Our Alumni

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Hear from our Alumni

Our program has had many names over the years, but the mission is still the same. Whether you're ready to jump into a college and major program or not, we're here to support you and help you feel at home as part of our Saluki family!

Some of our previous iterations:

  • Center for Academic Success (CAS)
  • Exploratory Student Advisement (ESA)
  • Saluki Success Inititative (SSI)



Ms. Kayce Gibbs
: St. Louis, MO

Diploma: 2015, B.A. Political Science with a minor in Africana Studies

2020, M.S. Ed. Higher Educational Administration and Higher Ed

2020, Certificate in College Teaching

Current Status: Doctoral Student, University of Louisville

"Exploratory Student Advisement previously known as the CAS program was a game changer for me. Where I am from none of my friends had their minds set on college or what life would be like after high school. I wasn't the "perfect student" and my ACT score was trash even after taking the test 3 times. I was denied admissions to my first and second choice all based on a test score. It wasn't until SIU granted me admission based on my acceptance of what you formally known as the EXP2 program. In this program I was assigned a mentor, academic coach, and a community that allowed me to be myself and excel in my academics. Not only did I come out of the program with a 3.768 GPA that established me for the remainder of my college career, but I was also accepted into the University Honors Program, had an opportunity to serve as a mentor for the CAS program the following year. This definitely shifted the trajectory of my college career." 


Mr. William Goheen
: Grafton, IL

Diploma: 2015, B.S. Exercise Science

Current Status: Personal Trainer/US Army

“When I finally figured out what I wanted to do as far as career I made the decision to attend SIU Carbondale. The only down fall was my test score just was not up to par, but my GPA was 4.0 on a 5.0 scale. Most other schools have already rejected my application. When I took a tour of SIU, I was extremely nervous. After I fell in love with the campus, I met with Dr. Killian who took me under her wing and told me that yes, my ACT score was too low but saw potential in me to be successful. She told me about the Exploratory Program SIU offered and told me it would be a helpful tool for success. And it honestly was the best decision I had ever made. For my first 3 semesters there I met with the amazing staff that helped me succeed in all my classes. Ranging from difficult general ed classes to the core classes required for my major. I majored in Exercise Science and am currently working in my field as a personal trainer at gym in downtown St. Louis. I am working on becoming a strength and conditioning coach. I would not be where I am without the help I received from this program. It taught me that just because you do not score high on a test does not mean you are a failure in life. Take advantage of this program. Use the keys the staff gives you on how to study. Stay focus. Ask questions and you will be successful. Once a Saluki, always a Saluki.” 

Ms. Da’Ziya Faust
: Marion, IL

Diploma: 2020, B.S. Accounting wiht a minor in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Curent Status: M.Acc. Accountancy, Expected Dec 2023

“The Exploratory Program is a steppingstone for students like myself. They’re people/mentors there to help you establish goals, a major, and career. I am proud to say they helped me get this far and they will still be available anytime I need them.”



Mr. Toussaint Mitchell
Hometown: Chicago, IL

Diploma: 2020, B.A. Cinema and Photography

“The Exploratory Student Advisement Program assisted me in laying the foundation of my college career, resulting in the discovery of my occupational passions. As the opportunities and resources available at SIU are vast, I was fortunate to have an advisor from this program who was, and continues to be, a strong guide for new students looking to discover passions of their own while enrolled here.” 


Ms. Jada Ward
Hometown: Chicago, IL

Diploma: 2019, B.A. Political Science with a minor in Paralegal Studies

Current Status: Litigation Paralegal

"The ESA program provided me with many resources that have led toward my journey of success. I am more than grateful for the connections and relationships I made during my time in the ESA program.”




Mr. Richard Oriji

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Diploma: 2019, B.S. Workforce Education and Development (Educ Training & Development) with a minor in Speech Communication

Current Status: High school Teacher/ Middle school level Special Education Teachers and Assistant/Photographer 

“The Exploratory Student Advisement (ESA) program is an impactful, educational experience that has impacted my four years at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. The ESA program has provided mentorship, opened many doors to advance my own success in my field, and brighten my horizon to understand the importance of connecting and networking with my fellow peers. I truly appreciate the program in assisting me with acknowledging my own strengths and weaknesses. This program encouraged me in many ways in helping me discover my full potential by allowing me the space and opportunity to get out of my comfort zone. I am thankful to have started this program as a freshman and I know wholeheartedly many other 1st year freshmen will succeed just as well.”


Ms. Alexis Robinson

Hometown: Chicago IL

Diploma: 2021, B.S. Behavior Analysis and Therapy with a minor in Psychology 

Current Status: Graduate student and working as an Activity Aide 

“The ESA program helped me throughout my journey towards success by allowing me to discover my passion. The program has allowed me to take my time and choosing a field that I wanted to be dedicated to in the future. I am appreciative for the staff and associates I met throughout in this journey and hope others can experience this as well.”


Mr. Orlando Toatley

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Diploma: 2016, B.A. Radio, TV, and Digital Media (Electronic Sports Media) with a minor in Communication Studies

Current Status: Marketing Account Executive 


“The ESA program helped me in a multitude of ways. It gave me a support system on campus that held me accountable while also looking out for my best interest. Being a part of the ESA program not only helps young college students get acclimated to the college life, it also helps prepare students like myself for a successful future.”


Mr. Allen Shelton

Hometown: Chicago Heights, IL

Diploma: 2016, B.S.Speech Communication (Interpersonal Communication) with a minor in Journalism

Current Status: Partner, Narratent LLC

“The ESA program allowed me an opportunity to bet on myself in college. Through mentorship and guidance, I started seeing glimpses of the best version of me. I was fortunate enough to take those glimpses and turn them into a complete picture. I will forever be grateful to the ESA program at Southern Illinois University for helping me achieve success. It really changed my life.”


Mr. Desmon Walker

Hometown: Champaign, IL

Diploma: 2016, B.S. Marketing

Current Status: Owner, Narratent LLC

“ESA granted me the opportunity to become a first-generation student. My academic advisor and peer mentor, both of whom are friends to this day, gave me the confidence I needed to prove to the university, as well as myself, that I was academically capable. The most memorable moment of the program - being told by my UCOL instructor to consider if Plan B was truly an ideal option. At that point, Plan A became my only option.”

Tell us your success story

If you are one of our alumni, we'd love to hear from you!