Five Alumni to Receive 2015 Young Alumni Merit Awards


CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., May 4, 2015 – The Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association has selected five alumni to receive the University’s 2015 Young Alumni Merit Awards.

The five will be honored at a commencement luncheon at noon May 16 in the Student Recreation Center-North and will be recognized during spring commencement exercises at 2 p.m. May 16 in the Show Me Center.

Alumni to receive the awards are: Chris Foeste of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Kaci Heins of Flagstaff, Arizona; Jennifer Sides of St. Louis; Tiffany Bayer of Jefferson City, Missouri; and Theresa Hassler of Harlem, New York.

The Young Alumni Merit Award is given annually to honor those alumni 37 years or younger who have brought distinction to the University through professional growth, service and individual character. The Alumni Association chooses the recipients from a list of nominees representing each college. Nominations may come from faculty, staff and alumni as well as the general public.

Tiffany Bayer, College of Health and Human Services


Tiffany Bayer

Tiffany (Harris) Bayer graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in social work from Southeast in 2002. She is currently chief of staff to Missouri’s first lady, Georganne Wheeler Nixon, headquartered in the Governor’s Office in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Bayer moved to Jefferson City shortly after graduation to pursue her career in social work. She was a social service worker II for the Cole County Children’s Division. She was chosen to be one of the first alternative care workers to help families in need participate in the Cole County Family Drug Court. During her time spent at the Children’s Division, she was able to make a difference in the lives of countless children who found themselves in undesirable situations through no fault of their own.

Later in Bayer’s career, she accepted a Medicaid fraud investigator position with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, where she built cases against medical providers who fraudulently billed the Medicaid system. Bayer worked alongside a team of investigators and attorneys whose mission it was to return tax dollars to the state of Missouri.

In January 2009, Bayer was named the director of the Missouri governor’s mansion in Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration. There, she managed a team who assists in hosting more than 40,000 annual visitors to the beautiful and historic home. In addition to hosting daily tours, Bayer oversaw special events and state dinners which included business leaders, and state, federal and international dignitaries as guests.

Today, as chief of staff to Missouri’s first lady, Bayer is charged with scheduling, policy and implementing the first lady’s initiatives which include getting people of all ages involved in the outdoors, improving children’s literacy and educating Missourians about the arts.

Bayer is very active in her church, and in her free time she enjoys running, hiking and coaching youth sports. She and her husband, Brent, have one daughter, Adalyn, 8, who plays soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball.

Chris Foeste, College of Science, Technology and Agriculture 


Chris Foeste

Chris Foeste graduated with a Bachelor of Science in applied computer science and a computer networking minor from Southeast in 2004. He is currently the general manager of Big River Communications, headquartered in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

A Cape Girardeau native, Foeste joined Big River Communications in 2009, and currently oversees the daily operations of Big River Communications’ retail segment, primarily focusing on their sales division. Prior to Big River Communications, Foeste was the Information Technology director for a McDonald’s restaurant franchisee. During his tenure there, Foeste was responsible for all technology and electronics-related decisions for 11 McDonald’s restaurants and helped pioneer an industry by launching and managing the nation’s second franchisee-owned Customer Order Center. This allowed for remote order taking of the restaurants’ drive thru lanes.

In addition to working at Big River Communications, Foeste has been a budding entrepreneur and has launched three businesses: Broadway Biergarten, a local craft beer bar; Codefi, Cape Girardeau’s first co-working space and technology incubator; and Franchise Automation Systems, a software-as-a-service company that allows for remote management and tracking of work orders.

Foeste is a 2010 graduate of the Leadership Cape program, former head and current member of the Chamber Young Professionals Committee, immediate past president of the Cape Girardeau chapter of the Missouri Jaycees, and a member of Old Town Cape’s Economic Restructuring Committee. His passion for his alma mater is expressed through his service as an elected member of the Board of Directors of the Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association and a board member of Southeast’s Redhawks Club.

Foeste lives with his girlfriend, Lauren Knoble, in Cape Girardeau, strategically close to the Southeast campus, Houck Stadium and Capaha Park.

Theresa Hassler, College of Liberal Arts

Hassler 2

Theresa Hassler

Theresa Hassler is a portfolio manager in the office of the mayor in the city of New York. In this highly political role, she manages a team of deputy and associate managers in the strategic identification, recruitment, positioning and eventual appointment of persons to serve on one of the city’s more than 200 boards and commissions. Her portfolio of boards includes those related to education, workforce development, civil rights, gender issues, and health and human services. Prior to this role, she worked as a social activist and organizer, working with residents in Section 8 housing and faith-based organizations on tenant rights and safety net program advocacy.

Upon moving to New York, she served as the director of communications, government relations and community organizing with the NYC Coalition against Hunger. In this position she was responsible for four areas – media, advocacy, community engagement and research. Her duties included serving as a registered lobbyist with the city and state of New York, presenting at legislative hearings and serving as the nationally-recognized organization’s spokesperson with television and print media outlets.

Before moving to New York, Hassler served as the executive director of a St. Louis-based nonprofit that coordinated social services for low-income senior citizens. She also served as a consultant on a number of local and statewide political campaigns and as a lobbyist for for-profit and government entities.

Hassler graduated with her juris doctorate from Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa, and her Bachelor of Arts in art and design with a minor in Spanish from Southeast in 2002.

Kaci Heins, College of Education

Heins 4

Kaci Heins

Kaci Heins graduated magna cum laude from Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in 2004, majoring in elementary education, and received a Master of Arts from Southeast in 2007, graduating with high honors and majoring in secondary education.  She also received a full scholarship to run cross country and track for Southeast.

When she finished her running career in 2004, she decided to complete her student teaching abroad in Melbourne, Australia. The experience changed her life both personally and professionally. The science content was very hands-on, which Heins now incorporates on a daily basis in her current sixth grade science classroom at Northland Preparatory Academy in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Heins is wrapping up her 10th year of teaching and has accomplished many feats in a very short amount of time. In her second year of teaching in Advance, Missouri, Heins was awarded the KFVS12 Heartland Teacher of the Year Award and the Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award by the Missouri Association for Colleges of Teacher Education. She has been a NASA Explorer School teacher for four years and attended NASA centers across the country for professional development. She has flown two student experiments with NASA on the Zero G plane, sent a student experiment to the International Space Station, talked with astronauts on the International Space Station using amateur radio, and flown scientific payloads on weather balloons to altitudes of more than 100,000 feet in the atmosphere.

Because of the way Heins integrates real world experiences into her teaching in 2014, she was named the Flagstaff STEM teacher of the year, Arizona Education Foundation Ambassador for Excellence, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Educator Achievement Award winner, and the Air Force Association National Aerospace Teacher of the Year Award.

Heins attributes all of her success to the educational foundation that Southeast provided during her time at the University. The first 10 years of her career have been amazing, but that has only inspired her to continue to “Dare Mighty Things” for her students.

Heins’ husband, Eric, also attended Southeast and is now the director of the track and cross country programs at Northern Arizona University. They have a son, Chase, 6.

Jennifer Sides, Donald L. Harrison College of Business


Jennifer Sides

Jennifer Sides, earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in human resources from Southeast’s Donald L. Harrison College of Business in 2004. During her college years, she was an active member of Alpha Kappa Psi and participated in the University’s Emerging Leaders program.

Now the human resources manager at Anders CPAs + Advisors in St. Louis, Sides joined the firm as a human resources associate in 2005. For the past 10 years, she has been instrumental in building the firm’s recruiting presence on college campuses in Missouri and Illinois. One of her more significant accomplishments in the area of recruiting is the design and implementation of the Discover Anders Initiative. Now in its sixth year, the program invites select college sophomores, juniors and seniors to attend a two-day “day in the life” program at Anders. Nine students came the first year in 2009. More than 40 are slated to take part in the two full days of activities this June.

In addition to her expertise in recruitment and employment, she is active in employee career development through mentor, training and continuing education programs, as well as in performance management.

When wellness became a hot topic in human resources departments across the country a few years ago, Sides started a walking challenge. Today, Anders has a comprehensive Wellness Program that encompasses the walking challenge, along with lunch and learns, panels on health-related topics, health screenings and wellness fairs.

Sides is active in the Anders Young Professionals Initiative and currently serves as the chair of the Anders Young Professional Steering Committee. She is chair of the Young Ambassadors Board of the Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter where she also participates in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and Affair to Remember Gala. Most recently, she was appointed to the advisory board for the Davisson Career Resource Center in the St. Louis University John Cook School of Business.

Sides is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) through the Society for Human Resources Management and is a member of the National Human Resources Association in St. Louis.

A loyal Southeast graduate, Sides frequently attends alumni events hosted in St. Louis and on campus, and enjoys returning for Homecoming each fall. The nature of her work in college recruiting allows her to continue a unique relationship with her alma mater by participating in and presenting to Beta Alpha Psi, recruiter panels, meet the firms, trivia nights and golf tournaments. She has participated in St. Louis interview days since 2006 and regularly mentors Southeast students.

A native of Highland, Illinois, Sides met her husband Ryan Sides at Southeast. They recently purchased a home in St. Louis County.