Writing Project and continues to incorporate writing in her science classrooms.

Aimee Frakes, School of Natural Sciences – Aimee Frakes is a lifelong resident of the Hoosier state, growing up less than a mile from the IU Southeast campus.  She earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Indiana University Southeast in 2012 and her M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from Illinois Institute of Technology in 2022.  

Frakes is the Laboratory and Quality Assurance Manager at Geo. Pfau’s Sons Co., Inc., a local manufacturer of specialty fats and oils, in downtown Jeffersonville, IN.  Starting as a chemist in 2012, she coordinated testing protocols and initiated maintenance programs for chromatography instrumentation.  In 2019, Frakes was promoted to Quality Assurance Manager where she oversaw the implementation and conformance of food safety programs.  She embraced the opportunity to manage the day-to-day operations of the quality control laboratory in 2020.  Today, she collaborates with the IU Southeast School of Natural Sciences to seek out students looking for the same opportunity she had to gain hands-on experience in an industrial laboratory.

Dr. Heather Hardin, School of Nursing — Dr. Heather Hardin is an Assistant Professor at the Indiana University School of Nursing at Indianapolis and a nurse scientist with expertise in adolescent health behavior change for health promotion. Hardin graduated from the Indiana University Southeast School of Nursing in 2007, then went on to complete a Master of Science in Nursing in 2012 and a Ph.D. in 2014 at the University of Louisville. In 2017, Hardin completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.

Hardin’s work involves the development and testing of interventions for youth using mindfulness and sleep training. During her postdoctoral fellowship, she received adolescent behavior change research training in a mentored program with the National Institutes of Health-funded Childhood Obesity Prevention and Treatment Research trial, which was a large multi-site national randomized controlled trial that enrolled more than 1400 youth and followed them over 3 years. Following this experience, she was an investigator with the Self-Management Advancements through Research and Translation Center and the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at Case Western Reserve University. In collaboration with her colleagues at these centers, she designed a series of pilot studies to examine the brain-behavior connections in adolescent health behavior change. Currently, she is trialing an intervention to enhance mindfulness and sleep among youth ages 11-13 years old.

Hardin has authored more than twenty publications and her research has been used by research teams around the world. Her team’s work has been used to support evidence-based recommendations for youth weight interventions from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, as well as guidelines concerning exercise in youth with diabetes from the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes. Hardin has been the recipient of national and international honors, with recognition from the Society of Behavioral Medicine, the Council for the Advancement of Nursing Science, and Sigma International Society of Nursing.

Morgan Szabo, School of Social Sciences — Morgan Szabo began her career at the Muhammad Ali Center, where she developed social justice and educational programming on a local, state, and international level. During her time at the Ali Center, she spearheaded two exchange programs through the U.S. Department of State to Brazil and Kazakhstan, along with leading a social entrepreneurship program for high school students. Szabo has rich experience working for grassroots organizations, like the Beaded Treasures Project and The Food Literacy Project, along with larger agencies such as Volunteers of America Mid-States (VOA). During her time at VOA, she developed new and existing services to address the needs of homelessness, substance use disorder, and health equity.

Currently, Szabo is a Customer Success Manager at Unite Us, a cross-sector collaboration software company. Unite Us identifies social care needs in communities, connects individuals to services, and leverages meaningful outcome data and analytics to further drive community investment. Szabo earned a BA in International Studies from Indiana University Southeast and an MPA/MBA from the University of Louisville. She is a 2018 New Leaders Council Fellow and received the 2019 Young Leader Award from Louisville Business First and the Young Professional Association of Louisville.

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