Kabat siblings

Saluki Siblings – Earning degrees from SIU is a tradition for the Kabat family, including siblings Brock, Courtney and Jordan. Courtney will earn her bachelor’s degree in communication studies on May 13. Brock earned his bachelor’s degree in physiology at SIU Carbondale and will receive his medical degree, with internal medicine specialization, from the SIU School of Medicine later this month. Jordan earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.  (Photo provided)

May 08, 2017

Graduate will be 14th in family to earn degree from SIU

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Courtney Kabat is a firm believer in the adage “Once a Saluki, Always a Saluki.”

But, the Scheller native claims she was actually BORN a Saluki. That’s because Kabat’s family practically bleeds maroon.

When the daughter of Lori and Mark Kabat walks across the stage during the 9 a.m. commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 13, she will receive her bachelor’s degree in communication studies with a minor in marketing. And Courtney will become the 14th person in her immediate family to earn a degree from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Some family members have earned multiple degrees, including brother Brock Kabat, who will earn his medical degree, with a specialization in internal medicine, at the SIU School of Medicine just a few days after Courtney’s ceremony. Brock also earned his bachelor’s degree in physiology at Carbondale.

Courtney honestly couldn’t imagine herself going anywhere but SIU. It’s a family tradition that began when her great-grandmother Clara Wagner earned a teaching certificate at the university. Grandmother Louise Kabat followed, completing a bachelor’s degree in zoology and teaching credentials for primary and secondary. Courtney’s father earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture economics.

The Saluki lineage also includes John Kabat (uncle, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture education); Lois (Kabat) Herzing (aunt, bachelor’s in elementary education, master’s in curriculum and instruction); Helen (Kabat) Young (aunt, bachelor’s in elementary education); Jordan Kabat (brother, bachelor’s in mechanical engineering); Chloe (Henson) Kabat (sister-in-law, bachelor’s in international business); Judith Chatto (Brock’s fiancé, completing medical degree with specialization in internal medicine this month); Erika (Kabat) Kitowski (cousin, bachelor’s in health care management, working on master’s in health administration); Janice (Kryger) Osman (aunt, bachelor’s in commercial recreation); and Bobby Herzing (uncle by marriage, bachelor’s in social work.)

The Kabat family’s SIU tradition extends beyond earning degrees. It’s also a tradition of excellence and service. Courtney, who was valedictorian of her class at Waltonville High School, is a Dean’s Scholarship recipient. Her brothers were both Presidential (now Chancellor) Scholars and Lincoln Laureates, and Jordan won the 2011 “Ultimate Saluki” title. Her uncle, John Kabat, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the College of Agricultural Sciences in 2015 and has won other accolades and national awards for his work in agricultural education.

While there were obviously big shoes to fill, Courtney said she was confident she could forge her own path to success at SIU. The former multi-year class officer and multi-sport athlete is happy to say she’s done just that, already landing a job she loves and having incredible collegiate experiences.

Although she was “born a Saluki,” Kabat said she did actually look at other universities but after really checking things out, she was drawn to SIU.

“While there was a sense of familiarity here and I had observed the academic achievements and successes of my family members, I really liked the diversity of SIU and the fact that while it’s close to home, it is big enough and has so many opportunities that it was really a place I could grow,” she said. “I’ve got an ag background but at SIU there is ag, art, theater, business and so many other things. I could dabble in anything I wanted to, expand my creativity and my horizons and get practical experience in so many different ways.”

Kabat originally planned to major in public relations, so she quickly got involved in SIU’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, becoming an officer. Through a new friend who lived on her floor, she learned of the university’s St. Jude Up ‘til Dawn registered student organization. She became passionate about the cause after discovering St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital doesn’t charge for the care it provides to children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. She put her public relations and communications talents to work with the group and is proud to say the college students were able to raise more than $30,000 each year for the worthy cause.

“For college kids to be able to raise that much money to help children is incredible,” she said. “Cancer was foreign to me until my mother battled breast cancer. Now, I really see what something like this means to children and families.”

Being part of the campus community, sharing experiences and making friends from all over the world has been very important to Kabat. She said she continues to stay in touch with SIU friends from Saudi Arabia and other countries and through these connections, she’s really enjoyed discovering the commonalities and differences people share.

Her interest in other cultures led her to participate in a Study Abroad experience in Italy during the fall 2016 semester. She took university classes and served an internship at Rome’s Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, one of the world’s oldest musical institutions. It was a remarkable learning experience and cultural immersion, she said, and allowed her to translate her classroom knowledge into real-life experience.

She used strategies learned at SIU to research corporate sponsorships and international partnerships in order to create mutually beneficial relationships between the symphony and organizations or corporations. For instance, she paired an electric company with the orchestra to create an energetic children’s symphony program that taught children to play instruments in unique ways.

“It was an incredible experience and Rome is so close to my heart now,” she said.

While abroad, she lived in an apartment with five other young women from around the world, part of a group of 23 international students, including another from SIU, who were studying abroad there. She’s completed her studies now and obtained a position with Maritz Travel in St. Louis, planning and scheduling corporate meetings and travel.

She said her studies and Rome experience segued perfectly to the job she loves, a position that allows her to combine her interest in helping people with her marketing and communication skills and passion for travel to orchestrate smooth travel arrangements for companies.

“My family is very proud that they have another Saluki graduating,” Kabat said. “SIU has done nothing but set us up for success and give us so many great opportunities. The Kabat family is very grateful to SIU for all it’s done for us.”