Barry McNamara  |   Published May 02, 2022

Alumni Profile: Kyle Vancil ’12

Chemistry major offers Monmouth students valuable lessons based on his ‘strange journey.’

VANCIL VISIT: Kyle Vancil '12 (second from left) returned to his alma mater April 28 to speak... VANCIL VISIT: Kyle Vancil '12 (second from left) returned to his alma mater April 28 to speak to Monmouth chemistry students. Pictured from left are professor Audra Goach, Vancil, Brendan Guenther '22, Lauren Johnson '23, Riley Bigham '23 and professors Brad Sturgeon, Laura Moore and Daniel Kane '13.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Alumnus Kyle Vancil returned to campus April 28 to speak to Monmouth College chemistry students, but his talk was less about how to navigate a science lab and more about how to navigate life.

Not that Vancil doesn’t have experience with the former. The 2012 Monmouth graduate has worked as a lab technician at Volt Staffing (a 3M company), as a manufacturing specialist at University of Iowa Pharmaceuticals, and as a chemist at both Proctor & Gamble in Iowa City and Bayer AG in Muscatine, Iowa, where he currently resides in an historic home overlooking the Mississippi River.

At Bayer, Vancil is charged with conducting research into new analytical methods and serving as a liaison with engineers to meet production needs, among other tasks.

But with the perspective of being out of college for a decade, Vancil was also able to share his insights and observations about life in a talk he titled “From Langmuir to Law: One Man’s Strange Journey.”


Decisions have consequences

“I feel like my story has a happy ending, but there were a lot of missteps and mistakes along the way,” said Vancil. “I believed that ‘Cs get degrees,’ and that any bad decisions you made are behind you once you have that degree. I thought, ‘No one will ask you your college GPA,’ which I learned wasn’t true.”

Vancil entered Monmouth looking to study pre-med and music, “but that did not last long, which will be a theme in my story,” he said, acknowledging the “Sisyphean task” for professors Audra Goach, Laura Moore and Brad Sturgeon to get him through his chemistry major.

“I took an econ class with Mike as a sophomore, and I joke that I liked his class so much, I married his daughter. … I’d go to his office, and we’d talk about what kind of end-of-semester heroics would be needed to get me through.” Kyle Vancil


Vancil also interacted closely with business professor Mike Connell, who turned out to be his future father-in-law.

“I took an econ class with Mike as a sophomore, and I joke that I liked his class so much, I married his daughter (Danellia Connell ’09),” said Vancil, who also recalled going over his often dire academic situation with Connell. “I’d go to his office, and we’d talk about what kind of end-of-semester heroics would be needed to get me through.”


Life after Monmouth

Vancil mustered the necessary heroics to walk across the Wallace Hall stage and receive his diploma, but he soon found himself in adverse working conditions.

LIFE IN A LAB: Kyle Vancil '12 makes a point during his April 28 presentation to Monmouth che... LIFE IN A LAB: Kyle Vancil '12 makes a point during his April 28 presentation to Monmouth chemistry students.“I worked at a place that made corn syrup,” he said. “Between running around the facility all day and working up a sweat, and the ever-present powder from the product, when I’d get home at night and take off my shirt, it would hold form. The sweat and the powder would combine to make corn syrup right on the shirt.”

That’s a red flag, said Vancil, and he encouraged Monmouth students soon entering the workforce to watch for those, as well as for positive indicators.

“Some of the best advice I received was to notice ‘How does a place smell?’” said Vancil. “Not the literal smell, but how healthy is the culture? Is there laughter coming out of the break room? Are there photos on the walls of happy people at company outings?”

Another problem at his “corn syrup” location was what was asked of him – and not asked.

“I wasn’t being asked to think,” he said. “I was just acting like a robot that hadn’t been invented yet. ‘We don’t have a robot yet that can do this motion, so you do it.’ Find a place that invests in you. That’s what Proctor & Gamble did.”


Continuing to learn

As Vancil moved on to better companies, he continued learning valuable lessons.

“Timeliness and reliability are keys to life in a lab,” he told the students. “There’s dollars and cents and real-life implications to the data you send. Those real-life problems are caused by bad results, so you have to establish trust. All of your past experiences will allow you to walk through the door of a company, but once you’re in, the door shuts behind you. Now you have to prove that you can handle this.”

Fortunately, his Monmouth education came to the rescue.

“I began to realize that there were some strengths I’d gained from Monmouth that I didn’t realize I had. Things like problem solving, critical thinking and a depth of knowledge with hands-on instruments.” Kyle Vancil


“I began to realize that there were some strengths I’d gained from Monmouth that I didn’t realize I had,” said Vancil. “Things like problem solving, critical thinking and a depth of knowledge with hands-on instruments.”

He also learned, as he began to manage others, about his tolerance for the reply “I don’t know.”

“’I don’t know’ is OK, but your comfort with that answer is not,” he said. “That’s a huge red flag for me.”

“1) Cherish each phase; 2) Take care of yourself; 3) Don’t let go of the rung; 4) Identify what you want; 5) Test that hypothesis; 6) Bet on yourself; 7) Things change – respond; 8) See the other side; 9) Think outside the box; 10) Have fun with it.” Kyle Vancil


Through a Monmouth connection, Vancil recently reached another crossroads in his post-graduate career, choosing to follow a path that merges science and law. He’s going to study patent law at the University of Iowa, driven by a goal of hoping to stay in Muscatine and to “leverage” as many of his talents as possible to do so.

As he closed his talk, Vancil left Monmouth students with a top 10 list of some of the lessons he’s learned: 1) Cherish each phase; 2) Take care of yourself; 3) Don’t let go of the rung; 4) Identify what you want; 5) Test that hypothesis; 6) Bet on yourself; 7) Things change – respond; 8) See the other side; 9) Think outside the box; and 10) Have fun with it.

Of his “hypothesis” point, Vancil said, “Try things. I tried cubicle work, and I found I didn’t like it. But even the failed experiments are knowledge.”

Back to News & Events

Did you know?

  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers unique academic minors in Global Public Health and Global Food Security for students who want to use their education to address global challenges. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-public-health/" target="_blank">Global Public Health</a></li><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-food-security/" target="_blank">Global Food Security</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is proudly test optional. Applicants may choose whether or to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission and scholarship consideration. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/admission/apply/test-optional/" target="_blank">Test Optional</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an educational garden and 6.7 acre farm. Students grow and harvest fruits and vegetables to sell at the local farmer’s market. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthcollege.edu/academics/only-at-monmouth/educational-garden-farm/" target="_blank">Garden & Farm</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College covers the cost for all current students to get a U.S. passport. Unlock access to over 198 different countries! We’ll even help with the paperwork :)</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/study-abroad/" target="_blank">Study Abroad</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an active Pipe & Drum Band. Each year on Scholar’s Day in April the bagpipers wake students up at 6:00 a.m. by playing in the residence halls!</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/music/pipe-band/" target="_blank">Pipe Band</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p><strong>Monmouth College is the birthplace of the women’s fraternity movement. Pi Beta Phi, the first such collegiate women’s organization, was founded at Monmouth in 1867. It was followed three years later by Kappa Kappa Gamma. The two pioneering organizations today boast a total of 275 active chapters nationwide.</strong></p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/student-life/sororities-fraternities/" target="_blank">Sororities & Fraternities</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 98% of Monmouth graduates were employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/wackerle-center/career-services/" target="_blank">Career Preparation</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We’re no stranger to winning. Last year the Fighting Scots won Midwest Conference championships in Football, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Basketball and Men’s Track and Field. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthscots.com/" target="_blank">Fighting Scots</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers several international trips each year during 2-week Scots Terms in January and May. Recently students have traveled to Botswana, Greece, Scotland, Japan, and more. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthcollege.edu/offices/global-engagement/" target="_blank">Scots Term</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We offer a certified Peace Corps Preparation program that gives Peace Corps bound graduates a leg up in the application process.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/peace-corps-prep/" target="_blank">Peace Corps Prep</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 99% of Monmouth students received some type of scholarship or financial assistance.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/types-of-aid/scholarships/" target="_blank">Scholarships</a></li></ul></div></aside>