Outstanding Alumni stand out

By Tabitha Whissemore

The 2022 AACC Outstanding Alumni Award recipients have had massive success in their careers. But that hasn’t stopped Karla Ivankovich, Alfredo Salas and Indigo Triplett from giving back – or remembering where they got their start.

The American Association of Community Colleges will recognize this year’s honorees on May 3 at the AACC Annual conference in New York City. Below, we profile the recipients.

Counselor, educator, advocate

Karla Ivankovich wasn’t necessarily sure what she wanted to do with her life after high school graduation. Her first attempt at college wasn’t a success, but she was determined to not let her circumstances dictate her future. She enrolled in Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) and began the difficult path to graduation.

Ivankovich found her groove and was on track to graduate in 1993. A complicated pregnancy, though, meant she was in and out of the hospital and on bed rest for much of her final semester. Rather than allow her to drop or fail her classes, each of her professors worked with her, some, from her hospital room, to ensure that she was able to complete her final semester and graduate.

Because of their support and her persistence, she earned her associate degree in business administration on time. She was allowed to leave the hospital to attend graduation and did so in a wheelchair, returning to the hospital shortly after. Her son was born that summer, and Ivankovich was able to transfer and continue her educational journey, earning, among other degrees, a Ph.D. in psychology. She often took classes while working multiple jobs to support her family.

As a counselor, Ivankovich has served patients in Chicago and the surrounding areas for more than 20 years. Her work in the field of domestic abuse and mental health is used in training programs and medical offices around the country. She also is a frequent contributor in Psychology Today, providing relationship advice, and had a show on I Heart Radio about relationships.

As an educator, Ivankovich served as an adjunct faculty member at LLCC early in her career. She continues to teach in the undergraduate psychology program at the University of Illinois at Springfield. She also created a program to allow medical and behavioral health students to seek counseling services for their own concerns, free of charge.

And as an advocate, Ivankovich is passionate about ensuring that healthcare is accessible to all. After seeing patients unable to get basic health services, she and her husband decided to help change the landscape of healthcare. They co-founded OnePatient Global Health Initiative. The non-profit was designed to establish sustainable programs of outreach, prevention, and patient education throughout the disparate areas of Chicago and in Haiti. They strive to improve health outcomes, one patient at a time.

Remembering his roots

Alfredo Salas has had tremendous success in business, but what he likes to talk about most is his educational journey and the start he got at Florida’s Miami Dade College (MDC).

From his days as a volunteer math and accounting student tutor at MDC, he has come a long way and today is the largest Hispanic Pizza Hut franchisee in the nation. He also chairs the MDC Foundation board of directors, helping to raise private funds to transform lives.

Salas’ immigrant parents’ work ethic and their dreams for him and his sister kept him motivated from a young age. He was 14 when he got a job working at a Burger King. He became the youngest area manager for the company at only 18 years old. It was also around that time that he enrolled at MDC. Salas graduated in 1996 and continued his studies at Florida International University and earned his certified public accounting license.

For several years, Salas worked as a CPA, eventually returning to Burger King in their national audit division. He rose through the ranks before moving to PepsiCo, where he worked in accounting and finance. In 1998, Salas used his experience to put together an investment team to purchase the Pizza Hut operations and rights in Miami Dade, Broward and Monroe counties.

Even as his career thrived, Salas never lost touch with MDC. He joined the foundation board nearly a decade ago. As chair, he regularly speaks before the media and at numerous college events where he always lauds about his own experiences as a student. He talks about the importance of a college education, and that everyone is college material.

Defying doubters

A high school counselor told Indigo Triplett that she wasn’t college material. Now, she’s got several degrees and is a successful entrepreneur, success and wellness consultant, and author.

Triplett joined the U. S. Marines following high school. When pregnancy complications shifted her service to the Reserves, she enrolled at Waubonsee Community College, where she was inspired by one of her instructors, Shirley Borel. She graduated in 1988 and continued her education earning a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree – all while continuing to work full-time, primarily helping people make career choices.

In 1997, Triplett founded Careers in Transition, Inc., which was recognized as a Top 500 Fastest Growing Companies in America by Inc. Magazine in 2012 and 2013. Triplett has successfully owned and operated businesses in the U.S. and Malaysia for more than 20 years. Ebony Magazine referred to her as “the $18 Million Dollar Woman.”

More recently, Triplett has owned and operated 4D Performance SDN BHD in Malaysia. There, she’s delivered seminars, keynote addresses and radio interviews and provides coaching, business consulting and mind wellness counseling.

As an author, Indigo has written three books and contributed a weekly mental wellness column for Inc. Magazine. Her mental health book, Dueling Dragons: A Bipolar Journey from the Darkness into the Light, has been used in classrooms and has helped people throughout the world who are battling or living with someone with a mental health disorder.

Indigo has a deep-rooted passion for serving others and launched the nonprofit, Indigo Insights. She wants to change the conversation around mental illness. In response to the global pandemic, she has offered daily webinars and other programming to assist individuals and organizations navigate a time of unrest.

This article was originally posted in CC Daily.

Tabitha Whissemore

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.